Danish Fairy and Folk Tales/Lost and Found

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Danish Fairy and Folk Tales
by Jens Christian Bay, Svend Hersleb Grundtvig and others, translated by Jens Christian Bay
Lost and Found


THERE was once a poor man who walked about in the woods gathering fuel. His wife and children at home were in want of all that was necessary both to bite and to burn. As he moved about the trees picking up the dead branches, a stranger came along, who stopped and addressed him. When the poor man told of his miserable condition, and how he could not, even by the hardest work, procure the necessities of life for himself, his wife, and children, the stranger said: "Indeed! That is a dog's life; but it will depend upon yourself whether or not your conditions be improved—I may assist you. If you are willing to give me the first thing that you see when you reach your hut, I shall see that you are provided with all that you need for the rest of your lifetime."

The man considered this proposition a moment. "What I see first," thought he, "is generally the old jack in the clearing in front of the house. He may have that, if he cares; I can easily make another." So he closed the bargain, and they separated.

The poor man approached his house, thinking how well it would be when all the small mouths, which were so often clamoring for bread, could be filled with good things, and the little cheeks become as rosy-red as they ought to have been long ago. He stooped forward, bending his head under the heavy burden of the fagots, when suddenly a merry voice called: "Papa—there is papa!" Lifting his head and glancing in the direction of his house, he saw his youngest boy rush along the path to meet him. There was no time to warn the child or keep him back; he had seen him first, and of course he must part with him. It gave him great pain; but when he entered the house and found abundance of everything he appeared cheerful and unconcerned, and said nothing of the promise which the stranger had received from him.

Time passed. The man expected every day to lose his child, but no one came. The little boy gradually developed a wonderful keenness and scholarship. In school he could be taught nothing that he did not already know, so at length he was allowed to stay at home, where he read and wrote diligently, paying visits to both the blacksmith and the minister—the two learned men in this part of the country—who loaned him all sorts of queer books.

On his thirteenth birthday the boy told his father that he knew all about the agreement with the man in the forest. "Now you must take a knife and
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carve a three-legged chair and a three-legged table for me. The man to whom you sold me was the Evil One. who has already prepared a seat for me in his dwelling. You must use no other tool than a knife, and have the two articles ready before my next birthday. The Evil One's table and chair will become smaller and smaller as you carve mine, and when your work is finished they will have vanished entirely."

His father at once went to work, cutting and carving diligently, and when the year came round the chair and the table were finished. On the boy's fourteenth birthday the two went into the woods. Here the boy made a circle on the earth, bidding his father seat himself within it, for as long as he stayed there no one could hurt a hair of his head, and if he remained there one whole day he would be free—the Evil One would have no power over him.

"It is much more difficult with me," said the boy, "although the Evil One cannot cross the circle which I shall draw around myself. I must stay there until a beautiful maiden is willing to save me. She must come and carry me away with her; but until the news of my fate can reach the world, and she can be found, I must stay within the circle, otherwise I shall become the property of the Enemy."

Leaving his father in the circle which he had drawn around him he went away a short distance and drew another, placing the table and the chair within it; and seating himself on the chair, he read diligently in a book which he had placed on the table before him. Soon Lucifer came walking along. The man had not known him before, but this time he was in no doubt as to who he was.

Stopping near the father, the Enemy said: "Now the time has come for you to fulfil your part of the agreement." "Go and take the boy, if you can," replied the man; "I have brought him along. He is not far away." Lucifer went to the boy, stopped near the circle, and said: "Come here! You belong to me." "Take me, if you can," was the answer. The Evil One reached after him, but to no effect; he could not grasp him, and it was impossible for him to cross the circle. At length he returned to the father, and tried to coax and scare him away from his retreat, but all in vain; and when he had run back and forth between the two for a considerable length of time, he finally lost his patience and walked away. In twenty-four hours the father was at liberty to leave his circle and return home; but the boy remained where he was, awaiting the time when a beautiful maiden should come and save him.

At length, as the news of his cruel fate reached far and wide, a fair young princess who lived in a palace south of the sun, west of the moon, and in the middle of the wind, determined to rescue him. She came driving in a golden carriage, stopped in the forest where the boy sat reading, and told him to enter and sit beside her. He complied, and away they drove—far away from the place where the Enemy had played his pranks. When they arrived at the wonderful palace south of the sun, west of the moon, and in the middle of the wind, he received a place among her servants, and finding him both good and true, she determined to marry him.

The young man could not, however, forget his old home. He told his fair young princess that if she would allow him to return for a short time to see how his parents were, he would be better prepared to live far away from them during the rest of his lifetime. He was longing to see his mother once more; no doubt she missed him and shed many tears for his sake, thinking that she would never see him again. The princess was pleased, and said: "It shall be as you desire. I will bring you home, and you may stay there until you long for me. Take this ring; when you wish to return, turn it; but do not wish me to come to you. In that case we shall both become unhappy!" Upon this they entered the golden carriage again, and drove on as rapidly as thoughts can travel, until they reached the small hut in the forest. As soon as the young man alighted the carriage disappeared, and had not the ring been gleaming on his finger he would have thought it all a dream.

When he entered his old home his parents were much astonished to see him; they had, of course, thought him dead long ago. He told them what had happened and how well he had fared, and they wondered much at his good fortune. It was their greatest desire to see the fair princess who had rescued him, and they were never tired of asking him to call her, that they might themselves thank and admire her. He answered again and again that this could not be—that the princess had forbidden it. As they could not restrain their desire, however, and as he was himself anxious to see her, he at length turned the ring on his finger, wishing her to come. At once the princess appeared, snatched the ring away from him, boxed his ears effectively, and vanished as rapidly as she had come. Now he stood there, deprived of his happiness and all means of returning to her.

As he could not remain at home he bid his parents good-bye, and set out to seek his lost happiness. He walked a long distance, and at length lost his way entirely. One day, when he stopped to rest in the depths of a large forest, he noticed a couple of kobolds quarrelling about something. "What are you quarrelling about?" asked he. Well, they had found a pair of slippers which would enable their owner to cover ten miles in one step. Each of them wanted these, and each said that he had found them. "No use to quarrel about that," said the young man. "Each of you may take one and cover ten miles in two steps." But such a plan did not suit them. "Well," said the young man again,
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"I propose that you race as far as the large stone yonder. He who returns first may have the slippers." They agreed upon this, and started, raising the dust like a cloud behind them. When they returned they found the young man and the slippers had both disappeared. The kobolds looked at each other, and were sensible enough to understand that this was the easiest way in which to settle the dispute.

The young man now rapidly pursued his way. Towards evening he stopped at the gate of a large and magnificent palace. Upon his inquiry who lived there, he was told that the Wind-king was the owner of this stately mansion. "No doubt," thought he, "the Wind-king can tell me where the palace south of the sun, west of the moon, and in the middle of the wind is situated." He entered and requested an audience of the king. When taken into his presence and inquiring about the palace which he was seeking, he was told by his majesty that the location of the place was altogether unknown to him. Towards evening all the winds were, however, to return home. He, the king, would ask if any of them knew of such a place as the palace south of the sun, west of the moon and in the middle of the wind. Some one of them would be likely to know.

Towards evening there was a whistling and howling around the palace, and when all the winds had taken their seats in the large hall, the king entered, inquiring if all were there. Some one replied that the Northwest had not yet arrived, but that he must soon come. A few minutes afterwards the Northwest came howling through the gate, pushed the doors open, and fell into his seat with a loud crack. "Do you know a palace which is located south of the sun, west of the moon, and in the middle of the wind?" inquired the king. All shook their heads except the Northwest, who nodded gravely and gloomily, and said that he had passed it occasionally; but it was very, very far away. The king now told him to carry a young man with him the next morning, but the wind replied that a young man who could only walk on the ground would never reach the place; he himself could not carry such a burden; it would detain him too much, and he would never reach the end of his journey. The king replied, however, that there was no help for it; he was to take the young man along with him the next morning whether he wished to or not.

Next morning the Northwest looked if possible still more gloomy than the evening before; he did not like to keep company with a walking person, but as the king's orders must be obeyed, he moved very slowly in order to keep pace with his companion. The latter was, however, very soon so far ahead that the wind was obliged to quicken his steps considerably; but the farther they came the more rapidly he had to move, and at length he became a tremendous tempest. About noontime they reached the palace, but the Northwest had become so tired that he was obliged to rest under a tree while the young man put off the slippers. He walked the last part of the way without slippers, otherwise he would have passed without seeing it.

When he entered the palace the princess received him gleefully. She had never dared to think that he would ever be able to reach her again. Their wedding was celebrated in a gorgeous manner, and they are living yet, happy and contented, in their beautiful palace south of the sun, west of the moon, and in the middle of the wind.