Danish Fairy and Folk Tales/The Boy who Went to the Northwind

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THERE was once an old woman who had an only son, and as she was very weak and old the boy went into the store-room to fetch the flour which she was to use for dinner. When he passed the staircase, however, the Northwind swept through the yard, carrying the flour away with him. The boy returned to the store-room for more, but the wind came again and swept it away, as before. When he came out the third time the wind again robbed him of his burden, carrying it away and spreading it over the fields and meadows. The boy now became very angry, and as he considered the treatment which he had suffered a shameful one, he decided to go to the Northwind and demand the article of which he had been robbed.

He started on his voyage, but, as the distance was very great, it took him a long time to reach his destination. At length he arrived at the dwelling of the Northwind.

"How do you do?" said the boy, "and thanks for the last time we were together!" "How are you?" returned the Northwind—his utterance was thick—"and thanks to yourself! What do you wish?"

"Well," answered the boy, "I wish you would be good enough to return the flour of which you robbed me when I was bringing it out of the store-room. We have very little, and when you proceed in this manner we must all starve." "I have no flour," replied the wind, "but since you are so poor I will give you a table-cloth which will produce all that you need as soon as you bid it thus: 'Cloth, spread yourself, and bring the finest and best dishes!'"

Now the boy was well contented; but as the distance was too great to permit him to return in one day, he stepped into an inn at the roadside, and, when all the guests were ready for supper, he laid the cloth on a table in the corner of the room, and said: "Cloth, spread yourself, and bring the finest and best dishes!" The words were hardly uttered before the cloth was covered with all that they could wish for, and every one thought that this was an excellent treasure. This was especially the thought of the innkeeper's wife, and in the night, when all were asleep, she stole into the boy's room and laid in its place another and similar cloth, which was not capable, however, of producing even an old bread-crust.

When the boy awoke he took his table-cloth and pursued his way. Later in the day he arrived home. "Well," he said, "I paid a visit to the Northwind. He was a very good-natured fellow, and he gave me this table-cloth, which will produce the finest and best dishes as soon as you place it on the table, saying: 'Cloth, spread yourself, and bring the finest and best dishes!'" "Maybe," answered his mother, "but I shall not believe it until I see it done." Her son hastily pulled a table into the middle of the room, laid the cloth on it, and repeated the formula, without the least effect, however.

"I shall be obliged to go back to the Northwind," said the boy. He started at once, and in due time reached the place where the wind dwelt. "Good-evening!" said he, entering the house. "Good-evening!" cried the Northwind. "I wish to be paid for the flour of which you robbed me," continued the boy. "The table-cloth which I received is good for nothing." "I have no flour," answered the Northwind, "and all that I can give you is the old cane which stands in yonder corner. But if you say to it, 'Cane, strike!' it will strike on until you call, 'Cane, stop!' This cane I can give you."

As the distance was rather long, the boy, on his return home, stopped at the same inn where he had been before. As he suspected the innkeeper, however, of having stolen his table-cloth, he stretched himself on a bench and appeared to fall asleep, snoring loudly. The innkeeper, in the mean time, thought that no doubt the boy's cane possessed some wonderful power, and therefore prepared himself to replace it with another which looked exactly like it. As soon as he touched the cane, however, the boy shouted, "Cane, strike!" The cane at once began to dance upon the innkeeper's back, and with so good effect that he jumped around over tables and chairs, crying: "Make it stop, make it stop, for heaven's sake! If you don't, it'll kill me! I will give you back your table-cloth!" When the boy thought the innkeeper had had enough, he said, "Cane, stop!" Seizing his cloth and thrusting it into his pocket, he walked away and returned home safe and sound.

The magic cloth proved to be good payment for the flour.