Anthony R. (Anthony Reubens) Montalba.

Fairy tales from all nations online

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The island was entirely covered with dwarf mushrooms, and appeared to
be uninhabited; but when they had penetrated nearly to the centre of
it they perceived a house, half of which only was above the ground,
and the other half under it. In the hope that they might find human
help they joyfully approached it; they listened for some sound, but
the deepest silence prevailed all around. At length Orm opened the
door and entered with his companion; great was their astonishment,
however, when they perceived everything prepared as if for
inhabitants, but no living being visible. The fire burnt on the hearth
in the middle of the room, and a kettle with fish hung over it,
waiting, probably, for some one to make a meal of its contents; beds
were ready prepared for the reception of sleepers. Orm and Aslog stood
for a time doubtful, and looked fearfully about; at length, impelled
by hunger, they took the food and eat it. When they had satisfied
their hunger, and, by the last rays of the sun, could not discover any
one far and wide, they yielded to fatigue and lay down on the beds, a
luxury which they had so long been deprived of.

They had fully expected to be awakened in the night by the return of
the owners of the house, but they were deceived in their expectation;
throughout the following day, also, no one appeared, and it seemed as
if some invisible power had prepared the house for their reception.
Thus did they pass the whole summer most happily; it is true they were
alone, but the absence of mankind was not felt by them. The eggs of
wild-fowl and the fish which they caught afforded them sufficient

When autumn approached, Aslog bore a son, and in the midst of their
rejoicing at his arrival they were surprised by a wonderful
apparition. - The door opened suddenly, and an old woman entered; she
wore a beautiful blue garment, and in her form and manner was
something dignified, and at the same time unusual and strange.

"Let not my sudden appearance alarm you," said she. "I am the owner of
this house, and I thank you for having kept it so clean and well, and
that I now find everything in such good order. I would willingly have
come sooner, but I could not until the little heathen there - pointing
to the infant - had established himself here. Now I have free access;
but do not, I pray you, fetch a priest here from the main-land to
baptise him, for then I shall be obliged to go away again. If you
fulfil my wish, not only may you remain here, but every good you can
desire I will bestow on you; whatever you undertake shall succeed;
good fortune shall attend you wherever you go. But if you break this
condition, you may assure yourselves that misfortune on misfortune
shall visit you, and I will even avenge myself on the child. If you
stand in need of anything, or are in danger, you have only to
pronounce my name thrice: I will appear and aid you. I am of the race
of the ancient giants, and my name is Guru. Beware, however, of
pronouncing, in my presence, the name that no giant likes to hear, and
never make the sign of the cross, nor cut it in any of the boards in
the house. You may live here the year round; only on Yule evening be
so kind as to leave the house to me as soon as the sun goes down. Then
we celebrate our great festival, the only occasion on which we are
permitted to be merry. If, however, you do not like to quit the house,
remain as quietly as possible under ground, and, as you value your
lives, do not look into the room before midnight; after that hour you
may again take possession of all."

When the old woman had thus spoken, she disappeared, and Aslog and
Orm, thus rendered easy as to their position, lived on without
disturbance contented and happy. Orm never cast his net without a good
draught - never shot an arrow that did not hit - in short, whatever he
undertook, however trifling it might be, prospered visibly.

When Christmas came they made the house as clean as possible, set
everything in order, kindled a fire on the hearth, and on the approach
of twilight descended to the under part of the house, where they
remained quiet and silent. At length it grew dark, and they fancied
they heard a rustling and snorting in the air, like that which the
swans make in the winter season. In the wall over the hearth was an
aperture that could be opened and shut to admit light, or to let out
smoke. Orm raised the lid, which was covered with a skin, and put out
his head, when a wonderful spectacle presented itself. The little
surrounding islets were illuminated by countless little blue lights,
which moved incessantly, danced up and down, then slid along the
shore, collected together, and approached nearer and nearer to the
island in which Orm and Aslog dwelt. When they reached it they
arranged themselves in a circle round a great stone, which stood not
very far from the shore, and which was well known to Orm. But how
great was his astonishment, when he saw that the stone had assumed a
perfectly human form, although of gigantic stature. He could now
clearly distinguish that the lights were carried by dwarfs, whose pale
earth-coloured faces, with large noses and red eyes, in the form of
birds' beaks and owls' eyes, surmounted mis-shapen bodies. They
waddled and shuffled here and there, and seemed to be sad and gay at
the same time. Suddenly the circle opened, the little people drew back
on either side, and Guru, who now appeared as large as the stone,
approached with giant steps. She threw her arms around the stony
figure, which at that moment received life and movement. At the first
indication of this, the little people set up, accompanied by
extraordinary grimaces and gestures, such a song, or rather howl, that
the whole island resounded and shook with the noise. Orm, quite
terrified, drew in his head, and he and Aslog now remained in the dark
so quiet, that they scarcely dared to breathe.

[Illustration: THE FEAST OF THE DWARFS. P. 322.]

The procession arrived at the house, as was clearly perceived by the
nearer approach of the howl. They now all entered. Light and
active, the dwarfs skipped over the benches; heavy and dull sounded
the steps of the giants among them. Orm and his wife heard them lay
out the table and celebrate their feast with the clattering of plates
and cries of joy. When the feast was over and midnight was
approaching, they began to dance to that magic melody which wraps the
soul in sweet bewilderment, and which has been heard by some persons
in the valleys and amid the rocks, who have thus learnt the air from
subterranean musicians.

No sooner did Aslog hear the melody than she was seized with an
indescribable longing to witness the dance. Orm was unable to restrain
her. "Let me look," said she, "or my heart will break." She took her
infant and placed herself at the furthest extremity of the chamber,
where she could see everything without being herself seen. Long did
she watch, without turning away her eyes, the dance, and the agile and
wonderful steps and leaps of the little beings, who seemed to float in
the air and scarcely to touch the ground, whilst the enchanting music
of the elfs filled her soul.

In the mean time the infant on her arm grew sleepy and breathed
heavily, and, without remembering the promise she had made to the old
woman, she made the sign of the cross (as is the custom) over the
child's mouth, and said, "Christ bless thee, my child!" She had
scarcely uttered the words when a fearful piercing cry arose. The
sprites rushed headlong out of the house, their lights were
extinguished, and in a few minutes they had all left the house. Orm
and Aslog, terrified almost to death, hid themselves in the remotest
corner of the house. They ventured not to move until day-break, and,
not until the sun shone through the hole over the hearth, did they
find courage to come out of their hiding-place.

The table was still covered as the sprites had left it, with all their
precious and wonderfully wrought silver vessels. In the middle of the
room stood, on the ground, a high copper vessel half filled with sweet
metheglin, and by its side a drinking-horn of pure gold. In the corner
lay a stringed instrument, resembling a dulcimer, on which, as it is
believed, the female giants play. They gazed with admiration on all,
but did not venture to touch anything. Greatly were they startled,
however, when, on turning round, they beheld, seated at the table, a
monstrous form, which Orm immediately recognised as the giant whom
Guru had embraced. It was now a cold hard stone. Whilst they stood
looking at it, Guru herself, in her giant form, entered the room. She
wept so bitterly that her tears fell on the ground, and it was long
before her sobs would allow her utterance; at length she said: -

"Great sorrow have you brought upon me; I must now weep for the
remainder of my days. As, however, I know that you did it not from any
evil intention, I forgive you, although it would be easy for me to
crumble this house over your heads like an egg-shell.

"Ah!" exclaimed she, "there sits my husband, whom I loved better than
myself, turned for ever into stone, never again to open his eyes. For
three hundred years I lived with my father in the island of Kuman,
happy in youthful innocence, the fairest amongst the virgins of the
giant race. Mighty heroes were rivals for my hand; the sea that
surrounds that island is full of fragments of rock which they hurled
at each other in fight. Andfind won the victory, and I was betrothed
to him. But before our marriage came the abhorred Odin into the
country, conquered my father, and drove us out of the island. My
father and sister fled to the mountains, and my eyes have never since
beheld them. Andfind and I escaped to this island, where we lived for
a long time in peace, and began to hope that we should never be
disturbed. But Destiny, which no one can escape, had decreed
otherwise; Oluff came from Britain. They called him the Holy, and
Andfind at once discovered that his journey would be fatal to the
giant race. When he heard Oluf's ship dashing through the waves, he
went to the shore and blew against it with all his strength. The waves
rose into mountains. But Oluf was mightier than he; his vessel flew
unharmed through the waves, like an arrow from the bow. He steered
straight to our island. When the ship was near enough for Andfind to
reach it, he grasped the prow with his right hand, and was in the act
of sending it to the bottom, as he had often done with other ships.
But Oluf, the dreadful Oluf, stepped forwards, and crossing his hands,
cried out with a loud voice: - 'Stand there, a stone, until the last
day!' and in that moment my unhappy husband became a mass of stone.
The ship sailed on unhindered towards the mountain, which it severed,
and separated from it the little islands that lie around it.

"From that day all my happiness was annihilated, and I have passed my
life in loneliness and sorrow. Only on Yule evening can a petrified
giant recover life for seven hours, if one of the race embraces him,
and is willing to renounce a hundred years of life for this purpose.
It is seldom that a giant does this. I loved my husband too tenderly
not to recall him to life as often as I could, at whatever cost to
myself. I never counted how often I had done it, in order that I might
not know when the time would come when I should share his fate, and in
the act of embracing him become one with him. But ah! even this
consolation is denied me. I can never again awaken him with an
embrace, since he has heard the name which I may not utter, and never
will he again see the light until the dawn of the last day.

"I am about to quit this place. You will never again behold me. All
that is in the house I bestow on you. I reserve only my dulcimer. Let
no one presume to set foot on the little surrounding islands. There
dwells the little subterranean race, whom I will protect as long as I

With these words she vanished. The following spring, Orm carried the
golden horn and the silver vessels to Drontheim, where no one knew
him. The value of these costly utensils was so great, that he was
enabled to purchase all that a rich man requires. He loaded his vessel
with his purchases, and returned to the island, where he lived for
many years in uninterrupted happiness. Aslog's father soon became
reconciled to his wealthy son-in-law.

The stone figure remained seated in the house. No one was able to
remove it thence. The stone was so hard that axe and hammer were
shivered against it, without making the slightest impression on it.
There the giant remained till a holy man came to the island, and with
one word restored it to its former place, where it still is to be

The copper vessel which the subterranean people left behind them, is
preserved as a memorial in the island, which is still called the
Island of the Hut.



A shepherd who had two children, a son and a daughter, had, at his
death, nothing to leave them but three sheep, and the little cottage
they inhabited. On his death-bed he blessed them, and with his last
breath admonished them to divide the legacy, and share it
affectionately. When the children had buried their beloved father, the
brother asked the sister which part of the inheritance she would
prefer, - the sheep or the cottage? and as she chose the cottage, he
said, "Then I will take the sheep, and wander out in the wide world;
many a one has there found his fortune, and I am a Sunday child." With
these words he embraced his sister, and with his inheritance left his
native place.

Far and wide did he wander, and much did he suffer - fortune never once
recognising him as her son. Once, full of sorrow, uncertain whither
to bend his steps, he sat down by a cross road, when all at once there
stood before him a man accompanied by three large dogs, the one
greater than the other, strongly built, and jet black.

"Well, my brave youth," said the man, "you have there three fine
sheep, and if you choose we will exchange property; let me have your
sheep, and you shall have my dogs."

In spite of his mournful disposition, the youth could not help
laughing at the proposal. "What am I to do with your dogs?" demanded
he; "my sheep feed themselves, but your dogs will want to be fed."

"My dogs are of a peculiar kind," answered the stranger; "they will
provide for you, instead of your providing for them, and besides they
will bring you great fortune. The smallest of them is called
Bring-food; the second, Tear-to-pieces; and the great and strong one
is named Break-steel-and-iron."

The shepherd, persuaded by the stranger, gave up his sheep; and now,
to try their quality, he called out "Bring-food!" and forthwith one of
the dogs ran away, and soon returned with a great basket full of the
costliest and daintiest victuals. The shepherd was now much pleased
at his exchange, and travelled far and wide over the land.

Once on his road he met a carriage hung all over with black crape
drawn by two horses, which were covered with cloth of the same colour,
and the coachman, too, was in deep mourning. In the carriage was
seated a wondrously beautiful lady, also enveloped in the mournful
colour of sorrow, and bitterly weeping; the horses, with drooping
heads, paced slowly along. "What means this?" said he to the coachman;
but the coachman gave an evasive answer; at last, however, after much
pressing, he related as follows: "There dwells in this neighbourhood a
ferocious dragon who caused great havoc and destruction; to appease
him, and to secure the land against his devastation, a compact has
been entered into with him, and he each year receives as tribute a
fair maiden, whom he at one morsel devours and swallows. All the
maidens in the kingdom at the age of fourteen draw lots between them,
and this year the lot has fallen upon the daughter of the king: on
this account the king and the whole state were plunged into the
deepest grief; but such terror did the dragon inspire, that they dared
not refuse him the sacrifice."

The shepherd felt pity for the beautiful young princess, and followed
the carriage, which at last stopped at a high mountain. The princess
descended, and, full of despair and anguish, went slowly onwards to
meet her awful destiny. The driver, on observing that the youth
followed her, warned him; the shepherd, however, was not to be
persuaded, but followed her steps.

When they had thus advanced half-way up the mountain, the terrible
monster approached from the summit, with an awful noise, to devour the
victim. From its widely-extended jaws issued streams of burning
sulphur, its body was encircled with thick horny scales, on its feet
it had immense claws, and wings were attached to its long serpentine
neck: already was it near enough to pounce upon its prey, when the
shepherd cried out, "Tear-to-pieces!" and his second dog threw himself
upon the dragon, and attacked him with such strength and ferocity,
that, after a short combat, the monster fell exhausted and dead at the
feet of his antagonist, who, to finish his victory, wholly devoured
him, leaving only two teeth; these the shepherd put in his pocket.

The princess, overcome with the extreme emotions of fear and joy, had
fainted away; the shepherd by every means in his power tried to
restore her back to life, in which he at last succeeded. When fully
recovered, the princess threw herself at the feet of her deliverer,
thanking, and imploring him to return with her to her father, who
would richly reward him for having returned him his daughter, and
saved the country from the scourge of the dragon.

The youth answered, he would first like to see and know a little more
of the world; but in three years he would return, and by this
resolution he remained. The maiden then returned to her carriage, and
the shepherd continued his wanderings in an opposite direction.

Meanwhile the coachman, who had been a spectator of the whole, now
meditated in his own black mind how to turn this fortunate conclusion
of the tragedy to his own profit and aggrandizement. As they were
passing over a bridge, under which flowed a great stream, he turned
himself to the princess and said, "Your deliverer is gone, and was not
even anxious for your thanks. It would be a noble action of yours to
make the fortune of a poor man. If you, therefore, were to tell your
father that it was by my hand that the dragon perished, this would be
accomplished. But should you refuse to do so, I will throw you into
this deep river, and no one will ever ask after you, being all
convinced that the dragon has devoured you." The maiden cried and
prayed, but in vain; she was forced to swear that she would proclaim
the coachman as her deliverer, and never divulge the secret to any

They then returned to the capital, where all was rejoicing and
gladness at their return. The black banners were removed from the
steeples of the church, and gay coloured ones were hoisted to replace
them. The king with tears of joy embraced his daughter and her
supposed deliverer: "Thou hast not only saved my child," said he, "but
thou hast also delivered my land from the greatest pestilence by which
it ever has been scourged: to reward you royally for your undaunted
courage, and in a manner commensurate with your great service, I
intend to bestow my daughter in marriage upon you; but as she is yet
too young, we will defer the ceremony for one year."

The coachman thanked the king, was forthwith richly apparelled,
elevated to the rank of a duke, with the possession of a dukedom, and
instructed in those polite manners requisite in his new and elevated
station. The princess was much afflicted, and bewailed her mournful
destiny most bitterly, when she was informed of the promise her father
had made; but withal she feared to break her oath. When the year was
at an end, in spite of all her entreaties she could not obtain from
her father anything beyond the promise that the wedding should be
delayed for another year. This also expired.

She again threw herself at her father's feet imploring for yet another
year, for she well remembered the promise of her young and handsome
deliverer, that in three years he would return. The king could not
resist her entreaties, and acquiesced in her prayer on the condition
that at the termination of that time she would wed the man he had
chosen for her. The time again quickly elapsed. The auspicious day was
already fixed, on the towers gay banners waved in the breeze, and the
joyful shouting of the people mounted to the sky.

On the same day a stranger, with three dogs, entered the town. On
demanding the reason of the public rejoicing, he was informed that the
king's daughter, that very day, was to be united to the man that had
delivered her and the country from the terrible dragon, which he had

The stranger, in no very measured terms, pronounced this man an
impostor, who had decked himself with other's feathers: the watch who,
passing by, had overheard him, at once apprehended him and threw him
into a strong prison guarded with doors and bars of iron. As he lay on
his bundle of straw and sorrowfully contemplated his destiny, he
thought he heard the whining of his dogs, - a gleam of hope suddenly
burst upon him - "Break-steel-and-iron!" cried he as loud as he could,
and hardly had he uttered the words when he saw the paws of his
biggest dog hard at work on the bars of his window, tearing and
breaking them down as if they had been reeds; the dog then jumped down
into the cell and bit the chains with which his master was fettered,
to pieces; whereupon both left the prison by the window as hastily as
possible. He was now again at liberty, but the thought painfully
oppressed him that another should have reaped the benefit of the deed
of which he deserved the merit and reward. He felt also very hungry,
and he called to one of his dogs, "Bring-food," which dog soon
returned with a napkin full of costly food; the napkin was marked
with a royal crown.


The king was seated at table, with all the great men of his land
around him, when the dog made its appearance, and, as if in
supplication, licked the hand of the princely maiden. She at once
recognised the dog, and tied her own napkin round his neck, looking
upon his appearance as foreboding her deliverance. She then prayed her
father for a few words in private, when she disclosed to him the whole
of the secret: the king sent a messenger to see whither the dog went,
and the stranger was soon after brought into the royal presence. The
former coachman, pale and trembling at his appearance, fell upon his
knees imploring mercy; the princess at once recognised the stranger as
her saviour, who moreover proved his identity by the two dragon teeth
that he yet carried about with him. The coachman was thrown into a
deep dungeon and his dignities were conferred on the shepherd, who was
the same day wedded to the princess.

The youthful pair lived a long time in the greatest happiness. The
former shepherd often thought of his sister; and, that she might
participate in his felicity, a carriage and servants were sent to
fetch her, and before long she was pressed to the breast of her
affectionate brother; then one of the dogs said to his master, "Our
time is now expired; you need us no longer; we remained thus long with
you to see whether in fortune also you would remember your sister, or
whether the sudden acquisition of wealth and power would make you
proud, forgetful, and austere. You have not proved guilty of such
wickedness, but have shown yourself virtuous and affectionate." The
dogs then changed into birds and vanished in the air.


[A traditional tale in Franconia.]

There lived once a gay-hearted musician, who played the flute in a
masterly style, and earned his living by wandering about, and playing
on his instrument in all the towns and villages he came to. One
evening he arrived at a farm-house, and resolved to stay there, as he
could not reach the next village before night-fall. The farmer gave
him a very friendly reception, made him sit down at his own table, and
after supper requested him to play him an air on his flute. When the
musician had finished, he looked out of the window, and saw by the
light of the moon, at no great distance from the farm, an ancient
castle, which was partly in ruins.

"What old castle is that?" said the musician; "and to whom did it

The farmer then related to him, that many, many years ago, a count

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Online LibraryAnthony R. (Anthony Reubens) MontalbaFairy tales from all nations → online text (page 15 of 19)