The Northern Way

Popular Tales From the Norse

Thumbikin

Once on a time there was a woman who had an only son, and he was no taller than your thumb; and so they called him Thumbikin.

Now, when he had come to be old enough to know right and wrong, his mother told him to go out and woo him a bride, for now she said it was high time he thought about getting a wife. When Thumbikin heard that, he was very glad; so they got their driving gear in order and set off, and his mother put him into her bosom. Now they were going to a palace where there was such an awfully big Princess, but when they had gone a bit of the way, Thumbikin was lost and gone. His mother hunted for him everywhere, and bawled to him, and wept because he was lost, and she couldn't find him again.

"Pip, pip," said Thumbikin, "here I am," and he had hidden himself in the horse's mane.

So he came out, and had to give his word to his mother

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that he wouldn't do so any more. But when they had driven a bit farther on, Thumbikin was lost again. His mother hunted for him, and called him and wept; but gone he was, and gone he stayed.

"Pip, pip," said Thumbikin at last; and then she heard how he laughed and tittered, but she couldn't find him at all for the life of her.

"Pip, pip, why, here I am now!" said Thumbikin, and came out of the horse's ear.

So he had to give his word that he wouldn't hide himself again; but they had scarce driven a bit farther before he was gone again. He couldn't help it. As for his mother, she hunted, and wept, and called him by name; but gone he was, and gone he stayed; and the more she hunted, the less she could find him in any way.

"Pip, pip, here I am then," said Thumbikin.

But she couldn't make out at all where he was, his voice sounded so dull and muffled.

So she hunted, and he kept on saying, "Pip, here I am," and laughed and chuckled, that she couldn't find him; but all at once the horse snorted, and it snorted Thumbikin out, for he had crept up one of his nostrils.

Then his mother took him and put him into a bag; she knew no other way, for she saw well enough he couldn't help hiding himself.

So when they came to the palace the match was soon made, for the Princess thought him a pretty little chap, and it wasn't long before the wedding came on too.

Now, when they were going to sit down to the wedding-feast, Thumbikin sat at the table by the Princess's side; but he had worse than no seat, for when he was to eat he p. 374 couldn't reach up to the table; and so, if the Princess hadn't helped him up on to it, he wouldn't have got a bit to eat.

Now it went good and well so long as he had to eat off a plate, but then there came a great bowl of porridge--that he couldn't reach up to; but Thumbikin soon found out a way to help himself; he climbed up and sat on the lip of the bowl. But then there was a pat of melting butter right in the middle of the bowl, and that he couldn't reach to dip his porridge into it, and so he went on and took his seat at the edge of the melting butter; but just then who should come but the Princess, with a great spoonful of porridge to dip it into the butter; and, alas! she went too near to Thumbikin, and tipped him over; and so he fell over head and ears, and was drowned in the melted butter.

Doll i' the Grass

Once on a time there was a King who had twelve sons. When they were grown big he told them they must go out into the world and win themselves wives, but these wives must each be able to spin, and weave, and sew a shirt in one day, else he wouldn't have them for daughters-in-law.

To each he gave a horse and a new suit of mail, and they went out into the world to look after their brides; but when they had gone a bit of the way, they said they wouldn't have Boots, their youngest brother, with them--he wasn't fit for anything.

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Well, Boots had to stay behind, and he didn't know what to do or whither to turn; and so he grew so downcast, he got off his horse, and sat down in the tall grass to weep. But when he had sat a little while, one of the tufts in the grass began to stir and move, and out of it came a little white thing, and when it came nearer, Boots saw it was a charming, little lassie, only such a tiny bit of a thing. So the lassie went up to him, and asked if he would come down below and see "Doll i' the Grass."

Yes, he'd be very happy; and so he went.

Now, when he got down, there sat Doll i' the Grass on a chair; she was so lovely and so smart, and she asked Boots whither he was going, and what was his business.

So he told her how there were twelve brothers of them, and how the King had given them horse and mail, and said they must each go out into the world and find them a wife who could spin, and weave, and sew a shirt in a day.

"But if you'll only say at once you'll be my wife, I'll not go a step farther," said Boots to Doll i' the Grass.

Well, she was willing enough, and so she made haste, and span, and wove, and sewed the shirt, but it was so tiny, tiny little. It wasn't longer than so--------long.

So Boots set off home with it, but when he brought it out he was almost ashamed, it was so small. Still the King said he should have her, and so Boots set off, glad and happy to fetch his little sweetheart. So when he got to Doll i' the Grass, he wished to take her up before him on his horse; but she wouldn't have that, for she said she would sit and drive along in a silver spoon, and that she had two small white horses to draw her. So off they set, he on his horse and she on her silver spoon, and the two p. 376 horses that drew her were two tiny white mice; but Boots always kept the other side of the road, he was so afraid lest he should ride over her, she was so little. So, when they had gone a bit of the way, they came to a great piece of water. Here Boots' horse got frightened, and shied across the road and upset the spoon, and Doll i' the Grass tumbled into the water. Then Boots got so sorrowful, because he didn't know how to get her out again; but in a little while up came a merman with her, and now she was as well and full grown as other men and women, and far lovelier than she had been before. So he took her up before him on his horse, and rode home.

When Boots got home all his brothers had come, back each with his sweetheart, but these were all so ugly, and foul, and wicked, that they had done nothing but fight with one another on the way home, and on their heads they had a kind of hat that was daubed over with tar and soot, and so the rain had run down off the hats on to their faces, till they got far uglier and nastier than they had been before. When his brothers saw Boots and his sweetheart, they were all as jealous as jealous could be of her; but the King was so overjoyed with them both, that he drove all the others away, and so Boots held his wedding-feast with Doll i' the Grass, and after that they lived well and happily together a long long time, and if they're not dead, why, they're alive still.

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The Lad and the Deil

Once on a time there was a lad who was walking along a road cracking nuts, so he found one that was worm-eaten, and just at that very moment he met the Deil.

"Is it true, now," said the lad, "what they say, that the Deil can make himself as small as he chooses, and thrust himself in through a pinhole?" "Yes, it is," said the Deil. "Oh! it is, is it? then let me see you do it, and just creep into this nut," said the lad. So the Deil did it. Now, when he had crept well into it through the worm's hole, the lad stopped it up with a pin. "Now, I've got you safe," he said, and put the nut into his pocket. So when he had walked on a bit, he came to a smithy, and he turned in and asked the smith if he'd be good enough to crack that nut for him. "Ay, that'll be an easy job," said the smith, and took his smallest hammer, laid the nut on the anvil, and gave it a blow, but it wouldn't break. So he took another hammer a little bigger, but that wasn't heavy enough either.

Then he took one bigger still, but it was still the same story; and so the smith got wroth, and grasped his great sledge-hammer.

"Now, I'll crack you to bits," he said, and let drive at p. 378 the nut with all his might and main. And so the nut flew to pieces with a bang that blew off half the roof of the smithy, and the whole house creaked and groaned as though it were ready to fall.

"Why! if I don't think the Deil must have been in that nut," said the smith.

"So he was; you're quite right," said the lad, as he went away laughing.

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