Popular Tales From the Norse
The Big Bird Dan - Cont'd
"Now you may get ready to go, since you won't stay with us; and you shall have the loan of my iron boat, which sails of itself, if you only say,
" ' Boat, boat, go on!'
In that boat there is an iron club, and that club you must lift a little when you see the ship straight a-head of p. 391 you, and then they'll get such a rattling fair breeze, they'll forget to look at you; but when you get alongside them, you must lift the club a little again, and then they'll get such a foul wind and storm they'll have something else to do than to stare at you; and when you have run past them you must lift the club a third time, but you must always be sure and lay it down carefully again, else there'll be such a storm, both you and they will be wrecked and lost. Now when you have got to land, you have no need to bother yourself at all about the boat; just turn it about, and shove it off, and say,
" ' Boat, boat, go back home!' "
When he set out they gave him so much gold and silver, and so many other costly things, and clothes and linen which the Troll Princess had sewn and woven for him all that long time, that he was far richer than any of his brothers.
Well, he had no sooner seated himself in the boat and said,--
"Boat, boat, go on!"
than away went the boat, and when he saw the ship right a-head, he lifted up the club, and then they got such a fair breeze, they forgot to look at him. When he was alongside the ship, he lifted the club again, and then such a storm arose and such foul weather, that the white foam flew about the ship, and the billows rolled over the deck, and they had something else to do than to stare at him; and when he had run past them he lifted the club the third time, and then the storm and the wind rose so, they had still less time to look after him, and to make him out. So he came to p. 392 land long, long before the ship; and when he had got all his goods out of the boat, he shoved it off again, and turned it about and said,
"Boat, boat, go back home!"
And off went the boat.
Then he dressed himself up as a sailor--whether the Troll king had told him that or it was his own device, I'm sure I can't say--and went up to a wretched hut where an old wife lived, whom he got to believe that he was a poor sailor who had been on board a great ship that was wrecked, and that he was the only soul that had got ashore. After that he begged for house-room for himself and the goods he had saved.
"Heaven mend me!" said the old wife, "how can I lend any one house-room! look at me and mine, why, I've no bed to sleep on myself, still less one for any one else to lie on."
Well, well, it was all the same, said the sailor; if he only got a roof over his head it didn't matter where he lay. So she couldn't turn him out of the house, when he was so thankful for what there was. That afternoon he fetched up his things, and the old wife, who was very eager to hear a bit of news to run about and tell, began at once to ask who he was, whence he came, whither he was bound, what it was he had with him, what his business was, and if he hadn't heard anything of the twelve Princesses who had been away the Lord knew how many years. All this she asked and much more, which it would be waste of time to tell. But he said he was so poorly and had such a bad headache after the awful weather he had been out in, that he couldn't answer any of her questions; she must just leave him alone and let him rest a few days till he came to himself after the p. 393 hard work he'd had in the gale, and then she'd know all she wanted.
The very next day the old wife began to stir him up and ask again, but the sailor's head was still so bad he hadn't got his wits together, but somehow he let drop a word or two to show that he did know something about the Princesses. Off ran the old wife with what she had heard to all the gossips and chatterboxes round about, and soon the one came running after the other to ask about the Princesses, "if he had seen them," "if they would soon be there," "if they were on the way," and much more of the same sort. He still went on groaning over his headache after the storm, so that he couldn't tell them all about it, but so much he told them, unless they had been lost in the great storm they'd make the land in about a fortnight or before perhaps; but he couldn't say for sure whether they were alive or no, for though he had seen them, it might very well be that they had been cast away in the storm since. So what did one of these old gossips do but run up to the Palace with this story, and say that there was a sailor down in such and such an old wife's hut, who had seen the Princesses, and that they were coming home in a fortnight or in a week's time. When the King heard that he sent a messenger down to the sailor to come up to him and tell the news himself.
"I don't see how it's to be," said the sailor, "for I haven't any clothes fit to stand in before the King."
But the King said he must come; for the King must and would talk with him, whether he were richly or poorly clad, for there was no one else who could bring him any tidings of the Princesses. So he went up at last to the Palace p. 394 and went in before the King, who asked him if it were true that he had seen anything of the Princesses.
"Ay, ay," said the sailor, "I've seen them sure enough, but I don't know whether they're still alive, for when I last caught sight of them, the weather was so foul we in our ship were cast away; but if they're still alive they'll come safe home in a fortnight or perhaps before."
When the King heard that he was almost beside himself for joy; and when the time came that the sailor had said they would come, the King drove down to the strand to meet them in great state; and there was joy and gladness over the whole land when the ship came sailing in with the Princes and Princesses and Ritter Red. But no one was gladder than the old King, who had got his daughters back again. The eleven eldest Princesses too, were glad and merry, but the youngest, who was to have Ritter Red, who said that he had set them all free and slain the Troll, she wept and was always sorrowful. The King took this ill, and asked why she wasn't cheerful and merry like the others; she hadn't anything to be sorry for now when she had got out of the Troll's clutches, and was to have such a husband as Ritter Red. But she daredn't say anything, for Ritter Red had said he would take the life of any one who told the truth how things had gone.
But now one day, when they were hard at work sewing and stitching the bridal array, in came a man in a great sailor's cloak with a pedlar's pack on his back, and asked if the Princesses wouldn't buy something fine of him for the wedding; he had so many wares and costly things, both gold and silver. Yes, they might do so perhaps, so they looked at his wares, and they looked at him, for they thought p. 395 they had seen both him and many of his costly things before.
"He who has so many fine things," said the youngest Princess, "must surely have something still more precious, and which suits us better even than these."
"Maybe I have," said the Pedlar.
But now all the others cried "Hush," and bade her bear in mind what Ritter Red had said he would do.
Well, some time after the Princesses sat and looked out of the window, and then the King's son came again with the great sea-cloak thrown about him, and the press with the gold crowns at his back; and when he got into the palace hall he unlocked the press before the Princesses, and when each of them knew her own gold crown again, the youngest said,--
"I think it only right that he who set us free should get the meed that is his due; and he is not Ritter Red, but this man who has brought us our gold crowns. He it is that set us free."
Then the King's son cast off the sailor's cloak, and stood there far finer and grander than all the rest; and so the old King made them put Ritter Red to death. And now there was real right down joy in the palace; each took his own bride, and there just was a wedding! Why, it was heard of and talked about over twelve kings' realms.