Popular Tales From the Norse
THE EAR OF CORN AND THE TWELVE MEN.
[This tale is imperfect at the beginning.]
ANANZI said to the King, that if he would give him an ear of corn, he would bring him twelve strong men. The king gave him the ear of corn, and he went away. At last he got to a house, where he asked for a night's lodging which was given him; the next morning he got up very early, and threw the ear of corn out of the door to the fowls, and went back to bed. When he got up in the morning, he looked for his ear of corn, and could not find it anywhere, so he told them he was sure the fowls had eaten it, and he would not be satisfied unless they gave him the best cock they had. So they were obliged to give him the cook, and he went away with it, all day, until night, when he came to another house, and asked again for a night's lodging, which he got; but when they wanted to put the cock into the fowl-house, he said,
no, the cook must sleep in the pen with the sheep, so they put the cock with the sheep. At midnight he got up, killed the cock, threw it back into the pen, and went back to bed. Next morning, when it was time for him to go away, his cock was dead, and he would not take anything for it but one of the best sheep, so they gave it to him, and be went off with it all that day, until night-fall, when he got to a village, where he again asked for a night's lodging, which was given to him, and when-they wanted to put his sheep with the other sheep, he said, no, the sheep must sleep with the cattle; so they put the sheep with the cattle. In the middle of the night he got up and killed the sheep, and went back to bed. Next morning he went for his sheep, which was dead, so he told them they must give him the best heifer for his sheep, and if they would not do so, he would go back and tell the King, who would come and make war on them.
So to get rid of him, they were glad to give him the heifer, and let him go; and away he went, and walked nearly all day with the heifer. Towards evening he met a funeral, and asked whose it was? one of the men said, it was his sister, so he asked the men if they would let him have her; they said no, but after a while, he begged so hard, saying he would give them the heifer, that they consented, and he took, the dead body and walked away, carrying it until it was dark, when he came to a large town, where he went to a house and begged hard for a night's lodging for himself and his sister, who was so tired he was obliged to carry her, and they would be thankful if they would let them rest there that night. So they let them in, and he asked them to let them sit in the dark, as his sister could not bear the light. So they took them into a room, and left them in the dark; and when they were alone, he seated himself on a bench near the table, and put his sister close by his side, with his arm round her to keep her up. Presently they brought them in some supper; one plate he set before his sister, and put her hand in it, and the other plate for himself, but he ate out of both plates. When it was time to go to bed, he asked if they would allow his
sister to sleep in a room where there were twelve strong men sleeping, for she had fits, and if she had one in the night, they would be able to hold her, and would not disturb the rest of the house. So they agreed to this, and he carried her in his arms, because, he said, she was so tired, she was asleep, and laid her in a bed; he charged the men not to disturb her, and went himself to sleep in the next room. In the middle of the night he heard the men calling out, for they smelt a horrid smell, and tried to wake the woman--first one man gave her a blow, and then another, until all the men had struck her, but Ananzi took no notice of the noise. In the morning when he went in for his sister and found her dead, he declared they had killed her, and that he must have the twelve men; to this the townsmen said no, not supposing that all the men had killed her, but the men confessed that they had each given her a blow--so he would not be satisfied with less than the twelve, and he carried them off to the King, and delivered them up.
THE KING AND THE ANT'S TREE.
THERE was a King who had a very beautiful daughter, and he said whoever would cut down an ant's tree which he had in his kingdom, without brushing off the ants, should marry his daughter. Now a great many came and tried, but no one could do it, for the ants fell out upon them and stung them, and they were forced to brush them off. There was always some one watching to see if they brushed the ants off.
Then Ananzi went, and the King's son was set to watch him.
When they showed him the tree, he said, "Why, that's nothing, I know I can do that." So they gave him the axe, and he began to hew, but each blow he gave the tree, he shook himself and brushed himself, saying all the while, "Did you see
me do that? 1 suppose you think I'm brushing myself, but I am not." And so he went on until he had cut down the tree. But the boy thought he was only pretending to brush himself all the time, and the King was obliged to give him his daughter.
THE LITTLE CHILD AND THE PUMPKIN TREE.
THERE was once a poor widow who had six children. One day when she was going out to look for something to eat, for she was very poor, she met an old man sitting by the river side.
He said to her, "Good morning."
And she answered, "Good morning, father."
He said to her, "Will you wash my head?"
She said she would, so she washed it, and when she was going away, he gave her a "stampee," 1 and told her to go a certain distance, and she would see a large tree full of pumpkins; she was then to dig a hole at the root of the tree and bury the money, and when she had done so, she was to call for as many pumpkins as she liked, and she should have them.
So the woman went, and did as she was told, and she called for six pumpkins, one for each child, and six came down, and she carried them home; and now they always had pumpkins enough to eat, for whenever they wanted any, the woman had only to go to the tree and call, and they had as many as they liked. One morning when she got up, she found a little baby before the door, so she took it up and carried it in, and took care of it. Every day she went out, but in the morning she boiled enough pumpkins to serve the children all day. One day when she came back she found the food was all done, so she scolded her children, and beat them for eating it all up,
1. A small coin.
They told her they had not taken any--that it was the baby--but she would not believe them, and said, "How could a little baby get up and help itself;" but the children still persisted it was the baby. So one day, when she was going out, she put some pumpkin in a calabash, and set a trap over it. When she was gone, the baby got up as usual to eat the food, and got its head fastened in the trap, so that it could not get out, and began knocking its head about, and crying out, "Oh! do loose me, for that woman will kill me when she conies back." When the woman came in, she found the baby fastened in the trap, so she beat it well, and turned it out of doors, and begged her children's pardon for having wronged them.
Then after she turned the baby out, he changed into a great big man, and went to the river, where he saw the old man sitting by the river side, who asked him to wash his head, as he had asked the poor woman, but the man said,--
"No, he would not wash his dirty head," and so he wished the old man "good-bye."
Then the old man asked him if he would like to have a pumpkin, to which he said "yes," and the old man told him to go on till he saw a large tree with plenty of pumpkins on it, and then he must ask for one. So he went on till he got to the tree, and the pumpkins looked so nice he could not be satisfied with one, so he called out, "Ten pumpkins come down," and the ten pumpkins fell and crushed him.
THE BROTHER AND HIS SISTERS.
THERE were once upon a time three sisters and a brother. The sisters were all proud, and one was very beautiful, and she did not like her little brother, "because," she said, "he was dirty." Now, this beautiful sister was to be married, and the brother
begged their mother not to let her marry, as he was sure the man would kill her, for he knew his house was full of bones. So the mother told her daughter, but she would not believe it, and said, "she wouldn't listen to anything that such a dirty little scrub said," and so she was married.
Now, it was agreed that one sister was to remain with her mother, and the other was to go with the bride, and so they set out on their way. When they got to the beach, the husband picked up a beautiful tortoise-shell comb, which he gave to his bride. Then they got into his boat and rowed away over the sea, and when they reached their home, they were so surprised to see their little brother, for the comb had turned into their brother. They were not at all glad to see him, and the husband thought to himself he would kill him without telling his wife. When night came the boy told the husband that at home his mother always put him to sleep in the blacksmith's shop, and so the husband said he should sleep in the smithy.
In the middle of the night the man got up, intending to kill them all, and went to his shop to get his irons ready, but the boy jumped up as soon as he went in, and he said, "Boy, what is the matter with you?" So the boy said, when he was at home his mother always gave him two bags of gold to put his head on. Then the man said, he should have them, and went and fetched him two bags of gold, and told him to go to sleep.
But the boy said, "Now, mind, when you hear me snore I'm not asleep, but when I am not snoring then I'm asleep." Then the boy went to sleep and began to snore, and as long as the man heard the snoring, he blew his bellows; but as soon as the snoring stopped, the man took his irons out of the fire, and the boy jumped up.
Then the man said, "Why, what's the matter? why can't you sleep?"
The boy said, "No; for at home my mother always gave me four bags of money to lie upon."
Well, the man said he should have them, and brought
four bags of money. Then the boy told him again the same thing about his snoring, and the man bade him go to sleep, and he began to snore, and the man to blow his bellows until the snoring stopped. Then the man took out his irons again, and the boy jumped up, and the man dropped the irons, saying, "Why, what's the matter now that you can't sleep?"
The boy said, "At home my mother always gave me two bushels of corn."
So the man said he should have the corn, and went and brought it, and told him to go to sleep. Then the boy snored, and the man blew his bellows till the snoring stopped, when he again took out his irons, and the boy jumped tip, and the man said, "Why, what's it now?"
The boy said, "At home my mother always goes to the river with a sieve to bring me some water."
So the man said, "Very well, I will go, but I have a cock here, and before I go I must speak to it."
Then the man told the cock if he saw any one moving in the house he must crow; that the cock promised to do, and the man set off.
Now when the boy thought the man was gone far away, he got up, and gave the cock some of the corn; then he woke up his sisters and showed them all the bones the man had in the house, and they were very frightened. Then he took the two bags of gold on his shoulders, and told his sisters to follow him. He took them to the bay, and put them into the boat with the bags of gold, and left them whilst he went back for the four bags of money. When he was leaving the house he emptied the bags of corn to the cook, who was so busy eating, he forgot to crow, until they had got quite away.
When the man returned home and could not find them in the house, he went to the river, where he found his boat gone, and so he had no way of going after them. When they landed at their own place the boy turned the boat over and stove it in, so that it was of no use any more; and he took his sisters home,
and told their mother all that had happened, and his sisters loved him, and they lived very happily together ever afterwards, and do so still if they are not dead.