The Northern Way

Popular Tales From the Norse


THERE was once a girl who used to go to the river to fetch water, but when she went she was never in a hurry to come back, but stayed so long, that they made up their minds to watch her. So one day they followed her to the river, and found when she got there she said something (the reciter forgets the words), and a fish came up and talked to her; and she did not like to leave it, for it was her sweetheart. So they went next day to the river to see if the fish would come up, for they remembered what the girl said, and used the same words. Then up came the fish immediately, and they caught it, and took it home, and cooked it for dinner,--and a part they set by, and gave it to the girl when she came in. Whilst she was eating, a voice said, "Do you know what you are eating? I am he you have so often talked with. If you look in the pig's tub you will see my heart." Then the voice told her to take the heart, and wrap it up in a handkerchief, and carry it to the river. When she got to the river she would see three stones in the water; she was to stand on the middle stone and dip the handkerchief three times into the water. All this she did, and then she sank suddenly, and was carried down to a beautiful place, where she found her lover changed from a fish into his proper form, and there she lived happily with him for ever. And this is the reason why there are mermaids in the water.

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A LION had a Goat for his wife. One day Goat went out to market, and while she was gone, Lion went out in the wood, where he met with Baboon, who made friends with Lion, for fear he would eat him, and asked him to go home with him; but the Lion thought it would be a good chance, so he asked the Baboon to go home with him and see his little ones. When they got home, the Baboon said to the Lion,

"Why, you have got plenty of little goats here."

The Lion said, "Yes, they are my children."

So the Baboon said, "If they are, they are little goats, and they are very good meat."

So the Lion said, "Don't make a noise; their mother will come presently, and we will see."

So these little goats took no notice, but went out to meet their mother, and told her what had passed.

Their mother said to them, "Go back, take no notice, and I shall come home presently, and shall do for him."

So she went and bought some molasses, and took it home with her. The Lion said, "Are you come; what news?"

"Oh!" she said, "good news, taste here." He tasted, and said, "It's very good, it's honey."

And she said, "It's baboon's blood; they have been killing one to-day, the blood is running in the street, and every one is carrying it away."

The Lion said, "Hush, there's one in the house, and we shall have him."

At this the Baboon rushed off, and when they looked for him, he was gone, and never came near them again, which saved the little goats' lives.

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ANANZI and Baboon were disputing one day which was fattest. Ananzi said he was sure he was fat, but Baboon declared he was fatter. Then Ananzi proposed that they should prove it; so they made a fire, and agreed that they should hang up before it, and see which would drop most fat.

Then Baboon hung up Ananzi first, but no fat dropped.

Then Ananzi hung up Baboon, and very soon the fat began to drop, which smelt so good that Ananzi cut a slice out of Baboon, and said,

"Oh! brother Baboon, you're fat for true."

But Baboon didn't speak.

So Ananzi said, "Well, speak or not speak, I'll eat you every bit to-day," which he really did. But when he had eaten up all Baboon, the bits joined themselves together in his stomach, and began to pull him about so much that he had no rest, and was obliged to go to a doctor.

The doctor told him not to eat anything for some days, then he was to get a ripe banana, and hold it to his mouth; when the Baboon, who would be hungry, smelt the banana, he would be sure to run up to eat it, and so he would run out of his mouth.

So Ananzi starved himself, and got the banana, and did as the doctor told him; but when he put the banana to his mouth, he was so hungry couldn't help eating it. So he didn't get rid of the Baboon, which went on pulling him about till he was obliged to go back to the doctor, who told him he would soon cure him; and he took the banana, and held it to Ananzi's mouth, and very soon the Baboon jumped up to catch it, and ran out of his mouth; and Ananzi was very glad to get rid of him. And Baboons to this very day like bananas.

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THERE was once a man and his wife, who were very poor, and they had a great many children. The man was very lazy, and would do nothing to help his family. The poor mother did all she could. In the wood close by grew a Doukana Tree, which was full of fruit. Every day the man went and ate some of the fruit, but never took any home, so he ate and he ate, until there were only two Doukanas left on the Tree. One he ate, and left the other. Next day, when he went for that one, he was obliged to climb up the tree to reach it; but when he got up, the Doukana fell down; when he got down the Doukana jumped up; and so it went on until he was quite tired.

Then he asked all the animals that passed by to help him, but they all made some excuse. They all had something to do. The horse had his work to do, or he would have no grass to eat. The donkey brayed. Last came a dog, and the man begged him hard to help him; so the dog said he would. Then the man climbed up the tree, and the Doukana jumped to the ground again, when the dog picked it up and ran off with it. The man was very vexed, and ran after the dog, but it ran all the, faster, so that the man could not overtake him. The dog, seeing the man after him, ran to the sea-shore, and scratching a hole in the ground, buried himself all but his nose, which he left sticking out.

Soon after the man came up, and seeing the nose, cried out that he had "never seen ground have nose;" and catching hold of it he tugged till he pulled out the dog, when he squeezed him with all his might to make him give up the Doukana. And that's why dogs are so small in their bodies to this very day.

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THERE was once an old woman called "Nancy Fairy." She was a witch, and used to steal all the little babies as soon as they were born, and eat them. One day she stole a little baby, who was so beautiful that she had not the heart to eat her; but she took her home and brought her up. She called her "daughter," named her "Nancy Fairy," after herself, and the girl called the old woman "Granny."

So the girl grew up, and the more she grew the more beautiful she got.

The old woman never let her daughter know of her doings; but one day when she had brought a baby home, and had locked herself in a room, her daughter peeped through a chink to see what she was about, and the old woman saw her shadow, and thought her daughter had seen what she was doing, and the daughter thought her granny had seen her, and was very much afraid.

So the old woman asked her, "Nancy Fairy, did you see what I was doing?"

"No, Granny."

She asked the girl several times, "Nancy Fairy, did you see what I was doing?" and the girl always said, "No, Granny."

So the old woman took her up to a hut in a wood, and left her there as a punishment; and she took her food every day.

One day it happened that the king's servant, going that way, saw the beautiful girl come out of the hut. Next day he went again and saw the same beautiful girl again. So he went home and told the prince that he could show him in the wood a girl more beautiful than he had ever seen. The prince went and

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saw the girl and then sent a band of soldiers to fetch her home, and took her for his bride.

A year after she had a baby. Soldiers were set to keep guard at the gate, and the room was full of nurses; but in the middle of the night the old woman came in a whirlwind and put them all to sleep. She stole the child, and on going away gave the mother a slap on the mouth, which made her dumb.

Next morning there was a great stir, and they said the mother had eaten the child. There was a trial, but the mother was let off that time.

Next year she had another baby, and the same thing happened again. The old woman came in the middle of the night in a whirlwind, and put them all to sleep. She stole the child, and struck the mother on the mouth, which made it bleed.

In the morning there was a stir and the servant maid, who was jealous, said the mother had eaten the child. All believed it, as her mouth was covered with blood; and, besides, what would be expected of a girl brought out of the wood? So she was tried again, and condemned to be hanged.

Invitations were sent out to all the grand folk to come and see her hanged; so many fine carriages came driving up. At last, just before the time, there came a very grand carriage, all of gold, which glistened in the sun. In it were the old woman and two children, dressed in fine clothes, with the king's star on them. When the queen saw this grand carriage she got her speech and sung,

"Do spare me till I see that grand carriage.

The old woman came into the courtyard, and asked the people if they saw any likeness to any one in the children. They said, "they were like the prince," and asked her how she came by them, and told her she had stolen them. She said she had not stolen them; she had taken them, for they were her own; the prince had taken away her daughter without her leave, and so she had taken his children; but she was willing to give them back, if they would allow that she was right.

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So they consented, and the old woman made the prince and his queen a present of the grand carriage, and so they lived happily. The old woman was allowed to come and see the children whenever she liked. But the servant girl, who said the queen had eaten her babies, was hanged.


A WATER carrier once went to the river to fetch water. She dipped in her calabash, and brought out a cray-fish. The cray-fish began beating his claws on the calabash, and played such a beautiful tune, that the girl began dancing, and could not stop.

The driver of the gang wondered why she did not come, and sent another to see after her. When she came, she too began to dance. So the driver sent another, who also began to dance when she heard the music and the cray-fish singing--

"Vaitsi, Vaitsi, O sulli Van."

"Stay for us, stay for us, how long will you stay for us?"

Then the driver sent another and another, till he had sent the whole gang.

At last he went himself and when he found the whole gang dancing, he too began to dance; and they all danced till night, when the cray-fish went back into the water; and if they haven't done dancing, they are dancing still.

Printed by T. and A. Constable, Printers to His Majesty,

at the Edinburgh University Press

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