|Norwegian Fairy Tales
BOOTS AND HIS BROTHERS
Once on a
time there was a man who had three sons, Peter, Paul, and John. John
was Boots, of course, because he was the youngest. I can't say the man
had anything more than these three sons, for he hadn't one penny to rub
against another; and so he told his sons over and over again they must
go out into the world and try to earn their bread, for there at home
there was nothing to be looked for but starving to death.
bit off the man's cottage was the king's palace, and you must know,
just against the king's windows a great oak had sprung up, which was so
stout and big that it took away all the light from the king's palace.
The King had said he would give many, many dollars to the man who could
fell the oak, but no one was man enough for that, for as soon as ever
one chip of the oak's trunk flew off, two grew in its stead. A well,
too, the King had dug, which was to hold water for the whole year; for
all his neighbours had wells, but he hadn't any, and that he thought a
shame. So the King said he would give any one who could dig him such a
well as would hold water for a whole year round, both money and goods;
but no one could do it, for the King's palace lay high, high up on a
hill, and they hadn't dug a few inches before they came upon the living
But as the King had set his heart on having these two
things done, he had it given out far and wide, in all the churches of
his kingdom, that he who could fell the big oak in the king's
court-yard, and get him a well that would hold water the whole year
round, should have the Princess and half the kingdom. Well! you may
easily know there was many a man who came to try his luck; but for all
their hacking and hewing, and all their digging and delving, it was no
good. The oak got bigger and stouter at every stroke, and the rock
didn't get softer either. So one day those three brothers thought
they'd set off and try too, and their father hadn't a word against it;
for even if they didn't get the Princess and half the kingdom, it might
happen they might get a place somewhere with a good master; and that
was all he wanted. So when the brothers said they thought of going to
the palace, their father said 'yes' at once. So Peter, Paul, and Jack
went off from their home.
Well! they hadn't gone far before they
came to a fir wood, and up along one side of it rose a steep hill-side,
and as they went, they heard something hewing and hacking away up
on-the hill among the trees.
'I wonder now what it is that is hewing away up yonder?' said Jack.
always so clever with your wonderings', said Peter and Paul both at
once. 'What wonder is it, pray, that a woodcutter should stand and hack
up on a hill-side?'
'Still, I'd like to see what it is, after all', said Jack; and up he went.
'Oh, if you're such a child, 'twill do you good to go and take a lesson', bawled out his brothers after him.
Jack didn't care for what they said; he climbed the steep hill- side
towards where the noise came, and when he reached the place, what do
you think he saw? why, an axe that stood there hacking and hewing, all
of itself, at the trunk of a fir.
'Good day!' said Jack. 'So you stand here all alone and hew, do you?'
'Yes; here I've stood and hewed and hacked a long long time, waiting for you', said the Axe.
here I am at last', said Jack, as he took the axe, pulled it off its
haft, and stuffed both head and haft into his wallet.
So when he got down again to his brothers, they began to jeer and laugh at him.
'And now, what funny thing was it you saw up yonder on the hill- side?' they said.
'Oh, it was only an axe we heard', said Jack.
when they had gone a bit farther, they came under a steep spur of rock,
and up there they heard something digging and shovelling.
'I wonder now,' said Jack, 'what it is digging and shovelling up yonder at the top of the rock.'
you're always so clever with your wonderings', said Peter and Paul
again, 'as if you'd never heard a woodpecker hacking and pecking at a
'Well, well', said Jack, 'I think it would be a piece of fun just to see what it really is.'
so off he set to climb the rock, while the others laughed and made game
of him. But he didn't care a bit for that; up he clomb, and when he got
near the top, what do you think he saw? Why, a spade that stood there
digging and delving.
'Good day!' said Jack. 'So you stand here all alone, and dig and delve!'
'Yes, that's what I do', said the Spade, 'and that's what I've done this many a long day, waiting for you.'
here I am', said Jack again, as he took the spade and knocked it off
its handle, and put it into his wallet, and then down again to his
'Well, what was it, so rare and strange', said Peter and Paul, 'that you saw up there at the top of the rock?'
'Oh,', said Jack, 'nothing more than a spade; that was what we heard.'
they went on again a good bit, till they came to a brook. They were
thirsty, all three, after their long walk, and so they lay down beside
the brook to have a drink.
'I wonder now', said Jack, 'where all this water comes from.'
wonder if you're right in your head', said Peter and Paul, in one
breath. 'If you're not mad already, you'll go mad very soon, with your
wonderings. Where the brook comes from, indeed! Have you never heard
how water rises from a spring in the earth?'
'Yes! but still I've a great fancy to see where this brook comes from', said Jack.
up alongside the brook he went, in spite of all that his brothers
bawled after him. Nothing could stop him. On he went. So, as he went up
and up, the brook got smaller and smaller, and at last, a little way
farther on, what do you think he saw? Why, a great walnut, and out of
that the water trickled.
'Good-day!' said Jack again. 'So you lie here, and trickle and run down all alone?'
'Yes, I do,' said the Walnut; 'and here have I trickled and run this many a long day, waiting for you.'
here I am', said Jack, as he took up a lump of moss and plugged up the
hole, that the water mightn't run out. Then he put the walnut into his
wallet, and ran down to his brothers.
'Well now', said Peter and Paul, 'have you found out where the water comes from? A rare sight it must have been!'
after all, it was only a hole it ran out of', said Jack; and so the
others laughed and made game of him again, but Jack didn't mind that a
'After all, I had the fun of seeing it', said he. So when
they had gone a bit farther, they came to the king's palace; but as
every one in the kingdom had heard how they might win the Princess and
half the realm, if they could only fell the big oak and dig the king's
well, so many had come to try their luck that the oak was now twice as
stout and big as it had been at first, for two chips grew for every one
they hewed out with their axes, as I daresay you all bear in mind. So
the King had now laid it down as a punishment, that if any one tried
and couldn't fell the oak, he should be put on a barren island, and
both his ears were to be clipped off. But the two brothers didn't let
themselves be scared by that; they were quite sure they could fell the
oak, and Peter, as he was eldest, was to try his hand first; but it
went with him as with all the rest who had hewn at the oak; for every
chip he cut out, two grew in its place. So the king's men seized him,
and clipped off both his ears, and put him out on the island.
Paul, he was to try his luck, but he fared just the same; when he had
hewn two or three strokes, they began to see the oak grow, and so the
king's men seized him too, and clipped his ears, and put him out on the
island; and his ears they clipped closer, because they said he ought to
have taken a lesson from his brother.
So now Jack was to try.
you will look like a marked sheep, we're quite ready to clip your ears
at once, and then you'll save yourself some bother', said the King; for
he was angry with him for his brothers' sake.
'Well, I'd like just to try first', said Jack, and so he got leave.
Then he took his axe out of his wallet and fitted it to its haft.
'Hew away!' said he to his axe; and away it hewed, making the chips fly again, so that it wasn't long before down came the oak.
When that was done, Jack pulled out his spade, and fitted it to its handle.
away!' said he to the spade; and so the spade began to dig and delve
till the earth and rock flew out in splinters, and so he had the well
soon dug out, you may think.
And when he had got it as big and
deep as he chose, Jack took out his walnut and laid it in one corner of
the well, and pulled the plug of moss out.
'Trickle and run',
said Jack; and so the nut trickled and ran, till the water gushed out
of the hole in a stream, and in a short time the well was brimfull.
Jack had felled the oak which shaded the king's palace, and dug a well
in the palace-yard, and so he got the Princess and half the kingdom, as
the King had said; but it was lucky for Peter and Paul that they had
lost their ears, else they had heard each hour and day, how every one
said, 'Well, after all, Jack wasn't so much out of his mind when he
took to wondering.'