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How a Woodpecker chopped a Spruce-tree

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The Hedgehog and his Bride


The Twelve Brothers, Twelve Black Ravens


How a Woodpecker chopped a Spruce-tree

A woodpecker once flew up to a spruce-tree, lighted on its very top, and, rocking back and forth, sang:
"I will chop this spruce-tree down,
Make a cudgel of its crown,
Wave it once and at a blow
Every beast I see lay low! "

The rabbit heard him and was frightened to death. Away he ran as fast as his legs could carry him and he met a wolf.

"Where are you running so fast, Squinteyes? " the wolf asked him.

Said the rabbit:
"We're in terrible danger, Wolf. For on top of the spruce-tree yonder there sits a woodpecker, and do you know what I have just heard him say? Listen to this:
"I will chop this spruce-tree down,
Make a cudgel of its crown,
Wave it once and at a blow
Every beast I see lay low! "

The wolf was frightened and away he ran together with the rabbit. By and by they met a fox.

"Are you two out of your minds to be rushing like that?" asked she. "Where are you going?"

"Oh, Mistress Fox, we're in terrible danger. On top of the spruce-tree yonder there sits a woodpecker, and do you know what we've just heard him say? Listen to this:
"I will chop this spruce-tree down,
Make a cudgel of its crown,
Wave it once and at a blow
Every beast I see lay low!"

The fox was frightened, so she joined the rabbit and the wolf and away they ran together. By and by they met a boar.

"Where are you rushing to—a ball or a christening? " asked the boar, and he added:
"I will come along if so,
For I love to eat, you know.
Good, rich food and acorn beer
Both the heart and palate cheer."

Said the rabbit, the wolf and the fox in reply:
'No, friend Boar, it's not a ball
We are going to at all.

We are in terrible danger. On top of the spruce-tree yonder there sits a woodpecker, and do you know what we have just heard him say? Listen to this:
'I will chop this spruce-tree down,
Make a cudgel of its crown,
Wave it once and at a blow
Every beast I see lay low!'

So we are on our way to hold counsel
And decide what we must do
Without flurry or to-do."

The boar joined the rabbit, the wolf and the fox, and away they ran together.

By and by they met a bear. He was on his way home from the house of his uncle, the two of them having robbed a beehive together, and was still chewing on a piece of pie. Seeing them, the bear stopped.

"Where are you running, neighbours? " asked he. "I never expected to see Ploughman the Boar, Sprinter the Rabbit, Red Tail the Fox and Grey Coat the Wolf together. Why are you in such a hurry? Who is chasing you? You are not going off to war, are you?"

Said the four of them in reply:
"Hear us out while we explain
And don't wag your tongue in vain.
Dark the skies above us loom,
We are plunged in awful gloom.

For on top of the spruce-tree yonder there sits a woodpecker, and do you know what we have just leard him say? Listen to this:
"I will chop this spruce-tree down,
Make a cudgel of its crown,
Wave it once and at a blow
Every beast I see lay low!"

The bear was frightened, he joined the rabbit, the wolf, the fox and the boar, and away the five of them ran together. They talked among themselves and de-sided that they would die rather than let the woodpecker chop down the spruce-tree!

Gathering up courage, they ran up to the spruce-tree in which the woodpecker sat and called out with Dne voice:
"Look here, Woodpecker, listen to us! Do not chop down the spruce-tree or make the cudgel. Let us all live together in peace like the good neighbours that we are."

But the woodpecker who was still perched on the very top of the spruce-tree cried again:
"Go away or you'll be sorry!

For I'lI chop the spruce-tree down,
Make a cudgel of its crown,
And whoever ventures near-
Thump! —will get it on the ear! "

At this the five friends set up a great noise. They shouted at the top of their lungs that they would not let the woodpecker chop down the spruce-tree, and, clasping the tree, held on to it for dear life.

Said the woodpecker:
"I'll set me to work in a moment, just as soon as I have whetted my axe."

"Listen to me, all of you! " cried the bear. "You push at the spruce-tree from your side, Wolf and Boar, and Fox and I will push at it from ours. That way we'll hold it up nicely and it won't fall. As for you, Rabbit, you prop it up with your shoulder and do your best, mind!"

"All right! " piped the rabbit, only to cry out the next moment: "Whoa there, brothers, I believe the woodpecker has started chopping. A chip has just fallen on my tail."

"Hold it tight! " the wolf cried. "It's toppling over to our side! "

At this they all came together and set to pulling at the spruce-tree, the wolf and the boar from one side and the bear from the other till little by little it began to rock and to sag and then all of a sudden—crash! —broke in two. The wolf and the boar fell to the ground with a thump, the rabbit, the bear and the fox fell on top of them, and they all called out together:
"Please, Woodpecker, have a heart and don't kill us!"

The woodpecker flew up into the air and then settled on another spruce-tree.
"Think before you make me frown—
I have chopped the spruce-tree down! "
cried he.

And the bear said over and over again in piteous tones:
"And I thought I was holding it ever so tight! Oh, that woodpecker! I've never seen anyone so strong as he! "

The Hedgehog and his Bride

Once upon a time there was an old man who made a living by making and selling brooms.

One day he went to the forest for switches. All of a sudden who should appear out of nowhere but a hedgehog. Back and forth he scurried and never left the old man's side. The old man sat down to have a bite to eat, and the hedgehog bustled about at his feet, now picking up a bread crumb, now licking a 161 drop of milk from his boot. The old man took a liking to the little animal, and, putting him in his cap, brought him home.

In the morning the old man and his wife woke up, they looked and they saw that all the plates in the house had been washed and set carefully on the shelves, the pots and pans scrubbed till they shone, the floor swept clean and sprinkled with sand, the water brought in, the firewood chopped and stacked and the fire in the stove started. And there was the hedgehog sitting on a stool and snorting, busily at work sewing up the old man's pants with one of his own needles.

The old man and his wife were very pleased with the hedgehog for being so hardworking. They decided to keep him and to take him for their own son and they named him Prickly.

Prickly grew up and bethought him of getting married. And it was not just anyone he wanted to marry but the king's daughter herself and none other! He begged his new father to go matchmaking and ask for the hand of the king's daughter in his behalf.

The father, loving Prickly dearly, went to the king and said:
"Will you not agree to let your daughter marry my Prickly, Sire? "

"Bring him here and we'll see! " replied the king.

The old man came home and told Prickly all about it, and Prickly turned it over in his mind and said:
"The king was right to ask to see me. Let us go to him! "

The old man tied a silk ribbon round the hedgehog, 162 stuck a white clover in it, and, putting him in his cap, brought him to the king.

The king took one look at the bridegroom and burst out laughing. He laughed so that his beard shook.

"A fine bridegroom you've brought us! " cried he.

But the old man began praising the hedgehog and saying how clever and hardworking he was

"Very well," said the king, "I'll let him have my daughter in marriage if only he cleans my cow-house of all the dung that has piled up there in the last five years, strews it over the field, ploughs three hundred tithes of land, grows the wheat and reaps it, threshes and grinds the grain and then bakes pies out of the whole of the flour."

The old man heard him out and was filled with sorrow. But the hedgehog said, trying to comfort him:
"Do not grieve, father. I'll try to cope with the work somehow. Only take me to the king's cow-house."

The old man brought him to the cow-house and the hedgehog cried:
"Come, dung, get into the wagons and make off for the field! "

And at once the dung loaded itself into the wagons and rode off for the field.

The hedgehog began running up and down the un-ploughed field.

"Come, field, plough yourself! " he cried, and the same moment the field was ploughed.

"Come, field, harrow yourself! "—and at once the field was harrowed, a cloud of dust rising over it.

"Lie straight as strings, furrows! "—and at once the furrows stretched across the field straight as strings.

"Drop into the earth, grain! "—and the grains of wheat dropped of themselves into the furrows.

"Come up and ripen, golden wheat! "—and the wheat at once came up and ripened.

"Be cut and gathered into sheaves! "—and the wheat gathered itself up into sheaves.

"Dry the grain, sun! "—and the sun dried the grain.

"Lie down on the threshing-floor, ears of wheat! "—and the ears of wheat lay down on the threshing-floor.

"Be threshed and ground to flour, grain! "—and the grain was threshed and ground to flour.

"Bake yourselves, pies, and then climb into the wagons and ride off to the king's palace! "—and the pies baked themselves, climbed into the wagons, and, warm and fragrant as they were, rode off to the palace. A hundred wagon-loads they made up all in all, and the hedgehog rolled ahead of them and pointed out the way.

Seeing that the hedgehog had done what had been asked of him and not wanting to go back on his word, the king summoned his daughter, showed her her bridegroom and bade her get ready for the wedding.

The princess could not very well disobey her father's command, so she and Prickly were first betrothed and then married.

Late at night after the wedding feast when his young bride had gone to bed, the hedgehog cast off his prickly skin, hid it behind the stove and turned into a young man so handsome that he seemed to light everything about him, just like the sun.

The king's daughter woke from a fitful sleep and was overjoyed to see the tall and handsome youth in place of the loathsome hedgehog.

At daybreak the hedgehog got back into his prickly skin again and began scurrying about from osr chamber to another, snorting and sniffing as he did so.

But as soon as darkness set in he again cast off his needles and turned into a handsome youth.

One morning the king's servant came in to clean the chambers, found the hedgehog's skin behind the stove and threw it in the fire together with the sweepings.

The youth woke up, he looked for his skin but could not find it anywhere. This made him very angry and he said to the king's daughter:

"It was an evil magician who turned me into a hedgehog. Now I must go off beyond the far seas and you won't see me for seven years. And before I go I will put a magic spell on you: whatever you touch will turn to iron."

Off he went beyond the far seas, leaving his young wife behind him, and whatever she touched was at once covered with a thick coat of iron. She touched her legs and they turned to iron. She passed her hand forgetfully over her forehead and her forehead turned to iron, too. This was a harsh punishment indeed and the king's daughter suffered cruelly and wept because of it.

Cursing her lot and moving her feet with difficulty, she came to the house of the old broom-maker, the hedgehog's adopted father, and begged him to find his son and ask him if there was anything she could do or if she was fated to die thus bound in iron.

The old man took pity on his daughter-in-law and at once made ready to set off beyond the far seas.

It was not for a year nor yet for two years but for many-many years that he was on his way, and he was all grown with moss like an old tree stump by the time he got to where he was bound for.

He came out on to the shore of the sea and called:
"Come, Prickly, come, my son, swim out to me!"

The son turned into white sea foam, and, as a wave carried him to shore, asked:
"Why are you here, father? Why cannot you leave me in peace?"

The father told him of his young wife's sufferings and Prickly heard him out and said:
"Let her come here herself! "

By the time the father came back home many more years had passed and he had turned into an old and feeble man. He told his daughter-in-law what she had to do, and, bound in iron though she was, off she set on her way, dragging her feet with difficulty.

A year went by, and another, and when at last she got to the shore of the sea she, too, like her father-in-law before her, was all grown with moss. She stood there and waited, and her husband turned into white foam, and, floating out to her, said:

"Listen to me. When 'evening comes you will see white foam by the very shore and red foam just beyond. Wait till the half-moon appears in the sky and then scoop up a handful of the white foam."

With these words he vanished in the deep, and the wife waited till evening came and then did just as he had told her. The moment the half-moon had risen, she scooped up a handful of white foam, and there before her stood her husband in the guise of a tall and handsome youth.

"We must swim the sea," said he. "Are you not 186 afraid, my wife? "

"No, I am not," the princess replied.

"Then put your arms round my neck and hold tight."

The princess put her arms round her husband's waist and they passed through the roaring flames.

"Do you see that old oak-tree yonder? " asked the husband after a time. "As soon as we reach it the evil witches waiting there will turn us into loathsome toads. Are you willing to become a toad's wife and spend two years under a porch?"

"I am! " the princess firmly replied.

The witches turned them into toads, and the princess and her husband lived under a porch for two whole years and only got back their proper shape at the end of them.

They came home at last, and in the best and gayest of spirits, and the old king held such a feast in their honour that all the cats and dogs in the kingdom, smelling the good things roasting and boiling in the palace kitchen, came running there.

I was at the feast, too, and with great good will ate and drank my fill.

I had on a hat of butter and a caftan of paper and shoes of glass, and I was taking a trayful of wine 167 glasses to the chamber when, as luck would have it, I stumbled, the glasses rolled down on to my shoes and were smashed and the hat fell off my head and was eaten up by the dogs. Now, this made me feel very bad indeed, so off I ran to the cow-house, dug myself in under a bundle of tow and lay there. Some servants came in, they gathered me up together with the tow and thrus me in a cannon. Boom! went the cannon, and out I shot and flew across the sky. There was a roof in my path, so—c-r-r-rash! —I passed through that and dropped straight in a German pastor's bed. Down crawled the pastor under the bed, and, trembling with fear, cried:

"O Lord! O Lord!"

But as I did not know his tongue all I said was;
"Go to sleep, go to sleep!"

So we both went to sleep and slept the night through, I in the bed and the pastor under it.

The Twelve Brothers, Twelve Black Ravens

There was once a lord whose wife died and left him twelve sons and one daughter.

A little time passed by and the lord decided to marry again. His choice fell on a woman who was a witch. Said she to him:

"If you want me to marry you you must kill your sons, burn their bodies, wrap the ashes in paper and send them to me. But you can spare your daughter."

The lord thought this over but as he could not think what to do he told his servant all about it. Said the servant:

"Do not be grieved. You have many large dogs, so what you must do is burn twelve of them and send their ashes to your future wife. She'll never know. And after you are married, even if she learns the truth nothing will happen to your sons."

And that was just what the lord did. He killed and burnt twelve dogs, put their ashes in a packet, sealed it, and sent. it off to the witch.

The witch looked at the ashes, sniffed them and said that she would marry the lord.

After the wedding she came to the lord's house and began to sniff and pry and snoop about. This she did for a long time and then she said:

"Where is this evil smell coming from? Let all who don't belong in the house turn into black ravens and go flying out of here!"

Now, the twelve brothers were hiding in the cellar at the time and at her words they turned into black ravens and flew out of the window.

Only his daughter was left to the lord and she knew nothing about her brothers, for her father forbade his servants to so much as mention them.

One day when she was already twelve years old the servants got to talking among themselves in her presence.

"Did the late mistress have only one child? " asked one.

"Oh, no! " another replied. "She had twelve sons besides, but when the master married again, his wife, witch that she is, put a spell on them and turned them into black ravens."

Hearing about it, the girl at once made ready to set out and seek her brothers. She made twelve shirts and twelve pairs of pants, twelve sheets and twelve pillow-cases, and, tying them into a bundle, set off on her way.

She crossed a field and she passed through a forest and she asked everyone she met if he or she had seen her brothers, the twelve black ravens.

Once, in a dense forest thicket, she came across a hermit.

"Have you seen my brothers, the twelve black ravens?" asked she.

"No," the hermit replied. "But I rule over the heavens, so spend the night in my cabin and in the morning I will command the clouds to come down and ask them about it. They are sure to have seen them!"

On the following morning the hermit ordered all the clouds, white, grey and black, to come down to him, and when they did and had cloaked his cabin it became as dark inside as on the darkest night.

The hermit stepped out on to the threshold.

"Have you seen the Twelve Brothers, Twelve Black Ravens?" asked he.

"No, we haven't," the clouds, white, grey and black, replied, and, rising into the air, they went flying off in different directions.

Said the hermit to the girl:
"If you follow the forest path all day, by evening you will come across my brother. He is lord of all the winds and can ask them if they have seen your brothers."

The girl did as he told her. All day long she followed the path that led through the thickest part of 189 the forest and by evening came across the second hermit.

Walking up to him, she asked him if he had seen or heard of the Twelve Brothers, Twelve Black Ravens.

"I know nothing about them," the hermit replied. "Spend the night in my cabin and in the morning I will summon all the winds, and if ever they have seen them they will tell you so."

In the morning the hermit began calling the winds together, and loi—they came flying up, blowing and howling and roaring as they flew. The hermit asked them about the twelve ravens but the winds replied that they had never seen or heard of them.

Said the hermit to the girl:
"If you follow the forest' path all day, by evening you will come across my eldest brother. He is lord of all the birds and perhaps one of them has seen your brothers."

The girl went on.
She followed the forest path all day, and by evening came across the third hermit who said to her just as had the other two before him:
"Spend the night in my cabin, and in the morning I will summon all the birds. If ever they have seen your brothers they will tell you so."

In the morning the hermit began calling all the birds together, and lo! —there was a great flutter and beating of wings and the birds, big and small, came flying up to him.

The hermit came out to them and asked them about the twelve ravens but the birds replied that they had neither seen nor heard of them.

The hermit did not try to keep them there, so they soon took wing and flew away again.

All of a sudden as if out of thin air a lame eaglo came flying up.

"Why didn't you make haste and come at my call? " the hermit roared at him. "Where have you been dawdling? "

"A hunter shot and lamed me," the eagle replied. "I couldn't fly any faster."

"Come, tell me this," the hermit said, "have you seen the Twelve Brothers, Twelve Black Ravens anywhere? "

Said the eagle in reply:
"I have indeed. By day they fly around in the guise of black ravens and toward evening turn into brave and handsome lads and spend the night in a cave on the top of High Mountain."

The hermit went into his cabin and came out again at once, bringing twelve pegs which he gave to the girl. He told her that she was to climb High Mountain and said that as she did so she was to drive the pegs into the ground one by one.

"Take care not to let the pegs slip out of your hands," he warned, "for if you drop even one you'll never make it to the top."

And to the eagle he said:
"See to it that she doesn't fall and kill herself."

Off flew the eagle with the girl on his back and after a time they came to High Mountain, and so high was it that its peak pierced the clouds.

The girl began climbing the mountain and driving the pegs into the ground one after another as she climbed. She had all but reached the top, not half a verst being left to go, when one of the pegs suddenly slipped out of her hands. Seeing it drop, she stumbled and would have fallen had not the eagle who had been waiting for her on the mountain top caught her up. With the claws of his good leg he seized her by the bundle she was clutching and carried her off beyond the clouds. Carrying her up to a large cave, he let her down by the entrance and said:

"Your brothers come to this cave every evening. Go inside and you will see twelve beds. Spread your sheets on the beds and slip your pillow-cases on the pillows and put a shirt and a pair of pants on each bed. There is a bedstand with a loaf of bread on it beside each bed and you must cut off a slice from each loaf and eat it. The bed closest to the door belongs to your youngest brother. Crawl under it and spend the night there."

With this the eagle flew away and the girl came into the cave. Everything in it was just as the eagle had told her. So she spread her sheets on the beds, slipped her pillow-cases on the pillows and put a shirt and a pair of pants on each bed. After that she cut a slice from each of the loaves and ate it and then crawled under her youngest brother's bed.

Evening had only just set 'in when she heard the ravens cawing. Down they dropped to the ground, turned into brave and handsome lads and came into the cave.

Seeing the beds made ready for the night and .the shirts and pants lying there, they were overjoyed. They hastened to put on the new clothes and were about to sit down to their evening meal when they saw that a slice had been cut from each loaf.

Said the oldest of the brothers:
"It's good that the beds have been made and the clothes prepared for us but it is not so good that some of our bread is missing. Oh, well, there is nothing to be done, we have to make the best of it!"

The brothers went to bed, and in the morning as soon as they awoke turned into black ravens and flew away, cawing loudly.

The girl crawled out from her hiding-place, made up the beds, swept the floor, tidied up the cave and sat down to wait for her brothers. When evening came she again cut a slice from each loaf, ate it and crawled under the youngest brother's bed.

Soon she heard the ravens cawing and the next moment her brothers came into the cave.

Said the oldest of the brothers:
"Look, brothers, more of our bread has been eaten! Perhaps someone who means to harm us has found his way here. I am not going to do anything about it today but if the same thing happens again tomorrow, then I'll turn the whole mountain inside out but find the maldoer."

The girl was frightened and began thinking what she should do.

Her brothers had been snoring away for a long time, but, hard as she tried, she could not get to sleep. She fought with herself for a time, but at last, unable to bear it longer, tugged at her youngest brother's shirt sleeve.

"Who is there? " cried he, starting a wake.

And the girl whispered back:
"I am your little sister, my brother. I have made my way here and found you, but our eldest brother 11 is in such a terrible temper that I don't know what to do.

Said the youngest brother:
"Go to sleep, and well see what we must do tomorrow. Morning is wiser than evening."

In the morning the brothers rose and were about to go out when the youngest brother said to the eldest:
"You said you would turn the mountain inside out to find the one who eats up our bread. But if he should turn out to be someone close to us, someone like our little sister—what then? "

Said the oldest brother:
"I see that you know who is hiding here. So out with it, brother, and tell us who it is!"

After that there was nothing more to be said, so the youngest brother called:
"Come, little sister, let whatever is to be be. Climb out from under the bed and show yourself!"

The girl did as he told her and climbed out from under the bed.

Said the oldest of the brothers:
"Had you waited for us at home for another year, sister, we'd have come back to you. But now we will be parted for twelve years more and will only meet again if you chain your tongue and don't utter a word in all the twelve years."

And telling her to get on his back, he turned into a black raven, and his brothers with him, and off they flew!

They took the girl to a dense forest, put her on the top of a tall spruce-tree and bade her goodbye.

A long time passed, the clothes the girl had on tore to shreds and fell about her, and still she sat there and never stirred.

One day a prince and a group of huntsmen came to the forest on horseback. One of the dogs they had with them stopped by the tree in which sat the girl and began barking loudly. The prince and the huntsmen came galloping up and at once saw that someone was hiding in the tree. But though they called to him and asked who he was, he made no answer and stayed very still...

Said the prince to his servant:
"Climb the tree and get him down here and then we'll see who it is!"

The servant began climbing the tree, but, seeing him, the girl glanced out and showed with a gesture that she had no clothes on. The servant then jumped down to the ground and told the prince that a pretty lass was sitting in the top of the tree but that she was quite naked.

The prince gave the servant some clothes and these the servant passed on to the girl who dressed herself and then climbed down from the tree. The prince was smitten at sight of her. He brought the girl home and told his parents that he wanted to marry her. The king and queen were loath to let the prince marry a mute, but the prince pleaded so hard that they finally gave their consent. And so it came about that the prince and the sister of the Twelve Brothers, Twelve Black Ravens were married.

Several years went by and a son was born to them, On that day the prince was away from home and his young wife was put in the care of her stepmother the witch. The witch threw the newborn baby away, put a pup in its place, and, showing it to all the courtiers, said:
"Just see what her child is like!"

The king and queen were horrified and wrote to their son, telling him to come back at once and drive out his wife.

The prince came back, he looked at his wife and so sweet and beautiful did he think her that he refused to punish her.

On the following year a second son was born to them, and the prince being away again, his wife's stepmother the witch threw out this baby, too, put a kitten in its place, and, showing it to all the courtiers, said:
"Just see what she has given birth to!"

The king and queen were very angry and they wrote to their son who wrote back telling them to do nothing until his return.

The prince came back, and, seeing his wife, said:
"Mine is a good and a kind wife and I will not part with her. Let us wait and see what happens."

Another year went by, and the prince was away again when his wife gave birth to their third son. The witch threw him away, too, and showed everyone a pup, saying that that was what the princess had given birth to. The king and queen wrote to their son asking him to return in all haste and decide what to do.

The prince came back and he was sorry for his wife but could think of no way of saving her.

"Do as you think fit!" said he to his parents.

The princess was tried and the judges said that she was a witch and condemned her to the stake.

A big fire was made up and the princess was led to it but all of a sudden it began to rain and the fire went out.

The king then ordered dry brushwood to be brought that the fire might be started anew.

Now, it was at that very moment that the twelve years since the girl had parted from her brothers the twelve black ravens were up. The fire had just been started when lo! —they came flying up and dropping to the ground one after another. The oldest of them turned into a brave and handsome man, and he came towards the people gathered near the stake, leading a three-year-old boy by the hand. The second turned into a brave and handsome man, and he came up leading a two-year-old boy by the hand. And behind them 'came the third brother carrying in his arms a newborn infant swathed in swaddling clothes.

All three came up to the fire and cried:
"What are you doing? Why would you put to death our own dear sister who has done nothing to deserve it? Better burn our stepmother the witch!"

And they explained that the witch had thrown out the newborn babies and that they had taken them away and brought them up. The princess, too, spoke up, saying that it was because of the love she bore her brothers that she had been silent for so many years.

At this all who wire there rushed at the witch and cast her in the flames.

The king held a sumptuous feast to which he invited great numbers of people from far and near. I was there, too, and there was much that I saw and much that I had to eat and drink, but it all ran down my beard and not a drop got in my mouth.