A NORSE FOLK TALE
Once there was a poor woodcutter who had so many children that it was hard to get enough for them to eat.
They were all pretty children, but the youngest daughter was the prettiest of them all.
One cold, dark night in the fall they were sitting around the fire when all at once something went rap! rap! rap! on the window.
The father went out to see what it was, and there stood a big white bear.
“Good evening,” said the bear.
“The same to you,” said the man.
“Give me your youngest daughter, and you shall be rich,” said the bear.
“You can’t have her,” said the man.
“Think it over,” said the bear, “I will come again next week.”
Then the bear went away.
They talked it over and at last the youngest daughter said that she would go away with the bear when he came back.
Next Thursday night they heard the rap! rap! rap! on the window, and there was the white bear again.
The girl went out and climbed up on his back and off they went.
When they had gone a little way, the bear turned around and asked, “Are you afraid?”
No, she was not afraid.
“Well, hold fast to me, and there will be nothing to be afraid of,” said the bear.
Thillus121ey went a long, long way, until they came to a great hill.
The bear knocked on the ground, and a door opened. They went in.
It was a castle, with many lights, and it shone with silver and gold.
The white bear gave to the girl a silver bell, and said to her, “Ring this bell when you want anything.”
Then he went away.
Every night, when all the lights had been put out, the bear came and talked with her. He slept in a bed in the great hall.
But it was so dark that she could never see him, or know how he looked, and when she took his paw, it was not like a paw. It was like a hand.
She wanted so much to see him! but he told her she must not.
At last she felt that she could not wait any longer.
So one night, when he was asleep, she lighted a candle and bent over and looked at him.
What do you think she saw?
It was not a bear, but a prince, and the most beautiful prince that was ever seen!
She was so surprised that her hand began to shake, and three drops from the candle fell upon the coat of the prince.
This woke him up.
“What have you done?” he cried. “You have brought trouble upon us. An ugly witch turned me into a bear, but every night I am myself again, and if you had waited only a year, and had not tried to find me out, I should have been free.
“Now I must go back to my other castle and marry an ugly princess with a nose three yards long.”
The girl cried and cried and cried, but it did no good.
She asked if she could go with him, but he said that she could not.
“Tell me the way there,” she said, “and I will find you.”
“It is East of the Sun and West of the Moon, but there is no way to it,” he said.
Next morning when the girl awoke, she found herself all alone in the deep woods.
She set out and walked and walked till she came to a very old woman sitting under a hill. The old woman had a golden apple in her hand.
The girl asked the woman to tell her the way to the castle of the prince who lived East of the Sun and West of the Moon.
The old woman didn’t know, but she gave the girl the golden apple, and lent her a horse, and said to her:
“Ask my next neighbor. Maybe she will know. And when you find her, switch my horse under the left ear and tell him to be off home.”
So the girl got on the horse and rode until she came to an old woman with a golden comb. This old woman answered her as the first had done, and lent her another horse and gave her the golden comb.
The girl got on the horse and rode till she came to another old woman spinning on a golden spinning wheel. This old woman did as the others had done, and lent her another horse and gave her the golden spinning wheel.
“You might ask the East Wind. Maybe he will know,” she said.
So the girl rode on until she came to the house of the East Wind.
“I have heard of the prince and his castle, but I never went so far as that,” said the East Wind.
“Get on my back, and I will carry you to my brother, the West Wind. Maybe he will know.”
She got on his back, and away they went. O how fast they went!
At last they found the West Wind, but he had never been so far as the castle of the prince.
“Get on my back,” said West Wind, “and I will take you to our brother, the South Wind. He will know, for he has been everywhere.”
So she got on the West Wind, and away they went to the South Wind.
“It is a long way to that castle,” said the South Wind, with a sigh. “I have never been so far as that, but our brother, the North Wind, is stronger than any of us. If he has not been there, you will never find the way, and you might as well give it up. So get on my back, and I will take you to him.”
The girl got on the back of the South Wind, and soon they came to where the North Wind lived.
“Boo-oo-oo! What do you want?” roared the North Wind.
“Here is a girl who is looking for the prince that lives East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Do you know where that is?” asked the South Wind.
“Yes, once I blew a leaf as far as that, and I was so tired after it that I couldn’t blow for a long time. But if you are sure you want to go and are not afraid, I’ll take you.”
Yes, she was sure she wanted to go.
North Wind blew himself out so big that he was dreadful to look at.
But she jumped on his back, and away they went.
How they did go!
The North Wind grew so tired that he almost had to stop.
His feet began to trail in the sea.
“Are you afraid?” he asked.
No, she was not afraid.
So they kept going on and on, till at last they came to the castle, and the North Wind put her down and went away and left her.
The next morning, as she sat there, Princess Long-Nose looked out of the window.
“What will you take for your big golden apple?” asked Long-Nose.
“It is not for sale,” said the girl.
“I will give you anything you ask,” said Long-Nose.
“Let me speak to the prince, and you may have it,” said the girl.
“Very well,” said Long-Nose.
She made the girl wait till night, and then let her in, but the prince was fast asleep.
He would not wake up.
Long-Nose had given him a kind of drink to make him sleep soundly.
So the girl went sadly out.
Next morning Long-Nose looked out of the window and said to her, “What will you take for the comb?”
“It is not for sale,” said the girl.
Long-Nose said that the girl might see the prince again if she would give her the comb.
So she saw the prince again, but he was asleep as before.
Next morning Long-Nose looked out and saw the spinning wheel.
She wanted that too. So she said she would let the girl come in and see the prince once more if she would give her the spinning wheel.
Some one told the prince about it, and that night he did not take the drink which Long-Nose gave to him. He threw it out of the window.
When the girl came, he was awake, and she told him her story.
“You are just in time,” said the prince, “for to-morrow I was to be married to Long-Nose.
“Now I will have no one but you. I will tell Long-Nose that I will marry no one who cannot wash three drops of candle grease out of my coat. She cannot do it, but I know that you can.”
So the next morning the prince said that he must have three drops of grease washed out of his coat, and that he would marry no one who couldn’t wash them out.
Long-Nose began to wash the coat, but she couldn’t get the grease out. It turned black.
Then the old witch tried, but she had no better luck.
Then the younger witches tried.
“You cannot wash,” said the prince. “I believe the poor girl out under the window can wash better than you. Let her try.”
So the girl came in and tried, and as soon as she put the coat into the water it was white as snow.
“You are the girl for me!” said the prince.
At this the old witch flew into such a rage that she fell to pieces, and Princess Long-Nose fell to pieces, and the younger witches all fell to pieces. And no one could ever put them together again.
The prince married the poor girl, and they flew away as far as they could from the castle that lay East of the Sun and West of the Moon.