: The Brown Fairy Book

Once upon a time there lived two peasants who had three daughters, and,

as generally happens, the youngest was the most beautiful and the best

tempered, and when her sisters wanted to go out she was always ready to

stay at home and do their work.

Years passed quickly with the whole family, and one day the parents

suddenly perceived that all three girls were grown up, and that very

soon they would be think
ng of marriage.

'Have you decided what your husband's name is to be?' said the father,

laughingly, to his eldest daughter, one evening when they were all

sitting at the door of their cottage. 'You know that is a very important


'Yes; I will never wed any man who is not called Sigmund,' answered she.

'Well, it is lucky for you that there are a great many Sigmunds in

this part of the world,' replied her father, 'so that you can take your

choice! And what do YOU say?' he added, turning to the second.

'Oh, I think that there is no name so beautiful as Sigurd,' cried she.

'Then you won't be an old maid either,' answered he. 'There are seven

Sigurds in the next village alone! And you, Helga?'

Helga, who was still the prettiest of the three, looked up. She also had

her favourite name, but, just as she was going to say it, she seemed to

hear a voice whisper: 'Marry no one who is not called Habogi.'

The girl had never heard of such a name, and did not like it, so she

determined to pay no attention; but as she opened her mouth to tell her

father that her husband must be called Njal, she found herself answering

instead: 'If I do marry it will be to no one except Habogi.'

'Who IS Habogi?' asked her father and sisters; 'We never heard of such a


'All I can tell you is that he will be my husband, if ever I have one,'

returned Helga; and that was all she would say.

Before very long the young men who lived in the neighbouring villages

or on the sides of the mountains, had heard of this talk of the three

girls, and Sigmunds and Sigurds in scores came to visit the little

cottage. There were other young men too, who bore different names,

though not one of them was called 'Habogi,' and these thought that they

might perhaps gain the heart of the youngest. But though there was more

than one 'Njal' amongst them, Helga's eyes seemed always turned another


At length the two elder sisters made their choice from out of the

Sigurds and the Sigmunds, and it was decided that both weddings should

take place at the same time. Invitations were sent out to the friends

and relations, and when, on the morning of the great day, they were all

assembled, a rough, coarse old peasant left the crowd and came up to the

brides' father.

'My name is Habogi, and Helga must be my wife,' was all he said. And

though Helga stood pale and trembling with surprise, she did not try to

run away.

'I cannot talk of such things just now,' answered the father, who could

not bear the thought of giving his favourite daughter to this horrible

old man, and hoped, by putting it off, that something might happen. But

the sisters, who had always been rather jealous of Helga, were secretly

pleased that their bridegrooms should outshine hers.

When the feast was over, Habogi led up a beautiful horse from a field

where he had left it to graze, and bade Helga jump up on its splendid

saddle, all embroidered in scarlet and gold. 'You shall come back

again,' said he; 'but now you must see the house that you are to live

in.' And though Helga was very unwilling to go, something inside her

forced her to obey.

The old man settled her comfortably, then sprang up in front of her as

easily as if he had been a boy, and, shaking the reins, they were soon

out of sight.

After some miles they rode through a meadow with grass so green that

Helga's eyes felt quite dazzled; and feeding on the grass were a

quantity of large fat sheep, with the curliest and whitest wool in the


'What lovely sheep! whose are they?' cried Helga.

'Your Habogi's,' answered he, 'all that you see belongs to him; but the

finest sheep in the whole herd, which has little golden bells hanging

between its horns, you shall have for yourself.'

This pleased Helga very much, for she had never had anything of her own;

and she smiled quite happily as she thanked Habogi for his present.

They soon left the sheep behind them, and entered a large field with

a river running through it, where a number of beautiful grey cows were

standing by a gate waiting for a milk-maid to come and milk them.

'Oh, what lovely cows!' cried Helga again; 'I am sure their milk must be

sweeter than any other cows. How I should like to have some! I wonder to

whom they belong?'

'To your Habogi,' replied he; 'and some day you shall have as much milk

as you like, but we cannot stop now. Do you see that big grey one, with

the silver bells between her horns? That is to be yours, and you can

have her milked every morning the moment you wake.'

And Helga's eyes shone, and though she did not say anything, she thought

that she would learn to milk the cow herself.

A mile further on they came to a wide common, with short, springy turf,

where horses of all colours, with skins of satin, were kicking up their

heels in play. The sight of them so delighted Helga that she nearly

sprang from her saddle with a shriek of joy.

'Whose are they?' Oh! whose are they?' she asked. 'How happy any man

must be who is the master of such lovely creatures!'

'They are your Habogi's,' replied he, 'and the one which you think the

most beautiful of all you shall have for yourself, and learn to ride


At this Helga quite forgot the sheep and the cow.

'A horse of my own!' said she. 'Oh, stop one moment, and let me see

which I will choose. The white one? No. The chestnut? No. I think, after

all, I like the coal-black one best, with the little white star on his

forehead. Oh, do stop, just for a minute.'

But Habogi would not stop or listen. 'When you are married you will have

plenty of time to choose one,' was all he answered, and they rode on two

or three miles further.

At length Habogi drew rein before a small house, very ugly and

mean-looking, and that seemed on the point of tumbling to pieces.

'This is my house, and is to be yours,' said Habogi, as he jumped down

and held out his arms to lift Helga from the horse. The girl's heart

sank a little, as she thought that the man who possessed such wonderful

sheep, and cows, and horses, might have built himself a prettier place

to live in; but she did not say so. And, taking her arm, he led her up

the steps.

But when she got inside, she stood quite bewildered at the beauty of all

around her. None of her friends owned such things, not even the miller,

who was the richest man she knew. There were carpets everywhere, thick

and soft, and of deep rich colours; and the cushions were of silk, and

made you sleepy even to look at them; and curious little figures in

china were scattered about. Helga felt as if it would take her all her

life to see everything properly, and it only seemed a second since she

had entered the house, when Habogi came up to her.

'I must begin the preparations for our wedding at once,' he said; 'but

my foster-brother will take you home, as I promised. In three days he

will bring you back here, with your parents and sisters, and any guests

you may invite, in your company. By that time the feast will be ready.'

Helga had so much to think about, that the ride home appeared very

short. Her father and mother were delighted to see her, as they did not

feel sure that so ugly and cross-looking a man as Habogi might not have

played her some cruel trick. And after they had given her some supper

they begged her to tell them all she had done. But Helga only told them

that they should see for themselves on the third day, when they would

come to her wedding.

It was very early in the morning when the party set out, and Helga's

two sisters grew green with envy as they passed the flocks of sheep,

and cows, and horses, and heard that the best of each was given to Helga

herself; but when they caught sight of the poor little house which was

to be her home their hearts grew light again.

'I should be ashamed of living in such a place,' whispered each to the

other; and the eldest sister spoke of the carved stone over HER doorway,

and the second boasted of the number of rooms SHE had. But the moment

they went inside they were struck dumb with rage at the splendour of

everything, and their faces grew white and cold with fury when they

saw the dress which Habogi had prepared for his bride--a dress that

glittered like sunbeams dancing upon ice.

'She SHALL not look so much finer than us,' they cried passionately to

each other as soon as they were alone; and when night came they stole

out of their rooms, and taking out the wedding-dress, they laid it in

the ash-pit, and heaped ashes upon it. But Habogi, who knew a little

magic, and had guessed what they would do, changed the ashes into roses,

and cast a spell over the sisters, so that they could not leave the spot

for a whole day, and every one who passed by mocked at them.

The next morning when they all awoke the ugly tumble-down house had

disappeared, and in its place stood a splendid palace. The guests' eyes

sought in vain for the bridegroom, but could only see a handsome young

man, with a coat of blue velvet and silver and a gold crown upon his


'Who is that?' they asked Helga.

'That is my Habogi,' said she.