Little Lasse

: The Lilac Fairy Book

There was once a little boy whose name was Lars, and because he

was so little he was called Little Lasse; he was a brave little

man, for he sailed round the world in a pea-shell boat.

It was summer time, when the pea shells grew long and green in

the garden. Little Lasse crept into the pea bed where the pea

stalks rose high above his cap, and he picked seventeen large

shells, the longest and straightest h
could find.

Little Lasse thought, perhaps, that no one saw him; but that was

foolish, for God sees everywhere.

Then the gardener came with his gun over his shoulder, and he

heard something rustling in the pea bed.

'I think that must be a sparrow,' he said. 'Ras! Ras!' but no

sparrows flew out, for Little Lasse had no wings, only two small

legs. 'Wait! I will load my gun and shoot the sparrows,' said the


Then Little Lasse was frightened, and crept out on to the path.

'Forgive me, dear gardener!' he said. 'I wanted to get some fine


'Well, I will this time,' said the gardener. 'But another time

Little Lasse must ask leave to go and look for boats in the pea


'I will,' answered Lasse; and he went off to the shore. Then he

opened the shells with a pin, split them carefully in two, and

broke small little bits of sticks for the rowers' seats. Then he

took the peas which were in the shells and put them in the boats

for cargo. Some of the shells got broken, some remained whole,

and when all were ready Lasse had twelve boats. But they should

not be boats, they should be large warships. He had three liners,

three frigates, three brigs and three schooners. The largest

liner was called Hercules, and the smallest schooner The Flea.

Little Lasse put all the twelve into the water, and they floated

as splendidly and as proudly as any great ships over the waves of

the ocean.

And now the ships must sail round the world. The great island

over there was Asia; that large stone Africa; the little island

America; the small stones were Polynesia; and the shore from

which the ships sailed out was Europe. The whole fleet set off

and sailed far away to other parts of the world. The ships of the

line steered a straight course to Asia, the frigates sailed to

Africa, the brigs to America, and the schooners to Polynesia. But

Little Lasse remained in Europe, and threw small stones out into

the great sea.

Now, there was on the shore of Europe a real boat, father's own,

a beautiful white-painted boat, and Little Lasse got into it.

Father and mother had forbidden this, but Little Lasse forgot. He

thought he should very much like to travel to some other part of

the world.

'I shall row out a little way--only a very little way,' he

thought. The pea-shell boats had travelled so far that they only

looked like little specks on the ocean. 'I shall seize Hercules

on the coast of Asia,' said Lasse, 'and then row home again to


He shook the rope that held the boat, and, strange to say, the

rope became loose. Ditsch, ratsch, a man is a man, and so Little

Lasse manned the boat.

Now he would row--and he could row, for he had rowed so often on

the step sat home, when the steps pretended to be a boat and

father's big stick an oar. But when Little Lasse wanted to row

there were no oars to be found in the boat. The oars were locked

up in the boat-house, and Little Lasse had not noticed that the

boat was empty. It is not so easy as one thinks to row to Asia

without oars.

What could Little Lasse do now? The boat was already some

distance out on the sea, and the wind, which blew from land, was

driving it still further out. Lasse was frightened and began to

cry. But there was no one on the shore to hear him. Only a big

crow perched alone in the birch tree; and the gardener's black

cat sat under the birch tree, waiting to catch the crow. Neither

of them troubled themselves in the least about Little Lasse, who

was drifting out to sea.

Ah! how sorry Little Lasse was now that he had been disobedient

and got into the boat, when father and mother had so often

forbidden him to do so! Now it was too late, he could not get

back to land. Perhaps he would be lost out on the great sea. What

should he do?

When he had shouted until he was tired and no one heard him, he

put his two little hands together and said, 'Good God, do not be

angry with Little Lasse.' And then he went to sleep. For although

it was daylight, old Nukku Matti was sitting on the shores of the

'Land of Nod,' and was fishing for little children with his long

fishing rod. He heard the low words which Little Lasse said to

God, and he immediately drew the boat to himself and laid Little

Lasse to sleep on a bed of rose leaves.

Then Nukku Matti said to one of the Dreams, 'Play with Little

Lasse, so that he does not feel lonesome.'

It was a little dream-boy, so little, so little, that he was less

than Lasse himself; he had blue eyes and fair hair, a red cap

with a silver band, and white coat with pearls on the collar. He

came to Little Lasse and said, 'Would you like to sail round the


'Yes,' said Lasse in his sleep, 'I should like to.'

'Come, then,' said the dream-boy, 'and let us sail in your pea-

shell boats. You shall sail in Hercules and I shall sail in The


So they sailed away from the 'Land of Nod,' and in a little while

Hercules and The Flea were on the shores of Asia away at the

other end of the world, where the Ice Sea flows through Behring

Straits into the Pacific Ocean. A long way off in the winter mist

they could see the explorer Nordenskiold with his ship Vega

trying to find an opening between the ice. It was so cold, so

cold; the great icebergs glittered strangely, and the huge whales

now lived under the ice, for they could not make a hole through

with their awkward heads. All around on the dreary shore there

was snow and snow as far as the eye could see; little grey men in

shaggy skins moved about, and drove in small sledges through the

snow drifts, but the sledges were drawn by dogs.

'Shall we land here?' asked the dream-boy.

'No,' said Little Lasse. 'I am so afraid that the whales would

swallow us up, and the big dogs bite us. Let us sail instead to

another part of the world.'

'Very well,' said the dream-boy with the red cap and the silver

band; 'it is not far to America'--and at the same moment they

were there.

The sun was shining and it was very warm. Tall palm trees grew in

long rows on the shore and bore coconuts in their top branches.

Men red as copper galloped over the immense green prairies and

shot their arrows at the buffaloes, who turned against them with

their sharp horns. An enormous cobra which had crept up the stem

of a tall palm tree threw itself on to a little llama that was

grazing at the foot. Knaps! it was all over the little llama.

'Shall we land here?' asked the dream-boy.

'No,' said Little Lasse. 'I am so afraid that the buffaloes will

butt us, and the great serpent eat us up. Let us travel to

another part of the world.'

'Very well,' said the dream-boy with the white coat, 'it is only

a little way to Polynesia'--and then they were there.

It was very warm there, as warm as in a hot bath in Finland.

Costly spices grew on the shores: the pepper plant, the cinnamon

tree, ginger, saffron; the coffee plant and the tea plant. Brown

people with long ears and thick lips, and hideously painted

faces, hunted a yellow-spotted tiger among the high bamboos on

the shore, and the tiger turned on them and stuck its claws into

one of the brown men. Then all the others took to flight.

'Shall we land here?' asked the dream-boy.

'No,' said Little Lasse. 'Don't you see the tiger away there by

the pepper plant? Let us travel to another part of the world.'

'We can do so,' said the dream-boy with the blue eyes. 'We are

not far from Africa'--and as he said that they were there.

They anchored at the mouth of a great river where the shores were

as green as the greenest velvet. A little distance from the river

an immense desert stretched away. The air was yellow; the sun

shone so hot, so hot as if it would burn the earth to ashes, and

the people were as black as the blackest jet. They rode across

the desert on tall camels; the lions roared with thirst, and the

great crocodiles with their grey lizard heads and sharp white

teeth gaped up out of the river.

'Shall we land here?' asked the dream-boy.

'No,' said Little Lasse. 'The sun would burn us, and the lions

and the crocodiles would eat us up. Let us travel to another part

of the world.'

'We can travel back to Europe,' said the dream-boy with the fair

hair. And with that they were there.

They came to a shore where it was all so cool and familiar and

friendly. There stood the tall birch tree with its drooping

leaves; at the top sat the old crow, and at its foot crept the

gardener's black cat. Not far away was a house which Little Lasse

had seen before; near the house there was a garden, and in the

garden a pea bed with long pea shells. An old gardener with a

green coat walked about and wondered if the cucumbers were ripe.

Fylax was barking on the steps, and when he saw Little Lasse he

wagged his tail. Old Stina was milking the cows in the farmyard,

and there was a very familiar lady in a check woollen shawl on

her way to the bleaching green to see if the clothes were

bleached. There was, too, a well-known gentleman in a yellow

summer coat, with a long pipe in his mouth; he was going to see

if the reapers had cut the rye. A boy and a girl were running on

the shore and calling out, 'Little Lasse! Come home for bread-


'Shall we land here?' asked the dream-boy, and he blinked his

blue eyes roguishly.

'Come with me, and I shall ask mother to give you some bread-and-

butter and a glass of milk,' said Little Lasse.

'Wait a little,' said the dream-boy. And now Little Lasse saw

that the kitchen door was open, and from within there was heard a

low, pleasant frizzling, like that which is heard when one whisks

yellow batter with a wooden ladle into a hot frying-pan.

'Perhaps we should sail back to Polynesia now?' said the happy


'No; they are frying pancakes in Europe just now,' said Little

Lasse; and he wanted to jump ashore, but he could not. The dream-

boy had tied him with a chain of flowers, so that he could not

move. And now all the little dreams came about him, thousands and

thousands of little children, and they made a ring around him and

sang a little song:

The world is very, very wide,

Little Lasse, Lasse,

And though you've sailed beyond the tide,

You can never tell how wide

It is on the other side,

Lasse, Little Lasse.

You have found it cold and hot,

Little Lasse, Lasse;

But in no land is God not,

Lasse, Little Lasse.

Many men live there as here,

But they all to God are dear,

Little Lasse, Lasse.

When His angel is your guide,

Little Lasse, Lasse,

Then no harm can e'er betide,

Even on the other side

Where the wild beasts wander.

But tell us now,

Whene'er you roam,

Do you not find the best is home

Of all the lands you've looked upon,

Lasse, Little Lasse?

When the dreams had sung their song they skipped away, and Nukku

Matti carried Lasse back to the boat. He lay there for a long

time quite still, and he still heard the frying-pan frizzling at

home of the fire, the frizzling was very plain, Little Lasse

heard it quite near him; and so he woke up and rubbed his eyes.

There he lay in the boat, where he had fallen asleep. The wind

had turned, and the boat had drifted out with one wind and

drifted in with another while Little Lasse slept, and what Lasse

thought was frizzling in a frying-pan was the low murmur of the

waves as they washed against the stones on the shore. But he was

not altogether wrong, for the clear blue sea is like a great pan

in which God's sun all day makes cakes for good children.

Little Lasse rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and looked around

him. Everything was the same as before; the crow in the birch

tree, the cat on the grass, and the pea-shell fleet on the shore.

Some of the ships had foundered, and some had drifted back to

land. Hercules had come back with its cargo from Asia, The Flea

had arrived from Polynesia, and the other parts of the world were

just where they were before.

Little Lasse did not know what to think. He had so often been in

that grotto in the 'Land of Nod' and did not know what tricks

dreams can play. But Little Lasse did not trouble his head with

such things; he gathered together his boats and walked up the

shore back to the house.

His brother and sister ran to meet him, and called out from the

distance, 'Where have you been so long, Lasse? Come home and get

some bread-and-butter.' The kitchen door stood open, and inside

was heard a strange frizzling.

The gardener was near the gate, watering the dill and parsley,

the carrots and parsnips.

'Well,' he said, 'where has Little Lasse been so long?'

Little Lasse straightened himself up stiff, and answered: 'I have

sailed round the world in a pea-shell boat.'

'Oh!' said the gardener.

He has forgotten Dreamland. But you have not forgotten it; you

know that it exists. You know the beautiful grotto and the bright

silver walls whose lustre never fades, the sparkling diamonds

which never grow dim, the music which never ceases its low, soft

murmur through the sweet evening twilight. The airy fairy fancies

of happy Dreamland never grow old; they, like the glorious stars

above us, are always young. Perhaps you have caught a glimpse of

their ethereal wings as they flew around your pillow. Perhaps you

have met the same dream-boy with the blue eyes and the fair hair,

the one who wore the red cap with the silver band and the white

coat with pearls on the collar. Perhaps he has taken you to see

all the countries of the world and the peoples, the cold waste

lands and the burning deserts, the many coloured men and the wild

creatures in the sea and in the woods, so that you may earn many

things, but come gladly home again. Yes, who knows? Perhaps you

also have sailed round the wide world once in a pea-shell boat.

From Z. Topelius.