: STORIES FROM SCANDINAVIA
: Boys And Girls Bookshelf
In a certain kingdom there was a very beautiful Princess, but she was so
sad that no one could make her laugh; she would not even smile, though
all in the court were gay and happy.
For a long time her father tried hard to find something that would amuse
her. But she would sit all day at her window, and, though the members of
the court passed and repassed, and called out greetings to her, she
would only si
So at last her father the King caused it to be published abroad that
whoever should make the Princess laugh should have her hand in marriage,
and that half of the kingdom would be her dowry.
But, that none might attempt this difficult feat without fair assurance,
the King added as a sort of postscript to his decree that whoever tried
to make the Princess laugh and failed should have two broad red stripes
cut in his back, and salt should be rubbed into the stripes!
Now, as you may imagine, soon there were a great many sore backs in the
kingdom and in the kingdoms round about. For it was deemed but a slight
matter to make a Princess laugh: did not women giggle at little and at
But, although many came, and there were strange things done, the
Princess remained as sad as before.
Now, there was in the kingdom a farmer who had three sons, and they
decided that each should have a trial at this task; for to win a dowry
of half a kingdom was well worth trying.
The oldest of the farmer's sons was a soldier, and had served in the
wars, where there was always much laughter. And he said that it would
not be worth while for his two brothers to plan to journey to the court,
because he intended to win the Princess that very first day.
So he dressed up in his uniform, and put his knapsack on his back, and
strutted up and down the road in front of the window of the Princess
like any pouter-pigeon. But, though the Princess looked at him, once,
she did not even turn her eyes in his direction a second time, and the
stripes which were cut in his back were deep and broad, and he went home
feeling very sore.
His next brother was a schoolmaster, and had one long leg and one short
leg, so that when he stood on the long leg he seemed a very tall man,
and when he stood on the short leg he seemed but a dwarf, and he had
always found that he could make folk laugh by quickly changing himself
from a tall man to a mere dwarf. Moreover, he was a preacher, and he
came out on the road in front of the Princess' window and preached like
seven parsons and chanted like seven clerks; but it was all for naught,
for after the first glance the Princess did not even look at him, though
the King who stood near had to hold on to the pillars for laughing.
So the schoolmaster also went home with a very sore back; and when the
third brother, whose name was Taper Tom, because he sat in the ashes and
made tapers out of fir, said he now would go and make the Princess
laugh, the two older brothers turned to him in scorn, for how could he
do what neither of them, the soldier and the schoolmaster, had quite
failed to do? The Princess would not even look at him, he might be sure.
But Taper Tom said that he would try.
But when he came to the court he did not go before the King to say that
he had come to make the Princess laugh. Many there were who were trying
that each day, and there was hardly a well back in all the kingdom by
now, and Taper Tom had no mind to have his own back cut, for they were
cutting the stripes broader and rubbing the salt in harder every day.
So Taper Tom went to the court and asked for work to do. They told him
that there was no work to be done, but he said:
"What, no work--even in the kitchen? I am sure that the cook needs some
one to fetch and carry for her."
"Well, now," said the lord high chamberlain, "that might perhaps be. You
may go to the kitchen and see."
So Taper Tom went to the kitchen and the cook gave him work fetching and
carrying. And every day Taper Tom saw the men who came and went away
with their backs sore.
One morning he was sent to the stream to catch a fish, and he caught a
nice, fat one. As he came back he met a woman leading a goose with
golden feathers by a string tied around its neck.
The old woman wanted a fish, so she asked Taper Tom if he would trade
the fish for the golden goose. "For," she said, "it is a very strange
goose. If you lead it about and anyone lays hands on it, and you say,
'Hang on, if you care to come with us,' he will have to hang on and go
with the goose wherever you lead."
"Then," said Taper Tom, "you may have my fish and I will take your
So the old woman took the fish, and Taper Tom took the end of the
string in his hand, and the goose followed after.
He had not gone far when he met a goody who looked longingly at the
goose with the golden feathers, and at last she said to Taper Tom: "That
is a very fine goose, and I would like to stroke it."
"All right," said Taper Tom.
So the goody laid her hand on the back of the goose, and Taper Tom said:
"Hang on, if you care to go with us." And the old woman could not take
her hands off the goose, no matter how hard she tried.
They went on down the road a way and came to a man who for a long time
had hated the goody, and he laughed loudly to see her hanging on to the
goose and trying so hard to let go; and thinking to make more difficulty
for her he lifted up his foot and kicked at her.
As his foot touched her dress Taper Tom said: "Hang on, if you care to
come with us." And the man's foot hung on to the dress of the goody,
and, try as hard as he would, he could not let go. He had to follow,
hopping on one foot all the while, and falling often and being dragged.
He was very angry, and said a great many bad words.
As they passed the blacksmith shop the brawny smith stood at the door,
and when he saw Taper Tom leading the goose, and the goody hanging on to
its back, and the man following, hopping on one leg, he began to laugh
very much, and ran up to the man and struck him with his bellows, which
he held in his hand.
And as the bellows touched the man, Taper Tom said: "Hang on, if you
care to come with us." And the smith had to follow after the man, for,
try as he would, he could not let go of the bellows, nor would the
bellows let go of the man.
Then Taper Tom turned in on the road that lay in front of the window of
the Princess, and though he did not look up, he knew that the Princess
And when the Princess saw the boy leading the golden goose, and the
goody hanging on to the back of the goose, and the man hopping on one
leg behind the goody, and the smith hanging on to his bellows, she
smiled inwardly, but she did not laugh.
Taper Tom did not stop, but went on around to the kitchen; and when the
cook came out to ask for her fish, with her pot and ladle in her hand,
and she saw the golden goose, and the goody, and the man, and the smith,
she began to laugh, and laugh, and laugh, so that all the court came out
to see what had happened, and the Princess leaned from her window to
know what it was all about.
And just then the cook's ladle touched the shoulder of the smith, and at
that moment Taper Tom said: "Hang on, if you care to come with us."
And he turned and started back past the window of the Princess. And when
the Princess saw the cook hanging on to the shoulder of the smith, with
her ladle and her pot in her hand, and trying hard to get loose, and the
smith hanging on with his bellows to the coat of the man, and the man
hanging on with one foot to the goody, and the goody with her hands on
the back of the golden goose, and the golden goose following Taper Tom,
led by a string, she began to laugh and to laugh and to laugh.
Then the King proclaimed that Taper Tom should wed the Princess, and
that half the kingdom would be her dowry.