The Brown Bear Of Norway

: The Lilac Fairy Book

There was once a king in Ireland, and he had three daughters, and

very nice princesses they were. And one day, when they and their

father were walking on the lawn, the king began to joke with

them, and to ask them whom they would like to be married to.

'I'll have the king of Ulster for a husband,' says one; 'and I'll

have the king of Munster,' says another; 'and,' says the

youngest, 'I'll have no husband but the Brown
ear of Norway.'

For a nurse of hers used to be telling her of an enchanted prince

that she called by that name, and she fell in love with him, and

his name was the first name on her tongue, for the very night

before she was dreaming of him. Well, one laughed, and another

laughed, and they joked with the princess all the rest of the

evening. But that very night she woke up out of her sleep in a

great hall that was lighted up with a thousand lamps; the richest

carpets were on the floor, and the walls were covered with cloth

of gold and silver, and the place was full of grand company, and

the very beautiful prince she saw in her dreams was there, and it

wasn't a moment till he was on one knee before her, and telling

her how much he loved her, and asking her wouldn't she be his

queen. Well, she hadn't the heart to refuse him, and married they

were the same evening.

'Now, my darling,' says he, when they were left by themselves,

'you must know that I am under enchantment. A sorceress, that had

a beautiful daughter, wished me for her son-in-law; but the

mother got power over me, and when I refused to wed her daughter

she made me take the form of a bear by day, and I was to continue

so till a lady would marry me of her own free will, and endure

five years of great trials after.'

Well, when the princess woke in the morning, she missed her

husband from her side, and spent the day very sadly. But as soon

as the lamps were lighted in the grand hall, where she was

sitting on a sofa covered with silk, the folding doors flew open,

and he was sitting by her side the next minute. So they spent

another happy evening, but he warned her that whenever she began

to tire of him, or ceased to have faith in him, they would be

parted for ever, and he'd be obliged to marry the witch's


She got used to find him absent by day, and they spent a happy

twelvemonth together, and at last a beautiful little boy was

born; and happy as she was before, she was twice as happy now,

for she had her child to keep her company in the day when she

couldn't see her husband.

At last, one evening, when herself, and himself, and her child

were sitting with a window open because it was a sultry night, in

flew an eagle, took the infant's sash in his beak, and flew up in

the air with him. She screamed, and was going to throw herself

out the window after him, but the prince caught her, and looked

at her very seriously. She bethought of what he said soon after

their marriage, and she stopped the cries and complaints that

were on her tongue. She spent her days very lonely for another

twelvemonth, when a beautiful little girl was sent to her. Then

she thought to herself she'd have a sharp eye about her this

time; so she never would allow a window to be more than a few

inches open.

But all her care was in vain. Another evening, when they were all

so happy, and the prince dandling the baby, a beautiful greyhound

stood before them, took the child out of the father's hand, and

was out of the door before you could wink. This time she shouted

and ran out of the room, but there were some of the servants in

the next room, and all declared that neither child nor dog passed

out. She felt, somehow, as if it was her husband's fault, but

still she kept command over herself, and didn't once reproach


When the third child was born she would hardly allow a window or

a door to be left open for a moment; but she wasn't the nearer to

keep the child to herself. They were sitting one evening by the

fire, when a lady appeared standing by them. The princess opened

her eyes in a great fright and stared at her, and while she was

doing so, the lady wrapped a shawl round the baby that was

sitting in its father's lap, and either sank through the ground

with it or went up through the wide chimney. This time the mother

kept her bed for a month.

'My dear,' said she to her husband, when she was beginning to

recover, 'I think I'd feel better if I was to see my father and

mother and sisters once more. If you give me leave to go home for

a few days I'd be glad.' 'Very well,' said he, 'I will do that,

and whenever you feel inclined to return, only mention your wish

when you lie down at night.' The next morning when she awoke she

found herself in her own old chamber in her father's palace. She

rang the bell, and in a short time she had her mother and father

and married sisters about her, and they laughed till they cried

for joy at finding her safe back again.

In time she told them all that had happened to her, and they

didn't know what to advise her to do. She was as fond of her

husband as ever, and said she was sure that he couldn't help

letting the children go; but still she was afraid beyond the

world to have another child torn from her. Well, the mother and

sisters consulted a wise woman that used to bring eggs to the

castle, for they had great faith in her wisdom. She said the only

plan was to secure the bear's skin that the prince was obliged to

put on every morning, and get it burned, and then he couldn't

help being a man night and day, and the enchantment would be at

an end.

So they all persuaded her to do that, and she promised she would;

and after eight days she felt so great a longing to see her

husband again that she made the wish the same night, and when she

woke three hours after, she was in her husband's palace, and he

himself was watching over her. There was great joy on both sides,

and they were happy for many days.

Now she began to think how she never minded her husband leaving

her in the morning, and how she never found him neglecting to

give her a sweet drink out of a gold cup just as she was going to


One night she contrived not to drink any of it, though she

pretended to do so; and she was wakeful enough in the morning,

and saw her husband passing out through a panel in the wainscot,

though she kept her eyelids nearly closed. The next night she got

a few drops of the sleepy posset that she saved the evening

before put into her husband's night drink, and that made him

sleep sound enough. She got up after midnight, passed through the

panel, and found a Beautiful brown bear's hide hanging in the

corner. Then she stole back, and went down to the parlour fire,

and put the hide into the middle of it till it was all fine

ashes. She then lay down by her husband, gave him a kiss on the

cheek, and fell asleep.

If she was to live a hundred years she'd never forget how she

wakened next morning, and found her husband looking down on her

with misery and anger in his face. 'Unhappy woman,' said he, 'you

have separated us for ever! Why hadn't you patience for five

years? I am now obliged, whether I like or no, to go a three

days' journey to the witch's castle, and marry her daughter. The

skin that was my guard you have burned it, and the egg-wife that

gave you the counsel was the witch herself. I won't reproach you:

your punishment will be severe without it. Farewell for ever!'

He kissed her for the last time, and was off the next minute,

walking as fast as he could. She shouted after him, and then

seeing there was no use, she dressed herself and pursued him. He

never stopped, nor stayed, nor looked back, and still she kept

him in sight; and when he was on the hill she was in the hollow,

and when he was in the hollow she was on the hill. Her life was

almost leaving her, when, just as the sun was setting, he turned

up a lane, and went into a little house. She crawled up after

him, and when she got inside there was a beautiful little boy on

his knees, and he kissing and hugging him. 'Here, my poor

darling,' says he, 'is your eldest child, and there,' says he,

pointing to a woman that was looking on with a smile on her face,

'is the eagle that carried him away.' She forgot all her sorrows

in a moment, hugging her child, and laughing and crying over him.

The woman washed their feet, and rubbed them with an ointment

that took all the soreness out of their bones, and made them as

fresh as a daisy. Next morning, just before sunrise, he was up,

and prepared to be off, 'Here,' said he to her, 'is a thing which

may be of use to you. It's a scissors, and whatever stuff you cut

with it will be turned into silk. The moment the sun rises, I'll

lose all memory of yourself and the children, but I'll get it at

sunset again. Farewell!' But he wasn't far gone till she was in

sight of him again, leaving her boy behind. It was the same to-

day as yesterday: their shadows went before them in the morning

and followed them in the evening. He never stopped, and she never

stopped, and as the sun was setting he turned up another lane,

and there they found their little daughter. It was all joy and

comfort again till morning, and then the third day's journey


But before he started he gave her a comb, and told her that

whenever she used it, pearls and diamonds would fall from her

hair. Still he had his memory from sunset to sunrise; but from

sunrise to sunset he travelled on under the charm, and never

threw his eye behind. This night they came to where the youngest

baby was, and the next morning, just before sunrise, the prince

spoke to her for the last time. 'Here, my poor wife,' said he,

'is a little hand-reel, with gold thread that has no end, and the

half of our marriage ring. If you ever get to my house, and put

your half-ring to mine, I shall recollect you. There is a wood

yonder, and the moment I enter it I shall forget everything that

ever happened between us, just as if I was born yesterday.

Farewell, dear wife and child, for ever!' Just then the sun rose,

and away he walked towards the wood. She saw it open before him

and close after him, and when she came up, she could no more get

in than she could break through a stone wall. She wrung her hands

and shed tears, but then she recollected herself, and cried out,

'Wood, I charge you by my three magic gifts, the scissors, the

comb, and the reel--to let me through'; and it opened, and she

went along a walk till she came in sight of a palace, and a lawn,

and a woodman's cottage on the edge of the wood where it came

nearest the palace.

She went into the lodge, and asked the woodman and his wife to

take her into their service. They were not willing at first; but

she told them she would ask no wages, and would give them

diamonds, and pearls, and silk stuffs, and gold thread whenever

they wished for them, and then they agreed to let her stay.

It wasn't long till she heard how a young prince, that was just

arrived, was living in the palace of the young mistress. He

seldom stirred abroad, and every one that saw him remarked how

silent and sorrowful he went about, like a person that was

searching for some lost thing.

The servants and conceited folk at the big house began to take

notice of the beautiful young woman at the lodge, and to annoy

her with their impudence. The head footman was the most

troublesome, and at last she invited him to come and take tea

with her. Oh, how rejoiced he was, and how he bragged of it in

the servants' hall! Well, the evening came, and the footman

walked into the lodge, and was shown to her sitting-room; for the

lodge-keeper and his wife stood in great awe of her, and gave her

two nice rooms for herself. Well, he sat down as stiff as a

ramrod, and was talking in a grand style about the great doings

at the castle, while she was getting the tea and toast ready.

'Oh,' says she to him, 'would you put your hand out at the window

and cut me off a sprig or two of honeysuckle?' He got up in great

glee, and put out his hand and head; and said she, 'By the virtue

of my magic gifts, let a pair of horns spring out of your head,

and sing to the lodge.' Just as she wished, so it was. They

sprung from the front of each ear, and met at the back. Oh, the

poor wretch! And how he bawled and roared! and the servants that

he used to be boasting to were soon flocking from the castle, and

grinning, and huzzaing, and beating tunes on tongs and shovels

and pans; and he cursing and swearing, and the eyes ready to

start out of his head, and he so black in the face, and kicking

out his legs behind him like mad.

At last she pitied him, and removed the charm, and the horns

dropped down on the ground, and he would have killed her on the

spot, only he was as weak as water, and his fellow-servants came

in and carried him up to the big house. Well, some way or other

the story came to the ears of the prince, and he strolled down

that way. She had only the dress of a countrywoman on her as she

sat sewing at the window, but that did not hide her beauty, and

he was greatly puzzled after he had a good look, just as a body

is puzzled to know whether something happened to him when he was

young or if he only dreamed it. Well, the witch's daughter heard

about it too, and she came to see the strange girl; and what did

she find her doing but cutting out the pattern of a gown from

brown paper; and as she cut away, the paper became the richest

silk she ever saw. The witch's daughter looked on with greedy

eyes, and, says she, 'What would you be satisfied to take for

that scissors?' 'I'll take nothing,' says she, 'but leave to

spend one night outside the prince's chamber.' Well, the proud

lady fired up, and was going to say something dreadful; but the

scissors kept on cutting, and the silk growing richer and richer

every inch. So she promised what the girl had asked her.

When night came on she was let into the palace and lay down till

the prince was in such a dead sleep that all she did couldn't

awake him. She sung this verse to him, sighing and sobbing, and

kept singing it the night long, and it was all in vain:

Four long years I was married to thee; Three sweet babes I bore

to thee; Brown Bear of Norway, turn to me.

At the first dawn the proud lady was in the chamber, and led her

away, and the footman of the horns put out his tongue at her as

she was quitting the palace.

So there was no luck so far; but the next day the prince passed

by again and looked at her, and saluted her kindly, as a prince

might a farmer's daughter, and passed one; and soon the witch's

daughter passed by, and found her combing her hair, and pearls

and diamonds dropping from it.

Well, another bargain was made, and the princess spent another

night of sorrow, and she left the castle at daybreak, and the

footman was at his post and enjoyed his revenge.

The third day the prince went by, and stopped to talk with the

strange woman. He asked her could he do anything to serve her,

and she said he might. She asked him did he ever wake at night.

He said that he often did, but that during the last two nights he

was listening to a sweet song in his dreams, and could not wake,

and that the voice was one that he must have known and loved in

some other world long ago. Says she, 'Did you drink any sleepy

posset either of these evenings before you went to bed?' 'I did,'

said he. 'The two evenings my wife gave me something to drink,

but I don't know whether it was a sleepy posset or not.' 'Well,

prince,' said she, 'as you say you would wish to oblige me, you

can do it by not tasting any drink to-night.' 'I will not,' says

he, and then he went on his walk.

Well, the great lady came soon after the prince, and found the

stranger using her hand-reel and winding threads of gold off it,

and the third bargain was made.

That evening the prince was lying on his bed at twilight, and his

mind much disturbed; and the door opened, and in his princess

walked, and down she sat by his bedside and sung:

Four long years I was married to thee; Three sweet babes I bore

to thee; Brown Bear of Norway, turn to me.

'Brown Bear of Norway !' said he. 'I don't understand you.'

'Don't you remember, prince, that I was your wedded wife for four

years?' 'I do not,' said he, 'but I'm sure I wish it was so.'

'Don't you remember our three babes that are still alive?' 'Show

me them. My mind is all a heap of confusion.' 'Look for the half

of our marriage ring, that hangs at your neck, and fit it to

this.' He did so, and the same moment the charm was broken. His

full memory came back on him, and he flung his arms round his

wife's neck, and both burst into tears.

Well, there was a great cry outside, and the castle walls were

heard splitting and cracking. Everyone in the castle was alarmed,

and made their way out. The prince and princess went with the

rest, and by the time all were safe on the lawn, down came the

building, and made the ground tremble for miles round. No one

ever saw the witch and her daughter afterwards. It was not long

till the prince and princess had their children with them, and

then they set out for their own palace. The kings of Ireland and

of Munster and Ulster, and their wives, soon came to visit them,

and may every one that deserves it be as happy as the Brown Bear

of Norway and his family.

From 'West Highland Tales.'