The Story Of Big Klaus And Little Klaus
: The Yellow Fairy Book
In a certain village there lived two people who had both the same
name. Both were called Klaus, but one owned four horses and the
other only one. In order to distinguish the one from the other,
the one who had four horses was called Big Klaus, and the one who
had only one horse, Little Klaus. Now you shall hear what befell
them both, for this is a true story.
The whole week through Little Klaus had to
lough for Big Klaus,
and lend him his one horse; then Big Klaus lent him his four
horses, but only once a week, and that was on Sunday. Hurrah!
how loudly Little Klaus cracked his whip over all the five
horses! for they were indeed as good as his on this one day.
The sun shone brightly, and all the bells in the church-towers
were pealing; the people were dressed in their best clothes, and
were going to church, with their hymn books under their arms, to
hear the minister preach. They saw Little Klaus ploughing with
the five horses; but he was so happy that he kept on cracking his
whip, and calling out 'Gee-up, my five horses!'
'You mustn't say that,' said Big Klaus. 'Only one horse is
But as soon as someone else was going by Little Klaus forgot that
he must not say it, and called out 'Gee-up, my five horses!'
'Now you had better stop that,' said Big Klaus, 'for if you say
it once more I will give your horse such a crack on the head that
it will drop down dead on the spot!'
'I really won't say it again!' said Little Klaus. But as soon as
more people passed by, and nodded him good-morning, he became so
happy in thinking how well it looked to have five horses
ploughing his field that, cracking his whip, he called out
'Gee-up, my five horses!'
'I'll see to your horses!' said Big Klaus; and, seizing an iron
bar, he struck Little Klaus' one horse such a blow on the head
that it fell down and died on the spot.
'Alas! Now I have no horse!' said Little Klaus, beginning to
cry. Then he flayed the skin off his horse, dried it, and put it
in a sack, which he threw over his shoulder, and went into the
town to sell it. He had a long way to go, and had to pass
through a great dark forest. A dreadful storm came on, in which
he lost his way, and before he could get on to the right road
night came on, and it was impossible to reach the town that
Right in front of him was a large farm-house. The
window-shutters were closed, but the light came through the
chinks. 'I should very much like to be allowed to spend the
night there,' thought Little Klaus; and he went and knocked at
the door. The farmer's wife opened it, but when she heard what
he wanted she told him to go away; her husband was not at home,
and she took in no strangers.
'Well, I must lie down outside,' said Little Klaus; and the
farmer's wife shut the door in his face. Close by stood a large
haystack, and between it and the house a little out-house,
covered with a flat thatched roof.
'I can lie down there,' thought Little Klaus, looking at the
roof; 'it will make a splendid bed, if only the stork won't fly
down and bite my legs.' For a live stork was standing on the
roof, where it had its nest. So Little Klaus crept up into the
out-house, where he lay down, and made himself comfortable for
the night. The wooden shutters over the windows were not shut at
the top, and he could just see into the room.
There stood a large table, spread with wine and roast meat and a
beautiful fish. The farmer's wife and the sexton sat at the
table, but there was no one else. She was filling up his glass,
while he stuck his fork into the fish which was his favourite
'If one could only get some of that!' thought Little Klaus,
stretching his head towards the window. Ah, what delicious cakes
he saw standing there! It WAS a feast!
Then he heard someone riding along the road towards the house.
It was the farmer coming home. He was a very worthy man; but he
had one great peculiarity--namely, that he could not bear to see
a sexton. If he saw one he was made quite mad. That was why the
sexton had gone to say good-day to the farmer's wife when he knew
that her husband was not at home, and the good woman therefore
put in front of him the best food she had. But when they heard
the farmer coming they were frightened, and the farmer's wife
begged the sexton to creep into a great empty chest. He did so,
as he knew the poor man could not bear to see a sexton. The wife
hastily hid all the beautiful food and the wine in her oven; for
if her husband had seen it, he would have been sure to ask what
it all meant.
'Oh, dear! oh, dear!' groaned Little Klaus up in the shed, when
he saw the good food disappearing.
'Is anybody up there?' asked the farmer, catching sight of Little
Klaus. 'Why are you lying there? Come with me into the house.'
Then Little Klaus told him how he had lost his way, and begged to
be allowed to spend the night there.
'Yes, certainly,' said the farmer; 'but we must first have
something to eat!'
The wife received them both very kindly, spread a long table, and
gave them a large plate of porridge. The farmer was hungry, and
ate with a good appetite; but Little Klaus could not help
thinking of the delicious dishes of fish and roast meats and
cakes which he knew were in the oven. Under the table at his
feet he had laid the sack with the horse-skin in it, for, as we
know, he was going to the town to sell it. The porridge did not
taste good to him, so he trod upon his sack, and the dry skin in
the sack squeaked loudly.
'Hush!' said Little Klaus to his sack, at the same time treading
on it again so that it squeaked even louder than before.
'Hallo! what have you got in your sack?' asked the farmer.
'Oh, it is a wizard!' said Little Klaus. 'He says we should not
eat porridge, for he has conjured the whole oven full of roast
meats and fish and cakes.'
'Goodness me!' said the farmer; and opening the oven he saw all
the delicious, tempting dishes his wife had hidden there, but
which he now believed the wizard in the sack had conjured up for
them. The wife could say nothing, but she put the food at once
on the table, and they ate the fish, the roast meat, and the
cakes. Little Klaus now trod again on his sack, so that the skin
'What does he say now?' asked the farmer.
'He says,' replied Little Klans, 'that he has also conjured up
for us three bottles of wine; they are standing in the corner by
The wife had to fetch the wine which she had hidden, and the
farmer drank and grew very merry. He would very much like to
have had such a wizard as Little Klaus had in the sack.
'Can he conjure up the Devil?' asked the farmer. 'I should like
to see him very much, for I feel just now in very good spirits!'
'Yes,' said Little Klaus; 'my wizard can do everything that I
ask. Isn't that true?' he asked, treading on the sack so that it
squeaked. 'Do you hear? He says ''Yes;'' but that the Devil
looks so ugly that we should not like to see him.'
'Oh! I'm not at all afraid. What does he look like?'
'He will show himself in the shape of a sexton!'
'I say!' said the farmer, 'he must be ugly! You must know that I
can't bear to look at a sexton! But it doesn't matter. I know
that it is the Devil, and I sha'n't mind! I feel up to it now.
But he must not come too near me!'
'I must ask my wizard,' said Little Klaus, treading on the sack
and putting his ear to it.
'What does he say?'
'He says you can open the chest in the corner there, and you will
see the Devil squatting inside it; but you must hold the lid so
that he shall not escape.'
'Will you help me to hold him?' begged the farmer, going towards
the chest where his wife had hidden the real sexton, who was
sitting inside in a terrible fright. The farmer opened the lid a
little way, and saw him inside.
'Ugh!' he shrieked, springing back. 'Yes, now I have seen him;
he looked just like our sexton. Oh, it was horrid!'
So he had to drink again, and they drank till far on into the
'You MUST sell me the wizard,' said the farmer. 'Ask anything
you like! I will pay you down a bushelful of money on the spot.'
'No, I really can't,' said Little Klans. 'Just think how many
things I can get from this wizard!'
'Ah! I should like to have him so much!' said the farmer,
begging very hard.
'Well!' said Little Klaus at last, 'as you have been so good as
to give me shelter to-night, I will sell him. You shall have the
wizard for a bushel of money, but I must have full measure.'
'That you shall,' said the farmer. 'But you must take the chest
with you. I won't keep it another hour in the house. Who knows
that he isn't in there still?'
Little Klaus gave the farmer his sack with the dry skin, and got
instead a good bushelful of money. The farmer also gave him a
wheelbarrow to carry away his money and the chest. 'Farewell,'
said Little Klaus; and away he went with his money and the big
chest, wherein sat the sexton.
On the other side of the wood was a large deep river. The water
flowed so rapidly that you could scarcely swim against the
A great new bridge had been built over it, on the middle of which
Little Klaus stopped, and said aloud so that the sexton might
'Now, what am I to do with this stupid chest? It is as heavy as
if it were filled with stones! I shall only be tired, dragging
it along; I will throw it into the river. If it swims home to
me, well and good; and if it doesn't, it's no matter.'
Then he took the chest with one hand and lifted it up a little,
as if he were going to throw it into the water.
'No, don't do that!' called out the sexton in the chest. 'Let me
get out first!'
'Oh, oh!' said Little Klaus, pretending that he was afraid. 'He
is still in there! I must throw him quickly into the water to
'Oh! no, no!' cried the sexton. 'I will give you a whole
bushelful of money if you will let me go!'
'Ah, that's quite another thing!' said Little Klaus, opening the
chest. The sexton crept out very quickly, pushed the empty chest
into the water and went to his house, where he gave Little Klaus
a bushel of money. One he had had already from the farmer, and
now he had his wheelbarrow full of money.
'Well, I have got a good price for the horse!' said he to himself
when he shook all his money out in a heap in his room. 'This
will put Big Klaus in a rage when he hears how rich I have become
through my one horse; but I won't tell him just yet!'
So he sent a boy to Big Klaus to borrow a bushel measure from
'Now what can he want with it?' thought Big Klaus; and he smeared
some tar at the bottom, so that of whatever was measured a little
should remain in it. And this is just what happened; for when he
got his measure back, three new silver five-shilling pieces were
sticking to it.
What does this mean?' said Big Klaus, and he ran off at once to
'Where did you get so much money from?'
'Oh, that was from my horse-skin. I sold it yesterday evening.'
'That's certainly a good price!' said Big Klaus; and running home
in great haste, he took an axe, knocked all his four horses on
the head, skinned them, and went into the town.
'Skins! skins! Who will buy skins?' he cried through the
All the shoemakers and tanners came running to ask him what he
wanted for them. 'A bushel of money for each,' said Big Klaus.
'Are you mad?' they all exclaimed. 'Do you think we have money
by the bushel?'
'Skins! skins! Who will buy skins?' he cried again, and to all
who asked him what they cost, he answered, 'A bushel of money.'
'He is making game of us,' they said; and the shoemakers seized
their yard measures and the tanners their leathern aprons and
they gave Big Klaus a good beating. 'Skins! skins!' they cried
mockingly; yes, we will tan YOUR skin for you! Out of the town
with him!' they shouted; and Big Klaus had to hurry off as
quickly as he could, if he wanted to save his life.
'Aha!' said he when he came home, 'Little Klaus shall pay dearly
for this. I will kill him!'
Little Klaus' grandmother had just died. Though she had been
very unkind to him, he was very much distressed, and he took the
dead woman and laid her in his warm bed to try if he could not
bring her back to life. There she lay the whole night, while he
sat in the corner and slept on a chair, which he had often done
before. And in the night as he sat there the door opened, and
Big Klaus came in with his axe. He knew quite well where Little
Klaus's bed stood, and going up to it he struck the grandmother
on the head just where he thought Little Klaus would be.
'There!' said he. 'Now you won't get the best of me again!' And
he went home.
'What a very wicked man!' thought Little Klaus. 'He was going to
kill me! It was a good thing for my grandmother that she was
dead already, or else he would have killed her!'
Then he dressed his grandmother in her Sunday clothes, borrowed a
horse from his neighbour, harnessed the cart to it, sat his
grandmother on the back seat so that she could not fall out when
he drove, and away they went. When the sun rose they were in
front of a large inn. Little Klaus got down, and went in to get
something to drink. The host was very rich. He was a very
worthy but hot-tempered man.
'Good morning!' said he to Little Klaus. 'You are early on the
'Yes,' said Little Klaus. 'I am going to the town with my
grandmother. She is sitting outside in the cart; I cannot bring
her in. Will you not give her a glass of mead? But you will
have to speak loud, for she is very hard of hearing.'
'Oh yes, certainly I will!' said the host; and, pouring out a
large glass of mead, he took it out to the dead grandmother, who
was sitting upright in the cart.
'Here is a glass of mead from your son,' said the host. But the
dead woman did not answer a word, and sat still. 'Don't you
hear?' cried the host as loud as he could. 'Here is a glass of
mead from your son!'
Then he shouted the same thing again, and yet again, but she
never moved in her place; and at last he grew angry, threw the
glass in her face, so that she fell back into the cart, for she
was not tied in her place.
'Hullo!' cried Little Klaus, running out of the door, and seizing
the host by the throat. 'You have killed my grandmother! Look!
there is a great hole in her forehead!'
'Oh, what a misfortune!' cried the host, wringing his hands. 'It
all comes from my hot temper! Dear Little Klaus! I will give
you a bushel of money, and will bury your grandmother as if she
were my own; only don't tell about it, or I shall have my head
cut off, and that would be very uncomfortable.'
So Little Klaus got a bushel of money, and the host buried his
grandmother as if she had been his own.
Now when Little Klaus again reached home with so much money he
sent his boy to Big Klaus to borrow his bushel measure.
'What's this?' said Big Klaus. 'Didn't I kill him? I must see
to this myself!'
So he went himself to Little Klaus with the measure.
'Well, now, where did you get all this money?' asked he, opening
his eyes at the heap.
'You killed my grandmother--not me,' said Little Klaus. 'I sold
her, and got a bushel of money for her.'
'That is indeed a good price!' said Big Klaus; and, hurrying
home, he took an axe and killed his grandmother, laid her in the
cart, and drove off to the apothecary's, and asked whether he
wanted to buy a dead body.
'Who is it, and how did you get it?' asked the apothecary.
'It is my grandmother,' said Big Klaus. 'I killed her in order
to get a bushel of money.'
'You are mad!' said the apothecary. 'Don't mention such things,
or you will lose your head!' And he began to tell him what a
dreadful thing he had done, and what a wicked man he was, and
that he ought to be punished; till Big Klaus was so frightened
that he jumped into the cart and drove home as hard as he could.
The apothecary and all the people thought he must be mad, so they
let him go.
'You shall pay for this!' said Big Klaus as he drove home. 'You
shall pay for this dearly, Little Klaus!'
So as soon as he got home he took the largest sack he could find,
and went to Little Klaus and said: 'You have fooled me again!
First I killed my horses, then my grandmother! It is all your
fault; but you sha'n't do it again!' And he seized Little Klaus,
pushed him in the sack, threw it over his shoulder, crying out
'Now I am going to drown you!'
He had to go a long way before he came to the river, and Little
Klaus was not very light. The road passed by the church; the
organ was sounding, and the people were singing most beautifully.
Big Klaus put down the sack with Little Klaus in it by the
church-door, and thought that he might as well go in and hear a
psalm before going on farther. Little Klaus could not get out,
and everybody was in church; so he went in.
'Oh, dear! oh, dear!' groaned Little Klaus in the sack, twisting
and turning himself. But he could not undo the string.
There came by an old, old shepherd, with snow-white hair and a
long staff in his hand. He was driving a herd of cows and oxen.
These pushed against the sack so that it was overturned.
'Alas!' moaned Little Klans, 'I am so young and yet I must die!'
'And I, poor man,' said the cattle-driver, 'I am so old and yet I
'Open the sack,' called out Little Klaus; 'creep in here instead
of me, and you will die in a moment!'
'I will gladly do that,' said the cattle-driver; and he opened
the sack, and Little Klaus struggled out at once.
'You will take care of the cattle, won't you?' asked the old man,
creeping into the sack, which Little Klaus fastened up and then
went on with the cows and oxen. Soon after Big Klaus came out of
the church, and taking up the sack on his shoulders it seemed to
him as if it had become lighter; for the old cattle-driver was
not half as heavy as Little Klaus.
'How easy he is to carry now! That must be because I heard part
of the service.'
So he went to the river, which was deep and broad, threw in the
sack with the old driver, and called after it, for he thought
Little Klaus was inside:
'Down you go! You won't mock me any more now!'
Then he went home; but when he came to the cross-roads, there he
met Little Klaus, who was driving his cattle.
'What's this?' said Big Klaus. 'Haven't I drowned you?'
'Yes,' replied Little Klaus; 'you threw me into the river a good
'But how did you get those splendid cattle?' asked Big Klaus.
'They are sea-cattle!' said Little Klaus. 'I will tell you the
whole story, and I thank you for having drowned me, because now I
am on dry land and really rich! How frightened I was when I was
in the sack! How the wind whistled in my ears as you threw me
from the bridge into the cold water! I sank at once to the
bottom; but I did not hurt myself for underneath was growing the
most beautiful soft grass. I fell on this, and immediately the
sack opened; the loveliest maiden in snow-white garments, with a
green garland round her wet hair, took me by the hand, and said!
''Are you Little Klaus? Here are some cattle for you to begin
with, and a mile farther down the road there is another herd,
which I will give you as a present!'' Now I saw that the river
was a great high-road for the sea-people. Along it they travel
underneath from the sea to the land till the river ends. It was
so beautiful, full of flowers and fresh grass; the fishes which
were swimming in the water shot past my ears as the birds do here
in the air. What lovely people there were, and what fine cattle
were grazing in the ditches and dykes!'
'But why did you come up to us again?' asked Big Klaus. 'I
should not have done so, if it is so beautiful down below!'
'Oh!' said Little Klaus, 'that was just so politic of me. You
heard what I told you, that the sea-maiden said to me a mile
farther along the road--and by the road she meant the river, for
she can go by no other way--there was another herd of cattle
waiting for me. But I know what windings the river makes, now
here, now there, so that it is a long way round. Therefore it
makes it much shorter if one comes on the land and drives across
the field to the river. Thus I have spared myself quite half a
mile, and have come much quicker to my sea-cattle!'
'Oh, you're a lucky fellow!' said Big Klaus. 'Do you think I
should also get some cattle if I went to the bottom of the
'Oh, yes! I think so,' said Little Klaus. 'But I can't carry
you in a sack to the river; you are too heavy for me! If you
like to go there yourself and then creep into the sack, I will
throw you in with the greatest of pleasure.'
'Thank you,' said Big Klaus; 'but if I don't get any sea-cattle
when I come there, you will have a good hiding, mind!'
'Oh, no! Don't be so hard on me!' Then they went to the river.
When the cattle, which were thirsty, caught sight of the water,
they ran as quickly as they could to drink.
'Look how they are running!' said Little Klaus. 'They want to go
to the bottom again!'
'Yes; but help me first,' said Big Klaus, 'or else you shall have
And so he crept into the large sack, which was lying on the back
of one of the oxen. 'Put a stone in, for I am afraid I may not
reach the bottom,' said Big Klaus.
'It goes all right!' said Little Klaus; but still he laid a big
stone in the sack, fastened it up tight, and then pushed it in.
Plump! there was Big Klaus in the water, and he sank like lead
to the bottom.
'I doubt if he will find any cattle!' said Little Klaus as he
drove his own home.