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 oven!'

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

drown him!'

'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

Little Klaus.

'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

cannot die!'

'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

half-hour ago!'

'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

a beating!'

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.