Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Children's Novel > The complete Andersen > THE MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  

THE storks tell their little ones very many stories,all of the swamp and the marsh.These stories are generally adapted to the age and capacity of the hearers.The youngest are content if they are told“Cribble-crabble,plurry-murry”as a story,and find it charming;but the older ones want something with a deeper meaning,or at any rate something relating to the family.Of the two oldest and longest stories that have been preserved among the storks we all know the one,namely,that of Moses,who was exposed by his mother on the banks of the Nile,and whom the king's daughter found,and who afterwards be-came a great man and the place of whose burial is unknown.That story is very well known.

The second is not known yet,perhaps because it is quite an inland story.It has been handed down from stork-mamma to stork-mamma,for thousands of years,and each of them has told it better and better;and now we'll tell it best of all.

The first Stork pair who told the story had their summer residence on the wooden house of the Viking,which lay by the wild moor in Wendsyssel:that is to say,if we are to speak out of the abundance of our knowledge,hard by the great moor in the circle of Hj rring,high up by Skagen,the most northern point of Jutland.The wilderness there is still a great wild moss,about which we can read in the official description of the district.It is said that in old times there was here a sea,whose bottom was upheaved;now the moss extends for miles on all sides,surrounded by damp meadows,and unsteady shaking swamp,and turfy moor,with blueberries and stunted trees.Mists are almost always hovering over this region,which seventy years ago was still inhabited by the wolves.It is certainly rightly called the“wild moss”;and one can easily think how dreary and lonely it must have been,and how much marsh and lake there was here a thousand years ago.Yes,in detail,exactly the same things were seen then that may yet be beheld.The reeds had the same height,and bore the same kind of long leaves and bluish-brown feathery plumes that they bear now;the birch stood there,with its white bark and its fine loosely-hanging leaves,just as now;and as regards the living creatures that dwelt here—why,the fly wore its gauzy dress of the same cut that it wears now,and the favourite colours of the stork were white picked out with black,and red stockings.The people certainly wore coats of a different cut from those they now wear;but whoever stepped out on the shaking moss,be he huntsman or follower,master or servant,met with the same fate a thousand years ago that he would meet with today.He sank and went down to the Marsh King,as they called him,who ruled below in the great empire of the moss.They also called him Quagmire King;but we like the name Marsh King better,and by that name the storks also called him.Very little is known of the Marsh King's rule;but perhaps that is a good thing.

In the neighbourhood of the moss,close by Limfjorden,lay the wooden house of the Viking,with its stone water-tight cellars,with its tower and its three projecting stories.On the roof the Stork had built his nest,and Stork-mamma there hatched the eggs,and felt sure that her hatching would come to something.

One evening Stork-papa stayed out very late,and when he came home he looked very bustling [and important].

“I've something very terrible to tell you,”he said to the Stork-marrima.

“Let that be,”she replied.“Remember that I'm hatching the eggs,and you might agitate me,and I might do them a mischief.”

“You must know it,”he continued.“She has arrived here—the daughter of our host in Egypt—she has dared to undertake the journey here—and she's gone!”

“She who came from the race of the fairies?Oh,tell me all about it!You know I can't bear to be kept long in suspense when I'm hatching eggs.”

“You see,mother,she believed in what the doctor said,and you told me true.She believed that the moss flowers would bring healing to her sick father,and she has flown here in swan's plumage,in company with the other Swan Princesses,who come to the North every year to re-new their youth.She has come here,and she is gone!”

“You are much too long-winded!”exclaimed the Stork-mamma,“and the eggs might catch cold.I can't bear being kept in such suspense!”

“I have kept watch,”said the Stork-papa;“and tonight,when I went into the reeds—there where the marsh ground will bear me—three swans came.Some-thing in their flight seemed to say to me,‘Look out!That's not altogether swan;It's only swan's feathers!’Yes,mother,you have a feeling of intuition just as I have;you can tell whether a thing is right or wrong.”

“Yes,certainly,”she replied;“but tell me about the Princess.I'm sick of hearing of the swan's feathers.”

“Well,you know that in the middle of the moss there is something like a lake,”continued Stork-papa.

“You can see one corner of it if you raise yourself a little.There,by the reeds and the green mud,lay a great elder stump,and on this the three swans sat,flapping their wings and looking about them.One of them threw off her plumage,and I immediately recognized her as our own Princess from Egypt!There she sat,with no covering but her long black hair.I heard her tell the others to pay good heed to the swan's plumage,while she dived down into the water to pluck the flowers which she fancied she saw growing there.The others nodded,and picked up the empty feather dress and took care of it.‘I wonder what they will do with it?'thought I;and perhaps she asked herself the same question.If so,she got an answer,for the two rose up and flew away with her swan's plumage.‘Do thou dive down!'they cried;‘thou shalt never fly more in swan's form,thou shalt never see Egypt again!Remain thou there in the moss!’And so saying,they tore the swan's plumage into a hundred pieces,so that the feathers whirled about like a snow-storm;and away they flew—the two faithless Princesses!”

“Why,that is terrible!”said Stork-mamma.“I can't bear to hear it.But now tell me what happened next.

“The Princess wept and lamented.Her tears fell fast on the elder stump,and the latter moved,for it was the Marsh King himself—he who lives in the moss!I myself saw it—how the stump of the tree turned round,and ceased to be a tree stump;long thin branches grew forth from it like arms.Then the poor child was terribly frightened,and sprang away on to the green slimy ground;but that cannot even carry me,much less her.She sank immediately,and the elder stump dived down too;and it was he who drew her down.Great black bubbles rose up,and there was no more trace of them.Now the Princess is buried in the wild moss,and never more will she bear away a flower to Egypt.Your heart would have burst,mother,if you had seen it.”

“You ought not to tell me anything of the kind at such a time as this,”said Stork-mamma;“the eggs might suffer by it.The Princess will find some way of escape;some one will come to help her.If it had been you or I,or one of our people,it would certainly have been all over with us.”

“But I shall go and look every day to see if anything happens,”said Stork-papa.

And he was as good as his word.

A long time had passed,when at last he saw a green stalk shooting up out of the deep moss.When it reached the surface a leaf spread out and unfolded itself broader and broader;close by it,a bud came out.And one morn-in,when the Stork flew over the stalk,the bud opened through the power of the strong sunbeams,and in the cup of the flower lay a beautiful child—a little girl—looking just as if she had risen out of the bath.The little one so closely resembled the Princess from Egypt,that at the first moment the Stork thought it must be the Princess herself;but,on second thoughts,it appeared more probable that it must be the daughter of the Princess and of the Marsh King;and that also explained her being placed in the cup of the water-lily.

“But she cannot possibly be left lying there,”thought the Stork;“and in my nest there are so many already.But stay,I have a thought.The wife of the Viking has no children,and how often has she not wished for a little one!People always say,‘The stork has brought a little one;’and I will do so in earnest this time.I shall fly with the child to the Viking's wife.What rejoicing the there will be there!”

{ewc MVIMAGE,MVIMAGE, !413652T1.bmp}

And the Stork lifted the little girl,flew to the wood-en house,picked a hole with his beak in the bladder-covered window,laid the child on the bosom of the Viking's wife,and then hurried up to the Stork-mamma,and told her what he had seen and done;and the little Storks listened to the story,for they were big enough to do so now.

“So you see,”he concluded,“the Princess is not dead,for she must have sent the little one up here;and now that is provided for too.”

“Ah,I said it would be so from the very beginning!”said the Stork-mamma;“but now think a little of your own family.Our travelling time is drawing on;some-times I feel quite restless in my wings already.The cuckoo and the nightingale have started,and I heard the quails saying that they were going too,as soon as the wind was favourable.Our young ones will behave well at the exercising,or I am much deceived in them.”

The Viking's wife was extremely glad when she woke next morning and found the charming infant lying in her arms.She kissed and caressed it,but it cried violently,and struggled with its arms and legs,and did not seem rejoiced at all.At length it cried itself to sleep,and as it lay there it looked exceedingly beautiful.The Viking's wife was in high glee:she felt light in body and soul;her heart leapt within her;and it seemed to her as if her husband and his warriors,who were absent,must return guite as suddenly and unexpectedly as the little one had come.

Therefore she and the whole household had enough to do in preparing everything for the reception of her lord.The long coloured curtains of tapestry,which she and her maids had worked,and on which they had woven pictures of their idols,Odin,Thor,and Freia,were hung up;the slaves polished the old shields that served as ornaments;and cushions were placed on the benches,and dry wood laid on the fireplace in the midst of the hall,so that the fire could be lighted at a moment's notice.The Viking's wife herself assisted in the work,so that towards evening she was very tired,and slept well.

When she awoke towards morning,she was violently alarmed,for the infant had vanished!She sprang from her couch,lighted a pine torch,and searched all round about;and,behold,in the part of the bed where she had stretched her feet,lay,not the child,but a great ugly frog!She was horror-struck at the sight,and seized a heavy stick to kill the frog;but the creature looked at her with such strange mournful eyes,that she was not able to strike the blow.Once more she looked round the room—the frog uttered a low,wailing croak,and she started,sprang from the couch,and ran to the window and opened it.At that moment the sun shone forth,and flung its beams through the windo on the couch and on the great frog;and suddenly it appeared as though the frog's great mouth contracted and became small and red,and its limbs moved and stretched and became beautifully symmetrical,and it was no longer an ugly frog which lay there,but her pretty child!

“What is this?”she said.“Have I had a bad dream?Is it not my own lovely cherub lying there?”

And she kissed and hugged it;but the child struggled and fought like a little wild cat.

Not on this day nor on the morrow did the Viking re-turn,although he was on his way home;but the wind was against him,for it blew towards the south,favourably for the storks.A good wind for one is a contrary wind for another.

When one or tow more days and nights had gone,the Viking's wife clearly understood how the case was with her child,that a terrible power of sorcery was upon it.By day it was charming as an angel of light,though it had a wild,savage temper;but at night it became an ugly frog,quiet and mournful,with sorrowful eyes.Here were two natures changing inwardly as well as outwardly with the sunlight.The reason of this was that by day the child had the form of its mother,but the disposition of its father;while,on the contrary,at night the paternal descent became manifest in its bodily appearance,though the mind and heart of the mother then beeame dominant in the child.Who might be able to loosen this charm that wicked sorcery had worked?

The wife of the Viking lived in care and sorrow about it;and yet her heart yearned towards the little creature,of whose condition she felt she should not dare tell her husband on his return,for he would probably,according to the custom which then prevailed,expose the child on the public highway,and let whoever listed take it away.The good Viking woman could not find it in her heart to allow this,and she therefore determined that the Viking should never see the child except by daylight.

One morning the wings of storks were heard rushing over the roof;more than a hundred pairs of those birds had rested from their exercise during the previous night,and now they soared aloft,to travel southwards.

“All males here,and ready,”they cried;“and the wives and children too.”

“How light we feel!”screamed the young Storks in chorus:“it seems to be creeping all over us,down into our very toes,as if were filled with living frogs.Ah,how charming it is,travelling to foreign lands!”

“Mind you keep close to us during your flight,”said papa and mamma.“Don't use your beaks too much, for that tires the chest.”

And the Storks flew away.

At the same time the sound of the trumpets rolled across the heath,for the Viking had landed with his warriors;they were returning home,richly laden with spoil,from the Gallic coast,where the people,as in the land of the Britons,sang in their terror:

“Deliver us from the wild Northmen!”

And life and tumultuous joy came with them into the Viking's castle on the moorland.The great mead-tub was brought into the hall, the pile of wood,was set ablaze,horses were killed, and a great feast was to begin.The officiating priest sprinkled the slaves with the warm blood;the fire crackled,the smoke rolled along beneath the roof, soot dropped from the beams,but they were accustomed to that.Guests were invited,and received handsome gifts:all feuds and all malice were forgotten.And the company drank deep,and threw the bones of the feast in each other's faces, and this was considered a sign of good humour.The bard,a kind of minstrel,who was also a warrior and had been on the expedition with the rest,sang them a song in which they heard all their warlike deeds praised,and everything remarkable was specially noticed.Every verse ended with the burden:

Goods and gold,friends and foes will die;every man must one day die;But a famous name will never die!

And with that they beat upon their shields,and hammered the table with bones and knives.

The Viking's wife sat upon the crossbench in the open hall.She wore a silken dress and golden armlets,and great amber beads:she was in her costliest garb.And the bard mentioned her in his song,and sang of the rich treasure she had brought her rich husband.The latter was delighted with the beautiful child, which he had seen in the daytime in all its loveliness;and the savage ways of the little creature pleased him especially.He declared that the girl might grow up to be a stately heroine, strong and determined as a man.She would not wink her eyes when a practised hand cut off her eyebrows with a sword by way of a jest.

The full mead-barrel was emptied, and a fresh one brought in,for these were people who liked to enjoy all things plentifully.The old proverb was indeed well known,which says,“The cattle know when they should quit the pasture,but a foolish man knoweth not the measure of his own appetite.”Yes,they knew it well enough; but one knows one thing,and one does another.They also knew that“even the welcome guest becomes weariscome when he sitteth long in the house”;but for all that they sat still, for pork and mead are good things;and there was high carousing,and at night the bondmen slept among the warm ash-Es, and dipped their fingers in the far grease and licked them.Those were glorious times!

Once more in the year the Viking sallied forth,though the storms of autumn already began to roar:he went with his warriors to the shores of Britain,for he declared that was but an excursion across the water;and his wife stayed at home with the little girl.And thus much is certain,that the foster-mother soon got to love the frog with its gentle eyes and its sorrowful sighs,almost better than the pretty child that bit and beat all around her.

The rough damp mist of autumn, which devours the leaves of the forest,had already descended upon thicket and heath.“Birds featherless,”as they called the snow,flew in thick masses,and the winter was coming on fast.The sparrows took possession of the storks’ nests, and talked about the absent proprietors according to their fashion;but these—the Stork-pair, with all the young ones—what had become of them?

The Storks were now in the land of Egypt,where the sun sent forth warm rays,as it does here on a fine mid-summer day.Tamarind and acacias bloomed in the country all around;the crescent of Mohammed glittered from the cupolas of the temples,and on the slender towers sat many a stork-pair resting after the long journey. Great troops divided the nests,built close together on venerable pillars and in fallen temple arches of forgotten cities. The date-palm lifted up its screen as if it would be a sun-shade; the greyishwhite pyramids stood like masses of shadow in the clear air of the far desert,where the ostrich ran his swift careet,and the lion gazed with his great grave eyes at the marble Sphinx which lay half buried in the sand.The waters of the Nile had fallen, and the whole river bed was crowded with frogs;and that was, for the Stork family,the finest spectacle in the country.The young Storks thought it was optical illusion, they found everything so glorious.

“Yes, it's delightful here;and it's always like this in our warm country,”said the Stork-mamma.

And the young ones felt quite frisky on the strength of it.

“Is there anything more to be seen?”they asked.“Are we to go much farther into the country?”

“There's nothing further to be seen,”answered Stork-mamma.“Behind this delightful region there are only wild forests, whose branches are interlaced with one another, while prickly climbing plants close up the paths—only the elephant can force a way for himself with his great feet; and the snakes are too big and the lizards too quick fof us.If you go into the desert,you'll get your eyes full of sand when there's a light breeze, but when it blows great guns you may get into the middle of a pillar of sand.It is best to stay here,where there are frogs and locusts.I shall stay here,and you shall stay too.”

And there they remained.The parents sat in the nest on the slender minaret, and rested, and yet were busily employed smoothing their feathers, and whetting their beaks against their red stockings.

Now and then they stretched out their necks, and bowed gravely,and lifted their heads,with their high foreheads and fine smooth feathers, and looked very clever with their brown eyes.The female young ones strutted about in the juicy reeds,looked slyly at the other young storks,made acquaintances,and swallowed a frog at every third step,or rolled a little snake to and fro in their bills,which they thought became them well, and,moreover, tasted nice.The male young ones began a quarrel,beat each other with their wings, struck with their beaks,and even pricked each other till the blood came.And in this way sometimes one couple was betrothed,and sometimes another, of the young ladies and gentlemen,and that was just what they lived for: then they took to a new nest,and began new quarrels, for in hot countries people are generally hot tempered and passionate.But it was pleasant for all that, and the old people especially were much rejoiced,for all that young people do seems to suit them well.There was sunshine every day,and every day plenty to eat, and nothing to think of but pleasure. But in the rich castle at the Egyptian host's,as they called him,there was no pleasure to be found.

The rich mighty lord reclined on his divan,in the midst of the great hall of the many-coloured walls, looking as if he were sitting in a tulip;but he was stiff and powerless in all his limbs,and lay stretched out like a mummy.His family and servants surrounded him,for he was not dead,though one could not exactly say that he was alive.The healing moss flower from the North,which was to have been found and brought home by her who loved him best,never appeared.His beauteous young daughter,who had flown in the swan's plumage over sea and land to the far North,was never to come back.“She is dead! ”the two returning Swan-maidens had said, and they had made up a complete story, which ran as follows:

“We three together flew high in the air: a hunter saw us,and shot his arrow at us;it struck our young companion and friend, and slowly, singing her farewell song,she sank down, a dying swan,into the woodland lake.

By the shore of the lake,under a weeping birch tree, we buried her.But we had our revenge.We bound fire under the wings of the swallow who had her nest beneath the huntsman's thatch;the house burst into flames,the huntsman burned in the house,and the glare shone over the sea as far as the hanging birch beneath which she sleeps.Never will she return to the land of Egypt.”

And then the two wept.And when Stork-papa heard the story,he clapped with his beak so that it could be heard a long way off.

“Falsehood and lies!” he cried.“I should like to run my beak deep into their chests.”

“And perhaps break it off,”interposed the Stork-mamma:“and then you would look well.Think first of yourself,and then of your family,and all the rest does not concern you.”

“But tomorrow I shall seat myself at the edge of the open cupola,when the wise and learned men assemble to consult on the sick man's state:perhaps they may come a little nearer the truth.”

And the learned and wise men came together and spoke a great deal,out of which the Stork could make no sense—and it had no result, either for the sick man or for the daughter in the swampy waste.But for all that we may listen to what the people said, for we have to listen to a great deal of talk in the world.

But then it will be an advantage to hear what went before,and in this case we are well informed, for we know just as much about it as Stork-papa.

“Love gives life! The highest love gives the highest life!Only through love can his life be preserved.”

That is what they all said, and the learned men said it was very cleverly and beautifully spoken.

“That is a beautiful thought!”Stork-papa said immediately.

“I don't quite understand it,”Stork-mamma replied;“and that's not my fault,but the fault of the thought.But let it be as it will, I've something else to think of.”

And now the learned men had spoken of the love to this one and that one,and of the difference between the love of one's neighbour and love between parents and children,of the love of plants for the light,when the sun-beam kisses the ground and the germ springs forth from it,—everything was so fully and elaborately explained that it was quite impossible for Stork-papa to take it in,much less to repeat it.He felt quite weighed down with thought,and half shut his eyes,and the whole of the following day he stood thoughtfully upon one leg:it was quite heavy for him to carry,all that learning.

But one thing,Stork-papa understood.All,high and low,had spoken out of their inmost hearts,and said that it was a great misfortune for thousands of people,yes, for the whole country,that this man was lying sick, and could not get well,and that it would spread joy and pleasure abroad if he should recover.But where grew the flower that could restore him to health?They had all searched for it,consulted learned books,the twinkling stars, the weather and the wind;they had made inquiries in every by-way of which they could think;and at length the wise men and the learned men had said,as we have already told,that“Love begets life—will restore a father's life”; and on this occasion they said more than they understood.They repeated it,and wrote down as a recipe,“Love begets life.”But how was the thing to be prepared according to the recipe? That was a difficulty they could not get over.At last they were decided upon the point that help must come by means of the Princess,who loved her father with her whole soul;and at last a method had been devised whereby help could be procured. Yes, it was already more than a year ago since the Princess was to go forth by night, when the brief rays of the new moon were waning: she was to go out to the marble Sphinx, to shake the dust from her sandals, and to go onward through the long passage which leads into the midst of one of the great pyramids, where one of the mighty Kings of antiquity,surrounded by pomp and treasure,lay swathed in mummy cloths.There she was to incline her ear to the dead king,and then it would be revealed to her where she might find life and health for her father.She had fulfilled all this,and had seen in a vision that she was to bring home from the deep moss up in the Danish land—the very place had been accurately described to her—the lotus flower which grows in the depths of the waters,and then her father would regain health and strength.

And therefore she had gone forth in the swan's plumage out of the land of Egypt up to the wild moss.And the Stork-papa and Stork-mamma knew all this;and now we also know it more accurately than we knew it be-fore.We know that the Marsh king had drawn her down to himself,and know that to those at home she is dead for ever.Only the wisest of them said,as the Stork-mamma said too,“She will manage to help herself:”and they re-solved to wait and see what would happen,for they knew of nothing better that they could do. “I should like to take away the swans’ feathers from the two faithless Princesses,”said the Stork-papa;“then at any rate,they will not be able to fly up again to the wild moss and do mischief. I'll hide the two swan-feather suits up there,till somebody has occasion for them.”

“But where do you intend to hide them?”asked Stork-mamma.

“Up in our nest in the moss,”answered he.“I and our young ones will take turns in carrying them up yonder on our return,and if that should prove too difficult for us,there are places enough on the way where we can conceal them till our next journey.Certainly,one suit of swan's feathers would be enough for the Princess,but two are always better.In those northern countries no one can have too many wraps.”

“No one will thank you for it,”quoth Stork-mamma;“but you're the master.Except at breeding-time, I have nothing to say.”

In the Viking’ s castle by the wild moss, whither the Storks bent their flight when the spring approached,they had given the little girl the name of Helga; but this name was too soft for a temper like that which went with her beauteous form. Month by month this temper showed itself more and more;and in the course of years—during which the Storks made the same journey over and over again,in autumn to the Nile, in spring back to the moorland lake—the child grew to be a big girl;and be-fore people were aware of it,she was a beautiful maiden in her sixteenth year.The shell was splendid,but the kernel was harsh and hard;harder even than most in those dark,gloomy times.It was a pleasure to her to splash about with her white hands in the blood of the horse that had been slain in sacrifice.In her wild mood she bit off the neck of the black cook the priest was about to offer up;and to her foster-father she said in perfect se-riousness,

“If thy enemy should pull down the roof of they house,while thou wert sleeping, I would not wake the even if I had the power.I should never hear it,for my ears still tingle with the blow that thou gavest me years ago—thou! I have never forgotten it.”

But the Viking took her words in jest;for,like all others,he was bewitched with her beauty,and he knew not how temper and form changed in Helga.Without a saddle she sat upon a horse,as if she were part of it,while it rushed along in full career; nor would she spring from the horse when it quarrelled and fought with other horses.Often she would throw herself,in her clothes,from the high shore into the sea,and swim to meet the Viking when his boat steered near home; and she cut her longest lock of hair,and twisted it into a string for her bow.

“Self-made is well-made,”she said.

The Viking's wife was strong of character and of will,according to the custom of the times;but,comma-pared to her daughter,she appeared as a feeble,timid woman;moreover,she knew that an evil charm weighed heavily upon the unfortunate child.

It seemed as if, out of mere malice, when her mother stood on the threshold or came out into the yard,Helga would often seat herself on the margin of the well,and wave her arms in the air;then suddenly she would dive into the deep well,where her frog nature enabled her to dive and rise,down and up, until she climbed forth a-gain like a cat, and came back into the hall dripping with water,so that the green leaves strewn upon the ground turned about in the stream.

But there was one thing that imposed a check upon Helga,and that was the evening twilight.When that came she was quiet and thoughtful, and would listen to re............

Join or Log In! You need to log in to continue reading

Login into Your Account

  Remember me on this computer.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved