The Wind tells about Waldemar Daa and his Daughters (Danish Folk Tale)

Folk Tales, Danish Folk Tales2250


When the wind sweeps across the grass, the field has a ripple like a pond, and when it sweeps across the corn the field waves to and fro like a high sea. That is called the wind”s dance; but the wind does not dance only, he also tells stories; and how loudly he can sing out of his deep chest, and how different it sounds in the tree-tops in the forest, and through the loopholes and clefts and cracks in walls! Do you see how the wind drives the clouds up yonder, like a frightened flock of sheep? Do you hear how the wind howls down here through the open valley, like a watchman blowing his horn? With wonderful tones he

whistles and screams down the chimney and into the fireplace. The fire crackles and flares up, and shines far into the room, and the little place is warm and snug, and it is pleasant to sit there listening to the sounds. Let the wind speak, for he knows plenty of stories and fairy tales, many more than are known to any of us. Just hear what the wind can tell.

Huh–uh–ush! roar along! That is the burden of the song.

“By the shores of the Great Belt, one of the straits that unite the Cattegut with the Baltic, lies an old mansion with thick red walls,”says the Wind. “I know every stone in it; I saw it when it still belonged to the castle of Marsk Stig on the promontory. But it had to be pulled down, and the stone was used again for the walls of a new mansion in another place, the baronial mansion of Borreby, which still

stands by the coast.

“I knew them, the noble lords and ladies, the changing races that

dwelt there, and now I'm going to tell about Waldemar Daa and his

daughters. How proudly he carried himself–he was of royal blood! He

could do more than merely hunt the stag and empty the wine-can. “It

_shall_ be done,” he was accustomed to say.

“His wife walked proudly in gold-embroidered garments over the

polished marble floors. The tapestries were gorgeous, the furniture

was expensive and artistically carved. She had brought gold and silver

plate with her into the house, and there was German beer in the

cellar. Black fiery horses neighed in the stables. There was a wealthy

look about the house of Borreby at that time, when wealth was still at

home there.

“Four children dwelt there also; three delicate maidens, Ida, Joanna,

and Anna Dorothea: I have never forgotten their names.

“They were rich people, noble people, born in affluence, nurtured in

affluence.

“Huh–sh! roar along!” sang the Wind; and then he continued:

“I did not see here, as in other great noble houses, the high-born

lady sitting among her women in the great hall turning the

spinning-wheel: here she swept the sounding chords of the cithern, and

sang to the sound, but not always old Danish melodies, but songs of a

strange land. It was “live and let live” here: stranger guests came

from far and near, the music sounded, the goblets clashed, and I was

not able to drown the noise,” said the Wind. “Ostentation, and

haughtiness, and splendour, and display, and rule were there, but the

fear of the Lord was not there.

“And it was just on the evening of the first day of May,” the Wind

continued. “I came from the west, and had seen how the ships were

being crushed by the waves, with all on board, and flung on the west

coast of Jutland. I had hurried across the heath, and over Jutland”s

wood-girt eastern coast, and over the Island of Fünen, and now I drove

over the Great Belt, groaning and sighing.

“Then I lay down to rest on the shore of Seeland, in the neighbourhood

of the great house of Borreby, where the forest, the splendid oak

forest, still rose.

“The young men-servants of the neighbourhood were collecting branches

and brushwood under the oak trees; the largest and driest they could

find they carried into the village, and piled them up in a heap, and

set them on fire; and men and maids danced, singing in a circle round

the blazing pile.

“I lay quite quiet,” continued the Wind; “but I silently touched a

branch, which had been brought by the handsomest of the men-servants,

and the wood blazed up brightly, blazed up higher than all the rest;

and now he was the chosen one, and bore the name the Street-goat, and

might choose his Street-lamb first from among the maids; and there was

mirth and rejoicing, greater than I had ever heard before in the halls

of the rich baronial mansion.

“And the noble lady drove towards the baronial mansion, with her three

daughters, in a gilded carriage drawn by six horses. The daughters

were young and fair–three charming blossoms, rose, lily, and pale

hyacinth. The mother was a proud tulip, and never acknowledged the

salutation of one of the men or maids who paused in their sport to do

her honour: the gracious lady seemed a flower that was rather stiff in

the stalk.

“Rose, lily, and pale hyacinth; yes, I saw them all three! Whose

lambkins will they one day become? thought I; their Street-goat will

be a gallant knight, perhaps a prince. Huh–sh! hurry along! hurry

along!

“Yes, the carriage rolled on with them, and the peasant people resumed

their dancing. They rode that summer through all the villages round

about. But in the night, when I rose again,” said the Wind, “the very

noble lady lay down, to rise again no more: that thing came upon her

which comes upon all–there is nothing new in that.

“Waldemar Daa stood for a space silent and thoughtful. “The proudest

tree can be bowed without being broken,” said a voice within him. His

daughters wept, and all the people in the mansion wiped their eyes;

but Lady Daa had driven away–and I drove away too, and rushed along,

huh–sh!” said the Wind.

* * * * *

“I returned again; I often returned again over the Island of Fünen,

and the shores of the Belt, and I sat down by Borreby, by the splendid

oak wood; there the heron made his nest, and wood-pigeons haunted the

place, and blue ravens, and even the black stork. It was still spring;

some of them were yet sitting on their eggs, others had already

hatched their young. But how they flew up, how they cried! The axe

sounded, blow on blow: the wood was to be felled. Waldemar Daa wanted

to build a noble ship, a man-of-war, a three-decker, which the king

would be sure to buy; and therefore the wood must be felled, the

landmark of the seamen, the refuge of the birds. The hawk started up

and flew away, for its nest was destroyed; the heron and all the birds

of the forest became homeless, and flew about in fear and in anger: I

could well understand how they felt. Crows and ravens croaked aloud as

if in scorn. “Crack, crack! the nest cracks, cracks, cracks!”

“Far in the interior of the wood, where the noisy swarm of labourers

were working, stood Waldemar Daa and his three daughters; and all

laughed at the wild cries of the birds; only one, the youngest, Anna

Dorothea, felt grieved in her heart; and when they made preparations

to fell a tree that was almost dead, and on whose naked branches the

black stork had built his nest, whence the little storks were

stretching out their heads, she begged for mercy for the little

things, and tears came into her eyes. Therefore the tree with the

black stork”s nest was left standing. The tree was not worth speaking

of.

“There was a great hewing and sawing, and a three-decker was built.

The architect was of low origin, but of great pride; his eyes and

forehead told how clever he was, and Waldemar Daa was fond of

listening to him, and so was Waldemar”s daughter Ida, the eldest, who

was now fifteen years old; and while he built a ship for the father,

he was building for himself an airy castle, into which he and Ida were

to go as a married couple–which might indeed have happened, if the

castle with stone walls, and ramparts, and moats had remained. But in

spite of his wise head, the architect remained but a poor bird; and,

indeed, what business has a sparrow to take part in a dance of

peacocks? Huh–sh! I careered away, and he careered away too, for he

was not allowed to stay; and little Ida got over it, because she was

obliged to get over it.

“The proud black horses were neighing in the stable; they were worth

looking at, and accordingly they _were_ looked at. The admiral, who

had been sent by the king himself to inspect the new ship and take

measures for its purchase, spoke loudly in admiration of the beautiful

horses.

“I heard all that,” said the Wind. “I accompanied the gentlemen

through the open door, and strewed blades of straw like bars of gold

before their feet. Waldemar Daa wanted to have gold, and the admiral

wished for the proud black horses, and that is why he praised them so

much; but the hint was not taken, and consequently the ship was not

bought. It remained on the shore covered over with boards, a Noah”s

ark that never got to the water–Huh–sh! rush away! away!–and that

was a pity.

“In the winter, when the fields were covered with snow, and the water

with large blocks of ice that I blew up on to the coast,” continued

the Wind, “crows and ravens came, all as black as might be, great

flocks of them, and alighted on the dead, deserted, lonely ship by the

shore, and croaked in hoarse accents of the wood that was no more, of

the many pretty bird”s nests destroyed, and the little ones left

without a home; and all for the sake of that great bit of lumber, that

proud ship that never sailed forth.

“I made the snow-flakes whirl, and the snow lay like a great lake high

around the ship, and drifted over it. I let it hear my voice, that it

might know what a storm has to say. Certainly I did my part towards

teaching it seamanship. Huh–sh! push along!

“And the winter passed away; winter and summer, both passed away, and

they are still passing away, even as I pass away; as the snow whirls

along, and the apple blossom whirls along, and the leaves fall–away!

away! away! and men are passing away too!

“But the daughters were still young, and little Ida was a rose, as

fair to look upon as on the day when the architect saw her. I often

seized her long brown hair, when she stood in the garden by the apple

tree, musing, and not heeding how I strewed blossoms on her hair, and

loosened it, while she was gazing at the red sun and the golden sky,

through the dark underwood and the trees of the garden.

“Her sister was bright and slender as a lily. Joanna had height and

deportment, but was like her mother, rather stiff in the stalk. She

was very fond of walking through the great hall, where hung the

portraits of her ancestors. The women were painted in dresses of silk

and velvet, with a tiny little hat, embroidered with pearls, on their

plaited hair. They were handsome women. The gentlemen were represented

clad in steel, or in costly cloaks lined with squirrel”s skin; they

wore little ruffs, and swords at their sides, but not buckled to their

hips. Where would Joanna”s picture find its place on that wall some

day? and how would _he_ look, her noble lord and husband? This is what

she thought of, and of this she spoke softly to herself. I heard it,

as I swept into the long hall, and turned round to come out again.

“Anna Dorothea, the pale hyacinth, a child of fourteen, was quiet and

thoughtful; her great deep blue eyes had a musing look, but the

childlike smile still played around her lips: I was not able to blow

it away, nor did I wish to do so.

“We met in the garden, in the hollow lane, in the field and meadow;

she gathered herbs and flowers which she knew would be useful to her

father in concocting the drinks and drops he distilled. Waldemar Daa

was arrogant and proud, but he was also a learned man, and knew a

great deal. That was no secret, and many opinions were expressed

concerning it. In his chimney there was fire even in summer time. He

would lock the door of his room, and for days the fire would be poked

and raked; but of this he did not talk much–the forces of nature must

be conquered in silence; and soon he would discover the art of making

the best thing of all–the red gold.

“That is why the chimney was always smoking, therefore the flames

crackled so frequently. Yes, I was there too,” said the Wind. “Let it

go, I sang down through the chimney: it will end in smoke, air, coals

and ashes! You will burn yourself! Hu-uh-ush! drive away! drive away!

But Waldemar Daa did _not_ drive it away.”

“The splendid black horses in the stable–what became of them? what

became of the old gold and silver vessels in cupboards and chests, the

cows in the fields, and the house and home itself? Yes, they may melt,

may melt in the golden crucible, and yet yield no gold.

“Empty grew the barns and store-rooms, the cellars and magazines. The

servants decreased in number, and the mice multiplied. Then a window

broke, and then another, and I could get in elsewhere besides at the

door,” said the Wind. “Where the chimney smokes the meal is being

cooked,” the proverb says. But here the chimney smoked that devoured

all the meals, for the sake of the red gold.

“I blew through the courtyard-gate like a watchman blowing his horn,”

the Wind went on, “but no watchman was there. I twirled the

weathercock round on the summit of the tower, and it creaked like the

snoring of the warder, but no warder was there; only mice and rats

were there. Poverty laid the tablecloth; poverty sat in the wardrobe

and in the larder; the door fell off its hinges, cracks and fissures

made their appearance, and I went in and out at pleasure; and that is

how I know all about it.

“Amid smoke and ashes, amid sorrow and sleepless nights, the hair and

beard of the master turned grey, and deep furrows showed themselves

around his temples; his skin turned pale and yellow, as his eyes

looked greedily for the gold, the desired gold.

“I blew the smoke and ashes into his face and beard: the result of his

labour was debt instead of pelf. I sung through the burst window-panes

and the yawning clefts in the walls. I blew into the chests of drawers

belonging to the daughters, wherein lay the clothes that had become

faded and threadbare from being worn over and over again. That was not

the song that had been sung at the children”s cradle. The lordly life

had changed to a life of penury. I was the only one who rejoiced aloud

in that castle,” said the Wind. “I snowed them up, and they say snow

keeps people warm. They had no wood, and the forest from which they

might have brought it was cut down. It was a biting frost. I rushed in

through loopholes and passages, over gables and roofs, that I might be

brisk. They were lying in bed because of the cold, the three high-born

daughters; and their father was crouching under his leathern coverlet.

Nothing to bite, nothing to break, no fire on the hearth–there was a

life for high-born people! Huh-sh, let it go! But that is what my Lord

Daa could _not_ do–he could _not_ let it go.

“After winter comes spring,” he said. “After want, good times will

come: one must not lose patience; one must learn to wait! Now my house

and lands are mortgaged, it is indeed high time; and the gold will

soon come. At Easter!”

“I heard how he spoke thus, looking at a spider”s web. “Thou cunning

little weaver, thou dost teach me perseverance. Let them tear thy web,

and thou wilt begin it again, and complete it. Let them destroy it

again, and thou wilt resolutely begin to work again–again! That is

what we must do, and that will repay itself at last.”

“It was the morning of Easter-day. The bells sounded from the

neighbouring church, and the sun seemed to rejoice in the sky. The

master had watched through the night in feverish excitement, and had

been melting and cooling, distilling and mixing. I heard him sighing

like a soul in despair; I heard him praying, and I noticed how he held

his breath. The lamp was burnt out, but he did not notice it. I blew

at the fire of coals, and it threw its red glow upon his ghastly white

face, lighting it up with a glare, and his sunken eyes looked forth

wildly out of their deep sockets–but they became larger and larger,

as though they would burst.

“Look at the alchymic glass! It glows in the crucible, red-hot, and

pure and heavy! He lifted it with a trembling hand, and cried with a

trembling voice, “Gold! gold!”

“He was quite dizzy–I could have blown him down,” said the Wind; “but

I only fanned the glowing coals, and accompanied him through the door

to where his daughters sat shivering. His coat was powdered with

ashes, and there were ashes in his beard and in his tangled hair. He

stood straight up, and held his costly treasure on high, in the

brittle glass. “Found, found!–Gold, gold!” he shouted, and again held

aloft the glass to let it flash in the sunshine; but his hand

trembled, and the alchymic glass fell clattering to the ground, and

broke into a thousand pieces; and the last bubble of his happiness had

burst! Hu-uh-ush! rushing away!–and I rushed away from the

gold-maker”s house.

“Late in autumn, when the days are short, and the mist comes and

strews cold drops upon the berries and leafless branches, I came back

in fresh spirits, rushed through the air, swept the sky clear, and

snapped the dry twigs–which is certainly no great labour, but yet it

must be done. Then there was another kind of sweeping clean at

Waldemar Daa”s, in the mansion of Borreby. His enemy, Owe Rainel, of

Basnäs, was there with the mortgage of the house and everything it

contained in his pocket. I drummed against the broken window-panes,

beat against the old rotten doors, and whistled through cracks and

rifts–huh-sh! Mr. Owe Rainel did not like staying there. Ida and Anna

Dorothea wept bitterly; Joanna stood pale and proud, and bit her thumb

till it bled–but what could that avail? Owe Rainel offered to allow

Waldemar Daa to remain in the mansion till the end of his life, but no

thanks were given him for his offer. I listened to hear what occurred.

I saw the ruined gentleman lift his head and throw it back prouder

than ever, and I rushed against the house and the old lime trees with

such force, that one of the thickest branches broke, one that was not

decayed; and the branch remained lying at the entrance as a broom

when any one wanted to sweep the place out: and a grand sweeping out

there was–I thought it would be so.

“It was hard on that day to preserve one”s composure; but their will

was as hard as their fortune.

“There was nothing they could call their own except the clothes they

wore: yes, there was one thing more–the alchymist”s glass, a new one

that had lately been bought, and filled with what had been gathered up

from the ground of the treasure which promised so much but never kept

its promise. Waldemar Daa hid the glass in his bosom, and taking his

stick in his hand, the once rich gentleman passed with his daughters

out of the house of Borreby. I blew cold upon his heated cheeks, I

stroked his grey beard and his long white hair, and I sang as well as

I could,–“Huh-sh! gone away! gone away!” And that was the end of the

wealth and splendour.

“Ida walked on one side of the old man, and Anna Dorothea on the

other. Joanna turned round at the entrance–why? Fortune would not

turn because she did so. She looked at the old walls of what had once

been the castle of Marsk Stig, and perhaps she thought of his

daughters:

“The eldest gave the youngest her hand.

And forth they went to the far-off land.”

Was she thinking of this old song? Here were three of them, and their

father was with them too. They walked along the road on which they had

once driven in their splendid carriage–they walked forth as beggars,

with their father, and wandered out into the open field, and into a

mud hut, which they rented for a dollar and a half a year–into their

new house with the empty rooms and empty vessels. Crows and magpies

fluttered above them, and cried, as if in contempt, “Craw! craw! out

of the nest! craw! craw!” as they had done in the wood at Borreby when

the trees were felled.

“Daa and his daughters could not help hearing it. I blew about their

ears, for what use would it be that they should listen?

“And they went to live in the mud hut on the open field, and I wandered

away over moor and field, through bare bushes and leafless forests, to the

open waters, the free shores, to other lands–huh-uh-ush!–away, away! year

after year!”

* * * * *

And how did Waldemar Daa and his daughters prosper? The Wind tells us:

“The one I saw last, yes, for the last time, was Anna Dorothea, the

pale hyacinth: then she was old and bent, for it was fifty years

afterwards. She lived longer than the rest; she knew all.

“Yonder on the heath, by the Jutland town of Wiborg, stood the fine

new house of the canon, built of red bricks with projecting gables;

the smoke came up thickly from the chimney. The canon”s gentle lady

and her beautiful daughters sat in the bay window, and looked over the

hawthorn hedge of the garden towards the brown heath. What were they

looking at? Their glances rested upon the stork”s nest without, and

on the hut, which was almost falling in; the roof consisted of moss

and houseleek, in so far as a roof existed there at all–the stork”s

nest covered the greater part of it, and that alone was in proper

condition, for it was kept in order by the stork himself.

“That is a house to be looked at, but not to be touched; I must deal

gently with it,” said the Wind. “For the sake of the stork”s nest the

hut has been allowed to stand, though it was a blot upon the

landscape. They did not like to drive the stork away, therefore the

old shed was left standing, and the poor woman who dwelt in it was

allowed to stay: she had the Egyptian bird to thank for that; or was

it perchance her reward, because she had once interceded for the nest

of its black brother in the forest of Borreby? At that time she, the

poor woman, was a young child, a pale hyacinth in the rich garden. She

remembered all that right well, did Anna Dorothea.

“Oh! oh!” Yes, people can sigh like the wind moaning in the rushes

and reeds. “Oh! oh!'” she sighed, “no bells sounded at thy burial,

Waldemar Daa! The poor schoolboys did not even sing a psalm when the

former lord of Borreby was laid in the earth to rest! Oh, everything

has an end, even misery. Sister Ida became the wife of a peasant. That

was the hardest trial that befell our father, that the husband of a

daughter of his should be a miserable serf, whom the proprietor could

mount on the wooden horse for punishment! I suppose he is under the

ground now. And thou, Ida? Alas, alas! it is not ended yet, wretch

that I am! Grant me that I may die, kind Heaven!”

“That was Anna Dorothea”s prayer in the wretched hut which was left

standing for the sake of the stork.

“I took pity on the fairest of the sisters,” said the Wind. “Her

courage was like that of a man, and in man”s clothes she took service

as a sailor on board of a ship. She was sparing of words, and of a

dark countenance, but willing at her work. But she did not know how to

climb; so I blew her overboard before anybody found out that she was a

woman, and according to my thinking that was well done!” said the

Wind.

* * * * *

“On such an Easter morning as that on which Waldemar Daa had fancied

that he had found the red gold, I heard the tones of a psalm under the

stork”s nest, among the crumbling walls–it was Anna Dorothea”s last

song.

“There was no window, only a hole in the wall. The sun rose up like a

mass of gold, and looked through. What a splendour he diffused! Her

eyes were breaking, and her heart was breaking–but that they would

have done, even if the sun had not shone that morning on Anna

Dorothea.

“The stork covered her hut till her death. I sang at her grave!” said

the Wind. “I sang at her father”s grave; I know where his grave is,

and where hers is, and nobody else knows it.

“New times, changed times! The old high-road now runs through

cultivated fields; the new road winds among the trim ditches, and soon

the railway will come with its train of carriages, and rush over the

graves which are forgotten like the names–hu-ush! passed away, passed

away!

“That is the story of Waldemar Daa and his daughters. Tell it better,

any of you, if you know how,” said the Wind, and turned away–and he

was gone.



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