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There's no one on earth who knows so many
stories as Ole Lukoie-he certainly can tell them!
When night comes on and children still sit in
good order around the table, or on their little stools, Ole Lukoie
arrives. He comes upstairs quietly, for he walks in his socks.
Softly he opens the door, and flick! he sprinkles sweet
milk in the children's eyes-just a tiny bit, but always enough to
keep their eyes closed so they won't see him. He tiptoes behind them
and breathes softly on their necks, and this makes their heads hang
heavy. Oh yes! But it doesn't hurt them, for Ole Lukoie loves
children and only wants them to be quiet, and that they are only
when they have been put to bed. He wants them to be quiet so that he
can tell them stories.
As soon as the children fall asleep, Ole
Lukoie sits down on the bed beside them. He is well dressed. His
coat is made of silk, but it would be impossible to say what color
it is because it gleams red, or green, or blue, as he turns about.
Under each arm he carries an umbrella. One has pictures on it, and
that one he opens up over good children. Then they dream the most
beautiful stories all night long. The other is just a plain umbrella
with nothing on it at all, and that one he opens over naughty
children. Then they sleep restlessly, and when they wake up in the
morning they have had no dreams at all.
Now you shall hear how for a whole week Lukoie
came every evening to a little boy named Hjalmar, and what he told
him. There are seven of these stories, because there are seven days
to a week.
"Now listen," Ole Lukoie said, as soon as he
got Hjalmar to bed that evening. "First, let's put things to
Then all the flowers in the flower pots grew
to be big trees, arching their long branches under the ceiling and
along the walls until the room became a beautiful bower. The limbs
were loaded with flowers, each more lovely than any rose, and their
fragrance was so sweet that if you wanted to eat it-it was sweeter
than jam. The fruit gleamed like gold, and besides there were
dumplings bursting with currants. It was all so splendid!
Suddenly a dreadful howl came from the table
drawer where Hjalmar kept his schoolbooks.
"What can the matter be?" said Ole Lukoie, as
he went to the table and opened the drawer. It was the slate, which
was throwing a fit and was ready to fall to pieces, because there
was a mistake in the sum that had been worked on it. The slate
pencil tugged and jumped at the end of its string as if it were a
little dog. It wanted to correct the sum, but it could not.
Another lamentation came from Hjalmar's
copybook. Oh, it was dreadful to listen to. On each page the capital
letters stood one under the other, each with its little letter
beside it. This was the copy. Next to these were the letters which
Hjalmar had written. Though they thought they looked just like the
first ones, they tumbled all over the lines on which they were
supposed to stand.
"See, this is how you should hold yourselves,"
said the copy. "Look, slanting like this, with a bold stroke."
"Oh, how glad we would be to do that!"
Hjalmar's letters replied, "but we can't. We are so weak."
"Then you must take medicine," Ole Lukoie told
"Oh no!" they cried, and stood up so straight
that it was a pleasure to see them.
"Now we can't tell any stories," said Ole
Lukoie. "I must give them their exercises. One, two! One, two!" He
put the letters through their paces until they stood straight, more
graceful than any copy could stand. But when Ole Lukoie left, and
Hjalmar looked at them in the morning, they were just as miserable
As soon as Hjalmar was in bed, Ole Lukoie
touched all the furniture in the room with his little magic
sprinkler, and immediately everything began to talk. Everything
talked about itself except the spittoon, which kept silent. It was
annoyed that they should be so conceited as to talk only about
themselves, and think only about themselves, without paying the
least attention to it, sitting so humbly in the corner and letting
everyone spit at it.
Over the chest of drawers hung a large
painting in a gilt frame. It was a landscape in which one could see
tall old trees, flowers in the grass, and a large lake from which a
river flowed away through the woods, past many castles, far out to
the open sea. Ole Lukoie touched the painting with his magic
sprinkler, and the birds in it began to sing, the branches stirred
on the trees, and the clouds billowed along. You could see their
shadows sweep across the landscape.
Then Ole Lukoie lifted little Hjalmar up to
the frame and put the boy's feet into the picture, right in the tall
grass, and there he stood. The sun shone down on him through the
branches of the trees, as he ran to the water and got into a little
boat which was there. It was painted red and white, and its sails
shone like silver. Six swans, each with a golden crown around its
neck and a bright blue star upon its forehead, drew the boat through
the deep woods, where the trees whispered of robbers and witches,
and the flowers spoke about the dainty little elves, and about all
that the butterflies had told them.
Splendid fish with scales like gold and silver
swam after the boat. Sometimes they gave a leap-so that it said
"splash" in the water. Birds red and blue, large and small, flew
after the boat in two long lines. The gnats danced and the
cockchafers went boom, boom! They all wanted to go with
Hjalmar, and every one of them had a story to tell.
What magnificent voyage that was! Sometimes
the forest was deep and dark, and sometimes like the loveliest
garden full of sun and flowers. There were palaces of marble and
glass, and on the balconies stood Princesses. Hjalmar knew them
well. They were all little girls with whom he had played. Each of
them stretched out her hand, and each held out the prettiest sugar
pig that ever a cake woman sold. Hjalmar grasped each sugar pig as
he went by, and the Princess held fast, so that each got a piece of
it. The Princess got the smaller piece, and Hjalmar got the larger
one. Little Princes stood guard at each palace. They saluted with
their swords, and caused raisins and tin soldiers to shower down.
You could tell that they were Princes indeed.
Sometimes Hjalmar sailed through the forests,
sometimes through great halls, or straight through a town. He also
came through the town where his nurse lived, she who had carried him
in her arms when he was a very small boy and had always been fond of
him. She bowed and waved, and sang the pretty song which she had
made up herself and sent to Hjalmar:
"I think of you as often,
Hjalmar, my little dear,
As I've kissed your lips so soft, and
Your cheeks and your eyes so clear.
I heard your first laughter and weeping,
And too soon I heard your good-bys.
May God have you in his keeping,
My angel from the skies."
All the birds sang too, and the flowers danced
on their stalks, and the old trees nodded, just as if Ole Lukoie
were telling stories to them.
How the rain came down outdoors! Hjalmar could
hear it in his sleep, and when Ole Lukoie opened the window the
water had risen up to the window sill. There was a real lake
outside, and a fine ship lay close to the house.
"If you will sail with me, little Hjalmar,"
said Ole Lukoie, "you can voyage to distant lands tonight and be
back again by morning."
Immediately Hjalmar stood in his Sunday
clothes aboard this splendid ship. And immediately the weather
turned glorious as they sailed through the streets and rounded the
church. Now everything was a great wild sea. They sailed until land
was far out of sight, and they saw a flock of storks who also came
from home and wanted to travel to warmer climes. These storks flew
in line, one behind the other, and they had already flown a long,
long way. One of them was so weary that his wings could scarcely
carry him on. He was the very last in the line, and soon he was left
a long way behind the others. Finally he sank with outstretched
wings, lower and lower. He made a few more feeble strokes with his
wings, but it was no use. Now he touched the ship's rigging with his
feet, slid down the sail, and landed, bang! upon the deck.
The cabin boy caught him and put him in the
chicken coop with the hens, ducks, and turkeys. The poor stork stood
among them most dejected.
"Funny-looking fellow!" said all the hens. The
turkey gobbler puffed himself as big as ever he could, and asked the
stork who he was. The ducks backed off and told each other, "He's a
quack! He's a quack!"
Now the stork tried to tell them about the
heat of Africa; about the pyramids; and about the ostrich, how it
runs across the desert like a wild horse. But the ducks did not
understand him. They said to each other, "Don't we all agree that
he's a fool?"
"Yes, to be sure, he's a fool," the turkey
gobbler gobbled, as the stork kept silent and thought of his Africa.
"What beautiful thin legs you've got," said
the turkey gobbler. "What do they cost a yard?"
"Quack, quack, quack!" The ducks all laughed,
but the stork pretended not to hear them.
"You can laugh too," the gobbler told him,
"for that was a mighty witty remark, or was it too deep for you? No
indeed, he isn't very bright, so let's keep on being clever
The hens cackled, the ducks went "Quick,
quack! quick, quack!" and it was dreadful to see how they made fun
of him among themselves. But Hjalmar opened the back door of the
chicken coop and called to the stork. He hopped out on the deck. He
was rested now, and he seemed to nod to Hjalmar to thank him. Then
he spread his wings and flew away to the warm countries. But the
hens clucked, and the ducks quacked, and the turkey gobbler's face
turned fiery red.
"Tomorrow we'll make soup out of you," said
Hjalmar. With these words he woke up in his own little bed. It was a
marvelous journey that Ole Lukoie had taken him on during the night.
"I tell you what," Ole Lukoie said. "Don't be
afraid if I show you a little mouse." He held out a hand with the
quaint little creature in it. "It has come to ask you to a wedding.
There are two little mice here who are to enter into the state of
marriage this very night. They live under the floor of your mother's
pantry, which is supposed to be the most charming quarters."
"How can I get through that little mouse hole
in the floor?" Hjalmar asked.
"Leave that to me," said Ole Lukoie. "I'll
make you small enough." Then he touched Hjalmar with his magic
sprinkler. He immediately became shorter and shorter, until at last
he was only as tall as your finger. "Now you may borrow the tin
soldier's uniform. I think it will just fit you, and uniforms always
look well when one is at a party."
"Oh, don't they!" said Hjalmar. Instantly he
was dressed like the finest tin soldier.
"If you will be so kind as to sit in your
mother's thimble," the mouse said, "I shall consider it an honor to
pull you along."
"Will you really go to all that trouble, young
lady?" Hjalmar cried.
And in this fashion, off they drove to the
mouse's wedding. First they went down a long passage under the floor
boards. It was just high enough for them to drive through in the
thimble, and the whole passage was lighted with touchwood.
"Doesn't it smell delightful here?" said the
mouse. "This whole road has been greased with bacon rinds, and
there's nothing better than that."
Now they came to the wedding hall. On the
right stood all the little lady mice, whispering and giggling as if
they were making fun of each other. On the left stood all the
gentlemen mice, twirling their mustaches with their forepaws. The
bridegroom and his bride stood in a hollow cheese rind in the center
of the floor, and kissed like mad, in plain view of all the guests.
But of course they were engaged, and were to be married immediately.
More and more guests kept crowding in. The
mice were nearly trampling each other to death, and the bridal
couple had posted themselves in the doorway, so that no one could
come or leave. Like the passage, this whole hall had been greased
with bacon rind, and that was the complete banquet. However, for the
dessert, a pea was brought in, on which a little mouse of the family
had bitten the name of the bridal couple, that is to say the first
letter of the name. This was a most unusual touch.
All the mice said it was a charming wedding,
and that the conversation was perfect. And then Hjalmar drove home
again. He had been in very high society, for all that he had been
obliged to make himself very small to fit in the tin soldier's
"It's astonishing how many older people are
anxious to get hold of me," said Ole Lukoie. "Especially those whose
consciences are bothering them. 'Good little Ole,' they say to me,
'we can't close our eyes. We lie awake all night, facing our wicked
deeds which sit on the edge of our beds like ugly little fiends and
soak us in hot perspiration. Won't you come and turn them out so
that we can have a good night's sleep?' At that they sigh very
deeply. 'We will be glad to pay you for it. Good night, Ole. The
money lies on the window sill.' But I don't do things for pay," said
"What are we going to have tonight?" little
"I don't know whether you'd like to go to a
wedding again tonight but it's quite different from the one last
night. Your sister's big doll, who looks like a man and is named
Herman, is to be married to the doll called Bertha. It's Bertha's
birthday, too, so there'll be no end to the presents."
"Yes, I know," Hjalmar told him. "Whenever the
dolls need new clothes, my sister either lets them have a birthday
or hold a wedding. It must have happened a hundred times already."
"Yes, but tonight is the hundred and first
wedding, and, with one hundred and one, things come to an end.
That's why it's to be so splendid. Oh, look!"
Hjalmar looked over at the table. There he saw
a little pasteboard house with the windows alight, and all the tin
soldiers presenting arms in front of it. The bridal couple sat on
the floor and leaned against the table leg. They looked thoughtful,
and with good reason. Ole Lukoie, rigged out in grandmother's black
petticoat, married them off. When the ceremony was over, all the
furniture in the room sang the following fine song, which the pencil
had written. It went to the tune of the soldier's tattoo:
Let us lift up our voices as high as the sun,
In honor of those who today are made one.
Although neither knows quite what they've
And neither one quite knows who's been won,
Oh, wood and leather go well together,
So let's lift up our voices as high as the
Then they were given presents, but they had
refused to take any food at all, because they planned to live on
"Shall we go to a summer resort, or take a
voyage?" the bridegroom asked. They consulted the swallow, who was
such a traveler, and the old setting hen who had raised five broods
of chicks. The swallow told them about the lovely warm countries
where grapes hang in great ripe bunches, where the air is soft, and
where the mountains have wonderful colors that they don't have here.
"But they haven't got our green cabbage," the
hen said. "I was in the country with all my chickens one summer and
there was a sand pit in which we could scratch all day. We also had
access to a garden where cabbages grew. Oh, how green they were! I
can't imagine anything lovelier."
"But one cabbage looks just like another,"
said the swallow, "and then we so often have bad weather. It is cold
"That's good for the cabbage," said the hen.
"Besides, it's quite warm at times. Didn't we have a hot summer four
years ago? For five whole weeks it was so hot that one could
scarcely breathe. Then too, we don't have all those poisonous
creatures that infest the warm countries, and we don't have robbers.
Anyone who doesn't think ours is the most beautiful country is a
rascal. Why, he doesn't deserve to live here!" The hen burst into
tears. "I have done my share of traveling. I once made a twelve-mile
trip in a coop, and there's no pleasure at all in traveling."
"Isn't the hen a sensible woman!" said Bertha,
the doll. "I don't fancy traveling in the mountains because first
you go up and then you go down. No, we will move out by the sand pit
and take our walks in the cabbage patch."
That settled the matter.
"Shall we have some stories?" little Hjalmar
asked, as soon as Ole Lukoie had put him to bed.
"There's no time for any tonight," Ole told
him, as he spread his best umbrella over the boy. "Just look at
The whole umbrella looked like a large Chinese
bowl, with blue trees and arched bridges on which little Chinamen
stood nodding their heads.
"We must have all the world spruced up by
tomorrow morning," said Ole. "It's a holiday because it is Sunday. I
must go to church steeples to see that the little church goblins are
polishing the bells so that they will sound their best. I must go
out into the fields to see whether the wind is blowing the dust off
of the leaves and grass, and my biggest job of all will be to take
down all the stars and shine them. I put them in my apron, but first
each star must be numbered and the hole from which it comes must be
numbered the same, so that they go back in their proper places, or
they wouldn't stick. Then we would have too many falling stars, for
one after another would come tumbling down."
"Oh I say, Mr Lukoie," said an old portrait
that hung on the wall of Hjalmar's bedroom. "I am Hjalmar's
great-grandfather. I thank you for telling the boy your stories, but
you mustn't put wrong ideas in his head. The stars can't be taken
down and polished. The stars are worlds too, just like the earth,
and that's the beauty of them."
"My thanks, you old great-grandfather," said
Ole Lukoie. "I thank you, indeed! You are the head of the family,
you are the oldest of the ancestors, but I am older than you are. I
am an old heathen. The Greeks and the Romans called me their god of
dreams. I have been to the nobles' homes, and still go there. I know
how to behave with all people, great and small. Now you may tell
stories yourself." Ole Lukoie tucked his umbrella under his arm and
took himself off.
"Well! It seems one can't even express an
opinion these days," the old portrait grumbled. And Hjalmar woke up.
"Good evening," said Ole Lukoie.
Hjalmar nodded, and ran to turn his
great-grandfather's portrait to the wall so that it wouldn't
interrupt them, as it had the night before.
"Now," he said, "you must tell stories; about
the five peas who lived in a pod, about the rooster's foot-track
that courted the hen's foot-track, and about the darning needle who
gave herself such airs because she thought she was a sewing needle."
"That would be too much of a good thing," said
Ole Lukoie. "You know that I would rather show you things. I shall
show you my own brother. He too is named Ole Lukoie, but he comes
only once to anyone. When he comes he takes people for a ride on his
horse, and tells them stories. He only knows two. One is more
beautiful than anyone on earth can imagine, and the other is
horrible beyond description." Then Ole Lukoie lifted little Hjalmar
up to the window. "There," he said, "you can see my brother, the
other Ole Lukoie. He is also called Death. You can see that he
doesn't look nearly as bad as they make him out to be in the picture
books, where he is only bones and knuckles. No, his coat is
embroidered with silver. It is the magnificent uniform of a hussar,
and a cloak of black velvet floats behind him and billows over his
horse. See how he gallops along."
And Hjalmar saw how the other Ole Lukoie rode
off on his horse with young folk as well as old people. He took some
up before him, and some behind, but first he always asked them:
"What conduct is marked on your report card?"
They all said, "Good", but he said, "Indeed. Let me see for myself."
Then they had to show him the card. All those who were marked "very
good" or "excellent," he put on his horse in front of him, and told
them a lovely story. But those who were marked "below average" or "bad"
had to ride behind him, and he told them a frightful tale. They
shivered and wept, and tried to jump down off the horse. But this
they couldn't do. They had immediately grown fast to it.
"Why, Death is the most beautiful Ole Lukoie,"
Hjalmar exclaimed. "I'm not afraid of him."
"You needn't be," Ole Lukoie told him, "only
be sure that you have a good report card."
"There now, that's instructive,"
great-grandfather's portrait muttered. "It certainly helps to speak
one's mind." He was completely satisfied.
You see, that's the story of Ole Lukoie.
Tonight he himself can tell you some more.