Homeward Bound!

The First Travelling Day


The boy sat on the goosey-gander’s back and rode up amongst the clouds. Some thirty geese, in regular order, flew rapidly southward. There was a rustling of feathers and the many wings beat the air so noisily that one could scarcely hear one’s own voice. Akka from Kebnekaise flew in the lead; after her came Yksi and Kaksi, Kolme and Neljä, Viisi and Kuusi, Morten Goosey-Gander and Dunfin. The six goslings which had accompanied the flock the autumn before had now left to look after themselves. Instead, the old geese were taking with them twenty-two goslings that had grown up in the glen that summer. Eleven flew to the right, eleven to the left; and they did their best to fly at even distances, like the big birds.

The poor youngsters had never before been on a long trip and at first they had difficulty in keeping up with the rapid flight.

“Akka from Kebnekaise! Akka from Kebnekaise!” they cried in plaintive tones.

“What’s the matter?” said the leader-goose sharply.

“Our wings are tired of moving, our wings are tired of moving!” wailed the young ones.

“The longer you keep it up, the better it will go,” answered the leader-goose, without slackening her speed. And she was quite right, for when the goslings had flown two hours longer, they complained no more of being tired.

But in the mountain glen they had been in the habit of eating all day long, and very soon they began to feel hungry.

“Akka, Akka, Akka from Kebnekaise!” wailed the goslings pitifully.

“What’s the trouble now?” asked the leader-goose.

“We’re so hungry, we can’t fly any more!” whimpered the goslings. “We’re so hungry, we can’t fly any more!”

“Wild geese must learn to eat air and drink wind,” said the leader-goose, and kept right on flying.

It actually seemed as if the young ones were learning to live on wind and air, for when they had flown a little longer, they said nothing more about being hungry.

The goose flock was still in the mountain regions, and the old geese called out the names of all the peaks as they flew past, so that the youngsters might learn them. When they had been calling out a while:

“This is Porsotjokko, this is Särjaktjokko, this is Sulitelma,” and so on, the goslings became impatient again.

“Akka, Akka, Akka!” they shrieked in heartrending tones.

“What’s wrong?” said the leader-goose.

“We haven’t room in our heads for any more of those awful names!” shrieked the goslings.

“The more you put into your heads the more you can get into them,” retorted the leader-goose, and continued to call out the queer names.

The boy sat thinking that it was about time the wild geese betook themselves southward, for so much snow had fallen that the ground was white as far as the eye could see. There was no use denying that it had been rather disagreeable in the glen toward the last. Rain and fog had succeeded each other without any relief, and even if it did clear up once in a while, immediately frost set in. Berries and mushrooms, upon which the boy had subsisted during the summer, were either frozen or decayed. Finally he had been compelled to eat raw fish, which was something he disliked. The days had grown short and the long evenings and late mornings were rather tiresome for one who could not sleep the whole time that the sun was away.

Now, at last, the goslings’ wings had grown, so that the geese could start for the south. The boy was so happy that he laughed and sang as he rode on the goose’s back. It was not only on account of the darkness and cold that he longed to get away from Lapland; there were other reasons too.

The first weeks of his sojourn there the boy had not been the least bit homesick. He thought he had never before seen such a glorious country. The only worry he had had was to keep the mosquitoes from eating him up.

The boy had seen very little of the goosey-gander, because the big, white gander thought only of his Dunfin and was unwilling to leave her for a moment. On the other hand, Thumbietot had stuck to Akka and Gorgo, the eagle, and the three of them had passed many happy hours together.

The two birds had taken him with them on long trips. He had stood on snow-capped Mount Kebnekaise, had looked down at the glaciers and visited many high cliffs seldom tramped by human feet. Akka had shown him deep-hidden mountain dales and had let him peep into caves where mother wolves brought up their young. He had also made the acquaintance of the tame reindeer that grazed in herds along the shores of the beautiful Torne Lake, and he had been down to the great falls and brought greetings to the bears that lived thereabouts from their friends and relatives in Westmanland.

Ever since he had seen Osa, the goose girl, he longed for the day when he might go home with Morten Goosey-Gander and be a normal human being once more. He wanted to be himself again, so that Osa would not be afraid to talk to him and would not shut the door in his face.

Yes, indeed, he was glad that at last they were speeding southward. He waved his cap and cheered when he saw the first pine forest. In the same manner he greeted the first gray cabin, the first goat, the first cat, and the first chicken.

They were continually meeting birds of passage, flying now in greater flocks than in the spring.

“Where are you bound for, wild geese?” called the passing birds. “Where are you bound for?”

“We, like yourselves, are going abroad,” answered the geese.

“Those goslings of yours aren’t ready to fly,” screamed the others. “They’ll never cross the sea with those puny wings!”

Laplander and reindeer were also leaving the mountains. When the wild geese sighted the reindeer, they circled down and called out:

“Thanks for your company this summer!”

“A pleasant journey to you and a welcome back!” returned the reindeer.

But when the bears saw the wild geese, they pointed them out to the cubs and growled:

“Just look at those geese; they are so afraid of a little cold they don’t dare to stay at home in winter.”

But the old geese were ready with a retort and cried to their goslings:

“Look at those beasts that stay at home and sleep half the year rather than go to the trouble of travelling south!”

Down in the pine forest the young grouse sat huddled together and gazed longingly after the big bird flocks which, amid joy and merriment, proceeded southward.

“When will our turn come?” they asked the mother grouse.

“You will have to stay at home with mamma and papa,” she said.