The Crows

The Earthen Crock

In the southwest corner of Småland lies a township called Sonnerbo. It is a rather smooth and even country. And one who sees it in winter, when it is covered with snow, cannot imagine that there is anything under the snow but garden-plots, rye-fields and clover-meadows, as is generally the case in flat countries. But, in the beginning of April when the snow finally melts away in Sonnerbo, it is apparent that that which lies hidden under it is only dry, sandy heaths, bare rocks, and big, marshy swamps. There are fields here and there, to be sure, but they are so small that they are scarcely worth mentioning; and one also finds a few little red or gray farmhouses hidden away in some beech-coppice⁠—almost as if they were afraid to show themselves.

Where Sonnerbo township touches the boundaries of Halland, there is a sandy heath which is so far-reaching that he who stands upon one edge of it cannot look across to the other. Nothing except heather grows on the heath, and it wouldn’t be easy either to coax other growths to thrive there. To start with one would have to uproot the heather; for it is thus with heather: although it has only a little shrunken root, small shrunken branches, and dry, shrunken leaves it fancies that it’s a tree. Therefore it acts just like real trees⁠—spreads itself out in forest fashion over wide areas; holds together faithfully, and causes all foreign growths that wish to crowd in upon its territory to die out.

The only place on the heath where the heather is not all-powerful, is a low, stony ridge which passes over it. There you’ll find juniper bushes, mountain ash, and a few large, fine oaks. At the time when Nils Holgersson travelled around with the wild geese, a little cabin stood there, with a bit of cleared ground around it. But the people who had lived there at one time, had, for some reason or other, moved away. The little cabin was empty, and the ground lay unused.

When the tenants left the cabin they closed the damper, fastened the window-hooks, and locked the door. But no one had thought of the broken windowpane which was only stuffed with a rag. After the showers of a couple of summers, the rag had moulded and shrunk, and, finally, a crow had succeeded in poking it out.

The ridge on the heather-heath was really not as desolate as one might think, for it was inhabited by a large crow-folk. Naturally, the crows did not live there all the year round. They moved to foreign lands in the winter; in the autumn they travelled from one grainfield to another all over Götaland, and picked grain; during the summer, they spread themselves over the farms in Sonnerbo township, and lived upon eggs and berries and birdlings; but every spring, when nesting time came, they came back to the heather-heath.

The one who had poked the rag from the window was a crow-cock named Garm Whitefeather; but he was never called anything but Fumle or Drumle, or out and out Fumle-Drumle, because he always acted awkwardly and stupidly, and wasn’t good for anything except to make fun of. Fumle-Drumle was bigger and stronger than any of the other crows, but that didn’t help him in the least; he was⁠—and remained⁠—a butt for ridicule. And it didn’t profit him, either, that he came from very good stock. If everything had gone smoothly, he should have been leader for the whole flock, because this honour had, from time immemorial, belonged to the oldest Whitefeather. But long before Fumle-Drumle was born, the power had gone from his family, and was now wielded by a cruel wild crow, named Wind-Rush.

This transference of power was due to the fact that the crows on crow-ridge desired to change their manner of living. Possibly there are many who think that everything in the shape of crow lives in the same way; but this is not so. There are entire crow-folk who lead honourable lives⁠—that is to say, they only eat grain, worms, caterpillars, and dead animals; and there are others who lead a regular bandit’s life, who throw themselves upon baby-hares and small birds, and plunder every single bird’s nest they set eyes on.

The ancient Whitefeathers had been strict and temperate; and as long as they had led the flock, the crows had been compelled to conduct themselves in such a way that other birds could speak no ill of them. But the crows were numerous, and poverty was great among them. They didn’t care to go the whole length of living a strictly moral life, so they rebelled against the Whitefeathers, and gave the power to Wind-Rush, who was the worst nest-plunderer and robber that could be imagined⁠—if his wife, Wind-Air, wasn’t worse still. Under their government the crows had begun to lead such a life that now they were more feared than pigeon-hawks and leech-owls.

Naturally, Fumle-Drumle had nothing to say in the flock. The crows were all of the opinion that he did not in the least take after his forefathers, and that he wouldn’t suit as a leader. No one would have mentioned him, if he hadn’t constantly committed fresh blunders. A few, who were quite sensible, sometimes said perhaps it was lucky for Fumle-Drumle that he was such a bungling idiot, otherwise Wind-Rush and Wind-Air would hardly have allowed him⁠—who was of the old chieftain stock⁠—to remain with the flock.

Now, on the other hand, they were rather friendly toward him, and willingly took him along with them on their hunting expeditions. There all could observe how much more skilful and daring they were than he.

None of the crows knew that it was Fumle-Drumle who had pecked the rag out of the window; and had they known of this, they would have been very much astonished. Such a thing as daring to approach a human being’s dwelling, they had never believed of him. He kept the thing to himself very carefully; and he had his own good reasons for it. Wind-Rush always treated him well in the daytime, and when the others were around; but one very dark night, when the comrades sat on the night branch, he was attacked by a couple of crows and nearly murdered. After that he moved every night, after dark, from his usual sleeping quarters into the empty cabin.

Now one afternoon, when the crows had put their nests in order on crow-ridge, they happened upon a remarkable find. Wind-Rush, Fumle-Drumle, and a couple of others had flown down into a big hollow in one corner of the heath. The hollow was nothing but a gravel-pit, but the crows could not be satisfied with such a simple explanation; they flew down in it continually, and turned every single sand-grain to get at the reason why human beings had digged it. While the crows were pottering around down there, a mass of gravel fell from one side. They rushed up to it, and had the good fortune to find amongst the fallen stones and stubble⁠—a large earthen crock, which was locked with a wooden clasp! Naturally they wanted to know if there was anything in it, and they tried both to peck holes in the crock, and to bend up the clasp, but they had no success.

They stood perfectly helpless and examined the crock, when they heard someone say: “Shall I come down and assist you crows?” They glanced up quickly. On the edge of the hollow sat a fox and blinked down at them. He was one of the prettiest foxes⁠—both in colour and form⁠—that they had ever seen. The only fault with him was that he had lost an ear.

“If you desire to do us a service,” said Wind-Rush, “we shall not say nay.” At the same time, both he and the others flew up from the hollow. Then the fox jumped down in their place, bit at the jar, and pulled at the lock⁠—but he couldn’t open it either.

“Can you make out what there is in it?” said Wind-Rush.

The fox rolled the jar back and forth, and listened attentively. “It must be silver money,” said he.

This was more than the crows had expected. “Do you think it can be silver?” said they, and their eyes were ready to pop out of their heads with greed; for remarkable as it may sound, there is nothing in the world which crows love as much as silver money.

“Hear how it rattles!” said the fox and rolled the crock around once more. “Only I can’t understand how we shall get at it.”

“That will surely be impossible,” said the crows.

The fox stood and rubbed his head against his left leg, and pondered. Now perhaps he might succeed, with the help of the crows, in becoming master of that little imp who always eluded him. “Oh! I know someone who could open the crock for you,” said the fox.

“Then tell us! Tell us!” cried the crows; and they were so excited that they tumbled down into the pit.

“That I will do, if you’ll first promise me that you will agree to my terms,” said he.

Then the fox told the crows about Thumbietot, and said that if they could bring him to the heath he would open the crock for them. But in payment for this counsel, he demanded that they should deliver Thumbietot to him, as soon as he had gotten the silver money for them. The crows had no reason to spare Thumbietot, so agreed to the compact at once. It was easy enough to agree to this; but it was harder to find out where Thumbietot and the wild geese were stopping.

Wind-Rush himself travelled away with fifty crows, and said that he should soon return. But one day after another passed without the crows on crow-ridge seeing a shadow of him.

Kidnapped by Crows


The wild geese were up at daybreak, so they should have time to get themselves a bite of food before starting out on the journey toward Östergötland. The island in Goosefjord, where they had slept, was small and barren, but in the water all around it were growths which they could eat their fill upon. It was worse for the boy, however. He couldn’t manage to find anything eatable.

As he stood there hungry and drowsy, and looked around in all directions, his glance fell upon a pair of squirrels, who played upon the wooded point, directly opposite the rock island. He wondered if the squirrels still had any of their winter supplies left, and asked the white goosey-gander to take him over to the point, that he might beg them for a couple of hazelnuts.

Instantly the white one swam across the sound with him; but as luck would have it the squirrels had so much fun chasing each other from tree to tree, that they didn’t bother about listening to the boy. They drew farther into the grove. He hurried after them, and was soon out of the goosey-gander’s sight⁠—who stayed behind and waited on the shore.

The boy waded forward between some white anemone-stems⁠—which were so high they reached to his chin⁠—when he felt that someone caught hold of him from behind, and tried to lift him up. He turned round and saw that a crow had grabbed him by the shirt-band. He tried to break loose, but before this was possible, another crow ran up, gripped him by the stocking, and knocked him over.

If Nils Holgersson had immediately cried for help, the white goosey-gander certainly would have been able to save him; but the boy probably thought that he could protect himself, unaided, against a couple of crows. He kicked and struck out, but the crows didn’t let go their hold, and they soon succeeded in raising themselves into the air with him. To make matters worse, they flew so recklessly that his head struck against a branch. He received a hard knock over the head, it grew black before his eyes, and he lost consciousness.

When he opened his eyes once more, he found himself high above the ground. He regained his senses slowly; at first he knew neither where he was, nor what he saw. When he glanced down, he saw that under him was spread a tremendously big woolly carpet, which was woven in greens and reds, and in large irregular patterns. The carpet was very thick and fine, but he thought it was a pity that it had been so badly used. It was actually ragged; long tears ran through it; in some places large pieces were torn away. And the strangest of all was that it appeared to be spread over a mirror floor; for under the holes and tears in the carpet shone bright and glittering glass.

The next thing the boy observed was that the sun unrolled itself in the heavens. Instantly, the mirror-glass under the holes and tears in the carpet began to shimmer in red and gold. It looked very gorgeous, and the boy was delighted with the pretty colour-scheme, although he didn’t exactly understand what it was that he saw. But now the crows descended, and he saw at once that the big carpet under him was the earth, which was dressed in green and brown cone-trees and naked leaf-trees, and that the holes and tears were shining fjords and little lakes.

He remembered that the first time he had travelled up in the air, he had thought that the earth in Skåne looked like a piece of checked cloth. But this country which resembled a torn carpet⁠—what might this be?

He began to ask himself a lot of questions. Why wasn’t he sitting on the goosey-gander’s back? Why did a great swarm of crows fly around him? And why was he being pulled and knocked hither and thither so that he was about to break to pieces?

Then, all at once, the whole thing dawned on him. He had been kidnapped by a couple of crows. The white goosey-gander was still on the shore, waiting, and today the wild geese were going to travel to Östergötland. He was being carried southwest; this he understood because the sun’s disc was behind him. The big forest-carpet which lay beneath him was surely Småland.

“What will become of the goosey-gander now, when I cannot look after him?” thought the boy, and began to call to the crows to take him back to the wild geese instantly. He wasn’t at all uneasy on his own account. He believed that they were carrying him off simply in a spirit of mischief.

The crows didn’t pay the slightest attention to his exhortations, but flew on as fast as they could. After a bit, one of them flapped his wings in a manner which meant: “Look out! Danger!” Soon thereafter they came down in a spruce forest, pushed their way between prickly branches to the ground, and put the boy down under a thick spruce, where he was so well concealed that not even a falcon could have sighted him.

Fifty crows surrounded him, with bills pointed toward him to guard him. “Now perhaps I may hear, crows, what your purpose is in carrying me off,” said he. But he was hardly permitted to finish the sentence before a big crow hissed at him: “Keep still! or I’ll bore your eyes out.”

It was evident that the crow meant what she said; and there was nothing for the boy to do but obey. So he sat there and stared at the crows, and the crows stared at him.

The longer he looked at them, the less he liked them. It was dreadful how dusty and unkempt their feather dresses were⁠—as though they knew neither baths nor oiling. Their toes and claws were grimy with dried-in mud, and the corners of their mouths were covered with food drippings. These were very different birds from the wild geese⁠—that he observed. He thought they had a cruel, sneaky, watchful and bold appearance, just like cutthroats and vagabonds.

“It is certainly a real robber-band that I’ve fallen in with,” thought he.

Just then he heard the wild geese’s call above him. “Where are you? Here am I. Where are you? Here am I.”

He understood that Akka and the others had gone out to search for him; but before he could answer them the big crow who appeared to be the leader of the band hissed in his ear: “Think of your eyes!” And there was nothing else for him to do but to keep still.

The wild geese may not have known that he was so near them, but had just happened, incidentally, to travel over this forest. He heard their call a couple of times more, then it died away. “Well, now you’ll have to get along by yourself, Nils Holgersson,” he said to himself. “Now you must prove whether you have learned anything during these weeks in the open.”

A moment later the crows gave the signal to break up; and since it was still their intention, apparently, to carry him along in such a way that one held on to his shirt-band, and one to a stocking, the boy said: “Is there not one among you so strong that he can carry me on his back? You have already travelled so badly with me that I feel as if I were in pieces. Only let me ride! I’ll not jump from the crow’s back, that I promise you.”

“Oh! you needn’t think that we care how you have it,” said the leader. But now the largest of the crows⁠—a dishevelled and uncouth one, who had a white feather in his wing⁠—came forward and said: “It would certainly be best for all of us, Wind-Rush, if Thumbietot got there whole, rather than half, and therefore, I shall carry him on my back.”

“If you can do it, Fumle-Drumle, I have no objection,” said Wind-Rush. “But don’t lose him!”

With this, much was already gained, and the boy actually felt pleased again. “There is nothing to be gained by losing my grit because I have been kidnapped by the crows,” thought he. “I’ll surely be able to manage those poor little things.”

The crows continued to fly southwest, over Småland. It was a glorious morning⁠—sunny and calm; and the birds down on the earth were singing their best love songs. In a high, dark forest sat the thrush himself with drooping wings and swelling throat, and struck up tune after tune. “How pretty you are! How pretty you are! How pretty you are!” sang he. “No one is so pretty. No one is so pretty. No one is so pretty.” As soon as he had finished this song, he began it all over again.

But just then the boy rode over the forest; and when he had heard the song a couple of times, and marked that the thrush knew no other, he put both hands up to his mouth as a speaking trumpet, and called down: “We’ve heard all this before. We’ve heard all this before.”

“Who is it? Who is it? Who is it? Who makes fun of me?” asked the thrush, and tried to catch a glimpse of the one who called.

“It is Kidnapped-by-Crows who makes fun of your song,” answered the boy. At that, the crow-chief turned his head and said: “Be careful of your eyes, Thumbietot!” But the boy thought, “Oh! I don’t care about that. I want to show you that I’m not afraid of you!”

Farther and farther inland they travelled; and there were woods and lakes everywhere. In a birch-grove sat the wood-dove on a naked branch, and before him stood the lady-dove. He blew up his feathers, cocked his head, raised and lowered his body, until the breast-feathers rattled against the branch. All the while he cooed: “Thou, thou, thou art the loveliest in all the forest. No one in the forest is so lovely as thou, thou, thou!”

But up in the air the boy rode past, and when he heard Mr. Dove he couldn’t keep still. “Don’t you believe him! Don’t you believe him!” cried he.

“Who, who, who is it that lies about me?” cooed Mr. Dove, and tried to get a sight of the one who shrieked at him. “It is Caught-by-Crows that lies about you,” replied the boy. Again Wind-Rush turned his head toward the boy and commanded him to shut up, but Fumle-Drumle, who was carrying him, said: “Let him chatter, then all the little birds will think that we crows have become quick-witted and funny birds.”

“Oh! they’re not such fools, either,” said Wind-Rush; but he liked the idea just the same, for after that he let the boy call out as much as he liked.

They flew mostly over forests and woodlands, but there were churches and parishes and little cabins in the outskirts of the forest. In one place they saw a pretty old manor. It lay with the forest back of it, and the sea in front of it; had red walls and a turreted roof; great sycamores about the grounds, and big, thick gooseberry-bushes in the orchard. On the top of the weathercock sat the starling, and sang so loud that every note was heard by the wife, who sat on an egg in the heart of a pear tree. “We have four pretty little eggs,” sang the starling. “We have four pretty little round eggs. We have the whole nest filled with fine eggs.”

When the starling sang the song for the thousandth time, the boy rode over the place. He put his hands up to his mouth, as a pipe, and called: “The magpie will get them. The magpie will get them.”

“Who is it that wants to frighten me?” asked the starling, and flapped his wings uneasily.

“It is Captured-by-Crows that frightens you,” said the boy. This time the crow-chief didn’t attempt to hush him up. Instead, both he and his flock were having so much fun that they cawed with satisfaction.

The farther inland they came, the larger were the lakes, and the more plentiful were the islands and points. And on a lake-shore stood a drake and kowtowed before the duck. “I’ll be true to you all the days of my life. I’ll be true to you all the days of my life,” said the drake.

“It won’t last until the summer’s end,” shrieked the boy.

“Who are you?” called the drake.

“My name’s Stolen-by-Crows,” shrieked the boy.

At dinner time the crows lighted in a food-grove. They walked about and procured food for themselves, but none of them thought about giving the boy anything. Then Fumle-Drumle came riding up to the chief with a dog-rose branch, with a few dried buds on it. “Here’s something for you, Wind-Rush,” said he. “This is pretty food, and suitable for you.”

Wind-Rush sniffed contemptuously. “Do you think that I want to eat old, dry buds?” said he.

“And I who thought that you would be pleased with them!” said Fumle-Drumle; and threw away the dog-rose branch as if in despair. But it fell right in front of the boy, and he wasn’t slow about grabbing it and eating until he was satisfied.

When the crows had eaten, they began to chatter. “What are you thinking about, Wind-Rush? You are so quiet today,” said one of them to the leader.

“I’m thinking that in this district there lived, once upon a time, a hen, who was very fond of her mistress; and in order to really please her, she went and laid a nest full of eggs, which she hid under the storehouse floor. The mistress of the house wondered, of course, where the hen was keeping herself such a long time. She searched for her, but did not find her. Can you guess, Longbill, who it was that found her and the eggs?”

“I think I can guess it, Wind-Rush, but when you have told about this, I will tell you something like it. Do you remember the big, black cat in Hinneryd’s parish house? She was dissatisfied because they always took the newborn kittens from her, and drowned them. Just once did she succeed in keeping them concealed, and that was when she had laid them in a haystack, out doors. She was pretty well pleased with those young kittens, but I believe that I got more pleasure out of them than she did.”

Now they became so excited that they all talked at once. “What kind of an accomplishment is that⁠—to steal little kittens?” said one. “I once chased a young hare who was almost full-grown. That meant to follow him from covert to covert.” He got no further before another took the words from him. “It may be fun, perhaps, to annoy hens and cats, but I find it still more remarkable that a crow can worry a human being. I once stole a silver spoon⁠—”

But now the boy thought he was too good to sit and listen to such gabble. “Now listen to me, you crows!” said he. “I think you ought to be ashamed of yourselves to talk about all your wickedness. I have lived amongst wild geese for three weeks, and of them I have never heard or seen anything but good. You must have a bad chief, since he permits you to rob and murder in this way. You ought to begin to lead new lives, for I can tell you that human beings have grown so tired of your wickedness they are trying with all their might to root you out. And then there will soon be an end of you.”

When Wind-Rush and the crows heard this, they were so furious that they intended to throw themselves upon him and tear him in pieces. But Fumle-Drumle laughed and cawed, and stood in front of him. “Oh, no, no!” said he, and seemed absolutely terrified. “What think you that Wind-Air will say if you tear Thumbietot in pieces before he has gotten that silver money for us?”

“It has to be you, Fumle-Drumle, that’s afraid of women-folk,” said Rush. But, at any rate, both he and the others left Thumbietot in peace.

Shortly after that the crows went further. Until now the boy thought that Småland wasn’t such a poor country as he had heard. Of course it was woody and full of mountain-ridges, but alongside the islands and lakes lay cultivated grounds, and any real desolation he hadn’t come upon. But the farther inland they came, the fewer were the villages and cottages. Toward the last, he thought that he was riding over a veritable wilderness where he saw nothing but swamps and heaths and juniper-hills.

The sun had gone down, but it was still perfect daylight when the crows reached the large heather-heath. Wind-Rush sent a crow on ahead, to say that he had met with success; and when it was known, Wind-Air, with several hundred crows from Crow-Ridge, flew to meet the arrivals. In the midst of the deafening cawing which the crows emitted, Fumle-Drumle said to the boy: “You have been so comical and so jolly during the trip that I am really fond of you. Therefore I want to give you some good advice. As soon as we light, you’ll be requested to do a bit of work which may seem very easy to you; but beware of doing it!”

Soon thereafter Fumle-Drumle put Nils Holgersson down in the bottom of a sandpit. The boy flung himself down, rolled over, and lay there as though he was simply done up with fatigue. Such a lot of crows fluttered about him that the air rustled like a windstorm, but he didn’t look up.

“Thumbietot,” said Wind-Rush, “get up now! You shall help us with a matter which will be very easy for you.”

The boy didn’t move, but pretended to be asleep. Then Wind-Rush took him by the arm, and dragged him over the sand to an earthen crock of old-time make, that was standing in the pit. “Get up, Thumbietot,” said he, “and open this crock!”

“Why can’t you let me sleep?” said the boy. “I’m too tired to do anything tonight. Wait until tomorrow!”

“Open the crock!” said Wind-Rush, shaking him.

“How shall a poor little child be able to open such a crock? Why, it’s quite as large as I am myself.”

“Open it!” commanded Wind-Rush once more, “or it will be a sorry thing for you.” The boy got up, tottered over to the crock, fumbled the clasp, and let his arms fall. “I’m not usually so weak,” said he. “If you will only let me sleep until morning, I think that I’ll be able to manage with that clasp.”

But Wind-Rush was impatient, and he rushed forward and pinched the boy in the leg. That sort of treatment the boy didn’t care to suffer from a crow. He jerked himself loose quickly, ran a couple of paces backward, drew his knife from the sheath, and held it extended in front of him. “You’d better be careful!” he cried to Wind-Rush.

This one too was so enraged that he didn’t dodge the danger. He rushed at the boy, just as though he’d been blind, and ran so straight against the knife, that it entered through his eye into the head. The boy drew the knife back quickly, but Wind-Rush only struck out with his wings, then he fell down⁠—dead.

“Wind-Rush is dead! The stranger has killed our chieftain, Wind-Rush!” cried the nearest crows, and then there was a terrible uproar. Some wailed, others cried for vengeance. They all ran or fluttered up to the boy, with Fumle-Drumle in the lead. But he acted badly as usual. He only fluttered and spread his wings over the boy, and prevented the others from coming forward and running their bills into him.

The boy thought that things looked very bad for him now. He couldn’t run away from the crows, and there was no place where he could hide. Then he happened to think of the earthen crock. He took a firm hold on the clasp, and pulled it off. Then he hopped into the crock to hide in it. But the crock was a poor hiding place, for it was nearly filled to the brim with little, thin silver coins. The boy couldn’t get far enough down, so he stooped and began to throw out the coins.

Until now the crows had fluttered around him in a thick swarm and pecked at him, but when he threw out the coins they immediately forgot their thirst for vengeance, and hurried to gather the money. The boy threw out handfuls of it, and all the crows⁠—yes, even Wind-Air herself⁠—picked them up. And everyone who succeeded in picking up a coin ran off to the nest with the utmost speed to conceal it.

When the boy had thrown out all the silver pennies from the crock he glanced up. Not more than a single crow was left in the sandpit. That was Fumle-Drumle, with the white feather in his wing; he who had carried Thumbietot. “You have rendered me a greater service than you understand,” said the crow⁠—with a very different voice, and a different intonation than the one he had used heretofore⁠—“and I want to save your life. Sit down on my back, and I’ll take you to a hiding place where you can be secure for tonight. Tomorrow, I’ll arrange it so that you will get back to the wild geese.”

The Cabin


The following morning when the boy awoke, he lay in a bed. When he saw that he was in a house with four walls around him, and a roof over him, he thought that he was at home. “I wonder if mother will come soon with some coffee,” he muttered to himself where he lay half-awake. Then he remembered that he was in a deserted cabin on the crow-ridge, and that Fumle-Drumle with the white feather had borne him there the night before.

The boy was sore all over after the journey he had made the day before, and he thought it was lovely to lie still while he waited for Fumle-Drumle who had promised to come and fetch him.

Curtains of checked cotton hung before the bed, and he drew them aside to look out into the cabin. It dawned upon him instantly that he had never seen the mate to a cabin like this. The walls consisted of nothing but a couple of rows of logs; then the roof began. There was no interior ceiling, so he could look clear up to the rooftree. The cabin was so small that it appeared to have been built rather for such as he than for real people. However, the fireplace and chimney were so large, he thought that he had never seen larger. The entrance door was in a gable-wall at the side of the fireplace, and was so narrow that it was more like a wicket than a door. In the other gable-wall he saw a low and broad window with many panes. There was scarcely any movable furniture in the cabin. The bench on one side, and the table under the window, were also stationary⁠—also the big bed where he lay, and the many-coloured cupboard.

The boy could not help wondering who owned the cabin, and why it was deserted. It certainly looked as though the people who had lived there expected to return. The coffee-urn and the gruel-pot stood on the hearth, and there was some wood in the fireplace; the oven-rake and baker’s peel stood in a corner; the spinning wheel was raised on a bench; on the shelf over the window lay oakum and flax, a couple of skeins of yarn, a candle, and a bunch of matches.

Yes, it surely looked as if those who had lived there had intended to come back. There were bedclothes on the bed; and on the walls there still hung long strips of cloth, upon which three riders named Kasper, Melchior, and Baltasar were painted. The same horses and riders were pictured many times. They rode around the whole cabin, and continued their ride even up toward the joists.

But in the roof the boy saw something which brought him to his senses in a jiffy. It was a couple of loaves of big bread-cakes that hung there upon a spit. They looked old and mouldy, but it was bread all the same. He gave them a knock with the oven-rake and one piece fell to the floor. He ate, and stuffed his bag full. It was incredible how good bread was, anyway.

He looked around the cabin once more, to try and discover if there was anything else which he might find useful to take along. “I may as well take what I need, since no one else cares about it,” thought he. But most of the things were too big and heavy. The only things that he could carry might be a few matches perhaps.

He clambered up on the table, and swung with the help of the curtains up to the window-shelf. While he stood there and stuffed the matches into his bag, the crow with the white feather came in through the window. “Well here I am at last,” said Fumle-Drumle as he lit on the table. “I couldn’t get here any sooner because we crows have elected a new chieftain in Wind-Rush’s place.”

“Whom have you chosen?” said the boy.

“Well, we have chosen one who will not permit robbery and injustice. We have elected Garm Whitefeather, lately called Fumle-Drumle,” answered he, drawing himself up until he looked absolutely regal.

“That was a good choice,” said the boy and congratulated him.

“You may well wish me luck,” said Garm; then he told the boy about the time they had had with Wind-Rush and Wind-Air.

During this recital the boy heard a voice outside the window which he thought sounded familiar. “Is he here?”⁠—inquired the fox. “Yes, he’s hidden in there,” answered a crow-voice. “Be careful, Thumbietot!” cried Garm. “Wind-Air stands without with that fox who wants to eat you.” More he didn’t have time to say, for Smirre dashed against the window. The old, rotten window-frame gave way, and the next second Smirre stood upon the window-table. Garm Whitefeather, who didn’t have time to fly away, he killed instantly. Thereupon he jumped down to the floor, and looked around for the boy. He tried to hide behind a big oakum-spiral, but Smirre had already spied him, and was crouched for the final spring. The cabin was so small, and so low, the boy understood that the fox could reach him without the least difficulty. But just at that moment the boy was not without weapons of defence. He struck a match quickly, touched the curtains, and when they were in flames, he threw them down upon Smirre Fox. When the fire enveloped the fox, he was seized with a mad terror. He thought no more about the boy, but rushed wildly out of the cabin.

But it looked as if the boy had escaped one danger to throw himself into a greater one. From the tuft of oakum which he had flung at Smirre the fire had spread to the bed-hangings. He jumped down and tried to smother it, but it blazed too quickly now. The cabin was soon filled with smoke, and Smirre Fox, who had remained just outside the window, began to grasp the state of affairs within. “Well, Thumbietot,” he called out, “which do you choose now: to be broiled alive in there, or to come out here to me? Of course, I should prefer to have the pleasure of eating you; but in whichever way death meets you it will be dear to me.”

The boy could not think but what the fox was right, for the fire was making rapid headway. The whole bed was now in a blaze, and smoke rose from the floor; and along the painted wall-strips the fire crept from rider to rider. The boy jumped up in the fireplace, and tried to open the oven door, when he heard a key which turned around slowly in the lock. It must be human beings coming. And in the dire extremity in which he found himself, he was not afraid, but only glad. He was already on the threshold when the door opened. He saw a couple of children facing him; but how they looked when they saw the cabin in flames, he took no time to find out; but rushed past them into the open.

He didn’t dare run far. He knew, of course, that Smirre Fox lay in wait for him, and he understood that he must remain near the children. He turned round to see what sort of folk they were, but he hadn’t looked at them a second before he ran up to them and cried: “Oh, good day, Osa goose-girl! Oh, good day, little Mats!”

For when the boy saw those children he forgot entirely where he was. Crows and burning cabin and talking animals had vanished from his memory. He was walking on a stubble-field, in West Vemminghög, tending a goose-flock; and beside him, on the field, walked those same Småland children, with their geese. As soon as he saw them, he ran up on the stone-hedge and shouted: “Oh, good day, Osa goose-girl! Oh, good day, little Mats!”

But when the children saw such a little creature coming up to them with outstretched hands, they grabbed hold of each other, took a couple of steps backward, and looked scared to death.

When the boy noticed their terror he woke up and remembered who he was. And then it seemed to him that nothing worse could happen to him than that those children should see how he had been bewitched. Shame and grief because he was no longer a human being overpowered him. He turned and fled. He knew not whither.

But a glad meeting awaited the boy when he came down to the heath. For there, in the heather, he spied something white, and toward him came the white goosey-gander, accompanied by Dunfin. When the white one saw the boy running with such speed, he thought that dreadful fiends were pursuing him. He flung him in all haste upon his back and flew off with him.