The Journey to Vemminghög


One day in the beginning of November the wild geese flew over Halland Ridge and into Skåne. For several weeks they had been resting on the wide plains around Falköping. As many other wild goose flocks also stopped there, the grown geese had had a pleasant time visiting with old friends, and there had been all kinds of games and races between the younger birds.

Nils Holgersson had not been happy over the delay in Westergötland. He had tried to keep a stout heart; but it was hard for him to reconcile himself to his fate.

“If I were only well out of Skåne and in some foreign land,” he had thought, “I should know for certain that I had nothing to hope for, and would feel easier in my mind.”

Finally, one morning, the geese started out and flew toward Halland.

In the beginning the boy took very little interest in that province. He thought there was nothing new to be seen there. But when the wild geese continued the journey farther south, along the narrow coastlands, the boy leaned over the goose’s neck and did not take his glance from the ground.

He saw the hills gradually disappear and the plain spread under him, at the same time he noticed that the coast became less rugged, while the group of islands beyond thinned and finally vanished and the broad, open sea came clear up to firm land. Here there were no more forests: here the plain was supreme. It spread all the way to the horizon. A land that lay so exposed, with field upon field, reminded the boy of Skåne. He felt both happy and sad as he looked at it.

“I can’t be very far from home,” he thought.

Many times during the trip the goslings had asked the old geese:

“How does it look in foreign lands?”

“Wait, wait! You shall soon see,” the old geese had answered.

When the wild geese had passed Halland Ridge and gone a distance into Skåne, Akka called out:

“Now look down! Look all around! It is like this in foreign lands.”

Just then they flew over Söder Ridge. The whole long range of hills was clad in beech woods, and beautiful, turreted castles peeped out here and there.

Among the trees grazed roebuck, and on the forest meadow romped the hares. Hunters’ horns sounded from the forests; the loud baying of dogs could be heard all the way up to the wild geese. Broad avenues wound through the trees and on these ladies and gentlemen were driving in polished carriages or riding fine horses. At the foot of the ridge lay Ring Lake with the ancient Bosjö Cloister on a narrow peninsula.

“Does it look like this in foreign lands?” asked the goslings.

“It looks exactly like this wherever there are forest-clad ridges,” replied Akka, “only one doesn’t see many of them. Wait! You shall see how it looks in general.”

Akka led the geese farther south to the great Skåne plain. There it spread, with grain fields; with acres and acres of sugar beets, where the beet-pickers were at work; with low whitewashed farm- and outhouses; with numberless little white churches; with ugly, gray sugar refineries and small villages near the railway stations. Little beech-encircled meadow lakes, each of them adorned by its own stately manor, shimmered here and there.

“Now look down! Look carefully!” called the leader-goose. “Thus it is in foreign lands, from the Baltic coast all the way down to the high Alps. Farther than that I have never travelled.”

When the goslings had seen the plain, the leader-goose flew down the Öresund coast. Swampy meadows sloped gradually toward the sea. In some places were high, steep banks, in others drift-sand fields, where the sand lay heaped in banks and hills. Fishing hamlets stood all along the coast, with long rows of low, uniform brick houses, with a lighthouse at the edge of the breakwater, and brown fishing nets hanging in the drying yard.

“Now look down! Look well! This is how it looks along the coasts in foreign lands.”

After Akka had been flying about in this manner a long time she alighted suddenly on a marsh in Vemminghög township and the boy could not help thinking that she had travelled over Skåne just to let him see that his was a country which could compare favourably with any in the world. This was unnecessary, for the boy was not thinking of whether the country was rich or poor.

From the moment that he had seen the first willow grove his heart ached with homesickness.