Now we come to an entirely new region, in which, however, we find, under other forms, the same creatures which have already been described. From the sunny East we pass to the cold and frozen North. Here the Scandinavian countries — Norway, Sweden, and Denmark — are wonderfully rich in dwarfs, and giants, and trolls, and necks, and nisses, and other inhabitants of Fairyland; and with these we must also class the Teutonic beings of the same kind; and likewise the fairy creatures who were once supposed to dwell in our islands.
The Elves of Scandinavia, with whom our own Fairies are closely allied, were a very interesting people. They were of two kinds, the White and the Black. The white elves dwelt in the air, amongst the leaves of trees, and in the long grass, and at moonlight they came out from their lurking-places, and danced merrily on the greensward, and played all manner of fantastic tricks.
The black elves lived underground, and, like the dwarfs, worked in metals, and heaped up great stores of riches. When they came out amongst men they were often of a malicious turn of mind; they caused sickness or death, stole things from the houses, bewitched the cattle, and did a great deal of mischief in all ways.
The good elves were not only friendly to man, but they had a great desire to get to heaven; and in the summer nights they were heard singing sweetly but sadly about themselves, and their hopes of future happiness; and there are many stories of their having spoken to mortals, to ask what hope or chance they had of salvation. This feeling is believed to have come from the sympathy felt by the first converts to Christianity with their heathen forefathers, whose spirits were supposed by them to wander about, in the air or in the woods, or to sigh within their graves, waiting for the day of judgment.
In one place there is a story that on a hill at Gärun people used to hear very beautiful music. This was played by the elves, or hill folk, and any one who had a fiddle, and went there, and promised the elves that they should be saved, was taught in a moment how to play; but those who mocked them, and told them they could never be saved, used to hear the poor elves, inside the hill, breaking their fairy fiddles into pieces, and weeping very sadly.
There is a particular tune they play, called the Elf-King’s tune, which, the story-tellers say, some good fiddlers know very well, but never venture to play, because everybody who hears it is obliged to dance, and to go on dancing till somebody comes behind the musician and cuts the fiddle-strings; and out of this tradition we have the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
Some of the underground elves come up into the houses built above their dwellings, and are fond of playing tricks upon servants; but they like only those who are clean in their habits, and they do not like even these to laugh at them.
There is a story of a servant-girl whom the elves liked very much, because she used to carry all dirt and foul water away from the house, and so they invited her to an Elf Wedding, at which they made her a present of some chips, which she put into her pocket. But when the bridegroom and the bride were coming home there was a straw lying in their way. The bridegroom got over it; but the bride stumbled, and fell upon her face.
At this the servant-girl laughed out loud, and then all the elves vanished, but she found that the chips they had given her were pieces of pure gold.
At Odensee another servant was not so fortunate. She was very dirty, and would not clean the cow-house for them; so they killed all the cows, and took the girl and set her up on the top of a hay-rick. Then they removed from the cow-house into a meadow on the farm; and some people say that they were seen going there in little coaches, their king riding first, in a coach much handsomer than the rest.
Amongst the Danes there is another kind of elves–the Moon Folk. The man is like an old man with a low-crowned hat upon his head; the woman is very beautiful in front, but behind she is hollow, like a dough-trough, and she has a sort of harp on which she plays, and lures young men with it, and then kills them. The man is also an evil being, for if any one comes near him he opens his mouth and breathes upon them, and his breath causes sickness. It is easy to see what this tradition means: it is the damp marsh wind, laden with foul and dangerous odours; and the woman’s harp is the wind playing across the marsh rushes at nightfall. Sometimes these elves take the shape of trees, which brings back to mind the Greek fairy tales of nymphs who live and die with the trees to which they are united.
These Scandinavian elves were like beings of the same kind who were once supposed to live in England, Ireland, and Scotland, and who are still believed in by some country people. Scattered about in the traditions which have been brought together at different times are many stories of these fanciful beings.
One story is of some children of a green colour who were found in Suffolk, and who said they had lived in a country where all the people were of a green colour, and where they saw no sun, but had a light like the glow which comes after sunset. They said, also, that while tending their flocks they wandered into a great cavern, and heard the sound of delightful bells, which they followed, and so came out upon the upper world of the earth.
There is a Yorkshire legend of a peasant coming home by night, and hearing the voices of people singing. The noise came from a hill-side, where there was a door, and inside was a great company of little people, feasting. One of them offered the man a cup, out of which he poured the liquor, and then ran off with the cup, and got safe away. A similar story is told also of a place in Gloucestershire, and of another in Cumberland, where the cup is called “the Luck of Edenhall,” as the owners of it are to be always prosperous, so long as the cup remains unbroken. Such stories as this are common in the countries of the North of Europe, and show the connection between our Elf-land and theirs.
The Pixies, or the Devonshire fairies, are just like the northern elves. The popular idea of them is that they are small creatures–pigmies–dressed in green, and are fond of dancing. Some of them live in the mines, where they show the miners the richest veins of metal just like the German dwarfs; others live on the moors, or under the shelter of rocks; others take up their abode in houses, and, like the Danish and Swedish elves, are very cross if the maids do not keep the places clean and tidy others, like the will-o’-the-wisps, lead travellers astray, and then laugh at them. The Pixies are said to be very fond of pure water.
There is a story of two servant-maids at Tavistock who used to leave them a bucket of water, into which the Pixies dropped silver pennies. Once it was forgotten, and the Pixies came up into the girls’ bedroom, and made a noise about the neglect. One girl got up and went to put the water in its usual place, but the other said she would not stir out of bed to please all the fairies in Devonshire.
The girl who filled the water-bucket found a handful of silver pennies in it next morning, and she heard the Pixies debating what to do with the other girl. At last they said they would give her a lame leg for seven years, and that then they would cure her by striking her leg with a herb growing on Dartmoor.
So next day Molly found herself lame, and kept so for seven years, when, as she was picking mushrooms on Dartmoor, a strange-looking boy started up, struck her leg with a plant he held in his hand, and sent her home sound again.
There is another story of the Pixies which is very beautiful. An old woman near Tavistock had in her garden a fine bed of tulips, of which the Pixies became very fond, and might be heard at midnight singing their babes to rest amongst them; and as the old woman would never let any of the tulips be plucked, the Pixies had them all to themselves, and made them smell like the rose, and bloom more beautifully than any flowers in the place. Well, the old woman died, and the tulip-bed was pulled up and a parsley-bed made in its place. But the Pixies blighted it, and nothing grew in it; but they kept the grave of the old woman quite green, never suffered a weed to grow upon it, and in spring-time they always spangled it with wild-flowers.
All over the country, in the far North as in the South, we find traces of elfin beings like the Pixies–the fairies of the common traditions and of the poets–some such fairies as Shakspeare describes for us in several of his plays, especially in “Midsummer-Night’s Dream,” “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” “The Tempest,” and “Romeo and Juliet”–fairies who gambol sportively.
“On hill, in dale, forest, or mead,
By paved fountain, or by rushing brook,
Or by the beached margent of the sea,
To dance their ringlets to the whistling wind.”
But the Fairy tribe were not the only graceful elves described by the poets. The Germans had their Kobolds, and the Scotch their Brownies, and the English had their Boggarts and Robin Goodfellow and Lubberkin–all of them beings of the same description: house and farm spirits, who liked to live amongst men, and who sometimes did hard, rough work out of good-nature, and sometimes were spiteful and mischievous, especially to those who teased them, or spoke of them disrespectfully, or tried to see them when they did not wish to be seen. To the same family belongs the Danish Nis, a house spirit of whom many curious legends are related. Robin Goodfellow was the original of Shakspeare’s Puck: his frolics are related for us in “The Midsummer Night’s Dream,” where a fairy says to him–
“You are that shrewd and knavish sprite
Called Robin Goodfellow. Are you not he
That frights the maidens of the villagery,
Skims milk, and sometimes labours in the quern,
And bootless makes the breathless housewife churn;
And sometimes makes the drink to bear no harm,
Misleads night wanderers, laughing at their harm?
Those that Hob-Goblin call you, and sweet Puck;
You do their work, and they shall have good luck.”
In the “Jests of Robin Goodfellow,” first printed in Queen Elizabeth’s reign, the tricks which this creature is said to have played are told in plenty. Here is one of them:–Robin went as fiddler to a wedding. When the candles came he blew them out, and giving the men boxes on the ears he set them fighting. He kissed the prettiest girls, and pinched the ugly ones, till he made them scratch one another like cats. When the posset was brought he turned himself into a bear, frightened them all away, and had it all to himself.
The Boggart was another form of Robin Goodfellow. Stories of him are to be found amongst Yorkshire legends, as of a creature–always invisible–who played tricks upon the people in the houses in which he lived: shaking the bed-curtains, rattling the doors, whistling through the keyholes, snatching away the bread-and-butter from the children, playing pranks upon the servants, and doing all kinds of mischief.
There is a story of a Yorkshire boggart who teased the family so much that the farmer made up his mind to leave the house. So he packed up his goods and began to move off. Then a neighbour came up, and said, “So, Georgey, you’re leaving the old house?” “Yes,” said the farmer, “the boggart torments us so that we must go.” Then a voice came out of a churn, saying, “Ay, ay, Georgey, we’re flitting, ye see.” “Oh!” cried the poor farmer, “if thou’rt with us we’ll go back again;” and he went back.–Mr. Tennyson puts this story into his poem of “Walking to the Mail.”
“His house, they say,
Was haunted with a jolly ghost, that shook
The curtains, whined in lobbies, tapt at doors,
And rummaged like a rat: no servant stayed:
The farmer, vext, packs up his beds and chairs,
And all his household stuff, and with his boy
Betwixt his knees, his wife upon the tilt,
Sets out, and meets a friend who hails him, ‘What!
You’re flitting!’ ‘Yes, we’re flitting,’ says the ghost
(For they had packed the thing among the beds).
‘Oh, well,’ says he, ‘you flitting with us, too;
Jack, turn the horses’ heads and home again.'”
The same story is told in Denmark, of a Nis–which is the same as an English boggart, a Scotch brownie, and a German kobold–who troubled a man very much, so that he took away his goods to a new house. All but the last load had gone, and when they came for that, the Nis popped his head out of a tub, and said to the man, “We’re moving, you see.”
The Brownies, though mischievous, like the Boggarts, were more helpful, for they did a good deal of house-work; and would bake, and brew, and wash, and sweep, but they would never let themselves be seen; or if any one did manage to see them, or tried to do so, they went away. There are stories of this kind about them in English folk-lore, in Scotch, Welsh, in the Isle of Man, and in Germany, where they were called Kobolds.
One Kobold, of whom many accounts are given, lived in the castle of Hudemühler, in Luneberg, and used to talk with the people of the house, and with visitors, and ate and drank at table, just like Leander in the story of “The Invisible Prince;” and he used also to scour the pots and pans, wash the dishes, and clean the tubs, and he was useful, too, in the stable, where he curried the horses, and made them quite fat and smooth. In return for this he had a room to himself, where he made a straw-plaited chair, and had a little round table, and a bed and bedstead, and, where he expected every day to find a dish of sweetened milk, with bread crumbs; and if he did not get served in time, or if anything went wrong, he used to beat the servants with a stick. This Kobold was named Heinzelman, and in Grimm’s collection of folklore there is a long history of him drawn up by the minister of the parish.
Another Kobold, named Hodêken, who lived with the Bishop of Hildesheim, was usually of a kind and obliging turn of mind, but he revenged himself on those who offended him. A scullion in the bishop’s kitchen flung dirt upon him, and Hodêken found him fast asleep and strangled him, and put him in the pot on the fire. Then the head cook scolded Hodêken, who in revenge squeezed toads all over the meat that was being cooked for the bishop, and then took the cook himself and tumbled him over the drawbridge into the moat. Then the bishop got angry, and took bell, and book, and candle, and banished Hodêken by the form of exorcism provided for evil spirits.
Now there are a great many other kinds of creatures in the Wonderland of all European countries; but I must not stop to tell you about them or we shall never have done. But there is one little story of the Danish Nis–who answers to the German Kobold–which I may tell you, because it is like the story of Hodêken which you have just read, and shows that the creatures were of the same kind.
There was a Nis in Jutland who was very much teased by a mischievous boy. When the Nis had done his work he sat down to have his supper, and he found that the boy had been playing tricks with his porridge and made it unpleasant. So he made up his mind to be revenged, and he did it in this way. The boy slept with a servant-man in the loft. The Nis went up to them and took off the bed-clothes. Then, looking at the little boy lying beside the tall man, he said, “Long and short don’t match,” and he took the boy by the legs and pulled him down to the man’s legs. This was not to his mind, however, so he went to the head of the bed and looked at them, Then said the Nis–“Short and long don’t match,” and he pulled the boy up again; and so he went on all through the night, up and down, down and up, till the boy was punished enough.
Another Nis in Jutland went with a boy to steal corn for his master’s horses. The Nis was moderate, but the boy was covetous, and said, “Oh, take more; we can rest now and then!” “Rest,” said the Nis, “rest! what is rest?” “Do what I tell you,” replied the boy; “take more, and we shall find rest when we get out of this.” So they took more corn, and when they had got nearly home the boy said, “Here now is rest;” and so they sat down on a hill-side. “If I had known,” said the Nis, as they were sitting there, “if I had known that rest was so good I’d have carried off all that was in the barn.”
Now we must leave out much more that might be said, and many stories that might be told, about elves, and fairies, and nixes, or water spirits, and swan maidens who become women when they lay aside their swan dresses to bathe; and mermaids and seal maidens, who used to live in the islands of the North seas. And we must leave out also a number of curious Scotch tales and accounts of Welsh fairies, and stories about the good people of the Irish legends, and the Leprechaun, a little old man who mends shoes, and who gives you as much gold as you want if you hold him tight enough; and there are wonderful fairy legends of Brittany, and some of Spain and Italy, and a great many Russian and Slavonic tales which are well worth telling, if we only had room. For the same reason we must omit the fairy tales of ancient Greece, some of which are told so beautifully by Mr. Kingsley in his book about the Heroes; and we must also pass by the legends of King Arthur, and of romances of the same kind which you may read at length in Mr. Ludlow’s “Popular Epics of the Middle Ages;” and the wonderful tales from the Norse which are told by Dr. Dasent, and in Mr. Morris’s noble poem of “Sigurd the Volsung.”
But before we leave this part of Wonderland we must say something about some kinds of beings who have not yet been mentioned–the Scandinavian Giants and Trolls, and the German Dwarfs. The Trolls–some of whom were Giants and some Dwarfs–were a very curious people. They lived inside hills or mounds of earth, sometimes alone, and sometimes in great numbers. Inside these hills, according to the stories of the common folk, are fine houses made of gold and crystal, full of gold and jewels, which the Trolls amuse themselves by counting. They marry and have families; they bake and brew, and live just like human beings; and they do not object, sometimes, to come out and talk to men and women whom they happen to meet on the road. They are described as being friendly, and quite ready to help those to whom they take a fancy–lending them useful or precious things out of the hill treasures, and giving them rich gifts. But, to balance this, they are very mischievous and thievish, and sometimes they carry off women and children. They dislike noise. This, so the old stories say, is because the god Thor used to fling his hammer at them; and since he left off doing that the Trolls have suffered a great deal from the ringing of church bells, which they very much dislike. There are many stories about this.
At a place called Ebeltoft the Trolls used to come and steal food out of the pantries. The people consulted a Saint as to what they were to do, and he told them to hang up a bell in the church steeple, which they did, and then the Trolls went away. There is another story of the same kind. A Troll lived near the town of Kund, in Sweden, but was driven away by the church bells. Then he went over to the island of Funen and lived in peace. But he meant to be revenged on the people of Kund, and he tried to take his revenge in this way: He met a man from Kund–a stranger, who did not know him–and asked the man to take a letter into the town and to throw it into the churchyard, but he was not to take it out of his pocket until he got there. The man received the letter, but forgot the message, until he sat down in a meadow to rest, and then he took out the letter to look at it. When he did so, a drop of water fell from under the seal, then a little stream, and then quite a torrent, till all the valley was flooded, and the man had hard work to escape. The Troll had shut up a lake in the letter, and with this he meant to drown the people of Kund.
Some of the Trolls are very stupid, and there are many stories as to how they have been outwitted. One of them is very droll. A farmer ploughed a hill-side field. Out came a Troll and said, “What do you mean by ploughing up the roof of my house?” Then the farmer, being frightened, begged his pardon, but said it was a pity such a fine piece of land should lie idle. The Troll agreed to this, and then they struck a bargain that the farmer should till the land and that each of them should share the crops. One year the Troll was to have, for his share, what grew above ground, and the next year what grew underground. So in the first year the farmer sowed carrots, and the Troll had the tops; and the next year the farmer sowed wheat, and the Troll had the roots; and the story says he was very well content.
We can give only one more story of the Trolls. They have power over human beings until their names are found out, and when the Troll’s name is mentioned his power goes from him.
One day St. Olaf, a very great Saint, was thinking how he could build a very large church without any money, and he didn’t quite see his way to it. Then a Giant Troll met him and they chatted together, and St. Olaf mentioned his difficulty.
So the Troll said he would build the church, within a year, on condition that if it was done in the time he should have for his reward the sun, and the moon, or St. Olaf himself. The church was to be so big that seven priests could say mass at seven altars in it without hearing each other; and it was all to be built of flint stone and to be richly carved.
When the time was nearly up the church was finished, all but the top of the spire; and St. Olaf was in sad trouble about his promise. So he walked out into a wood to think, and there he heard the Troll’s wife hushing her child inside a hill, and saying to it,
“To-morrow, Wind and Weather, your father, will come home in the morning, and bring with him the sun and the moon, or St. Olaf himself.”
Then St. Olaf knew what to do. He went home, and there was the church, all ready except the very top of the weather-cock, and the Troll was just putting the finishing-touch to that. Then St. Olaf called out to him,
“Oh! ho! Wind and Weather, you have set the spire crooked!”
And then, with a great noise, the Troll fell down from the steeple and broke into pieces, and every piece was a flint-stone.
The same thing is told in the German story of Rumpelstiltskin.
A maiden is ordered by a King to spin a roomful of straw into gold, or else she is to die. A Dwarf appears, she promises him her necklace, and he does the task for her.
Next day she has to spin a larger roomful of straw into gold. She gives the Dwarf the ring off her finger, and he does this task also.
Next day she is set to work at a larger room, and then, when the Dwarf comes, she has nothing to give him. Then he says,
“If you become Queen, give me your first-born child.”
Now the girl is only a miller’s daughter, and thinks she never can be Queen, so she makes the promise, and the Dwarf spins the straw into gold.
But she does become Queen, for the King marries her because of the gold; and she forgets the Dwarf, and is very happy, especially when her little baby comes.
Directly it is born the Dwarf appears also, and claims the child, because it was promised to him. The Queen offers him anything he likes besides; but he will have that, and that only.
Then she cries and prays, and the Dwarf says that if she can tell him his name she may keep the baby; and he feels quite safe in saying this, because nobody knows his name, only himself.
So the Queen calls him by all kinds of strange names, but none of them is the right one.
Then she begs for three days to find out the name, and sends people everywhere to see if they can hear it. But all of them come back, unable to find any name that is likely, excepting one, who says,
“I have not found a name, but as I came to a high mountain near the edge of a forest, where the foxes and the hares say ‘good-night’ to each other, I saw a little house, and before the door a fire was burning, and round the fire a little man was dancing on one leg, and singing:–
“To-day I stew, and then I’ll bake,
To-morrow shall I the Queen’s child take.
How glad I am that nobody knows
That my name is Rumpelstiltskin.”
Then the Dwarf came again, and the Queen said to him,
“Is your name Hans?”
“No,” said the Dwarf, with an ugly leer, and he held out his hands for the baby.
“Is it Conrade?” asked the Queen.
“No,” cried the Dwarf, “give me the child.”
“Then,” said the Queen, “is it Rumpelstiltskin?”
“A witch has told you that!” cried the Dwarf; and then he stamped his right foot so hard upon the ground that it sank quite in, and he could not draw it out again. Then he took hold of his left leg with both his hands and pulled so hard that his right leg came off, and he hopped away howling, and nobody ever saw him again.
The Giant in the story of St. Olaf, as we have seen, was a rather stupid giant, and easily tricked; and indeed most of the giants seem to have been dull people, from the great Greek Kyklops, Polyphemos the One-Eyed, downwards to the, ogres in Puss in Boots, and Jack and the Bean Stalk, and the giants in Jack the Giant Killer.
The old northern giants were no wiser. There was one in the island of Rügen, a very mighty giant, named Balderich. He wanted to go from his island, dry-footed, to the mainland. So he got a great apron made, and filled it with earth, and set off to make a causeway from Rügen to Pomerania. But there was a hole in the apron, and the clay that fell out formed a chain of nine hills. The giant stopped the hole and went on, but another hole tore in the apron, and thirteen more hills fell out. Then he got to the sea-side, and poured the rest of the load into the water; but it didn’t quite reach the mainland, which made giant Balderich so angry that he fell down and died; and so his work has never been finished.
But a giant maiden thought she would try to make another causeway from the mainland to an island, so that she might not wet her slippers in going over. So she filled her apron with sand, and ran down to the sea-side. But a hole came in the apron, and the sand which ran out formed a hill at Sagard. The giant maiden said, “Ah! now my mother will scold me!” Then she stopped the hole with her hand and ran on again. But the giant mother looked over the wood, and cried, “You nasty child! what are you about? Come here, and you’ll get a good whipping.” The daughter in a fright let go her apron, and all the sand ran out, and made the barren hills near Litzow, which the white and brown dwarfs took for their dwelling-place.
There are many other stories of the same kind. One of them tells of a Troll Giant who wanted to punish a farmer; so he filled one of his gloves with sand, and poured it out over the farmer’s house, which it quite covered up; and with what was left in the fingers he made a row of little sand hillocks to mark the spot.
The Giants had their day, and died out, and their places were taken by the Dwarfs. Some of the most wonderful dwarf stories are those which are told in the island of Rügen, in the Baltic Sea. These stories are of three kinds of dwarfs: the White, and the Brown, and the Black, who live in the sand-hills.
The white dwarfs, in the spring and summer, dance and frolic all their time in sunshine and starlight, and climb up into the flowers and trees, and sit amongst the leaves and blossoms, and sometimes they take the form of bright little birds, or white doves, or butterflies, and are very kind to good people. In the winter, when the snow falls, they go underground, and spend their time in making the most beautiful ornaments of silver and gold.
The brown dwarfs arc stronger and rougher than the white; they wear little brown coats and brown caps, and when they dance–which they are fond of doing–they wear little glass shoes; and in dress and appearance they are very handsome. Their disposition is good, with one exception–that they carry off children into their underground dwellings; and those who go there have to serve them for fifty years. They can change themselves into any shape, and can go through key-holes, so that they enter any house they please, and sometimes they bring gifts for the children, like the good Santa Klaus in the German stories; but they also play sad tricks, and frighten people with bad dreams. Like the white dwarfs, the brown ones work in gold and silver, and the gifts they bring are of their own workmanship.
The black dwarfs are very bad people, and are ugly in looks and malicious in temper; they never dance or sing, but keep underground, or, when they come up, they sit in the elder-trees, and screech horribly like owls, or mew like cats. They, too, are great metal-workers, especially in steel; and in old days they used to make arms and armour for the gods and heroes: shirts of mail as fine as cobwebs, yet so strong that no sword could go through them; and swords that would bend like rushes, and yet were as hard as diamonds, and would cut through any helmet, however thick.
So long as they keep their caps on their heads the dwarfs are invisible; but if any one can get possession of a dwarf’s cap he can see them, and becomes their master. This is the foundation of one of the best of the dwarf stories–the story of John Dietrich, who went out to the sandhills at Ramfin, in the isle of Rügen, on the eve of St. John, a very, very long time ago, and managed to strike off the cap from the head of one of the brown dwarfs, and went down with them into their underground dwelling-place.
This was quite a little town, where the rooms were decorated with diamonds and rubies, and the dwarf people had gold and silver and crystal table-services, and there were artificial birds that flew about like real ones, and the most beautiful flowers and fruits; and the dwarfs, who were thousands in number, had great feasts, where the tables, ready spread, came up through the floor, and cleared themselves away at the ringing of a bell, and left the rooms free for dancing to the strains of the loveliest music.
And in the city there were fields and gardens, and lakes and rivers; and instead of the sun and the moon to give light, there were large carbuncles and diamonds which supplied all that was wanted.
John Dietrich, who was very well treated, liked it very much, all but one thing–which was that the servants who waited upon the dwarfs were earth children, whom they had stolen and carried underground; and amongst them was Elizabeth Krabbin, once a playmate of his own, and who was a lovely girl, with clear blue eyes and ringlets of fair hair.
John Dietrich of course fell in love with Elizabeth, and determined to get her out of the dwarf people’s hands, and with her all the earth children they held captive. And when he had been ten years underground, and he and Elizabeth were grown up, he demanded leave to depart, and to take Elizabeth. But the dwarfs, though they could not hinder him from going, would not let her go, and no threats or entreaties could move them.
Then John Dietrich remembered that the little people cannot bear an evil smell; and one day he happened to break a large stone, out of which jumped a toad, which gave him power to do what he pleased with the dwarfs, for the sight or smell of a toad causes them pain beyond all bearing. So he sent for the chiefs of the dwarfs, and bade them let Elizabeth go. But they refused; and then he went and fetched the toad. Then the story goes on in this way:–
“He was hardly come within a hundred paces of them when they all fell to the ground as if struck with a thunderbolt, and began to howl and whimper, and to writhe as if suffering the most excruciating pain. The dwarfs stretched out their hands, and cried, ‘Have mercy, have mercy! we feel that you have a toad, and there is no escape for us. Take the odious beast away, and we will do all you require.’ He let them kneel a few seconds longer, and then took the toad away. They then stood up, and felt no more pain.
John let all depart but the six chief persons, to whom he said, ‘This night, between twelve and one, Elizabeth and I will depart, Load for me three waggons with gold, silver, and precious stones. I might, you know, take all that is in the hill; but I will be merciful. Further, you must put into two waggons all the furniture of my chamber (which was covered with emeralds and other precious stones, and in the ceiling was a diamond as big as a nine-pin bowl), and get ready for me the handsomest travelling carriage that is in the hill, with six black horses. Moreover, you must set at liberty all the servants who have been so long here that on earth they would be twenty years old and upwards, and you must give them as much silver and gold as will make them rich for life; and you must make a law that no one shall be kept here longer than his twentieth year.’
“The six took the oath, and went away quite melancholy, and John buried his toad deep in the ground. The little people laboured hard and prepared everything, and at midnight John and Elizabeth, and their companions, and all their treasures, were drawn up out of the hill. It was then one o’clock, and it was midsummer–the very time that, twelve years before, John had gone down into the hill. Music sounded around them, and they saw the glass hill open, and the rays of the light of heaven shine on them after so many years; and when they got out they saw the first streaks of dawn already in the East. Crowds of the underground people were around them, busied about the waggons.
John bid them a last farewell, waved his brown cap in the air, and then flung it among them. And at the same moment he ceased to see them; he beheld nothing but a green hill, and the well-known bushes and fields, and heard the church clock of Ramfin strike two. When all was still, save a few larks, who were tuning their morning song, they all fell upon their knees and worshipped God, resolving henceforth to lead a pious and Christian life.”
And then John married Elizabeth, and was made a count, and built several churches, and presented to them some of the precious cups and plates made by the underground people, and kept his own and Elizabeth’s glass shoes, in memory of what had befallen them in their youth. “And they were all taken away,” the story says, “in the time of the great Charles the Twelfth of Sweden, when the Russians came on the island, and the Cossacks plundered even the churches, and took away everything.”
Now there is much more to be told about the dwarfs, if only we had space–how there were thousands of them in German lands, in the Saxon mines, and the Black Forest, and the Harz mountains and in other places, and in Switzerland, and indeed everywhere almost–how they gave gifts to good men, and borrowed of them, and paid honestly; how they punished those who injured them; how they moved about from country to country; how they helped great kings and nobles, and showed themselves to wandering travellers and to simple country folk.
But all this must be left for you to read for yourselves in Grimm’s stories, and in the legends of northern lands, and in many collections of ancient poems, and romances, and popular tales. And in these, and in other books which deal with such subjects, you will find out that all these dwellers in Wonderland, and the tales that are told about them, and the stories of the gods and heroes, all come from the one source of which we read something in the first chapter–the tradition’s of the ancient Aryan people, from whom all of us have sprung–and how they all mean the same things; the conflict between light and darkness, the succession of day and night, the changes of the seasons, the blue and bright summer skies, the rain-clouds, the storm-winds, the thunder and the lightning, and all the varied and infinite forms of Nature in her moods of calm and storm, peace and tempest, brightness and gloom, sweet and pleasant and hopeful life and stern and cold death, which causes all brightness to fade and moulder away.