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Little Claus and Big Claus by Hans Christian Andersen


IN a village there once lived two men who had the same name. They were bothcalled Claus. One of them had four horsesbut the other had only one; so todistinguish thempeople called the owner of the four horses"Great Claus"and he who had only one"Little Claus." Now we shall hear whathappened to themfor this is a true story.

Through the whole weekLittle Claus was obliged to plough for Great Clausand lend him his one horse; and once a weekon a SundayGreat Claus lent himall his four horses. Then how Little Claus would smack his whip over all fivehorsesthey were as good as his own on that one day. The sun shone brightlyand the church bells were ringing merrily as the people passed bydressed intheir best clotheswith their prayer-books under their arms. They were going tohear the clergyman preach. They looked at Little Claus ploughing with his fivehorsesand he was so proud that he smacked his whipand said"Gee-upmyfive horses."

"You must not say that" said Big Claus; "for only one of thembelongs to you." But Little Claus soon forgot what he ought to sayandwhen any one passed he would call out"Gee-upmy five horses!"

"Now I must beg you not to say that again" said Big Claus; "forif you doI shall hit your horse on the headso that he will drop dead on thespotand there will be an end of him."

"I promise you I will not say it any more" said the other; but assoon as people came bynodding to himand wishing him "Good day" hebecame so pleasedand thought how grand it looked to have five horses ploughingin his fieldthat he cried out again"Gee-upall my horses!"

"I'll gee-up your horses for you" said Big Claus; and seizing ahammerhe struck the one horse of Little Claus on the headand he fell deadinstantly.

"Ohnow I have no horse at allsaid Little Clausweeping. But after awhile he took off the dead horse's skinand hung the hide to dry in the wind.Then he put the dry skin into a bagandplacing it over his shoulderwent outinto the next town to sell the horse's skin. He had a very long way to goandhad to pass through a darkgloomy forest. Presently a storm aroseand he losthis wayand before he discovered the right pathevening came onand it wasstill a long way to the townand too far to return home before night. Near theroad stood a large farmhouse. The shutters outside the windows were closedbutlights shone through the crevices at the top. "I might get permission tostay here for the night" thought Little Claus; so he went up to the doorand knocked. The farmer's wife opened the door; but when she heard what hewantedshe told him to go awayas her husband would not allow her to admitstrangers. "Then I shall be obliged to lie out here" said LittleClaus to himselfas the farmer's wife shut the door in his face. Near to thefarmhouse stood a large haystackand between it and the house was a small shedwith a thatched roof. "I can lie up there" said Little Clausas hesaw the roof; "it will make a famous bedbut I hope the stork will not flydown and bite my legs;" for on it stood a living storkwhose nest was inthe roof. So Little Claus climbed to the roof of the shedand while he turnedhimself to get comfortablehe discovered that the wooden shutterswhich werecloseddid not reach to the tops of the windows of the farmhouseso that hecould see into a roomin which a large table was laid out with wineroast meatand a splendid fish. The farmer's wife and the sexton were sitting at the tabletogether; and she filled his glassand helped him plenteously to fishwhichappeared to be his favorite dish. "If I could only get sometoo"thought Little Claus; and thenas he stretched his neck towards the window hespied a largebeautiful pie- indeed they had a glorious feast before them.

At this moment he heard some one riding down the roadtowards the farmhouse.It was the farmer returning home. He was a good manbut still he had a verystrange prejudice- he could not bear the sight of a sexton. If one appearedbefore himhe would put himself in a terrible rage. In consequence of thisdislikethe sexton had gone to visit the farmer's wife during her husband'sabsence from homeand the good woman had placed before him the best she had inthe house to eat. When she heard the farmer coming she was frightenedandbegged the sexton to hide himself in a large empty chest that stood in the room.He did sofor he knew her husband could not endure the sight of a sexton. Thewoman then quickly put away the wineand hid all the rest of the nice things inthe oven; for if her husband had seen them he would have asked what they werebrought out for.

"Ohdear" sighed Little Claus from the top of the shedas he sawall the good things disappear.

"Is any one up there?" asked the farmerlooking up and discoveringLittle Claus. "Why are you lying up there? Come downand come into thehouse with me." So Little Claus came down and told the farmer how he hadlost his way and begged for a night's lodging.

"All right" said the farmer; "but we must have something toeat first."

The woman received them both very kindlylaid the cloth on a large tableand placed before them a dish of porridge. The farmer was very hungryand atehis porridge with a good appetitebut Little Claus could not help thinking ofthe nice roast meatfish and pieswhich he knew were in the oven. Under thetableat his feetlay the sack containing the horse's skinwhich he intendedto sell at the next town. Now Little Claus did not relish the porridge at allso he trod with his foot on the sack under the tableand the dry skin squeakedquite loud. "Hush!" said Little Claus to his sackat the same timetreading upon it againtill it squeaked louder than before.

"Hallo! what have you got in your sack!" asked the farmer.

"Ohit is a conjuror" said Little Claus; "and he says weneed not eat porridgefor he has conjured the oven full of roast meatfishand pie."

"Wonderful!" cried the farmerstarting up and opening the ovendoor; and there lay all the nice things hidden by the farmer's wifebut whichhe supposed had been conjured there by the wizard under the table. The womandared not say anything; so she placed the

w?" asked the farmer.

"He says" replied Little Claus"that there are three bottlesof wine for usstanding in the cornerby the oven."

So the woman was obliged to bring out the wine alsowhich she had hiddenand the farmer drank it till he became quite merry. He would have liked such aconjuror as Little Claus carried in his sack. "Could he conjure up the evilone?" asked the farmer. "I should like to see him nowwhile I am somerry."

"Ohyes!" replied Little Claus"my conjuror can do anythingI ask him- can you not?" he askedtreading at the same time on the sacktill it squeaked. "Do you hear? he answers 'Yes' but he fears that weshall not like to look at him."

"OhI am not afraid. What will he be like?"

"Wellhe is very much like a sexton."

"Ha!" said the farmer"then he must be ugly. Do you know Icannot endure the sight of a sexton. Howeverthat doesn't matterI shall knowwho it is; so I shall not mind. Now thenI have got up my couragebut don'tlet him come too near me."

"StopI must ask the conjuror" said Little Claus; so he trod onthe bagand stooped his ear down to listen.

"What does he say?"

"He says that you must go and open that large chest which stands in thecornerand you will see the evil one crouching down inside; but you must holdthe lid firmlythat he may not slip out."

"Will you come and help me hold it?" said the farmergoing towardsthe chest in which his wife had hidden the sextonwho now lay insidevery muchfrightened. The farmer opened the lid a very little wayand peeped in.

"Oh" cried hespringing backwards"I saw himand he isexactly like our sexton. How dreadful it is!" So after that he was obligedto drink againand they sat and drank till far into the night.

"You must sell your conjuror to me" said the farmer; "ask asmuch as you likeI will pay it; indeed I would give you directly a whole bushelof gold."

"NoindeedI cannot" said Little Claus; "only think howmuch profit I could make out of this conjuror."

"But I should like to have him" said the fannerstill continuinghis entreaties.

"Well" said Little Claus at length"you have been so good asto give me a night's lodgingI will not refuse you; you shall have the conjurorfor a bushel of moneybut I will have quite full measure."

"So you shall" said the farmer; "but you must take away thechest as well. I would not have it in the house another hour; there is noknowing if he may not be still there."

So Little Claus gave the farmer the sack containing the dried horse's skinand received in exchange a bushel of money- full measure. The farmer also gavehim a wheelbarrow on which to carry away the chest and the gold.

"Farewell" said Little Clausas he went off with his money andthe great chestin which the sexton lay still concealed. On one side of theforest was a broaddeep riverthe water flowed so rapidly that very few wereable to swim against the stream. A new bridge had lately been built across itand in the middle of this bridge Little Claus stoppedand saidloud enough tobe heard by the sexton"Now what shall I do with this stupid chest; it isas heavy as if it were full of stones: I shall be tired if I roll it any fartherso I may as well throw it in the river; if it swims after me to my housewelland goodand if notit will not much matter."

So he seized the chest in his hand and lifted it up a littleas if he weregoing to throw it into the water.

"Noleave it alone" cried the sexton from within the chest;"let me out first."

"Oh" exclaimed Little Clauspretending to be frightened"heis in there stillis he? I must throw him into the riverthat he may bedrowned."

"Ohno; ohno" cried the sexton; "I will give you a wholebushel full of money if you will let me go.

"Whythat is another matter" said Little Clausopening the chest.The sexton crept outpushed the empty chest into the waterand went to hishousethen he measured out a whole bushel full of gold for Little Clauswhohad already received one from the farmerso that now he had a barrow full.

"I have been well paid for my horse" said he to himself when hereached homeentered his own roomand emptied all his money into a heap on thefloor. "How vexed Great Claus will be when he finds out how rich I havebecome all through my one horse; but I shall not tell him exactly how it allhappened." Then he sent a boy to Great Claus to borrow a bushel measure.

"What can he want it for?" thought Great Claus; so he smeared thebottom of the measure with tarthat some of whatever was put into it mightstick there and remain. And so it happened; for when the measure returnedthreenew silver florins were sticking to it.

"What does this mean?" said Great Claus; so he ran off directly toLittle Clausand asked"Where did you get so much money?"

"Ohfor my horse's skinI sold it yesterday."

"It was certainly well paid for then" said Great Claus; and he ranhome to his houseseized a hatchetand knocked all his four horses on theheadflayed off their skinsand took them to the town to sell. "Skinsskinswho'll buy skins?" he criedas he went through the streets. All theshoemakers and tanners came runningand asked how much he wanted for them.

"A bushel of moneyfor each" replied Great Claus.

"Are you mad?" they all cried; "do you think we have money tospend by the bushel?"

"Skinsskins" he cried again"who'll buy skins?" butto all who inquired the pricehis answer was"a bushel of money."

"He is making fools of us" said they all; then the shoemakers tooktheir strapsand the tanners their leather apronsand began to beat GreatClaus.

"Skinsskins!" they criedmocking him; "yeswe'll mark yourskin for youtill it is black and blue."

"Out of the town with him" said they. And Great Claus was obligedto run as fast as he couldhe had never before been so thoroughly beaten.

"Ah" said heas he came to his house; "Little Claus shallpay me for this; I will beat him to death."

Meanwhile the old grandmother of Little Claus died. She had been crossunkindand really spiteful to him; but he was very sorryand took the deadwoman and laid her in his warm bed to see if he could bring her to life again.There he determined that she should lie the whole nightwhile he seated himselfin a chair in a corner of the room as he had often done before. During thenightas he sat therethe door openedand in came Great Claus with a hatchet.He knew well where Little Claus's bed stood; so he went right up to itandstruck the old grandmother on the head. thinking it must be Little Claus.

"There" cried he"now you cannot make a fool of me again;"and

then he went home.

"That is a very wicked man" thought Little Claus; "he meantto kill me. It is a good thing for my old grandmother that she was already deador he would have taken her life." Then he dressed his old grandmother inher best clothesborrowed a horse of his neighborand harnessed it to a cart.Then he placed the old woman on the back seatso that she might not fall out ashe droveand rode away through the wood. By sunrise they reached a large innwhere Little Claus stopped and went to get something to eat. The landlord was arich manand a good man too; but as passionate as if he had been made of pepperand snuff.

"Good morning" said he to Little Claus; "you are come betimesto-day."

"Yes" said Little Claus; "I am going to the town with my oldgrandmother; she is sitting at the back of the wagonbut I cannot bring herinto the room. Will you take her a glass of mead? but you must speak very loudfor she cannot hear well."

"Yescertainly I will" replied the landlord; andpouring out aglass of meadhe carried it out to the dead grandmotherwho sat upright in thecart. "Here is a glass of mead from your grandson" said the landlord.The dead woman did not answer a wordbut sat quite still. "Do you not hear?"cried the landlord as loud as he could; "here is a glass of mead from yourgrandson."

Again and again he bawled it outbut as she did not stir he flew into apassionand threw the glass of mead in her face; it struck her on the noseandshe fell backwards out of the cartfor she was only seated therenot tied in.

Hallo!" cried Little Clausrushing out of the doorand seizing hold ofthe landlord by the throat; "you have killed my grandmother; seehere is agreat hole in her forehead."

"Ohhow unfortunate" said the landlordwringing his hands."This all comes of my fiery temper. Dear Little ClausI will give you abushel of money; I will bury your grandmother as if she were my own; only keepsilentor else they will cut off my headand that would be disagreeable."

So it happened that Little Claus received another bushel of moneyand thelandlord buried his old grandmother as if she had been his own. When LittleClaus reached home againhe immediately sent a boy to Great Clausrequestinghim to lend him a bushel measure. "How is this?" thought Great Claus;"did I not kill him? I must go and see for myself." So he went toLittle Clausand took the bushel measure with him. "How did you get allthis money?" asked Great Clausstaring with wide open eyes at hisneighbor's treasures.

"You killed my grandmother instead of me" said Little Claus;"so I have sold her for a bushel of money."

"That is a good price at all events" said Great Claus. So he wenthometook a hatchetand killed his old grandmother with one blow. Then heplaced her on a cartand drove into the town to the apothecaryand asked himif he would buy a dead body.

"Whose is itand where did you get it?" asked the apothecary.

"It is my grandmother" he replied; "I killed her with a blowthat I might get a bushel of money for her."

"Heaven preserve us!" cried the apothecary"you are out ofyour mind. Don't say such thingsor you will lose your head." And then hetalked to him seriously about the wicked deed he had doneand told him thatsuch a wicked man would surely be punished. Great Claus got so frightened thathe rushed out of the surgeryjumped into the cartwhipped up his horsesanddrove home quickly. The apothecary and all the people thought him madand lethim drive where he liked.

"You shall pay for this" said Great Clausas soon as he got intothe highroad"that you shallLittle Claus." So as soon as he reachedhome he took the largest sack he could find and went over to Little Claus."You have played me another trick" said he. "FirstI killed allmy horsesand then my old grandmotherand it is all your fault; but you shallnot make a fool of me any more." So he laid hold of Little Claus round thebodyand pushed him into the sackwhich he took on his shoulderssaying"Now I'm going to drown you in the river.

He had a long way to go before he reached the riverand Little Claus was nota very light weight to carry. The road led by the churchand as they passed hecould hear the organ playing and the people singing beautifully. Great Claus putdown the sack close to the church-doorand thought he might as well go in andhear a psalm before he went any farther. Little Claus could not possibly get outof the sackand all the people were in church; so in he went.

"Oh dearoh dear" sighed Little Claus in the sackas he turnedand twisted about; but he found he could not loosen the string with which it wastied. Presently an old cattle driverwith snowy hairpassed bycarrying alarge staff in his handwith which he drove a large herd of cows and oxenbefore him. They stumbled against the sack in which lay Little Clausand turnedit over. "Oh dear" sighed Little Claus"I am very youngyet Iam soon going to heaven."

"And Ipoor fellow" said the drover"I who am so oldalreadycannot get there."

"Open the sack" cried Little Claus; "creep into it instead ofmeand you will soon be there."

"With all my heart" replied the droveropening the sackfromwhich sprung Little Claus as quickly as possible. "Will you take care of mycattle?" said the old manas he crept into the bag.

"Yes" said Little Clausand he tied up the sackand then walkedoff with all the cows and oxen.

When Great Claus came out of churchhe took up the sackand placed it onhis shoulders. It appeared to have become lighterfor the old drover was nothalf so heavy as Little Claus.

"How light he seems now" said he. "Ahit is because I havebeen to a church." So he walked on to the riverwhich was deep and broadand threw the sack containing the old drover into the waterbelieving it to beLittle Claus. "There you may lie!" he exclaimed; "you will playme no more tricks now." Then he turned to go homebut when he came to aplace where two roads crossedthere was Little Claus driving the cattle. "Howis this?" said Great Claus. "Did I not drown you just now?"

"Yes" said Little Claus; "you threw me into the river abouthalf an hour ago."

"But wherever did you get all these fine beasts?" asked Great Claus.

"These beasts are sea-cattle" replied Little Claus. "I'lltell you the whole storyand thank you for drowning me; I am above you nowIam really very rich. I was frightenedto be surewhile I lay tied up in thesackand the wind whistled in my ears when you threw me into the river from thebridgeand I sank to the bottom immediately; but I did not hurt myselffor Ifell upon beautifully soft grass which grows down there; and in a momentthesack openedand the sweetest little maiden came towards me. She had snow-whiterobesand a wreath of green leaves on her wet hair. She took me by the handand said'So you are comeLittle Clausand here are some cattle for you tobegin with. About a mile farther on the roadthere is another herd for you.'Then I saw that the river formed a great highway for the people who live in thesea. They were walking and driving here and there from the sea to the land atthespot where

the river terminates. The bed of the river was covered with the loveliestflowers and sweet fresh grass. The fish swam past me as rapidly as the birds dohere in the air. How handsome all the people wereand what fine cattle weregrazing on the hills and in the valleys!"

"But why did you come up again" said Great Claus"if it wasall so beautiful down there? I should not have done so?"

"Well" said Little Claus"it was good policy on my part; youheard me say just now that I was told by the sea-maiden to go a mile farther onthe roadand I should find a whole herd of cattle. By the road she meant theriverfor she could not travel any other way; but I knew the winding of theriverand how it bendssometimes to the right and sometimes to the leftandit seemed a long wayso I chose a shorter one; andby coming up to the landand then driving across the fields back again to the riverI shall save half amileand get all my cattle more quickly."

"What a lucky fellow you are!" exclaimed Great Claus. "Do youthink I should get any sea-cattle if I went down to the bottom of the river?"

"YesI think so" said Little Claus; "but I cannot carry youthere in a sackyou are too heavy. However if you will go there firstand thencreep into a sackI will throw you in with the greatest pleasure."

"Thank you" said Great Claus; "but rememberif I do not getany sea-cattle down there I shall come up again and give you a good thrashing."

"Nonowdon't be too fierce about it!" said Little Clausas theywalked on towards the river. When they approached itthe cattlewho were verythirstysaw the streamand ran down to drink.

"See what a hurry they are in" said Little Claus"they arelonging to get down again"

"Comehelp memake haste" said Great Claus; "or you'll getbeaten." So he crept into a large sackwhich had been lying across theback of one of the oxen.

"Put in a stone" said Great Claus"or I may not sink."

"Ohthere's not much fear of that" he replied; still he put alarge stone into the bagand then tied it tightlyand gave it a push.

"Plump!" In went Great Clausand immediately sank to the bottom ofthe river.

"I'm afraid he will not find any cattle" said Little Clausandthen he drove his own beasts homewards. - -