Gudbrand on the Hill-side – Norwegian Folktale

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Once upon a time there was a man whose name was Gudbrand. He had a farm which lay far, far away upon a hillside, and so they called him Gudbrand on the Hillside.

Now, you must know that this man and his wife lived so happily together, and understood one another so well, that all the husband did the wife thought so well done, that there was nothing like it in the world, and she was always glad whatever he turned his hand to. The farm was their own land, and they had a hundred dollars lying at the bottom of their chest, and two cows tethered up in a stall in their farmyard.

So one day his wife said to Gudbrand, “Do you know, dear, I think we ought to take one of our cows into town and sell it. That’s what I think, for then we shall have some money in hand, and such well-to-do people as we ought to have ready money like the rest of the world. As for the hundred dollars at the bottom of the chest over there, we can’t make a hole in them, and I’m sure I don’t know what we want with more than one cow. Besides, we shall gain a little in another way, for then I shall get off with only looking after one cow, instead of having, as now, to feed and litter and water two.”

Well, Gudbrand thought his wife talked right good sense, so he set off at once with the cow on his way to town to sell her. But when he got to the town, there was no one who would buy his cow.

“Well, well! Never mind,” said Gudbrand. “At the worst, I can only go back home again with my cow. I’ve both stable and tether for her, I should think, and the road is no farther out than in,” and with that he began to toddle home with his cow.

But when he had gone a bit of the way, a man met him who had a horse to sell, so Gudbrand thought it was better to have a horse than a cow, so he swapped with the man. A little farther on he met a man walking along and driving a fat pig before him, and he thought it better to have a fat pig than a horse, so he swapped with the man. After that he went a little farther, and a man met him with a goat; so he thought it better to have a goat than a pig, and he swapped with the man that owned the goat. Then he went on a good bit till he met a man who had a sheep, and he swapped with him too, for he thought it always better to have a sheep than a goat. After a while he met a man with a goose, and he swapped away the sheep for the goose. And when he had walked a long, long time, he met a man with a rooster, and he swapped with him, for he thought in this wise, “It is surely better to have a rooster than a goose.” Then he went on till the day was far spent, and he began to get very hungry, so he sold the rooster for a shilling, and bought food with the money, for, thought Gudbrand on the Hillside, “It is always better to save one’s life than to have a rooster.”

After that he went on toward home till he reached his nearest neighbor’s house, where he turned in.

“Well,” said the owner of the house, “how did things go with you in town?”

“Rather so so,” said Gudbrand. “I can’t praise my luck, nor do I blame it either,” and with that he told the whole story from first to last.

“Ah!” said his friend, “you’ll get nicely called over the coals, that one can see, when you get home to your wife. Heaven help you. I wouldn’t stand in your shoes for anything.”

“Well,” said Gudbrand on the Hillside, “I think things might have gone much worse with me. But now, whether I have done wrong or not, I have so kind a wife, she never has a word to say against anything that I do.”

“Oh!” answered his neighbor, “I hear what you say, but I don’t believe it for all that.”

“Shall we lay a bet upon it?” asked Gudbrand on the Hillside. “I have a hundred dollars at the bottom of my chest at home. Will you lay as many against them?”

Yes, the friend was ready to bet, so Gudbrand stayed there till evening, when it began to get dark, and then they went together to his house, and the neighbor was to stand outside the door and listen, while the man went in to see his wife.

“Good evening!” said Gudbrand on the Hillside.

“Good evening!” said the wife. “Oh, is that you? Now God be praised.”

Yes, it was he. So the wife asked how things had gone with him in town.

“Oh, only so so,” answered Gudbrand. “Not much to brag of. When I got to town there was no one who would buy the cow, so you must know I swapped it away for a horse.”

“For a horse,” said his wife. “Well, that is good of you. Thanks with all my heart. We are so well-to-do that we may drive to church just as well as other people, and if we choose to have a horse, we have a right to get one, I should think. So run out, child, and put up the horse.”

“Ah!” said Gudbrand, “but you see, I’ve not got the horse after all, for when I got a bit farther down the road, I swapped it away for a pig.”

“Think of that, now!” said the wife. “You did just as I should have done myself. A thousand thanks! Now I can have a bit of bacon in the house to set before people when they come to see me, that I can. What do we want with a horse? People would only say we had got so proud that we couldn’t walk to church. Go out, child, and put up the pig in the sty.”

“But I’ve not got the pig either,” said Gudbrand, “for when I got a little farther on I swapped it away for a milk goat.”

“Bless us!” cried his wife, “How well you manage everything! Now I think it over, what should I do with a pig? People would only point at us and say, ‘Yonder they eat up all they have got.’ No! Now I have got a goat, and I shall have milk and cheese, and keep the goat too. Run out, child, and put up the goat.”

“No, but I haven’t got the goat either,” said Gudbrand, “for a little farther on I swapped it away, and got a fine sheep instead.”

“You don’t say so!” cried his wife. “Why, you do everything to please me, just as if I had been with you. What do we want with a goat? If I had it I should lose half my time in climbing up the hills to bring it in. No! If I have a sheep, I shall have both wool and clothing, and fresh meat in the house. Run out, child, and put up the sheep.”

“But I haven’t got the sheep any more than the rest,” said Gudbrand, “for when I had gone a bit farther I swapped it away for a goose.”

“Thank you! Thank you, with all my heart!” cried his wife. “What should I do with a sheep? I have no spinning wheel nor carding comb, nor should I care to worry myself with cutting, and shaping, and sewing clothes. We can buy clothes now, as we have always done; and now I shall have roast goose, which I have longed for so often; and, besides, down to stuff my little pillow with. Run out, child, and put up the goose.”

“Ah!” said Gudbrand, “but I haven’t the goose either, for when I had gone a bit farther I swapped it away for a rooster.”

“Dear me!” cried his wife. “How you think of everything! Just as I should have done myself. A rooster! Think of that! Why it’s as good as an eight-day clock, for every morning the rooster crows at four o’clock, and we shall be able to stir ourselves in good time. What should we do with a goose? I don’t know how to cook it, and as for my pillow, I can stuff it with grass. Run out, child, and put up the rooster.”

“But after all I haven’t got the rooster,” said Gudbrand, “for when I had gone a bit farther, I got as hungry as a hunter, so I was forced to sell the rooster for a shilling, for fear I should starve.”

“Now, God be praised that you did so!” cried his wife. “Whatever you do, you do it always just after my own heart. What should we do with the rooster? We are our own masters, I should think, and can lie in bed in the morning as long as we like. Heaven be thanked that I have got you safely back again, you who do everything so well that I want neither rooster nor goose, neither pigs nor cows.”

Then Gudbrand opened the door and said, “Well, what do you say now? Have I won the hundred dollars?”

And his neighbor was forced to admit that he had.