Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Gudbrand on the Hill

There was once upon a time a man called Gudbrand; he had a farm that lay far away on the side of a hill, and they therefore called him Gudbrand on the Hill. He and his wife lived so nicely together, and agreed so well together that everything the husband did, his wife thought it done so well that it could never be done better; however he behaved himself, she was just as happy. They owned their land, and had a hundred dollars at the bottom of a chest, and in the barn, they had two tethered cows.

But then the woman said one day: “I think we should go to town with one of the cows and sell her, I do, so we may have some shillings to buy with. We are such good folk that we would do well to have some shillings in our hands, like others have. The hundred dollars that is at the bottom of the chest we cannot begin to use, but I do not know what we are to do with more than one cow. And it will be better for us too, that I will not have to look after it, not having to sweep for and tend to two.” Well, this thought Gudbrand was both well and correctly spoken; he took the cow and went to town with it, and should sell it. But when he came to town, there was no one who would buy the cow. Well, well, thought Gudbrand, then I can go home again with the cow, I can; I know I have both stall and tether, and it is just as far back as forth. And with that he began to wander homewards again.

But when he had come a way on the road, he met one who had a horse he would sell, and Gudbrand thought it better to have a horse than a cow, and so he swapped with him. When he had gone a way farther, he met one who drove a fat pig before him, and then he thought it better to have a fat pig than a horse, and so he swapped with the man. He went a way more; then he met a man with a goat, and then he thought that truly it was better to have a goat then a pig, and therefore he swapped with the man. Then he went a long distance, until he met a man who had a sheep: he swapped with him, for he thought it is always better to have a sheep than a goat. When he had gone a while more, he met a man with a goose; then he swapped the sheep for the goose. And when he had gone a long distance, he met a man with a cock; he swapped with him, for he thought like this: it is always better to have a cock than a goose. Then he walked until it grew late in the day; but by then he had begun to grow hungry, and so he sold the cock for twelve shillings, and bought himself food with it; “for it is better to save one’s life than to have a cock,” though Gudbrand on the Hill.

Then he walked homewards until he came to the farm of his nearest neighbour; there he dropped in.

“How did things go with you in town?” the folk asked.

“Oh, they went so so,” said Gudbrand on the Hill. “I cannot praise my fortunes, but I cannot blame them, either.” And with that, he told everything, how things had gone from first to last.

“Well, you are going to have a reception when you come home to your wide,” said the man on the farm. “Help me! I would not want to be in your shoes!”

“I think things could have been much worse,” said Gudbrand on the Hill, “but whether things went ill or well, I have such a kind wife that she will never say anything, no matter what I do.”

“Yes, I know that well, but not because I believe you” said his neighbour.

“Shall we wager on it?” said Gudbrand on the Hill. “I have a hundred dollars at home, at the bottom of a chest; do you dare to meet it?”

Well, they wagered, and then he remained there until evening; in the twilight they wandered together over to Gudbrand’s farm. There the neighbour remained outside the door, listening, while the man himself went in to his wife.

“Good evening,” said Gudbrand on the Hill, when he came in.

“Good evening,” said his wife, “and thanks be to God that you are here.”

Yes, he was that.

Then his wife asked him how he had fared in town.

“Oh, so so,” replied Gudbrand, “it is nothing to praise. When I came to town, there was no one who would buy the cow, so I swapped the cow for a horse, I did.”

“Well, thank you very much for doing that,” said his wife; “we are such good folk that we can drive to church, we as well as others, and as we can afford to keep a horse, then we can add another. Go down and bring the horse in, child!”

“Well, I do not actually have the horse; when I came a distance on the road, I swapped it for a pig.”

“No, no!” cried his wife, “it is almost as if I had done it myself; I thank you truly for it! Now we may have meat in the house, and something to offer people, when they look in to us, we too. What would we want with a horse? People would think we were too fine to go to church as before. Go down and bring the pig in, child!”

“But I do not actually have the pig, either,” said Gudbrand; “when I came a distance farther, I swapped it for a milking goat.”

“Oh no, oh no! So well you do everything,” cried his wife. “What should I do with the pig, when I think properly about it? Folk would have just said, ‘over there they eat up everything they have;’ now that I have a goat, I have both milk and cheese, and I keep the goat, too. Let the goat in, child!”

“No, I do not actually have the goat, either,” said Gudbrand. “When I came a distance on the road, I swapped the goat, and got a good sheep instead.”

“No!” cried the wife, “You have done everything just as I would have, just as if I had been along. What would we do with a goat? I would have had to clamber over mountains and valleys to bring it down again in the evening. No, if I have a sheep, I can have wool and clothes in the house, and food, too. Go down and let the sheep in, child!”

“But I do not have the sheep any longer,” said Gudbrand, “for when I had walked a while, I swapped it for a goose!”

“Thank you for that,” said his wife, “and many thanks, too! What would I do with the sheep? I have neither spinning wheel nor spindle, and neither can I be bothered with the pulling and toil, or making clothes, either; we can always buy clothes, now as before. Now I will have goose meat, which I have long wanted, and now I can have down for my small pillow. Go down and let in the goose, child!”

“Well, I do not have the goose, either,” said Gudbrand. “When I have come a way longer on the road, I swapped it for a cock.”

“I do not know how you came up with it all!” cried his wife. “It is, all of it, just as if I had done it myself. A cock! That is the same as if you a bought an eight-day clock; every morning the cock crows at four, so we can also get up at the right time. What would we do with the goose? I do not know how to cook goose meat, and my pillow I can fill with sedge. Go out and let in the cock, child!”

“But I do not have the cock, either,” said Gudbrand. “When I had walked another distance, I grew terribly hungry, and so I had to sell the cock for twelve shillings, to save my life.”

“Well, thanks be to God for what you did!” cried his wife. “No matter how you behave, you do everything just the way in which I would want it done. What would we do with the cock? We are our own masters, we can lie in in the morning for as long as we like. Thank God—just so long as I have you back, who behaves so well, I need neither cock nor goose, neither pig nor cow.”

The Gudbrand opened the door.

“Have I won the hundred dollars now?” he said. And his neighbour had to confess that he had.

 

Norwegian source: Gudbrand i Lia.

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