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Sunday, 26 June 2022

The Mountain Fellow and the Great Drummer

There was once a farmer who had his goat farm high in the mountains. His nearest neighbour was a Mountain Fellow who lived in a crag below a peak behind the farm, and these two saw one another from time to time. Once the farmer had to invite the Mountain Fellow for supper, for the Mountain Fellow had something he wanted to talk to him about.

When the Mountain Fellow visited the cabin, the farmer and his wife brought forth all the good food they had to offer; a close neighbour deserved such generosity, they said. There was porridge and flatbread, cured meat and cheese, and preserves and compotes. And the beer and the aquavit flowed. The Mountain Fellow ate everything that was put before him, he drank until there was nothing left, and the farmer folk could do nothing about it.

When everything was gone and the cabin was emptied of everything there had been to eat and drink, the Mountain Fellow leaned back against the wall, took out his tobacco pouch to fill his pipe, and considered the farmer.

“I hear your wife will soon be confined,” he said.

The farmer smiled nervously, and said it was so.

“I suppose you’ll be wanting to wet the baby’s head,” the Mountain Fellow continued.

Yes, said the man, they would hold a great feast on that day.

“Well, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about,” said the Mountain Fellow. “I want you to invite me as a sponsor for the little one.” Then he gave the farmer such a look that the farmer understood that it would be ill-advised to refuse.

“Well, of course, neighbour,” he replied. But in his heart of hearts he dreaded the day; the Mountain Fellow would eat the whole feast by himself, and drink up all the beer and brandy and punch. This weighed heavily on his mind before the baby was born.

When the time for wetting the baby’s head came around, and the feast was being prepared, the farmer remembered what he had promised the Mountain Fellow, and called for one of his goatherds.

“You must go to the Mountain Fellow,” he told the him. “He is expecting to be a sponsor for the child, and you must go and call him to the feast. But please, do what you can to put him off, or he’ll eat and drink us out of house and home.”

Now, this goatherd was a shrewd one, he was, and he promised he would do his best for the farmer.

When he came to the mountainous crag, the goatherd called for the Mountain Fellow: “Heigh-ho! The feast will soon be ready! You must come as an honoured guest!”

The Mountain Fellow came out to meet him.

“As an honoured guest,” he said. “Will there be other honoured guests?”

“Yes,” replied the boy. “The Virgin Mary herself shall bear the child fourth.”

“In that case,” said the Mountain Fellow, “I’d better sit away in a corner, so that I don’t meet her.”

“And Jesus himself shall Christen the child,” continued the boy.

“Well then,” said the Mountain Fellow, “I am not so sure that I should come, for I cannot abide all this Kringling. Perhaps I shall just go to the feast afterwards.”

“Indeed,” said the boy, “the Great Drummer shall play at the feast.”

“The Great Drummer?” said the Mountain Fellow. “Oh, I don’t want to meet him. Once when I was out on the mountains, I saw signs in the sky of a small squall approaching. I hurried to get home, but before I was able to put the key in my cabin door, the Great Drummer struck my thigh bone with one of his drumsticks.”

“That is a great shame,” said the boy. “You are an honoured guest as a sponsor of the child.”

“Indeed,” said the Mountain Fellow, “but I shall give him the greatest gift of any. Go and fetch a sack and bring it back here to me.”

The goatherd went off to fetch the sack, and brought it back to the Mountain Fellow. He took him into the mountain, where he began to fill the sack with both silver and gold by the handful. After he had filled it for a while, he asked the boy if any other guest would be giving as much as he.

“I should think so,” said the boy. “There will be some very prominent folk attending the feast.” The Mountain Fellow grumbled about this, but he continued to fill the sack with both silver and gold by the handful.

When it was nearly full, again he asked the goatherd, whether any other guest would be giving as much as he.

“I should think so,” said the boy. “My master is a very important member of the community.” The Mountain Fellow grumbled about this, but he continued to fill the sack with both silver and gold by the handful.

When the sack was brimming with all the silver and all the gold the Mountain Fellow could find room for in the sack, he asked the goatherd a third time: “Will any other guest be giving more than this?”

“No,” replied the boy. “This shall be the greatest gift of any.” The Mountain Fellow was well pleased when he heard this, and he sent the boy off on his way with a shake of his hand and a slap on his back.

The boy struggled to carry the sack all the way back to the goat farm, but there was great joy when he arrived, for there would be food and drink enough for all the guests, and great wealth for the child, who had received the greatest gift of any ever given on that farm.

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