In which we celebrate the Gift of Stories with a Norwegian tale
The Boy Who Went to the North Wind (Norway)
Once upon a time, an old widow sent her only son out to the barn to fetch some meal.
Just as the lad was walking out of the barn with it, the North Wind blew up fierce and wild. Huffing and puffing, the North Wind caught up the meal from the lad's arms, and off it blew, far, far away.
The lad turned around and walked back into the barn. Once more he walked outside, carrying his bowl of meal. Again the North Wind came along, and with a huff and a puff, it carried off the second bowl full.
The lad shrugged and returned to the barn a third time. Once more the North Wind made off with the meal. Now, the lad stomped his feet.
"I'll go off and speak to him about his thievery," he said to himself. And so he did. The lad walked and walked, and finally, after the sun had set and the moon began to rise, he came to the house of the North Wind.
"Good evening, North Wind," he said politely.
"Good evening," said the North Wind. "What do you want?"
The lad politely asked the North Wind if he might return the stolen meal. He explained that he and his mother were very hungry, and very poor.
At last, the North Wind answered the lad. "I do not have your meal," said he, "but since you seem to be in need and you have traveled so far, I will reward you for your trouble. I shall give you a cloth that will fetch you any food you wish. All you have to do is say, 'Cloth, spread yourself,' and the cloth will serve up delicious food to eat."
The lad was well pleased, and he thanked the North Wind and set off for his long journey home. At last he grew weary, and spotted an inn at the side of the road.
"I shall rest here tonight," he said, and walked inside.
"Welcome," said the innkeeper, "but I'm afraid we do not have enough food to share with you."
"Never mind that," said the lad, "and he laid his cloth on the table and said to it, "Cloth, spread yourself."
A moment later, the table was filled with such a feast as you have never seen before, and everyone ate as much as they wanted to eat.
But that night, when everyone was fast asleep, the innkeeper sneaked into the boy's room and stole the magical cloth. He replaced it with an ordinary cloth.
Next morning the lad set off, carrying with him his cloth. When he returned home, he told his mother all about his meeting with the generous North Wind.
Then he spread out the cloth and said, "Cloth, spread yourself."
Nothing happened. The lad's mother just shook her head, but the boy smiled and said,
"I must return to the North Wind and discover what has happened to the cloth. I am sure he did not mean to cheat us." And off he went.
He arrived at the North Wind's house late in the day. "Please, North Wind," said the lad, "this cloth is worth nothing, for it worked only once. I'd like my meal back."
The North Wind said, "I told you, I have no meal. But I see that you have again traveled far," he said kindly. "For your trouble, I shall give you the cow that stands over there in the pen. This is a special cow. She produces gold coins from his mouth as soon as you say, 'Cow, make money.' "
The boy was pleased with this. Off he went once more, leading the cow behind him.
Once again he stopped at the inn. When the boy saw all the people gathered there, he could not help but show off his good fortune.
That night the innkeeper once more stole the lad’s good fortune. This time, he exchanged an ordinary cow for the cow that made the gold coins. In the morning, the lad hastened home to his mother, leading the cow behind him.
"Watch this, mother," he said delightedly. "Cow, make money," he cried. The cow stood very still and stared at the lad. "Cow, make money," the boy repeated.
Alas, the cow produced nothing at all.
And so again the lad hastened to the home of the North Wind. This time, he demanded his meal.
"I do not have any meal," sighed the North Wind, "and all I have to give you now is this old wooden stick. Now, if you say to this stick, 'Stick, lay on,' it will flap and flail and fly after anyone you wish, and it will not stop until you say, 'Stop, stick, stop now'."
The lad went off carrying his magical stick. Once again, he stopped at the inn.
When he saw the innkeeper, he squinted his eyes, for by this time he had grown suspicious. That night, the lad lay in his bed, but he only pretended to sleep.
Now, the landlord had spied the stick and he thought it must be magical as the cloth and the cow had been.
He tiptoed to the corner and reached for the stick, but just as he was about to take it, the boy sat up on his bed and cried,
"Stick, lay on." The stick began to flail and fly about the ears of the startled innkeeper
"Your stick means to hurt me," cried the innkeeper. "Make it stop."
"What will you do for me?" asked the lad.
"I will give you back your cloth, and your cow too," said the innkeeper.
"Stop, stick, stop now," said the boy, and the stick fell to the ground and lay at his feet. At once, the innkeeper returned with the North Wind's gifts to the boy, and he went back home singing all the way, eager to share his good fortune with his dear mother.