In which I share a story-gift: "The Woman Who Needed a Nisse"

When I was assembling a group of stories to give to friends and families this season, I needed one more story and just couldn't find the story I wanted. So finally, I wrote one myself! Usually I re-tell folktales and stories that other people tell me, but original stories are few and far between. I hope that a little nisse (tomten? hob? ) hears this story and decides to come live on Haiku Farm with us.

This is the last of the holiday story gifts --thank you to everyone who read them and shared them with others! By popular demand, I have created "Story Saturdays", and will post a new story here every Saturday. Thanks for reading. --A

The Woman Who Needed a Nisse

There once was a little old woman who lived all alone.

She had no family and no children of her own, only the animals on a little farm given to her by a long-ago uncle.

She had no friends in the village, because she feared that friends would come to visit and she had nothing to share with them—no food to spare, and no good company either.

The little farm had been productive in her uncle’s time, with many cattle, and a flock of hens and a hive of busily-humming bees. But now she had only one cow, and one hen, and a few bees.

Worse than that, the cow had stopped giving milk, the hen threw feathers all around and did not lay eggs, and the bees buzzed angrily at her and stung her if she tried to take some honey.

The old woman was very unhappy, and very lonely too. She didn’t know what to do.

Finally, she asked the neighbor, who had a fine and prosperous farm of her own, how she could improve her fortune.

“You need a nisse,” the neighbor said. “Every good farm has a nisse, a little gnome-person who looks after the animals and tends to the house and the people.

“A nisse will sing to your cow so she gives milk, a nisse will tell stories to your hen so she lays eggs, a nisse will speak poetry to your bees so they make honey."

“But how can I get a nisse?” asked the old woman. “You can’t buy one in the store, you can’t grow one from a seed, you can’t pluck one from a tree.”

“I’ll give you a loaf of bread to get you started,” said the neighbor. “There’s nothing a nisse likes so much as good, soft bread…unless it is a nice bowl of porridge with butter and honey.”

The old woman took the bread and walked slowly towards home. As she walked, she noticed a few little birds hopping along the path beside her, looking at the bread she carried and chirping hopefully.

“Silly birds,” said the woman, “If I give this bread to you, how will I ever get a nisse?”

But the birds chirped so sweetly and hopped along so brightly that she laughed at them, right there in the road.

“Well, all right,” said the woman. “I suppose even a nisse doesn’t need a whole loaf of bread.”

She broke the loaf, and crumbled half of it into her hand.

The little birds perched on her fingers and pecked happily at the crumbs, and for the first time in many weeks, the old woman smiled.

These little birds were so happy with such a little gift.

Just then, out from the hedge beside the road crept a skinny tabby cat, attracted to the chirping and flapping of the little birds. The woman saw him creeping closer, and she scattered the birds before he could catch one.

“Naughty cat,” said the woman. “I can’t let you eat these birds, and you won’t like bread. Let us go home and ask the cow if she will give some milk for you.”

The cat walked along home with the old woman. When they got there, the woman took a piece of the bread to the cow.

“Cow,” she said, “I know you don’t like to give milk for me, but the little cat is hungry. Will you eat a piece of this bread and give some milk for the cat?”

"Well," said the cow, "If the cat will sing a song and I may have a piece of bread, I will give enough milk for the cat and a little left over."

So the cat sang a song to the cow, and soon the he was drinking warm milk from a bowl on the doorstep, and the woman was shaking a jar of the fine rich milk to make a little bit of butter.

Just then, out from under the porch of the house came a skinny dog, attracted to the lapping sound of the cat. The woman saw him sneaking closer and caught him in her arms before he could chase the cat.

“Naughty dog,” said the woman. “I can’t let you chase this cat, and you won’t like milk. Let us ask the hen if she will lay an egg for you.”

The dog and the cat and the woman took a piece of the bread to the hen.

“Hen,” she said, “I know you don’t like to lay eggs for me, but the little dog is hungry. Will you eat a piece of this bread and lay an egg for the dog?”

"Well," said the hen, "If the dog will tell me a story, and I may have a piece of bread, I will lay an egg for the dog, and another egg in the morning."

So the dog told a story to the hen, and soon the he was eating a nice boiled egg from a shiny plate on the doorstep, while the cat washed his tabby paws by the hearth.

Now, there was only a little bit of bread left. Would a nisse come to her house for just a little bit of bread?

The old woman didn’t think so.

She sat on the doorstep with the tabby cat on her lap and the little dog on her feet and she tried to think.

“The only thing that a nisse likes better than bread is a bowl of porridge with butter and honey on it. What if I were to make some porridge?”

The dog and the cat agreed that she should do that very thing, so the woman picked some wildflowers and they all went to visit the bees.

“Bees,” she said, “I know you don’t like to make honey for me, but a nisse would like a little honey on some porridge. If I recite some poetry for you, will you give some honey for the nisse’s porridge?"

"Well," said the bees, "If you will recite poetry, and the dog and cat will recite poetry, and the cow and the hen will recite poetry, we will give some honey for the nisse's porridge."

The cat agreed and the dog agreed.

The cow agreed and the hen agreed.

They all gathered around the bees to recite poetry, and the old woman listened to the animals and remembered the poems she knew as a girl. And she recited poetry too.

The bees listened to the poetry, and soon the woman had a little comb of honey to drip onto the porridge for the nisse.

She went to bed hungry herself that night, but she made up a big bowl of porridge from the very last piece of the bread, and on top of the porridge she put the butter and the honey.

That night, she slept warmer than she ever had before, because the cat slept at her back, and the dog slept at her feet.

Late, late, that night, a nisse was passing by and saw the bowl of porridge.

He saw the cow who had given milk that day for the little cat.

He saw the hen who had laid an egg that day for the little dog.

He saw the bees who had given honey that day for the bowl of porridge.

And he saw the little old woman who had gone to bed hungry that night, but had left a bowl of porridge with butter and honey on it for a nisse who might be stopping by.

The nisse ate all the porridge.

He sang a song to the cow.

He told a story to the hen.

He recited poetry to the bees.

And then, just as dawn was breaking, the nisse made a little bed of hay in the barn, and took himself there to sleep in his new home.


  1. Oh - just wonderful! Thank you! And I'm so going to look forward to Saturdays!

  2. Delightful! Lovely message - thank you.

    Nancy in Iowa

  3. Thanks for all the stories! What a treat.

  4. What a nice story to end with! Thank you very much for sharing them with us. Looking forward to Story Saturdays :)


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