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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Gudbrand of the Mountain-side
By Peter Christen Asbjørnsen (1812–1885)
 
Translation by Benjamin Thorpe in ‘Yule-Tide Stories’ (Bohn’s Library)

THERE was once a man named Gudbrand, who had a farm which lay on the side of a mountain, whence he was called Gudbrand of the Mountain-side. He and his wife lived in such harmony together, and were so well matched, that whatever the husband did, seemed to the wife so well done that it could not be done better; let him therefore act as he might, she was equally well pleased.  1
  They owned a plot of ground, and had a hundred dollars lying at the bottom of a chest, and in the stall two fine cows. One day the woman said to Gudbrand:—  2
  “I think we might as well drive one of the cows to town, and sell it; we should then have a little pocket-money: for such respectable persons as we are ought to have a few shillings in hand as well as others. The hundred dollars at the bottom of the chest we had better not touch; but I do not see why we should keep more than one cow: besides, we shall be somewhat the gainers; for instead of two cows, I shall have only one to milk and look after.”  3
  These words Gudbrand thought both just and reasonable; so he took the cow and went to the town in order to sell it: but when he came there, he could not find any one who wanted to buy a cow.  4
  “Well!” thought Gudbrand, “I can go home again with my cow: I have both stall and collar for her, and it is no farther to go backwards than forwards.” So saying, he began wandering home again.  5
  When he had gone a little way, he met a man who had a horse he wished to sell, and Gudbrand thought it better to have a horse than a cow, so he exchanged with the man. Going a little further still, he met a man driving a fat pig before him; and thinking it better to have a fat pig than a horse, he made an exchange with him also. A little further on he met a man with a goat. “A goat,” thought he, “is always better to have than a pig;” so he made an exchange with the owner of the goat. He now walked on for an hour, when he met a man with a sheep; with him he exchanged his goat: “for,” thought he, “it is always better to have a sheep than a goat.” After walking some way again, meeting a man with a goose, he changed away the sheep for the goose; then going on a long way, he met a man with a cock, and thought to himself, “It is better to have a cock than a goose,” and so gave his goose for the cock. Having walked on till the day was far gone, and beginning to feel hungry, he sold the cock for twelve shillings, and bought some food; “for,” thought he, “it is better to support life than to carry back the cock.” After this he continued his way homeward till he reached the house of his nearest neighbor, where he called in.  6
  “How have matters gone with you in town?” asked the neighbor.  7
  “Oh,” answered Gudbrand, “but so-so; I cannot boast of my luck, neither can I exactly complain of it.” He then began to relate all that he had done from first to last.  8
  “You’ll meet with a warm reception when you get home to your wife,” said his neighbor. “God help you, I would not be in your place.”  9
  “I think things might have been much worse,” said Gudbrand; “but whether they are good or bad, I have such a gentle wife that she will never say a word, let me do what I may.”  10
  “Yes, that I know,” answered his neighbor; “but I do not think she will be so gentle in this instance.”  11
  “Shall we lay a wager?” said Gudbrand of the Mountain-side. “I have got a hundred dollars in my chest at home; will you venture the like sum?”  12
  “Yes, I will,” replied the neighbor, and they wagered accordingly, and remained till evening drew on, when they set out together for Gudbrand’s house; having agreed that the neighbor should stand outside and listen, while Gudbrand went in to meet his wife.  13
  “Good-evening,” said Gudbrand.  14
  “Good-evening,” said his wife, “thank God thou art there.”  15
  Yes, there he was. His wife then began asking him how he had fared in the town.  16
  “So-so,” said Gudbrand: “I have not much to boast of; for when I reached the town there was no one who would buy the cow, so I changed it for a horse.”  17
  “Many thanks for that,” said his wife: “we are such respectable people that we ought to ride to church as well as others; and if we can afford to keep a horse, we may certainly have one. Go and put the horse in the stable, children.”  18
  “Oh,” said Gudbrand, “but I have not got the horse; for as I went along the road, I exchanged the horse for a pig.”  19
  “Well,” said the woman, “that is just what I should have done myself; I thank thee for that. I can now have pork and bacon in my house to offer anybody when they come to see us. What should we have done with a horse? People would only have said we were grown too proud to walk to church. Go, children, and put the pig in.”  20
  “But I have not brought the pig with me,” exclaimed Gudbrand; “for when I had gone a little further on, I exchanged it for a milch goat.”  21
  “How admirably thou dost everything,” exclaimed his wife. “What should we have done with a pig? People would only have said that we eat everything we own. Yes, now that I have a goat, I can get both milk and cheese, and still keep my goat. Go and tie the goat, children.”  22
  “No,” said Gudbrand, “I have not brought home the goat; for when I came a little further on, I changed the goat for a fine sheep.”  23
  “Well,” cried the woman, “thou hast done everything just as I could wish; just as if I had been there myself. What should we have done with a goat? I must have climbed up the mountains and wandered through the valleys to bring it home in the evening. With a sheep I should have wool and clothing in the house, with food into the bargain. So go, children, and put the sheep into the field.”  24
  “But I have not got the sheep,” said Gudbrand, “for as I went a little further, I changed it away for a goose.”  25
  “Many, many thanks for that,” said his wife. “What should I have done with a sheep? For I have neither a spinning-wheel nor have I much desire to toil and labor to make clothes; we can purchase clothing as we have hitherto: now I shall have roast goose, which I have often longed for; and then I can make a little pillow of the feathers. Go and bring in the goose, children.”  26
  “But I have not got the goose,” said Gudbrand; “as I came on a little further, I changed it away for a cock.”  27
  “Heaven only knows how thou couldst think of all this,” exclaimed his wife, “it is just as if I had managed it all myself. A cock! that is just as good as if thou hadst bought an eight-day clock; for as the cock crows every morning at four o’clock, we can be stirring betimes. What should I have done with a goose? I do not know how to dress a goose, and my pillow I can stuff with moss. Go and fetch in the cock, children.”  28
  “But I have not brought the cock home with me,” said Gudbrand; “for when I had gone a long, long way, I became so hungry that I was obliged to sell the cock for twelve shillings to keep me alive.”  29
  “Well! thank God thou always dost just as I could wish to have it done. What should we have done with a cock? We are our own masters; we can lie as long as we like in the morning. God be praised, I have got thee here safe again, and as thou always dost everything so right, we want neither a cock, nor a goose, nor a pig, nor a sheep, nor a cow.”  30
  Hereupon Gudbrand opened the door:—“Have I won your hundred dollars?” asked he of the neighbor, who was obliged to confess that he had.  31
 
 
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