THERE is nobody in the world who knows so many stories as
Ole-Luk-Oie, or who can relate them so nicely. In the evening,
while the children are seated at the table or in their little
chairs, he comes up the stairs very softly, for he walks in
his socks, then he opens the doors without the slightest
noise, and throws a small quantity of very fine dust in their
eyes, just enough to prevent them from keeping them open, and
so they do not see him. Then he creeps behind them, and blows
softly upon their necks, till their heads begin to droop. But
Ole-Luk-Oie does not wish to hurt them, for he is very fond of
children, and only wants them to be quiet that he may relate
to them pretty stories, and they never are quiet until they
are in bed and asleep. As soon as they are asleep, Ole-Luk-Oie
seats himself upon the bed. He is nicely dressed; his coat is
made of silken stuff; it is impossible to say of what color,
for it changes from green to red, and from red to blue as he
turns from side to side. Under each arm he carries an
umbrella; one of them, with pictures on the inside, he spreads
over the good children, and then they dream the most beautiful
stories the whole night. But the other umbrella has no
pictures, and this he holds over the naughty children so that
they sleep heavily, and wake in the morning without having
dreamed at all.
Now we shall hear how Ole-Luk-Oie came every night during
a whole week to the little boy named Hjalmar, and what he told
him. There were seven stories, as there are seven days in the
'Now pay attention,' said Ole-Luk-Oie, in the evening,
when Hjalmar was in bed, 'and I will decorate the room.'
Immediately all the flowers in the flower-pots became
large trees, with long branches reaching to the ceiling, and
stretching along the walls, so that the whole room was like a
greenhouse. All the branches were loaded with flowers, each
flower as beautiful and as fragrant as a rose; and, had any
one tasted them, he would have found them sweeter even than
jam. The fruit glittered like gold, and there were cakes so
full of plums that they were nearly bursting. It was
incomparably beautiful. At the same time sounded dismal moans
from the table-drawer in which lay Hjalmar's school books.
'What can that be now?' said Ole-Luk-Oie, going to the
table and pulling out the drawer.
It was a slate, in such distress because of a false number
in the sum, that it had almost broken itself to pieces. The
pencil pulled and tugged at its string as if it were a little
dog that wanted to help, but could not.
And then came a moan from Hjalmar's copy-book. Oh, it was
quite terrible to hear! On each leaf stood a row of capital
letters, every one having a small letter by its side. This
formed a copy; under these were other letters, which Hjalmar
had written: they fancied they looked like the copy, but they
were mistaken; for they were leaning on one side as if they
intended to fall over the pencil-lines.
'See, this is the way you should hold yourselves,' said
the copy. 'Look here, you should slope thus, with a graceful
'Oh, we are very willing to do so, but we cannot,' said
Hjalmar's letters; 'we are so wretchedly made.'
'You must be scratched out, then,' said Ole-Luk-Oie.
'Oh, no!' they cried, and then they stood up so gracefully
it was quite a pleasure to look at them.
'Now we must give up our stories, and exercise these
letters,' said Ole-Luk-Oie; 'One, two- one, two- ' So he
drilled them till they stood up gracefully, and looked as
beautiful as a copy could look. But after Ole-Luk-Oie was
gone, and Hjalmar looked at them in the morning, they were as
wretched and as awkward as ever.
As soon as Hjalmar was in bed, Ole-Luk-Oie touched, with
his little magic wand, all the furniture in the room, which
immediately began to chatter, and each article only talked of
Over the chest of drawers hung a large picture in a gilt
frame, representing a landscape, with fine old trees, flowers
in the grass, and a broad stream, which flowed through the
wood, past several castles, far out into the wild ocean.
Ole-Luk-Oie touched the picture with his magic wand, and
immediately the birds commenced singing, the branches of the
trees rustled, and the clouds moved across the sky, casting
their shadows on the landscape beneath them. Then Ole-Luk-Oie
lifted little Hjalmar up to the frame, and placed his feet in
the picture, just on the high grass, and there he stood with
the sun shining down upon him through the branches of the
trees. He ran to the water, and seated himself in a little
boat which lay there, and which was painted red and white. The
sails glittered like silver, and six swans, each with a golden
circlet round its neck, and a bright blue star on its
forehead, drew the boat past the green wood, where the trees
talked of robbers and witches, and the flowers of beautiful
little elves and fairies, whose histories the butterflies had
related to them. Brilliant fish, with scales like silver and
gold, swam after the boat, sometimes making a spring and
splashing the water round them, while birds, red and blue,
small and great, flew after him in two long lines. The gnats
danced round them, and the cockchafers cried 'Buz, buz.' They
all wanted to follow Hjalmar, and all had some story to tell
him. It was a most pleasant sail. Sometimes the forests were
thick and dark, sometimes like a beautiful garden, gay with
sunshine and flowers; then he passed great palaces of glass
and of marble, and on the balconies stood princesses, whose
faces were those of little girls whom Hjalmar knew well, and
had often played with. One of them held out her hand, in which
was a heart made of sugar, more beautiful than any
confectioner ever sold. As Hjalmar sailed by, he caught hold
of one side of the sugar heart, and held it fast, and the
princess held fast also, so that it broke in two pieces.
Hjalmar had one piece, and the princess the other, but
Hjalmar's was the largest. At each castle stood little princes
acting as sentinels. They presented arms, and had golden
swords, and made it rain plums and tin soldiers, so that they
must have been real princes.
Hjalmar continued to sail, sometimes through woods,
sometimes as it were through large halls, and then by large
cities. At last he came to the town where his nurse lived, who
had carried him in her arms when he was a very little boy, and
had always been kind to him. She nodded and beckoned to him,
and then sang the little verses she had herself composed and
set to him,-
'How oft my memory turns to thee,
My own Hjalmar, ever dear!
When I could watch thy infant glee,
Or kiss away a pearly tear.
'Twas in my arms thy lisping tongue
First spoke the half-remembered word,
While o'er thy tottering steps I hung,
My fond protection to afford.
Farewell! I pray the Heavenly Power
To keep thee till thy dying hour.'
And all the birds sang the same tune, the flowers danced on
their stems, and the old trees nodded as if Ole-Luk-Oie had
been telling them stories as well.
How the rain did pour down! Hjalmar could hear it in his
sleep;. and when Ole-Luk-Oie opened the window, the water
flowed quite up to the window-sill. It had the appearance of a
large lake outside, and a beautiful ship lay close to the
'Wilt thou sail with me to-night, little Hjalmar?' said
Ole-Luk-Oie; 'then we shall see foreign countries, and thou
shalt return here in the morning.'
All in a moment, there stood Hjalmar, in his best clothes,
on the deck of the noble ship; and immediately the weather
became fine. They sailed through the streets, round by the
church, and on every side rolled the wide, great sea. They
sailed till the land disappeared, and then they saw a flock of
storks, who had left their own country, and were travelling to
warmer climates. The storks flew one behind the other, and had
already been a long, long time on the wing. One of them seemed
so tired that his wings could scarcely carry him. He was the
last of the row, and was soon left very far behind. At length
he sunk lower and lower, with outstretched wings, flapping
them in vain, till his feet touched the rigging of the ship,
and he slided from the sails to the deck, and stood before
them. Then a sailor-boy caught him, and put him in the
hen-house, with the fowls, the ducks, and the turkeys, while
the poor stork stood quite bewildered amongst them.
'Just look at that fellow,' said the chickens.
Then the turkey-cock puffed himself out as large as he
could, and inquired who he was; and the ducks waddled
backwards, crying, 'Quack, quack.'
Then the stork told them all about warm Africa, of the
pyramids, and of the ostrich, which, like a wild horse, runs
across the desert. But the ducks did not understand what he
said, and quacked amongst themselves, 'We are all of the same
opinion; namely, that he is stupid.'
'Yes, to be sure, he is stupid,' said the turkey-cock; and
Then the stork remained quite silent, and thought of his
home in Africa.
'Those are handsome thin legs of yours,' said the
turkey-cock. 'What do they cost a yard?'
'Quack, quack, quack,' grinned the ducks; but, the stork
pretended not to hear.
'You may as well laugh,' said the turkey; 'for that remark
was rather witty, or perhaps it was above you. Ah, ah, is he
not clever? He will be a great amusement to us while he
remains here.' And then he gobbled, and the ducks quacked,
'Gobble, gobble; Quack, quack.'
What a terrible uproar they made, while they were having
such fun among themselves!
Then Hjalmar went to the hen-house; and, opening the door,
called to the stork. Then he hopped out on the deck. He had
rested himself now, and he looked happy, and seemed as if he
nodded to Hjalmar, as if to thank him. Then he spread his
wings, and flew away to warmer countries, while the hens
clucked, the ducks quacked, and the turkey-cock turned quite
scarlet in the head.
'To-morrow you shall be made into soup,' said Hjalmar to
the fowls; and then he awoke, and found himself lying in his
It was a wonderful journey which Ole-Luk-Oie had made him
take this night.
'What do you think I have got here?' said Ole-Luk-Oie, 'Do
not be frightened, and you shall see a little mouse.' And then
he held out his hand to him, in which lay a lovely little
creature. 'It has come to invite you to a wedding. Two little
mice are going to enter into the marriage state tonight. They
reside under the floor of your mother's store-room, and that
must be a fine dwelling-place.'
'But how can I get through the little mouse-hole in the
floor?' asked Hjalmar.
'Leave me to manage that,' said Ole-Luk-Oie. 'I will soon
make you small enough.' And then he touched Hjalmar with his
magic wand, whereupon he became less and less, until at last
he was not longer than a little finger. 'Now you can borrow
the dress of the tin soldier. I think it will just fit you. It
looks well to wear a uniform when you go into company.'
'Yes, certainly,' said Hjalmar; and in a moment he was
dressed as neatly as the neatest of all tin soldiers.
'Will you be so good as to seat yourself in your mamma's
thimble,' said the little mouse, 'that I may have the pleasure
of drawing you to the wedding.'
'Will you really take so much trouble, young lady?' said
Hjalmar. And so in this way he rode to the mouse's wedding.
First they went under the floor, and then passed through a
long passage, which was scarcely high enough to allow the
thimble to drive under, and the whole passage was lit up with
the phosphorescent light of rotten wood.
'Does it not smell delicious?' asked the mouse, as she
drew him along. 'The wall and the floor have been smeared with
bacon-rind; nothing can be nicer.'
Very soon they arrived at the bridal hall. On the right
stood all the little lady-mice, whispering and giggling, as if
they were making game of each other. To the left were the
gentlemen-mice, stroking their whiskers with their fore-paws;
and in the centre of the hall could be seen the bridal pair,
standing side by side, in a hollow cheese-rind, and kissing
each other, while all eyes were upon them; for they had
already been betrothed, and were soon to be married. More and
more friends kept arriving, till the mice were nearly treading
each other to death; for the bridal pair now stood in the
doorway, and none could pass in or out.
The room had been rubbed over with bacon-rind, like the
passage, which was all the refreshment offered to the guests.
But for dessert they produced a pea, on which a mouse
belonging to the bridal pair had bitten the first letters of
their names. This was something quite uncommon. All the mice
said it was a very beautiful wedding, and that they had been
very agreeably entertained.
After this, Hjalmar returned home. He had certainly been
in grand society; but he had been obliged to creep under a
room, and to make himself small enough to wear the uniform of
a tin soldier.
'It is incredible how many old people there are who would
be glad to have me at night,' said Ole-Luk-Oie, 'especially
those who have done something wrong. 'Good little Ole,' say
they to me, 'we cannot close our eyes, and we lie awake the
whole night and see all our evil deeds sitting on our beds
like little imps, and sprinkling us with hot water. Will you
come and drive them away, that we may have a good night's
rest?' and then they sigh so deeply and say, 'We would gladly
pay you for it. Good-night, Ole-Luk, the money lies on the
window.' But I never do anything for gold.' 'What shall we do
to-night?' asked Hjalmar. 'I do not know whether you would
care to go to another wedding,' he replied, 'although it is
quite a different affair to the one we saw last night. Your
sister's large doll, that is dressed like a man, and is called
Herman, intends to marry the doll Bertha. It is also the
dolls' birthday, and they will receive many presents.'
'Yes, I know that already,' said Hjalmar, 'my sister
always allows her dolls to keep their birthdays or to have a
wedding when they require new clothes; that has happened
already a hundred times, I am quite sure.'
'Yes, so it may; but to-night is the hundred and first
wedding, and when that has taken place it must be the last,
therefore this is to be extremely beautiful. Only look.'
Hjalmar looked at the table, and there stood the little
card-board doll's house, with lights in all the windows, and
drawn up before it were the tin soldiers presenting arms. The
bridal pair were seated on the floor, leaning against the leg
of the table, looking very thoughtful, and with good reason.
Then Ole-Luk-Oie dressed up in grandmother's black gown
As soon as the ceremony was concluded, all the furniture
in the room joined in singing a beautiful song, which had been
composed by the lead pencil, and which went to the melody of a
'What merry sounds are on the wind,
As marriage rites together bind
A quiet and a loving pair,
Though formed of kid, yet smooth and fair!
Hurrah! If they are deaf and blind,
We'll sing, though weather prove unkind.'
And now came the present; but the bridal pair had nothing
to eat, for love was to be their food.
'Shall we go to a country house, or travel?' asked the
Then they consulted the swallow who had travelled so far,
and the old hen in the yard, who had brought up five broods of
And the swallow talked to them of warm countries, where
the grapes hang in large clusters on the vines, and the air is
soft and mild, and about the mountains glowing with colors
more beautiful than we can think of.
'But they have no red cabbage like we have,' said the hen,
'I was once in the country with my chickens for a whole
summer, there was a large sand-pit, in which we could walk
about and scratch as we liked. Then we got into a garden in
which grew red cabbage; oh, how nice it was, I cannot think of
anything more delicious.'
'But one cabbage stalk is exactly like another,' said the
swallow; 'and here we have often bad weather.'
'Yes, but we are accustomed to it,' said the hen.
'But it is so cold here, and freezes sometimes.'
'Cold weather is good for cabbages,' said the hen;
'besides we do have it warm here sometimes. Four years ago, we
had a summer that lasted more than five weeks, and it was so
hot one could scarcely breathe. And then in this country we
have no poisonous animals, and we are free from robbers. He
must be wicked who does not consider our country the finest of
all lands. He ought not to be allowed to live here.' And then
the hen wept very much and said, 'I have also travelled. I
once went twelve miles in a coop, and it was not pleasant
travelling at all.'
'The hen is a sensible woman,' said the doll Bertha. 'I
don't care for travelling over mountains, just to go up and
come down again. No, let us go to the sand-pit in front of the
gate, and then take a walk in the cabbage garden.'
And so they settled it.
'Am I to hear any more stories?' asked little Hjalmar, as
soon as Ole-Luk-Oie had sent him to sleep.
'We shall have no time this evening,' said he, spreading
out his prettiest umbrella over the child. 'Look at these
Chinese,' and then the whole umbrella appeared like a large
china bowl, with blue trees and pointed bridges, upon which
stood little Chinamen nodding their heads. 'We must make all
the world beautiful for to-morrow morning,' said Ole-Luk-Oie,
'for it will be a holiday, it is Sunday. I must now go to the
church steeple and see if the little sprites who live there
have polished the bells, so that they may sound sweetly. Then
I must go into the fields and see if the wind has blown the
dust from the grass and the leaves, and the most difficult
task of all which I have to do, is to take down all the stars
and brighten them up. I have to number them first before I put
them in my apron, and also to number the places from which I
take them, so that they may go back into the right holes, or
else they would not remain, and we should have a number of
falling stars, for they would all tumble down one after the
'Hark ye! Mr. Luk-Oie,' said an old portrait which hung on
the wall of Hjalmar's bedroom. 'Do you know me? I am Hjalmar's
great-grandfather. I thank you for telling the boy stories,
but you must not confuse his ideas. The stars cannot be taken
down from the sky and polished; they are spheres like our
earth, which is a good thing for them.'
'Thank you, old great-grandfather,' said Ole-Luk-Oie. 'I
thank you; you may be the head of the family, as no doubt you
are, but I am older than you. I am an ancient heathen. The old
Romans and Greeks named me the Dream-god. I have visited the
noblest houses, and continue to do so; still I know how to
conduct myself both to high and low, and now you may tell the
stories yourself:' and so Ole-Luk-Oie walked off, taking his
umbrellas with him.
'Well, well, one is never to give an opinion, I suppose,'
grumbled the portrait. And it woke Hjalmar.
'Good evening,' said Ole-Luk-Oie.
Hjalmar nodded, and then sprang out of bed, and turned his
great-grandfather's portrait to the wall, so that it might not
interrupt them as it had done yesterday. 'Now,' said he, 'you
must tell me some stories about five green peas that lived in
one pod; or of the chickseed that courted the chickweed; or of
the darning needle, who acted so proudly because she fancied
herself an embroidery needle.'
'You may have too much of a good thing,' said Ole-Luk-Oie.
'You know that I like best to show you something, so I will
show you my brother. He is also called Ole-Luk-Oie but he
never visits any one but once, and when he does come, he takes
him away on his horse, and tells him stories as they ride
along. He knows only two stories. One of these is so
wonderfully beautiful, that no one in the world can imagine
anything at all like it; but the other is just as ugly and
frightful, so that it would be impossible to describe it.'
Then Ole-Luk-Oie lifted Hjalmar up to the window. 'There now,
you can see my brother, the other Ole-Luk-Oie; he is also
called Death. You perceive he is not so bad as they represent
him in picture books; there he is a skeleton, but now his coat
is embroidered with silver, and he wears the splendid uniform
of a hussar, and a mantle of black velvet flies behind him,
over the horse. Look, how he gallops along.' Hjalmar saw that
as this Ole-Luk-Oie rode on, he lifted up old and young, and
carried them away on his horse. Some he seated in front of
him, and some behind, but always inquired first, 'How stands
'Good,' they all answered.
'Yes, but let me see for myself,' he replied; and they
were obliged to give him the books. Then all those who had
'Very good,' or 'Exceedingly good,' came in front of the
horse, and heard the beautiful story; while those who had
'Middling,' or 'Tolerably good,' in their books, were obliged
to sit behind, and listen to the frightful tale. They trembled
and cried, and wanted to jump down from the horse, but they
could not get free, for they seemed fastened to the seat.
'Why, Death is a most splendid Luk-Oie,' said Hjalmar. 'I
am not in the least afraid of him.'
'You need have no fear of him,' said Ole-Luk-Oie, 'if you
take care and keep a good conduct book.'
'Now I call that very instructive,' murmured the
great-grandfather's portrait. 'It is useful sometimes to
express an opinion;' so he was quite satisfied.
These are some of the doings and sayings of Ole-Luk-Oie. I
hope he may visit you himself this evening, and relate some