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East o' the Sun
and West o' the Moon

A Norse Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there was a poor farmer who had many children, so many that he didn't have enough food or clothing to give them. His children all were pretty, but the prettiest was the youngest daughter, who was so lovely there was no end to her loveliness.

One evening, a Thursday evening late in the autumn, the sky was very dark and the weather was very wild and rough. Rain fell and wind blew, till the walls of the cottage shook. The farmer and his wife, and all their children sat round the fire to stay warm, keeping themselves busy with this thing and that when, all at once, something gave three loud taps on the window pane. The father went out to see who was there but when he got outside, what should he see but a great big White Bear.

"Good evening to you!" said the White Bear.

"The same to you!" said the man.

"I would like to make you an offer," said the Bear. "If you will let me take away your youngest daughter, I'll make you and your family very rich, as rich as you are now poor."

Well, the farmer was taken aback by this White Bear and his strange offer. He would not be at all sorry to be so rich. Still, he thought he must have a talk with his daughter first so he went in and told them how there was a great White Bear waiting outside, who had given his word to make them very rich if he could only have the youngest daughter.

The girl said "No!" at once. Nothing could make her say anything else so the man went outside and told the White Bear to come again the next Thursday evening and get an answer. In the meantime he talked to his daughter every day and kept on telling her of all the riches they would get, and how well off she would be herself until at last she said she agreed to go. Washing and mending her rags, she made herself as smart as she could, and was ready to start. I can't say her packing gave her much trouble.

Next Thursday evening the White Bear came to take her, and she climbed upon his back with her bundle, and off they went. When they had gone a bit of the way, the White Bear said:

"Are you afraid?"

"No, I'm not," she answered.

"Well, mind and hold tight by my shaggy coat, and then there's nothing to fear," said the Bear.

She rode a long, long way, till they came to a great steep hill. There, on the face of it, the White Bear gave a knock, and a door opened, and they came into a castle where there were many rooms all lit up. The rooms were gleaming with silver and gold. There, too, was a table ready laid, and it was all as grand as grand could be. Then the White Bear gave her a silver bell. When she wanted anything, she was only to ring it, and she would get it at once.

After she had eaten and drunk, she grew sleepy from her journey and thought she would like to go to bed, so she rang the bell. She had scarcely taken hold of it before she found herself in a room where there was a bed made, as fair and white as anyone would wish to sleep in, with silken pillows and curtains fringed with gold. All that was in the room was gold or silver.

When she had put out the light, a man came quietly and laid himself beside her to sleep. That was the White Bear, who threw off his beast shape at night. But she never saw him, for he always came after she had put out the light, and before the day dawned he was up and off again.

Things went on happily for a while, but at last she began to grow silent and filled with sadness for she went about all day alone, and she longed to go home to see her father and mother, and brothers and sisters. One day, when the White Bear asked what it was that she wanted, she said it was so dull and lonely there, and she longed to go home to see her father and mother, and brothers and sisters. That was why she was so sad and silent.

"Well, well," said the Bear, "you will get what you wish. But you must promise me one thing: not to talk alone with your mother, but only when the rest are by to hear. Your mother will take you by the hand and try to lead you into a room alone to talk, but you must remember and not do that, else you'll bring bad luck on both of us."


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