The Blackbird’s song

Kåltrastens sång
It was a lovely day! All the birds had come together and sang for bird and country. The trees played with shadow-figures on the ground, the flowers courted the wind and danced, the sun beamed like a sun over each and everyone, and spring could hardly sit still of anticipation.

It was a party, all right. The Blackbirds were getting married.

The bullfinch looked at them with a sombre expression and asked if they wanted to marry and live happily ever after. This they wanted and now the party could finally blossom.

Mr. Blackbird looked at his wife and said she was the most beautiful Mrs. Blackbird there was. Mrs. Blackbird giggled and said that Mr Blackbird was the most handsome Mr. Blackbird she’d ever seen.

Ah, that’s love…

But all ready black clouds were clouding up. A storm rose at the horizon, and all sensible animals took shelter. But Mr. and Mrs. Blackbird only had eyes for each other and didn’t see the danger that was closing in. Before they knew it, the wind took hold of them and cast them away.

Kåltrastens sång

The storm rustled and bustled about the trees. Mr and Mrs Blackbird got farther and farther away from each other, and when the storm finally died down they were lost and could not found their way back.

The sun turned yellow again, and Mr. Blackbird started to sing the most beautiful songs he knew, so that his wife would hear him. But it was spring and all the birds sang about love. Poor Mr. Blackbird – his song drowned in the symphony.

Mrs. Blackbird flew from bush to bush calling out for her husband, but it was spring and all the birds was calling out the name of their love ones. Poor Mrs. Blackbird – her callings got lost in the commotion.

Both Mr and Mrs. Blackbird called each other’s name and sang songs of love, but still the one could not find the other. And now the sun set behind the clouds. A tender rain tiptoed over the forest; all the birds turn silent and withdrew to their nests, as birds do.

But not Mr. Blackbird. He kept singing in the rain, because his heart was filled with sorrow. He sang louder and more beautiful than ever before. The only sound in the forest beside the drip, drop, dripping of the rain was his song about love – and finally Mrs. Blackbird could hear him.

She answered him with a song of love, and thus they found each other again, Mr. and Mrs Blackbird. Their happiness was complete, and ever since that day the blackbird sings of love every time the rain falls.

If you go outside you may hear hit.

Koltrastens sång

This fairy-tale is dedicated to my wife who, like the Blackbirds, always sings, even when it rains.

This fairy tale in Swedish: Sagan om koltrastens sång.

Author: Hans Christer Barregren
Illustrations by Liusa.

The story of the birch tree

Sagan om björken av H C Barregren. Illustrerad av Catherine Hesselstrand

Once upon a time there was a birch tree that was tender and brighter than any other tree. Her bark was smoother than the beech’s, her leaves rustle happier than the aspen’s, and her treetop was bushier then the oak’s.

”I’m so beautiful everyone should see me,” the birch thought, but she was overshadowed by some dark spruces. They discussed water supply with some pines that slowly shook their heads. ”I shall climb higher,” she thought and started moving up the hill.

There it was lighter and merrier. ”It’s easy to see me here,” she thought. But nobody noticed her there either. It was just young girls and stupid boys who talked and giggled about the stuff stupid girls and young boys giggle and laugh about.

She climbed even higher. There it was were packed with stooping old women and hunched men, weighed to the ground by life and the tormenting wind. They could not straighten them self up more then to see her trunk. They said she looked thin and should eat more, and that was that.

But now she was so high up she could See the top. It wasn’t a single tree there, only heather and grass. ”If I climb all the way to the top everybody will see me,” she thought, ”and then they will be happy.”

It took some time to get there, and the wind blew cold at the top, many of her leaves flew away, but now she was finally there. There everybody could admire her beauty. She stretched her branches and boosted her treetop. The sun shone her green and white and beautiful – and nobody was as fair as she.

Later that day a wind came sniffing over the neighbourhood. He snooped around the spruces and they closed ranks, like a wall without cracks. The wind got no foothold there. He found his way to higher ground and caught hold of the pines. Immediately he started shaking them, but pines has their roots deep into the mountains and cannot be budged that easily. Then the wind flew even higher and found the crooked birches, but the harder he battled with them, the closer they pressed down to the ground.

He flew over the treeline and played for a while with the heather that just laughed at him. And then he caught sight of the birch on the top of the mountain. He had never seen anything like that before. He flew straight to her and wind around her white trunk, got tangled in her black branches and played with her green hair.

”Thou are but beautiful, and thou I wanna married,” he said. ”Now, I will bring you to my kingdom high above the clouds and make you my queen.”

He swept the birch into the air. They swirled around in a swirling dance, all alone on the blue dance floor in the sky. ”Now everybody can see me and how beautiful I am with my handsome prince,” the birch thought as she windled to a dot in the distant blue.

Far below the trees hunched to the ground, waiting for the storm to abate, as they always do.

This fairy tale in Swedish: Sagan om björken.

Author: Hans Christer Barregren
Illustration by: Cathrin Hesselstrand.

The lonely star

Once upon a time there was a bright shining star in the middle of the universe. Everybody admired her, and everybody wanted to be near her, since she was so beautiful. Stars and planets and the occasional black hole came wandering from all over the universe to bask themselves in her glory.

It was glitter and glamour. It was mingle and gossip. Red nebulous was rolled out, and sun storms flashed so that you could see them light years away. Even the ruler of the universe noticed the dazzling crowd, even tough he always had so much to do that he rarely had time to do anything.

But the middle of the universe is not infinite; everybody doesn’t fit in. That is why they set free a couple of half-lit moons to circle around the whole shebang, deciding whom to let in. And that way, everybody who was somebody was happy.

But even if the centre of the universe was brighter then ever before, the beautiful star was discontent. Before that, everybody had come to see her. Now they were all busy with themselves. Nobody cared about her anymore, and her beautiful starlight was drowned in the light of all the others.

Finally she had had enough and jumped straight into empty space and went somewhere else. It was a real big bang and a lot of stars followed her out to space unintentionally.

The star travelled from galaxy to galaxy but her radiance had faded considerably, and many young followers were now brighter shining stars. Sure, many wanted to see her but just as many wanted to shine over her. Nowhere did she find rest. As her radiance faded, it became more and more important to her to find a dark place in space where she could shine alone, in all her glory.

Then she saw a black hole floating around in space. Black holes are sneaky creatures that suck up all light and all joy coming near them. And this hole was bigger and darker than anything the star had seen before.

I shall light up that hole, she thought. I will light up the darkest darkness and yet again become the most famous star in the whole universe.

Being swallowed by a black hole is not very difficult. If you get to close, you get swept in without means to defend yourself. And when the star felt how strong this black hole was, she understood that this darkness was stronger than her light, but then it was already too late. She disappeared and was never seen again.

That is how the darkest black hole in universe swallowed the brightest star in the universe. Luckily, it all took place a long time ago, in a place far, far from here, or else it would have been too sad.

This fairy tale in Swedish: Sagan om stjärnan.

The fire’s story

He’s born as a sparkle, struck to life by steel against steel. He flies through the air and lands on a faggot of birch-barks, put there by his father, the woodcutter. He greedily absorbs the rich food and burst into flames. The world surrounding him is dark and cold; the air filled with heavy snowflakes, all of them wet enough to put him out. But his father put his hands around him and blows fresh life into him.

For a while life is smooth and easy. There is food in abundance in the shape of chopped logs. His father sees to that. The fire cracks through the bark and gage upon its white flesh. He throws his sparkles up against the dark trees, which stand like sombre gatekeepers around the small source of light.

The trees don’t like a cocky log-fire that throws sparkles about, because they are wise. They know that even the smallest sparkle can grow strong and eat them all up. They therefore slowly waves their snow-weighed branches to quell the rising fire in their midst.

The fire reaches out his arms through the darkness of the night, like he wants to embrace the whole world. But then he’s father decides he’s strong enough to bite the sour spruce, heavy of snow and ice. The fire grumbles and cracks under the heavy burden, but he gains no favour with that. His father needs to work. He will chop woods. He does that every day, all day long. The work is hard and the profit low; to gain strength he needs warm water. Therefore he hangs a bucket of snow over the fire.

The fire murmur and don’t want to cook coffee. He tries to push the bucket away but don’t have the strength. Then he fire up a rage and try to melt the black iron. But the bucket is created in a much grander fire. In the black smith’s shop it was made glowing hot by the fire, moulded into shape by the sledgehammer and harden by the cold water. It has since meet many log-fires and knows the fire must butt itself tired before getting useful.

The fire soon stops to struggle and dutifully warms his father’s water. Now the woodcutter can drink and get warm while daylight patter through the woods. Today he’s only working half-day because it’s the holiday. At home wife and children awaits him with porridge and milk. In the evening he will give them gifts that he has carved out of wood, and he’s already takes delight in the thought of their sparkling eyes.

And while he’s lost in daydreams the fire starts fighting for his life. A fire must constantly be fed or else it will fade away. “More wood! More wood!” he cries out but the woodcutter doesn’t hear him. And even if he did, it wouldn’t make any difference. He can’t afford to use all the logs. It’s his job to chop wood and carry it home. He can’t waste it all on his own spoil.

“More wood! More wood!” cries the fire. Still the fire in his heart is strong but he feels his power fading and the cold closing in. Why has my father abandoned me? he thinks while he’s halo diminishing and darkness sets upon him. “Just one more stick!” he begs. “I promise not to complain whine again or complain about the logs being sour. Just let me burst into flame one more time, please!”

But the woodcutter sits with unseeing eyes and warms his hands while the fire die down. Then he gets up, reaches for his axe and hesitates… Shall he add another log? The ember is still hot; he can easily bring the fire back to life, if he wants to.

But no. At home his wife and children are waiting by a much merry fire. One gets worm from working, he thinks. And he takes a handful of snow and throws it at the ember that goes out with a low hissing sound.

This fairy tale in Swedish: Sagan om elden.

Rags and the spirit

Rags was a very small being, but he didn’t mind. The world is full of big creatures who grumble and fight, but if you are small enough, nobody will notice you. Rags had built himself a house of bamboo in an old temple ruin that stood lonely and deserted in the jungle, overgrown with trees and flowers.

The people who had once lived there had believed in immortal gods and eternal heavens to which they would travel after death. Now the people were gone and the gods were forgotten, without a name or a home.

Rags lived a simple life. If you are you small enough, you don’t need so much. There was plenty of fruit in the jungle, and he loved yellow mango above all. The only thing that spoiled his happiness were the great typhoons that frequented the jungle, rain pouring down and wind howling. When they came, he was glad he was small and that he had put a rock on his roof to keep his house from blowing away.

One day, a stray spirit came drifting through the jungle. A spirit can be strong and powerful, or small and harmless, just as he can be good or bad. The more people believe in a spirit and worship it, the stronger it grows and eventually it can perform miracles. If nobody believes in it, it loses its power. Finally, the spirit can be as light and invisible as the wind. And Rags barely heard the spirit when he knocked on the door.

During many long and moonlit nights to come, the spirit would talk to Rags about his adventures but this night, after having shared the short and sad tale about how he became homeless and weak, the spirit said:

‘I’m not a powerful spirit with many followers. I can’t do magic like them, but if you believe in me, light incense and bring me food during the holidays I will protect you in return. I like to sit high where I can see the sun during the day and listen to the stars at night. Take a long bamboo pole and stick it through your roof and plant its root in the floor. After that, I will watch over you and make sure no harm in this world will fall upon you.’

Rags liked what he heard and promised to follow the spirit to the letter.

‘You must promise me one thing,’ said the spirit. ‘If the wind rises and a storm is coming, you must climb up and fetch me. I can’t protect you when I’m not sitting on the pole, but if you forget to fetch me I will blow away and double woe will fall upon you.’

Rags understood and did everything the spirit had said – and everything went well in his life. In the evenings he sat on the roof together with the spirit, contemplating the moon and the stars. Sometimes the moon was full, sometimes half. Sometimes it was nothing but an empty chalice, ready to be filled. Rags and the spirit often talked about that – who emptied the chalice of the moon and who filled it again, time after time? Neither knew the answer but they both found great pleasure talking about it.

Great storms sometimes shook the jungle, just as before, and Rags let the spirit stay snug inside the house with him. Rags felt sad the spirit could not protect him from the wind battling to get in or the rain that hammered the roof. Still he knew that if he left the spirit outside, it would blow away, and then there would be no one there to protect him once the storm had passed.

In a way it was comforting to have the spirit there, knowing he was scared too. It was company, and shared problems are half problems, just as shared joy is double joy. You can’t be lucky all the time. Sometimes you have to make a small sacrifice to gain even more in the long run. And because of that, Rags was careful to bring the spirit down every time the wind began to rise.

Thus weeks and years passed by, like time always passes, slowly growing older without us noticing. Rags enjoyed a long and happy life in his temple ruin, deep in the jungle, far away from the clamouring world. One day he woke from his midday nap, old and bent, with a vague feeling that a storm was approaching.

It was in the middle of the raining season and the storms were frequent, but this time he didn’t manage to climb up the pole and fetch the spirit. He was too tired to climb up and down all the time. And he was tired of being afraid.

The clouds grow darker over the trees, but Rags could not see because his eyes were clouded by age. The wind grew stronger, but he could not hear because his hearing was weak and he was already asleep again.

The wind came, sweeping through the jungle in search of a plaything. It caught sight of the spirit that had blown up like a sail on a mast with Rags’ house as a ship ready to let go. The wind was young and loved to play. It blew right into the spirit and pulled it, Rags and Rags’ house up in the air in a swirling dance.

High above the clouds it flew, up to the moon that was filled to the brim with golden light, ready to drink. Every month the chalice of the moon is filled with flowing light. And every month it is emptied. Who fills the chalice and who drinks from it, no mortals can tell.

This fairy tale in Swedish: Lump och anden.

The story of Bembo

A nameless spirit was roaming the sky. With no name and no family to love you, you are free to travel the world but no one can see you and you have nowhere to rest. The nameless spirit missed having a name and a family. He had been looking for a place to rest for a long time. He looked and listened and tried to find a family.

Then, one day, the spirit found a young couple lying in bed, talking about the future. They were a sweet young couple and the spirit understood that they were in love. He listened to their dreams and plans and it made him feel happy. It was a feeling he had never felt before.

He lay down between the couple and their voices made him feel sleepy. He curled up next to the young woman and felt her warmth and the friendly rhythm of her beating heart. Soon he was asleep.

A couple of months later the young woman understood that she was expecting a child. She was happy but frightened, too, because she knew she was carrying a life within her, a free spirit that would grow up to become a human with a mind and heart of his own. It was a life that needed her more than anything in the whole universe.

The spirit growing inside her had chosen her and trusted her with his life, and the greatest gift she could give him was to be happy. That is a great responsibility for anyone, not least for a young woman, and every day she prayed, asking God for strength and guidance, and she felt she was not alone.

For many months she carried the growing life and her stomach grew so big it was hard for her to breath sometimes. It was during this time she decided that if the baby was a boy his name would be Bembo, and if it was a girl, Andrique – names filled with love and good will. And so the spirit had a name, although it did not know it yet.

The day he was born the whole family was there and his father said, ‘Welcome to this world, Bembo!’ His mind could not understand the words, but his heart knew what it meant. Now he was a human; he had a name and a family who loved him; he had a family, a home. He was no longer a free spirit who could roam the world. Instead he had a place where he belonged.

And one day, many years from now, he will leave us and become a spirit again. That is the law of life. But his name will never be forgotten, it already travels the world, free as a spirit but with a home in the hearts of many people.

His name is Bembo and this is his story, as far as I can write it. From now on Bembo writes his own story…

This fairy tale in Swedish: Sagan om Bembo.

I got it, said the troll

Once there was a troll. Big and ugly it was. He’s been to the market buying candy. Now he grabbed one of those old iron rings you find at the piers, where the ship lay alongside.

“I got it!” he yelled, pulling that ring for all he was worth. “I got it!” he cried. “I can feel it! It’s coming!”

It was Saturday afternoon and gentlemen were out walking with their misses, wearing big cylinder hats and white gloves, saying “Giddy ma’am” and “Enchanting weather, isn’t it” as gentlemen did in those days.

And the ladies wore big hats and dresses in lace, walking back and forth, hand in arms, with their love ones, saying “ah” and “oh” as ladies did in those days.

And the troll yelled: “I got it!” His eyes rolled and the tail beating the dust. “I got it!” he cried; sweat squirting out of his ears.

“I say, can he really pull it up, you think?” said the gentlemen gathering to watch the spectacle.

“I got it!” the troll cried. “I can feel it! It’s coming!”

“Oh, is it safe, you think?” said the ladies, holding on to their husband.

“I got it!” the troll cried one last time… and then he produced a firth so great it was heard in more then three parish. The gentlemen lost their hats in the gust of wind, and the ladies fell flat on their asses.

“There you are”, the troll said. “I told you I got it.”

You might wanna know this story is almost all together true. The troll was my grandfather’s uncle, Nils. My grandfather told me this story himself. The only difference is that uncle Nils had bought something much stronger than candy. But I can’t put that in a story, can I?

This fairy tale in Swedish: Den kommer sade trollet.

Mr. and Mrs. Mouse

Poor Mr. Mouse; he’s been caught ill. Lucky for him, he has a wife who takes care of him. She gives him water when he’s thirsty and spoon-feeds him when he’s hungry. And when it’s time to sleep she caresses his whiskers, which he loves. Or maybe she sings him a lullaby or read him a story. And then he fall a sleep with a smile.

Old Mrs. Mouse use to say to her husband: “My dear Lilliputian; nothing in this world is more precious to me than you.” Or she may sigh and say: “You are so fine, you are.” And then Mr. Mouse is happy because he feels warm from top to toe when she says that.

Thus care Mrs. Mouse for Mr. Mouse, her precious Lilliputian, and nurse him in every way, day after day, until he’s fit to get up. He feels a bit sluggish after lying in bed for so long. First he put one leg over the edge of the bed, and then the other, and than he’s walking.

“It’s all because of you, my darling wife”, he says and walks trembling over to the fireplace to warm himself. “If it weren’t for you, I would still be in bed”, he says.

Mrs. Mouse is sitting on the bedside and watches her beautiful husband with pride. Sure, he has grey whiskers and bowlegs, bulging tummy and a bent back; but to her, he’s still the most handsome man she’s ever met. For twenty years they have lived in their hole; and every day has been a day of joy.

Soon Mr. Mouse will be strong enough to go outside again. Soon it will be spring again; and they will have a picnic, of course, like they always do; and Mrs. Mouse will bake the most delicious butter cake; and Mr. Mouse will sing to her, the most beautiful song he can; that is their tradition.

But then the ground begins to shake. Things fall apart. The walls are caving in. Poor Mr. Mouse over by the fireplace; he can hardly stand up. A party of people come trotting through the forest, and they walk straight over their home with their big, shiny boots. Next, a foot is crashing through the roof and land on Mr. Mouse. He becomes flat as a pancake; and it can’t be good – Mr. Mouse is dead.

Mrs. Mouse can’t understand it. It’s not possible! Her Lilliputian can’t be dead? And the people just walk on; they haven’t noticed a thing; and Mr. Mouse is dead. Mrs. Mouse gets angry and ran outside, shaking her paws and cursing them.

“D-damn you pep-people!” she shrieks.

But she’s just a mouse. No one hear her, no one see her. It’s just as well or else I’m sure they’d stomped her too; people do that sometimes, to mice.

This fairy tale in Swedish: Herr och fru mus.

The tail of the troll

Once upon a time there was a troll who was very proud of his long tail. He bragged about it and said it was the longest tail in the forest. One day the fox decided to play him a trick. He said:

“Come now, you old troll. That tail of yours isn’t long enough for all the vainglory you bestow upon it. Let me pull it out for you,” he said. “I will make it so long you can wrap it seven times around the forest. Then you will have something to boast about.”

Troll don’t like it if you call them old, or say they are bragging, put for a tail as long seven forest they can put up with a lot. And more… And the troll said: “Fine! Pull it out if you think you can. But if you don’t make it as long as you say I will eat you on the spot!”

“Let me worry about that”, said the fox. “You just hold on to that tree over there, as hard as you can, and close your eyes, and I will pull it out for you. At first it will hurt a little. Then it will hurt some more. And then you won’t feel a thing. But don’t let go and don’t open your eyes. I run seven times around the forest and then I’ll be back.”

The troll did what he was told, and the fox started to pull. First it hurt a little. Then it hurt some more. And then he didn’t feel a thing.

Now the fox run around the forest, the troll thought and held on tight, while waiting for the fox to return. But the fox didn’t return. He had pulled the tail loose and ran home with it to his lair.

When the fox come back I will eat him anyway, the troll thought and kept his eyes closed, just has he been told. But the fox didn’t come back. He was making dinner, and before the troll realize he’d been tricked, the fox had invited all his friends for troll tail supper and bragged about how he fooled the troll.

It’s a good thing troll tails grow back so fast, or else, this would have been a terrible story.

This fairy tale in Swedish: Trollsvansen.

The mouse and the cat

A young mouse had wondered away from his mother and was lost in the forest. There he was captured by the cat.

“Please, Mr. Cat, don’t eat me!” he said because he felt he was too young to die.

“Why shan’t I eat you?” said the cat who was hungry.

“Because my mother is roosting a pig and if you take me home she will give you half,” said the mouse.

Half a pig is more than a mouse, the cat thought. “Where do you live?” he asked.

“In the hole behind the crack under the wall of the farmer’s barn,” said the mouse.

“I know where that is,” said the cat reassuring. “I’ve been laying in front of that hole many times.” He took the mouse by the paw and walked him home.

Once they got there the mouse said “I will fetch the pig for you” and ran inside. The cat lay outside and waited, and waited… But no mouse came.

“If you don’t come out now I will eat the hole pig my self, and leave nothing to you,” the cat shouted into the hole. But no mouse came.

“If you don’t come out now I will eat the pig – and you as well!” the cat shouted into the hole. And waited. But no mouse came.

“If you don’t come out now I will eat the pig, and you, and your mother, and all your brothers and sisters!” the cat shouted into the hole, wiggling his tail in frustration. “And the farmer, too!” he added, hoping it would do the trick. But no mouse came. And the sun started to set behind the trees.

At that moment the fox came by, maybe on his way to the hen house. “Hello there, my friend,” he said, “what are you doing?”

“I’m waiting”, said the cat.

“Waiting for what?”

“For the mouse to come out with the roosted pig,” said the cat.

“You are but a silly bugger! A pig can’t fit into a hole that is to small for a cat!” the fox said laughing.

Only then did the cat realize he had been taken for a fool. “Oh, at least I did a good deed, walking the poor mouse home,” he said. Then he went to his place and had cold porridge for supper, leftovers from breakfast.

P.S. If you have to know, the mouse lived a long and happy life, full of adventures, and so did the cat. The pig ran away and became a circus pig. And the fox didn’t even come close to the hen house. Sleep well to night.

This fairy tale in Swedish: Musen och katten.