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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Near the Top of the World, by Nelle E. Moore
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Title: Near the Top of the World
Stories of Norway, Sweden & Denmark
Author: Nelle E. Moore
Release Date: May 5, 2014 [EBook #45588]
Language: English
Character set encoding: UTF-8
Produced by Roger Frank and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at
Nelle E. Moore
Printed in the United States of America
All rights reserved. No part of this book
may be reproduced in any form without
the permission of Charles Scribner’s Sons
This book is intended to encourage a friendly attitude towards people of
other lands. Fast steamers, airplanes, and the radio have made the
people of all lands neighbors, and American boys and girls must become
better acquainted with their neighbors across the seas if they are to
understand and appreciate them. Through material such as is given in
Near the Top of the World, children may come to know interesting and
likable people of another country, and to regard them as people like
themselves, not as queer or amusing.
The author traveled widely in Scandinavia for the purpose of gathering
material. She watched the people, especially the children, at work and
play. She visited homes, schools, libraries, farms, saeters, Lapp
settlements. She talked with teachers, librarians, and other citizens of
Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, and they assisted her generously in seeing
and interpreting life in their lands.
The pictures which illustrate the stories are photographs, some of them
taken by the author. For other pictures she is grateful to the
American-Swedish News Exchange, New York, the Norwegian Government
Railway, New York, and the Danish Government Railway, New York.
The vocabulary is simple and although the book was written for no
specific grade, the sentence structure has been adapted to third grade
reading. The stories were tested in third grade classrooms and revised
to remove any difficulties that were encountered. The vocabulary was
checked with the Gates Word List and the Thorndike Word List with the
following results: 74 per cent of the words in the random sampling fall
in the Gates 1500 list; 84 per cent in Thorndike’s first 2000 list, 90
per cent in Thorndike’s first 3000 list, and 94 per cent in Thorndike’s
first 5000 list. Very few unusual words have been used.
The material has numerous possibilities for classroom use:
(a) As a Social Science Reader
The book will be of special service to teachers seeking material for
units of study on other lands for social science classes. Curriculum
makers for elementary schools have set up such units to break away from
the more formal units of geography and history, but have found their
attempts to be only partially successful because of the dearth of
suitable reading material to put into the hands of the pupils.
(b) As Supplementary to Geography
Schools having separate courses in geography will find Near the Top of
the World a valuable supplementary reader. From the story Greeting a
Strange Sun to the story Planting of the Flag of Norway at the Bottom of
the Earth, there are experiences to help children interpret how people
make their ways of living fit the land in which they live.
(c) As Supplementary to History
In the folklore, the Viking tales, the descriptions of castles and
open-air museums, the readers of Near the Top of the World see history
as the background for the present-day life of Norway, Sweden, and
(d) For Recreational Reading
Boys and girls, always interested in children of other lands, will find
the book one to read just for fun. It will be especially liked by the
children in America who are of Scandinavian origin or who have relatives
in the Scandinavian countries.
In whatever way the book is used, the readers cannot fail to make
interesting discoveries about the Scandinavian countries that have so
generously contributed to American citizenship.
The top of the world
Map of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark
How the sun seems to move around the horizon
This tree is farther north than any other tree in the world
The North Cape and the midnight sun
Lars and Kari on the deck of the ship
Birds frightened by the boat
Fish hung on poles to dry
The fishing boat had a good catch
Walking on a glacier
A Norwegian Fjord
Evergreen trees in winter
Men with poles keep the logs moving
Lapps traveling with reindeer
A Lapp hut
Children in a Lapp school
A two-wheeled buggy or cariole
A fence loaded with grass
A Norwegian farm
Lonely little huts in the mountains
A Norwegian saeter
Matti, Ingrid, and Ole
A farmhouse with a thatched roof
A Danish egg
An old town in Denmark
A co-operative dairy farm
The birthplace of Hans Andersen
Paper cutting done by Hans Andersen
Dolls dressed like the characters in Andersen’s stories
Statue of Hans Christian Andersen
The city of Bergen
The city of Stockholm
One of the small summer homes
The boys with their rafts
Changing the guard in front of the royal castle
Christmas brings skis for old and young
Dancing around the Maypole
Swedish children in national costume
Olaf’s little sister
In both Norway and Sweden school children learn to ski
A ski jumper
Sail skating
Sleds on the ice
The first day of school
Swedish boys in school
Harold’s time plan
Norwegian children celebrating Independence Day
A seventh-grade time plan
Martha and Nils picking berries
Nils helping to repair the roof
Nils helping the boys to build a boat
A swimming contest in Copenhagen
A room in an open-air museum
Another room in an open-air museum
Folk dancing at a museum
The Viking ship as it was found
A Viking ship rebuilt
Captain Andersen’s ship, Viking, leaving Oslo
An old rock picture of a Viking ship
Treasures of the old sea-kings
Amundsen’s equipment, now in a museum
Near the Top of the World
Children of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark live near the top of the world.
Some of them dance round the Yule tree on a day as dark as night and
round the Maypole on a night as light as day!
On the map of the top of the world on the next page you can find their
Kari and Lars live near the top of Norway. They travel by boat. They see
the fishing boats and the birds that roost on the rocky walls near the
The little Lapp girl and her dog also live in that land far to the
north. But to them it is the land of the reindeer. They wander from
place to place. They live in tents or rude huts wherever the reindeer
find food.
Olaf of Norway and Gerda of Sweden live farther to the south of those
lands. To them in winter their land is a land of skis. And to many girls
and boys Norway and Sweden in winter is a land of Christmas trees.
Harold lives in America, but he knows the lands near the top of the
world. His grandmother lives in Norway and his cousin lives in Sweden.
To Harold those lands make many a storybook tale come true. When he
visited them he saw the old Viking boats which were like the boat in
which Leif Ericsson sailed to America so long ago. He saw castles where
boys long ago were dubbed knights.
Christian lives on the flat lands of Denmark. Denmark was the home of
the great story-teller, Hans Christian Andersen.
But now turn the pages of this book and let these children, and many
others too, tell you stories from that land near the top of the world.
Greeting a Strange Sun
About noon, one day late in January, a group of school children dressed
in warm coats, caps, and mittens stood in the snow eagerly waiting for
something. Suddenly one of the big boys pulled a rope that sent the flag
to the top of its pole. There it waved a greeting as over the edge of
the earth peeped the sun!
While the children watched, the rim of gold became half a round ball.
Then it began to drop and in an hour no part of that ball could be seen
in the sky.
Those children live in a town near the top of the world. Weeks and weeks
had passed since they had seen the sun. About the time that American
children were having Thanksgiving the sun had dropped from sight. There
was no sunshine in that northern town on Christmas day. The children
went to school through cold dark streets lighted by electricity. Then
came days when there was a pale light in the sky, like the dawn that
comes just before the sun rises. At last came that day in January when
the sun appeared. No wonder the flag was raised to greet him!
As those children greeted the big shining ball they knew that now they
would see the sun in the sky for months. Each day it would stay a little
Time went on. One day about the middle of May the children saw the sun
in the east early in the morning not to set again for weeks and weeks.
Each day it seemed to move around the sky in a big circle near the
ground. To girls and boys who live in the far north of Norway and Sweden
the sun seems to go _around_ their homes, not _over_ them from east to
west as we see it. The picture of the midnight sun shows just how the
sun seems to move around low in the sky. Of course, as you know, the
earth is really moving around the sun.
For many weeks the children had sunshine while they worked and while
they played. No longer did they have to work in their schoolrooms by
electric light. They ate their breakfasts, dinners, and suppers while
the sun shone. They even had sunshine while they slept, sunshine all
through the night. The sun did not set again until late in July. And in
July the sun was gone from the sky only a few hours each night.
An exposure was made every 20 minutes without
changing the position of the camera.]
Day after day the sun was gone for a little longer time until one day in
November it set again not to return until the next January.
Hammerfest, the town in which those children live, is in Norway. It is
farther north than any other town in the world. It is a small town with
only about six hundred homes.
The homes in Hammerfest are built of wood. Many of them are not painted
and the wood has turned dark brown from the weather. Other homes are
painted white, light green, pink, and blue. These colored houses are
pretty with their roofs of red tile.
The streets are narrow and look very bare without trees, and few trees
can grow in the cold of the far north. Hammerfest has a park with a
half-dozen or more trees and just outside the town stands a lone
tree—the most northern tree in the world. The school children are proud
of those few trees even though they are no larger than shrubs. They
point them out to the visitors who come to their town.
Hammerfest faces the sea. The girls and boys of Hammerfest hurry to meet
the ships that stop on their shores. They look to see what flag each
ship flies. When they see the flag of a ship they are sure to know from
what country it comes. They see ships with Swedish flags, ships with
Danish flags, ships with Dutch flags, ships with English flags, ships
with American flags, and many other ships with other flags. The boys
like to watch ships unload coal, machinery, grain, and foodstuffs; and
to watch other ships being loaded with fish, cod-liver oil, and hides.
Both the boys and the girls like to go aboard the passenger ships that
visit their port. Sometimes they try to talk to the passengers. They
hear many strange languages—English, Dutch, French, German, and
Italian. They see people from many different countries—England,
Scotland, America, Holland, France, Germany, and Italy. People from
almost all over the world stop at Hammerfest on the large steamers which
carry them to the very top of Norway to a big rock that sticks out into
the Arctic Ocean. That rock called the North Cape is less than one
hundred miles from Hammerfest. Many, many people visit the North Cape
each summer at the time when the sun shines there at midnight.
During the summer the girls and boys play along the shores of the Arctic
Ocean. Often they find wood that has been carried in by the waves. We
call such wood driftwood. When the cool evenings come driftwood is fine
for burning in open fireplaces. One day some of the boys found pieces of
strange wood and bark. An old sailor told them that those pieces were
from the great palm trees which grow far to the south where the sun
shines all the year round. It had been carried to them by the warm
stream of water which also keeps their shores from freezing even in the
cold winters.
Visitors who walk along the streets of that town far to the north get a
strong smell of cod-liver oil. Hammerfest has a big factory where men
make cod-liver oil. They take the livers from codfish and press them to
get the oil. Then they put the oil in large barrels ready for ships to
carry it away to other parts of Norway and to countries far away. Many
girls and boys in America have tasted cod-liver oil from Hammerfest, as
much of it is sold in our country.
Many of the children of Hammerfest have never seen a street-car nor a
train. But they have electric lights in their homes and on their
streets. Their town is too small to need street-cars and, because of the
mountains and the great distances between the towns, no railroads have
been built in that land so far north. But those children get their mail
and packages from boats. They travel by boats too. Their boats come all
the year round as regularly as trains in towns on the railroads.
Perhaps some children will think, “But surely ships cannot visit those
northern shores in the winter when the sun is gone from the sky. The
waters must be frozen.” But they are wrong about the northern lands near
the sea. Ships come and go all the year round. Those waters are never
Those northern shores are warmed in a strange way. South of the United
States of America is a body of water called the Gulf of Mexico. That
body of water lies at a place on the earth where it gets warm sunshine
all the year round. The water is always very warm. It is that warm water
which keeps the land near the top of the earth warm.
The Gulf of Mexico seems to act in a way similar to a tank in the
basement of a large house which sends water to heat the rooms far from
the basement. A stream of warm water from that warm gulf is carried
thousands of miles across the ocean to the shores of this northland.
This is called the Gulf Stream. And the Gulf Stream keeps those shores
warm enough for people to live there comfortably even during the months
when no sun shines.
Some people who have traveled in many parts of the world have visited
this town farther north than any other town in the world. Some of them
say, “Hammerfest is not only the town which lies farthest north; it is
also unlike any other town in the world.” And perhaps that is what the
readers of this book are thinking too.
On the Seas of the Far North
Clang! Clang! sounded the bell of the boat. Lars and Kari hurriedly said
good-bye to father and mother and ran over the narrow plank to the boat.
Lars and Kari live in Hammerfest. They were going to visit their
grandmother who lives about a two-days’ ride to the south of their home.
Soon their bags were put into the cabins where they would sleep that
night and they were on the deck waving their hands to their parents.
Then in big comfortable chairs, they sat on the deck. It was August and
the air was cool and pleasant.
Lars liked best to watch the boatmen do their work, but Kari wanted to
see the land they passed. You might think that Kari could see land only
to the left, for on the left is the coast of Norway, and surely there is
only water on the right toward the sea. But much of the time Kari saw
land on both sides. Sometimes, though, the land on the right was only
huge rocks in the water, or small spots of land with water all around
them where only birds live. But part of the way the pieces of land on
the right were so large that Kari could not see the ends of them. They
were only small islands with water all around them too. Lars and Kari
were going to an island. Their grandmother lived in a town built on an
island off the coast of Norway.
For a long time both Lars and Kari watched the coast of Norway on their
left. For miles and miles they saw rolling banks of earth covered with
shrubs of birch not even as tall as the one-story houses along the coast
which were the homes of fishermen.
Soon they heard the whistle of the boat. Lars said that the whistle was
blowing because they were coming to a town. They ran to the other side
of the boat. By that time the boat was stopping, but it was still out in
the water some distance from the town. A rowboat was coming from the
town to meet the boat. The rowboat was bringing mail and packages for
the large boat, and it would take back to shore the mail, packages, and
Lars and Kari had plenty of time to see the town. It was a fishing town.
Fish were hanging on lines all along the bank, and more fish were
stretched upon the ground to dry in the sun. The captain told Lars that
the fish were herring. Perhaps some of the boxes that were loaded on the
boat were boxes of herring which would be sent to America, for American
merchants buy a great deal of herring from Norway.
The boat had not gone far from the fishing town when Lars saw a fishing
boat. He called to Kari and together they leaned over the rail of their
boat to watch the fishermen. They had never seen so many fish before.
But they were soon watching the large gulls that flew along after the
fishing boat. Some of the birds left the fishing boat and followed their
boat. The gulls came so close that Kari almost touched one as it floated
along right over her head.
Kari told the captain about the gulls that evening when they were eating
supper in the dining room on the boat. The captain said, “During the
night the boat will pass a mountain where thousands and thousands of
birds roost on the rocks.”
“Can we see the birds from the boat?” asked Lars.
“You could see them,” replied the captain, “if you were awake, but the
boat will pass that rock at three o’clock in the morning. You will be
sound asleep.”
But Lars and Kari begged so hard that the captain promised to have them
called when the boat was near the bird roost.
Lars and Kari didn’t want to go to bed that night. They watched the sun
on the mountain peaks of the islands to their right and then back of
them to the north. At ten o’clock the sun was still sending a glowing
light over the water. The captain said that it would shine until about
eleven that night. But Kari thought that they should go to bed at ten
o’clock so that they could get a good sleep before three o’clock.
At three o’clock the steward of the boat knocked at the cabin door. Lars
and Kari jumped up quickly. Each one pulled on warm stockings and shoes
and coat and cap. They hurried to the deck. The sun was shining brightly
again; in fact it had risen two hours earlier.
Suddenly the boat moved close to a rocky wall. Such a screaming of bird
cries! There on the rocks were so many, many birds that they never could
have counted them. And many more, frightened by the boat, were flying
about in the air crying wildly.
Lars and Kari were delighted to have seen the thousands of birds at
their resting place on the rocks, but they were glad to go back to bed,
even though the sun was so high in the sky. And they slept until eight
o’clock too.
Before noon they reached the island where their grandmother lived. A
boat came from the shore to meet them. They said good-bye to the captain
and the other workers on the boat and went to the shore where their
grandmother was waiting for them.
Fishing Islands
Lars stayed on the island with his grandmother that winter. He went to a
larger and better school than the one in Hammerfest.
At first Lars thought, “How lonely I shall be when the days are short
and the nights are long.” To his surprise he found that the days with
little sunshine were the busiest days on the islands. Lars was on one of
the Lofoten islands where thousands of fishermen catch fish during the
time of the long nights.
Late in January the fishing boats began to arrive. Before many days
thousands of boats had come. The boats brought thousands and thousands
of fishermen. The huts along the coast were soon opened. The quiet spots
were now noisy with the chugging of boats and the voices of busy people.
Lars soon made friends with some fisher people. One old fisherman told
him many things that he wanted to know about the cod, for that is the
fish those fishermen came to Lofoten to catch.
Why did the fishermen come at this time of the year? Were there no cod
in these waters in the summer? Those were questions Lars asked the old
Lars learned that the cod were great travelers. They had come from the
big Atlantic Ocean to reach the Lofoten Islands. Great numbers of cod
swim together. They reach those waters of the Lofoten late in January.
By the time the water is dark with the fish, the fishermen are ready to
begin their fishing.
But the waters in the Lofotens get many, many more fish than those which
come in from the Atlantic. It is in the waters of these islands that the
cod mothers lay the eggs from which baby cod are hatched. And millions
and millions of baby cod are hatched each year.
Lars watched some fishermen fastening a fishing line on the shore. The
line was a strong and heavy cord. Most of the lines used by the Lofoten
fishermen are five or six thousand feet long. The long fishing line is
held near the top of the water by corks which will not sink. The long
line is taken far out to sea by the boats. The end of the long line has
a heavy weight fastened to it. That weight is dropped into the water and
it holds the fishing line in the place that the fishermen want it. Short
lines are fastened to each long line. The short lines have hooks upon
them. More than a thousand hooks are dropped into the water from each
long fishing line.
Some of the fishermen use nets instead of lines. They go out in boats to
set their nets.
Each morning the fishing boats with the fishermen go out to take the
fish off the hooks on the lines and to put more bait on the hooks, or to
empty the fish from the nets. Lars wanted to go out in the boat with his
friend, but the old fisherman said that fishing was too dangerous for a
young boy like Lars.
The fishing is so dangerous that the Government of Norway sends officers
to the islands every winter to help protect the fishermen. No fishing
boat is allowed to leave the shore to go to the lines or nets until the
officer gives the signal that the waters are safe. But in spite of the
help of the officers many lives are lost in those waters each year.
One morning Lars saw the flag which was the signal of the officer that
the sea was safe for the fishing boats. Then he saw the thousands of
boats start out to sea to look after the lines and nets. There were
rowboats, motor boats, steamboats, and sailboats. He could see the boats
far off the shores for hours as the men worked to load the fish they had
Five hundred fish is a good catch for a boat, but sometimes a boat
brings in a thousand cod at one haul. After a few days of fishing, fish
are everywhere on the islands. They hang on poles along the shore. They
lie stretched on the rocks. And everywhere is the smell of fish.
Lars watched the fishermen taking the livers out of the fish and boxing
them. He knew that many of the livers would be sent to Hammerfest where
he lived, and there they would be made into cod-liver oil.
The Giants of the North Lands
Once upon a time very strong giants lived on the high mountains of the
North lands. So fairy tales of the far north say. And according to those
tales, the giants pulled up great bits of earth leaving deep hollow
places between rocky walls. Water from the sea filled those hollow
places, so arms of the sea ran far back into the land. And those giants
also tore great rocks out of the earth and tossed them at each other in
their battles. So even the tops of the mountains are rough and uneven
with the holes they tore in the earth and huge rocks lie on the ground
where they tossed them.
Visitors to that part of Norway called Jotunheim, which means the “Home
of the Giants,” might believe that those fairy tales were true. For they
see the arms of the sea running between the mountain walls and the rough
land on top of the mountains. Surely none but giants’ hands could have
torn the land into such shapes!
[Illustration: FREDRIK]
But when they go to the tops of the mountains, they see some _real
giants_ like those which, long, long ago, did cut the land of Norway and
Sweden and Denmark into strange forms. Those giants are sheets of ice.
We call them glaciers. Before travelers in the mountains get near the
large ice-sheets, they see tongues of glaciers which look like rivers of
ice running down the side of the mountain.
Fredrik is a Norwegian boy who helps many travelers see a glacier. His
father drives an automobile for a large hotel in the mountains. He takes
the guests from the hotel to see the glacier. When Fredrik is not in
school, he goes with his father. Fredrik opens the many gates. For the
car must travel through lands which belong to different farmers. The
gates must be kept shut so that the cattle will not stray away from
their own land.
Fredrik often tells the visitors what caused those rivers of ice. Snow
and sleet fell on the mountains. The cold on the high peaks kept the
snow from melting away, so year after year the snow gathered there. The
load of snow became heavier and heavier. The snow melted a little, then
froze again, until it formed a great ice sheet which we call a glacier.
Some of the ice moved slowly down the mountain side. It formed the
rivers of ice which the travelers see on the mountain slopes. But as the
rivers of ice got lower down the mountain, the ice melted, but it melted
very, very slowly. Little by little, only a few inches a year, the river
of ice has moved back. As the ice moved down the slopes it carried under
it big rocks and fine gravel. Great heaps of the rock and gravel are
left behind when the ice melts. From those rocks men can tell just how
far the ice moves back each year.
[Illustration: WALKING ON A GLACIER]
Sometimes the ice melts in such a way that a cave is formed in the ice.
As the sun shines on the thin walls around the cave the colors on the
ice are very beautiful. The ice looks green, purple, and blue instead of
white like the rest of the glacier. Some bits of the ice hang down, or
stick up, like great icicles. The icicles too are bright colors in the
Sometimes visitors to the glacier go into the cave or walk about on the
ice. They do not stay long, for the ice cracks and pops and makes a
great deal of noise. The visitors are always told that pieces of ice
often break off the glacier and come sliding down.
Fredrik has been up to the top where the great ice-sheet lies for miles,
and miles, and miles. You may be sure that Fredrik was not alone on the
glacier. He went with a guide who knew where all the cracks in the ice
are. Walking on a glacier is dangerous for a person who does not know
the ice. The ice is most dangerous when soft snow covers the deep cracks
in the ice. Then a traveler may step on some soft snow and drop several
feet into the ice. But travelers say that a walk on a glacier is great
sport for people who have learned how to walk there. Many travelers from
different parts of the world go to Norway to climb glaciers.
Freezing and thawing made the rocks on the mountain crack and break. So
after the glaciers passed, the low places between the mountains were cut
deeper. Water from the sea came in to fill those low places and make the
[Illustration: A NORWEGIAN FJORD]
So the great ice sheets were the _real_ giants that made the sharp peaks
of the mountains, the waterways, and the lakes of the north land.
Of course, much of the snow which falls on the mountains does melt and
run off in streams. Sometimes the rivers flow rapidly down steep slopes.
Sometimes the water tumbles over a high rocky bank and falls hundreds of
feet to land below.
The people of the north lands have put some of the falls to work. For
years the falling water has turned wheels that have run mills to grind
grain and to saw logs. But now the water of some of the great falls has
been turned into electricity. High in the mountains are large houses
where the water is made into the new power. From the power-houses
electricity is sent for miles and miles to light homes and to run
machines in factories. Norway has no coal. The Norwegians turn the water
into heat and power such as coal makes. Sometimes people in Norway call
the waterfalls their “white coal.” So waterfalls are also mountain
People who visit Norway and its mountains are almost sure to come away
believing in giants—but not _fairy-tale giants_.
In the Land of Evergreen Trees
Near the Christmas season the mountain forests of Norway and Sweden
become a fairyland of ice and snow. Then the forest rings with the
sounds of voices and the blows of the axes of boys cutting trees that
will be decorated for the Yule-tide feasts in their homes. And thousands
and thousands of pretty little trees are cut at that time of the year.
Eric and Hubert are Swedish boys who live in that land of evergreen
trees. Their father owns a farm in the northern part of Sweden, but he
works nearly all the year round in the forests. Eric, who is twelve
years old, often helps his father in the forest. Hubert is only nine,
and too young to work with the trees; but he goes with his father and
Eric many times to play about in the woods and to watch the others at
their work.
During the winter the men cut down the big trees and saw them into logs
which are easy to handle. Then Eric helps stack the logs as they fall
from the saws.
But when spring comes Eric is one of the busiest workmen. The strong
woodcutters load big logs on to sleds to be hauled to the river bank a
mile away. Eric drives the horse which hauls his father’s logs to the
river. Often Hubert rides with Eric. The boys sit on the big logs on the
sled as the horse pulls them along through the snow on the mountain
The logs are unloaded at the river bank. Soon the river will be flowing
rapidly with much water from the melting snows from the mountains. Many
farmers will then float logs in the same stream; therefore at the river
bank each of Eric’s logs must be marked so that his father can claim
them at the end of the waterway. Sometimes Hubert stays by the river
bank to watch the men who work for his father place his father’s mark on
each of the logs. The mark is the initials E. K. in a circle.
The boys enjoy seeing the logs go tumbling down the swift-flowing
rivers. They have often stopped at a spot below where the river spreads
out into a lake. When the logs reach that spot they stack in the water.
Men then go along with poles to keep the logs moving. Sometimes there
are acres and acres of logs in the lakes of Sweden at one time.
The Swedish and Norwegian people make many things of wood—their ships,
their houses, their furniture, their bridges, their telephone poles, and
many, many other things. But many of the logs which are floated down the
river from that mountain forest where Eric works are made into paper.
Eric and Hubert have been to the factory which stands near the bank of
the waterway which carries their logs. Thousands of men work there. They
put the logs through a mill which grinds them into coarse fibers. Those
shreds are then mixed with water and chemicals to make a pulp. The pulp
is pressed under heavy rollers and dried to make sheets of
paper—newspaper, writing paper, wrapping paper, and cardboard.
One day when Hubert was lighting a fire with a safety match, his father
told him that the wood of the match had come from the big trees of the
forests too. A Swedish man found the way to make safety matches. And
Sweden was the first country to make the matches that will not catch
fire unless the head of the match is scratched on a certain kind of
rough paper. He told Hubert, too, that safety matches from Sweden are
used all over the world.
In the school which Eric and Hubert attend the boys are taught to plant
trees. And every spring they plant little trees to take the places of
the big trees which the woodmen have cut down.
The school boys learn that about one fourth of Norway’s land and about
one half of Sweden’s land are covered with trees. But they are taught
too that the people can use up the supply of trees that Nature has given
them. So they help obey the laws of their country which require that
trees be planted to keep the forests from being destroyed.
How the Mountain Was Clothed
A Norwegian story-teller wrote a story “How the Mountain Was Clothed.”
This is his story:
Through a deep cut between two mountains, a river hurried down over the
rocks. The mountain walls on either side were high and steep. But one
side of the mountain was bare. But at the foot even of this side, and so
near the river that it was bathed in its spray, stood a cluster of
trees. They gazed upward and outward, but they could not move one way or
“Suppose we clothe the mountain,” said the juniper to the fir.
The fir looked up at the naked mountainside and replied, “If any body is
to do it, I suppose it will have to be we.”
The fir looked over toward the birch and asked, “What do you think,
The birch glanced up the bare mountainside. The wall leaned over so that
it seemed to the birch as if it could scarcely breathe. “Yes, indeed,
let us clothe it,” he said.
So the three took upon themselves the task to clothe the bare mountain.
That was their goal, and they soon set out to see whether they could
reach that goal. The juniper went first.
When they had gone but a little way, they met the heather. The juniper
seemed to want to pass it by. “No, take it along,” said the fir. So the
heather joined them.
Before long the juniper began to slip, “Take hold of me,” said the
heather. The juniper did so, and whenever the smallest crack could be
seen, the heather put its finger into it. Wherever the heather had first
pried in a finger, the juniper put a whole hand. They crawled and crept,
the fir working hard, the birch always behind the rest.
“This is a noble work,” said the birch.
The mountain began to wonder what kind of creatures these might be that
came clambering up its side. And after it had thought the matter over
for a hundred years or two it sent a little brooklet down to find out.
As it happened, the brook went at the time of the spring floods. It
crept down till it met the heather. “Dear, dear heather,” said the
brook, “won’t you let me pass? I am so tiny.” The heather was very busy,
so merely raised itself a bit, and worked on. The brooklet slipped in
underneath and away.
“Dear, dear juniper, won’t you let me pass? I am so very little.” The
juniper eyed it severely, but since the heather had let the brook slip
by, the juniper might do that too.
The brook raced on down the hill, and came to where the fir stood
puffing, out of breath, on the hillside. “Dear, dear fir, won’t you let
me by?” begged the brook, “I am so very small,” and kissed the fir on
the foot, and smiled. The fir let it by.
And the birch made way for the brook, even before it was asked.
“Hi, hi, hi!” said the brook and grew. “Ha, ha, ha!” said the brook and
grew larger. “Ho, ho, ho!” said the brook, and tore up the heather, the
juniper, the fir, and the birch by their roots and flung them pell mell,
head o’er heels, down the steep slope of the mountain.
The mountain sat for several hundred years after that and smiled at the
memory of that day. It was plain to be seen: _The mountain did not want
to be clothed._
The heather fretted and worried until it grew green again, and then it
set forth once more. “Courage!” said the heather.
The juniper half raised itself to get a good look at the heather. So
long did it sit half raised that at last it sat upright. It scratched
its head, set forth again, and dug in so hard for a foothold that it
seemed surely the mountain must feel it. “If you won’t have me, then I
will have you.”
The fir stretched its toes a bit to see if they were all right, raised
first one foot and then the other, and finally both feet at once. It
first looked to see where it had climbed, next where it had been lying,
and finally where it was to go. It then went on its way, pretending it
had never fallen.
The birch, which had soiled itself badly, got up and brushed itself off.
Away they went, faster than ever, to the sides and straight up, in
sunshine and in rain.
“What can all this mean?” asked the mountain, one fair day, all
glittering with dew, as the summer sun shone down upon it, the birds
sang, the hare hopped about, and the woodmouse piped.
The day finally came when the heather could peep over the top with one
eye. “Oh dear, oh dear!” said the heather, and away it went.
“Dear me,” said the juniper, “what is it the heather sees?” and just
managed to reach high enough to peer over. “Oh dear, oh dear!” it
exclaimed and was off.
“What is it the juniper’s up to today?” the fir wondered, taking longer
steps in the heat of the sun. Before long it rose on its toes and peered
over. “Oh dear, oh dear!” Its branches and needles rose straight up on
“What is it all the others see and I don’t?” the birch asked, as it
carefully lifted its skirts, and tripped after them. “Oh—oh—! If there
isn’t a huge forest of fir and heather and juniper and birch already on
the other side of the mountain waiting for us!” it exclaimed. The
glittering dew rolled off its leaves as it quivered in the sunshine.
“Ah, that’s what it means to reach our goal!” said the juniper.
“Björnstjerne Björnson,” from Norway’s Best
Stories, published by American-Scandinavian
Foundation, New York.
Reindeer Land
Reindeer land! Surely the land of the far, far north in Norway and
Sweden may be called reindeer land.
One man who traveled in that land tells of a strange sight he saw there.
On snow ahead of him one day he saw something moving. It looked as if
thousands of hares were playing in the snow. They seemed to jump, or
leap, into the air and to come down in the same spot. But why should so
many hares be there? And why did they move so strangely? The man went
closer, and found that his _hares_ were reindeer tails! Yes, just tails!
And thousands of them! The bodies of the reindeer were buried in the
snow and just the stubby tails stuck out. The reindeer had dug into the
snow, throwing up a bank which hid their bodies from sight. They were
eating the moss which they found under the snow and happily wagging
their tails as they ate.
The reindeer are about the only animals that can get a living in those
mountains where little grows except moss. And the people, called Lapps,
who roam about with them get their living from the reindeer.
The Lapps are small people. The men and women are not much taller than
most ten-year-old boys and girls. They have yellow skin, blue or gray
eyes, and brown hair. They dress in the skins of the animals or in
coarse cloth. They look very much like the Eskimos.
The word _Lapps_ means _people at land’s end_. And that part of Norway
and Sweden which lies at their very tops is called Lapland. Most of the
Lapps wander about, following the reindeer. Wherever the reindeer find
plenty of moss, the Lapps pitch their skin tents, or build themselves a
hut of sod covered with brush. In those huts they and their wolf-like
dogs live until the reindeer begin to wander farther away.
The Lapps and their dogs sleep together in the huts on beds which are
heaps of brush covered with reindeer skins. Getting ready for bed is a
simple task for these people. They merely take off their moccasins and
lie down to sleep in their clothes. They wear the same clothes, too, for
months and months and very seldom take a bath.
A kettle of reindeer meat is always boiling over coals on rocks in the
center of the hut. The Lapps get food from the kettle whenever they feel
hungry and eat it with spoons made of reindeer horn from rude bowls or
plates of wood or bone.
Day and night some Lapp and his dogs watch the herd of reindeer as they
wander on the mountains. A few reindeer are kept near the hut to furnish
milk for the camp.
The reindeer not only furnish the skins for clothes and covers and milk
and meat for food, they are also the Lapps’ horses. The Lapp children
like to go sleigh riding behind a reindeer. But sometimes the ride is
rough. The children may be thrown out into the snow. The reindeer wears
but little harness, so the driver cannot hold him if he cares to run.
Several families of Lapps go every summer from Sweden across a body of
water to a place in Norway where the moss on the mountains is very good.
The reindeer swim across the water. The Lapps go in boats and join the
reindeer on the other side.
One Lapp family that crosses the water from Sweden has built a hut of
timber for its summer home in Norway. It is no larger than the skin or
sod huts. Both the mother and the father have to stoop to enter the
house. But the little Lapp girl and her dogs can run in and out easily.
But, even though the Lapps move about from place to place, the Lapp
girls and boys go to school. The law of Sweden requires these children
to go to school for six years. They begin their lessons when they are
seven years old and go to school until they are thirteen. Each
settlement has its own school. The schoolhouse is just another Lapp hut.
In the summer the children study their lessons sitting on the ground in
front of or in the hut. The teacher lives in the hut and moves when the
camp moves. Many of the teachers are Lapps who have been educated to
teach; but some of the teachers are Swedes or Norwegians.
[Illustration: A LAPP HUT]
The children must learn both the Lapp language and the Swedish language,
if they live in Sweden. They learn both the Lapp language and the
Norwegian, if they live in Norway. First they learn to read, write, and
work with numbers. After they can read and write a little, they begin
other lessons. They learn about the plants and animals of the north
land. They learn how to raise and care for the reindeer. They are
taught, too, how to care for their own bodies—how to bathe, brush their
teeth, cook their food, and clean their huts. But they do not learn
those lessons of cleanliness and care of the body well, because their
mothers and fathers do not practise them in the homes. Perhaps in a few
years when the Lapp children grow up they will be cleaner than their
mothers and fathers are. At least that is what the teachers hope.
The Lapps make trinkets of reindeer horns and bone, moccasins of the
skins and plaited grass, and dolls dressed as Lapp children dress. When
the boats which carry tourists along the seas of Norway come near the
camp, the Lapps go to meet the boats. They carry with them bags of the
trinkets to sell to the people from other countries who are on the
In Sweden many Lapps ride on the trains. Sometimes they carry boxes
filled with trinkets which they have made. They put them in shops that
sell such wares to visitors in Sweden. If you rode on a train across the
northern part of Sweden, you would see many Lapps, and you would see
their trinkets in the shops—bone letter-openers, fur moccasins, fur
mittens, dolls dressed in fur.
Not all Lapps follow the reindeer. Some of them live in one place all
the year and earn a living by fishing and farming. Their homes are not
much better than the huts of the wandering mountain Lapps, but they
dress much like their Norwegian and Swedish neighbors. These people are
called Sea Lapps.
Through Farm Lands of Norway
As Roald climbed into the two-wheeled buggy beside his mother and sister
Annie, he was too excited to speak. If only his father would let him
drive the pretty dun-colored horse hitched to the buggy!
Roald knew little about horses. He lived in Oslo, a city in Norway. He
had never owned a pony of his own, and really had never visited in the
country where boys ride and drive horses.
Early that spring his father had said, “This summer we will take a
vacation and go through the farm lands of Norway.” For weeks Roald
waited for the day when that journey could begin.
Then one day in July the journey did begin. The family left Oslo by
train. But to Roald the journey didn’t really begin until they left the
train at a small town miles from the city and climbed into that
two-wheeled buggy which Norwegians called a _cariole_.
The dun-colored horse took them only a short way. For most of their
journey was to be on small steamboats on the waterways of Norway, called
fjords, and by automobiles on mountain roads. But Roald gladly climbed
on the boat.
Their first boat glided along narrow waterways for miles and miles
between mountain walls that in some places rise almost straight up from
the water. Roald began to wonder whether this could be a part of
Norway’s farm land. But now and then, even in this mountainous region,
his father pointed out a lone farmhouse perched up on the mountainside.
Soon the boat passed shores that were less steep and Roald saw stretches
of low and rolling land between mountain peaks. He caught glimpses of
farms lying close together. This farm land was like the farm land he had
seen near Oslo.
Roald wondered what farmers grew in this land of mountains and water.
But he did not need to leave his boat to see some of the farmers’
products. As the boat stopped at a small town along the fjords to
deliver the mail and boxes of foodstuffs, boys came on deck to sell
baskets of fruit—cherries, raspberries, blueberries, currants, and
After a day on the fjords, the family traveled in an automobile. Roald
soon asked, “What are those strange fences we see everywhere in the
fields?” But he needed no answer to his question, for in a few minutes
he saw one of those fences loaded with grass. All along the way he saw
men, women, and children in the fields making hay. The men cut the grass
and the women and girls and boys helped rake it into small stacks and
hung it on the fencelike frames to dry in the sun.
They saw farmers cutting grass on slopes that are covered with rocks.
The farmers used scythes and hand sickles to cut around the many rocks.
Farmers in many countries would call such rocky hillsides waste land,
but in Norway no blade of grass can be wasted if the cattle are to be
well fed during the winter.
Roald looked up at one place and saw a big bundle of grass dangling in
the air. “Oh, Father, look!” he cried. And his father smiled as he said,
“You must not be surprised to see bundles moving along over your head.
Farmers who live on the mountains send hay, baskets of berries, buckets
of milk or butter down to the valleys on strong wires which have been
stretched down the mountain slopes.” And in a few minutes Roald saw a
woman hang a bundle of hay on a wire and start it sliding down to the
barn below.
At one place the automobile stopped for an hour. Roald and his father
took a walk. Back from the road were a farmhouse and the barns of a
large farm. They walked along a narrow road up to the house. They saw
people at work in the fields. In one field a man was raking grass. He
was riding on a rake behind two horses. Other men were loading the grass
on a low-wheeled wagon to haul it to the barn where it would be hung on
the fences to dry. In another field girls were gathering potatoes which
the men had dug.
Far back across the field was a wire pen which caught Roald’s eye. At
first he thought that he was looking at a chicken house. But as he
walked closer he saw that foxes and not chickens lived in the pen. What
cunning foxes they were! Baby foxes lay sleeping in the sun. Other foxes
ran about the pen, jumping up on the box houses and off as they pleased.
The foxes had long black fur. Down the back of each fox was a stripe of
fur tipped with white. Such animals are called silver foxes because of
the white tips on the black fur.
At first Roald felt sorry for the baby foxes. He imagined that they were
unhappy and longing to be free to run away into the woods. But his
father said, “These foxes have never lived anywhere except in this pen.
They are well fed, and, no doubt, are very contented in the pen.”
Farmers in this northland often raise foxes for sale. The silver foxes
are very valuable. People pay large prices for fox furs and they like
the pretty silver tips on them. Ships that sail from Norway to other
countries carry many fox pelts to those other lands.
But Roald soon forgot the foxes as he watched some boys busily working
in another field. Rows of poles were sticking in the ground in that
field and bunches of grain hung on each pole. The boys were pulling up
the poles, turning them around, and sticking them back into the ground.
[Illustration: A NORWEGIAN FARM]
Roald watched them for some time. From one of the boys he learned that
grain in that part of Norway is usually dried on poles. By the time the
oats, barley, and rye are ripe enough to cut summer is nearly over. The
wet fall weather begins. The grain must be dried as quickly as possible.
Stacking it in shocks on the ground would not do, for the rainy weather
would rot it. The farmers in Norway fasten their grain on short poles to
hold it up off the wet ground.
The grain on one side of the poles which Roald saw had received more
sunshine than the grain on the other side of the poles. That is why the
boys were in the field turning the poles. They wanted all the grain on
the poles to dry quickly.
Roald was surprised to see other boys cutting small shrubs and branches
of trees and hanging them on fence posts to dry. What would they ever do
with those dry leaves? But his father told him that if he stayed on the
farm during the winter he would see the goats eating the dried leaves
and liking them too. And most farmers in Norway keep goats as well as
cows, horses, and pigs.
Roald and his father and his mother and sister then rode on a bus to the
next town. They did not travel very fast, for the bus driver is also the
mailman. He stopped at each farmhouse along the road for which he had
mail. Sometimes he dropped the mail in a mail box by the side of the
road, but often girls or boys were waiting at the farm gate to take the
mail. Often the driver gave a sack full of mail to a farmer or a man who
runs a small store in a village. That man delivers mail to the families
who live farther back off the main road.
At one place the man who was to take a sack of mail was not outside his
house to meet the bus. The driver and all the passengers on the bus were
impatient. The driver honked the horn of his car, but still the farmer
did not come. Then the bus driver went over to a post by the gate and
pushed a button. He told Roald that by pushing that button he rang an
electric bell at the farmhouse. So Roald was not surprised to see the
postman come running after the bell had been rung.
Roald was ready to take the train back to Oslo after a week in the
country, but he talked about the farms all the rest of the summer.
In the High Pastures
“Come, children dear,
For night draws near,
Come, children.”
During the summer months you might hear a Norwegian girl, high up on a
mountain, calling her cows with such a rhyme. She would, no doubt, call
each cow by name, just as the girl does in the old rhyme.
“Come, children all,
That hear my call,
Brynhilda fair,
With nut-brown hair!
Come, little Rose,
Ere day shall close;
And Birchen Bough,
My own dear cow;
And Morning Pride,
And Sunny Side;—
Come, children dear,
For night draws near,
Come, children.”
Dotted here and there far up in the mountains stand lonely little huts.
For months during the year, the roofs of those huts are covered with
snow and no smoke comes from the chimneys. But as soon as the winter
snows are gone and the tender green grass covers the mountain slopes,
the girls take the cattle to the mountains to feed on the fresh grass.
Those girls will live in the lonely huts until the snows of the next
winter begin to fall on the mountains. In Norway the people call a
farmer’s mountain pasture his saeter (say ter).
Sometime in June many girls start on the journey to a saeter. The girls
look forward to that day for weeks even though they will be very lonely
up in the mountains. Anne and Hulda are sisters who go to a saeter each
summer. Anne is only fourteen years of age and Hulda is seventeen.
Sigrid, who is about the same age as Hulda, and Martha, who is much
older, live on a farm not far from the farm where Anne and Hulda live.
Anne, Hulda, Sigrid, and Martha take their cows to the same saeter. So
the four girls live together for three months each summer.
One summer, Anne, Hulda, Sigrid, and Martha started for the saeter on
June 25. They live in a part of Norway that is far from a fjord or a
railroad, so they had to travel on foot. They did not go alone, for
there was too much to take to the saeter. Their older brothers went with
them. The girls dressed in heavy brown khaki suits and high-topped
shoes, walked ahead with the cows, the sheep, and the goats. The boys
came behind them with horses loaded with food, churns, milk cans,
bedding, and cooking vessels. At first they traveled along a main road
and walking was easy. Only a few miles from their homes, they stopped
for a week at a house near the road. The cows ate the grass off the
mountain slopes near the house, and the boys planted potatoes on a patch
on the mountainside which was level enough that crops would not be
washed away.
At the end of the week they again loaded the horses and started on the
rest of their journey. To reach the high pastures, they must walk up a
narrow zigzag road. The small dun-colored horses climb the paths
carrying the bundles. What a lot of turns the road has! One mountain
path has twenty-seven turns. Of course, the many turns make a longer
road than a straight one would be, but the girls are glad for the
zigzags. They make the road less steep and they follow the smoother
By the end of the day, the cattle reached their green pastures. And the
girls opened the hut which was to be their home for almost three months.
The hut was made of rough timber. It had a sod roof on which grew grass
and small shrubs.
The boys helped the girls clean the hut which had been closed for so
many months. They unloaded the goods which the horses had carried up the
mountain and put everything in place. In one corner of the one big room,
they put the churn, the milk cans, and the tools. In another corner was
a fireplace. On it they hung iron kettles on which the girls would cook
their food and boil the milk to make cheese. On a table at one side of
the room they put the crocks for the milk and on a shelf above the
table, they placed the dishes. At one end of the room on wooden beds,
they put the mattresses of straw and warm covers which look like small
feather beds.
The next morning the boys set out down the mountain again. They must
return to help gather the grain and cut the grass on the farm. The girls
are left alone with the cattle.
All four of the girls got up early each morning. They milked the cows
and the goats. After breakfast of cheese and bread and butter and milk,
Anne and Sigrid each morning took the cattle to the pasture. While the
cattle wandered about on the mountain eating the fresh grass, the girls
lay in the sun or searched for wild berries—blueberries, raspberries,
and blackberries.
[Illustration: A NORWEGIAN SAETER]
Each evening Anne and Sigrid called the cattle. They knew each one by
name, and perhaps some of their cows were named Rose, Birchen Bough, and
Morning Pride like the cows in the old rhyme. They drove the herds back
to the barns near the hut and went home for supper.
Hulda and Martha had supper ready. They had smoked herring, goat’s
cheese (goat’s cheese is dark brown in color and tastes sweet),
potatoes, bread, butter, milk, and fresh berries. Hulda and Martha were
busy all day. They took care of the milk, cleaned the house, and walked
two miles to the main road to meet the postman who passes in the
afternoon each day. One day each week they got the milk ready for the
man who came to take it to factories where butter and cheese are made.
The girls were glad when Saturday nights came. Then some of their
relatives and friends came out to see them. Girls from other saeters
came too if they were not too far away. On these nights sometimes the
girls and boys sang songs and danced on the grass.
Ole, Kristian, and Sofie are other Norwegian girls who take cows to the
high pastures. They live on a farm near a fjord. They take their cattle
part way up to the saeter on a boat. The girls, dressed in dark dresses
and heavy shoes, carrying big knapsacks on their backs, travel on the
same boat with the cows. When they leave the boat, they drive the cows a
few miles up the mountain. They live much as Anne, Hulda, Sigrid, and
Martha live on their saeter. These girls can go to the village by boat
to buy groceries.
Automobile roads have been built in some parts of the high mountains.
Tourists climb the high mountains in automobiles. Round and round they
climb, sometimes on a road that is like a shelf sticking out from the
rocky wall. And here and there they may go right through the wall
itself, for holes, or tunnels, have been cut through the rocky banks.
Tourists who travel through those mountains are glad to find a hotel at
a saeter on their way where they can get food or stay over night. And
hotels have been built at saeters which are near the automobile roads.
The hotel is a large wooden building. It stands near the huts which are
the homes of the family which cares for the cattle.
Matti, Ingrid, and their brother Ole go each summer to a large saeter
called Grotli. Their father has a hotel there. Grotli means “Goat’s
Hill,” and Grotli looks like a goat’s hill in the summer when the goats
run about on the mountain.
[Illustration: MATTI, INGRID, AND OLE]
Early in the spring Matti, Ingrid, and Ole, and their father and their
mother move to Grotli. Sometimes the snow is still on the ground when
they arrive. Then the children may think that Grotli looks more like
reindeer hill. A farmer, who lives near the saeter, has a herd of tame
reindeer. They wander about on the mountain. They rub the snow out of
the way with their noses and eat the fresh grass and moss which they
find underneath.
Sometimes visitors in Norway ask, “Why must the cattle go so far away
from the farm to the high pastures?” If they ask a Norwegian milkmaid,
she might say, “The grass which grows on the farm must be saved for
winter feed. Not enough grass grows on the farm for both summer and
winter. Fresh, tender grass grows on the high mountains, so the cattle
eat it in the summer. Then no grass is wasted.”
But the milkmaid may not know why the saeter is _so far_ away from the
farms. And, of course, it does seem strange to American girls and boys
that a farmer sends his cattle to feed in high pastures miles from his
farm, while in the mountains just above his own farm graze the cattle of
another farmer who lives miles away. Why cannot a farmer graze his
cattle on the mountains near his home? The answer to that question is a
story of long, long ago in Norway.
Long ago the farmers in Norway found that they must use the grass on the
high mountains for summer feed. The king said, “Each farmer may have a
part of the grass lands on the high mountains for his pasture. But each
farmer must use only a certain amount of land and he must find a place
which no other farmer has already claimed.”
So each farmer hunted himself a mountain pasture. When he found a space
which he liked, if it had not already been claimed, he drove stakes into
the ground to mark it off. He put his name on the stakes and then the
land was his. Many farmers had to take pasture lands which were far from
their farms. They could find no other free land.
Years and years have passed since the days when a farmer drove stakes
and marked off his pasture land. The farms have passed to other owners.
Perhaps now the great-great-great-grandsons of some of the farmers live
on the farms, or some farms may have been sold to other families. But
the new owners of the farms are also owners of the same saeters that the
old farmers staked off for the farm. And that is why many a farmer today
takes his cattle to a saeter far from his home.
On the Flat Farm Lands of Denmark
One day late in July, Christian was so excited he could hardly eat his
dinner. School had closed for the summer vacation. The next morning
Christian, who was only nine years old, was going to a farm to stay four
whole weeks. In fact he would stay on the farm until time for school to
open again in August.
Christian lived in the largest city in Denmark. We call that city
Copenhagen, but Christian calls it Kjøbenhavn (Kuvn havn). Christian was
not the only boy in that city who was excited on that July day. Many
boys, and girls too, were leaving the city for a summer on a farm.
They were not going to visit aunts or uncles or grandfathers. No, their
visits were going to be more exciting even than visits to aunts and
uncles and grandparents would be, for many of them were going to be
guests of families whom they had never seen.
Those boys and girls live in very poor homes in the city. When school
closes for summer vacation, there is little for them to do. Their homes
are small and there are few places near their homes where they can play.
So every summer farmers invite boys and girls from the city to be their
guests for four weeks of their vacation. The officials of the railroads
and of steamship lines give those boys and girls free rides on the
trains and boats to the farms.
Perhaps Christian was happier than many of the boys. Only a few weeks
earlier a letter had come to him from the farmer whom he had visited the
summer before. The letter said, “All of us here on the farm want you to
come to us again this summer. I think that even the cows, the chickens,
the ducks, and the geese missed you when you left last August.” No
wonder Christian was excited and happy!
Morning came at last and Christian started very early on his journey to
the farm. He carried only a small bag of clothes with him, so he and his
mother went to the station on a street car. He passed through the gate
at the station and waited on the platform for his train. Other boys and
girls were waiting too. Soon they were on the train scrambling for seats
by a window for they were eager to see as much of Denmark as they could.
Christian had almost a whole day’s journey to the farm. Denmark is made
up of hundreds of small bodies of land with water separating them. To
reach the farm Christian had to travel on two trains and two boats.
Christian was interested in all that he saw. He was not surprised to see
the wide stretches of flat land, but after visiting farms of Norway you
may be surprised. Christian saw a field in which black and white cows
were eating the green grass. He could see far, far away across that
pasture. The land was as level as a floor, with not even a tiny hill in
At other places he did see hills—no very high ones though. That hilly
land looks very little like land of Norway made by the giants. But the
same ice-sheets did make these hills. As the glaciers that covered
Denmark melted, they left behind these piles of rocks and soil which we
call hills.
Some sights which Christian saw are much like the sights in the land of
the Dutch children. The land of Denmark is flat like Holland, so the
Danes have long made the wind work for them just as the Dutch have done.
So Christian saw windmills which still pump the water off the low lands
or grind the farmers’ grain.
Denmark has many small farms. Many of the farms have even less than two
acres. A piece of land so small as that in America would hardly be
called a farm. Of course Denmark has large farms also. But Christian saw
many of the small farms as he rode across the country. The farm
buildings form three sides of a square. Many times the buildings are of
red brick and the roof of straw woven into a covering called a thatched
The farmer was at the train to meet Christian. They rode out to the farm
in a wagon behind two bay horses. After what seemed to Christian a very
short ride he was opening the gate to the farm and could see the white
farmhouse and barns far back across the fields.
Then began happy days for Christian. He liked the big light room at the
top of the clean white house which was his own, but he liked best the
big out-of-doors. He drank all the milk he wanted. He ate potatoes with
heaps of butter, and eggs, and cheese, and sausages, and bread.
But Christian worked too. One of his tasks was to help gather in the
eggs. The baskets were so quickly filled with eggs that the farmer took
them to town twice each week. Christian went with him. They took the
eggs to a large building where eggs are packed for shipping. Such a lot
of eggs in that building! Christian wanted to know what the workmen did
with the eggs and before the summer was over he had learned.
Some of the workers sorted the eggs, putting the big ones in one box,
the middle-sized ones in another, and the small ones in another. Other
workers tested them to see whether they were fresh. The fresh eggs were
sent to other workmen who stamped on each egg in red the word “Danish”
with a red line around it.
[Illustration: AN EGG WITH "Danish" STAMPED ON IT.]
Christian asked, “Why do you put ‘Danish’ on the eggs?”
The workman said, “Many of these eggs are sent away from Denmark to
other countries. We put the word ‘Danish’ on the eggs so that people
will know that the eggs come from Denmark. Then if they like the eggs,
they will know where to send for more. If they find bad eggs, they can
tell us.”
Then the workman showed Christian some sheets of paper on which he kept
records. From those sheets he could tell just what farmer brought in
each box of eggs. He said, “You see, Christian, we keep such good
records and each farmer keeps such good records that if a customer gets
a bad egg, we can find the very hen that laid that egg.”
Christian knew that the workman was only joking, but the workman did
know the date when the egg was laid. Christian knew too that the farmers
knew which hens lay many eggs, and which hens lay large eggs.
Christian learned to milk cows too. He could milk only a little, as his
hands got tired. He milked only cows that were easy to milk. But he
could carry buckets of milk to the house.
In the large stable where the cows are milked, Christian saw a sheet of
heavy paper tacked up over each stall. He read what was on some of those
papers. They were the cows’ _grade cards_. There were good grade cards
too, for they told exactly what each cow can do—how much each eats, how
much milk each gives, whether that test is better or worse than other
Christian felt sorry when the farmer showed him one record. That record
was for a cow that was eating a great deal, but giving milk that tested
low in butter fat. The farmer said that he would have to fatten that cow
and use it for meat.
Christian went with the farmer to take big cans of milk and cream to the
cheese factory and the creamery. The factory was in an old, old town.
Christian liked to play on the narrow street near the factory.
But he always went with the farmer to take the milk and cream to the
factories. Over those buildings he saw a word that he asked the farmer
about. The word was the Danish word that means “Co-operative.” The
farmer told Christian the “co-operative” means that the farmers are
working together for the good of all. So instead of each farmer making
cheese and butter on his own farm and selling it at whatever price he
wishes, a group of farmers take their milk and cream to factories where
cheese and butter are made for them. There the milk and cream are tested
and each farmer is paid a fair price for his cans.
In the cheese factory were cheese balls marked with the word “Danish” in
the oval just as the eggs were marked. The man at the cheese factory
said, “We put the name ‘Danish’ upon _good_ cheese only. Anybody in any
country may be sure that cheese marked ‘Danish’ has been tested before
it is sold.”
[Illustration: AN OLD TOWN IN DENMARK]
Christian began to feel that it was a splendid idea to have the name
“Danish” put upon only _good_ products. In that way people everywhere
would come to trust their country. The farmer told him that the idea was
the same for each person. He said that Christian could make his own name
stand only for good things. He said, “See to it always that the work
upon which you write your name is the very best work that you can do.”
One day Christian went to visit a farm that had eight hundred acres.
Eight hundred acres is a large farm even in America where there is much
land, and is, of course, a very large farm in a small country like
Denmark. On that farm Christian learned more about the word
“co-operation” which means “working together for the good of all.”
On that big farm the farmer works with a college which teaches young
people how to run a farm. The young men who do the work on the farm for
the farmer are studying with the college teachers how to farm. The young
women who cook the meals and take care of the house are also studying
with college teachers how to cook and care for a house.
Christian had already decided that he wanted to be a farmer when he was
old enough. Now he thought he wanted to study how to be a good farmer on
that large farm which worked with the college.
A Teller of Tales
Almost every one has read the story of The Ugly Duckling. In the story,
the little duck just out of the shell looked about him and said, “How
wide the world is!” And his mother replied, “This is not all the world.
The world stretches far across the garden, quite into the parson’s
Now that duck might have lived in the back yard of a small house in the
town of Odense, which lies in the center of an island in the middle of
Denmark, with water all around it. That is where the man who wrote the
story of The Ugly Duckling lived. That man was Hans Christian Andersen.
The boy Hans might have been that Ugly Duckling himself. At least the
world in which he lived was as hard for the boy as the poultry yard was
for the duck. Hans’s father was a poor man who made and mended shoes for
a living. He died when Hans was only eleven years old. Hans’s mother
washed clothes for other people, to earn money enough to buy food. As
she stood on the river bank washing, Hans sat by and dreamed his dreams
of fairy people. Perhaps that is where he saw Thumbelina sailing on a
water lily.
Other boys made fun of Hans. So the lonely boy made playmates for
himself in his dreams. He made the darning needle walk and talk; his tin
soldier became a great hero. He cut fairy figures out of scrap paper.
But Hans dreamed other dreams too. He wanted to do great things in the
real world. His mother said, “You must go to work to earn money. The
tailor will let you work in his shop.” Hans was unhappy at the thought
of sitting on a stool all day sewing and sewing. So he left the town of
Odense and went to the big city of Copenhagen. He said, “I’ll go on the
stage and act parts in plays.” And he tried to act, but he was so
awkward that he never could act well. Then he said, “I’ll sing beautiful
songs on the stage.” But the teachers said that his voice was not good
He made some friends in the city. They helped him get money to go to a
good school. By that time he was older than the other young people
studying at the school. They were not friendly to him. So once more he
forgot his loneliness by dreaming dreams, and writing the stories he
Many, many children love the Snow Queen, and the Little Match Girl. Hans
Christian Andersen wrote the stories about them. He wrote many, many
other tales too and won even greater fame than he had ever dreamed for
He travelled much in other lands. Everywhere he went he found children
reading his books or listening to his tales. Some men would have felt
very important to have so much fame. But Hans Christian Andersen said,
“When I see how far my thoughts have flown, I am frightened. I wonder
whether I have kept my thoughts pure enough for so many children to read
Little did he dream just how great was his fame. He wrote those fairy
tales more than a hundred years ago. And even today no stories are more
loved by children all over the world than the stories by that great
teller of tales.
But perhaps the children of Denmark hear the most about the man who
wrote those tales, for he was born in their country. A few years ago,
the children of Denmark celebrated the one hundredth anniversary of the
birth of Hans Christian Andersen. At the schools they acted the stories
that Andersen wrote. In Copenhagen movie cameras took pictures of the
plays acted by the school children. Those pictures are still shown to
many children in Denmark.
In the town of Odense still stands the house where Hans Christian
Andersen was born. The people of Denmark have built a building beside
that old house in which to keep the things which belonged to Andersen.
The street in front of that house looks much the same as it looked when
the little boy, Hans, played there.
On the shelves in Andersen’s old home are his fairy tales in Danish, in
English, in French, in Spanish, and in other languages too. Andersen
wrote the stories in the Danish language, of course. But people in other
lands wanted their children to read those wonderful tales too. So the
stories have been rewritten in nearly every language in the world.
When children visit that building, they like to look into the case in
which stand dolls dressed like the characters in their best-loved
stories. Those dolls were dressed by little girls who lived when
Andersen was writing his tales. Many children like, too, the fairy
figures which Hans cut from paper. Some of those paper cuttings lie in a
glass case, and beside them are the scissors Hans used when he cut them.
In the hall of that building to the memory of Andersen stands a statue
of Hans Christian Andersen. Many other statues of Andersen have been
erected, but none is liked better by Danish children than this one in
which he is the children’s teller of tales.
A City in the Midst of Seven Mountains
From the deck of a boat nearing Norway, Harold, an eight-year-old
American boy, watched the rocky shores. Harold’s father too was watching
those shores. He was eagerly looking for familiar sights in the town
where he had been born.
Harold was going with his father and mother to visit his grandmother who
lives in Norway. She lives in the very same home in which Harold’s
father had lived when a boy.
Harold had crossed the Atlantic on one of the big steamships that carry
travelers from the United States to countries across the seas. He had
left that steamship at a port in England. After a day’s ride on a train,
he had boarded another boat to cross the North Sea to Norway.
[Illustration: THE CITY OF BERGEN]
In a few hours after the shores of Norway came into sight, Harold saw
the buildings of a town built in the midst of mountains. His father told
him his grandmother lived in that town. It was Bergen (bear gen) which
is surrounded by seven mountains. The houses of the town were all along
the side of one of the big mountains and along the lower banks of the
sea. Harold’s father was as happy as a boy to see again the red-tiled
roofs of those houses among the green trees of the mountain slope.
The sun was shining when the boat pulled into dock at Bergen, but the
captain told Harold to have his raincoat, rubbers, and umbrella handy,
as rain might fall any minute. He said, “A year has three hundred and
sixty-five days and rain falls in Bergen on three hundred and sixty
days. That leaves only five clear days for Bergen in a year.”
Harold’s father said that rain did not fall quite so often as the
captain said. But he told Harold that records show Bergen’s rainfall to
be six times as much as the rainfall in the town where Harold lives. And
Harold’s town gets enough rain each year to keep the grass green and to
make the plants grow well.
Harold stopped along the water front to see the fishing boats which were
standing there. Men and women were selling fish from more than a hundred
boats and from stands along the street near the boats. They sold cod,
herring, and halibut. Harold’s father said, “Bergen is the largest
fishing market in the world. The fish are brought to Bergen in boats
which fish far to the north of Bergen in the waters of the Arctic.”
But they hurried away to grandmother’s house. Harold was eager to see
the grandmother whom he had never seen. Grandmother was eagerly waiting
for her visitors too. She showed Harold a room which was to be his room
for the summer.
The room was small. Both the walls and the floor were painted light
brown. A small bed of wood stood in one corner. Over the clean white
sheets, Harold found a soft quilt. The quilt was so fluffy and thick
that Harold thought it must be a small feather bed. His grandmother said
that the quilt was stuffed with down taken from the nests of eider
Harold enjoyed the warm cover each night, for even in summer the nights
in Bergen are cool. But that soft quilt was hard to keep in place, no
matter how carefully it was tucked in.
A tall narrow stove stood in one corner of the room. Harold did not need
a fire, but he found a box of wood beside the stove ready for a fire
when the cold days came.
In a few days, Harold knew his way around the old city of Bergen.
Sometimes he walked along narrow streets between rows of wooden houses.
Some of the houses are very, very old—even more than six hundred years
Some of the shops which Harold passed were on wide streets. Both the
shops and the streets look much like shops and streets in American
towns. Of course some shops sold raincoats, umbrellas, and rubbers.
Other shops sold articles which the Norwegians think visitors from other
lands will like. On the walls of those old shops hang bright-colored
rugs woven on a hand loom. One day Harold saw girls dressed in old
Norwegian costumes weaving a rug.
Harold bought a gift for his mother in one shop. It was a tiny Viking
ship made of silver with a dragon’s head at its prow. Inside the ship
was a little spoon. The shopkeeper said that the little ship was made to
hold salt for the table. Harold bought himself some woolen mittens. They
were very warm mittens made from the wool of the sheep of Norway—white
sheep and black sheep. The mittens were white with black figures on
them. The shopkeeper said that Norwegian women who live in the country
knit or crochet the mittens and weave the rugs during the winter when
they cannot work in the fields.
Sometimes Harold did not get home at the right time for meals. His
grandmother thought that queer for any boy. She said that Harold’s
father had always been ready for every meal when he was a boy. But at
first Harold just couldn’t remember what were the right hours for meals
at grandmother’s house. He was always on time for the first breakfast,
which was served very early. He ate bread and butter and drank milk,
while his grandmother, his mother, and his father ate bread and butter
and drank coffee. But Harold often forgot the second breakfast, which
grandmother served at ten o’clock. Then to grandmother’s surprise he
would come into the house at twelve o’clock expecting lunch. He got a
lunch of course, and then might forget that dinner was served at three
o’clock. Grandmother did not scold one bit though, and in a few days
Harold learned to be on time for every meal. He liked grandmother’s tea,
which she served at eight o’clock each evening. He always asked for some
thick brown goat’s cheese to eat with his bread and butter as he drank
his tea.
How pleased grandmother was when Harold went over to her after a meal,
kissed her on the cheek, and said, “Tak for maten.” He was saying,
“Thank you for the food,” as his father had taught him to say it. All
polite girls and boys in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark say, “Thank you for
the food,” to their mothers after a meal.
In a City Built on Islands
One day Harold and his father left Bergen to visit Harold’s cousin
Albert who lived in Stockholm, the capital city of Sweden. They traveled
for a day and a night on a train.
The train crossed Norway on Norway’s longest railway which passed
through the high mountains. The electric train climbed the mountains
easily and Harold saw that part of Norway which his storybooks call “the
home of the giants.”
Then the train left Norway and crossed Sweden. Harold thought the farms
in Sweden looked much like the farms around his home in Minnesota. The
fields were large. The houses were far apart. Sometimes the train went
for miles before Harold saw a farmhouse.
When Harold reached Stockholm he saw a city which to him looked much
like any other city. But his cousin Albert said, “You will get your best
view of Stockholm from high above the city.” So he took them to the top
of a tall tower and they looked down on the city. “What a queer city it
is!” said Harold. “It is spread out over many islands.”
Then Albert told Harold how Stockholm came to be built where it is.
Albert had learned about the building of the city at school.
The city was built nearly seven hundred years ago. A rich nobleman
planned the city in the days when many pirates sailed on the Baltic Sea,
the sea which Stockholm faces. The nobleman wanted to build a fortress
for protection from the pirates. All along the sea coast were
islands—hundreds of islands. The nobleman chose three small islands
back from the sea with many other islands in front of them and built a
wall around them. He thought that behind the wall his people would be
safe from the pirates.
A town grew up behind the wall. The days of the pirates passed.
Stockholm became a city of trade. It grew and grew. Buildings spread
over other islands until today the city covers a dozen islands in a
large lake which opens into a channel of water which flows to the sea.
And Harold and Albert looked down on that city and watched the boats
coming and going on the many waterways.
Albert took his guests to a little home outside the city. “This is where
we live in the summer,” he said. Harold thought the place looked like a
tiny city of playhouses, but as they came nearer he saw that the
playhouses were real homes.
Harold’s aunt met them at the door of one of the cottages. It had two
rooms and a porch. Vines and rose bushes grew over the porch. All the
other cottages were much like the one where Albert lived.
Around each house was a garden spot. Albert said, “These are our ‘little
farms.’” Albert does most of the gardening on his “little farm.”
The summer home though does not belong to Albert. The city owns those
garden spots. A few years ago many countries of the world were at war.
Sweden could not get the food from other countries that she needed.
Stockholm began then the plan of renting garden spots to its citizens,
so that they might grow the food that they needed. The plan proved so
good that the city kept the garden spots after the war was over. And
Albert’s father rents a little farm for Albert each summer. He pays a
very small sum for the use of the garden and cottage for the entire
summer—a sum equal to about five dollars in American money.
Albert showed Harold the vegetables, fruit, and flowers which he was
growing on his farm. “In the fall,” he said, “I’ll take my best
specimens to the fair in the city. I’m sure to get a prize for some of
Each day after Albert had hoed his garden, he and Harold went to play
with the other boys who also lived on little farms. One day they went to
the lake to swim and to ride on the rafts. The boys had made the rafts
of logs. Between the two logs at each end of the rafts they had fastened
a board for seats. Albert rowed the raft on which he and Harold rode
while they rested from their swimming. Harold only laughed and swam away
again when Albert tipped the raft and threw him into the water.
One morning the boys went to the city again. They walked through the
streets toward the quay—the place where the boats land. Harold noticed
that all the buildings were of white stone. He knew that Sweden, like
Norway, was a land of many forests. Why then were there so few wooden
houses? He asked Albert. His cousin told him, “The first city was built
of wood, but fires came and destroyed the homes. People kept building of
wood for many years, but again and again fires destroyed the homes. Wood
is not Sweden’s only building material. Under the soil around Stockholm
is a fine building stone called granite. So the buildings you see in
this new city are of granite.”
The boys stopped along the street to visit a flower market. It was
bright with many colors. For in that city so far north many flowers
grow. In the market place were pinks, violets, sweet peas, roses,
asters, dahlias, and long-stemmed gladioli.
About noon the boys got on a boat at the quay to go to the King’s
palace. The palace of the King stands in an old part of the city. It is
on one of the islands where the old wall stood so long ago. Near the
King’s palace are a few streets of old buildings with sharp gabled
roofs. That part of Stockholm is called “the city between bridges.” Day
and night boats pass under the bridges and move along the water in front
of the palace.
The boys reached the palace about noon. Albert wanted Harold to see the
changing of the King’s guards. As they neared the palace, they heard
sounds of band music. In the courtyard beside the palace, they saw a
line of guards dressed in uniform such as guards of the palace have worn
for hundreds of years. Then the line of marching men came into sight.
The band in uniform marched first, then the guards who were to take the
place of those guards now at the palace. They crossed the bridge and
entered the courtyard. The guards drilled for a few minutes at the
command of the officer. The band played more music. Then the commander
told the new guards what their duties were and the old guards marched
away, leaving them to protect the king and his property.
The next day Albert was going on a long hike with his Boy Scout troop.
The scout leader said that Harold could go with them. Early in the
morning the boys gathered near the water front to wait for their leader.
Soon Harold felt at home with the group of boys wearing khaki suits and
carrying knapsacks even though he could not speak their language. Many
of the boys could speak a little English and they talked to Harold in
his language.
The scouts hiked several miles that day. They stopped on the grounds of
an old, old castle. In a few minutes tents were pitched for the night.
The leader took them into the castle, which had been built hundreds of
years ago. They went to the banquet hall of knights of old. Harold had
never seen such a beautiful room. The walls were covered with paintings
of kings and knights. The ceiling was of gold. The boys stood before the
King’s throne and imagined a page kneeling there to be dubbed a knight.
They could almost hear the words, “I dub thee knight. Be ever true to
your country. Be ever strong; protect the weak; and do good deeds.”
Then outside on the courtyard of that old castle, the scouts took their
oath—not unlike the one the knights of old had taken so many years ago.
They too pledged obedience to the laws of their country. They promised
to be strong and to go forth to do good deeds day by day.
The Children of the North Celebrate
Long, long ago, so the old stories of the North say, frost giants who
lived on the mountains wanted to keep the earth in darkness and cold,
and the gods who lived in the valleys fought with the giants to keep
sunshine and warmth on the earth.
Early in January each year when the nights were longest, the people in
the old days said, “Yule, the frost giant, has won in the battle against
Odin, the god of the sun.” Now the people knew that Odin would win the
next battle, which was always fought in the middle of the summer when
the days were longest; therefore they celebrated Yule’s victory in the
happy thought that Odin would soon triumph over the frost giant. They
lighted fires and made feasts which lasted for weeks. And so began the
Yule-tide celebration which the children of those northern lands today
celebrate each year.
After years and years, the people who lived in these lands became
Christians. They began to celebrate the day the Christ-child was born.
As the years passed, the Christmas celebration and the Yule celebration
came to be one big feast time.
The weeks before Yule time are busy weeks. The houses must be cleaned.
Cakes, cookies, and bread are baked. Sausages are made. Girls are sewing
on gifts and boys are sawing and pounding, making gifts too. The stores
in the cities and towns are bright with decorations and happy buyers
crowd about buying gifts.
The day before Christmas comes at last. And for the girls and boys of
Norway, Sweden, and Denmark the day before Christmas is a merrier day
even than Christmas Day. Everybody is up early on that day. A tree of
spruce or fir is set in place in the living room. No home is too poor to
have a yule-tree in that land of evergreen trees. Norway and Sweden have
enough trees in their forests to supply every home, and ships carry
trees from their forests to the children of Denmark.
As soon as the Yule-tree is up the merriment begins. The girls and boys
help decorate the tree with strings of bright paper, painted cones from
the evergreen trees, colored ornaments, and red candles, or bright
electric lights. The boys place a big log in the fireplace ready to
brighten the room with its glow.
Another tree is then decorated in the yard for the birds. The boys set
up a large branch of a tree and help the girls tie bunches of oats and
barley upon it so that the birds will have their Yule-time feast.
After lunch the girls and boys stay away from the Yule-tree. But how
excited they are! For it is then that secret packages are heaped on the
floor underneath the branches of the tree. Darkness comes early in the
northern parts of these countries at Christmas time. In the far north
the sun never shines at this time of the year. As early as three
o’clock, Mother lights the tree and Father starts the Yule-log burning.
Then all the family gather around the tree and the best fun of the day
begins. Those children do not have to wait until Christmas morning to
see their gifts. The packages are passed out as soon as the tree is
lighted on Christmas Eve. Under the tree are presents for
everybody—dolls, toy trains, books, knives, skates, sleds, skis, and
candies and nuts and many, many other gifts too.
After the gifts are unwrapped sometimes Father and Mother and the
children and the servants join hands and sing carols around the tree. By
that time the dinner is ready. And that dinner is one of the best of the
year with fish, potatoes, peas, flat bread, sausages, ham, or maybe a
goose, pudding, and cakes. The children are tired and ready for bed at
an early hour.
The next morning they are up early again. While it is quite dark they go
to church for a Christmas service. Pretty Yule-trees stand beside the
altar and the children carry gifts for the poor and place them beneath
the Yule-trees. They sing songs, repeat their prayers, and listen to the
pastor’s story of the Christ-child.
Christmas Day is a quiet day in most of the homes in Norway, Sweden, and
Denmark. But after Christmas is over the merrymaking begins again. There
are more feasts and parties. The children skate, and ski, and coast on
their sleds as much as they please, for school is closed during the
whole of the Yule season.
American girls and boys sometimes dance around a Maypole and crown a
queen on the first day of May. The girls and boys of Norway, Sweden, and
Denmark have a midsummer holiday when they too dance around a gaily
decorated pole, but they are not celebrating the coming of May. They are
greeting the long summer day.
In the long ago people believed that June twenty-third was the day on
which Odin, the sun god, won in the fight against the frost giants. So
they danced and sang in praise of Odin. And people of those lands have
kept up the old custom.
The school children of one Swedish town were gay and happy on the
twenty-third of June. The big boys set up a tall pole in a field near
the schoolhouse. Then a crowd of girls and boys tied branches of fir,
spruce, and pine on the pole. They put bright flowers among the green
When the pole was bright with the evergreen and flowers, a troop of
girls and boys came from the schoolhouse and played games on the grass
around the Maypole. But the greatest fun would come after dark. So early
in the afternoon they hurried home to dress in their gayest costumes to
be ready for the frolic that night.
Grown-ups came to the night celebration too. The dance lasted far into
the night, for all through those northern lands there is no darkness on
the midsummer eve. The sun shines all through the night in the places
far to the north, but even in the southern part of Sweden where these
children live, the sun was gone but a few hours. During those hours
while the sun was gone, the sky was almost as bright as day with
In one town in Denmark, some girls and boys are as eager for the Fourth
of July as American girls and boys are. For, like many American girls
and boys, on that day they are going to a picnic in a park. Yes, they
are going to a Fourth-of-July picnic and a picnic as much like an
American picnic as they can have. About the only things missing from
their picnic are firecrackers. The law of Denmark will not permit
The park is called The American National Park. The bands play patriotic
American music. The people sing American patriotic songs, “The
Star-Spangled Banner” and “America.” Speakers tell about America and how
our country won independence. The Stars and Stripes float in the breeze
with the Danish flag of red and white. People play ball and run races.
They eat lunches from big lunch baskets.
One American visitor asked, “Who are the people celebrating our
Independence Day?” If you asked that question at the park, and a Danish
boy answered, the answer would be, “This is the Danish-American Club.”
Have you ever heard of Danish-American clubs in America? The members of
Danish-American clubs in America are people who have come from Denmark
to live in America. The Danish-American Club in Denmark is made up of
Danish people who have lived in America at some time and Danish people
who have relatives living in America.
Svend is one boy you might meet at a Fourth of July picnic in Denmark.
Svend was born in the city of Chicago in the United States. His father
and mother were both born in Denmark, but they lived in America about
ten years. Svend’s father studied in the United States and learned to be
a librarian.
Svend was only four years old when he went to Denmark to live. Of course
Svend could speak English then. But when he was old enough to go to
school, he began speaking Danish all the time. His father wanted him to
speak English at home so that he would not forget the English words.
Svend said, “Oh, if I speak English, the boys call me a _foreigner_.”
Svend was only seven years old when he said that. When he is older he
will study English in the schools of Denmark. Then perhaps he will be
proud that he can speak English easily.
Svend’s father takes care of a library for the Danish-American Club. In
his library are many, many books telling about how Denmark and America
work together. Some of the books are written in Danish and some are
written in English. Both Danish-American clubs in Denmark and
Danish-American clubs in America give money to support the park and the
Svend’s father is glad to take Svend to the Danish-American picnic on
the Fourth of July each year, for he wants Svend to love America, the
land where he was born.
Karl is another boy at the picnic. He is fifteen years old. He speaks
English very well from his study in school. Karl’s family go to the
Fourth of July picnic because Karl’s uncle lives in America. Karl writes
to his cousins in the United States. From them he has learned many
things about our country.
Travelers in Denmark sometimes go to the Fourth of July picnic. They
cannot feel strange on that picnic ground with the many American flags
and the American songs.
Winter Sports in the North Land
No sooner had Olaf entered the room where stood his Yule-tree than his
eyes lighted on a big package standing behind the tree. “Skis,” he
thought, “surely no other present could make such a huge package. But
was _his_ name on that package?”
Finally the moment came when his father called, “For Olaf,” and the big
box was in Olaf’s hands. Olaf lost no time in opening the prize package.
His eyes shone as he saw the new skis. At last he had a pair of skis fit
for any ski-jumper!
Olaf had often watched ski-jumpers leap in the air like a bird and land
safely on runners many feet away and go sliding gracefully down a steep
hillside. Now he too could learn to be a ski-jumper!
Like most children of Norway and Sweden, Olaf had learned to run on skis
when he was very young. By the time he had started to school, he could
run very well. On that Christmas morning, Olaf’s little sister, only
three years old, got a pair of skis too. Olaf gave her the first pair of
skis he had used and she played in the snow on them, while Olaf tried
his larger and finer pair.
[Illustration: OLAF’S LITTLE SISTER]
Skiing is the favorite play of the boys at Olaf’s school. Near the
school are skiing grounds where Olaf and his classmates play at recess
time. At first, of course, those boys ran on small hills. Then they
practised on longer slopes. Olaf’s father had said, “You must know how
to handle your skis well before you begin ski-jumping.” Now Olaf did
know how to run well on skis and he had the best kind of skis for
Olaf lives in Norway and nowhere in the world do people have better
skiing grounds. The snows come in November and stay until March or
April, and the mountain slopes make long skiing tracks. The weather too
is good for skiing. Although the weather is cold enough to keep the snow
for many months, the cold is not severe enough to keep sport lovers
Skiing is not merely a child’s sport in Norway. Olaf’s father and mother
both ski. Many business men and their wives ski; farmers and their wives
ski; the King and Queen ski. Norwegians and the Lapps of the far north
often travel on skis. Such travel is easy. With knapsacks filled with
food and strapped to their backs, travellers make long excursions in a
short time. So Olaf lives in a country which might truly be called, “the
home of the skis.”
The first Sunday after that Christmas when Olaf got his new skis, Olaf,
his father, and his mother went to a long skiing ground about a
five-mile ride from their home in Oslo. They left their home very early
in the morning. They stood in line with many other men, women, and
children waiting for the train. What a queer crowd it was! Sticking up
over each head were the points of skis which looked like stubby trees.
No wonder one passer-by said the sight was like “a forest of a thousand
Then the train came with a special car to carry the skis, and the merry
crowd was off for the day. Olaf got his first lesson in ski-jumping.
But it was in February that Olaf got his greatest treat of the year.
Oslo is near the bottom of the long narrow country and on the side away
from the sea. The land around Oslo is hilly but the slopes are not very
steep. One mountain for skiing is about an hour’s ride on an electric
car from Oslo. On this mountain the youths of Norway gather in February
each year to hold a skiing contest. So in February Olaf and his parents
with thousands and thousands of people from all over countries of the
north went to see the ski-jumping contest.
The jumpers gathered at the top of the long mountainside. Each
contestant wore a number fastened across his chest telling his place in
the contest. At a signal from an officer number one ran down the hill to
a bank of snow called the “take-off” station. When he got to the
“take-off,” he jumped into the air. Olaf watched him breathlessly. Yes,
he landed on his feet. The crowd cheered heartily. An officer ran out
with a measuring rod to see how far he was from the “take-off” when he
landed on his feet again.
[Illustration: A SKI JUMPER]
Then the other jumpers came in turn. Several failed to land on their
feet. But most of them laughed with the people looking on over their
failures even though they must have hated badly to lose.
The longest jump that day, and the longest that had ever been made at
that time, was two hundred and thirty-five feet. That is a long jump,
but, no doubt, some of the schoolboys who were watching the jumpers will
beat that record in a few years. Some of Olaf’s playmates were able then
to jump eighty feet. They are eagerly waiting to be old enough to enter
the big contest.
The boys learned much by watching expert ski-jumpers. One of their
favorite jumpers is the King’s son, Prince Olaf. Prince Olaf was in the
big contest several times when he was a young man. The boys often saw
Prince Olaf on skis. One day the Prince stopped where Olaf and his
playmates were practising and told them how to hold their feet to make a
safe landing. Olaf never forgot what the Prince said. And he was glad
too that his mother had named him _Olaf_.
A line of skaters on a waterway of Sweden was set for a race. The
skaters looked more like huge white birds than the young boys they were.
Each skater wore heavy skates and held tightly to a frame of a large
white sail.
[Illustration: SAIL SKATING]
Away they flew over the smooth ice! The strong wind which blows over the
lands carried them along swiftly. Most of the boys were skillful in
guiding their course with the wind and keeping on the clear ice. But
here and there a skater had trouble. One skater was tossed to the bank;
another was sent sprawling on the hard ice, for the wind does not deal
too gently with those who cannot follow its path.
[Illustration: SLEDS ON THE ICE]
When the race was over, the winner was hoisted in the air and cheered.
The skaters went their way to try again another day.
Skaters in Denmark use sails too. The flat lands have such strong winds
that sail skating is great sport for Danish children. But even in the
flat lands of Denmark there are days when the sail skaters are
disappointed. They gather for a race to find no wind that day; and, of
course, no wind means no race.
But sail skating is only a part of the skating fun in those northern
lands. Children all over Norway, Sweden, and Denmark skate during the
winter months. In many places playgrounds are flooded to make safe
skating grounds for the girls and boys. On the safe ice even the tiny
girls and boys slide on the ice and ride on the chair-like sleds which
are pushed along by the larger girls and boys.
The children of those northern lands learn early that outdoor sports
help to build strong and healthy bodies.
At School in the Far North
As the clocks struck eight one Monday late in August the big gates to
the school grounds swung open. With a shout waiting boys ran through one
gate to a playground which they had not seen for several weeks. Crowds
of girls ran through a gate to another playground on the other side of
that same schoolhouse.
That August day was the first day of school for girls and boys in nearly
every city and town in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.
Girls and boys who live in those countries do not have such long summer
vacations as have American girls and boys. Many of them go to school
until the first of July and come back to school again in the last week
of August. They go to school more days each week, too, than do American
children. They go to school on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday,
Friday, and Saturday.
They start to school each morning after a very early breakfast. In
winter all the children of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark must dress and
eat their breakfast by electric lights, and go along the streets to
school while the street lights are still burning. Of course, those girls
and boys in the far northern part of Norway and Sweden work by electric
light in their classrooms all the winter days.
With such an early breakfast, the pupils are hungry by the middle of the
morning. They are given a lunch time around ten thirty or eleven o’clock
each day. Many girls and boys eat a lunch at the schoolhouse, but others
go home for a lunch which they call “breakfast” even though they had
eaten an earlier meal. The younger pupils go home from school about one
o’clock and the older pupils leave school each day about three o’clock.
Schoolhouses in the lands far to the north look much like American
schoolhouses. Of course all the schoolhouses in those countries do not
look alike any more than do the school buildings in America.
Harold lives in Oslo, Norway. He is in the third grade. All the pupils
in his room are boys and the teacher is a man.
The first day of school was a busy one for Harold. When the boys were in
the room the teacher said, “Write your name on the paper which I shall
give you.” Harold wrote his name in clear letters.
After the teacher got the names of all the boys he said, “Now I shall
tell you what lessons you will have each day. You may write them down on
a time plan.”
Harold and his classmates knew what a “time plan” is. The storekeepers
in the bookstores had given them pretty picture cards with blank places
on them where the pupils could write the names of the subjects and the
time at which each would recite. So when the teacher told them the
lessons they would have each day they wrote them on their time plans.
Harold’s time plan looked like the one shown here.
Most of the subjects the Norwegian girls and boys study in the third
grade are the same as those which American pupils study in the third
grade. American girls and boys study English; but on Harold’s time plan
instead of English is _Norsk_. Norsk is the name for the language of
In one of the reading texts which many children read the first picture
is a flag of Norway. Across the page from the picture is a poem about
Norway. The poem is in Norsk of course. Children in Norway learn that
poem so that they can say it without looking at the words.
Ja, vi elsker dette landet,
som det stiger frem,
furet, værbitt, over vannet,
med de tusen hjem;
elsker, elsker det og tenker
på vår far og mor
og den saganatt som senker
drømme på vår jord!
(Yes, we love with fond devotion
Norway’s mountain domes,
Rising stormlashed o’er the ocean,
With their thousand homes;
Love our country while we’re bending
Thoughts to fathers grand,
And to saga night that’s sending
Dreams upon our land,
And to saga night that’s sending,
Sending dreams upon our land.)
[Illustration: HAROLD’S TIME PLAN]
On the seventeenth of May each year the Norwegian girls and boys march
through the streets carrying flags and singing “Ja, vi elsker dette
landet.” The seventeenth of May to them is what the Fourth of July is to
us. It is their Independence Day.
For many, many years Norway, Sweden, and Denmark were governed by one
king. But in 1905 Norwegians became free to govern themselves. They
chose a king for their country. On the seventeenth of May each year
school children of Oslo and towns near Oslo parade past the palace of
the King. The King watches their parade. The children stand very quietly
then while the King speaks to them about Norway, their country.
Harold’s sister is in the seventh grade. Her time plan is shown on page
Many pupils in the seventh grade find English to be their hardest
subject. Only a few English words are like Norsk words which they speak.
On the time plan you see the names of the days of the week—Mandag
(Monday), Tirsdag (Tuesday), Onsdag (Wednesday), Torsdag (Thursday),
Fredag (Friday), Lørdag (Saturday), Søndag (Sunday). They are much like
English names for the days of the week.
Norwegian pupils soon learn the English word “summer,” for the Norsk
word is “sommer.” They soon can say “come,” for in Norsk they say
“komme,” and “Many thanks” which in Norsk is “Mange takke.”
The Norwegians did not get words from the English, however. The English
got words from the Norwegians. Long, long ago some people from these
northern lands went to live in the land of the English people. From them
the English learned to use some of the old Norsk words and they have
kept some of those words in their language. English settlers brought the
English language to America, so Americans too use those old Norsk words.
The Norwegian pupils have a hard time learning to pronounce words which
have the letter “w,” for “w” is not used in the Norsk language. The
English word “warm” is “varme,” “work” is “verke,” “wash” is “vaske,”
“window” is “vindue,” “west” is “vest,” and “well” is “vel.”
But, of course, many, many other English words are not at all like Norsk
Greda was very happy one morning as she went to school. She carried a
small bundle in her hand as she hurried along. When she entered her
classroom she whispered to the teacher, “Today is my birthday.” Then the
teacher brought out a small stand just big enough to hold the little
Swedish flag which Greda took out of her bundle. As Greda put the flag
into the flag holder, her classmates said, “Happy birthday, Greda,” and
sang a song to the flag.
In that Swedish school girls and boys study almost the same subjects as
the Norwegian girls and boys study. When winter comes and snow covers
the hills, the skiing teacher comes to school every day. Now skiing
sounds like play, but it is a school study for girls and boys in those
North lands.
Girls and boys of Norway and Sweden want to be good ski runners and ski
jumpers. They begin to ski when they are very young. The young children
run only on small hills near the school. The older girls and boys go out
to longer mountainsides for their practice.
Of course many pupils get tumbles in the snow as they learn to run on
skis. The teacher says, “To be a good ski runner, you must have courage
to try, and if you fail, you must laugh and try again.”
Some children of the North lands go to school in the summer too. But the
summer school is very different from the regular school. “Summer school
is much more fun,” Martha, a Swedish girl, said after she had spent a
summer in a camp and had studied with a camp teacher. Her brother Nils
likes camp school too.
Martha and Nils are twins. They were nine years old when they went to
the summer camp.
That summer Martha picked gooseberries. She learned to make gooseberry
pie, gooseberry jelly, and gooseberry preserves. Nils only helped to
take the stems off the berries, but he thought that was fun when he
worked with the other girls and boys of the camp.
Nils helped to repair the roof on one of the summerhouses. That roof was
of red tile. Nils carefully measured and fitted each piece of tile into
its proper place.
Nils helped some of the older boys to build a boat. He had his first
lesson in rowing in that very boat too.
But both Martha and Nils liked best the foot races which the girls and
boys of the camp ran every day. Martha was the best runner of the girls
and Nils had a good record too even though he ran with boys larger than
If you were to see a group of school children in a Danish town you would
find that they look very much like the Norwegian children and the
Swedish children. They look much like girls and boys in America too.
Those children study about the same subjects that the Norwegian and
Swedish girls and boys study. They study from books written in Danish.
Danish words and Norwegian words are alike in print, but the Danes and
the Norwegians do not pronounce them alike.
Since an island is a small body of land with water all around it, and
Denmark has so many islands, many girls and boys in Denmark live near
water. Since there is so much water in Denmark almost all Danish pupils
learn to swim at school. They begin swimming lessons when they first
enter school.
In Copenhagen, which is Denmark’s largest city, the schools have
swimming contests. On the day of the contests classes from different
schools gather at the water front. A high board wall has been built
around a part of the water so that the place for the contests looks much
like a pool. Mothers and fathers sit on the platform near the walls and
watch the contests. Danish flags fly in the breeze. Everybody is excited
when the contest begins.
The older girls and boys in the schools in Copenhagen, like those in
Oslo, study English. One day each month a librarian visits each school
in the city to take books to the pupils. She takes story books written
in Danish to the younger pupils. But to the older pupils she takes books
written in other languages which they have studied. Some of the books
are written in French, some in German, and some in English. Those Danish
pupils read some of the same stories that American pupils read in their
In an Open-Air Museum
Girls and boys always listen when grandfather begins a tale with, “When
I was a boy.” But many times the girls and boys who listen to
grandfather’s tales find it hard to make pictures in their minds of the
houses grandfather tells about, of the games he played, or of the dances
he and grandmother danced. And it is much, much harder to understand
when grandfather and grandmother tell the tales that their grandfathers
and grandmothers have told them!
Many Swedish children go to a museum each year to see how their
great-great-great-grandparents actually lived. For in that northern
country—and in Norway too—people have built museums which are
different from America’s big buildings with their many showcases filled
with things of long ago. They have built what they call open-air
A Swedish man got the idea for such a museum. One day more than sixty
years ago that man, a doctor, was far out in the country districts of
Sweden. There he saw old, old buildings with furniture like the
furniture used long, long ago. He saw people dressed in costumes like
those worn by their great-great-great-grandparents. The doctor said to
himself, “Why not buy some of those old, old houses, their furnishings,
and the costumes of the people, and put them where many people can see
Very soon after, the doctor began carrying out his idea. Other people
helped him. What a big task it was! They brought together old houses,
old churches, old schoolhouses, old windmills, and other farm buildings
from all over Sweden. On a large piece of wooded land outside Stockholm
they rebuilt homes and constructed whole farms as nearly as possible
like homes and farms of the long, long ago. That is the way they made an
open-air museum.
One day a class of Swedish school children visited an open-air museum.
Very soon after they entered the gate they saw a group of buildings. The
buildings were made of rude logs which have turned dark brown with age
in the sun and rain. The teacher said that the group of houses belonged
to one family. The pupils asked, “Why did a family build a group of
houses so close together like this?”
The teacher told them that in the early days a family in Sweden usually
had several houses. They had a house with thick walls and thick roofs
where they lived in the winter. They had another house with lighter
walls and roofs where they lived in the summer. They had a storehouse in
which to keep their food and fuel. They also had a guest house, for in
those days the people in Sweden gave their guests a whole house to
The pupils went inside one old, old house which had been built about
seven hundred years ago. It is a one-story house with a sod roof. Inside
the children found furniture placed about the rooms as it had been
placed in those early days. But, of course, there was little furniture.
And strangest of all there were no windows in the house. The light the
people could get from the sun came into the living room through a hole
in the roof above the center of the room. That hole was just above an
open fireplace. Through it the smoke from the fire could escape. A long
pole hung from the hole into the room below. On that pole was a thin
skin which could be pulled into place over the hole when the rains came.
But the children saw other houses more like those in which their
grandfathers and grandmothers had lived. In those houses the fireplace
was built in the corner of the room. They saw some fireplaces with
kettles hanging just as they had hung in the days when a fire had blazed
on the fireplace. In the room were rude chairs cut from large tree
trunks. On the ceilings pictures had been carved and painted. The
children knew the stories which those pictures told, for the stories
were Bible stories which they had read many times.
Some of the boys found an old bed which amused them very much. It had
three stories. The first story stood out into the room about a foot
farther than the second story, and the second story stood out about a
foot farther than the top story. In that way there were two steps up to
the upper bed. The girls and boys laughed, then the teacher lifted the
lid into the lowest bed and said, “This is where the cats and dogs
slept.” Then he showed them the inside of the middle bed and said, “This
is where the children slept.” The children then guessed that the top bed
was for the mother and father.
That afternoon the pupils went to see the folk-dances. Some of their
older brothers and sisters were in the dances. They wore costumes such
as Swedish people long ago wore, they danced the dances that were danced
in those days.
When the school children got back to their school the next day, they
wanted to dance some of the old Swedish dances. The gymnasium teacher
helped them learn the steps, and the sewing teacher helped them make
their costumes. Then one day they danced for their mothers and fathers
and their grandmothers and grandfathers.
When the teacher of those children told them about the man who had made
the gift of the museum to Sweden, the pupils agreed that the man who
built the open-air museum was a citizen of whom Sweden may be proud.
A Tale of a Wandering Story-Teller
“Suppose we pretend that we are in the feast hall of one of the old
guest houses of the Norsemen long, long ago,” said one teacher to her
children after they had visited an open-air museum.
Then as the teacher told the children about an evening in a guest house
such as they had seen at the museum, they imagined people seated around
the long table eating from the rude bowls and drinking from an old
drinking horn, while they listened to a tale told by a wandering
A story-teller in those northlands was an important person in the old
days before stories had been written in books for people to read for
themselves. In those days, story-tellers went about from place to place
telling tales. They were always welcome guests in any home, for people
had little entertainment.
In the very earliest days, people knew little about why things happen as
they do on the earth. They did not know why we have day and night, or
summer and winter. They did not know why the rains fall, or the
lightning and thunder come. Since they did not know the true reasons for
these things, they made up stories to tell why they happen as they do.
They said that many gods ruled over the earth. One god, called Wodin,
caused the day. Since day has but one sun, Wodin had but one eye. The
god Thor caused the lightning and thunder. Another god ruled over the
summer, bringing the warm days when plants could grow. He was called
Frey. And the god Tye ruled over war and brought victory in battle.
We use the names of the four gods, Tye, Wodin, Thor, and Frey, even
today. From them we got the names for four of the days of the week:
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday—Tye’s day, Wodin’s day, Thor’s
day, and Frey’s day.
Those early people believed, too, that huge giants lived on the
mountaintops and tiny dwarfs lived under the ground. The old
story-tellers told many tales about fights between the gods and the
giants. One of the favorite tales was about Thor, the god of thunder and
lightning. The tale that Norwegian teacher told her pupils was about
Thor and his Hammer. Her pupils listened almost as eagerly as those old
Viking families had listened around the feast table hundreds of years
Thor lived in a beautiful palace in the valley of the gods which lay
between two mountains. Thor had a beautiful wife with long golden hair.
She was called Sif.
One day when Sif was sitting in the sunshine with her long hair hanging
down over her shoulders she fell asleep. Loke, the god of mischief,
passed by and saw her. Now Loke liked to play tricks on Thor, and when
he saw Sif asleep, he thought, “Thor loves Sif’s beautiful hair. He will
be very angry if anything happens to it.” Then he stole up, cut off
Sif’s hair, and carried it away with him.
When Sif awoke, she was very unhappy. She ran and hid herself. She did
not want Thor to see her without her hair.
Soon Thor came. Sif was not there to meet him. The strong god’s heart
was filled with fear. What was wrong with Sif? He ran quickly about the
palace to look for her. He found her weeping bitterly. When he saw what
had happened he was very angry. Fire, like lightning, flashed from his
eyes. The floors of the palace trembled under his angry footsteps.
“This is the work of that rascal, Loke,” he cried. Then, like a
thundercloud, he strode away from the palace.
He soon found Loke, and, no doubt, would have choked him had not Loke
promised to give back Sif’s hair as beautiful as it had ever been.
Now Loke knew some skillful dwarfs who lived far underground. They made
wonderful things of gold. He hurried away to find them.
When he came to their smithy, he asked, “Can you make me a crown of
golden hair which will grow just as any natural hair grows?”
These dwarfs were very clever. Of course they could make such a crown.
They set their fire ablaze and began pounding with their hammers. In a
short time they had Loke’s treasure ready for him. But that was not all
they gave him. Two other gifts were his. One was a magical spear; and
the other a ship that was more wonderful than any other ship the dwarfs
ever had made.
Loke went back to the land of the gods carrying his three gifts. When he
reached that valley he began bragging about the fine work the dwarfs had
done. “No other dwarfs can do such wonderful work,” he said. “All other
dwarfs are stupid compared with these.”
A dwarf named Brok heard Loke’s boasts. Now Brok had a brother who was a
clever workman too. Many of the gods thought him the best workman of all
the dwarfs. Brok was angry when he heard Loke’s bragging. He said, “My
brother can make more wonderful things of gold and iron and brass than
your dwarfs have made.”
At that Loke laughed and laughed. “Go to your brother,” he said; “if he
can make three such precious gifts as the golden hair, the spear, and
the ship, I will give him my head.”
Brok at once went down to the underworld where his brother lived. He
declared that he would get Loke’s head if any magic could be worked. He
told his brother what Loke had said. Soon that dwarf was hard at work.
In a few hours Brok started off with a golden boar, a shining ring, and
a mighty hammer as his three gifts to the gods.
When he reached the land of the gods he found all the gods waiting to
see what his gifts would be. The gods appointed three judges to decide
whether Loke or Brok had the more wonderful gifts.
Loke brought forth the golden hair and gave it to Thor. Thor placed the
hair upon Sif’s head. Behold it began to grow, and again Sif was the
beautiful maiden she had been. Then Loke brought out the spear and gave
it to the judges. It was a spear that never missed its mark. Then he
gave the gods the wonderful ship which would sail wherever its master
wished to go no matter which way the water ran or what direction the
wind blew.
Loke was very proud of his gifts. Brok would not have any treasures so
Then Brok came before the judges. He brought out the shining ring. “This
ring,” he said, “will throw off many other rings as bright and shiny as
this one.” Next he brought out the boar, saying, “This animal can run
faster than the fastest horse. On dark nights its bristles will shine so
that the night will be as light as day.” Then he gave Thor the hammer.
“This hammer,” he said, “will crush whatever it strikes, and it will
never fail to come back to your hand no matter where you throw it.”
Thor took the hammer and swung it round his head. Lightning flashed
through the skies and peals of thunder filled the air. The gods gathered
round to see the hammer. Surely such a hammer would be the greatest
protection against the giants. So they said that the hammer was the
greatest gift of all. Brok had won.
But how was Brok to get Loke’s head! He started toward that young
braggart. Loke growled, “I will give you whatever you want, but not my
“You promised your head, and your head I will have,” answered the angry
“Come and get it,” shouted Loke as he ran away. But when Brok told Thor
what had happened, Thor went and brought Loke back, for Thor always saw
to it that the gods did as they promised.
“Cut off my head if you will,” said Loke, “but you must not touch my
neck. I did not promise you any of my neck.”
Then Brok saw that he could not take Loke’s head after all. For how
could he get the head without touching the neck! But still he was
determined to punish the rascally Loke. So he sewed his lips together,
saying, “I cannot have your head, but I can close your mouth so that you
can no longer go about boasting.”
From that day on the gods felt safe from the frost-giants who were
always trying to get into the valley of the gods. Those giants for more
than half of the year kept the world covered with ice and snow. They
hushed the flowing of the waters and the singing of the birds. They
hated the warm sunshine which made the flowers bloom, and covered the
mountains with grass, and brought the songs from the birds. They hated
the god of the sun. They hated Thor, for it was Thor’s hammer that kept
them from the land of the gods.
Then a morning came when Thor awoke to find that his hammer was gone. He
searched and searched, but the hammer could not be found. Then in great
fear he thought, “The giants have stolen the hammer while I slept.” At
that thought he was very angry. Fire flashed from his eyes and the earth
trembled under his angry voice. “Come, Loke,” he called, “we must be off
at once to the land of the giants. The gods can never be safe if the
hammer is in the hands of our enemies.”
Loke thought of a way to get into the home of the giants. He dressed
himself like a huge bird and on its magical wings flew straight to that
high mountaintop where the giants lived.
The giants were surprised to see Loke, but they gave him welcome. Loke
soon learned that the giants did have the hammer, but search as he
would, he could not find it. At last the mighty giant who was greatest
of all the giants said, “Thor may have his hammer when the gods bring me
a beautiful goddess to be my wife.”
Loke returned to tell Thor what he had heard. Thor was puzzled, for what
goddess would ever consent to be the bride of a giant? Then Thor thought
of a plan to outwit the giant. He would dress as a maiden and go to the
land of the giants with Loke. Perhaps he could trick the giants.
Soon the broad wings of the huge bird were again carrying Loke to the
home of the giants. With Loke, this time, rode Thor dressed as a maiden,
wearing a heavy veil over his face.
They entered the land of the giants and were greeted by the mighty
giant, who was pleased that a goddess had come to be his wife. He said
to his servants, “Make a great feast and invite all the giants to come
to see my bride.”
The giants came and the feast was spread. But all the time, the maiden
kept the veil over her face. The mighty giant begged to look upon the
face of his bride. Then Loke said, “The hammer must be ours before I can
take the veil from the maiden’s face.”
So the mighty giant brought the hammer and placed it on the maiden’s
lap. At that moment, Loke took the veil from the face and the giants saw
before them the mighty Thor with the powerful hammer in his hands. They
ran away in fear, as Thor whirled the hammer round and round and balls
of fire flashed through the sky and peals of thunder filled the air.
Thor and Loke lost no time in getting back to the land of the gods. All
the gods were out to greet them, and great was their joy to see the
wonderful hammer. Once more the gods were safe from the wicked giants.
Buried Treasures of the Old Sea Kings
Many secrets of the long, long ago lie buried deep under the ground. In
every land there are people who dig for such buried treasures. Only a
few years ago some men in Norway dug down to a most wonderful treasure.
What do you suppose they found? It was an old, old ship that the early
sailors of that northland had sailed upon the seas more than two
thousand years ago.
You can imagine how eagerly they worked to get every piece of the old
ship out of the ground and to patch the pieces together to rebuild the
old craft. And what a beautiful ship they finally had!
That ship, called the Oseborg Ship, stands today in a shed in an
open-air museum near Oslo. School girls and boys go there with their
teachers to see the old ship. They almost always look the longest at the
big dragon’s head that rode on the front of the boat, or at the _prow_
of the boat as sailors call it.
How many, many questions those pupils ask about the old ship and about
the old kings of the seas, who were called _Vikings_. And you can
imagine how eagerly they listen to the tales of those daring sailors who
ventured far, far out into the unknown seas in their long, black boats,
each of which looked like a huge animal with its head sticking up out of
the water.
Other treasures have been dug from the earth in Sweden too. One old
chest had in it many queer things. One object from that old chest which
interests Swedish girls and boys is a large gold ring with eight small
rings upon it. Those rings of gold had been used for money long ago
before people made coins. In those early days a man buying something
would break off a piece of gold from one of the rings to pay for his
Tales of the Old Sea Kings
A long black boat, floating a red flag with a large black raven upon it,
glided through the fjords and out to the open sea. At its prow stood a
dragon’s head; at its stern was the animal’s tail. Along its sides,
which looked like the body of a huge beast, were rows of big round
shields painted red, black, and white. Behind those shields, on each
side of the long boat, sheltered from the sprays of water, sat forty men
who rowed the boat.
So the old ship of the sea kings which now stands in the museum had
glided in the long, long ago.
Those old kings of the seas who sailed such boats are sometimes called
Vikings. They got that name from the waterways which are now called
fjords, but which were called _viks_ in the early days. The Northmen who
kept their boats along the viks were called _Vikings_.
Nearly every Northman in those early days had a boat. They needed boats
to go about on the fjords, but they also loved the open sea and sailed
out upon it. Finding the material with which to make a boat was an easy
task, for many great trees grew on the mountainsides of their lands.
Some of the ships that sailed on the seas reached the shores of other
lands. In those lands the Vikings saw shining gold and silver and sharp
weapons of bronze. The Northmen had no such treasures in their land.
After hearing about such riches, the Vikings were not content without
them. Some of the braver ones said, “We will sail our boats to those
lands and take the rich treasures for ourselves.”
So the Vikings became sea rovers, or pirates, as sea robbers are often
called. Those early Vikings believed that the riches of the world
belonged rightly to the people who were strong enough to take them for
During the long winters, the Vikings stayed at home. In the daytime,
they mended their boats, or built new boats. In the evenings they
gathered around the feast table and listened to tales of adventures at
sea. But when the warm days of sunshine came, they hastened to plant
their crops and then to sail away to rob their neighbors.
The Vikings had no instrument with which to tell the direction they were
sailing. They had no glasses through which to sight land. They took big
birds, called ravens, with them on their boats to help them. When they
wanted to find land, they would turn loose one of the birds. The raven
would fly to land. By following the bird, the seamen too found land.
When one of the dragon-like ships came near the shores of another land,
the people on the shores were filled with fear. Sometimes they tried to
keep the robbers from landing on their shores. Then the Vikings would
get their battle axes and their shields and fight their way into the
land. They were cruel fighters. Often they left whole towns in
ruin—people dying, and homes and crops in flames. For years the Vikings
kept up their life as sea robbers.
After a time, some of the Vikings thought, “We will take our families
and build new homes for ourselves in the rich lands we have visited.”
So Viking boats sailed away from the northland carrying whole families.
Some went to nearby lands where the English live. Others went to live on
lands that belong to the French. But many others sailed farther away and
built homes on an island which is called Iceland. Other families
followed them to Iceland. Before many years there were more than a
thousand Vikings living on the island.
Some of the Vikings who had gone to live in Iceland still liked to sail
the seas. Stories say that one of them, a very daring seaman called Lief
Ericsson, sailed and sailed a very long way from his home. He found a
land with many green trees and green grass and grapevines loaded with
fruit. Lief called the land Vinland because of the grapes. But now
people believe that the shores which Lief Ericsson found were really the
shores of our land, America. Lief’s voyage to Vinland was made about
five hundred years before Columbus found the new world.
Some people have said, “The story that Lief Ericsson found America
cannot be true. A Viking ship could not have crossed the big ocean.”
But there was still a “Viking” living in Norway. He was a young Captain
Andersen. He believed that the old Viking ships could cross the ocean.
Even as a boy he had dreamed of how fine it would be to cross the ocean
in a real Viking ship like those of the old Viking days.
About the time Captain Andersen was dreaming his dream, one of the old
Viking ships which now stands in the museum was found buried deep under
ground. Captain Andersen saw that ship. A few years later, the young
captain heard of a World’s Fair to be held in Chicago, a city in
America. Then he got an idea. He thought, “I’ll build a ship that will
be a true copy of the old Viking ship—I’ll build it the same size as
that old ship and will sail it with the same equipment across the
Atlantic Ocean to America. I’ll sail the ship through the waters of
North America to Chicago and show it to the visitors at the World’s
And the young captain set about the task of building the ship. Of course
he had difficulties. He had to have money, but he got it. Finally the
ship was built. It was named the _Viking_ and Captain Andersen was made
its commander.
The _Viking_ set sail on April 30, 1893, with a crew of twelve men. On
June 13, it reached America. Captain Andersen’s dream had come true.
The _Viking_ was taken to Chicago. Thousands and thousands of visitors
at the World’s Fair saw the old ship.
The _Viking_ was left in Chicago. It still stands under a shelter in
Lincoln Park. On the old ship is a message which says that the ship came
across the ocean under its own sails. It came to carry a message of
good-will to the people of the United States of America.
Ivar, a Viking Boy
In the days of the Vikings, a son was born to the noble and bold
Hjorvard and his wife Sigrlin. A feast day was set on which the babe was
to be named. This was the custom for “name fastening” in Viking homes.
On the day for the “name fastening,” people for miles about gathered at
Hjorvard’s home. Hjorvard took his son on his lap. A vessel filled with
water was brought in and Hjorvard poured water on the child. Then he
said in a loud voice so that all the people could hear him,
“Ivar, the boy shall be named after his grandfather. He will fight many
battles. He shall be fair like his mother, and be called his father’s
son, for he will wage war from an early age and wander far and wide.”
Hjorvard placed a sprig of garlic around his son’s neck, as a “name
fastening,” meaning that as the garlic stood high among the grasses so
would little Ivar stand among men. Then he placed by Ivar’s side a
double-edged sword and a coat of mail, a shield, and a helmet of silver.
Every animal born on Hjorvard’s farm on the day of the birth of little
Ivar was to belong to the child.
[Illustration: From “The Viking Age,” Paul du Chaillu.]
Pictures have been found cut into rocks in Norway and Sweden.
This is an old rock picture of a Viking ship, made many, many
years ago. It shows a Viking defending his ship against two
smaller ones.
Ivar grew well. There was great joy in the family when he cut his first
tooth. His father, as was the Viking custom, gave him a “tooth fee.” The
gift was a knife in a gold sheath. This was fastened to a leather belt
sewn with gold thread. He gave him also a large farm where he would live
when he became a man.
As time went on Ivar grew to be a beautiful child; he was fair and had
blue eyes. Like all boys of his age he loved to play. Nothing pleased
him more than to put in the water a toy boat with a sail and watch it go
out to sea.
When Ivar was six years old his parents began to think of sending him to
be fostered. Boys who were to be great warriors were not brought up at
home but sent to some friend who was wise and brave, to be educated.
Ivar’s father and mother chose a brave man named Gudbrand to educate
Ivar’s father made ready to send a messenger to Gudbrand. On the day
when the messenger was to sail, a fleet of fifteen boats was seen coming
towards the shore. Each ship carried a white shield on its mast. This
meant that they were friendly and peaceful.
As the vessels came nearer shore they made a beautiful sight. Along the
sides of the boats were the colored shields of the warriors. The sails,
too, were striped in bright colors. Ahead of the other ships was a
dragon ship flying a flag with an eagle on it. By this flag every one
knew that this was Gudbrand’s ship.
Hjorvard and Sigrlin were glad to see Gudbrand’s ship coming at this
time. Hjorvard went out to meet the great warrior. There were great
feasts that day.
The next day when Gudbrand was talking to some of the warriors, Hjorvard
came up to him with Ivar in his arms. He put Ivar on Gudbrand’s knees.
It was an old custom that the man upon whose knee a child was seated was
bound to become his “fosterer.” Hjorvard’s men shouted with joy to see
Ivar seated upon the knees of Gudbrand, who was known for his wisdom and
At last the day came when Ivar was to leave his mother. Sigrlin was sad
to see him go for he was to be away for long years. Ivar walked down to
the shore between his parents, chatting merrily. As the ship left the
shore Sigrlin stood on the headland watching it go. Then, with a deep
sigh, she went homeward.
The wind was fair and after a sail of three days Gudbrand’s ships
reached home. Sigrid, his wife, was well pleased when she saw Ivar. She
prepared a room for him close to her own.
For a few days Ivar was homesick. He missed his father and mother and
his playmates. Everything was new and strange. Soon, however, he grew to
love his new home and his foster parents.
Gudbrand and Sigrid had a son named Hjalmar. He was a year older than
Ivar. The two boys became good friends and learned together. As they
grew older they were taught gymnastic exercises, games of ball, running,
wrestling, jumping, and swimming. They learned how to steer and sail a
boat. They learned how to ride. They even learned ship building and
worked in the ship yards. Both boys were taught how to write on birch
bark and to engrave letters on stone, gold, and silver.
Ivar and Hjalmar were better at sports than any other boys of their age.
They could swim like eels and could shoot straight.
When Ivar was fifteen years old Gudbrand gave him a beautiful ship
called _Stallion of the Surf_. Hjalmar also received a beautiful ship
called _Deer of the Surf_. Gudbrand took the two boys sailing with him
and trained them to build camp and to cook for themselves.
Ivar began to wish to see his own people again. Then the two boys sailed
to the home of Ivar’s father and mother. They were greeted with great
joy by Hjorvard and Sigrlin, who treated Hjalmar as kindly as if he were
their own son.
(a)Dragon’s head from prow of boat. (b) An old chest.
(c) Old coins. (d) Gold rings which were used for money.]
After three years Ivar and Hjalmar were ready to sail the seas on
expeditions of their own. They were Vikings, brave and bold.
Adapted from Ivar the Viking,
Paul du Chaillu.
Planting the Flag of Norway at the Bottom of the Earth
Crowds of people stood on the banks of the fjord at Oslo in Norway.
Bands were playing and flags were waving. Cheer after cheer arose from
the crowd as the boat, the _Fram_, came into sight. On the _Fram_ was a
brave Norwegian named Nansen who was returning from adventures in Eskimo
In the crowd which cheered Nansen was a lad seventeen years old who also
dreamed dreams of adventure. That lad was Roald Amundsen. “Some day,”
said Roald, “I’ll travel as far north as I can go. I’ll stand at the
North Pole—the spot at the very top of the world.”
People had known for a long time then that the earth is a big ball. The
spot at the very top of the big ball is called the North Pole and the
spot at the very bottom of the ball is called the South Pole. No matter
which way a person standing at the North Pole looked he would be looking
south toward the other end of the ball. If he stood at the South Pole,
no matter which way he looked, he would be looking north towards the top
of the ball. But when Roald was dreaming his dreams no one had stood at
either the North Pole or the South Pole. Roald thought, “Perhaps I can
be the first to visit the North Pole.”
How would he know when he reached a spot which no one had seen? Roald
had seen the instrument which sailors use to tell direction when out at
sea. It is a needle that always points toward the north star and that
star is almost directly overhead at the North Pole. Roald knew that he
could carry such a needle with him. With it he would be able to tell
when he came to the North Pole. For there the needle could no longer
point north, so it would move about trying to find north.
But Roald was then too young for such an adventure. Ten years passed
after Nansen’s return before he began to prepare for a journey to the
North Pole. He was to sail in the same boat that Nansen had used, the
_Fram_. Amundsen’s party was almost ready to start from Norway when news
came that an American, named Peary, had reached the North Pole. Already
the Stars and Stripes floated over that spot at the top of the earth.
Roald Amundsen still longed to visit the North Pole, but he decided not
to go at that time. He said, “No one has yet reached the South Pole—at
the bottom of the earth. We will go to the South Pole. Perhaps the
Norwegian flag may be the first to float there.”
On a bright sunny day in August, 1910, about a year after Peary found
the North Pole, Amundsen and his men set out on the long journey from
Norway to the South Pole at the bottom of the earth. He knew that the
Antarctic (ant ark tic)—the land and water at the bottom of the
earth—is a place of ice and snow. Amundsen knew much about cold lands
of ice and snow as he had always lived in Norway. He had traveled on
skis ever since he was a small boy. He had read many books about the
land to which he was going.
He planned everything very carefully so that he and his men would have
every chance to succeed. He said, “If a person starting on a hard task
prepares for the task carefully, he is likely to succeed—and then
people say he had _good luck_. If a person does not prepare carefully,
he is likely to fail—and then people say he had _bad luck_.”
On the deck of the _Fram_ were ninety-six Eskimo dogs. Amundsen said,
“The Eskimo dog is the best animal to endure the cold and to pull
sledges over the ice and snow.” Amundsen gave each man in the crew a
number of dogs to be in his care. The men named their dogs and began
making friends with them as soon as the journey began. They must have
the dogs ready to work well with them by the time they reached the
On the deck of the boat too were skis and snowshoes, heavy blankets,
suits of Eskimo clothes, suits of reindeer skins, canned meat and other
foods, and lumber ready to fit together for a house. Amundsen had tried
to make sure that he and his men would _be lucky_.
The first part of the journey was through the North Sea along the coast