Hans Christian Andersen

April 2, 1805 - August 4, 1875


Ole Luckoie -- The Story-Teller

by Hans Christian Andersen

Ole Luckoie, that is, old kind-hearted Ole, is he whose business it is in every family to close the children's eyes when they go to bed -- in short, to sing them their lullaby. In Germany the same nursery-genius is to be found: he is called The Sandman, who, when it is time for the little ones to go to bed, strews sand in their eyes, so that they can no longer keep them open. It is an every-day expression, when of an evening a person looks sleepy, and winks and rubs his eyes, to say, Ha, ha! I see the Sandman is come!

Did you ever see any body who knows so many stories as good old Ole Luckoie -- and then, too, such stories! -- Yes, of an evening, although the children be sitting never so nicely and prettily behaved at table, or on their footstools, up stairs Ole Luckoie comes quite softly, He has, in reality, list shoes on; he opens the door very gently, and then what should he do but strew a certain powder on the children's eyelids. It is so fine, so very fine; but still it is always enough to make it impossible for them to keep their eyes open any longer; and that is the reason they do not see him: then he glides behind them, and breathes gently on their neck; and then their heads feel so heavy! But it does not hurt them, for good old Ole Luckoie loves the children, and wishes them well; he only wants them to be quiet, and they are most so when they are in bed. He wants them to be still, that he may be able to tell them his stories.

As soon as the children are asleep, good old Ole seats himself at the foot of their bed. He is well dressed; his coat is of silken stuff; but to say what color it is would be an impossibility, for it is so glossy, and is green, and red, and blue, according as he turns. Under each arm he carries an umbrella; one with pictures, which he holds over the good children, and then they dream the whole night the prettiest stories; and one on which there is nothing, and this one he holds over naughty children, who then sleep on dully the whole night, and when they awake in the morning have dreamed nothing at all.

Let us hear now how Ole came every night for a whole week to a little boy called Hialmar, and what he related to him. That makes seven stories; for a week, you know, has seven days.


Now, then, listen to me! said the kind old man, when he had got Hialmar to bed. Now I'll show you a pretty sight! and suddenly all the flowers in the flower-pots were changed into great trees, that spread their long branches up to the very ceiling, and along the walls, so that the whole room looked like the piettiest bower; and all the boughs were full of flowers, and every flower was more beautiful than a rose, and smelt delightfully. If one chose to eat it, it tasted sweeter than sugar-plums. The fruits shone, like gold; and plum-cakes were then almost bursting with raisins: there was nothing could be compared to it! But at the same moment a terrible lamentation was heard in the table-drawer, where Hialmar's schoolbooks were lying.

What's that! said Ole, going to the drawer and pulling it out. There lay the slate, on which the figures were pushing and knocking each other; for a wrong number had got into the sum, so that the whole was on the point of breaking down: the pencil jumped and hopped about, chained as he was to the slate by a piece of string, just like a little dog: he wanted to help the sum, but was not able. And a little further lay Hialmar's copy-book: here, too, was a moaning and lamentation within. On every leaf, from top to bottom, were capital letters, each with a small one beside it, and so all the way down. That was the copy; and by these some other letters were standing, that fancied they looked like them. Hialmar had written these; but there they lay, pretty much as if they had tumbled over the pencil-line on which they were meant to stand.

Look! you must stand so! said the copy; look! -- so, sideways, with a bold front.

Oh! we should be glad enough to do so, said Hialmar's letters, but we can't; we are such poor wretched creatures!

Then you must have some pepper, said Ole.

Oh, no! they all cried, and stood so upright that it was a pleasure to look at them.

Well, I can't tell you any more stories now, said the kind old man; I must go and drill the letters: one, two! one, two! one, two! And then they stood as straight and as well as only a copy can stand; but when Ole went away, and Hialmar looked at them next morning, there they were all just as wretched-looking as before.


As soon as Hialmar was in bed, Ole touched all the furniture in the room with his magic wand, and it immediately began to speak; and each thing spoke of itself.

Over the chest of drawers there hung a large picture in a gilded frame. It was a landscape; and in it were to be seen high old trees, flowers in the grass, and a broad piece of water, with a river that flowed round the wood, past many castles, away into the mighty sea.

The kind old man touched the picture with his wand; and the birds began to sing, the boughs of the trees moved, and the clouds floated by, so that one could see their shadows moving over the landscape. Ole now lifted Hialmar up to the frame, and Hialmar put his feet in the picture, right in among the high grass, and there he stood. He ran to the water and seated himself in a little boat; it was painted red and white, the sails shone like silver, and six swans, with golden chains around their necks, and a brilliant blue star on their heads, drew the boat past a green wood, where the trees related stories of robbers and witches, and the flowers told about the pretty little elves, and about what the butterflies had said to them.

The most beautiful fishes, with scales like gold and silver, swam after the boat; sometimes they gave a jump, so that they made a splashing in the water; and birds, red and blue, large and small, came flying behind in two long rows; the gnats danced, and the chafers hummed; they all would accompany Hialmar, and each one had a story to tell.

That was an excursion! Sometimes the woods were thick and gloomy; now they were like the most pleasing gardens, full of flowers and sunshine, and there were two large castles of marble and crystal. On the balconies Princesses were standing, all of whom were quite little girls, acquaintances of Hialmar, with whom he had often played. They stretched out their hands, each one holding the nicest little sucking-pig imaginable, made of sugar; and Hialmar took hold of one end as he sailed by, and a Princess held the other; so that each got a piece -- she the smaller, and he the larger one. Before each castle little Princes were standing sentry; they shouldered arms with their golden swords, and sent down showers of raisins and games of soldiers. They were the right sort of Princes! Hialmar now sailed through a wood, now through large halls, or the middle of a town; he passed, too, through the town where his nurse lived, she who had carried him about when he was quite a little boy, and had loved him so dearly. She nodded and beckoned to him and sang the pretty verse which she had composed herself and had sent to Hialmar:

I think of thee, my darling, I think of thee, my joy,
At morning and at evening, my little prattling boy;
For I it was who treasured the first words which thy tongue
In infancy did utter, and on thy accents hung.
'Twas I who kissed thy forehead, 'twas I who kissed thy cheek
So rosy and so dimpled, when thou didst try to speak:
And I have rocked thy cradle, and sung thy lullaby,
And watch'd till thine eyes opened, as blue as the blue sky.
And so thou wast a part of my life and of my joy!
No! ne'er shall I forget thee, my darling, darling boy!

And all the birds sang, too, the flowers danced on their stems, and the old trees bowed their heads, while the kind-hearted old man told his story.


Well, to be sure! How the rain is pouring down without! Hialmar could hear it even in his sleep; and when Ole opened the window the water reached to the very sill; it was quite a lake: but the most magnificent ship lay just before the house.

Will you sail with me, little Hialmar? said Ole; if you will, you can go and visit foreign-countries with me to-night, and be here again in the morning.

And all at once there stood Hialmar in his Sunday clothes on the deck of the splendid ship; and it grew beautiful weather immediately, and they sailed through the streets, and round about by the church, and the whole place was now a large, wild sea. They sailed on so long till at last no land was to be seen, and they perceived a flight of storks coming from Hialmar's home, and going to warmer climes. They always flew one behind the other, and they had already flown so very, very far! One of them was so tired, that his wings could scarcely carry him further; he was the last of all, and he soon remained a great way behind. At last, with outspread wings, he sank lower and lower, beat the air a few times with his pinions, but in vain. His wings touched the rigging of the ship, he slipped down from the sail, and, plump! -- there he stood on the deck!

Upon this a sailor-boy took him and put him into a hen-coop with the poultry, along with the ducks and turkeys. The poor stork stood among them quite out of countenance.

Only look, what an odd sort of fellow that is! said all the cocks and hens. And the turkey-cock puffed himself up as much as he could, and asked him who he was. And the ducks walked backwards, and nodded to each other.

And the stork told them of sultry Africa, of the pyramids, and of the ostrich that races over the desert like a wild horse. But the ducks did not understand him, and again nodded their heads, and said one to another, Shall We not agree that he is a simpleton?

Yes, to be sure, he is a simpleton, said the turkey-cock, gobbling.

So the stork was silent, and thought of his dear Africa.

Those are very pretty thin legs of yours, said the turkey; pray, what do they cost a yard?

Quack! quack! quack! giggled all the ducks; but the stork did as if he had not heard them.

Oh, you might very well have laughed, too, said the turkey to the stork, for the joke was a good one. But perhaps it was not high enough for you! Ha! ha! ha! he is a shallow fellow, so let us not waste our words upon him, but keep our clever things for ourselves! And then he gobbled, and the ducks gabbled, quack! quack! quack! It was really laughable to see how amused they were.

But Hialmar went to the hen-coop, and called the stork, who hopped out to him on the deck. He had now rested, and it seemed as if he nodded to Hialmar to thank him; then he spread out his wings and flew away to warm lands; but the fowls clucked, the ducks gabbled, and the turkey grew as red as fire.

We'll make soup of you to-morrow, said Hialmar; and saying these words he awoke, and was lying in his own little bed. That was a strange journey that Ole had taken him in the night!


What do you think? said Ole; but don't be afraid: I'll show you a little mouse. And he held out his hand to him with the pretty little creature. She is come to invite you to a wedding. There are here two little mice that are to be married this evening. They live under the floor of your larder; and they say it is a wondrous charming residence!

But how can I get through the little mouse-hole ?" asked Hialmar.

Leave that to me, said the old man, I'll take care to make you small enough. And he touched Hialmar with his wand, and he grew smaller and smaller immediately, till at last he was not bigger than a finger. Now, then, you can put on the little leaden soldier's clothes; I think they'll fit you, and it looks so well to have on uniform when one is in company.

Very well, said Hialmar; and in the same moment he was dressed like the nicest little leaden soldier.

If you will have the goodness to take a seat in your mamma's thimble, said the little mouse, I will do myself the honor to draw you.

Oh, your ladyship surely won't take the trouble yourself! said Hialmar, and on they drove to the wedding.

First they came into a long gallery under the floor, that was just high enough to drive through with the thimble, and was lighted the whole way with touchwood, which shone in the dark brilliantly.

Does it not smell deliciously here? said the mouse that drew him along; the whole corridor has been rubbed with bacon rind -- there can be nothing nicer!

Now they came into the hall where was the bridal pair. On the right stood the lady mice, who whispered as if they were amusing themselves at the others' expense; and on the left stood the gentlemen mice, stroking their whiskers with their paws; and in the middle of the room one beheld the marriage pair, standing in a hollow cheese; and they kissed each other before every body, for they were betrothed and were just going to be married. More and more company came; the mice almost trampled each other to death, and the two whose wedding was to be celebrated stationed themselves right in the door-way, so that there was no going in or out. The whole room, like the corridor, had been rubbed with bacon-rind; this was all the refreshment they got; but as dessert, a pea was shown, in which a little mouse of the family had bitten the names of the wedding pair; that is to say, the initials only. It was beautiful beyond all description.

All the mice said the wedding was very grand, and that the conversation, too, had been very good.

Now Hialmar drove home again. He had, it is true, been in very high society; but he had been obliged to bend, and creep, and make himself very small, and put on a leaden soldier's uniform.


It is incredible what a quantity of old people are always wanting to have me, said Ole Luckoie; particularly those who have done something wicked! 'Good, dear Ole Luckoie,' say they to me, 'we cannot close our eyes; and we lie the whole night, and see all our misdeeds, that sit like little ugly goblins at the foot of the bed, and sprinkle us with hot water. Do come and drive them away, that we may get a little sound sleep!' And then they heave deep sighs. 'We will willingly pay you: -- good night, Ole; the money lies on the window sill!' But I don't do it for money, said the old man.

What shall we undertake to-night? said Hialmar.

Why, I don't know if you would like to go to a wedding: it is quite a different sort of one to yesterday's. Your sister's large doll, that looks like a man, and is called Herman, is to marry the doll Bertha; besides, it is her birthday; so many presents will arrive.

Yes, I know, said Hialmar; every time the doll wants new clothes, my sister says it is her birthday, or her wedding. That has happened a hundred times already for certain.

Yes, but to-night is the wedding for the hundred-and-first time; and after it has happened a hundred and one times, then all is over. This time, therefore, it will be unparalleled: only look!

And Hialmar looked on the table. There stood the little pasteboard baby-house, with lights in the windows, and before the door were all the leaden soldiers presenting arms; the wadding pair were sitting on the floor, leaning thoughtfully against the leg of the table. Then Ole Luckoie put on grandmamma's black gown, and married them. When the wedding was over, all the furniture in the room began singing the following song, which the lead-pencil had written for the occasion:

Ho, for the bridegroom! and ho, for the bride
That's standing beside him in beauty's pride!
Her skin it is made of a white kid-glove,
And on her he looks with an eye of love.
Joy to the husband, and joy to the wife,
And happiness, too, and a long, long life!

And then presents were made them; but no eatables were given: this they had themselves desired; for they had quite enough with love.

Shall we go into the country now, or make a tour abroad? asked the bridegroom; and the swallow, who was a great traveler, and the old hen in the court that had brooded six times, were called in to give their advice; and the swallow related about the beautiful warm countries where large and clustering grapes hang on the vines, where the air is mild, and where the mountains have tints that are here unknown.

But you have not our green cabbages there, said the Hen. I passed one summer in the country with all my young family: there was a sandpit there, in which we could go and scratch; besides that, we were allowed to be in a garden full of green cabbages. Oh, how green it was! I cannot, imagine any thing more lovely!

But one cabbage-head looks just like the other, said the Swallow; and then here you have so often bad weather.

One is accustomed to it, said the Hen.

But it is cold here, it freezes!

That is good for the cabbage, said the Hen. Besides it can be warm here, too. Had we not four years ago a summer that lasted five weeks? It was so hot that one could hardly breathe. Moreover, here are none of the poisonous animals that are found abroad. Here we have no robbers! He must be a blockhead that does not think our country the finest in the world! Such a one does not deserve to live in it! And at these words tears ran down the Hen's cheeks. I have traveled, too! I have traveled in a hamper more than twelve miles. There is no such great pleasure in traveling that I can see!

Yes, the Hen is a sensible person, said the Doll Bertha. I have no great wish to travel over mountains either; for that is nothing else but going up and then coming down again. No, we will take a trip to the sand-pit, and go walking in the cabbage garden.

And so the matter was settled.


Am I to hear a story? said little Hialmar, as soon as the good-natured Ole had got him to sleep.

We have no time this evening, said Ole, spreading out his handsomest umbrella over him. Look at these Chinese! And the large umbrella looked like a great china plate with blue trees and pointed bridges, full of little Chinese standing and nodding their heads.

We must get the whole in order for tomorrow, said Ole Luckoie; to-morrow is a holyday, it is Sunday. I must go up to the church-tower, to see if all the little church-sprites have polished the bells, that they may sound melodiously. I must away into the fields, to see if the winds have swept the dust from the grass and the leaves; I must take down all the stars and polish them. I take them all in my apron; but they must first be numbered, and the holes where they belong must be numbered, too, so that each may get his right place again, otherwise they would not fit tight; and we should have a quantity of falling stars if one after the other were to tumble down.

I'll tell you what, Mr. Ole Luckoie, said an old Portrait, that hung on the wall near which Hialmar slept. I am Hialmar's great-grandfather. I am very much obliged to you for telling the boy pretty stories, but you must not set his ideas in confusion. Stars cannot be taken down and polished. Stars are globes like our world, and that is the very best thing about them.

Many thanks, old great-grandfather! said Ole. Very many thanks! You are, it is true, an old great-grandfather, but I am older than you. I am an old heathen; the Greeks and Romans named me the God of Dreams. I have been in the houses of the great, and. still go there. I know how to deal with great and little! Now, then, do you tell a story! And old Ole went away and took his umbrella with him.

Now-a-days one dares not say what one thinks! murmured the old Portrait.

And here Hialmar awoke.


Good evening, said Ole; and Hialmar nodded, and ran quickly to the portrait of his great-grandfather, and turned it with the face to the wall, in order that it might not mix in the conversation as it did yesterday evening.

Now you must tell me a story about the five green peas that lived in a pea-shell, and about the cock that paid his addresses to the hen, and of the darning-needle that wanted to be very fine, and fancied itself a sewing needle

One can have too much of a good thing, said Ole. I will rather show you something. I will show you my brother; but he never comes but once; and when he does come to anybody he takes him on his horse, and tells him stories. He knows only two; the one is indescribably beautiful, such as no one in the world can imagine; and the other is so horrible and frightful -- I cannot say how dreadful! And he lifted little Hialmar up to the window, and said: There, look at my brother, the other Ole; he is, it is true, sometimes called Death! You see, he does not look half so horrid as he is made in picture-books, where he is all bones. All that is silver embroidery that he has on his dress! it is the richest hussar uniform! a cloak of black velvet flies behind him over his horse: look! how he gallops!

And Hialmar saw how Ole Luckoie's brother rode away, and took the young and the old up with him on his horse. Some he set before him, and others behind; but he always asked first what testimonials they had.

Oh, good ones, said they all. Yes, but let me look myself, said he; and then they were obliged to show him the book: and all those who had VERY GOOD, or PARTICULARLY GOOD, came before him on horseback, and heard the beautiful story; but those who had PRETTY WELL, or BAD, in their books, were obliged to get behind and hear the dreadful one. They trembled and cried, and wanted to jump down from the horse, but they could not, for they and the horse had grown together.

But Death is the more beautiful of the two, said Hialmar; I am not afraid of him.

Nor should you be, said Ole; only take care that you have a good certificate in your book.

Yes, that is instructive, murmured the great-grandpapa's portrait; it is, however, a good thing to express one's opinion after all; and now the old gentleman was pleased.

Well, that is the story of Ole Luckoie, and this evening he can tell you some more tales.


Fairy Tales
Copyright 1869
Allen Brothers, New York