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Iceland Fairy tales – The Cottager And His Cat

Popular Fairy tales - A man lived with his wife and son in a wretched hovel; he was secretly rich, but so great a miser that he could not spend the money. One day, however, he spent too little on food and died. The man appeared to his son in a dream and said that his mother would die soon; half the wealth, being ill-gotten, was to be given to the poor, and he should throw the other half into the sea, and catch whatever swam by.

The Cottager And His Cat

Once upon a time there lived an old guy and his wife in a filthy, tumble-down cabin, not very far in the splendid palace where the king and queen dwelt. In spite of the wretched condition of this hut, which lots of people declared was too bad even for a pig to live in, the older man was very wealthy, for he had been a great miser, and lucky besides, and would frequently go without food each day earlier than alter one of his beloved gold bits.

The Cottager And His Cat
However, after a while he found that he had starved himself once too often. He fell sick, and had no strength to get well again, and in a few days he died, leaving his wife and one son behind him.

The night following his passing, the son whined that an unidentified man appeared to him and said: 'Listen to me; your father is dead and your mother will soon die, and all their riches will belong to you. Half of his wealth is ill-gotten, and this you must give back to the poor from whom he squeezed it.

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Then the man disappeared, along with the youth cried.

The remembrance of his dream troubled him greatly. He did not want to part with the riches that his dad had left him, for he had known all his life what it was to be cold and hungry, and now he'd hoped to get a bit of relaxation and pleasure. However, he was honest and good-hearted, and if his father had come wrongfully by his wealth he believed he would never appreciate it, and at last he made up his mind to do as he was bidden. He found out that were the men and women who were poorest in the village, and spent half of his money in helping them, and the other half he placed in his pocket. From a
Rock that jutted right out to the sea he flung it in. At a moment it was out of sight, and no man could have told the place where it had sunk, except for a very small scrap of paper floating on the water. He stretched down carefully and managed to reach this, and on opening it found six shillings wrapped indoors. This was now all of the cash he had in the world.

The young man stood and looked at it thoughtfully. 'Well, I can't do much with this,' he said to himself; however, after all, six shillings were much better than nothing, and he wrapped them up again and slipped them into his jacket.

He worked in his backyard to the next few weeks, and he and his mother contrived to live on the fruit and vegetables he got from it, and then she too died suddenly. The poor fellow felt very sad when he had laid her in her grave, and with a heavy heart that he wandered into the forest, not knowing where he was going. By-and-by that he began to get hungry, and visiting a little hut in front of him, he knocked at the door and inquired if they could provide him some milk. The older woman who opened it flew him to come in, including kindly, that when he wanted a night's accommodation he would have it without breaking him anything.

Two women and three men were at dinner when he entered, and quietly made room for him to sit down by them. When he had eaten he started to look about him, and was amazed to observe an animal sitting by the fire distinct from anything he'd ever seen before. It was grey in colour, and not so large; but its eyes were so large and very bright, and it appeared to be filmed in a strange manner, quite unlike any other creature in the woods. 'What is the name of that strange little creature?' Asked. And they replied, 'We call it a cat.'

And they told him that he might have it for six shillings, if he cared to give so much. The young man took out his precious piece of paper, given them the six shillings, and the next morning bade them farewell, with the cat lying snugly in his cloak.

For the whole day they wandered through meadows and forests, till in the evening they reached a home.
The door and asked the old guy who opened it if he could rest there that night, including that he had no cash to cover it. 'Then I must give it to you,' answered the man, and led him into an area where two women and two guys were sitting at supper. Among the girls had been the old man's wife, the other his daughter. He put the cat on the mantel shelf, and they all crowded round to examine this strange beast, and the cat rubbed itself from them, and pulled its paw, and sang to them; and the women were delighted, and gave it all that a cat would eat, and a fantastic deal more besides.

After hearing the youth's story, and how he had nothing on earth left him except his cat, the old man advised him to go to the palace, that had been just a few miles distant, and take counsel of the king, who had been kind to everybody, and would certainly be his friend. The young man kissed him, and said he'd happily take his advice; and early next morning he put out for the royal palace.

He sent a message to the king to beg for an audience, and got a reply that he was to enter the great hall, where he'd find his Majesty.

The king was at dinner with his court once the young man entered, and he signed to him to come close. The youth bowed low, and then gazed in surprise at the bunch of small black monsters who were running on the floor, and even on the table itself. Really, they were so bold that they snatched pieces of food out of the King's own plate, and when he drove them away, tried to bite his hands, so that he couldn't eat his meals, and his courtiers fared no better.

Asked the youth of one of those ladies sitting near him.

'They are called rats,' replied the king, who had overheard the question, 'and for years we have tried some way of putting an end to them, but it is impossible. They come into our very beds.'

At this moment something was seen flying through the air. The cat was on the desk, and with two or three shakes a number of rodents were lying dead round him. Then a great scuffling of feet was heard, and in a few minutes the hall was clear.

For some moments the King and his courtiers just looked at each other in astonishment. Asked. Along with the young man told him that it was known as a cat, and that he'd purchased it for six shillings.

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And the King answered: 'Because of the luck you have brought me, in freeing my palace from the plague which has tormented me for many years, I will give you the choice of two things. Say, which shall it be?'

'The princess and the kingdom,' said the young man.

And so it was.

Author : Andrew Lang


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