Table of Contents
The Marsh-King's Daughter
The Wicked Prince
Pen and Inkstand
Little Claus and Big Claus
The Girl Who Trod upon Bread
The Emperor's new Clothes
The Little Sea-maid
The Farm-yard Cock and the Weather-cock
The Elfin Mound
Soup made of a Sausage-stick
The Wild Swans
The Galoshes of Fortune
Twelve by the Mail
The Garden of Paradise
The Constant Tin Soldier
The Stone of the Wise Men
The Snow Man
The Silver Shilling
The Naughty Boy
The Nis and the Dame
The Neighboring Families
The Happy Family
The Old House
In the Duck-yard
In the Nursery
The Red Shoes
The Snail and the Rose-tree
Little Ida's Flowers
The False Collar
The Flying Trunk
 IN the whole world there is nobody who knows so many
stories as Ole Shut-Eye; he can tell capital ones!
As evening comes on, when the children still sit nicely
at table or on their stools, then comes Ole Shut-Eye.
He comes up the stairs quite softly, for he walks in
his stocking feet; he opens the door noiselessly, and
st! he syringes sweet milk in the children's eyes, a
small, small stream, but enough to prevent them from
keeping their eyes open; and thus they cannot see him.
He creeps just among them, and blows softly upon their
necks, and this makes their heads heavy. O yes, but it
doesn't hurt them, for Ole Shut-Eye is very fond of the
children; he only wants them to be quiet, and that they
are not until they are taken to bed; they are to be
quiet that he may tell them stories.
When the children sleep, Ole Shut-Eye sits down upon
their bed. He is well dressed: his coat is of silk,
but it is impossible to say of what color, for it
shines red, green, and blue, according as he turns.
Under each arm he carries an umbrella: the one with
pictures on it he spreads over the good children and
then they dream all night the most glorious stories;
but on his other umbrella nothing at all is painted,
 and this he spreads over the naughty children, and
these sleep in a dull way, and when they awake in the
morning they have not dreamed of anything.
Now we shall hear how Ole Shut-Eye, every evening
through one whole week, came to a little boy named
Hjalmar, and what he told him. There are seven
stories, for there are seven days in the week.
"Listen," said Ole Shut-Eye in the evening, when he had
put Hjalmar to bed; "now I'll clear up."
And all the flowers in the flower-pots became great
trees, stretching out their long branches under the
ceiling of the room and along the walls, so that the
whole room looked like a beauteous bower; and all the
twigs were covered with flowers, and each flower was
more beautiful than a rose, and smelt so sweet that one
wanted to eat it; it was sweeter than jam. The fruit
gleamed like gold, and there were cakes bursting with
raisins. It was splendid. But at the same time a
terrible wail sounded from the table-drawer, where
Hjalmar's school-book lay.
"Whatever can that be?" said Ole Shut-Eye; and he went
to the table, and opened the drawer. It was the slate
 was suffering from convulsions, for a wrong
number had got into the sum, so that it was nearly
falling in pieces; the slate pencil tugged and jumped
at its string, as if it had been a little dog who
wanted to help the sum; but he could not. And thus
there was a great lamentation in Hjalmar's copy-book;
it was quite terrible to hear. On each page the great
letters stood in a row, one underneath the other, and
each with a little one at its side; that was the copy;
and next to these were a few more letters which thought
they looked just like the first; and these Hjalmar had
written; but they lay down just as if they had tumbled
over the pencil lines on which they were to stand.
"See, this is how you should hold yourselves," said the
Copy. "Look, sloping in this way, with a powerful
"O, we should be very glad to do that," replied
Hjalmar's Letters, "but we cannot; we are too weakly."
"Then you must take medicine," said Ole Shut-Eye.
"O no," cried they; and they immediately stood up so
gracefully that it was beautiful to behold.
"Yes, now we cannot tell any stories," said Ole
Shut-Eye; "now I must exercise them. One, two! one,
two!" and thus he exercised the Letters; and they stood
quite slender, and as beautiful as any copy can be.
But when Ole Shut-Eye went away, and Hjalmar looked at
them the next morning, they were as weak and miserable
As soon as Hjalmar was in bed, Ole Shut-Eye touched all
the furniture in the room with his little magic
syringe, and they immediately began to talk together,
and each one spoke of itself, with the exception of the
Spittoon, which stood silent, and was vexed that they
should be so vain as to speak only of themselves, and
think only of themselves, without any regard for him
who stood so modestly in the corner for every one's
Over the chest of drawers hung a great picture in a
gilt frame—it was a landscape. One saw therein large
old trees, flowers in the grass, and a broad river
which flowed round about a forest, past many castles,
and far out into the wide ocean.
Ole Shut-Eye touched the painting with his magic
syringe, and the birds began to sing, the branches of
the trees stirred, and the clouds began to move across
it; one could see their shadows glide over the
Now Ole Shut-Eye lifted little Hjalmar up to the frame,
and put the boy's feet into the picture, just in the
high grass; and there he stood, and the sun shone upon
him through the branches of the trees. He ran to the
water, and seated himself in a little boat which lay
there; it was painted red and white, the sails gleamed
like silver, and six swans, each with a gold circlet
around its neck, and a bright blue star on its
 forehead, drew the boat past the great wood, where the
trees tell of robbers and witches, and the flowers tell
of the graceful little elves, and of what the
butterflies have told them.
Gorgeous fished, with scales like silver and gold, swam
after their boat; sometimes they gave a spring, so that
it splashed in the water; and birds, blue and red,
little and great, flew after them in two long rows; the
gnats danced, and the cock-chafers said, "Boom! boom!"
They all wanted to follow Hjalmar, and each one had a
story to tell.
That was a pleasure voyage. Sometimes the forest was
thick and dark, sometimes like a glorious garden full
of sunlight and flowers; and there were great palaces
of glass and of marble; on the balconies stood
princesses, and these were all little girls whom
Hjalmar knew well; he had already played with them.
Each one stretched forth her hand, and held out the
prettiest sugar heart which ever a cake-woman could
sell; and Hjalmar took hold of each sugar heart as he
passed by, and the Princess held fast, so that each of
them got a piece—she the smaller share, and Hjalmar
the larger. At each palace little princes stood
sentry. They shouldered golden swords, and caused
raisins and tin soldiers to shower down; one could see
they were real princes. Sometimes Hjalmar sailed
through forests, sometimes through great halls, or
through the midst of a town. He also came to the town
where his nurse lived, who had carried him in her arms
when he was quite a little boy, and who had always been
so kind to him; and she nodded and beckoned, and sang
the pretty verse she had made herself and had sent to
I think of you, so oft, so oft,
My own Hjalmar, ever dear;
I've kissed your little lips so soft,
Your forehead and your cheeks so clear.
I heard you utter your first word,
Then I was forced to say farewell;
Now I will trust you to our Lord,
A good boy here, an angel there to dwell.
And all the birds sang too, the flowers danced on their
stalks, and the old trees nodded, just as if Ole
Shut-Eye had been telling stories to them.
 How the rain was streaming down without! Hjalmar could
hear it in his sleep; and when Ole Shut-Eye opened a
window, the water stood quite up to the window-sill:
there was quite a lake outside, and a noble ship lay
close by the house.
"If thou wilt sail with me, little Hjalmar," said Ole
Shut-Eye, "thou canst voyage to-night to foreign
climes, and be back again to-morrow."
And Hjalmar suddenly stood in his Sunday clothes upon
the glorious ship, and immediately the weather became
fine, and they sailed through the streets and steered
round by the church; and now everything was one great
wild ocean. They sailed on until land was no longer to
be seen, and they saw a number of storks, who also came
from their home, and were travelling towards the hot
countries: these storks flew in a row, one behind the
other, and they had already flown far— far! One
of them was so weary that his wings would scarcely
carry him farther: he was the very last in the row, and
soon remained a great way behind the rest: at last he
sank, with outspread wings, deeper and deeper; he gave
a few more strokes with his pinions, but it was of no
use; now he touched the rigging of the ship with his
feet, then he glided down from the sail, and—
bump!— he stood upon the deck.
Now the cabin boy took him and put him into the
 with the Fowls, Ducks, and the Turkeys;
and the poor Stork stood among them quite embarrassed.
"Just look at the fellow!" said all the Fowls.
And the Turkey-cock swelled himself up as much as ever
he could, and asked the Stork who he was; and the Ducks
walked backward and quacked to each other, "Quackery!
And the Stork told them of hot Africa, of the pyramids,
and of the ostrich, which runs like a wild horse
through the desert; but the ducks did not understand
what he said, and they said to one another,—
"We're all of the same opinion, namely, that he's
"Yes, certainly he's stupid," said the Turkey-cock; and
Then the stork was quite silent, and thought of his
"Those are wonderful thin legs of yours," said the
Turkey-cock. "Pray, how much do they cost a yard?"
"Quack! quack! quack!" grinned all the Ducks; but the
Stork pretended not to hear it at all.
"You may just as well laugh too," said the Turkey-cock
to him, "for that was very wittily said. Or was it,
perhaps, too high for you? Yes, yes, he isn't very
penetrating. Let us continue to be interesting among
And then he gobbled, and the Ducks quacked, "Gick!
gack! gick! gack!" It was terrible how they made fun
But Hjalmar went to the hen-coop, opened the back door,
and called to the Stork; and the Stork hopped out to
him on to the deck. Now he had rested, and it seemed
as if he nodded to Hjalmar, to thank him; then he
spread his wings, and flew away to the warm countries;
but the Fowls clucked, and the Ducks quacked, and the
Turkey-cock became fiery-red in the face.
"To-morrow we shall make songs of you," said Hjalmar;
and so saying he awoke, and was lying in his linen bed.
It was a wonderful journey that Ole Shut-Eye had caused
him to take that night.
 "I tell you what," said Ole Shut-Eye, "you must not be
frightened. Here you shall see a little Mouse," and he
held out his hand with the pretty little creature in
it. "It has come to invite you to a wedding. There
are two little Mice here who are going to enter into
the marriage state to-night. They live under the floor
of your mother's store-closet: that is said to be a
"But how can I get through the little mouse-hole in the
floor?" asked Hjalmar.
"Let me manage that," said Ole Shut-Eye. "I will make
And he touched Hjalmar with his magic syringe, and the
boy began to shrink and shrink, until he was not so
long as a finger.
"Now you may borrow the uniform of a tin-soldier: I
think it would fit you, and it looks well to wear a
uniform when one is in society."
"Yes, certainly," said Hjalmar.
And in a moment he was dressed like the spiciest of tin
"Will your honor not be kind enough to take a seat in
your mamma's thimble?" asked the mouse. "Then I shall
have the honor of drawing you."
"Will the young lady really take so much trouble?"
And thus they drove to the Mouse's wedding. First they
 came into a long passage beneath the boards, which
was only just so high that they could drive through it
in the thimble; and the whole passage was lit up with
"Is there not a delicious smell here?" observed the
mouse. "The entire road has been greased with bacon
rinds, and there can be nothing more exquisite."
Now they came into the festive hall. On the right hand
stood all the little lady mice; and they whispered and
giggled as if they were making fun of each other; on
the left stood all the gentlemen mice, stroking their
whiskers with their fore-paws; and in the centre of the
hall the bridegroom and bride might be seen standing in
a hollow cheese rind, and kissing each other terribly
before all the guests; for this was the betrothal, and
the marriage was to follow immediately.
More and more strangers kept flocking in. One mouse
nearly trod another to death; and the happy couple had
stationed themselves just in the doorway, so that one
could neither come in nor go out. Like the passage,
the room had been greased with bacon rinds, and that
was the entire banquet; but for the dessert a pea was
produced, in which a mouse belonging to the family had
bitten the name of the betrothed pair— that is to
say, the first letter of the name: that was something
quite out of the common way.
All the mice said it was a beautiful wedding, and that
the entertainment had been very agreeable. And then
Hjalmar drove home again: he had really been in grand
company; but he had been obliged to crawl, to make
himself little, and to put on a tin soldier's uniform.
 "It is wonderful how many grown-up people there are who
would be glad to have me!" said Ole Shut-Eye;
"especially those who have done something wrong. 'Good
little Ole,' they say to me, 'we cannot close our eyes,
and so we lie all night and see our evil deeds, which
sit on the bedstead like ugly little goblins, and throw
hot water over us; will you not come and drive them
away, so that we may have a good sleep?' and then they
sigh deeply,—'We would really be glad to pay for
it. Good night, Ole: the money lies on the
window-sill.' But I do nothing for money," said Ole
"What shall we do this evening?" asked Hjalmar.
"I don't know if you care to go to another wedding
to-night. It is of a different kind from that of
yesterday. Your sister's great doll, that looks like a
man, and is called Hermann, is going to marry the doll
Bertha. Moreover, it is the dolls' birthday, and
therefore they will receive very many presents."
"Yes, I know that," replied Hjalmar. "Whenever the
dolls want new clothes, my sister lets them either keep
their birthday or celebrate a wedding; that had
certainly happened a hundred times already."
 "Yes, but to-night is the hundred and first
wedding; and when number one hundred and one is past,
it is all over; and that is why it will be so splendid.
And Hjalmar looked at the table. There stood the
little cardboard house with the windows illuminated,
and in front of it all the tin soldiers were presenting
arms. The bride and bridegroom sat quite thoughtful,
and with good reason, on the floor, leaning against a
leg of the table. And Ole Shut-Eye, dressed up in the
grandmother's black gown, married them to each other.
When the ceremony was over, all the pieces of furniture
struck up the following beautiful song, which the
Pencil had written for them. It was sung to the melody
of the soldiers' tattoo:—
"Let the song swell like the rushing wind,
In honor of those who this day are joined,
Although they stand here stiff and blind,
Because they are both of a leathery kind.
Hurrah! hurrah! though they're deaf and blind,
Let the song swell like the rushing wind."
And now they received presents— but they had
declined to accept provisions of any kind, for they
intended to live on love.
"Shall we now go into a summer lodging, or start on a
journey?" asked the bridegroom.
And the Swallow, who was a great traveller, and the old
yard Hen, who had brought up five broods of chickens,
were consulted on the subject. And the Swallow told of
the beautiful warm climes, where the grapes hung in
ripe, heavy clusters, where the air is mild, and the
mountains glow with colors unknown here.
"But you have not our brown cole there!" objected the
Hen. I was once in the country, with my children, in
one summer that lasted five weeks. There was a
sand-pit, in which we could walk about and scratch; and
we had the entrée to a garden where brown cole
grew: it was so hot there that one could scarcely
breathe; and then we have not all the poisonous animals
that infest these warm countries of yours, and we are
free from robbers. He is a villain who does not
consider our country the most beautiful— he
 not deserve to be here!" And then
the Hen wept, and went on: "I have also travelled. I
rode in a coop above twelve miles; and there is no
pleasure at all in travelling!"
"Yes, the Hen is a sensible woman!" said the doll
Bertha. "I don't think anything of travelling among
mountains, for you only have to go up, and then down
again. No, we will go into the sand-pit beyond the
gate, and walk about in the cabbage garden."
And so it was settled.
"Am I to hear some stories now?" asked little Hjalmar,
as soon as Ole Shut-Eye had sent him to sleep.
"This evening we have no time for that," replied Ole
Shut-Eye; and he spread his finest umbrella over the
lad. "Only look at these Chinamen!"
And the whole umbrella looked like a great china dish,
with blue trees and pointed bridges, with little
Chinamen upon them, who stood there nodding their
"We must have the whole world prettily decked out for
to-morrow morning," said Ole Shut-Eye, "for that will
be a holiday—it will be Sunday. I will go to the
church steeples to see that the little church goblins
are polishing the bells,
 that they may sound
sweetly. I will go out into the field, and see if the
breezes are blowing the dust from the grass and leaves;
and, what is the greatest work of all, I will bring
down all the stars, to polish them. I take them in my
apron; but first each one must be numbered, and the
holes in which they are placed up there must be
numbered likewise, so that they may be placed in the
same grooves again; otherwise the would not sit fast,
and we should have too many shooting stars, for one
after another would fall down."
"Hark ye! Do you know, Mr. Ole Shut-Eye," said an old
Portrait which hung on the wall where Hjalmar slept, "I
am Hjalmar's great-grandfather? I thank you for
telling the boy stories; but you must not confuse his
ideas. The stars cannot come down and be polished!
The stars are world-orbs, just like our own earth, and
that is just the good thing about them."
"I thank you, old great-grandfather," said Ole
Shut-Eye, "I thank you! You are the head of the
family. You are the ancestral head; but I am older
than you! I am an old heathen: the Romans and Greeks
called me the Dream God! I have been in the noblest
houses, and am admitted there still! I know how to act
with great people and with small! Now you may tell
your own story!" and Ole Shut-Eye took his umbrella,
and went away.
"Well, well! May one not even give an opinion
nowadays>" grumbled the old Portrait. And Hjalmar
"Good evening!" said Ole
Shut-Eye; and Hjalmar nodded, and then ran and turned
his great-grandfather's Portrait against the wall, as
it had done yesterday.
"Now you must tell me stories; about the five green
peas that lived in one shell, and about the cock's foot
that paid court to the hen's foot, and of the
darning-needle who gave herself such airs because she
thought herself a working needle."
"There may be too much of a good thing!" said Ole
Shut-Eye. You know that I prefer showing you
something. I will show you my own brother. His name,
like mine, is Ole Shut-Eye, but he never comes to
anyone more than once; and he takes him to whom he
comes upon his horse, and tells him stories. He only
knows two. One of these is so exceedingly beautiful
that no-one in the world can imagine it, and the other
so horrible that it cannot be described."
And then Ole Shut-Eye lifted little Hjalmar up to the
window, and said,—
"There you will see my brother, the other Ole Shut-Eye.
They also call him Death! Do you see, he does not look
so terrible as they make him in the picture-books,
where he is only a skeleton. No, that is silver
embroidery that he has
 on his coat; that is a
splendid hussar's uniform; a mantle of black velvet
flies behind him over the horse. See how he gallops
And Hjalmar saw how this Ole Shut-Eye rode away, and
took young people as well as old upon his horse. Some
of them he put before him, and some behind: but he
always asked first, "how stands it with the mark-book?"
"Well," they all replied. "Yes, let me see it myself,"
he said. And then each one had to show him the book;
and those who had "very well" and "remarkably well"
written in their books, were placed in front of his
horse, and a lovely story was told to them; while those
who had "middling" or "tolerably well," had to sit up
behind, and hear a very terrible story indeed. They
trembled and wept and wanted to jump off the horse, but
this they could not do, for they had all, as it were,
grown fast to it.
"But Death is a most splendid Ole Shut-Eye," said
Hjalmar. "I am not afraid of him!"
"Nor need you be," replied Ole Shut-Eye; "but see that
you have a good mark-book!"
"Yes, that is improving!" muttered the
great-grandfather's Picture. "It is of some use giving
one's opinion." And now he was satisfied.
You see, that is the story of Ole Shut-Eye; and now he
may tell you more himself, this evening.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics