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Good Stories for Great Holidays by  Frances Jenkins Olcott

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THE NUTCRACKER DWARF

BY COUNT FRANZ POCCI (TRANSLATED)

TWO boys gathered some hazelnuts in the woods. They sat down under a tree and tried to eat them, but they did not have their knives, and could not bite open the nuts with their teeth.

"Oh," they complained, "if only some one would come and open the nuts for us!"

Hardly had they said this when a little man came through the woods. And such a strange little man! He had a great, great head, and from the back of it a slender pigtail hung down to his heels. He wore a golden cap, a red coat and yellow stockings.

As he came near he sang:—

"Hight! hight! Bite! bite!

Hans hight I! Nuts bite I!

I chase the squirrels through the trees,

I gather nuts just as I please,

I place them 'twixt my jaws so strong,

And crack and eat them all day long!"

The boys almost died of laughter when they saw this funny little man, who they knew was a Wood Dwarf.

[286] They called out to him: "If you know how to crack nuts, why, come here and open ours."

But the little man grumbled through his long white beard:—

"If I crack the nuts for you

Promise that you'll give me two."

"Yes, yes," cried the boys, "you shall have all the nuts you wish, only crack some for us, and be quick about it!"

The little man stood before them, for he could not sit down because of his long, stiff pigtail that hung down behind, and he sang:—

"Lift my pigtail, long and thin,

Place your nuts my jaws within,

Pull the pigtail down, and then

I'll crack your nuts, my little men."

The boys did as they were told, laughing hard all the time. Whenever they pulled down the pigtail, there was a sharp crack, and a broken nut sprang out of the Nutcracker's mouth.

Soon all the hazelnuts were opened, and the little man grumbled again:—

"Hight! hight! Bite! bite!

Your nuts are cracked, and now my pay

I'll take and then I'll go away."

Now one of the boys wished to give the little man his promised reward, but the other, who was a bad boy, stopped him, saying:—

[287] "Why do you give that old fellow our nuts? There are only enough for us. As for you, Nutcracker, go away from here and find some for yourself."

Then the little man grew angry, and he grumbled horribly:—

"If you do not pay my fee,

Why, then, you've told a lie to me!

I am hungry, you're well fed,

Quick, or I'll bite off your head!"

But the bad boy only laughed and said: "You'll bite off my head, will you! Go away from here just as fast as you can, or you shall feel these nut-shells," and he shook his fist at the little man.

The Nutcracker grew red with rage. He pulled up his pigtail, snapping his jaws together,—crack,—and the bad boy's head was off.


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