LITTLE CLAUS AND BIG CLAUS
HERE lived in a village two men who both had the same
name—they were called Claus; but one of them had four
horses and the other had only one horse, so in order to
tell one from the other people called the owner of the
four horses "Big Claus" and him who had only one
"Little Claus." Now we shall hear what happened to the
two, for this is a true story.
The whole week through Little Claus was obliged to plow
for Big Claus, and lend him his one horse, and in
return Big Claus lent him all his four horses, but only
on one day of the week, and that was Sunday. Then how
proudly Little Claus would smack his whip over all five
horses! They were as good as his own on that one day.
The sun shone brightly, and all the bells in the
church-tower were ringing merrily as the people passed
by, dressed in their best clothes, with their
prayer-books under their arms. They were going to hear
the clergyman preach, and they looked at Little Claus
plowing with his five horses, and he was so proud that
he smacked his whip and said, "G'up, all my horses!"
"You must not say that," said Big Claus, "for only one
of them belongs to you."
 But when another lot of
people went by to church Little Claus forgot what he
ought to say and called out, "G'up, all my horses!"
"Now, I tell you not to say that again," said Big
Claus; "for if you do I shall hit your horse on the
head so that he will drop dead on the spot, and that
will be the end of him."
"I promise you I will not say it any more," said the
other; but as soon as people came by, nodding to him,
and wishing him "Good day," he became so pleased and
thought how grand it looked to have five horses plowing
in his field that he cried out again, "G'up, all my
"I'll g'up your horses for you," said Big Claus, and,
seizing a carriage-weight, he struck the one horse of
Little Claus on the head, and he fell dead instantly.
"Ah! now I have no horse at all," said Little Claus,
and he began to weep. But after a while he took off
the dead horse's skin and hung the hide to dry in the
wind. Then he put the dry skin into a bag and, placing
it over his shoulder, went out into the next town to
sell the horse's hide.
He had a very long way to go and had to pass through a
dark, gloomy forest. Presently a storm arose and he
lost his way, and before he discovered the right path
evening came on, and it was still a long way to the
town, and too far to return home before night.
Near the road stood a large farm-house. The shutters
outside the windows were closed, but lights shone
through the crevices and at the top. "I might get
permission to stay here for the night," thought Little
Claus; so he went up to the door and knocked.
The Farmer's Wife opened the door, but when she heard
what he wanted she told him to go away, as her husband
would not allow her to admit strangers.
"Then I shall be obliged to lie out here," said Little
Claus to himself; and the Farmer's Wife shut the door
in his face.
Near to the farm-house stood a large haystack, and
between it and the house was a small shed with a
"I can lie up there," said Little Claus as he saw the
 will make a famous bed, but I hope the stork
will not fly down and bite my legs"; for on it stood a
living stork, whose nest was in the roof.
So Little Claus climbed to the roof of the shed, and
while he turned himself to get comfortable he
discovered that the wooden shutters, which were closed,
did not reach to the tops of the windows of the
farm-house, so that he could see into a room in which a
large table was laid out with wine, roast meat, and a
splendid fish. The Farmer's Wife and the Sexton were
sitting at the table together, and she filled his glass
and helped him plentifully to fish, for that was
something he was fond of.
"If I could only get some, too," thought Little Claus;
and he stretched his neck toward the window. Oh, what
a lovely pie he could see there! Oh, but what a feast!
Now he heard some one riding down the road toward the
farm-house. It was the woman's husband coming home.
He was a good man, but still he had a very strange
prejudice—he could not bear the sight of a sexton.
If one appeared before him he would put himself in a
terrible rage. And so it was that the Sexton had gone
to visit the Farmer's Wife during her husband's absence
from home, and the good woman had placed before him the
best she had in the house to eat. When she heard the
Farmer coming she was frightened, and begged the Sexton
to hide himself in a large empty chest that stood in
the room. He did so, for he knew her husband could not
endure the sight of a sexton. The woman then quickly
put away the wine and hid all the rest of the nice
things in the oven, for if her husband had seen them he
would have asked what they were brought for.
"Oh, dear!" sighed Little Claus, from the top of the
shed, as he saw all the good things disappear.
"Is any one up there?" asked the Farmer, looking up and
discovering Little Claus. "Why are you lying up there?
Come down and come into the house with me."
So Little Claus came down and told the Farmer how he
had lost hi way and begged for a night's lodging.
 "All right," said the Farmer, "but we must have
something to eat first."
The woman received them both very kindly, laid the
cloth on a large table, and placed before them a dish
of groats. The Farmer was very hungry and ate his
groats with a good appetite; but Little Claus could not
help thinking of the nice roast meat, fish, and pies
which he knew were in the oven. Under the table at his
feet lay the sack containing the horse's skin, which he
intended to sell at the next town. Now Little Claus
did not relish groats at all, so he trod with his foot
on the sack under the table, and the dry skin squeaked
quite loud. "Hush!" said Little Claus to his sack, at
the same time treading upon it again till it squeaked
louder than before.
"Hello! What have you got in your sack?" asked the
"Oh, it is a conjurer," said Little Claus; "and he says
we need not eat groats, for he has conjured the oven
full of roast meat, fish, and pie."
"Wonderful!" cried the Farmer, and he opened the oven
door; and there lay all the nice things hidden by the
Farmer's Wife, but which he supposed had been conjured
there by the wizard under the table. The woman dared
not say anything; so she placed the things before them,
and they both ate of the fish, the meat, and the
Then Little Claus trod again upon his sack, and it
squeaked as before.
"What does he say now?" asked the Farmer.
"He says," replied Little Claus, "that there are three
bottles of wine for us standing in the corner by the
So the woman was obliged to bring out the wine also,
which she had hidden, and the Farmer drank it till he
became quite merry. He would have liked such a
conjurer as Little Claus carried in his sack. "Could
he conjure up the devil?" asked the Farmer. "I should
like to see him now, while I am so merry."
"Oh yes!" replied Little Claus, "my conjurer can do
anything I ask him—can you not?" he asked, treading
at the same
 time on the sack till it squeaked. "Do you
hear? He answers 'Yes,' but he fears that we shall not
like to look at him."
"Oh, I am not afraid. What will he be like?"
"Well, he is very much like a sexton."
"Ha!" said the Farmer. "Then he must be ugly. Do you
know, I cannot endure the sight of a sexton. However,
that doesn't matter; I shall know who it is, so I
shall not mind. Now then, I have got up my courage,
but don't let him come too near me."
"Stop! I must ask the conjurer," said Little Claus; so
he trod on the bag, and stooped his ear down to listen.
"What does he say?"
"He says that you must go and open that large chest
which stands in the corner, and you will see the devil
crouching down inside; but you must hold the lid
firmly, that he may not slip out."
"Will you come and help me hold it?" said the Farmer,
going toward the chest in which his wife had hidden the
Sexton, who now lay inside, very much frightened. The
Farmer lifted the lid a very little way and peeped in.
"Eh!" cried he, springing backward. "Ah, I saw him,
and he is exactly like our sexton. How dreadful it
is!" So after that he was obliged to drink again, and
they sat and drank till far into the night.
"You must sell your conjurer to me," said the Farmer;
"ask as much as you like, I will pay it; indeed, I
would give you directly a whole bushel of gold."
"No, indeed, I cannot," said Little Claus; "only think
how much profit I could make out of this conjurer."
"But I should like to have him," said the Farmer, still
continuing his entreaties.
"Well," said Little Claus, at length, "you have been so
good as to give me a night's lodging, I will not refuse
you; you shall have the conjurer for a bushel of money,
but I will have quite full measure."
"So you shall," said the Farmer; "but you must take
 the chest as well. I would not have it in the
house another hour; there is no knowing if he may not
be still there."
So Little Claus gave the Farmer the sack containing the
dried horse's skin and received in exchange a bushel of
money—full measure. The Farmer also gave him a
wheelbarrow on which to carry away the chest and the
"Farewell," said Little Claus, as he went off with his
money and the great chest, in which the Sexton lay
still concealed. On one side of the forest was a
broad, deep river; the water flowed so rapidly that
very few were able to swim against the stream. A new
bridge Little Claus stopped, and said, loud enough to
be heard by the Sexton:
"Now, what shall I do with this stupid chest? It is as
heavy as if it were full of stones. I shall be tired
if I roll it any farther, so I may as well throw it
into the river; if it swims after me to my house, well
and good; and if not, it will not much matter."
So he seized the chest in his hand and lifted it up a
little, as if he were going to throw it into the water.
"No, leave it alone," cried the Sexton, from within the
chest. "Let me out first."
"Oh!" exclaimed Little Claus, pretending to be
frightened, "he is in there still, is he? I must throw
him into the river, that he may be drowned."
"Oh no! Oh no!" cried the Sexton. "I will give you a
whole bushelful of money if you will let me go."
"Why, that is another matter," said Little Claus,
opening the chest. The Sexton crept out, pushed the
empty chest into the water, and went to his house; then
he measured out a whole bushelful of gold for Little
Claus, who had already received one from the Farmer, so
that now he had a barrowful.
"I have been well paid for my horse," said he to
himself, when he reached home, entered his own room,
and emptied all his money into a heap on the floor.
"How vexed Big Claus will be when he finds how rich I
have become all through my one
 horse; but I shall not
tell him exactly how it all happened." Then he sent a
boy to Big Claus to borrow a bushel measure.
"What can he want if for?" thought Big Claus; so he
smeared the bottom of the measure with tar, that some
of whatever was put into it might stick there and
remain. And so it happened; for, when the measure
returned, three new silver florins were sticking to it.
"What does this mean?" said Big Claus; so he ran off
directly to Little Claus and asked, "Where did you get
so much money?"
"Oh, for my horse's hide; I sold it yesterday."
"It was certainly well paid for, then," said Big Claus;
and he ran home to his house, seized a hatchet, and
knocked all his four horses on the head, flayed off
their skins, and took them to the town to sell.
"Hides, hides! Who'll buy hides?" he cried, as he went
through the streets. All the shoemakers and tanners
came running and asked how much he wanted for them.
"A bushel of money each," replied Big Claus.
"Are you mad?" they all cried. "Do you think we have
money to spend by the bushel?"
"Hides, hides!" he cried again. "Who'll buy hides?"
But to all who inquired the price his answer was, "A
bushel of money."
"He is making fools of us," said they all; then the
shoemakers took their straps, and the tanners their
leather aprons, and began to beat Big Claus.
"Hides, hides!" they cried, mocking him. "Yes, we'll
mark your hide for you till it is black and blue."
"Out of the town with him," said they. And Big Claus
was obliged to run as fast he could; he had never
before been so thoroughly beaten.
"Ah," said he, as he became to his house, "Little Claus
shall pay me for this; I will beat him to death."
Now it happened that the old grandmother of Little
Claus died. She had been cross, unkind, and really
spiteful to him; but he was very sorry, and took the
dead woman and laid her
 on his warm bed to see if he
could bring her to life again. There he determined
that she should like the whole night, while he seated
himself in a chair in a corner of the room, as he had
often done before.
During the night, as he sat there, the door opened, and
in came Big Claus with a hatchet. He knew well where
Little Claus's bed stood, so he went right up to it and
struck the old grandmother on the head, thinking it
must be Little Claus.
"There!" cried he. "Now you cannot make a fool of me
again," and then he went home.
"That is a very wicket man," thought Little Claus; "he
meant to kill me. It is a good thing for my old
grandmother that she was already dead, or he would have
taken her life."
Then he dressed his old grandmother in her best
clothes, borrowed a horse of his neighbor, and
harnessed it to a cart. Then he placed the old woman
on the back seat, so that she might not fall out as he
drove, and rode away through the wood. By sunrise they
reached a large inn, where Little Claus stopped and
went to get something to eat.
The Landlord was a rich man and a good man, too, but as
passionate as if he had been made of pepper and snuff.
"Good morning," said he to Little Claus; "you are come
"Yes," said Little Claus; "I am going to the town with
my old grandmother; she is sitting at the back of the
wagon, but I cannot bring her into the room. Will you
take her a glass of mead? But you must speak very
loud, for she cannot hear well."
"Yes, certainly I will," replied the Landlord. And,
pouring out a glass of mead, he carried it out to the
dead grandmother, who sat upright in the cart.
"Here is a glass of mead from your grandson," said the
The dead woman did not answer a word, but sat quite
"Do you not hear?" cried the Landlord, as loud as he
could. "Here is a glass of mead from your grandson."
Again and again he bawled it out, but as she did not
 flew into a passion and threw the glass of mead
in her face; it struck her on the nose, and she fell
backward out of the cart, for she was only seated
there, not tied in.
"Mercy!" cried Little Claus, and sprang out of the
door, and seized hold of the Landlord by the throat.
"You have killed my grandmother! See, here is a great
hole in her forehead."
"Oh, how unfortunate," said the Landlord, wringing his
hands. "This all comes of my fiery temper. Dear
Little Claus, I will give you a whole bushel of money,
and will bury your grandmother as if she were my own;
only keep silent, or else htey will cut off my head,
and that would be disagreeable."
So it happened that Little Claus received another
bushel of money, and the Landlord buried his old
grandmother as if she had been his own.
When now Little Claus reached home again he immediately
sent a boy to Big Claus, requesting him to lend him a
"How is this?" thought Big Claus. "Did I not kill him?
I must go and see for myself." So he went to Little
Claus, and took the bushel measure with him. "How did
you get all this money?" asked Big Claus, staring with
wide-open eyes at his neighbor's treasures.
"You killed my grandmother instead of me," said Little
Claus, "so I have sold her for a bushel of money."
"That is a good price, anyway," said Big Claus. So he
went home, took a hatchet and killed his own
grandmother with one blow. Then he placed her on a
cart and drove into the town to the Apothecary and
asked him if he would buy a dead body.
"Whose is it, and where did you get it?" asked the
"It is my grandmother," replied; I struck her dead for
a bushel of money."
"Heaven preserve us!" cried the Apothecary. "You are
out of your mind. Don't say such things, or you will
lose your head." And then he talked to him seriously
about the wicked deed he had done, and told him that
such a wicked man would surely be punished. Big Claus
got so frightened that he rushed out of the
shop, jumped into the cart, whipped up his horses, and
drove home quickly. The Apothecary and all the people
thought him mad and let him drive where he liked.
"You shall pay for this," said Big Claus, as soon as he
got into the highroad. "That you shall, Little Claus."
So as soon as he reached home he took the largest sack
he could find and went over to Little Claus. "You have
played me another trick," said he. "First I killed all
my horses, and then my old grandmother, and it is all
your fault, but you shall not make a fool of me any
more." So he laid hold of Little Claus round the body
and pushed into the sack, which he took on his
shoulders, saying, "Now I'm going to drown you in the
He had a long way to go before he reached the river,
and Little Claus was not a very light weight to carry.
The road led by the church, and as they passed he could
hear the organ playing and the people singing
beautifully. Big Claus put down the sack close to the
church door, and thought he might was well go in and
hear a psalm before he went any farther. Little Claus
could not possibly get out of the sack, and all the
people were in church, se he went.
"Oh, dear! Oh, dear!" sighed Little Claus in the sack,
as he turned and twisted about; but he found he could
not loosen the string with which it was tied.
Presently and old cattle-driver with snowy hair passed
by, carrying a large staff in his hand with which he
drove a large herd of cows and oxen before him. They
stumbled against the sack in which lay Little Claus,
and turned it over. "Oh, dear!" sighed Little Claus.
"I am so young and going so soon to heaven."
"And I, poor fellow," said the drover, "I, who am so
old already, and you will soon be there."
"With all my heart," replied the drover, "I, who am so
old already, cannot get there."
"Open the sack," cried Little Claus; "creep into it
instead of me, and you will soon be there."
"With all my heart," replied the drover, opening the
sack, from which sparing Little Claus as quickly as
possible. "Will you take care of my cattle?" said the
old man as he crept into the bag.
 "Yes," said Little Claus, and he tied up the sack, and
then walked off with all the cows and oxen.
When Big Claus came out of church he took up the sack
and placed it on his shoulders. It appeared to have
become lighter, for the old drover was not half so
heavy as Little Claus.
"How light he seems now," said he. "Ah, it is because
I have been to church." So he walked on to the river,
which was deep and broad, and threw the sack containing
the old drover into the water, believing it to be
Little Claus. "There you may lie!" he exclaimed. "You
will play me no more tricks now." Then he turned to go
home, but when he came to a place where two roads
crossed there was Little Claus driving the cattle.
"How is this?" said Big Claus. "Did I not drown you
"Yes," said Little Claus, "you threw me into the river
about an hour ago."
"But where ever did you get all these fine beasts?"
asked Big Claus.
"These beasts are sea-cattle," replied Little Claus.
"I'll tell you the whole story, and thank you for
drowning me. I am above you now; I am really very
rich. I was frightened, to be sure, while I lay tied
up in the sack, and the wind whistled in my ears when
you threw me into the river from the bridge, and I sank
to the bottom immediately, but I did not hurt myself,
for I fell upon beautifully soft grass which grows down
there, and in a moment the sack opened and the sweetest
little maiden came toward me. She had snow-white robes
and a wreath of green leaves on her wet hair. She took
me by the hand and said, 'So you are come, Little
Claus, and here are some cattle for you to begin with.
About a mile farther on the road there is another herd
for you.' Then I saw that the river formed a great
highway for people who live in the sea. They were
walking and driving here and there from the sea to the
land at the spot where the river terminates. The bed
of the river was covered with the loveliest flowers and
sweet, fresh grass. The fish swam past me
 as rapidly
as the birds do here in the air. How handsome all the
people were, and what fine cattle were grazing on the
hills and in the valleys!"
"But why did you come up again," said Big Claus, "if it
was all so beautiful down there? I should not have
"Well," said Little Claus, "it was good policy on my
part; you heard me say just now that I was told by the
sea-maiden to go a mile farther on the road and I
should find a whole herd of cattle. By the road she
meant the river, for she could not travel any other
way, but I knew the winding river, and how it bends,
sometimes to the right and sometimes to the left, and
it seemed a long way, so I chose a shorter one, and by
coming up to the land and then driving across the
fields back again to the river I shall save half a mile
and get all my cattle more quickly."
"What a lucky fellow you are!" exclaimed Big Claus.
"Do you think I should get any sea-cattle if I went
down to the bottom of the river?"
"Yes, I think so," said Little Claus; "but I cannot
carry you there in a sack; you are too heavy. However,
if you will go there first, and then creep into a sack,
I will throw you in with the greatest pleasure."
"Thank you," said Big Claus; "but, remember, if I do
not get any sea-cattle down there I shall come up again
and give you a good thrashing."
"No, now, don't be too fierce about it!" said Little
Claus, as they walked on toward the river. When they
approached it the cattle, who were very thirsty, saw
the stream and ran down to drink.
"See what a hurry they are in," said Little Claus;
"they are longing to get down again."
"Come. Help me make haste," said Big Claus, "or you'll
get beaten." So he crept into a large sack which had
been lying across the back of one oxen. "Put in a
stone," said little Big Claus, "or I may not sink."
"Oh, there's not much fear of that," replied Little
 he put a large stone into the bag and then
tied it tightly and gave it a push.
"Plump!" In went Big Claus, and immediately sank to the
bottom of the river.
"I'm afraid he will not find any cattle," said Little
Claus, and the he drove his own beasts homeward.