IN Denmark there lies a castle named Kronborg. It lies close by the Öre Sound,
where the ships pass through by hundreds every day—English, Russian, and
likewise Prussian ships. And they salute the old castle with
cannons—"Boom!" And the castle answers with a "Boom!" for that's what the cannons
say instead of "Good-day" and "Thank you!" In winter no ships sail there,
for the whole sea is covered with ice quite across to the Swedish coast; but it
has quite the look of a high-road. There wave the Danish flag and the Swedish
flag, and Danes and Swedes say "Good-day" and "Thank you!" to
each other, not with
cannons, but with a
friendly grasp of the
hand; and one gets
white bread and biscuits from the other—for strange fare
tastes best. But the
most beautiful of all
is the old Kronborg;
and here it is that
Holger Danske sits in the deep dark cellar, where nobody goes. He is clad in
iron and steel, and leans his head on his strong arm; his long beard hangs down
over the marble table, and has grown into it. He sleeps and dreams, but in his
dreams he sees everything that happens up here in Denmark. Every Christmas Eve
comes an angel, and tells him that what he has dreamed is right, and that he may
go to sleep in quiet, for that Denmark is not yet in any real danger; but when
once such a danger comes, then old Holger Danske will rouse himself, so that the
table shall burst when he draws out his beard! Then he will come forth and
strike, so that it shall be heard in all the countries in the world."
An old grandfather sat and told his little grand-son all this
about Holger Danske; and the little boy knew that what his grandfather told him
was true. And while the old man sat and told his story, he carved an image which
was to represent Holger Danske, and to be fastened to the prow of a ship; for
the old grandfather was a carver of figure-heads, that is, one who cuts out the
figures fastened to the front of ships, and from which every ship is named. And
here he had cut out Holger Danske, who stood there proudly with his long beard,
and held the broad battle-sword in one hand, while with the other he leaned upon
the Danish arms.
And the old grandfather told so much about distinguished men and women, that it
appeared at last to the little grandson as if he knew as much as Holger Danske
himself, who, after all, could only dream; and when the little fellow was in
his bed, he thought so much of it,
that he actually pressed his chin against the coverlet, and fancied he had a long beard that had
grown fast to it.
But the old grandfather remained sitting at his work, and carved away at the
last part of it; and this was the Danish coat of arms. When be had done, he
looked at the whole, and thought of all he had read and heard, and that he had
told this evening to the little boy; and he nodded, and wiped his spectacles,
and put them on again, and said,—
"Yes, in my time Holger Danske will probably not come; but the boy in the bed
yonder may get to see him, and be there when the push really comes."
And the old grandfather nodded again; and
 the more he looked at Holger Danske the more plain did it become to him that it
was a good image he had carved. It seemed really to gain color, and the armor
appeared to gleam like iron and steel; the hearts in the Danish arms became
redder and redder, and the lions with the golden crowns on their heads leaped
"That's the most beautiful coat of arms there is in the world!" said the old
man. "The lions are strength, and the heart is gentleness and love!"
And he looked at the uppermost lion, and thought of King Canute, who bound great
England to the throne of Denmark; and he looked at the second lion, and thought
of Waldemar, who united Denmark and conquered the Wendish lands; and lie
glanced at the third lion, and remembered Margaret, who united Denmark, Sweden,
and Norway. But while he looked at the red hearts, they gleamed more brightly
than before; they became flames, and his heart followed each of them.
The first heart led him into a dark, narrow prison; there sat a prisoner, a
beautiful woman, the daughter of King Christian IV., Eleanor Ulfeld;
flame, which was shaped like a rose, attached itself to her bosom and blossomed,
so that it became one with the heart of her, the noblest and best of all Danish
And his spirit followed the second flame, which led him out upon the sea, where
the cannons thundered and the ships lay shrouded in smoke; and the flame
fastened itself in the shape of a ribbon of honor on-the breast of Hvitfeld, as
he blew himself and his ship into the air, that he might save the fleet.
And the third flame led him to the wretched huts of Greenland, where preacher
wrought, with love in every word and deed: the flame was a star on
his breast, another heart in the Danish arms.
And the spirit of the old grandfather flew on before the waving flames, for his
spirit knew whither the flames desired to go. In the humble room of the peasant
woman stood Frederick VI., writing his name with chalk on the beam.
trembled on his breast, and trembled in his heart; in the peasant's lowly room
his heart, too, became a heart in the Danish arms. And the old grandfather dried
his eyes, for he had known King Frederick with the silvery locks and the honest
blue eyes, and had lived for him: he folded his hands, and looked in silence
straight before him. Then came the daughter-in-law of the old grandfather, and
said it was late, he ought now to rest; and the supper table was spread.
"But it is beautiful, what you have done, grandfather!" said she. "Holger
Danske, and all our old coat of arms! It seems to me just as if I had seen that
"No, that can scarcely be," replied the old grandfather; "but I have seen it,
and I have tried to carve it in wood as I have kept it in my memory. It was when
the English lay in front of the wharf, on the Danish second of Apri1,
showed that we were old Danes. In the Denmark on board which I was, in Steen
Bille's squadron, I had a man at my side—it seemed as
 if the bullets were afraid of him! Merrily he sang old songs, and shot and
fought as if he were something more than a man. I remember his face yet but
whence he came, and whither he went, I know not—nobody knows. I have often
thought he might have been old Holger Danske himself, who had swum down from the
Kronborg, and aided us in the hour of danger: that was my idea, and there
stands his picture."
And the statue threw its great show up against the wall, and even over part of
the ceiling; it looked as though the real Holger Danske were standing behind
it, for the shadow moved; but this might have been because the flame of the
candle did not burn steadily. And the daughter-in-law kissed the old
grandfather, and led him to the great armchair by the table; and she and her
husband, who was the son of the old man, and father of the little boy in the
bed, sat and ate their supper; and the grandfather spoke of the Danish lions
and of the Danish hearts, of strength and of gentleness; and quite clearly did
he explain that there was another strength besides the power that lies in the
sword; and he pointed to the shelf on which were the old books, where stood the
plays of Holberg, which had been read so often, for they were very amusing; one
could almost fancy one recognized the people of by-gone days in them.
"See, he knew how to strike, too," said the grandfather: "he scourged the
foolishness and prejudice of the people so long as he could"—and the
grandfather nodded at the mirror, above which stood the calendar, with
the "Round Tower"
on it, and said, "Tycho Brahe was also one who used the sword,
not to cut into flesh and bone, but to build up a plainer way among all the
stars of heaven. And then he whose father belonged to my calling, the son of the
old figure-head carver, he whom we have ourselves seen with his silver hairs and
his broad shoulders, he whose name is spoken of in all lands!
Yes, he was a sculptor; I am only a carver. Yes, Holger
Danske may come in many forms, so that one hears in every country in the world
of Denmark's strength. Shall we now drink the health of Bertel?"
But the little lad in the bed saw plainly the old Kronborg with the Öre Sound,
the real Holger Danske, who sat deep below, with his beard grown through the
marble table, dreaming of all that happens up here. Holger Danske also dreamed
of the little humble room where the carver sat; he heard all that passed, and
nodded in his sleep, and said,—
"Yes, remember me, ye Danish folk; remember me. I shall come in the hour of
And without by the Kronborg shone the bright day, and the wind carried the notes
of the hunting-horn over from the neighboring land; the ships sailed past, and
saluted—"Boom! boom!" and from the Kronborg came the reply, "Boom!
boom!" But Holger Danske did not awake, however loudly they shot, for it was
only "Good-day" and "Thank you!" There must be another kind of shooting before
he awakes; but he will awake, for there is faith in Holger Danske.