||How Brave Walter
From The Lilac Fairy Book
edited by Andrew Lang
From Z. Topelius.
little back from the high road there stands a
house which is called ‘Hemgard.’ Perhaps you remember the two beautiful
mountain ash trees by the reddish-brown palings, and the high gate, and
the garden with the beautiful barberry bushes which are always the first
to become green in spring, and which in summer are weighed down with their
Behind the garden there
is a hedge with tall aspens which rustle in the morning wind, behind the
hedge is a road, behind the road is a wood, and behind the wood the wide
But on the other side
of the garden there is a lake, and beyond the lake is a village, and all
around stretch meadows and fields, now yellow, now green.
In the pretty house,
which has white window-frames, a neat porch and clean steps, which are
always strewn with finely-cut juniper leaves, Walter's parents live. His
brother Frederick, his sister Lotta, old Lena, Jonah, Caro and Bravo, Putte
and Murre, and Kuckeliku.
Caro lives in the dog
house, Bravo in the stable, Putte with the stableman, Murre a little here
and a little there, and Kuckeliku lives in the hen house, that is his kingdom.
Walter is six years
old, and he must soon begin to go to school. He cannot read yet, but he
can do many other things. He can turn cartwheels, stand on his head, ride
see-saw, throw snowballs, play ball, crow like a cock, eat bread and butter
and drink sour milk, tear his trousers, wear holes in his elbows, break
the crockery in pieces, throw balls through the windowpanes, draw old men
on important papers, walk over the flower-beds, eat himself sick with gooseberries,
and be well after a whipping. For the rest he has a good heart but a bad
memory, and forgets his father's and his mother's admonitions, and so often
gets into trouble and meets with adventures, as you shall hear, but first
of all I must tell you how brave he was and how he hunted wolves.
Once in the spring,
a little before Midsummer, Walter heard that there were a great many wolves
in the wood, and that pleased him. He was wonderfully brave when he was
in the midst of his companions or at home with his brothers and sister,
then he used often to say ‘One wolf is nothing, there ought to be at least
When he wrestled with
Klas Bogenstrom or Frithiof Waderfelt and struck them in the back, he would
say ‘That is what I shall do to a wolf!’ and when he shot arrows at Jonas
and they rattled against his sheepskin coat he would say : ‘That is how
I should shoot you if you were a wolf!’
Indeed, some thought
that the brave boy boasted a little; but one must indeed believe him since
he said so himself. So Jonas and Lena used to say of him ‘Look, there goes
Walter, who shoots the wolves.’ And other boys and girls would say ‘Look,
there goes brave Walter, who is brave enough to fight with four.’
There was no one so
fully convinced of this as Walter himself, and one day he prepared himself
for a real wolf hunt. He took with him his drum, which had holes in one
end since the time he had climbed up on it to reach a cluster of rowan
berries, and his tin sabre, which was a little broken, because he had with
incredible courage fought his way through a whole unfriendly army of gooseberry
He did not forget to
arm himself quite to the teeth with his pop-gun, his bow, and his air-pistol.
He had a burnt cork in his pocket to blacken his moustache, and a red cock’s
feather to put in his cap to make himself look fierce. He had besides in
his trouser pocket a clasp knife with a bone handle, to cut off the ears
of the wolves as soon as he had killed them, for he thought it would be
cruel to do that while they were still living.
It was such a good thing
that Jonas was going with corn to the mill, for Walter got a seat on the
load, while Caro ran barking beside them. As soon as they came to the wood
Walter looked cautiously around him to see perchance there was a wolf in
the bushes, and he did not omit to ask Jonas if wolves were afraid of a
drum. ‘Of course they are’ (that is understood) said Jonas. Thereupon Walter
began to beat his drum with all his might while they were going through
When they came to the
mill Walter immediately asked if there had been any wolves in the neighbourhood
‘Alas! yes,’ said the
miller, ‘last night the wolves have eaten our fattest ram there by the
kiln not far from here.’
‘Ah!’ said Walter, ‘do
you think that there were many?’
‘We don’t know,’ answered
‘Oh, it is all the same,’
said Walter. ‘I only asked so that I should know if I should take Jonas
‘I could manage very
well alone with three, but if there were more, I might not have
time to kill them all before they ran away.’
‘In Walter’s place I
should go quite alone, it is more manly,’ said Jonas.
‘No, it is better for
you to come too,’ said Walter. ‘Perhaps there are many.’
‘No, I have not time,’
said Jonas, ‘and besides, there are sure not to be more than three. Walter
can manage them very well alone.’
‘Yes,’ said Walter,
‘certainly I could; but, you see, Jonas, it might happen that one of them
might bite me in the back, and I should have more trouble in killing them.
If I only knew that there were not more than two I should not mind, for
then I should take one in each hand and give them a good shaking, like
Susanna once shook me.’
‘I certainly think that
there will not be more than two,’ said Jonas, ‘there are never more than
two when they slay children and rams; Walter can very well shake them without
‘But, you see, Jonas,’
said Walter, ‘if there are two, it might still happen that one of them
escapes and bites me in the leg, for you see I am not so strong in the
left hand as in the right. You can very well come with me, and take a good
stick in case there are really two. Look, if there is only one, I shall
take him so with both my hands and throw him living on to his back, and
he can kick as much as he likes, I shall hold him fast.’
‘Now, when I really
think over the thing,’ said Jonas, ‘I am almost sure there will not be
more than one. What would two do with one ram? There will certainly not
be more than one.’
‘But you should come
with me all the same, Jonas,’ said Walter. ‘You see I can very well manage
one, but I am not quite accustomed to wolves yet, and he might tear holes
in my new trousers.’
‘Well, just listen,’
said Jonas, ‘I am beginning to think that Walter is not so brave as people
say. First of all Walter would fight against four, and then against three,
then two, and then one, and now Walter wants help with one. Such a thing
must never be; what would people say? Perhaps they would think that Walter
is a coward?’
‘That’s a lie,’ said
Walter, ‘I am not at all frightened, but it is more amusing when there
I only want someone who will see how I strike the wolf and how
the dust flies out of his skin.’
‘Well, then, Walter
can take the miller’s little Lisa with him. She can sit on a stone and
look on,’ said Jonas.
‘No, she would certainly
be frightened,’ said Walter, ‘and how would it do for a girl to go wolf-hunting?
Come with me, Jonas, and you shall have the skin, and I will be content
with the ears and the tail.’
‘No, thank you,’ said
Jonas, ‘Walter can keep the skin for himself. Now I see quite well that
he is frightened. Fie, shame on him!’
This touched Walter’s
pride very near. ‘I shall show that I am not frightened,’ he said ; and
so he took his drum, sabre, cock’s feather, clasp-knife, pop-gun and air-pistol,
and went off quite alone to the wood to hunt wolves.
It was a beautiful evening,
and the birds were singing in all the branches. Walter went very slowly
and cautiously. At every step he looked all round him to see if perchance
there was anything lurking behind the stones. He quite thought something
moved away there in the ditch. Perhaps it was a wolf. ‘It is better for
me to beat the drum a little before I go there,’ thought Walter.
Br-r-r, so he began
to beat his drum. Then something moved again. Caw! caw! a crow flew up
from the ditch. Walter immediately regained courage. ‘It was well I took
my drum with me,’ he thought, and went straight on with courageous steps.
Very soon he came quite close to the kiln, where the wolves had killed
the ram. But the nearer he came the more dreadful he thought the kiln looked.
It was so gray and old. Who knew how many wolves there might be hidden
Perhaps the very ones which killed the ram were still sitting there
in a corner.Yes, it was not at all safe here, and there were no other people
to be seen in the neighbourhood. It would be horrible to be eaten up here
in the daylight, thought Walter to himself; and the more he thought about
it the uglier and grayer the old kiln looked, and the more horrible and
dreadful it seemed to become the food of wolves.
‘Shall I go back and
say that I struck one wolf and it escaped?’ thought Walter. ‘Fie!’ said
his conscience, ‘Do you not remember that a lie is one of the worst sins,
both in the sight of God and man? If you tell a lie to-day and say you
struck a wolf, to-morrow surely it will eat you up.’
‘No, I will go to the
kiln,’ thought Walter, and so he went. But he did not go quite near. He
went only so near that he could see the ram’s blood which coloured the
grass red, and some tufts of wool which the wolves had torn from the back
of the poor animal.
It looked so dreadful.
‘I wonder what the ram
thought when they ate him up,’ thought Walter to himself ; and just then
a cold shiver ran through him from his collar right down to his boots.
‘It is better for me
to beat the drum,’ he thought to himself again, and so he began to beat
it. But it sounded horrid, and an echo came out from the kiln that seemed
almost like the howl of a wolf. The drumsticks stiffened in Walter’s hands,
and he thought now they are coming. ...!
Yes, sure enough, just
then a shaggy, reddish-brown wolf’s head looked out from under the kiln!
What did Walter do now?
Yes, the brave Walter who alone could manage four, threw his drum far away,
took to his heels and ran, and ran as fast as he could back to the mill.
But, alas! the wolf
ran after him. Walter looked back; the wolf was quicker than he and only
a few steps behind him. Then Walter ran faster. But fear got the better
of him, he neither heard nor saw anything more. He ran over sticks, stones
and ditches; he lost drum-sticks, sabre, bow, and air-pistol, and in his
terrible hurry he tripped over a tuft of grass. There he lay, and the wolf
jumped on to him. ...
It was a gruesome tale!
Now you may well believe that it was all over with Walter and all his adventures.
That would have been a pity. But do not be surprised if it was not quite
so bad as that, for the wolf was quite a friendly one.He certainly jumped
on to Walter, but he only shook his coat and rubbed his nose against his
face; and Walter shrieked. Yes, he shrieked terribly!
Happily Jonas heard
his cry of distress, for Walter was quite near the mill now, and he ran
and helped him up.
‘What has happened?’
he asked. ‘Why did Walter scream so terribly?’
‘A wolf! A wolf!’ cried
Walter, and that was all he could say.
‘Where is the wolf?’
said Jonas. ‘I don't see any wolf.’
‘Take care, he is here,
he has bitten me to death,’ groaned Walter.
Then Jonas began to
laugh; yes, he laughed so that he nearly burst his skin belt.
Well, well, was that
the wolf? Was that the wolf which Walter was to take by the neck and shake
and throw down on its back, no matter how much it struggled? Just look
a little closer at him: he is your old friend, your own good old Caro.
I quite expect he found a leg of the ram in the kiln. When Walter beat
his drum, Caro crept out, and when Walter ran away, Caro ran after him,
as he so often does when Walter wants to romp and play.
‘Down, Caro! you ought
to be rather ashamed to have put such a great hero to flight!’
Walter got up feeling
‘Down, Caro!’ he said,
both relieved and annoyed.
‘It was only a dog,
then if it had been a wolf I certainly should have killed him. ...’
‘If Walter would listen
to my advice, and boast a little less, and do a little more,’ said Jonas,
consolingly. ‘Walter is not a coward, is he?’
‘I! You shall see, Jonas,
when we next meet a bear. You see I like so much better to fight with bears.’
‘Indeed!’ laughed Jonas.
‘Are you at it again?
‘Dear Walter, remember
that it is only cowards who boast; a really brave man never talks of his