The Wind's Tale
by Hans Christian Andersen
ABOUT WALDEMAR DAA AND HIS DAUGHTERS
When the wind sweeps across a field of grass it makes little ripples in
it like a lake; in a field of corn it makes great waves like the sea
itself: this is the wind's frolic. Then listen to the stories it tells;
it sings them aloud, one kind of song among the trees of the forest, and
a very different one when it is pent up within walls with all their
cracks and crannies. Do you see how the wind chases the white fleecy
clouds as if they were a flock of sheep? Do you hear the wind down
there, howling in the open doorway like a watchman winding his horn?
Then, too, how he whistles in the chimneys, making the fire crackle and
sparkle. How cosy it is to sit in the warm glow of the fire listening to
the tales it has to tell! Let the wind tell its own story! It can tell
you more adventures than all of us put together. Listen now:—
'Whew!—Whew!—Fare away!' That was the refrain of his song.
'Close to the Great Belt stands an old mansion with thick red walls,'
says the wind. 'I know every stone of it; I knew them before when they
formed part of Marsk Stig's Castle on the Ness. It had to come down. The
stones were used again, and made a new wall of a new castle in another
place—Borreby Hall as it now stands.
'I have watched the highborn men and women of all the various races who
have lived there, and now I am going to tell you about Waldemar Daa and
'He held his head very high, for he came of a royal stock! He knew more
than the mere chasing of a stag, or the emptying of a flagon; he knew
how to manage his affairs, he said himself.
'His lady wife walked proudly across the brightly polished floors, in
her gold brocaded kirtle; the tapestries in the rooms were gorgeous, and
the furniture of costly carved woods. She had brought much gold and
silver plate into the house with her, and the cellars were full of
German ale, when there was anything there at all. Fiery black horses
neighed in the stables; Borreby Hall was a very rich place when wealth
'Then there were the children, three dainty maidens, Ida, Johanna and
Anna Dorothea. I remember their names well.
'They were rich and aristocratic people, and they were born and bred in
wealth! Whew!—whew!—fare away!' roared the wind, then he went on with
'I did not see here, as in other old noble castles the highborn lady
sitting among her maidens in the great hall turning the spinning-wheel.
No, she played upon the ringing lute, and sang to its tones. Her songs
were not always the old Danish ditties, however, but songs in foreign
tongues. All was life and hospitality; noble guests came from far and
wide; there were sounds of music and the clanging of flagons, so loud
that I could not drown them!' said the wind. 'Here were arrogance and
ostentation enough and to spare; plenty of lords, but the Lord had no
'Then came the evening of May-day!' said the wind. 'I came from the
west; I had been watching ships being wrecked and broken up on the west
coast of Jutland. I tore over the heaths and the green wooded coasts,
across the island of Funen and over the Great Belt puffing and blowing.
I settled down to rest on the coast of Zealand close to Borreby Hall,
where the splendid forest of oaks still stood. The young bachelors of
the neighbourhood came out and collected faggots and branches, the
longest and driest they could find. These they took to the town, piled
them up in a heap, and set fire to them; then the men and maidens danced
and sang round the bonfire. I lay still,' said the wind, 'but I softly
moved a branch, the one laid by the handsomest young man, and his billet
blazed up highest of all. He was the chosen one, he had the name of
honour, he became 'Buck of the Street!' and he chose from
girls his little May-lamb. All was life and merriment, greater far than
within rich Borreby Hall.
'The great lady came driving towards the Hall, in her gilded chariot
drawn by six horses. She had her three dainty daughters with her; they
were indeed three lovely flowers. A rose, a lily and a pale hyacinth.
The mother herself was a gorgeous tulip; she took no notice whatever of
the crowd, who all stopped in their game to drop their curtsies and make
their bows; one might have thought that, like a tulip, she was rather
frail in the stalk and feared to bend her back. The rose, the lily, and
the pale hyacinth—yes, I saw them all three. Whose May-lambs were they
one day to become, thought I; their mates would be proud
knights—perhaps even princes!
'Whew!—whew!—fare away! Yes, the chariot bore them away, and the
peasants whirled on in their dance. They played at "Riding the Summer
into the village," to Borreby village, Tareby village, and many others.
'But that night when I rose,' said the wind, 'the noble lady laid
herself down to rise no more; that came to her which comes to every
one—there was nothing new about it. Waldemar Daa stood grave and silent
for a time; "The proudest tree may bend, but it does not break," said
something within him. The daughters wept, and every one else at the
Castle was wiping their eyes; but Madam Daa had fared away, and I fared
away too! Whew!—whew!' said the wind.
She played upon the ringing lute, and sang to its tones.|
'I came back again; I often came back across the island of Funen and
the waters of the Belt, and took up my place on Borreby shore close to
the great forest of oaks. The ospreys and the wood pigeons used to build
in it, the blue raven and even the black stork! It was early in the
year; some of the nests were full of eggs, while in others the young
ones were just hatched. What a flying and screaming was there! Then came
the sound of the axe, blow upon blow; the forest was to be felled.
Waldemar Daa was about to build a costly ship, a three-decked
man-of-war, which it was expected the king would buy. So the wood fell,
the ancient landmark of the seaman, the home of the birds. The shrike
was frightened away; its nest was torn down; the osprey and all the
other birds lost their nests too, and they flew about distractedly,
shrieking in their terror and anger. The crows and the jackdaws screamed
in mockery, Caw! caw! Waldemar Daa and his three daughters stood in the
middle of the wood among the workmen. They all laughed at the wild cries
of the birds, except Anna Dorothea, who was touched by their distress,
and when they were about to fell a tree which was half-dead, and on
whose naked branches a black stork had built its nest, out of which the
young ones were sticking their heads, she begged them with tears in her
eyes to spare it. So the tree with the black stork's nest was allowed to
stand. It was only a little thing.
'The chopping and the sawing went on—the three-decker
was built. The
master builder was a man of humble origin, but of noble loyalty; great
power lay in his eyes and on his forehead, and Waldemar Daa liked to
listen to him, and little Ida liked to listen too, the eldest
fifteen-year-old daughter. But whilst he built the ship for her father,
he built a castle in the air for himself, in which he and little Ida sat
side by side as man and wife. This might also have happened if his
castle had been built of solid stone, with moat and ramparts, wood and
gardens. But with all his wisdom the shipbuilder was only a poor bird,
and what business has a sparrow in a crane's nest? Whew! whew! I rushed
away, and he rushed away, for he dared not stay, and little Ida got over
it, as get over it she must.
'The fiery black horses stood neighing in the stables; they were worth
looking at, and they were looked at to some purpose too. An admiral was
sent from the King to look at the new man-of-war, with a view to
purchasing it. The admiral was loud in his admiration of the horses. I
heard all he said,' added the wind. 'I went through the open door with
the gentlemen and scattered the straw like gold before their feet.
Waldemar Daa wanted gold; the admiral wanted the black horses, and so he
praised them as he did; but his hints were not taken, therefore the ship
remained unsold. There it stood by the shore covered up with boards,
like a Noah's Ark which never reached the water. Whew! whew! get along!
get along! It was a miserable business. In the winter, when the fields
were covered with snow and the Belt was full of
ice-floes which I drove
up on to the coast,' said the wind, 'the ravens and crows came in
flocks, the one blacker than the other, and perched upon the desolate,
dead ship by the shore. They screamed themselves hoarse about the forest
which had disappeared, and the many precious birds' nests which had been
devastated, leaving old and young homeless; and all for the sake of this
old piece of lumber, the proud ship which was never to touch the water!
I whirled the snow about till it lay in great heaps round the ship. I
let it hear my voice, and all that a storm has to say, I know that I did
my best to give it an idea of the sea. Whew! whew!'
'The winter passed by; winter and summer passed away! They come and go
just as I do. The snow-flakes, the apple blossom, and the leaves fall,
each in their turn. Whew! whew! they pass away, as men pass too!
'The daughters were still young. Little Ida, the rose, as lovely to look
at as when the shipbuilder turned his gaze upon her. I often took hold
of her long brown hair when she stood lost in thought by the apple-tree
in the garden. She never noticed that I showered apple-blossom over her
loosened hair; she only gazed at the red sunset against the golden
background of the sky, and the dark trees and bushes of the garden. Her
sister Johanna was like a tall, stately lily; she held herself as
stiffly erect as her mother, and seemed to have the same dread of
bending her stem. She liked to walk in the long gallery where the family
portraits hung. The
ladies were painted in velvet and silk, with tiny
pearl embroidered caps on their braided tresses. Their husbands were all
clad in steel, or in costly cloaks lined with squirrel skins and stiff
blue ruffs; their swords hung loosely by their sides. Where would
Johanna's portrait one day hang on these walls? What would her noble
husband look like? These were her thoughts, and she even spoke them
aloud; I heard her as I swept through the long corridor into the
gallery, where I veered round again.
'Anna Dorothea, the pale hyacinth, was only a child of fourteen, quiet
and thoughtful. Her large blue eyes, as clear as water, were very
solemn, but childhood's smile still played upon her lips; I could not
blow it away, nor did I wish to do so. I used to meet her in the garden,
the ravine, and in the manor fields. She was always picking flowers and
herbs, those she knew her father could use for healing drinks and
potions. Waldemar Daa was proud and conceited, but he was also learned,
and he knew a great deal about many things. One could see that, and many
whispers went about as to his learning. The fire blazed in his stove
even in summer, and his chamber door was locked. This went on for days
and nights, but he did not talk much about it. One must deal silently
with the forces of nature. He would soon discover the best of
everything, the red, red gold!
'This was why his chimney flamed and smoked and sparkled. Yes, I was
there, too,' said the wind.
I used to meet her in the garden, the ravine, and in the manor fields.
She was always picking flowers and herbs, those she knew her father
could use for healing drinks and potions.|
'Away with you, away! I sang in the back of the chimney. Smoke smoke,
embers and ashes, that is all it will come to! You will burn yourself up
in it. Whew! whew! away with it! But Waldemar Daa could not let it go.
'The fiery steeds in the stable, where were they? The old gold and
silver plate in cupboard and chest, where was that? The cattle, the
land, the castle itself? Yes, they could all be melted down in the
crucible, but yet no gold would come.
'Barn and larder got emptier and emptier. Fewer servants; more mice. One
pane of glass got broken and another followed it. There was no need for
me to go in by the doors,' said the wind. 'A smoking chimney means a
cooking meal, but the only chimney which smoked here swallowed up all
the meals, all for the sake of the red gold.
'I blew through the castle gate like a watchman blowing his horn, but
there was no watchman,' said the wind. 'I twisted round the weather-cock
on the tower and it creaked as if the watchman up there was snoring,
only there was no watchman. Rats and mice were the only inhabitants.
Poverty laid the table; poverty lurked in wardrobe and larder. The doors
fell off their hinges, cracks and crannies appeared everywhere; I went
in and out,' said the wind, 'so I know all about it.
'The hair and the beard of Waldemar Daa grew grey, in the sorrow of his
sleepless nights, amid smoke and ashes. His skin
grew grimy and yellow,
and his eyes greedy for gold, the long expected gold.
'I whistled through the broken panes and fissures; I blew into the
daughters' chests where their clothes lay faded and threadbare; they had
to last for ever. A song like this had never been sung over the cradles
of these children. A lordly life became a woeful life! I was the only
one to sing in the castle now,' said the wind. 'I snowed them up, for
they said it gave warmth. They had no firewood, for the forest was cut
down where they should have got it. There was a biting frost. Even I had
to keep rushing through the crannies and passages to keep myself lively.
They stayed in bed to keep themselves warm, those noble ladies. Their
father crept about under a fur rug. Nothing to bite, and nothing to
burn! a lordly life indeed! Whew! whew! let it go! But this was what
Waldemar Daa could not do.
'"After winter comes the spring," said he; "a good time will come after
a time of need; but they make us wait their pleasure, wait! The castle
is mortgaged, we are in extremities—and yet the gold will come—at
'I heard him murmur to the spider's web.—"You clever little weaver! You
teach me to persevere! If your web is broken, you begin at the beginning
again and complete it! Broken again—and cheerfully you begin it over
again. That is what one must do, and one will be rewarded!"
'It was Easter morning, the bells were ringing, and the sun was at play
in the heavens. Waldemar Daa had watched through the night with his
blood at fever pitch; boiling and cooling, mixing and distilling. I
heard him sigh like a despairing soul; I heard him pray, and I felt that
he held his breath. The lamp had gone out, but he never noticed it; I
blew up the embers and they shone upon his ashen face, which took a
tinge of colour from their light; his eyes started in their sockets,
they grew larger and larger, as if they would leap out.
'Look at the alchemist's glass! something twinkles in it; it is glowing,
pure and heavy. He lifted it with a trembling hand and shouted with a
trembling voice: "Gold! gold!" He reeled, and I could easily have blown
him over,' said the wind, 'but I only blew upon the embers, and followed
him to the room where his daughters sat shivering. His coat was powdered
with ash, as well as his beard and his matted hair. He drew himself up
to his full height and held up his precious treasure, in the fragile
glass: "Found! won! gold!" he cried, stretching up his hand with the
glass which glittered in the sunbeams: his hand shook, and the
alchemist's glass fell to the ground shivered into a thousand atoms. The
last bubble of his welfare was shattered too. Whew! whew! fare away! and
away I rushed from the goldmaker's home.
He lifted it with a trembling hand and shouted with a trembling voice:
'Late in the year, when the days were short and dark up here, and the
fog envelops the red berries and bare branches with its
I came along in a lively mood clearing the sky and snapping off the dead
boughs. This is no great labour, it is true, yet it has to be done.
Borreby Hall, the home of Waldemar Daa, was having a clean sweep of a
different sort. The family enemy, Ové Ramel from Basness, appeared,
holding the mortgage of the Hall and all its contents. I drummed upon
the cracked window panes, beat against the decaying doors, and whistled
through all the cracks and crannies, whew! I did my best to prevent Herr
Ové taking a fancy to stay there. Ida and Anna Dorothea faced it
bravely, although they shed some tears; Johanna stood pale and erect and
bit her finger till it bled! Much that would help her! Ové Ramel offered
to let them stay on at the Castle for Waldemar Daa's lifetime, but he
got no thanks for his offer; I was listening. I saw the ruined gentleman
stiffen his neck and hold his head higher than ever. I beat against the
walls and the old linden trees with such force that the thickest branch
broke, although it was not a bit rotten. It fell across the gate like a
broom, as if some one was about to sweep; and a sweeping there was
indeed to be. I quite expected it. It was a grievous day and a hard time
for them, but their wills were as stubborn as their necks were stiff.
They had not a possession in the world but the clothes on their backs;
yes, one thing—an alchemist's glass which had been bought and filled
with the fragments scraped up from the floor. The treasure which
promised much and fulfilled nothing.
Waldemar Daa hid it in his
bosom, took his staff in his hand, and, with his three daughters, the
once wealthy gentleman walked out of Borreby Hall for the last time. I
blew a cold blast upon his burning cheeks, I fluttered his grey beard
and his long white hair; I sang such a tune as only I could sing. Whew!
whew! away with them! away with them! This was the end of all their
'Ida and Ana Dorothea walked one on each side of him: Johanna turned
round in the gateway, but what was the good of that? nothing could make
their luck turn. She looked at the red stones of what had once been
Marsk Stig's Castle. Was she thinking of his daughters?
'"The elder took the younger by the hand,
And out they roamed to a far-off land."
Was she thinking of that song? Here there were three and their father
was with them. They walked along the road where once they used to ride
in their chariot. They trod it now as vagrants, on their way to a
plastered cottage on Smidstrup Heath, which was rented at ten marks
yearly. This was their new country seat with its empty walls and its
empty vessels. The crows and the magpies wheeled screaming over their
heads with their mocking "Caw, caw! Out of the nest, Caw, caw!" just as
they screamed in Borreby Forest when the trees were felled.
'Herr Daa and his daughters must have noticed it. I blew
ears to try and deaden the cries, which after all were not worth
'So they took up their abode in the plastered cottage on Smidstrup
Heath, and I tore off over marshes and meadows, through naked hedges and
bare woods, to the open seas and other lands. Whew! whew! away, away!
and that for many years.'
What happened to Waldemar Daa? What happened to his daughters? This is
what the wind relates.
'The last of them I saw, yes, for the last time, was Anna Dorothea, the
pale hyacinth. She was old and bent now; it was half a century later.
She lived the longest, she had gone through everything.
'Across the heath, near the town of Viborg, stood the Dean's new,
handsome mansion, built of red stone with toothed gables. The smoke
curled thickly out of the chimneys. The gentle lady and her fair
daughters sat in the bay window looking into the garden at the drooping
thorns and out to the brown heath beyond. What were they looking at
there? They were looking at a stork's nest on a tumble-down cottage; the
roof was covered, as far as there was any roof to cover, with moss and
house-leek; but the stork's nest made the best covering. It was the only
part to which anything was done, for the stork kept it in repair.
Waldemar Daa hid it in his bosom, took his staff in his hand, and, with
his three daughters, the once wealthy gentleman walked out of Borreby
Hall for the last time.|
'This house was only fit to be looked at, not to be touched. I had to
mind what I was about,' said the wind. 'The cottage
was allowed to
stand for the sake of the stork's nest; in itself it was only a
scarecrow on the heath, but the dean did not want to frighten away the
stork, so the hovel was allowed to stand. The poor soul inside was
allowed to live in it; she had the Egyptian bird to thank for that; or
was it payment for once having pleaded for the nest of his wild black
brother in the Borreby Forest? Then, poor thing, she was a child, a
delicate, pale hyacinth in a noble flower-garden. Poor Anna Dorothea;
she remembered it all! Ah, human beings can sigh as well as the wind
when it soughs through the rushes and reeds.
'Oh dear! oh dear! No bells rang over the grave of Waldemar Daa. No
schoolboys sang when the former lord of Borreby Castle was laid in his
grave. Well, everything must have an end, even misery! Sister Ida became
the wife of a peasant, and this was her father's sorest trial. His
daughter's husband a miserable serf, who might at any moment be ordered
the punishment of the wooden horse by his lord. It is well that the sod
covers him now, and you too, Ida! Ah yes! ah yes! Poor me! poor me! I
still linger on. In Thy mercy release me, O Christ!'
'This was the prayer of Anna Dorothea, as she lay in the miserable hovel
which was only left standing for the sake of the stork.
'I took charge of the boldest of the sisters,' said the wind. 'She had
clothes made to suit her manly disposition, and took a
place as a lad
with a skipper. Her words were few and looks stubborn, but she was
willing enough at her work. But with all her will she could not climb
the rigging; so I blew her overboard before any one discovered that she
was a woman, and I fancy that was not a bad deed of mine!' said the
'On such an Easter morning as that on which Waldemar Daa thought he had
found the red gold, I heard from beneath the stork's nest a psalm
echoing through the miserable walls. It was Anna Dorothea's last song.
There was no window; only a hole in the wall. The sun rose in splendour
and poured in upon her; her eyes were glazed and her heart broken! This
would have been so this morning whether the sun had shone upon her or
not. The stork kept a roof over her head till her death! I sang at her
grave,' said the wind, 'and I sang at her father's grave. I know where
it is, and hers too, which is more than any one else knows.
'The old order changeth, giving place to the new. The old high-road now
only leads to cultivated fields, while peaceful graves are covered by
busy traffic on the new road. Soon comes Steam with its row of waggons
behind it, rushing over the graves, forgotten, like the names upon them.
Whew! whew! Let us be gone! This is the story of Waldemar Daa and his
daughters. Tell it better yourselves, if you can,' said the wind, as it
veered round. Then it was gone.