Little Blue Flower by Miss F. E. Hynam
A STORK swept high over the Bohemian forest.
It was a most important duty that had brought
him from his own marshes into this mountainous
region, where far and wide no croak of frog could be
heard. In his beak he carried two little children, a boy
and a girl, both intended for the knight who dwelt in
the gloomy fortress below. Smaller and smaller grew
the circles made by the stork in his flight. Lower and
lower he sank towards the earth, until at length he rested
on the highest chimney of the castle.
But before letting the children slip down the narrow
black hole he paused and looked carefully around. While
in the air, this old castle, with its round turrets glittering
in the rising sun, had appeared to him a most stately
edifice. But now, when quite close, the stork discovered
many things that did not please him. The walls were
sadly out of repair, there were holes in the roof, whilst
the courtyard was overgrown with weeds.
"I do not like this," said the stork, looking thoughtfully
down his long, red beak. "This place seems to
have a very bad landlord. A knight who cannot keep
his castle in proper repair certainly does not deserve two
children. I will take one away with me."
"Which should he have now, the boy or the girl?"
thought the stork. He looked once more thoughtfully
down his long beak, and on the two children smiling
happily in their dreams. "I think I will give him the
boy," he said at length. "He will push his way in this
wretched place better than the girl." With these words
he made a movement to throw the little boy down the
This, however, was not so easy as the stork had thought.
In their sleep the little ones had embraced each other, and
would not let go. "I have never had two such obstinate
little creatures in my beak before," exclaimed the stork
angrily. Then he began to shake them, at first gently,
then harder, and at last so roughly that the children half
awoke from their dreams, and looked at each other with
blinking eyes. After this the boy would not let go his
companion, and no wonder, for the little girl had shown
him a pair of blue eyes of such wondrous beauty, that
there were not many like them in the world. But the
stork, now thoroughly angry, gave the poor little fellow a
kick that sent him head first down the castle chimney.
"Now, what shall I do with the other little thing?"
said the stork thoughtfully, scratching the back of his
ear. "Ah! I have it," he cried—the little girl had kept
on blinking her eyes, and the stork had also seen their
beautiful blue—"I have it!" he repeated. "Such eyes
can only belong to Norway."
High overhead soared the stork. Powerfully his wings
clove the air as he sailed away towards the north.
In the midst of the blue Baltic Sea a little wooded
island lay sparkling like a green jewel. Here dwelt Bjorn,
a grim old sea-king of Norwegian blood. Every year he
and his men ploughed the sea with their swift ships,
and very rich was the spoil he brought home to his
strong castle that stood in the centre of the island,
defended by wall and moat.
To this castle the stork bore the little maiden on his
Bjorn and his men were sitting in the spacious hall,
quaffing from golden cups the sweet wine they had
brought back in their ships from the sunny land of
Greece. Very wild was their joy when the little maiden
came down the chimney, and throughout the whole
night their boisterous songs could be heard far across
the wide sea.
And the little, sparkling waves sang in reply a rushing
murmuring song, to celebrate the arrival of the young
child. "To our sea-king a little daughter has been
born," they sang. "A beauteous little maiden, with eyes
blue as the sea, locks fair as the sea foam, and lips rosy
as the morning red when it gilds the crests of the waves."
Even the stupid fishes rejoiced, but as they could not
sing they leapt into the air, high up out of the waves,
and their scales glittered in the moonlight like gold and
Many days and many nights Bjorn and his crew drank
of the pearly wine. Then he could rest at home no
longer, so ordered his ships and sailed away, leaving
the child, to whom he had given the name of Swanhild,
in charge of a faithful nurse.
On this voyage Bjorn encountered more storms and
enemies than he had ever done before. Often, whilst
on the tossing billows, he thought with longing of the
little one at home. Yet many long years passed ere he
could at length return home laden with rich spoil.
As he set foot on the little island he was greeted by
a beautiful maiden, with deep blue eyes, rosy lips, and
the fair hair of Norway. Full of joy, Bjorn clasped his
lovely child to his heart. Then he sat with his men in the
castle hall, feasting and quaffing the costly Grecian wine.
Swanhild had never before seen such noisy feasts.
Often, on moonlight nights, she would leave the castle
and wander alone on the sea-shore.
But one evening, as she thus wandered, clad in her
white garments, and with her fair head bent towards
the waves, she was seen by a wicked magician, who
had flown thither through the air on a black goat. He
came from the cliffs of Norway, where he had been sent
to seize the soul of a poor Laplander who had stolen his
neighbour's reindeer, and he was now travelling to Blocksberg
to take this soul to his master, a powerful evil spirit.
When the magician saw Swanhild he was much delighted.
He had never before beheld any one so lovely.
But alas! while he was lost in contemplation of her
beauty the soul of the little Laplander escaped, and flew
away. He let it go. Seeking a secluded spot, he at
once summoned a number of crabs and water-beetles,
which he placed in three shining mussel-shells. One
touch of his staff changed these shells filled with crabs and water-beetles into magnificent vessels full of well-armed
men. His black goat became a skald, and played
the harp. Then transforming himself into a handsome
young Viking, he ordered the sails to be hoisted, and
rounding a wooded promontory, sailed into the bay where
Bjorn's vessel lay.
Loudly the sentries on Bjorn's ship blew their horns.
Louder yet rang out the answering blast from the castle.
Wildly Bjorn and his men broke through the forest.
Furious was their war-cry, shrilly clanged their weapons.
The strange Viking stepped forward boldly, and extending
his hand to Bjorn in token of friendship, besought
hospitality for himself and his men.
Bjorn let himself be persuaded. He led the strangers
into his splendid halls, and drank and feasted with them
many days and many nights. Then the strange hero
ordered rich presents to be brought from his ships:
garments studded with gold, gold ornaments, and shining
swords. This completely deceived Bjorn and his followers,
and when the stranger asked for Swanhild in marriage,
the Viking readily gave his consent. That Swanhild
turned pale no one heeded. Nor did they heed that she
wept nightly in the solitude of her chamber.
The marriage day at length arrived. But when everything
was ready, and Swanhild, in glittering array, was
being led towards the stranger, she, with a quick movement,
turned her back on him and fled to her chamber.
Loudly raged the father, his eyes glowing with fury.
But wilder still rolled the eyes of the stranger. He broke
into a laugh, and cried, with mocking voice, "You shall
all pay for this."
One look from those fierce eyes, and his men became
a crowd of crabs and water-beetles. The skald threw
away his harp, and stood there a black goat with fiery
eyes. The stranger shook off his armour, and was a
horrible old man.
Bjorn grew pale with terror, his followers began to
tremble and shake. Another look from the magician:
they all shrank together, and a crawling mass of frogs
covered the floor. Bjorn was the largest of them all.
Then opening door and gate, the magician drove them
out into the marshy moat. Here they dived.
The magician then locked the door and threw the
key into the moat. At her chamber windows Swanhild
sat weeping. He looked up at her furiously, but she
was so good and pure, his glance had no power over
her. He shook his fist threateningly.
"Now sit there all alone," he cried, "since you will
not marry me. You cannot escape, and no one can
deliver you, for my goat keeps guard."
He flew away whistling. The black goat walked round
and round the moat, his eyes gleaming like living coals.
The frogs croaked in the evening light, and above, in
her chamber, Swanhild wept solitary and forsaken.
In the meantime, the boy left by the stork at the
gloomy castle in the Bohemian forest had become a
valiant knight, who knew well how to use his sword. Yet
so strange a knight as he had never before sat in Walnut-tree
Castle. This was the name of his ancestral home.
Since his father's death Wulf had lived quite alone
in the ruined castle, for none of the servants would stay
after the old knight died. But this did not trouble Wulf. He did not care to hunt the wild boar through
the thicket, or kill the frightened stag. His chief pleasure
was to stretch himself on the thick, soft moss, and gaze
through the green branches of the forest trees at the
blue heavens that smiled here and there in little flocks
through the thick foliage. He also loved to seek for
forest flowers—the blue were his favourites. Whence
this preference he knew not, but he dreamt he had once
looked into Swanhild's blue eyes. Or, when tired of
these things, he would stand at one of the castle
windows, gazing thoughtfully out into the blue distance.
"Far away yonder," so ran his thoughts at these times,
"where the blue heaven bends down to touch the earth,
should I not find happiness there? Were it not better
to journey abroad in search of happiness than to remain
alone in this solitary castle, through whose walls the
wind whistles, whilst owls and bats are now the only
occupants of its once stately halls?"
But though longing to go out into the world, Wulf
remained in the ruined castle, in obedience to an old
command of one of his ancestors.
In the middle of the castle court there grew in the
cleft of a rock a gigantic walnut tree. From it the castle had received its name. The nut from which
this tree had sprung had been planted in olden times by
one of Wulf's ancestors, who at the same time had
carved these words on the rock:—
Where flourishes this tree, there shall my house remain.
While it stands, forsake it not to search abroad for fame;
But should the ancient glory from these halls e'er disappear,
Life from this tree shall make it shine once more quite bright and clear.
Their splendour had long since disappeared, and how
the tree could restore it Wulf could not imagine; still,
he remained obedient to the command.
One evening a mighty storm arose. Black clouds
obscured the sky. The lightning flashed; the thunder
rolled. The storm raged through the forest. The
mouldering stones of the old castle slipped from their
places, and the wind whistled through the gaps, and
raged through the old rooms and passages. Then a flash
of lightning! a clap of thunder! The castle was in ruins!
Wulf escaped into the open air; before him lay the
walnut tree, shivered by the lightning.
He immediately saddled his horse. What need to
remain here longer? Hastily snatching a few ripe nuts
that lay among the shattered branches, he concealed them
in his doublet as a remembrance, and then rode away
through the gloomy forest.
Far and wide, Wulf wandered over the green earth
beneath the blue heavens, encountering many enemies.
But in spite of all he kept courageously on his way.
One day his path led through a thick forest of beech
trees. He looked around thoughtfully as his horse
scattered the fallen leaves at every step. Suddenly he
looked up. What was it that shimmered so blue through
the trees? Wulf urged his horse forward, but beneath
a giant beech at the edge of the forest he halted; the
endless sea lay before him.
"Here is blue heaven above and beneath, surely I shall
find happiness here?" thought Wulf, as he swung himself
to earth. Without a thought he left his horse, and
hastened to the shore. On the soft waves a small bark
was rocking. Wulf sprang in and loosed the chain.
Lightly the waves bore the boat out into the blue
For a long time Wulf lay contentedly in the bottom
of the boat. He felt as though he were a little child
folded into his mother's arms, safe from all want and
danger. And he thought the waves wished to tell him something, but he could not understand their language.
Yet he saw that they bore his bark ever more swiftly
forward, and he rejoiced at the increasing speed.
There was a grating sound under the keel: Wulf had
reached land at last. Before him lay a wooded island.
Above the tops of the trees rose the turrets of a stately
castle. He hastened forward and arrived at the castle
moat. An unearthly stillness reigned over all around.
Nothing moved save a swarm of frogs. These swam
round and round in the moat, or sat on the leaves of
the water-lilies, and croaked in what seemed to Wulf
most sorrowful tones. But the largest amongst them
behaved in a most extraordinary manner. He was for
ever trying to climb up the castle wall, but if after much
trouble he managed to get up a little way, he always
fell back again. Then he would seat himself on a water-lily,
look upwards, and wipe his eyes as though he were
Wulf also looked up.
"Happiness at last!" he exclaimed. "The blue eyes!"
But he got no further. A violent push from an angry
goat sent him flying into the middle of the moat.
Wulf felt himself sinking fast. His feet got entangled
among the twisted roots of the water-lilies. With great
difficulty he managed to keep his head above the water.
"And here I must die," said he in anguish.
Then from out his doublet sounded soft little voices:—
"The blessing of Urahn to you is near.
Do not despair, for help is present here."
And behold! all around him now began a wonderful
rustling and moving. He groped about with his hands,
and felt that tender little roots had forced their way
through his doublet and were taking root in the slime.
And all around him he saw little green walnut tree leaves
rising out of the water. Twigs followed the leaves, and
these again became branches. Wulf felt he was being
forced upwards; soon he was safely out of the water.
Looking up, he saw Swanhild's blue eyes. He stretched
out his arms towards her and she smiled.
Higher and higher Wulf was borne. Five strong
walnut trees grew beneath him, and bore him up on
their branches. Now he could reach up and touch
Swanhild's hands. Now he sat by her at the window,
and gazed into her blue eyes.
"What is your name?" he asked.
"Swanhild," she replied.
"It is a very beautiful name," said Wulf. "But for
my sake you must now be called Little Blue Flower.
When I was quite a child I saw your eyes in my dreams.
They appeared to me like little blue flowers, and every
day I searched for these flowers in the forest, but they
were never sufficiently beautiful. Now you shall be my
Little Blue Flower." And then he gave her a kiss.
But now a fresh movement began in the moat below.
The stout frog was able to scramble up the crooked,
rough stems of the walnut tree, better than up the smooth
castle wall. Boldly he climbed, and the whole army of
frogs followed him. At length he reached the top.
Swanhild gently laid her hand on his head, and instead
of the frog old Bjorn sat on one of the branches of the
walnut tree, and embraced and kissed both his daughter
and Wulf. Then the other frogs came, and Swanhild laid her hand on them all. Soon all Bjorn's followers
were sitting in crowds on the branches, dangling their
legs for joy. Full of anger, the black goat ran round
and round the castle moat, rolling his great fiery eyes.
Just as the last frog was changed, a mighty rushing
noise was heard. The magician flew raging through
the air. With his magic staff he struck the poor goat
a fierce blow, and then rode back on him to Blocksberg.
Here it went very badly with him, because he came
without the soul of the little Laplander, and he was
Bjorn, with Wulf and all his men, joyfully entered the
castle through Swanhild's window. A few days later
Swanhild's marriage with Wulf was celebrated with great
splendour, and they lived together in peace and happiness
to the end of their days.