Gudbrand on the Hillside

There was once upon a time a man whose name was Gudbrand. He had a farm which lay far away up on the side of a hill, and therefore they called him Gudbrand on the hillside.

He and his wife lived so happily together, and agreed so well, that whatever the man did the wife thought it so well done that no one could do it better. No matter what he did, she thought it was always the right thing.

They lived on their own farm, and had a hundred dollars at the bottom of their chest and two cows in their cow-shed. One day the woman said to Gudbrand:

“I think we ought to go to town with one of the cows and sell it, so that we may have some ready money by us. We are pretty well off, and ought to have a few shillings in our pocket like other people. The hundred dollars in the chest we mustn’t touch, but I can’t see what we want with more than one cow, and it will be much better for us, as I shall have only one to look after instead of the two I have now to mind and feed.”

Yes, Gudbrand thought, that was well and sensibly spoken. He took the cow at once and went to town to sell it; but when he got there no one would buy the cow.

“Ah, well!” thought Gudbrand, “I may as well take the cow home again. I know I have both stall and food for it, and the way home is no longer than it was here.” So he strolled homeward again with the cow.

When he had got a bit on the way he met a man who had a horse to sell, and Gudbrand thought it was better to have a horse than a cow, and so he changed the cow for the horse.

When he had gone a bit farther he met a man who was driving a fat pig before him, and then he thought it would be better to have a fat pig than a horse, and so he changed with the man.

He now went a bit farther, and then he met a man with a goat, and so he thought it was surely better to have a goat than a pig, and changed with the man who had the goat.

Then he went a long way, till he met a man who had a sheep. He changed with him, for he  thought it was always better to have a sheep than a goat.

When he had got a bit farther he met a man with a goose, and so he changed the sheep for the goose. And when he had gone a long, long way he met a man with a cock. He changed the goose with him, for he thought this wise: “It is surely better to have a cock than a goose.”

He walked on till late in the day, when he began to feel hungry. So he sold the cock for sixpence and bought some food for himself. “For it is always better to keep body and soul together than to have a cock,” thought Gudbrand.

He then set off again homeward till he came to his neighbor’s farm, and there he went in.

“How did you get on in town?” asked the people.

“Oh, only so-so,” said the man. “I can’t boast of my luck, nor can I grumble at it either.” And then he told them how it had gone with him from first to last.

“Well, you’ll have a fine reception when you get home to your wife,” said the man. “Heaven help you! I should not like to be in your place.”

“I think I might have fared much worse,” said Gudbrand; “but whether I have fared well or ill, I have such a kind wife that she never says anything, no matter what I do.”

“Aye, so you say; but you won’t get me to believe it,” said the neighbor.

“Shall we have a wager on it?” said Gudbrand. “I have a hundred dollars in my chest at home. Will you lay the same?”

So they made the wager and Gudbrand remained there till the evening, when it began to get dark, and then they went together to the farm.

The neighbor was to remain outside the door and listen while Gudbrand went in to his wife.

“Good evening!” said Gudbrand when he came in.

“Good evening!” said the wife. “Heaven be praised you are back again.”

“Yes, here I am!” said the man. And then the wife asked him how he had got on in town.

“Oh, so-so,” answered Gudbrand. “Not much to brag of. When I came to town no one would buy the cow, so I changed it for a horse.”

“Oh, I’m so glad of that,” said the woman. “We are pretty well off and we ought to drive to church like other people, and when we can afford to keep a horse I don’t see why we should not have one. Run out, children, and put the horse in the stable.”

“Well, I haven’t got the horse, after all,” said Gudbrand; “for when I had got a bit on the way I changed it for a pig.”

“Dear me!” cried the woman, “that’s the very thing I should have done myself. I’m so glad of that, for now we can have some bacon in the house and something to offer people when they come to see us. What do we want with a horse? People would only say we had become so grand that we could no longer walk to church. Run out, children, and let the pig in.”

“But I haven’t got the pig either,” said Gudbrand, “for when I had got a bit farther on the road I changed it into a milch goat.”

“Dear! dear! how well you manage everything!” cried the wife. “When I really come to think of it, what do I want with the pig? People would only say: ‘Over yonder they eat up everything they have.’ No, now I have a goat I can have both milk and cheese and keep the goat into the bargain. Let in the goat, children.”

“But I haven’t got the goat either,” said Gudbrand. “When I got a bit on the way I changed the goat and got a fine sheep for it.”

“Well!” returned the woman, “you do everything just as I should wish it—just as if I had been there myself. What do we want with a goat? I should have to climb up hill and down dale to get it home at night. No, when I have a sheep I can have wool and clothes in the house and food as well. Run out, children, and let in the sheep.”

“But I haven’t got the sheep any longer,” said Gudbrand, “for when I had got a bit on the way I changed it for a goose.”

“Well, thank you for that!” said the woman; “and many thanks, too! What do I want with a sheep? I have neither wheel nor spindle, and I do not care either to toil and drudge making clothes; we can buy clothes now as before. Now I can have goose-fat, which I have so long been wishing for, and some feathers to stuff that little pillow of mine. Run, children, and let in the goose.”

“Well, I haven’t got the goose either,” said Gudbrand. “When I had got a bit farther on the way I changed it for a cock.”

“Well, I don’t know how you can think of it all!” cried the woman. “It’s just as if I had done it all myself. A cock! Why, it’s just the same as if you’d bought an eight-day clock, for every morning the cock will crow at four, so we can be up in good time. What do we want with a goose? I can’t make goose-fat and I can easily fill my pillow with some soft grass. Run, children, and let in the cock.”

“But I haven’t the cock either,” said Gudbrand; “for when I had got a bit farther I became  so terribly hungry I had to sell the cock for sixpence and get some food to keep body and soul together.”

“Heaven be praised you did that!” cried the woman. “Whatever you do, you always do the very thing I could have wished. Besides, what did we want with the cock? We are our own masters and can lie as long as we like in the mornings. Heaven be praised! As long as I have got you back again, who manage everything so well, I shall neither want cock, nor goose, nor pig, nor cows.”

Gudbrand then opened the door. “Have I won the hundred dollars now?” he asked. And the neighbor was obliged to confess that he had.