Fairy tales and stories (Andersen, Tegner)/Daddy Dustman

For other versions of this work, see Ole Lukøie.






THERE is nobody in all the world who knows so many stories as Daddy Dustman. And he does know how to tell stories.

When it is getting near bedtime, and the children are sitting comfortably round the table or on their little footstools, in comes Daddy Dustman. He comes so softly up the stairs, for he walks in his stocking-feet. He opens the door quietly, and, whist! he squirts sweet milk into their eyes, so little, oh, so very little, but always enough to prevent them from keeping their eyes open, and that's why they cannot see him. He steals up behind them, breathes gently on their necks, and this makes their heads heavy. But it does not hurt them, for Daddy Dustman means well by the children. He only wants them to be quiet, and the best way to do this is to get them to bed. They must be quiet, so that he can tell them stories.

As soon as the children are asleep, Daddy Dustman sits down on the bed. He is nicely dressed; his coat is of silk, but it is impossible to say what color it is, for it looks green, red, or blue, according to how he turns round. He carries an umbrella under each arm. One of them, with pictures inside, he spreads over the good children, and then they dream the most beautiful stories the whole night; but the other umbrella, which has no pictures, he puts over the naughty children, who fall into a heavy sleep, and awake in the morning without having dreamed anything.

We shall now hear how Daddy Dustman came every evening for a whole week to a little boy, whose name was Hjalmar, and what he told him. There are altogether seven stories, for there are seven days in the week.


"Just listen!" said Daddy Dustman in the evening, when he had got Hjalmar into bed. "I will make the room pretty!" And all the flowers in the flower-pots became large trees, which stretched their long branches under the ceiling and along the walls, so that the whole room looked like the most lovely bower. The branches were covered with flowers, all of which were much prettier than any rose, and just as fragrant; and if any one had wanted to eat them, he would have found them sweeter than jam. The fruits glittered like gold, and there were buns cram full of raisins; it was simply wonderful! But just at that moment there came a terrible wail from the drawer in the table, in which Hjalmar kept his lesson-books.

"What's the matter now?" asked Daddy Dustman, and went over to the table and opened the drawer. It was the slate, which felt oppressed and crushed because a wrong figure had got into the sum, so that it was nearly falling to pieces. The slate-pencil jumped up and tugged at its string as if it were a little dog; it wanted to put the sum right, but could not. And Hjalmar's copy-book began to wail; it was really terrible to listen to. Down along each page stood all the capital letters, each with the small letter at its side,—quite a long row of letters down the page, which had to be copied; and by their side stood again some letters which thought they were just like them,—for Hjalmar had written these letters; but they all leaned over to one side, as if they had stumbled over the pencil-line upon which they were to stand.

"Look here! This is the way you should hold yourselves up," said the printed letters; "see, this way,—with a smart flourish."

"Oh, yes; we should be so glad to do it," said Hjalmar's letters, "hut we cannot,—we don't feel well."

"Then you must have a powder," said Daddy Dustman.

"Oh, no!" cried the letters, and then they stood so straight and erect that it was a pleasure to look at them.

"Well, we shall have no time for stories now," said Daddy Dustman; "I shall have to put them through their paces. Left, right! Left, right!" and so he went on drilling the letters till they stood as upright and as fine-looking as any of the printed ones. But when Daddy Dustman had gone and Hjalmar looked at them in the morning they were as bad as ever.


As soon as Hjalmar was in bed, Daddy Dustman touched all the pieces of furniture in the room with his magic squirt, and they began at once to talk and chatter. All of them talked about themselves, with the exception of the spittoon, who was annoyed and remained silent, because they were so conceited as only to talk about themselves, only to think about themselves, and had no thoughts for the spittoon, which stood in all humility in the corner and let itself be spat into.

Over the chest of drawers hung a large painting in a gilt frame. It represented a landscape with lofty old trees, flowers in the grass, and a big lake, from which flowed a river that passed round behind the forest, and past many castles far out into the open ocean.

Daddy Dustman touched the picture with his magic squirt, and the birds in it began to sing, the branches of the trees moved to and fro, and the clouds drifted across the sky. One could see their shadows passing over the landscape.

Daddy Dustman now lifted little Hjalmar up into the frame, and Hjalmar put his feet into the painting, right on the high grass, and there he stood, the sun shining down upon him through the branches of the trees. He ran to the lake and sat down in a little boat which was lying there. It was painted red and white and the sails shone like silver, while six swans, all with golden crowns round their necks and a bright blue star on their foreheads, towed the boat past the green forests, where the trees talked about robbers and witches, and the flowers about the little elves and about what the butterflies had told them.

The most beautiful fishes with silver and gold scales swam after the boat. Now and then they would make a spring out of the water and, with a splash, fall back into it, while the birds, red and blue, large and small, flew after the boat in two long rows. The gnats danced and the cockchafers sang "Boom, boom!" All wanted to follow Hjalmar and all had a story to tell.

What a splendid sail! In some places the forests were thick and dark, in others they looked like the most beautiful gardens, with sunshine and flowers. Along the shore lay large palaces of glass and marble, and on the balconies stood princesses, all of whom were little girls that Hjalmar knew well and had played with. They held out to him in their hands the nicest sugar-pigs that any sweet-stuff woman ever sold, and Hjalmar, as he sailed, seized hold of one end of the sugar-pigs, while the princesses held tightly on to the other, so that all got a piece, the princesses the smallest, and Hjalmar all the biggest. At every palace little princes kept guard. They presented arms with golden swords, and let it rain with raisins and tin soldiers. They must be real princes!

At one moment Hjalmar sailed through forests, at another through large halls or through the middle of a town. He also passed through the town where his nurse lived, the nurse who had been so fond of him, and she nodded and beckoned to him, while she sang the pretty verse she herself had written and sent to Hjalmar:

"I think of you both long and oft.
Hjalmar. my own. my posy!
I've kissed your pretty cheeks so soft.
Forehead, and lips so rosy.
I heard your lispings long ago;
Since then we've said good-by.
The good Lord bless you here below.
My angel from on high."

And all the birds joined in, the flowers danced on their stalks, and the old trees nodded, just as if Daddy Dustman were telling stories to them also.


Dear, oh, dear! How the rain did pour down! Hjalmar could hear it in his sleep, and when Daddy Dustman opened the window the water had reached right up to the window-sill; outside was a great sea, and a fine ship was lying close to the house.

"Will you have a sail, little Hjalmar?" asked Daddy Dustman. "During the night you can see many foreign lands, and be back here again in the morning."

All at once Hjalmar, dressed in his best clothes, stood on the deck of the ship, and the weather immediately became fine They sailed through the streets and turned round the corner by the church, and then they had the great ocean before them. They sailed on till at last no land could be seen, and they saw a flock of storks, who also had left their home and were on their way to the hot countries. The storks were flying one behind the other, and had already been flying such a long distance that one of them was so tired his wings could not carry him any longer; he was the last in the line, and before long he was a long way behind the others. At last he began to sink lower and lower on his outstretched wings. He flapped his wings once or twice, but all in vain; his legs were now touching the rigging of the ship, and then he glided down along the sail, and plump! there he stood on the deck.

The ship's boy took him and put him into the hen-coop with the fowls, ducks, and turkeys. The poor stork felt quite out of place in this company.

"What's that thing?" said all the fowls.

And the turkey-cock puffed himself out as much as he could and asked the stork who he was, while the ducks waddled backwards, pushing one another aside and crying, "quack, quack!"

Then the stork began telling them about Africa and how warm it was there, about the pyramids, and the ostrich, who raced like a wild horse across the desert; but the ducks did not understand what he said, and pushed against one another, saying: "Let's agree about one thing. He is a fool!"

"Of course he is a fool!" said the turkey-cock, and went on gobbling. The stork then became silent and thought of his home in Africa.

"Those are thin, handsome legs of yours!" said the turkey-cock. "How much a yard?"

"Quack, quack, quack!" grinned all the ducks, but the stork pretended not to hear anything.

"You might laugh as well," said the turkey-cock to him, "for it was very wittily said; or, perhaps, it was not high enough for you. Alas! he is not very versatile. Let us continue to amuse one another all by ourselves." And the fowls clucked and the ducks quacked: "Quick, quack! Quick, quack!" How terribly amusing they all thought it was.

But Hjalmar went to the hen-coop, opened the door, and called the stork, who jumped out on the deck to him. He had now rested himself, and, as he spread out his wings to fly away to the hot countries, it seemed as if he nodded to Hjalmar to thank him, while the fowls clucked and the ducks quacked and the turkey-cock became quite red in his face.

"To-morrow we shall make soup of you all!" said Hjalmar; and then he awoke and found himself lying in his little bed. That was a wonderful journey which Daddy Dustman had let him take that night.


"Look here!" said Daddy Dustman, "but don't he afraid! Here's a little mouse." And he held out his hand to him with the pretty little creature. "She has come to invite you to a wedding. There are two little mice who are going to get married to-night. They live down under the floor of your mother's larder, and they say it is such a nice place!"

"But how shall I he able to get through the little mouse-hole in the floor?" asked Hjalmar.

"Leave that to me," said Daddy Dustman, "I will make you small enough!" And then he touched Hjalmar with his magic squirt, who at once began to grow less and less, and at last he was no bigger than one's finger. "You can now borrow the tin soldier's clothes, which I think will fit you. It looks so smart to wear a uniform when you go to a party!"

"Yes, of course!" said Hjalmar; and in a moment he was dressed like the smartest tin soldier.

"Won't you be good enough to take a seat in your mother's thimble," said the little mouse, "and I shall have the honor to drive you!"

"Goodness gracious! Are you yourself, Madam, going to have all this trouble?" said Hjalmar, as they drove otf to the wedding of the mice.

First they came into a long passage under the floor, which was hardly of sufficient height to allow any one in a thimble to drive through it. The whole of the passage was illuminated with touchwood.

"Is n't there a delicious smell here?" said the mouse who was driving Hjalmar; "the whole passage has been rubbed with bacon-rind. Nothing could be more delicious!"

They now arrived in the room where the wedding was to take place. On the right hand side stood all the little lady-mice, whispering and tittering, just as if they were making fun of one another, and on the left stood all the gentlemen-mice, stroking their mustaches with their paws; but in the middle of the floor could be seen the bridal couple, standing in a hollowed-out cheese-rind, kissing each other most lovingly before the eyes of everybody, for they were now engaged, and were just going to be married.

More and more guests were arriving, till they were nearly treading each other to death. The bridal couple were standing in the middle of the doorway, so that one could hardly get in or out. The whole of the room had been rubbed over with bacon-rind, just like the passage; this was all the refreshments there was to be, but as dessert a pea was shown round, in which a little mouse belonging to the family had bitten the name of the bride and the bridegroom—that is to say, the first letters of their names; it was something quite out of the common.

All the mice said it was a beautiful wedding, and that the conversation had been most delightful.

And so Hjalmar drove home again; he had, no doubt, been in very grand company, but he had certainly had to make himself very small, and get into the tin soldier's uniform.


"It is incredible how many old people there are who want to get hold of me," said Daddy Dustman; "especially those who have done something wicked. 'Good little Daddy,' they say to me, 'we cannot close our eyes, and so we lie awake all the night and see all our wicked deeds, like horrible little imps, sitting on the edge of the bed and squirting hot water over us. Do come and drive them away so that we can get a good night's rest,' and then, with a deep sigh, they add: 'We should like so much to pay you. Good night, Daddy. The money is lying in the window.' But I don't do this for money," said Daddy Dustman.

"What shall we do this evening?" asked Hjalmar.

"Well, I don't know if you would like to go to a wedding again to-night—a different kind from the one you went to yesterday. Your sister's big dolly, the one who looks like a man, and who is called Herman, is going to be married to the doll we call Bertha. Besides, it is her birthday, and there will be a lot of presents."

"Yes, I know all about that," said Hjalmar; "whenever my sister wants new clothes for her dolls she always lets them have birthday parties or weddings. That has happened at least a hundred times."

"Yes, and the wedding to-night will be the hundred and first, and when one hundred and one is reached then everything comes to an end, and therefore this will be a grand affair. Just look!"

And Hjalmar looked at the table: there stood the little cardboard house with lights in all the windows, and all the tin soldiers outside presenting arms. The bride and the bridegroom sat on the floor leaning against the leg of the table, both looking quite thoughtful, which was only reasonable, while Daddy Dustman, dressed in grandmother's black skirt, performed the marriage ceremony. When it was over, all the furniture in the room joined in singing the following pretty song, which was written by the lead-pencil, and set to the tune of the military tattoo:

"Our song shall burst into the room;
The bridal pair shall hear it—boom!
They stand erect, straight as a broom,
Fresh as a new glove, how they bloom!
Hurrah, hurrah, for bride and groom!
Our song must be loud, piercing storm, wind, and gloom!"'

And now came the presents; but the bride and bridegroom had requested that no eatable should be sent, as they had sufficient of love to live upon.

"Shall we go somewhere in the country or go abroad?" asked the bridegroom. The swallow, who had traveled a great deal, and the old farm-hen, who had hatched five broods of chickens, were consulted on the subject. The swallow told about lovely countries, where the air was mild and the mountains a color of which we have no idea.

"But you don't find our spring cabbage there," said the hen. "I went into the country one summer with all my chickens. We had a gravelpit there, all to ourselves, where we could go and scratch up the ground all day; and we also had leave to go into a garden where there was spring cabbage. Oh, how green it was! I cannot think of anything more delightful."

"But one cabbage stalk looks very much like another," said the swallow; "and then you have often such bad weather here."

"Yes, but one gets accustomed to that," said the hen.

"But you have so much frost and cold in this country."

"That's good for the cabbages," said the hen. "Besides, we have warm weather as well. One summer it was so hot one could scarcely breathe. And then we have none of the poisonous creatures that are found abroad. And we are free from robbers. He is a wretch who doesn't think our country the most beautiful. He doesn't deserve to be allowed to live here," said the hen, with tears in her eyes. "I, too, have traveled. I once drove over fifty miles in a tub! There is no pleasure at all in traveling."

'Yes, the hen is a sensible person," said Bertha, the bride. "Nor do I like traveling over mountains either. It is always up and down. No, let us be off to the gravel-pit and take our walks in the cabbage garden."

And that settled it.


"Shall I have any stories to-night?" said little Hjalmar, as soon as Daddy Dustman had got him into bed.

"We have no time for that to-night," said Daddy, and opened the pretty umbrella over him; "look at these Chinamen." And the whole umbrella looked like a great Chinese bowl with blue trees and pointed bridges, with tiny Chinamen on them, who stood nodding their heads. "We must have the whole world brightened up by to-morrow," said Daddy, "for it is a holy day, it is Sunday. I have to go over to the church tower to see if the little brownies are polishing the bells, so that they may sound all the more beautiful. I have to go into the fields to see if the wind has blown the dust off the grass and the flowers, and then there is the biggest job of all—I have to take down all the stars and polish them. I put them all in my apron; but they must first be numbered, as well as the holes into which they fit, so that they can be put back again in their right places. Otherwise they would not stick fast, and we should have too many falling stars, for they would be tumbling down one after another."

"I say, Mr. Dustman," said an old portrait, which was hanging on the wall in Hjalmar's bedroom, "I am Hjalmar's great-grandfather. I am much obliged to you for telling the boy stories, but you must not confuse his ideas of things. The stars cannot be taken down and polished. The stars are planets, like our globe, and that's just the beauty of them."

"Thank you, old great-grandfather," said Daddy Dustman; "I am much obliged to you. You are the head of the family — an 'old head,' in fact. But I am older than you. I am an old heathen. The Romans and the Greeks called me the Dream God. I have always visited the best of families and do so still. I understand how to associate both with rich and poor. And now you can tell stories yourself," said Daddy Dustman, and went away, taking the umbrella with him.

"So, one is not allowed to speak his mind any more," said the old portrait.

And then Hjalmar awoke.


"Good evening," said Daddy Dustman, and Hjalmar nodded; but first he went over and turned the great-grandfather's portrait to the wall, so that it should not begin talking as it did yesterday.

"Now you must tell me some stories about 'the live green peas that lived in a shell,' and 'Cocky Locky, who made love to Henny Penny,' and about 'the darning-needle who was so conceited that she thought she was a sewing-needle.'"

"One may have too much of a good thing," said Daddy Dustman. "You know I would rather show you something. I will now show you my brother. His name is also Daddy Dustman, but he never comes to any one more than once, and when he comes, he takes you on his horse and tells you stories. He knows only two. The one is so wonderfully beautiful that no one in the world can imagine anything more beautiful, and the other is so grim and terrible—well, it is impossible to describe it." And Daddy Dustman lifted little Hjalmar up into the window, and said: "There you see my brother, the other Daddy Dustman. They also call him Death. You see, he does not look as bad as in the picture-books, where he is represented as a skeleton. No, he has silver embroidery on his coat. It is the most lovely hussar's uniform. A cloak of black velvet flies behind him over the horse. Do you see how he gallops along?"

And Hjalmar saw how this Daddy Dustman rode off, taking both young and old people with him on the horse. Some he placed in front, and some at the back of him, but he always asked first of all, "What about your mark-book?" "Very good," they all replied. "Well, let me see for myself," he said; and then they had to show him the book, and all those who had "very good" and "excellent" were put in front of him, and were told the beautiful story. But those who had "tolerably good" and "indifferent" had to sit behind and listen to the horrible story. They trembled and cried, and wanted to jump off the horse, but they could not, for they had suddenly grown fast to it.

"But death is a most pleasant Daddy Dustman," said Hjalmar; "I am not afraid of him."

"Nor should you be," said Daddy Dustman; "only take care to have a good mark-book."

"Well, there is something instructive in that," muttered the portrait of the great-grandfather; "there is some use, after all, speaking one's mind," and so he was satisfied.

This is the story of Daddy Dustman. He can now tell you some more stories himself this evening.

  1. Ole Luköie (literally Olaf the Eye-shutter) is the Dutch equivalent for the legendary character known to English children as "The Dustman."