O' the Sun and West O' the Moon
ONCE on a time there was a man, and he had a wife. They had a son and a daughter who were twins, and these were so alike that no one could tell one from the other except by their clothing. The boy they called Peik. He was of little use while his father and mother lived, for he cared to do naught else than to befool folk, and he was so full of tricks and pranks that no one was left in peace. When the parents died, matters grew still worse and worse. He would not turn his hand to anything. All he would do was to squander what they left behind them.
His sister toiled and moiled all she could, but it helped little; so at last she told him how silly it was to do naught for the house.
"What shall we have to live on when you have wasted everything?" she said.
"Oh, I'll go out and befool somebody," said Peik.
"Yes, Peik, I'll be bound you'll do that soon enough," said the sister.
"Well, I'll try," said Peik.
At last they had indeed nothing more. There was an end of everything; and Peik started off, and walked and walked till he came to the King's palace.
Now, I must tell you, this King and his queen and eldest daughter were little better than trolls,-mean and hateful and very foolish,-so there was no love lost between them and the people.
When Peik came to the King's palace, there stood the King in the porch, and as soon as he set eyes on the lad he said,
"Whither away, to-day, Peik?"
"Oh, I was going out to see if I could befool anybody," said Peik.
"Can't you befool me now?" said the King.
"No, I'm sure I can't," said Peik, "for I've forgotten my fooling rods."
"Can't you go home and fetch them?" said the King, "I should be very glad to see if you are such a trickster as folks say."
"I've no strength to walk," said Peik.
"I'll lend you a horse and saddle," said the King
"But I can't ride either," said Peik.
"We'll lift you up," said the King, "then you'll be able to stick on."
Well, Peik stood and scratched his head as though he would pull the hair off, and he let them lift him up into the saddle. There he sat, swinging this side and that, so long as the King could see him, and the King laughed till the tears came into his eyes, for such a tailor on horseback he had never seen. But when Peik was come well into the wood behind the hill, so that he was out of the King's sight, he sat as though he were tied to the horse, and off he rode as fast as the horse could carry him. But when he got to the town he sold both horse and saddle.
All the while the King walked up and down, and loitered, and waited for Peik to come tottering back again with his fooling rods. And every now and then he laughed when he called to mind how wretched the lad looked as he sat swinging about on the horse like a sack of corn, not knowing on which side to fall off. This lasted for seven lengths and seven breaths, but no Peik came, and so at last the King saw that he was fooled and cheated out of his horse and saddle, even though Peik had not had his fooling rods with him. Then there was another story, for the King got wroth, and was all for setting off to kill Peik.
But Peik had found out the day he was coming, and told his sister she must put on the big boiling-pot with a little water in it. Just as the King came in, Peik dragged the pot off the fire and ran off with it to the chopping-block, and so boiled the porridge on the block.
The King wondered at that, and wondered on and on, so much that he quite forgot what brought him there.
"What do you want for that pot?" said he.
"I can't spare it," said Peik.
"Why not?" said the King; "I'll pay what you ask."
"No, no!" said Peik. "It saves me time and money, wood hire and chopping hire, carting and carrying."
"Never mind," said the King, "I'll give you a hundred dollars. It's true you've fooled me out of a horse and saddle, and bridle besides, but all that shall go for nothing if I can only get the pot."
"Well, if you must have it, you must," said Peik.
When the King got home he asked guests and made a feast, but the meat was to be boiled in the new pot, and so he took it up and set it in the middle of the floor. The guests thought the King had lost his wits, and went about elbowing one another, and laughing at him. But he walked round and round the pot and cackled and chattered, saying all in a breath-
"Well, well! bide a bit, bide a bit! 'Twill boil in a minute."
But there was no boiling. So he saw that Peik had been out with his fooling rods and had cheated him again, and now he would set off at once and slay him.
When the King came, Peik stood out by the barn door. "Wouldn't it boil?" he asked.
"No, it would not, and you shall smart for it," said the King, about to unsheath his knife.
"I can well believe that," said Peik, "for you did not take the block, too."
"I wish I thought," said the King, "you weren't telling me a pack of lies."
"I tell you it's because of the block it stands on; it won't boil without it," said Peik.
"Well, what do you want for it?"
It was well worth three hundred dollars; but for the King's sake it should go for two. So the King got the block and traveled home with it. He bade guests again, made a feast, and set the pot on the chopping-block in the middle of the room. The guests thought he was both daft and mad, and they went about making game of him, while he cackled and chattered around the pot, calling out, "Bide a bit! Now it boils, now it boils in a trice."
But it wouldn't boil a bit more on the block than on the bare floor. So he saw that Peik had been out with his fooling rods this time, too. Then he fell a-tearing his hair, and said he would set off at once and slay the lad. He wouldn't spare him this time, whether or no.
But Peik was ready for him. He had filled a leather bag with blood and stuffed it into his sister's bosom, and told her what to say and do.
"Where's Peik?" screamed out the King. He was in such a rage that he stuttered and stammered.
"He is so poorly that he can't stir hand or foot," she said, "and now he's trying to get a nap."
"Wake him up!" said the King.
"Nay, I daren't, he will be so angry," said the sister.
"Well, I am angrier still," said the King, "and if you don't wake him, I will," and with that he tapped his side where his knife hung.
"Well, she would go and wake him," but Peik turned hastily in his bed, drew out a knife and ripped open the leather bag in her bosom, so that the blood gushed out, and down she fell on the floor as though she were dead.
"What an awful fellow you are, Peik," said the King; "you have killed your sister right before my eyes!"
"Oh, there's no trouble with her so long as there's breath in my nostrils," said Peik, and with that he pulled out a ram's horn and began to toot on it.
"Toot-e-too-too," he blew, with one end of the horn to her body, and up she rose as though there was nothing the matter with her.
"Dear me, Peik! Can you kill folk and blow life into them again? Can you do that?" said the King.
"Why!" said Peik, "how could I get on at all if I couldn't? I am always killing every one I come near; don't you know I have a terrible temper?"
"I am hot-tempered, too," said the King, "and that horn I must have. I'll give you a hundred dollars for it, and besides I'll forgive you for cheating me out of my horse and for fooling me about the pot and the block, and all else."
Peik was loth to part with it, but for his sake he would let him have it. And so the King went off home with it, and he hardly got back before he must try it.
So he fell a-wrangling and quarreling with the queen and his eldest daughter, and they paid him back in the same coin; but before they knew what was happening he had whipped out his knife and cut their throats. They fell down stone dead and the other two daughters ran from the house, they were so afraid.
The King walked about the floor for a while and kept chattering that there was no harm done so long as there was breath in him, and then he pulled out the horn and began to blow "Toot-e-too-too! Toot-e-too-too!" but, though he blew and tooted as hard as he could all that day and the next, too, he could not blow life into them again. Dead they were, and dead they stayed. But the people in the kingdom were only glad to get rid of such troll-folk, and were wishing some one might make an end of the King, too, so that they might have a good King in his place.
But the King was now angrier than ever, and must go right off to kill Peik.
But Peik knew that he was coming and then he said to his sister-
"Now, you must change clothes with me and set off. If you will do that, you may have all we own."
So, she changed clothes with him, packed up and started off as fast as she could; but Peik sat all alone in his sister's clothes.
"Where is that Peik?" roared the King, as as he came, in a towering rage, through the door.
"He has run away," said Peik. "He knew that your Majesty was coming, so he left me all alone without a morsel of bread or a penny in my purse," and he made himself as gentle and sweet as a young lady.
"Come along, then, to the King's palace, and you shall have enough to live on. There's no good sitting here and starving in this cabin by yourself," said the King.
So Peik went home with the King, and there he was treated as the King's own daughter, for Miss Peik sewed and stitched and sang and played with the others, and was with them early and late.
But one day a man came to the King and told him that Peik's sister was at a farm in the neighborhood, and that it was Peik he had brought up in his own house. Now, Peik had heard all that the man told the King, so he ran away from the King's palace, out into the wide world.
The King got into a terrible rage then, and called for Peik, but he was nowhere to be found. Then he mounted his horse to go out to look for Peik.
He had not gone far before he came to a ploughed field and there sat Peik on a stone, playing on a mouth organ.
"What! Are you sitting there, Peik?" said the King.
"Here I sit, sure enough," said Peik; "where else should I sit?"
"You have cheated me foully time after time," said the King, "but now you must come along home with me, and I'll kill you."
"Well, well," said Peik, "if it can't be helped, it can't; I suppose I must go along with you."
When they got home to the King's palace they got ready a barrel which Peik was to be put in, and when it was ready they carted it up a high mountain. There he was to lie three days, thinking on all the evil he had done, then they were to roll him down the mountain into the sea.
The third day a rich man passed by and when he heard Peik's story he was ready to help him out of his trouble.
They made a stuffed man and put him with some stones into the barrel-but the rich man gave Peik horses and cows, sheep and swine, and money beside.
Now, the King came to roll Peik down the mountain. "A happy journey!" said the King, "and now it is all over with you and your fooling rods."
Before the barrel was halfway down the mountain there was not a whole stave of it left, nor would there have been a whole limb on Peik, had he been there. But when the King came back to the palace, Peik was there before him, and sat in the court-yard playing on his mouth organ.
"What! You sitting here, you, Peik?"
"Yes! Here I sit, sure enough. Where else should I sit?" said Peik. "Maybe I can get room here for all my horses and sheep and money."
"But whither was it that I rolled you that you got all this wealth?" asked the King.
"Oh, you rolled me into the sea," said Peik, "and when I got to the bottom there was more than enough and to spare, both of horses and sheep, and of gold and silver. The cattle went about in great flocks, and the gold and silver lay in large heaps as big as houses."
"What will you take to roll me down the same way?" asked the King.
"Oh," said Peik, "it costs little or nothing to do it. Besides, you took nothing from me, and so I'll take nothing from you either."
So he stuffed the King into a barrel and rolled him over, and when he had given him a ride down to the sea for nothing, he went home to the King's palace.
Then he began to hold his bridal feast with the youngest princess, and afterwards he ruled the land both well and long. But he kept his fooling rods to himself, and kept them so well that nothing was ever heard of Peik and his tricks, but only of "Ourself the King."
Thorne-Thomsen, Gudrun. East O' the Sun and West O' the Moon. Chicago: Row, Peterson and Company, 1912.