The Boy Who Went to the North Wind

A Scandinavian Tale Adapted by Amy Friedman

Once upon a time, an old widow sent her only son out to the barn to fetch some meal. Just as the lad was walking out of the barn with it, the North Wind blew up fierce and wild. Huffing and puffing, the North Wind caught up the meal from the lad's arms, and off it blew, far, far away. The lad, who was a hearty boy and never worried much, turned around and walked back into the barn. Once more he walked outside, carrying his bowl of fresh meal. Again the North Wind came along, and with a huff and a puff, it carried off the second bowl full. The lad shrugged and returned to the barn a third time. Once more the North Wind made off with the meal. Now, the lad stomped his feet and his face grew bright red. He looked up into the sky, for he had grown angry with the North Wind for his tricks.

"I'll go off and speak to him about his thievery," he said to himself. And so he did. The way to the North Wind's home was long and wearying. The lad walked and walked, and finally, after the sun had set and the moon began to rise, he came to the house of the North Wind.

"Good evening, North Wind," he said.

"Good evening," heaved the North Wind. "What do you want?"

The lad politely asked the North Wind if he might return the stolen meal. He explained that his poor mother was very weak and ill, and that the family was very poor.The North Wind remained very still, listening hard. The boy went on,

"If you take away our meal," he said, "we will surely starve, for we have no money to buy more."

At last, the North Wind answered the lad. "I do not have your meal," said he, "but since you seem to be in need and you have traveled so far, I will reward you for your trouble. I shall give you a cloth that will fetch you any food you wish. All you have to do is say, 'Cloth, spread yourself,' and the cloth will serve up delicious dishes to eat."

The lad was well pleased with this gift. He thanked the North Wind and set off for his long journey home. At last he grew weary, and spotted an inn at the side of the road.

"I shall rest here tonight," he said, and walked inside. He arrived just as the guests were sitting down to eat their supper.

"Welcome," said the innkeeper, "but I'm afraid we do not have enough food to share with you."

"Never mind that," said the lad, "and he lay his cloth on the table and grinned. "Cloth, spread yourself." A moment later, the table was filled with such a feast as you have never seen before.

Everyone clapped and cheered and praised the lad. But that night, when everyone was fast asleep, the innkeeper sneaked into the boy's room and stole the magical cloth. He replaced it with an ordinary cloth. Next morning the lad set off, carrying with him his cloth. When he returned home, he told his mother all about his meeting with the generous North Wind.

Then he spread out the cloth and said, "Cloth, spread yourself."

Nothing happened. The lad's mother just shook her head, but the boy smiled and said,

"I must return to the North Wind and discover what has happened to the cloth. I am sure he did not mean to cheat us." And off he went.

He arrived at the North Wind's house late in the day. "Please, North Wind," said the lad, "this cloth is worth nothing, for it worked only once. I'd like my meal back." The North Wind blew. "I told you, I have no meal. But I see that you have again traveled far," he said kindly. "For your trouble, I shall give you the ram that stands over there in the pen. This is a special ram. He produces gold coins from his mouth as soon as you say, 'Ram, make money.' "

The boy was pleased with this. Off he went once more, leading the ram behind him. He grew very tired. Once again he stopped at the inn at the side of the road. When the boy saw all the people gathered there, he could not help but show off his good fortune. The people stared and gasped as they watched the ram produce gold coins. They clapped and cheered the young lad and his magical ram. That night the innkeeper once more sneaked into the lad's room. This time, he exchanged an ordinary ram for the ram that made the gold coins. In the morning, the lad hastened home to his mother, leading the ram behind him.

"Watch this, mother," he said delightedly. "Ram, make money," he cried. The ram stood very still and stared at the lad. "Ram, make money," the boy repeated. Alas, the ram produced nothing at all.

And so again the lad hastened to the home of the North Wind. This time, he demanded his meal.

"I do not have any meal," sighed the North Wind, "and all I have to give you now is this old wooden stick. Now, if you say to this stick, 'Stick, lay on,' it will flap and flail and fly after anyone you wish, and it will not stop until you say, 'Stop, stick, stop now'."

The lad went off carrying his magical stick. Once again, he stopped at the inn. When he saw the innkeeper, he squinted his eyes, for you see, by this time he had grown suspicious. That night, the lad lay in his bed, but he did not fall asleep. Instead, he closed his eyes and pretended to snore. Now, the landlord had spied the stick and he thought it must be magical as the cloth and the ram had been. And so, when he heard the lad begin to snore, he sneaked into his room. He tiptoed to the corner and reached for the stick, but just as he was about to take it, the boy sat up on his bed and cried,

"Stick, lay on." The stick began to flail and fly about the ears of the startled innkeeper. Now the stick began to chase the man around the table, under the bed, beneath tables and chairs. The stick flew after, twirling and twisting, moving faster and faster.

"Your stick means to hurt me," cried the innkeeper. "Make it stop."

But the boy sat very still upon his bed and watched as the stick chased the innkeeper. He moved very fast, but the stick chased him still.

"Stop your stick," cried the innkeeper, who was huffing and puffing.

"What will you do for me?" asked the lad.

"I will give you back your cloth, and your ram too," said the innkeeper. His face was red and sweat poured from his forehead. "Please stop your stick," he sputtered as he jumped onto the bed.

"Stop, stick, stop now," said the boy, and the stick fell to the ground and lay at his feet. At once, the innkeeper returned with the North Wind's gifts to the boy, and he went back home singing all the way, eager to share his good fortune with his poor old mother.