Hans Christian Andersen

The Wind tells about Waldemar Daa and his Daughters

the wind tells about waldemar daa and his daughters

When the wind sweeps across the grass, the field has a ripple like a
pond, and when it sweeps across the corn the field waves to and fro
like a high sea. That is called the wind’s dance; but the wind does
not dance only, he also tells stories; and how loudly he can sing out
of his deep chest, and how different it sounds in the tree-tops in the
forest, and through the loopholes and clefts and cracks in walls! Do
you see how the wind drives the clouds up yonder, like a frightened
flock of sheep? Do you hear how the wind howls down here through the
open valley, like a watchman blowing his horn? With wonderful tones he
whistles and screams down the chimney and into the fireplace. The fire
crackles and flares up, and shines far into the room, and the little
place is warm and snug, and it is pleasant to sit there listening to
the sounds. Let the wind speak, for he knows plenty of stories and
fairy tales, many more than are known to any of us. Just hear what the
wind can tell.

Huh–uh–ush! roar along! That is the burden of the song.

“By the shores of the Great Belt, one of the straits that unite the
Cattegut with the Baltic, lies an old mansion with thick red walls,”
says the Wind. “I know every stone in it; I saw it when it still
belonged to the castle of Marsk Stig on the promontory. But it had to
be pulled down, and the stone was used again for the walls of a new
mansion in another place, the baronial mansion of Borreby, which still
stands by the coast.

“I knew them, the noble lords and ladies, the changing races that
dwelt there, and now I’m going to tell about Waldemar Daa and his
daughters. How proudly he carried himself–he was of royal blood! He
could do more than merely hunt the stag and empty the wine-can. ‘It
_shall_ be done,’ he was accustomed to say.

“His wife walked proudly in gold-embroidered garments over the
polished marble floors. The tapestries were gorgeous, the furniture
was expensive and artistically carved. She had brought gold and silver
plate with her into the house, and there was German beer in the
cellar. Black fiery horses neighed in the stables. There was a wealthy
look about the house of Borreby at that time, when wealth was still at
home there.

“Four children dwelt there also; three delicate maidens, Ida, Joanna,
and Anna Dorothea: I have never forgotten their names.

“They were rich people, noble people, born in affluence, nurtured in
affluence.

“Huh–sh! roar along!” sang the Wind; and then he continued:

“I did not see here, as in other great noble houses, the high-born
lady sitting among her women in the great hall turning the
spinning-wheel: here she swept the sounding chords of the cithern, and
sang to the sound, but not always old Danish melodies, but songs of a
strange land. It was ‘live and let live’ here: stranger guests came
from far and near, the music sounded, the goblets clashed, and I was
not able to drown the noise,” said the Wind. “Ostentation, and
haughtiness, and splendour, and display, and rule were there, but the
fear of the Lord was not there.

“And it was just on the evening of the first day of May,” the Wind
continued. “I came from the west, and had seen how the ships were
being crushed by the waves, with all on board, and flung on the west
coast of Jutland. I had hurried across the heath, and over Jutland’s
wood-girt eastern coast, and over the Island of Fünen, and now I drove
over the Great Belt, groaning and sighing.

“Then I lay down to rest on the shore of Seeland, in the neighbourhood
of the great house of Borreby, where the forest, the splendid oak
forest, still rose.

“The young men-servants of the neighbourhood were collecting branches
and brushwood under the oak trees; the largest and driest they could
find they carried into the village, and piled them up in a heap, and
set them on fire; and men and maids danced, singing in a circle round
the blazing pile.

“I lay quite quiet,” continued the Wind; “but I silently touched a
branch, which had been brought by the handsomest of the men-servants,
and the wood blazed up brightly, blazed up higher than all the rest;
and now he was the chosen one, and bore the name the Street-goat, and
might choose his Street-lamb first from among the maids; and there was
mirth and rejoicing, greater than I had ever heard before in the halls
of the rich baronial mansion.

“And the noble lady drove towards the baronial mansion, with her three
daughters, in a gilded carriage drawn by six horses. The daughters
were young and fair–three charming blossoms, rose, lily, and pale
hyacinth. The mother was a proud tulip, and never acknowledged the
salutation of one of the men or maids who paused in their sport to do
her honour: the gracious lady seemed a flower that was rather stiff in
the stalk.

“Rose, lily, and pale hyacinth; yes, I saw them all three! Whose
lambkins will they one day become? thought I; their Street-goat will
be a gallant knight, perhaps a prince. Huh–sh! hurry along! hurry
along!

“Yes, the carriage rolled on with them, and the peasant people resumed
their dancing. They rode that summer through all the villages round
about. But in the night, when I rose again,” said the Wind, “the very
noble lady lay down, to rise again no more: that thing came upon her
which comes upon all–there is nothing new in that.

“Waldemar Daa stood for a space silent and thoughtful. ‘The proudest
tree can be bowed without being broken,’ said a voice within him. His
daughters wept, and all the people in the mansion wiped their eyes;
but Lady Daa had driven away–and I drove away too, and rushed along,
huh–sh!” said the Wind.

* * * * *

“I returned again; I often returned again over the Island of Fünen,
and the shores of the Belt, and I sat down by Borreby, by the splendid
oak wood; there the heron made his nest, and wood-pigeons haunted the
place, and blue ravens, and even the black stork. It was still spring;
some of them were yet sitting on their eggs, others had already
hatched their young. But how they flew up, how they cried! The axe
sounded, blow on blow: the wood was to be felled. Waldemar Daa wanted
to build a noble ship, a man-of-war, a three-decker, which the king
would be sure to buy; and therefore the wood must be felled, the
landmark of the seamen, the refuge of the birds. The hawk started up
and flew away, for its nest was destroyed; the heron and all the birds
of the forest became homeless, and flew about in fear and in anger: I
could well understand how they felt. Crows and ravens croaked aloud as
if in scorn. ‘Crack, crack! the nest cracks, cracks, cracks!’

“Far in the interior of the wood, where the noisy swarm of labourers
were working, stood Waldemar Daa and his three daughters; and all
laughed at the wild cries of the birds; only one, the youngest, Anna
Dorothea, felt grieved in her heart; and when they made preparations
to fell a tree that was almost dead, and on whose naked branches the
black stork had built his nest, whence the little storks were
stretching out their heads, she begged for mercy for the little
things, and tears came into her eyes. Therefore the tree with the
black stork’s nest was left standing. The tree was not worth speaking
of.

“There was a great hewing and sawing, and a three-decker was built.
The architect was of low origin, but of great pride; his eyes and
forehead told how clever he was, and Waldemar Daa was fond of
listening to him, and so was Waldemar’s daughter Ida, the eldest, who
was now fifteen years old; and while he built a ship for the father,
he was building for himself an airy castle, into which he and Ida were
to go as a married couple–which might indeed have happened, if the
castle with stone walls, and ramparts, and moats had remained. But in
spite of his wise head, the architect remained but a poor bird; and,
indeed, what business has a sparrow to take part in a dance of
peacocks? Huh–sh! I careered away, and he careered away too, for he
was not allowed to stay; and little Ida got over it, because she was
obliged to get over it.

“The proud black horses were neighing in the stable; they were worth
looking at, and accordingly they _were_ looked at. The admiral, who
had been sent by the king himself to inspect the new ship and take
measures for its purchase, spoke loudly in admiration of the beautiful
horses.

“I heard all that,” said the Wind. “I accompanied the gentlemen
through the open door, and strewed blades of straw like bars of gold
before their feet. Waldemar Daa wanted to have gold, and the admiral
wished for the proud black horses, and that is why he praised them so
much; but the hint was not taken, and consequently the ship was not
bought. It remained on the shore covered over with boards, a Noah’s
ark that never got to the water–Huh–sh! rush away! away!–and that
was a pity.

“In the winter, when the fields were covered with snow, and the water
with large blocks of ice that I blew up on to the coast,” continued
the Wind, “crows and ravens came, all as black as might be, great
flocks of them, and alighted on the dead, deserted, lonely ship by the
shore, and croaked in hoarse accents of the wood that was no more, of
the many pretty bird’s nests destroyed, and the little ones left
without a home; and all for the sake of that great bit of lumber, that
proud ship that never sailed forth.

“I made the snow-flakes whirl, and the snow lay like a great lake high
around the ship, and drifted over it. I let it hear my voice, that it
might know what a storm has to say. Certainly I did my part towards
teaching it seamanship. Huh–sh! push along!

“And the winter passed away; winter and summer, both passed away, and
they are still passing away, even as I pass away; as the snow whirls
along, and the apple blossom whirls along, and the leaves fall–away!
away! away! and men are passing away too!

“But the daughters were still young, and little Ida was a rose, as
fair to look upon as on the day when the architect saw her. I often
seized her long brown hair, when she stood in the garden by the apple
tree, musing, and not heeding how I strewed blossoms on her hair, and
loosened it, while she was gazing at the red sun and the golden sky,
through the dark underwood and the trees of the garden.

“Her sister was bright and slender as a lily. Joanna had height and
deportment, but was like her mother, rather stiff in the stalk. She
was very fond of walking through the great hall, where hung the
portraits of her ancestors. The women were painted in dresses of silk
and velvet, with a tiny little hat, embroidered with pearls, on their
plaited hair. They were handsome women. The gentlemen were represented
clad in steel, or in costly cloaks lined with squirrel’s skin; they
wore little ruffs, and swords at their sides, but not buckled to their
hips. Where would Joanna’s picture find its place on that wall some
day? and how would _he_ look, her noble lord and husband? This is what
she thought of, and of this she spoke softly to herself. I heard it,
as I swept into the long hall, and turned round to come out again.

“Anna Dorothea, the pale hyacinth, a child of fourteen, was quiet and
thoughtful; her great deep blue eyes had a musing look, but the
childlike smile still played around her lips: I was not able to blow
it away, nor did I wish to do so.

“We met in the garden, in the hollow lane, in the field and meadow;
she gathered herbs and flowers which she knew would be useful to her
father in concocting the drinks and drops he distilled. Waldemar Daa
was arrogant and proud, but he was also a learned man, and knew a
great deal. That was no secret, and many opinions were expressed
concerning it. In his chimney there was fire even in summer time. He
would lock the door of his room, and for days the fire would be poked
and raked; but of this he did not talk much–the forces of nature must
be conquered in silence; and soon he would discover the art of making
the best thing of all–the red gold.

“That is why the chimney was always smoking, therefore the flames
crackled so frequently. Yes, I was there too,” said the Wind. “Let it
go, I sang down through the chimney: it will end in smoke, air, coals
and ashes! You will burn yourself! Hu-uh-ush! drive away! drive away!
But Waldemar Daa did _not_ drive it away.”

“The splendid black horses in the stable–what became of them? what
became of the old gold and silver vessels in cupboards and chests, the
cows in the fields, and the house and home itself? Yes, they may melt,
may melt in the golden crucible, and yet yield no gold.

“Empty grew the barns and store-rooms, the cellars and magazines. The
servants decreased in number, and the mice multiplied. Then a window
broke, and then another, and I could get in elsewhere besides at the
door,” said the Wind. “‘Where the chimney smokes the meal is being
cooked,’ the proverb says. But here the chimney smoked that devoured
all the meals, for the sake of the red gold.

“I blew through the courtyard-gate like a watchman blowing his horn,”
the Wind went on, “but no watchman was there. I twirled the
weathercock round on the summit of the tower, and it creaked like the
snoring of the warder, but no warder was there; only mice and rats
were there. Poverty laid the tablecloth; poverty sat in the wardrobe
and in the larder; the door fell off its hinges, cracks and fissures
made their appearance, and I went in and out at pleasure; and that is
how I know all about it.

“Amid smoke and ashes, amid sorrow and sleepless nights, the hair and
beard of the master turned grey, and deep furrows showed themselves
around his temples; his skin turned pale and yellow, as his eyes
looked greedily for the gold, the desired gold.

“I blew the smoke and ashes into his face and beard: the result of his
labour was debt instead of pelf. I sung through the burst window-panes
and the yawning clefts in the walls. I blew into the chests of drawers
belonging to the daughters, wherein lay the clothes that had become
faded and threadbare from being worn over and over again. That was not
the song that had been sung at the children’s cradle. The lordly life
had changed to a life of penury. I was the only one who rejoiced aloud
in that castle,” said the Wind. “I snowed them up, and they say snow
keeps people warm. They had no wood, and the forest from which they
might have brought it was cut down. It was a biting frost. I rushed in
through loopholes and passages, over gables and roofs, that I might be
brisk. They were lying in bed because of the cold, the three high-born
daughters; and their father was crouching under his leathern coverlet.
Nothing to bite, nothing to break, no fire on the hearth–there was a
life for high-born people! Huh-sh, let it go! But that is what my Lord
Daa could _not_ do–he could _not_ let it go.

“‘After winter comes spring,’ he said. ‘After want, good times will
come: one must not lose patience; one must learn to wait! Now my house
and lands are mortgaged, it is indeed high time; and the gold will
soon come. At Easter!’

“I heard how he spoke thus, looking at a spider’s web. ‘Thou cunning
little weaver, thou dost teach me perseverance. Let them tear thy web,
and thou wilt begin it again, and complete it. Let them destroy it
again, and thou wilt resolutely begin to work again–again! That is
what we must do, and that will repay itself at last.’

“It was the morning of Easter-day. The bells sounded from the
neighbouring church, and the sun seemed to rejoice in the sky. The
master had watched through the night in feverish excitement, and had
been melting and cooling, distilling and mixing. I heard him sighing
like a soul in despair; I heard him praying, and I noticed how he held
his breath. The lamp was burnt out, but he did not notice it. I blew
at the fire of coals, and it threw its red glow upon his ghastly white
face, lighting it up with a glare, and his sunken eyes looked forth
wildly out of their deep sockets–but they became larger and larger,
as though they would burst.

“Look at the alchymic glass! It glows in the crucible, red-hot, and
pure and heavy! He lifted it with a trembling hand, and cried with a
trembling voice, ‘Gold! gold!’

“He was quite dizzy–I could have blown him down,” said the Wind; “but
I only fanned the glowing coals, and accompanied him through the door
to where his daughters sat shivering. His coat was powdered with
ashes, and there were ashes in his beard and in his tangled hair. He
stood straight up, and held his costly treasure on high, in the
brittle glass. ‘Found, found!–Gold, gold!’ he shouted, and again held
aloft the glass to let it flash in the sunshine; but his hand
trembled, and the alchymic glass fell clattering to the ground, and
broke into a thousand pieces; and the last bubble of his happiness had
burst! Hu-uh-ush! rushing away!–and I rushed away from the
gold-maker’s house.

“Late in autumn, when the days are short, and the mist comes and
strews cold drops upon the berries and leafless branches, I came back
in fresh spirits, rushed through the air, swept the sky clear, and
snapped the dry twigs–which is certainly no great labour, but yet it
must be done. Then there was another kind of sweeping clean at
Waldemar Daa’s, in the mansion of Borreby. His enemy, Owe Rainel, of
Basnäs, was there with the mortgage of the house and everything it
contained in his pocket. I drummed against the broken window-panes,
beat against the old rotten doors, and whistled through cracks and
rifts–huh-sh! Mr. Owe Rainel did not like staying there. Ida and Anna
Dorothea wept bitterly; Joanna stood pale and proud, and bit her thumb
till it bled–but what could that avail? Owe Rainel offered to allow
Waldemar Daa to remain in the mansion till the end of his life, but no
thanks were given him for his offer. I listened to hear what occurred.
I saw the ruined gentleman lift his head and throw it back prouder
than ever, and I rushed against the house and the old lime trees with
such force, that one of the thickest branches broke, one that was not
decayed; and the branch remained lying at the entrance as a broom
when any one wanted to sweep the place out: and a grand sweeping out
there was–I thought it would be so.

“It was hard on that day to preserve one’s composure; but their will
was as hard as their fortune.

“There was nothing they could call their own except the clothes they
wore: yes, there was one thing more–the alchymist’s glass, a new one
that had lately been bought, and filled with what had been gathered up
from the ground of the treasure which promised so much but never kept
its promise. Waldemar Daa hid the glass in his bosom, and taking his
stick in his hand, the once rich gentleman passed with his daughters
out of the house of Borreby. I blew cold upon his heated cheeks, I
stroked his grey beard and his long white hair, and I sang as well as
I could,–‘Huh-sh! gone away! gone away!’ And that was the end of the
wealth and splendour.

“Ida walked on one side of the old man, and Anna Dorothea on the
other. Joanna turned round at the entrance–why? Fortune would not
turn because she did so. She looked at the old walls of what had once
been the castle of Marsk Stig, and perhaps she thought of his
daughters:

‘The eldest gave the youngest her hand.
And forth they went to the far-off land.’

Was she thinking of this old song? Here were three of them, and their
father was with them too. They walked along the road on which they had
once driven in their splendid carriage–they walked forth as beggars,
with their father, and wandered out into the open field, and into a
mud hut, which they rented for a dollar and a half a year–into their
new house with the empty rooms and empty vessels. Crows and magpies
fluttered above them, and cried, as if in contempt, ‘Craw! craw! out
of the nest! craw! craw!’ as they had done in the wood at Borreby when
the trees were felled.

“Daa and his daughters could not help hearing it. I blew about their
ears, for what use would it be that they should listen?

“And they went to live in the mud hut on the open field, and I wandered
away over moor and field, through bare bushes and leafless forests, to the
open waters, the free shores, to other lands–huh-uh-ush!–away, away! year
after year!”

* * * * *

And how did Waldemar Daa and his daughters prosper? The Wind tells us:

“The one I saw last, yes, for the last time, was Anna Dorothea, the
pale hyacinth: then she was old and bent, for it was fifty years
afterwards. She lived longer than the rest; she knew all.

“Yonder on the heath, by the Jutland town of Wiborg, stood the fine
new house of the canon, built of red bricks with projecting gables;
the smoke came up thickly from the chimney. The canon’s gentle lady
and her beautiful daughters sat in the bay window, and looked over the
hawthorn hedge of the garden towards the brown heath. What were they
looking at? Their glances rested upon the stork’s nest without, and
on the hut, which was almost falling in; the roof consisted of moss
and houseleek, in so far as a roof existed there at all–the stork’s
nest covered the greater part of it, and that alone was in proper
condition, for it was kept in order by the stork himself.

“That is a house to be looked at, but not to be touched; I must deal
gently with it,” said the Wind. “For the sake of the stork’s nest the
hut has been allowed to stand, though it was a blot upon the
landscape. They did not like to drive the stork away, therefore the
old shed was left standing, and the poor woman who dwelt in it was
allowed to stay: she had the Egyptian bird to thank for that; or was
it perchance her reward, because she had once interceded for the nest
of its black brother in the forest of Borreby? At that time she, the
poor woman, was a young child, a pale hyacinth in the rich garden. She
remembered all that right well, did Anna Dorothea.

“‘Oh! oh!’ Yes, people can sigh like the wind moaning in the rushes
and reeds. ‘Oh! oh!'” she sighed, “no bells sounded at thy burial,
Waldemar Daa! The poor schoolboys did not even sing a psalm when the
former lord of Borreby was laid in the earth to rest! Oh, everything
has an end, even misery. Sister Ida became the wife of a peasant. That
was the hardest trial that befell our father, that the husband of a
daughter of his should be a miserable serf, whom the proprietor could
mount on the wooden horse for punishment! I suppose he is under the
ground now. And thou, Ida? Alas, alas! it is not ended yet, wretch
that I am! Grant me that I may die, kind Heaven!’

“That was Anna Dorothea’s prayer in the wretched hut which was left
standing for the sake of the stork.

“I took pity on the fairest of the sisters,” said the Wind. “Her
courage was like that of a man, and in man’s clothes she took service
as a sailor on board of a ship. She was sparing of words, and of a
dark countenance, but willing at her work. But she did not know how to
climb; so I blew her overboard before anybody found out that she was a
woman, and according to my thinking that was well done!” said the
Wind.

* * * * *

“On such an Easter morning as that on which Waldemar Daa had fancied
that he had found the red gold, I heard the tones of a psalm under the
stork’s nest, among the crumbling walls–it was Anna Dorothea’s last
song.

“There was no window, only a hole in the wall. The sun rose up like a
mass of gold, and looked through. What a splendour he diffused! Her
eyes were breaking, and her heart was breaking–but that they would
have done, even if the sun had not shone that morning on Anna
Dorothea.

“The stork covered her hut till her death. I sang at her grave!” said
the Wind. “I sang at her father’s grave; I know where his grave is,
and where hers is, and nobody else knows it.

“New times, changed times! The old high-road now runs through
cultivated fields; the new road winds among the trim ditches, and soon
the railway will come with its train of carriages, and rush over the
graves which are forgotten like the names–hu-ush! passed away, passed
away!

“That is the story of Waldemar Daa and his daughters. Tell it better,
any of you, if you know how,” said the Wind, and turned away–and he
was gone.

Leave a Comment