Have you ever been in a large forest and seen a strange black tarn
hidden deep among the tall trees? It looks bewitched and a little
frightening. All is still—fir trees and pines huddle close and silent on all
sides. Sometimes the trees bend cautiously and shyly over the water as
if they are wondering what may be hidden in the dark depths. There is
another forest growing in the water, and it, too, is full of wonder and
stillness. Strangest of all, never have the two forests been able to speak
to each other.
By the edge of the pool and out in the water are soft tussocks covered
with brown bear moss and woolly white cottongrass. All is so quiet—
not a sound, not a flutter of life, not a trembling breath—all of nature
seems to be holding its breath listening, listening with beating heart:
And then a gentle murmur stirs the crowns of the tall firs, and they lean
together and begin to sing softly: Yes, we have seen him, far, far away,
and soon he will be here, he is coming, he is coming. A murmur sweeps
through the forest. Bushes rustle and whisper to each other. The cottongrass blossoms bend and bow back and forth: Yes, he is coming, he is
coming, they say, while the still waters begin to murmur: He is coming,
he is coming. You hear a few twigs breaking far away. They come
closer, come together in a solid noise. It grows; there is a crash of snapping bushes, branches, and twigs; a clatter of fast-moving footsteps
coming one after another; and you hear a heavy panting. A large elk
has thrust itself through the forest to the bank of the pool, where it
stops, swings its panting muzzle, and snuffs eagerly.
The majestic crown of horns shakes, the elk’s nostrils quiver, and then it stands still for a moment. A second later, with gigantic leaps it is off through the swaying tufts, and disappears into the far side of the forest.
That much is true.
Now here is a fairy tale about it.
The sun is shining like gold on the meadow of Dream Castle. It is summer, and the grass has a thousand fragrant blossoms. A little girl, rosy and delicate, sits among all the flowers, combing her long, pale yellow hair. It sifts like summer gold through her small fingers. A golden
crown is lying in the meadow beside her.
This girl is the princess of Dream Castle, and today she has slipped
away from the high, stately chamber where her father, the king, and
her mother, the queen, sit on golden chairs, with sceptre and orb, to
rule their people. She wishes to be alone and free, and has come to the
flowering meadow to play. The meadow has always been her playground.
This princess is small and slim, still a child. She sits there in a gown
whiter than white, made of silk and satin and muslin as thin as gauze.
Princess Tuvstarr—that is what they call her.
She combs her fair hair with small, thin fingers, and smiles at the shining hair strands. An elk snuffs and stalks past. She lifts her eves.
“Oh, who are you?”
“I am Longleg Skutt. What do they call you?”
“I am Princess Tuvstarr.” She lifts the crown from the meadow to show
that it is so.
The elk stops to look at the princess long and searchingly, then lowers
its head. “You are beautiful, little one.”
The princess rises and moves closer. She leans towards the elk’s trembling muzzle and strokes it gently. “How big and stately you are. And
you have a crown, too. Let me come with you. Let me sit behind your
neck, and then carry me out into life.”
The elk hesitates. “The world is big and cold, little child, and you are so
small. The world is full of evil and wickedness, and it will hurt you.”
“No, no. I am young and warm. I have warmth enough for everyone. I
am small and good, and want to share the good I have.”
“Princess, the forest is dark and the roads are dangerous.”
“But you are with me. You are great and strong, and can easily defend
The elk tosses its head and shakes its mighty crown of horns. Its eyes
The princess claps her small hands. “Good, good. But you are too tall—
bend down so that I can climb up.
Obediently, the elk lies down, and soon the princess is sitting securely
on its back. “I am ready, and now you must show me the world.”
It rises slowly, afraid of unseating the little one. “Hold on tight to my
horns.” And it sets off with leaps and bounds.
The princess has never had more fun. There are so many new and
beautiful things to see. She has never been beyond the meadow at
Dream Castle before, and now they are running over hill and dale, over
plains and mountains.
“Where are you taking me?” she asks.
“To Forest Moss,” Skutt answers. “I live there. No one comes there and
it is a long way off.”
Evening is coming, and the princess is hungry and sleepy.
“Are you changing your mind already?” teases the elk. “It’s too late to
turn round. But don’t be afraid. Wonderful berries grow in the marsh
where I live. You can eat them.”
“Who is that dancing there?” asks the princess.
“They are the elves. But be careful of them. They seem sweet and
friendly, but never trust them. Remember what I tell you: don’t speak
to them, but hold tight on my horns and pretend you don’t notice
Yes, the princess promises, she will.
But the elves have already caught sight of them. They come forward
and circle around and dance up and down in front of the elk, floating
tantalizingly close to the little princess. But remembering what Skutt
has just told her, she clings to his horns with all her might.
“Who are you, who are you?” ask the elves.
Hundreds of questions are all around, and the princess feels them like
the cold breath of the wind, but she does not answer.
Then the tiny elves, in their white veils, become bolder. They tug at her
dress and her long yellow hair. Skutt snorts and begins to run.
Suddenly the princess realizes that the golden crown on her head is
slipping, and she is afraid it will fall off—imagine what Father-king
and Mother-queen, who gave it to her, would say— and she forgets
what Skutt told her and calls to the elves, at the same time letting go
one hand to clasp her crown. At that moment the elves have power
over her—not altogether, because she still clings to the elk’s horns with
one hand; but with joyous mocking laughter they snatch the shining
crown from her head and float away over the marsh
They travel a while, then the forest begins to thin, and the princess
looks out over a mile-long marsh, where tufts of sedge come together in
soft hollows and hillocks, and where the little stunted bushes on the
bank haven’t the courage to follow.
“Here we are,” says Skutt, and bends down so that the princess can dismount. “Now we shall have supper.”
Immediately the princess forgets all about sleep and begins to jump
lightly from tuft to tuft, just like Skutt, to pick the delicious big berries.
She and Longleg Skutt share them delightedly.
Skutt says, “We must hurry on before it gets too dark,” and once again
Princess Tuvstarr climbs on to his broad back. Skutt sets off, surefooted,
across the marsh, stepping confidently on the tufts as if he knows they
will hold him. After all, he was born there.
“Oh, my crown, my crown,” moans Princess Tuvstarr.
“Why didn’t you obey me?” Skutt scolds her. “You have only yourself
to blame. Probably you will never get your golden crown back, but you
are lucky it was not worse.”
Yet the princess cannot imagine anything worse than what has just
Skutt walks on, and soon she spies a clump of small trees on an island
in the middle of the marsh.
“Here is where I live,” says Skutt. “This is where we shall sleep.”
Soon they are there. The low hill rises above the marsh, and it is dry
and delightful among the fir trees and pines.
The princess kisses her dear friend Skutt good-night, undresses, and
hangs her gown neatly on a branch. She lies down and is soon asleep,
with the long-legged elk to stand guard over her. It is almost night, and
a few small stars are twinkling in the sky.
It is almost night, and a few small stars are twinkling.
Next morning the princess is awakened by the soft touch of the elk’s
muzzle on her forehead. She jumps up quickly, stretches naked in the
golden-red morning light, and then collects some dewdrops to drink in
her hands. A small chain, with a golden heart on it, is hanging from her
neck and catches the sunlight like fire.
“Today I will go bare,” she exclaims. “I will carry my dress in front of
me and then you will carry me on your back and show me more of the
“Yes,” says the elk, unable to deny her anything. It had been awake all
night watching over the strange, white little girl on the ground, and
that morning there had been tears in its eyes. It did not understand
why, except it felt autumn approaching and was seized by a longing to
do battle and a desire not to be alone anymore.
Suddenly it dashes away into the forest. The fair-haired princess finds
it very difficult to hold on. Branches whip her face and shoulders, and
the little golden heart dances on its chain.
But before long, Skutt calms down and slackens his pace. Now they are
travelling through a large, strange forest. The long branches of the firs
are covered with hanging moss, the tree roots bend like snakes, and
large, lichen-covered boulders seem to threaten them from the side of
the path. The princess has never seen such a queer place before.
“What is that moving deep in the woods?” she asks. “I think I see long
green hair and a pair of white arms waving to me.”
“It is the witch of the woods,” says Skutt. “Answer her politely, but by
no means ask her for anything; and whatever you do, hold tight to my
Yes, the princess promises, she will hold on tight.
Now the witch glides closer. She does not want to show herself entirely; she always hides halfway behind a tree. Curiously and slyly she peers at the elk and the girl. The princess scarcely dares look that way,
but she can tell that the witch has icy green eves and a mouth red as
Then the witch begins to slither from tree to tree, following the elk as it
runs. She knows Skutt well, but is puzzled by the little white one with
the golden hair.
Suddenly she calls, “What is your name?”
“I am Princess Tuvstarr, of Dream Castle,” the girl answers shyly, taking care not to ask the witch’s name. Of course, she knows who it is.
“What are you carrying in front of you?” the witch asks.
“It is my finest gown,” replies the princess, with a little more courage.
“Oh, let me see it,” the witch begs.
Of course she may, and the princess lets go with one hand to show the
witch her white dress.
She should never have done so, for in a trice the witch has snatched the
dress and disappeared into the forest.
“Why did you let go of my horns?” says Skutt. “If you had let go with
both hands, you would have had to follow the witch, and probably
never have come back.”
“But my dress, my dress,” sobs Princess Tuvstarr.
But after a while she forgets it, and the day passes, and that night the
princess sleeps under the fir trees with Skutt standing quietly beside
her to keep watch.
When she wakes in the morning, the elk is gone. “Skutt, Longleg Skutt,
where are you?” she calls fearfully, and jumps up
Here he comes, breathing heavily, through the undergrowth. He has
been on top of a hill, looking east, sniffing the air, and he has scented
something. What? He cannot tell, but his coat is wet and his legs are
He seems to want to move on, and bends down to let the princess climb
on his back. Then they are gone in a rush, galloping east. He hardly
hears when she calls to him, and rarely answers. As if in a fever he
breaks through the tangled forest at a furious rate.
“Where are we going?” asks Princess Tuvstarr. “To the pool,” is the answer. “Deep in the forest is a pool, and that is where I go when autumn
is coming. No person has ever been there, but you shall see it.”
Abruptly the tree trunks open up, and here is the water, shining
brown-black with flecks of greenish gold.
“Hold on tight,” Skutt warns. “There is danger under the water. Watch
your golden heart!”
“Yes. What strange water,” says the princess, bending forward to look
more closely—but oh, dear, at that moment the chain with the golden
heart slips over her head and drops into the pool.
“Oh, my heart, the golden heart that my mother gave me the day I was
born. Oh, what shall I do?
She is quite inconsolable. She stares at the water and then begins to
wander off over the tussocks to look for her heart.
“Come,” says Skutt. “It is dangerous for you here. Looking for one thing, you will forget everything else.”
But the princess wants to stay. She must find her heart.
“Go, my friend. Let me sit here alone. I know I shall find the heart.”
She flings her arms about his bent head, kisses it, and strokes it softly.
Then, small and slim and undressed, she goes and sits down on a
For a long time the elk stands quite still and looks at the small girl. But
when she no longer seems to notice that he is there, he turns and disappears with hesitant steps into the forest.
Many years have passed. Still Princess Tuvstarr sits and looks wonderingly into the water for her heart. She is no longer a little girl. Instead, a slender plant, crowned with white cotton, stands leaning over the edge of the pool. Now and then the elk returns, stops, and looks at it tenderly. Only he knows that this is the princess from Dream Castle. Perhaps she nods and smiles, for he is an old friend, but she does not want to follow him back; she cannot follow any more, as long as she in under the spell. The spell lies in the pool. Far, far under the water lies a lost heart – a heart of gold.
And still Princess Tuvstarr sits and looks longingly into the dark
depths of the water…
Source: Archive.org https://archive.org/details/thefairyfaleofskutttheelkhelgekjellin
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