Swapping Places ~ English Story for Kids 

This is the Folktale Story of "The Husband Who Minded the House". It has been re-imaged into the folktale of "Swapping Places". It is brought to you by Stories to Grow by. 

In a small farm in Norway there lived a young man and his wife who loved each other very much.  But if you could see them at home, well, it may not be so easy for you to tell.

One day, the husband came home and looked about.  He did not like what he saw.

“This place is a mess!” he said.

“What do you expect?” said his wife. “There is yarn to spin and dinner to be made.  Our house is small. And we have a baby to watch.”

“It looks like the cow walked right through here!” he said.

“What if she did?” said the wife.  “It would not be the first time.”


“It looks like the cow walked right through here!” he said.


“When I come home,” he said, “our place should look better than this!  I leave at dawn and work all day in the fields.”

“Is that so?” said the wife.  “And who is up before dawn? Who do you think goes out to the henhouse so there is a hot egg breakfast ready for you?”

“When is the last time we had butter with our eggs?” he said.

“It takes a long time to make butter!” said the wife.  “You should try it!”

“Maybe I will!” said the husband. “I bet I could do everything around here just perfect!”

“Really?” said the wife.  “If you are so sure, let us swap places for a day.  I will farm the fields and you can take care of the house.  To spend the day walking up and down rows of dirt sounds like a vacation to me!”


“Really?” said the wife.  “If you are so sure, how about if we swap places for a day?”


“Bah!” he said.  “You’re on, wife!” And the two of them shook hands.

The next morning, the wife picked up a sickle – that is a tool used for cutting hay.  And with the sickle over her shoulder, she headed out the door.

When she was gone, the husband said to himself, “I will show her!  First, I will start that butter.” He pulled out the butter churn and poured in some cream.  He turned the crank over and over. Crank, crank, crank.  “Now I must have something to drink,” he said.  “We have a barrel of apple cider in the basement.  I will get some.”

In the basement, he had just pulled out the tap from the barrel when he heard the pig walk inside.


The husband said to himself, “I will show her!”


“Oh no, that pig will knock over the butter churn!” The husband ran upstairs.  But alas! it was too late. All the cream had run out. The pig was having a fine time with its nose to the floor, licking the rich cream.  

“Shoo!  Get out of here!” yelled the husband.  At last the pig was shouted and shoo’ed out the door.  But all the noise woke up the baby, who started to cry.

The husband remembered the tap in his hands.  With the hole open, did the apple cider all run out of the barrel?  He rushed down to the basement. As he feared, the cider lay in a big puddle on the floor.  The baby was still crying.

“I must deal with the baby, then go back to making butter,” he said.  He settled the baby, then he put more cream in the butter churn. Crank, crank, crank, all over again.  


“As he feared, the cider lay in a big puddle on the floor.


All at once, he remembered the cow.  She had been shut up in the barn since morning .  She had not been milked or fed, and it was nearly noon!

Then the husband got an idea.  It would take too much time to lead the cow out to the pasture, so what if the cow could eat grass from the roof of their house?  For you see, long ago people put grass on top of their houses for a roof. “All I have to do is lean a plank from the roof to the ground, and the cow will be able to walk right up to the roof.” And he felt very good about himself.

But the husband knew that before he went out to get the cow, he must take the butter churn.  For the baby was crawling on the floor and could tip it over. So he put the churn on his back and then headed to the barn.  

But first, the cow must have some water.  So he went to the well to pull up a bucket of water.  As he bent over the well with the bucket of water, all the cream from the churn spilled over his head and right down into the well!  


“All I have to do is lean a plank from the roof to the ground, and the cow will be able to walk right up to the roof.”


By then it was time to start dinner.  As he was making the porridge, he started to worry – what if the cow fell off the roof?  So he climbed up and tied a rope around the cow. He dropped the other end of the rope down the chimney.  And when he went inside, he tied the other end to his leg.

The husband was setting the pot of porridge on the fire for dinner when the cow, indeed, did slip off the roof!  As she fell, she dragged the husband right up the chimney. The cow hung in the air outside, swinging back and forth.  And the husband hung, upside down, stuck in the chimney.

In the fields, the wife had waited a long time for the call to come home for dinner.  But no call did she hear, so at last she decided to go home. When she did, much to her surprise, there was their cow swinging back and forth in the air.  Very fast, she cut the rope with her sickle. When she did, in a flash down dropped the cow. At the same time, down fell her husband head first down the chimney.  When the wife walked inside, there was her husband with his head in the porridge pot!

"What happened to you?" cried the wife.

His face was in the porridge so she could not hear what he was saying.

"Let me help you out of there," she said.  Soon he was standing up.

The wife ran a finger up his cheek and tasted the porridge.

"Hmm," she said.  "Not done." 

"I am done!" said he.  "No more work in the house for me!  How do you do it every day?"

The wife picked up the baby.  "I do what needs to get done," said she.  "I just hope there is enough porridge left in that pot for supper."

"Sit down and rest," said the husband.  "I will get what is left of it this time.  I must say, I am glad you are the one to take care of all the hard work in this house!"



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This story is part of our "Folktales Reimagined Collection: Moral Stories for Kids from Around the World. It has been adapted from our story "The Husband Who Minded the House", which is from "The Husband Who Was to Mind the House," from A Collection of Popular Tales from the Norse and North German by George Webbe Dasent, DCL, published by the Norrcena Society, London, 1907, pp. 238-241.

Adapted by Elaine L. Lindy. ©2018. All rights reserved.