Swapping Places

Swapping Places

Illustrated By: Jacob Below

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 how they behaved with each other at home, it may not be easy to tell.

One day when the husband came home, he looked around and said, “This place is a mess!” he said.

“What do you expect?” said his wife. “There is yarn to spin and dinner to make.  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?” the wife snapped back.  “It wouldn't be the first time!”

“When I come home, our place should look better!" the husband proclaimed.  "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 that when you wake up, there's a hot egg breakfast ready?”

"When I come home, our place should look better!" the husband proclaimed.

“When's 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 better than this!”

“Oh, really?” said the wife.  “If you're so sure, let's swap places for a day. I'll farm the fields and you can take care of the house. To stroll up and down rows of dirt with no baby or animals to mind sounds like a vacation to me!”

“You’re ON, wife!” said the husband.  And the two of them shook hands.

The next morning, the wife picked up a sickle – a tool used to cut hay - slung it over her shoulder, and headed out the door.

When she was gone, the husband thought, “I will show her! Won't she be surprised when she comes home and sees everything neat and sparkling and a hot supper on the table.  With butter.  Yes, I should start that butter.” He pulled out the butter churn and poured in some cream. He turned the crank over and over. CRANK, CRANK, CRANK. "I'm getting thirsty,” he thought.  “We have a barrel of apple cider in the basement. I'll go get some.”

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

“Oh no, that pig will knock over the butter churn!” he worried.  The husband ran upstairs. But 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.  And the baby was still crying.

“I must deal with the baby, then go back to making butter and clean up the split apple cider later,” he decided. He settled the baby, then put more cream in the butter churn. CRANK, CRANK, CRANK.  Then he remembered the cow.


The cow had been shut up in the barn since morning - she hadn't 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.  Instead, what if the cow could eat grass from the roof of their house? You see, long ago people used to lay their roofs with thick layers to keep out the rain. “How clever of me!" he thought with pride. "All I have to do is lean a plank from the ground to the roof and the cow will be able to walk right up to the roof.” 

But he knew that before he went out to get the cow, he must take the butter churn with him. For the baby was crawling on the floor and could tip it over, too. So he strapped the churn on his back and 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!  

By then it was time to start supper. 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, dropping 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, she was indeed surprised!  For there was their cow swinging back and forth in the air.  Very fast, she cut the rope with her sickle. When she did, down dropped the cow and 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'M done!" said he. "How do you deal with this blasted house, every day?"

"I'M done!" said he. 

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

"Sit down and rest," said the husband, wiping and drying his face. "I'll get you what's left of it. I must say, I'm glad you're the one to deal with this impossible house!" 

The wife smiled. From then on, she and her husband stayed with the jobs they knew best. And there was never a cross word about it again.




Posted in Classroom Challenges, Europe, Iceland, Respect, STORIES FOR KIDS, World Tales.

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