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 them at home, it may not be so easy to tell.
One day when the husband came home, 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 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?” said the wife. “It would not be the first time.”
“When I come home,” he said, “our place should look better! 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 when you wake up, there is a hot egg breakfast ready?”
“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 better than this!”
“Oh, 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 walk up and down rows of dirt sounds like a vacation to me!”
“Bah!” he said. “You’re on, wife!” And the two of them shook hands.
The next morning, the wife picked up a sickle – that's the name for a tool used to cut 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! She will be surprised when she comes home. First, 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 thirsty,” he thought to himself. “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.
“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.
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 grasses on top of their houses to make a roof. “How clever of me!" he thought with pride. "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.”
But the husband 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. 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!
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, 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, 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!
His face was in the porridge so she could not hear what he was saying.
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 be 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 you what is left of it. I must say, I'm glad you are the one to take care of all the hard work in this 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.
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.