The Wind Tells About Valdamar Daa and His Daughters


Valdemar Daa and His Daughters
By the shore of the Great Belt stands an old mansion with thick red walls.

WHEN the wind sweeps over the grass the meadow ripples like a lake, and when it sweeps over the corn the whole held moves in waves like the sea; it is the dance of the wind -- but listen to him telling stories. He sings them out loudly; among the trees in the forest it sounds quite different to when it blows through holes, cracks, and crevices in the walls. Do you see how the wind up there is chasing the clouds as if they were a flock of sheep? Do you hear how the wind down here is howling through the open gate, as if it were a watchman blowing his horn? With strange sounds it whistles down the chimney and into the fireplace. The fire flares up and sends out sparks, and throws a light far into the room, where it is so snug and pleasant to sit and listen to it. Only let the wind speak. He knows more fairy tales and stories than all of us put together. Just listen to what he is telling: "Whew! -- ugh ! -- whew! Rush along!" is the burden of his song.
Valdemar Daa and His Daughters

"By the shore of the Great Belt stands an old mansion with thick red walls," begins the wind. "I know every stone of it; I have seen them before, when they formed part of Marsk Stig's castle on the promontory, but it had to be pulled down. The stones were used again for the walls of a new mansion and another place, which became Borreby House, and still stands there. I have seen and known the noble barons and ladies of many generations, who one after another had lived there; but now I am going to tell you about Valdemar Daa and his daughters.
"He carried himself proudly, for he was of royal descent. He could do something more than hunt a stag or empty a beaker; things will come all right in the end, as he used to say.
"His wife, dressed in gold-embroidered robes, walked proudly across her brightly polished parquet floors; the tapestries were magnificent, the furniture most costly and artistically carved. He had brought gold and silver plate with him to the house; in the cellar was German beer, when there was any, and in the stables black, spirited horses were neighing; there was abundance of wealth at Borreby House, when wealth was there.
Valdemar Daa and His Daughters
Waldemar Daa and his Daughters

"There were three children -- three fair maidens, Ida, Johanne, and Anna Dorthea; I still remember the names.
"They were rich, fine folks, born and bred in luxury. Whew! -- ugh! -- whew ! Rush along!" said the wind; and so he went on again.
"I did not see here, as in other old mansions, the high-born lady sitting in the great hall, with her maidens around her turning the spinning-wheel; she played on the sonorous lute and sang thereto, not always the old Danish ballads, but songs in foreign languages. There was feasting and merriment; there came grand folks from near and far, the music sounded, the beakers clinked; I could not drown the noise," said the wind.
"Here ruled pride in all its ostentatious display; but the fear of the Lord was not there.
"And so it happened one May-day evening," said the wind, "that I came from the west, after having seen ships being crushed and wrecked on Jutland's western shore; I rushed on over the heath and wood-girt coast, and over the Island of Fünen; I had just come across the Great Belt's panting and blowing.
"I then settled down to rest on Zealand's coast, close to Borreby House, where the forest with its magnificent oak-trees was still flourishing.
"The young men from the district came out here to gather twigs and branches, the largest and driest they could find, which they took with them into the village; here they put them into a heap and set fire to them, while the lads and lasses danced round and round.
"I lay still," said the wind, "but I gently touched one branch -- the one which the handsomest lad had put on the pile; his fagot flared up, its flames shooting higher than the others. He was the favored one, received the pet name, became the cock-of-the-walk, and was the first to choose his little pet lamb among the lasses. There were rejoicings and merriment far greater than at the wealthy Borreby House. And the noble lady and her three daughters came driving toward the mansion in a gilded coach drawn by six horses. The daughters were young and beautiful -- three delicate flowers, the rose, the lily, and the pale hyacinth. The mother herself was a gorgeous tulip; she did not return the salutations of any in the whole crowd, who paused in their sport to drop courtesies and go on their knees before her; one would have thought the good lady's neck had been made as brittle as glass. The rose, the lily, and the pale hyacinth! Yes, I saw them all three. Whose pet lamb would they one day become? thought I. Their lord and master will be a gallant knight, perhaps a prince. Whew ! -- Ugh ! -- whew! Rush along! Rush along!
"The carriage rolled away with them, and the peasants ran back to their dancing. They went a-maying to Borreby, to Fjæreby, and to all
the villages in the neighborhood.
"But in the night, when I arose," said the wind, "the grand lady lay down to rise no more; death overtook her, as it will overtake us all -- there is nothing new in that. Valdemar Daa remained grave and thoughtful for a time; the strongest tree can be twisted but not broken, said something within him; the daughters cried, and at the mansion all were drying their tears; but Lady Daa had rushed away -- and I rushed away!
Whew! -- ugh! -- whew!" said the wind.
"I came back again -- I came back often across the Island of Funen and the waters of the Belt; I rested down by Borreby shore, by the noble oak forest, where the osprey, the wood-pigeon, the blue raven, and even the black stork built their nests. It was early in the year; some were sitting on their eggs, some had nestlings. How they fluttered, how they cried! The sound of the ax was heard, blow upon blow; the forest was to be cut down. Valdemar Daa wanted to build a big ship, a man-of-war, a three-decker, which the king would be sure to buy; and therefore the forest -- the sailors' landmark, the home of the birds -- was doomed. The shrike flew away frightened -- its nest was destroyed; the osprey and all the birds of the forest lost their home, and flew wildly about, crying in fear and anger. I understood them well. Crows and jackdaws croaked jeeringly: 'From the nest! From the nest! Croak! croak!'
"And in the midst of the forest, among the crowd of workmen, stood Valdemar Daa and his three daughters, and all were laughing at the wild cries of the birds; but the youngest daughter, Anna Dorthea, felt grieved in her heart, and when they were going to tell a tree that was nearly dead, upon the naked branches of which the black stork had built his nest, and from which the young nestlings stretched out their necks, she prayed, with tears in her eyes, for them; and so the tree with the nest of the black stork was allowed to remain standing. It was not of much consequence.
"Trees were cut and logs were sawn; they were building the big ship, the three-decker. The master shipbuilder was of low birth, but of noble mien; his eyes and forehead spoke of great intellect; and Valdemar Daa used to listen with pleasure to his stories, and so did little Ida, his eldest daughter, now fifteen years old. While he was building the ship for the father he built a castle in the air for himself, where he and little Ida should preside as man and wife; all of which might have happened if the castle had been one built of stone, with ramparts and moats, forests and gardens. But with all his talents, the master shipbuilder was only a poor man, after all; and what business has a sparrow among the cranes, as the saying is? Whew! -- ugh! -- whew! I flew away, and so did he, for he dared not remain; and little Ida got over it -- there was no help for it.
"The black horses were neighing in the stables; they were noble steeds, well worth looking at, and grand folk came to see them. The admiral, who was sent by the king to inspect the new man-of-war and to arrange about its purchase, spoke in great praise of the high-spirited horses. I heard it all," said the wind; "I followed the grand folk through the open door, and strewed stalks of straw like bars of gold before their feet. Valdemar Daa wanted gold, and the admiral wanted the horses, for he was always praising them; but Daa did not understand the hint, and so the ship was not purchased, either.
"There it stood on the beach, bright and new. It was then covered over with boards, and looked like a Noah's ark which was never to take to the water. Whew! -- ugh! -- whew! Rush along ! Rush along! Oh, it was a pity!
"During the winter," said the wind, "when the fields were covered with snow, and the belts choked with drift ice which I drove up against the coast, there came large flocks of ravens and crows, the one blacker than the other, which settled down on the desolate, lonely ship on the beach, and screamed hoarsely, looking for the forest which was no more, and for the many cozy nests which had been destroyed. Poor, homeless birds, old and young! And all this for the sake of that big piece of lumber, the noble ship which was never to sail on the sea!
"I whirled up the snowflakes around it till they lay like a sea of snow over it all. I let it hear my voice, so that it might know what a storm has got to say; I know I did my best to give it a lesson in seamanship.
Whew ! -- ugh ! -- whew ! Rush along !
"And the winter passed; winters and summers have passed, and will continue to pass away, just as I pass away and rush along, like the drifting snow, like the apple blossoms and the falling leaves. Rush along! Rush along! Rush along! Men and women pass away, too!
"But the daughters were still young; little Ida was a rose, fair and beautiful to behold, just as when the master shipbuilder saw her. I often caught hold of her long brown hair when she stood buried in thought by the apple-tree in the garden and did not notice that I sprinkled flowers on her hair, which became disheveled, and while she gazed at the red sun and the golden sky through the dark trees and bushes in the garden.
"Her sister Johanne was fair and erect as a lily; she bore herself well and held her head high, and, like her mother, little inclined to bend her neck. She was fond of walking up and down in the large hall where the family portraits were hanging; the ladies were painted in dresses of velvet and silk, with tiny little hats, embroidered with pearls, on their plaited hair. They were beautiful women. Their husbands were to be seen clad in armor or costly cloaks lined with the fur of squirrels, and with the blue ruff. The sword was buckled round their thigh, and not round the loin. Where would her own portrait hang some day, and what would her noble husband be like? Such were the thoughts that occupied her mind. I heard her talking half aloud to herself about it as I rushed along the passage into the hall and turned round on my way out.
"Anna Dorthea, the pale hyacinth, was only a child fourteen years old, quiet and thoughtful. Her large, deep-blue eyes were dreaming, but a childlike smile still played round her mouth. I could not blow it away, and I did not wish to do so, either.
Valdemar Daa and His Daughters
A fire was always burning on his hearth; the door to his chamber was locked, and there he worked for days and nights.

"I met her in the garden, in the narrow lanes, and in the fields where she was gathering herbs and flowers. She knew her father used them for making drinks and household drugs which he knew how to distil. Valdemar Daa was proud and haughty, but he was also learned and possessed great knowledge, -- one could not help noticing that, -- and all sorts of rumors were afloat in consequence. A fire was always burning on his hearth, even in the summer time. The door to his chamber was locked, and there he worked for days and nights; but he did not talk much about it. The elements of nature must be conquered in the dead of night. Soon he would discover the greatest secret of all -- that of making the red gold.
"That was the reason why the smoke rose from the chimney, why the fire was burning and crackling on the hearth. Yes; I was there," the wind said. "'Let it be, let it be!' I sang through the chimney; 'it will all end in smoke, embers, and ashes. You will burn yourself. Whew ! -- ugh ! -- whew! Let it be, let it be!' But Valdemar Daa did not let it be.
"What has become of the splendid horses in the stable? of the old silver and gold plate in the cupboards and closets? of the cow in the fields? of house and home? Yes; they melt -- they all melt in the crucible, but they have not yet yielded any gold.
"The barns and storehouses, the cellars and larders, were empty. The less people the less mice. One window broke, another cracked. I need not wait to get in through the door," said the wind. "Where smoke rises from the chimney there's roasting going on; but the smoke that came from this chimney devoured food, and all for the sake of the red gold.
"I blew through the gateway like a watchman blowing his horn, but no watchman was there," said the wind. "I turned the vane on the spire; it grated as if the watchman was snoring in the tower, but there was no watchman. There were rats and mice. Poverty laid the table-cloth; poverty sat in the wardrobe and in the larder. The doors fell off their hinges; cracks and crevices appeared everywhere; I could go in and out," said the wind, "and that is how I know all about it.
"In smoke and in ashes, in sorrow and sleepless nights, his beard and hair became gray, his skin furrowed and yellow, while his eyes searched greedily for the gold -- the much longed for gold.
"I blew the smoke and ashes into his face and beard. Debts increased, but no gold came. I sang through the broken panes and open cracks; I blew into the daughters' wardrobe, where their clothes lay faded and threadbare, for they had to last for a long time. That was not the kind of song which had been sung at their cradles. A life of luxury had become one of penury. I was the only one who sang merrily in the mansion," said the wind. "I snowed them up. Snow makes a place snug, they say. Of firewood they had none. The forest whence they should fetch it had been cut down. It was bitterly cold. I rushed in through holes and crevices and along the passages, over gables and walls, to keep myself in practice, while within the daughters of high degree kept their bed because of the cold, and the father crouched under his fur coverlet. Nothing to eat, no fire on the hearth; what a life for people of high degree! Whew! -- ugh! -- whew! Rush along! But the lord of the manor could not do that.
"'After winter comes spring,' said he, 'After hard times come good; but they are a long time coming. Everything is mortgaged. We are at our last extremity, and then the gold will come -- at Easter.'
"I heard him mumbling to the spider in his web: 'You diligent little weaver! You are teaching me to hold out. If your web is torn, you begin again and make it whole. If torn again, you patiently set to work again from the beginning -- from the beginning. That is what one must do; and then comes the reward.'
"It was Easter morning. The bells were ringing and the sun was shining brightly in the sky. In feverish excitement he had watched, melted, mixed, and distilled. I heard him sigh like a soul in despair; I heard him pray; I noticed he held his breath. The lamp had burned out, but he did not notice it. I fanned the embers, which threw a reddish glare over his white face. His eyes were sunk deep in their sockets, but now they grew bigger and bigger, as if they would burst.
Valdemar Daa and His Daughters
Leaving the Old Home.

"Look at the alchemist's glass! Something glitters in it. It seems to glow, it is pure, it is heavy. With trembling hands he lifts it up. With a quivering voice he exclaimed, 'Gold! gold!' He grew dizzy at the sight. I could easily have blown him over," said the wind "but I only fanned the glowing embers and followed him through the door to where his daughters lay shivering. His robe was covered with ashes; they were clinging to his beard and his tangled hair. He drew himself up and held aloft the brittle glass with his great treasure.
"Found! found! Gold!' he shouted, holding the glass still higher as it glittered in the rays of the sun. The hand trembled; the alchemist's glass fell on the floor and broke into a thousand pieces. The last bubble of his wealth had burst. Whew! -- ugh! -- whew! Rush along! And away I rushed from the gold maker's abode.
"Late in the year, when the days are short up here in the North, and when the fog comes with its misty veil and drops dew on the red berries and the leafless branches, I felt in good spirits, stirred up the air, swept the sky clear, and broke off all the rotten branches; it is no great task, but it has to be done. At Valdemar Daa's Borreby House there was another kind of clearing out. His enemy, Ove Ramel, from Basnas, had arrived with the mortgages on the estate, and on all the goods and chattels, which he had bought up. I drummed at the dilapidated doors and whistled through all the cracks and crevices: Whew! -- ugh! Master Ove should not take a fancy to live there! Ida and Anna Dorthea cried bitterly; Johanne stood pale and erect, biting her thumb till it bled. Of what did it avail? Ove Ramel offered Valdemar Daa leave to remain on the estate during his lifetime, but he did not even receive thanks for his offer. I listened to them; I saw the homeless master lift his head still higher and toss it back proudly; I sent such a gust against the house and the old linden trees that one of the thickest branches broke -- one that was not rotten. It lay in front of the gate like a big broom, if any one should want to sweep out the place; and a great sweeping out there was. I thought there would be! It was a trying day, a difficult time to maintain one's dignity; but the soul was hardened, the will was obstinate.
"They possessed nothing but the clothes they had on, except the alchemist's glass, which had just been bought and filled with the spillings that had been scraped up from the floor -- the treasure which had promised so much, but failed to keep its promise. Wildemar Daa hid it in his bosom and took his staff in his hand; and the once wealthy nobleman, with his three daughters, walked out of Borreby House. I blew cold gusts against his flushed cheeks, I patted his long white hair, and I sang as best I could. Whew I -- ugh! -- whew! Rush along! Rush along!
That was the end of all the wealth and splendor.
"Ida and Anna Dorthea walked one on each side of him; Johanne turned round at the gateway; but what was the good? Their luck was not likely to turn. While looking at the red stones of Marsk Stig's castle did she think of his daughters?
"The eldest took the youngest by the hand.
And wandered far into the world.

"Was she thinking of the old ballad? They were three, and their father was also with them. They walked along the road where they used to drive in their carriage; now they went forth with their father as beggars to Smidstrup field, to the mud hut which they had rented for ten marks a year. This was to be their new mansion, with empty walls and empty jars. Crows and jackdaws flew over them croaking, as if jeering at them, 'From the nest! from the nest! Caw! caw!' as the birds had done in Borreby forest when the trees were cut down.
"Valdemar Daa and his daughters understood them well. I whistled round about their ears; it was not worth listening to.
Valdemar Daa and His Daughters
They walked along the road where they used to drive in their carriage; now they went forth with their father as beggars.

"So they entered the mud hut in Smidstrup field, and I rushed along over marshes and fields, through bare bushes and leafless trees, to the open water, to other lands. Whew! -- ugh! -- whew! Rush along! Rush along! Year after year."
How did it fare with Valdemar Daa, and how did it fare with his daughters? The wind will tell us.
"The one I saw last was Anna Dorthea, the pale hyacinth; she was then old and crooked; it was fifty years afterward. She lived the longest, and she knew all about it.
"Over yonder on the heath, close to Viborg town, lay the dean's new and handsome house, built of red stone and with pointed gables. The smoke curled thickly out from the chimney. The gentle mistress of the house and her beautiful daughters sat in the bay-window and looked out over the hanging box-thorn to the brown heath. What were they looking at? They were looking at the stork's nest on the tumbledown hut over there. The roof, as far as there was any roof, consisted of moss and house-leek; that which covered the greatest part of the hut was the stork's nest, and that was the only part of it which was looked after, for the stork kept it in order.
"It was a house only to be looked at, not to be touched. I had to be careful," said the wind. "The house was allowed to stand for the sake of the stork's nest, although it was a disgrace to the heath. The dean would not drive the stork away, so the old shed was left standing, and the poor body inside it was allowed to live there. She had to thank the Egyptian bird for that, or was it not a return for her kindness when she interceded for the nest of his wild black brother in Borreby forest? She was then, poor thing, a young child, a delicate pale hyacinth in the noble garden. She, Anna Dorthea, remembered it all.
"'Alas! alas!' she sighed; for people can sigh, just as the wind sighs among the reeds and rushes. 'Alas! no bells were rung when you were buried, Valdemar Daa! The boys from the charity school did not sing when the late master of Borreby was laid to rest. Alas! everything comes to an end, even misery. Sister Ida became a peasant's wife; that was the hardest trial our father had to go through. His daughter's husband, a miserable serf, whose master could make him mount the wooden horse, -- I suppose he is underground by this. And you too, Ida. Alas! alas! It is not ended yet -- poor miserable body that I am! Oh, release me, kind Jesus!'
"That was Anna Dorthea's prayer in the wretched hut, which was allowed to stand only for the sake of the stork.
"I did what I could for the bravest of the sisters," said the wind; "she cut her coat according to her cloth.
"She dressed as a lad and went to a skipper and got a berth on his ship; she was chary of words, and sullen in appearance, but willing at her work. But she could not climb the rigging -- so I blew her overboard before anybody knew she was a woman; and I think I did the right thing," said the wind.
"It was on an Easter morning, just like the one when Valdemar Daa thought he had discovered the red gold, that I heard a hymn being sung under the stork's nest within the rickety walls. It was Anna Dorthea's last song. There was no window -- only a hole in the wall. The sun came like a bright lump of gold and shone through it. What a luster! Her eyes were growing dim; her heart was breaking. That would have happened even if the sun had not shone in upon her that morning.
"The stork had provided her with a roof till her death. I sang at her grave," said the wind -- "her father's grave. I know where he lies and where she lies. Nobody else knows.
"New times, other ways. The old road has become a plowed held. Over the peaceful graves runs the busy highroad, and soon the railway with its train of carriages will come and rush over the graves, which will be forgotten like their names. Whew! -- ugh! -- whew! Rush along!
"This is the story of Valdemar Daa and his daughters. Tell it better, any of you, if you can," said the wind, and turned about. And then it was gone.

Pronounced in Danish as "Daw."
Valdemar Daa and His Daughters

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The Stories on this site were compiled from the following historical publications and others.

Hans Christian Andersen
Andersen's Fairy Tales
Chicago - New York - San Francisco
Belford, Clarke & Co.

Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen's
for the
Copyrighted 1893, McLoughlin Bros.

Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen
Camden Press
Dalziel Bros. Engravers and Printers Copyright Unknown, est. 1870

Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen
E.P. Dutton and Co.
© 1906-1907

Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen
The Century Company,
The DeVinne Press
Copyright 1900