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From The Brown Fairy book by Andrew Lang.
Start of Story
Age Rating 6 to 8.
Once upon a time there lived two peasants who had three daughters, and,
as generally happens, the youngest was the most beautiful and the best
tempered, and when her sisters wanted to go out she was always ready to
stay at home and do their work.
Years passed quickly with the whole family, and one day the parents
suddenly perceived that all three girls were grown up, and that very
soon they would be thinking of marriage.
'Have you decided what your husband's name is to be?' said the father,
laughingly, to his eldest daughter, one evening when they were all
sitting at the door of their cottage. 'You know that is a very important
'Yes; I will never wed any man who is not called Sigmund,' answered she.
'Well, it is lucky for you that there are a great many Sigmunds in
this part of the world,' replied her father, 'so that you can take your
choice! And what do YOU say?' he added, turning to the second.
'Oh, I think that there is no name so beautiful as Sigurd,' cried she.
'Then you won't be an old maid either,' answered he. 'There are seven
Sigurds in the next village alone! And you, Helga?'
Helga, who was still the prettiest of the three, looked up. She also had
her favourite name, but, just as she was going to say it, she seemed to
hear a voice whisper: 'Marry no one who is not called Habogi.'
The girl had never heard of such a name, and did not like it, so she
determined to pay no attention; but as she opened her mouth to tell her
father that her husband must be called Njal, she found herself answering
instead: 'If I do marry it will be to no one except Habogi.'
'Who IS Habogi?' asked her father and sisters; 'We never heard of such a
'All I can tell you is that he will be my husband, if ever I have one,'
returned Helga; and that was all she would say.
Before very long the young men who lived in the neighbouring villages
or on the sides of the mountains, had heard of this talk of the three
girls, and Sigmunds and Sigurds in scores came to visit the little
cottage. There were other young men too, who bore different names,
though not one of them was called 'Habogi,' and these thought that they
might perhaps gain the heart of the youngest. But though there was more
than one 'Njal' amongst them, Helga's eyes seemed always turned another
At length the two elder sisters made their choice from out of the
Sigurds and the Sigmunds, and it was decided that both weddings should
take place at the same time. Invitations were sent out to the friends
and relations, and when, on the morning of the great day, they were all
assembled, a rough, coarse old peasant left the crowd and came up to the
'My name is Habogi, and Helga must be my wife,' was all he said. And
though Helga stood pale and trembling with surprise, she did not try to
'I cannot talk of such things just now,' answered the father, who could
not bear the thought of giving his favourite daughter to this horrible
old man, and hoped, by putting it off, that something might happen. But
the sisters, who had always been rather jealous of Helga, were secretly
pleased that their bridegrooms should outshine hers.
When the feast was over, Habogi led up a beautiful horse from a field
where he had left it to graze, and bade Helga jump up on its splendid
saddle, all embroidered in scarlet and gold. 'You shall come back
again,' said he; 'but now you must see the house that you are to live
in.' And though Helga was very unwilling to go, something inside her
forced her to obey.
The old man settled her comfortably, then sprang up in front of her as
easily as if he had been a boy, and, shaking the reins, they were soon
out of sight.
After some miles they rode through a meadow with grass so green that
Helga's eyes felt quite dazzled; and feeding on the grass were a
quantity of large fat sheep, with the curliest and whitest wool in the
'What lovely sheep! whose are they?' cried Helga.
'Your Habogi's,' answered he, 'all that you see belongs to him; but the
finest sheep in the whole herd, which has little golden bells hanging
between its horns, you shall have for yourself.'
This pleased Helga very much, for she had never had anything of her own;
and she smiled quite happily as she thanked Habogi for his present.
They soon left the sheep behind them, and entered a large field with
a river running through it, where a number of beautiful grey cows were
standing by a gate waiting for a milk-maid to come and milk them.
'Oh, what lovely cows!' cried Helga again; 'I am sure their milk must be
sweeter than any other cows. How I should like to have some! I wonder to
whom they belong?'
'To your Habogi,' replied he; 'and some day you shall have as much milk
as you like, but we cannot stop now. Do you see that big grey one, with
the silver bells between her horns? That is to be yours, and you can
have her milked every morning the moment you wake.'