In Denmark there is an old castle named Kronborg. It lies on the coast of the Öresund, where hundreds of great ships pass through every day-English, Russian, German, and many others. And they salute the old castle with their cannons-"Boom!" And the castle returns their salute with cannons-"Boom!" For that's the way cannons say "Good day" and "Many thanks." In the wintertime no ships sail there, for then the sea is frozen over right to the Swedish coast, and it appears exactly like a regular highway. There wave the flags of Denmark and the flags of Sweden, and Danish and Swedish people meet on the ice and say "Good day" and "Many thanks," but not with cannons; no, with a firm shake of the hand, and each one comes to buy white bread and cakes from the other-for strange food always tastes best.
But the most beautiful sight of all is old Kronborg, and in a deep, dark cellar beneath it, where no one ever goes, sleeps Holger Danske. He is clad in iron and steel and rests his head on his strange arms; his long beard hangs down over the marble table and has grown through it. He sleeps and dreams, and in his dreams he sees all that happens here in Denmark. Every Christmas Eve one of God's angels comes to him and tells him that what he had dreamed is true; he may sleep again, for no real peril threatens Denmark. But should real danger come, old Holger Danske will rise in his fury, and the table itself will burst as he wrenches his beard from it, and the mighty blows he strikes for Denmark will be heard throughout the world.
An old grandfather was telling his little grandson all this about Holger Danske, and the little boy knew that what his grandfather said was true. And while the old man told his tale, he sat carving a large wooden figure, intended to represent Holger Danske and to be used as the figurehead of a ship. For the old grandfather was a wood carver. You see, a wood carver is a man who carves the figures that are to be fastened to the front of every ship, and from which the ship is named.