Ib and Little Christine
Near the river Gudenaa in the forest of Silkeborg, a great ridge of land rises. This ridge is called Aasen, and it resembles a large ball. Below it, on the western side, stands a little farmhouse surrounded by very poor land; in fact, the sand of the soil can be seen through the sparse rye and wheat that grow there.
We are speaking of a time some years ago, when the people who lived there cultivated the fields, and kept three sheep, a pig, and two oxen. To put it briefly, they supported themselves very well, with enough to live on if they took things in their stride; yes, and they were even well enough off to have kept a couple of horses, but, like the neighboring farmers, they said, "A horse eats itself up" - it eats as much as it earns. In summer Jeppe-Jens cultivated his small field, and in the winter he made wooden shoes; and at that time he had a journeyman assistant who, like him, knew how to make the wooden shoes strong, light, and fashionable. Their carved shoes and spoons brought in good money, and therefore no one could call the Jeppe-Jenses poor people.
Little Ib, a boy seven years old, was the only child of the family. He loved to sit by, watching the workmen, whittling at a stick, and sometimes whittling his finger. But one day he was so successful with two little pieces of wood that they really looked like tiny wooden shoes, and he decided to give them to little Christine.
She was the boatman's little daughter, as graceful and pretty as a child of a noble family; if she had been dressed differently, no one would have believed that she came from the hut with the peat-covered roof in the neighboring hamlet of Seishede. Her father, a widower, lived there and supported himself by transporting boatloads of firewood from the forest down to the eel pond and weir at Silkeborg, and sometimes even all the way up to the town of Randers. Since there was no one at home to take care of little Christine, who was just a year younger than Ib, she nearly always went with him in his boat, or played among the heath plants and barberry bushes of the forest.