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Main > Fairy tale > All authors > Andersen Hans Christian > Fairy tale "The Will-o'-the-Wisps Are in Town"

The Will-o'-the-Wisps Are in Town

There a little six-sided house stands, with a poultry yard and a duck yard. In the midst of the living room in the house sat the old woman who managed everything and who knew exactly when every egg would be laid and when each chicken would creep out of its egg. But she wasn't the fairy tale the man was seeking; she could prove that with the certificates of Christian baptism and vaccination that she kept in her chest of drawers.

Outside, not far from the house, there is a hill covered with red thorn and broom; here lies an old gravestone, brought here many years ago from the churchyard of the near-by town in memory of one of the most honored councilmen of the neighborhood. Carved in stone, his wife and five daughters, all with folded hands and stiff ruffs, stand about him. If you looked at them for a long time it would affect your thoughts, which in turn would react on the stone, so that it would seem to tell of olden times. At least that was the way it had been with the man who was searching for the fairy tale.

As he approached, he noticed a living butterfly sitting right on the forehead of the sculptured councilman. The insect flapped its wings, flew a little bit away, then returned to sit close by the gravestone, as if to call attention to what was growing there. Four-leaved clovers grew there, seven in all, side by side. When good luck comes, it comes in bunches. The man plucked all the clovers and put them into his pocket. "Good luck is as good as ready cash," thought the man, "though a new, beautiful fairy tale would be better still." But he could find none here.

The sun went down, big and red, and vapor rose from the meadow; the Woman of the Marsh was at her brewing.

That evening the man stood alone in his room, gazing out upon the sea, over the meadow, moor, and beach. The moon shone brightly; the mist over the meadow made it look like a great lake; indeed, legend tells us it once was a lake, and in the moonlight the eye can understand these myths.

Then the man thought of how he had been reading that Holger Danske and William Tell never really lived; yet they do live in the faith of the people, just like the lake out there, living evidence of the myth.

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