Once on a time there was a man and his wife, who had an only son, and his name was Jack. The old dame thought it high time for her son to go out into the world to learn a trade, and bade her husband be off with him.
Well, they went to many masters; but one and all said they could make the boy as good as themselves, but better they couldn’t make him. So when the man came home again to his wife with that answer, she said,
“I don’t care what you make of him; but this I say and stick to, you must bind him to some one where he can learn to be master above all masters;” and with that she packed up more food and another roll of hay, and father and son had to be off again.
“Where away?” said the man.
“Well met then,” said the driver; “I’m just the man for your money, for I’m looking out for such an apprentice. Up with you behind!” he added to the boy, and whisk! off they went, both of them, and sledge and horse, right up into the air.
“Oh” said the master, “I’m at home alike north and south, east and west, and my name’s Farmer Weathersky. In a year and a day you may come here again, and then I’ll tell you if I like him.” So away they went through the air, and were soon out of sight.
“Well,” said the man, “Poker knows, I’m sure I don’t. They went up in the air together.” So he told her. But when the old dame heard that her husband couldn’t tell at all when her son’s apprenticeship would be out, nor where he had gone, she packed him off again, and gave him another bag of food and another roll of hay.
So, when he had walked a bit, he came to a great wood, which stretched on and on all day as he walked through it. When it got dark he saw a great light, and he went towards it. After a long, long time he came to a little hut under a rock, and outside stood an old hag drawing water out of a Well with her nose, so long was it.
“Can I have lodging here tonight?” asked the man.
“No, that you can’t,” said she.
But then the man pulled out his roll of hay, lighted his pipe, and gave the old dame a whiff and a pinch of snuff. Then she was so happy she began to dance for joy, and the end was, she gave the man leave to stop the night.
So next morning he began to ask after Farmer Weathersky. “No, she never heard tell of him, but she ruled over all the four-footed beasts; perhaps some of them might know him.” So she played them all home with a pipe she had, and asked them all, but there wasn’t one of them who knew anything about Farmer Weathersky.
“Well,” said the old hag, “there are three sisters of us; maybe one of the other two knows where he lives. I’ll lend you my horse and sledge, and then you’ll beat her house by night; but it’s at least three hundred miles off, the nearest way.”
“The same to you,” said she; “it’s hundreds of years since any one called me mother.”
“Can I lodge here tonight?” asked the man
But he took out his roll of hay, lighted his pipe, and gave the old dame a whiff, and a good pinch of snuff besides on the back of her hand. Then she was so happy that she began to jump and dance for joy, and so the man got leave to stay the night. When that was over, he began to ask after Farmer Weathersky. “No, she had never heard tell of him; but she ruled all the fish in the sea; perhaps some of them might know something about him.” So she played them all home with a pipe she had, and asked them, but there wasn’t one of them who knew anything about Farmer Weathersky.
“Well, Well!” said the old hag, “there’s one sister of us left; maybe she knows something about him. She lives six hundred miles off, but I’ll lend you my horse and sledge, and then you’ll get there by nightfall.”
“Can I lodge here to
Then the man pulled out his roll of hay again, and lighted his pipe, and gave the old hag such a pinch of snuff that it covered the whole back of her hand. Then she got so happy she began to dance for joy, and so the man got leave to stay.
But when the night was over, he began to ask after Farmer Weathersky. She never heard tell of him, she said; but she ruled over all the birds of the air, and so she played them all home with a pipe she had, and when she had mustered them all, the Eagle was missing. But a little while after he came flying home, and when she asked him, he said he had just come straight from Farmer Weathersky. Then the old hag said he must guide the man thither; but the Eagle said he must have something to eat first, and besides he must rest till the next day; he was so tired with flying that long way, he could hardly rise from the earth.
So when he had eaten his fill and taken a good rest, the old hag pulled a feather out of the Eagle’s tail, and put the man there in its stead; so the Eagle flew off with the man, and flew, and flew, but they didn’t reach Farmer Weathersky’s house before midnight.
So when they got there, the Eagle said,
“There are heaps of dead bodies lying about outside, but you mustn’t mind them. Inside the house every man Jack of them are so sound asleep that it will be hard work to wake them; but you must go straight to the table drawer, and take out of it three crumbs of bread, and when you hear some one snoring loud, pull three feathers out of his head; he won’t wake for all that.”
“OOF!” growled Farmer Weathersky, for it was he who snored.
“OOF!” he growled again.
After that the Eagle told him what he was to do. He went to the yard, and there at the stable-door he stumbled against a big grey stone, and that he lifted up; underneath it lay three chips of wood, and those he picked up too; then he knocked at the stable-door, and it opened of itself. Then he threw down the three crumbs of bread, and a hare came and ate them up; that hare he caught and kept. After that the Eagle bade him pull three feathers out of his tail, and put the hare, the stone, the chips, and himself there instead, and then he would fly away home with them all.
“Do you see anything?” it asked.
“We’d better be off again, then,” said the Eagle, who flew away. After a while it asked again,
“Do you see anything now?”
“Yes,” said the man; “now the crows are close behind us.
Well, the man dropped the feathers, and as soon as ever he dropped them they became a flock of ravens which drove the crows home again. Then the Eagle flew on far away with the man, and at last it lighted on another stone to rest.
“Do you see anything?” it said.
“We’d better get on then,” said the Eagle, and after a while it said again –
“Do you see anything?”
“Yes,” said the man; “now he’s close at our heels.”
Yes, the man let them fall, and they grew at once up into tall thick wood, so that Farmer Weathersky had to go back home to fetch an axe to hew his way through. While he did this, the Eagle flew ever so far, but when it got tired, it lighted on a fir to rest.
“Do you see anything?” it said.
Do you see anything now?”
“Yes; now he’s close behind us,” said the man.
The man did so, and as it fell, it became a great high mountain, which Farmer Weathersky had to break his way through. When he had got half through the mountain, he tripped and broke one of his legs, and so he had to limp home again and patch it up.
But while he was doing this, the Eagle flew away to the man’s house with him and the hare, and as soon as they got home, the man went into the church yard and sprinkled Christian mould over the hare, and lo! it turned into “Jack,” his son.
Well, you may fancy the old dame was glad to get her son again, but still she wasn’t easy in her mind about his trade, and she wouldn’t rest till he gave her a proof that he was “master above all masters.”
“Now, when any one comes to buy me,” he said, “you may ask a hundred dollars for me; but mind you don’t forget to take the head stall off me; if you do, Farmer Weathersky will keep me for ever, for he it is who will come to deal with you.”
So it turned out. Up came a horse-dealer, who had a great wish to deal for the horse, and he gave a hundred dollars down for him; but when the bargain was struck, and Jack’s father had pocketed the money, the horse-dealer wanted to have the head stall.” Nay, nay!” said the man, “there’s nothing about that in the bargain; and besides, you can’t have the head stall, for I’ve other horses at home to bring to town tomorrow.”
“And when any one comes to buy me, you can ask two hundred dollars for me – he’ll give that and treat you besides: but whatever you do, and however much you drink, don’t forget to take the head stall off me, else you’ll never set eyes on me again.”
So all happened as he had said; the man got two hundred dollars for the horse and a glass of drink besides, and when the buyer and seller parted, it was as much as he could do to remember to take off the head stall. But the buyer and the horse hadn’t got far on the road before Jack took his own shape, and when the man got home, there sat Jack in the ingle.
The third day it was the same story over again; the boy turned himself into a black horse, and told his father some one would come and bid three hundred dollars for him, and fill his skin with meat and drink besides; but however much he ate or drank, he was to mind and not forget to take the head stall off, else he’d have to stay with Farmer Weathersky all his life long.
So when he came to the fair, he got three hundred dollars for the horse, and as it wasn’t to be a dry bargain, Farmer Weathersky made him drink so much that he quite forgot to take the head stall off, and away went Farmer Weathersky with the horse. Now when he had gone a little way, Farmer Weathersky thought he would just stop and have another glass of brandy; so he put a barrel of red-hot nails under his horse’s nose, and a sieve of oats under his tail, hung the halter upon a hook, and went into the inn. So the horse stood there, and stamped and pawed, and snorted and reared. Just then out came a lassie, who thought it a shame to treat a horse so.
“I’m after you,” roared Farmer Weathersky, who came rushing out of the door.
But the horse had already shaken off the head stall, and jumped into a duck-pond, where he turned himself into a tiny fish. In went Farmer Weathersky after him, and turned himself into a great pike. Then Jack turned himself into a dove, and Farmer Weathersky made himself into a hawk, and chased and struck at the dove. But just then a princess stood at the window of the palace and saw this struggle.
“Nay, nay!” said Jack, “that’ll never do, for then Farmer Weathersky will make the king sick, and then there’ll be no one who can make him Well again till Farmer Weathersky comes and cures him, and then, for his fee, he’ll ask for that gold ring.”
Well, Jack turned himself into a gold ring, and put himself on the princess’ finger, and so Farmer Weathersky couldn’t get at him. But then followed what the boy had foretold; the king fell sick, and there wasn’t a doctor in the kingdom who could cure him till Farmer Weathersky came, and he asked for the ring off the princess’ finger for his fee. So the king sent a messenger to the princess for the ring; but the princess said she wouldn’t part with it, her mother had left it her. When the king heard that, he flew into a rage and said he would have the ring, whoever left it to her.
“If you’ll let me try, I’ll soon get the ring off,” said Farmer Weathersky.
“No, thanks, I’ll try myself,” said the princess, and flew off to the grate and put ashes on her finger. Then the ring slipped off and was lost among the ashes. So Farmer Weathersky turned himself into a cock, who scratched and pecked after the ring in the grate, till he was up to the ears in ashes. But while he was doing this, Jack turned himself into a fox, and bit off the cock’s head, and so if the evil one was in Farmer Weathersky, it is all over with him now.