The Flying Trunk
There was once a merchant who was very successful. He saved and invested wisely and became enormously rich.
His son inherited his wealth and lived a merry life with it. He went to parties every night, made kites out of five-pound notes, and when by the side of a lake, he would not skim stones, but gold coins instead.
This way he soon lost all his money. At last he had nothing left but a pair of slippers, an old dressing gown, and four shillings. And now all his so-called friends left him. They would not walk with him in the streets, but one of them, who was very good-natured, sent him an old trunk with this message, “Pack up!”
“Yes,” he said, “it is all very well to say ‘pack up.'” But he had nothing left to pack, therefore he sat himself in the trunk.
It was a very wonderful trunk, for no sooner did you press on the lock than the trunk could fly. He shut the lid and pressed the lock, when away flew the trunk up the chimney, with him in it, right up into the clouds. Whenever the bottom of the trunk cracked he was frightened, for if the trunk had collapsed, he would have fallen down into the trees. However, he arrived safely in Turkey. He hid the trunk in a wood under some dry leaves and then went into the town. This he could do very well, as Turkish clothes is quite similar to what he was wearing.
He happened to meet a nurse with a little child. “I say, Turkish nurse,” he cried, “what castle is that near the town, with the windows placed so high?”
“The Sultan’s daughter lives there,” she replied. “It has been foretold that she will be very unhappy about a lover and therefore no one is allowed to visit her unless the king and queen are present.”
“Thank you,” said the merchant’s son. So he went back to the wood, seated himself in his trunk, flew up to the roof of the castle, and crept through the window into the room where the princess lay asleep on the sofa. She awoke and was very much frightened, but he told her he was a Turkish angel who had come down through the air to see her. This pleased her very much. He sat down by her side and talked to her, telling her that her eyes were like beautiful dark lakes, in which the thoughts swam about like little mermaids and that her forehead was a snowy mountain which contained wonderful halls full of pictures. He told to her the story about the stork, who brings the beautiful babies from the rivers. These stories delighted the princess and when he asked her if she would marry him, she immediately agreed.
“But you must come on Saturday,” she said, “for then my parents will take tea with me. They will be very proud when they find that I am going to marry a Turkish angel. But you must think of some very pretty stories to tell them, for they like to hear stories better than anything. My mother prefers one that teaches a lesson, but my father likes something funny, to make him laugh.”
“Very well,” he replied, “I shall bring you nothing else but a story” and so they parted. But the princess gave him a sword studded with gold coins, and these he could make useful.
He flew away to the town and bought a new dressing gown, and afterwards returned to the wood, where he made up a story so as to be ready by Saturday, which was not easy. It was ready, however, when he went to see the princess on Saturday. The king and queen and the whole court were at tea with the princess, and he was received with great politeness.
“Will you tell us a story?” said the queen, “one that is instructive and full of learning.”
“Yes, but with something in it to laugh at,” said the king.
“Certainly,” he replied, and started at once, asking them to listen closely.
“There was once a bundle of matches that were very proud of where they came from. The great pine tree from which they had been cut was once a large old tree in the wood. The matches now lay between a tinder box and an old iron saucepan and were talking about their younger days. ‘Ah! then we grew on the green branches,’ said they, ‘and every morning and evening we were fed with drops of dew. Whenever the sun shone we felt its warm rays, and the little birds would tell stories to us in their songs. We knew that we were rich, for the other trees only wore their green dresses in summer, while our family were able to dress themselves in green all summer and winter. But the woodcutter came and chopped us down. Our father, the trunk was made into a very fine ship’s mast and can sail around the world whenever he will. Other branches of the family were taken to different places, and our own job now is to provide lights for ordinary people. This is how such noble people as us came to be in a kitchen.’
“‘Mine has been a very different fate,’ said the iron pot, which stood by the matches. ‘Since I first came into the world, I have been used to cooking and scouring. I am the first in this house when anything solid or useful is required. My only pleasure is to be made clean and shining after dinner and to sit in my place and have a little chat with my neighbors. All of us except the water bucket, which is sometimes taken into the courtyard, live here together within these four walls. We get our news from the market basket, but it sometimes tells us very unpleasant things about the people things happening. Yes, and one day an old pot was so shocked by the news that it fell down and was broken in pieces.’
“‘You are talking too much about bad things!’ said the tinder box. Now a tinder box is used to make sparks to light a fire by striking its steel against flint and this tinder box got so annoyed with the pot’s story, it started to send sparks flying, crying, ‘We want an enjoyable evening, don’t we?’
“‘Yes, of course,’ said the matches. ‘Let us talk about those who comes from the best family background.’
“‘No, I don’t like to be always talking of what we are,’ said the saucepan. ‘Let us think of some other fun. I will begin. We will tell something that has happened to ourselves, that will be very easy, and interesting as well. On the Baltic Sea, near the Danish shore—’
“‘What a pretty beginning!’ said the plates. ‘We will all like that story, I am sure.’
“‘Yes. Well, in my youth I lived in a quiet family where the furniture was polished, the floors scrubbed and clean curtains put up, every two weeks.’
“‘What an interesting way you have of telling a story,’ said the carpet broom. ‘It is easy to see that you are a great story-teller, something so pure runs through what you say.’
“‘That is quite true,’ said the water bucket; and it made a jump with joy and splashed some water on the floor.
“Then the saucepan went on with its story and the end was as good as the beginning.
“The plates rattled with pleasure, and the carpet broom brought some old green leaf from the floor and put it on top of the saucepan, like putting on a crown. It knew this would annoy the others, but it thought, ‘If I crown him today, he might crown me tomorrow.’
“‘Now let us have a dance,’ said the fire tongs. Then how they danced and stuck one leg in the air! The chair cushion in the corner burst with laughter at the sight.
“‘Shall I be crowned now?’ asked the fire tongs. So the broom found another leaf for the tongs.
“‘They are only very ordinary people after all,’ thought the matches. The tea urn was now asked to sing, but she said she had a cold and could not sing unless she felt boiling heat within. They all thought this was strange. They also considered it strange that she did not wish to sing except in the parlor, when on the table with the grand people.
“In the window sat an old ink pen, which the maid usually used to write. There was nothing great about the pen, except that it had been dipped too deeply in the ink, but it was proud of that.
“‘If the tea urn won’t sing,’ said the pen, ‘she needn’t. There’s a nightingale in a cage outside, that can sing. She has not been taught much, certainly, but we need not say anything this evening about that.’
“‘I think it’s not right,’ said the teakettle, who was kitchen singer and half brother to the tea urn, ‘that a rich foreign bird should be listened to here. Let the basket decide what is right.’
“‘I certainly am annoyed,’ said the basket, annoyed inside, more than any one can imagine. Are we spending the evening properly? Would it not be more sensible to tidy the house? If everyone was in his own place, I would start a game. This would be quite something.’
“‘Let us act a play,’ they all said. At the same moment the door opened and the maid came in. Then nobody moved, they remained quite still, although they were all somewhat big-headed.
“‘Yes, if we had decided,’ each of them thought, ‘we might have has a nice evening.’
“The maid took the matches and lit them, and dear me, how they spluttered and blazed up!
“‘Now then,’ thought each match, ‘every one will see that we are the best. How we shine! What a light we give!’ But even while they spoke their lights went out.”
“What a great story!” said the queen. “I feel as if I were really in the kitchen and could see the matches. Yes, you shall marry our daughter.”
“Certainly,” said the king, “you shall have our daughter.” The wedding day was fixed, and on the evening before, the whole city was lit up. Cakes and other treats were thrown among the people. The street boys stood on tiptoe and shouted “Harrah!” and whistled between their fingers. Altogether it was a very splendid affair.
“I will give them another treat,” said the merchant’s son. So he went and bought rockets and crackers and every kind of fireworks that could be thought of, packed them in his trunk, and flew up with it into the air. What a whizzing and popping they made as they went off! The Turks, when they saw the sight, jumped so high that their slippers flew about their ears. It was easy to believe after this that the princess was really going to marry a Turkish angel.
As soon as the merchant’s son had come down to the wood after the fireworks, he thought, “I will go back into the town now and hear what they think of the entertainment.” It was quite understandable that he would want to know. And what strange things people did say, to be sure! Every one whom he questioned had a different tale to tell, though they all thought it very beautiful.
“I saw the Turkish angel myself,” said one. “He had eyes like glittering stars and a head like foaming water.”
“He flew in a cloak of fire,” said another, “and lovely little baby angels peeped out it.”
He heard many more fine things about himself and that the next day he was to be married. After this he went back to the forest to rest himself in his trunk. It had disappeared! A spark from the fireworks which remained had set it on fire. It was burned to ashes. So the merchant’s son could not fly any more, nor go to meet his bride. She stood all day on the roof, waiting for him, and most likely she is waiting there still, while he wanders through the world telling fairy tales—but none of them so amusing as the one he told about the matches.