The Brown Fairy Book
How Ball-carrier Finished His Task
After Ball-Carrier had managed to drown the Bad One so that he could not do any more
mischief, he forgot the way to his grandmother's house, and could not find it again,
though he searched everywhere. During this time he wandered into many strange places,
and had many adventures; and one day he came to a hut where a young girl lived. He was
tired and hungry and begged her to let him in and rest, and he stayed a long while, and
the girl became his wife. One morning he saw two children playing in front of the hut,
and went out to speak to them. But as soon as they saw him they set up cries of horror
and ran away. 'They are the children of my sister who has been on a long journey,' replied
his wife, 'and now that she knows you are my husband she wants to kill you.'
'Oh, well, let her try,' replied Ball-Carrier. 'It is not the first time people have wished to
do that. And here I am still, you see!'
'Be careful,' said the wife, ' she is very cunning.' But at this moment the sister-in-law
'How do you do, brother-in-law? I have heard of you so often that I am very glad to meet
you. I am told that you are more powerful than any man on earth, and as I am powerful
too, let us try which is the strongest.'
'That will be delightful,' answered he. 'Suppose we begin with a short race, and then we
will go on to other things.'
' That will suit me very well,' replied the woman, who was a witch. 'And let us agree that
the one who wins shall have the right to kill the other.'
'Oh, certainly,' said Ball-Carrier;' and I don't think we shall find a flatter course than the
prairie itself--no one knows how many miles it stretches. We will run to the end and back
This being settled they both made ready for the race, and Ball-Carrier silently begged the
good spirits to help him, and not to let him fall into the hands of this wicked witch.
'When the sun touches the trunk of that tree we will start,' said she, as they both stood
side by side. But with the first step Ball-Carrier changed himself into a wolf and for a
long way kept ahead. Then gradually he heard her creeping up behind him, and soon she
was in front. So Ball-Carrier took the shape of a pigeon and flew rapidly past her, but in a
little while she was in front again and the end of the prairie was in sight. 'A crow can fly
faster than a pigeon,' thought he, and as a crow he managed to pass her and held his
ground so long that he fancied she was quite beaten. The witch began to be afraid of it
too, and putting out all her strength slipped past him. Next he put on the shape of a hawk,