The Crimson Fairy Book
Niels And The Giants
On one of the great moors over in Jutland, where trees won't grow because the soil is so
sandy and the wind so strong, there once lived a man and his wife, who had a little house
and some sheep, and two sons who helped them to herd them. The elder of the two was
called Rasmus, and the younger Niels. Rasmus was quite content to look after sheep, as
his father had done before him, but Niels had a fancy to be a hunter, and was not happy
till he got hold of a gun and learned to shoot. It was only an old muzzle-loading flint-lock
after all, but Niels thought it a great prize, and went about shooting at everything he could
see. So much did he practice that in the long run he became a wonderful shot, and was
heard of even where he had never been seen. Some people said there was very little in
him beyond this, but that was an idea they found reason to change in the course of time.
The parents of Rasmus and Niels were good Catholics, and when they were getting old
the mother took it into her head that she would like to go to Rome and see the Pope. The
others didn't see much use in this, but she had her way in the end: they sold all the sheep,
shut up the house, and set out for Rome on foot. Niels took his gun with him.
'What do you want with that?' said Rasmus; 'we have plenty to carry without it.' But Niels
could not be happy without his gun, and took it all the same.
It was in the hottest part of summer that they began their journey, so hot that they could
not travel at all in the middle of the day, and they were afraid to do it by night lest they
might lose their way or fall into the hands of robbers. One day, a little before sunset, they
came to an inn which lay at the edge of a forest.
'We had better stay here for the night,' said Rasmus.
'What an idea!' said Niels, who was growing impatient at the slow progress they were
making. 'We can't travel by day for the heat, and we remain where we are all night. It will
be long enough before we get to Rome if we go on at this rate.'
Rasmus was unwilling to go on, but the two old people sided with Niels, who said, 'The
nights aren't dark, and the moon will soon be up. We can ask at the inn here, and find out
which way we ought to take.'
So they held on for some time, but at last they came to a small opening in the forest, and
here they found that the road split in two. There was no sign-post to direct them, and the
people in the inn had not told them which of the two roads to take.
'What's to be done now?' said Rasmus. 'I think we had better have stayed at the inn.'
'There's no harm done,' said Niels. 'The night is warm, and we can wait here till morning.
One of us will keep watch till midnight, and then waken the other.'