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THAT was a remarkably fine dinner yesterday,”Boserved an old Mouse of the female sex to another who had not been at the festive gathering.“I sat number twenty-one from the old Mouse Kingso that I was not hadly placedShould you like to hear the order of the banquetThe courses were very well arrangedmouldy breadbacon rindtallow candleand sausageand then the same dishes over again from the beginningit was just as good as having two banquets on endThere was as much joviality and agreeable jesting as in the family circleNothing was left but the pegs at the ends of the sausagesAnd the discourse turned upon theseand at last the expression,‘Soup on a sausage-peg’was mentionedEvery one had heard the proverbbut no one had ever tasted the sausage-peg soupmuch less knew how to prepare itA capital toast was drunk to the inventor of the soupand it was said he deserved to be a relieving officerWas not that wittyAnd the old Mouse King stood upand promised that the young mouse who could best prepare that soup should be his queenand a year was allowed for the trial.”

That was not at all bad,”said the other Mouse;“but how does one prepare this soup?”

Ahhow is prepared?”That is just what all the young female nuceand the old ones tooare askingThey would all very much like to be queenbut they don't want to take the trouble to go out into the world to learn how to prepare the soupand that they would certainly have to doBut every one has not the gift of leaving the family circle and the chimney cornerAway from home one can't get cheese rinds and bacon every dayNoone must bear hungerand perhaps be eaten up alive by a cat.”

Such were no doubt the thoughts by which most of them were scared from going out to gain informationOnly four Mice announced themselves ready to departThey were young and briskbut poorEach of them would go to one of the four quarters of the globeand then it was a question which of them was favoured by fortuneEvery one took a sausage-pegso as to keep in mind the object of the journeyThis was to be their pilgrim's staff

It was at the beginning of May that they set outand they did not return till the May of the following yearand then only three of them appearedThe fourth did not report herselfnor was there any intelligence of herthough the day of trial was close at hand

Yesthere's always some drawback in even the pleasantest affair,”said the Mouse King

And then he gave orders that all mice within a circuit of many miles should be invitedThey were to assemble in the kitchenthe three travelled Mice stood in a row by themselveswhile a sausage-pegshrouded in crapewas set up as a memento of the fourthwho was missingNo one was to proclaim his opinion before the three had spoken and the Mouse King had settled what was to be said furtherAnd now let us hear






When I went out into the wide world,”said the little Mouse,“I thoughtas many think at my agethat I had already learned everythingbut that was not the caseYears must pass before one gets so farI went to sea at onceI went in a ship that steered towards the northThey had told me that the ship's cook must know how to manage things at seabut it is easy enough to manage things when one has plenty of sides of baconand whole tubs of salt porkand mouldy flourOne has delicate living on boardbut one does not learn to prepare soup on a sausage-pegWe sailed along for many days and nightsthe ship rocked fearfullyand we did not get off without a wettingWhen we at last reached the port to which we were boundI left the shipand it was high up in the far north

It is a wonderful thingto go out of one's own corner at homeand sail in a shipwhere one has a sort of corner tooand then suddenly to find oneself hundreds of miles away in a strange landI saw great pathless forests of pine and birchwhich smelt so strong that I sneezedand thought of sausageThere were great lakes there tooWhen I came close to them the waters were quite clearbut from a distance they looked black as inkWhite swans floated upon themI thought at first they were spots of foamthey lay so stillbut then I saw them walk and flyand I recognized themThey belong to the goose familyone can see that by their walkfor no one can deny his parentageI kept with my own kindI associated with the forest and field micewhoby the wayknow very littleespecially as regards cookerythough this was the very thing that had brought me abroadThe thought that soup might be boiled on a sausage-peg was such a startling idea to themthat it flew at once from mouth to mouth through the whole forestThey declared the problem could never be solvedand little did I think that thereon the very first nightI should be initiated into the method of its preparationIt was in the height of summerand thatthe mice saidwas the reason why the wood smelt so stronglyand why the herbs were so fragrantand the lakes so clear and yet so darkwith the white swans on them

On the margin of the woodamong three or four housesa pole as tall as the mainmast of a ship had been erectedand from its summit hung wreaths and ribbonsthis was called a maypoleMen and maids danced round the poleand sang as loudly as they couldto the violin of the fiddlerThere were merry doings at sundown and in the moonlightbut I took no part in themwhat has a little mouse to do with a May danceI sat in the soft moss and held my sausage-peg fastThe moon shone especially upon one spotwhere a tree stoodcovered with moss so fine that I may almost venture to say it was as fine as the skin of the Mouse Kingbut it was of a green colourso that it was a great relief to the eye

All at oncethe most charming little people came marching forthThey were only tall enough to reach to my kneeThey looked like menbut were better proportionedthey called themselves elvesand had delicate clothes onof flower leaves trimmed with the wings of flies and gnatswhich had a very good appearanceDirectly they appearedthey seemed to be seeking for somethingI knew not whatbut at last some of them came towards meand the chief pointed to my sausage-pegand said,‘That is just such a one as we wantit is pointedit is capital’and the longer he looked at my pilgrim's staff the more delight-ed he became

“‘I will lend it’I said,‘but not to keep

“‘Not to keep'they all repeatedand they seized the sausage-pegwhich I gave up to themand danced away to the spot where the fine moss grewand here they set up the peg in the midst of the greenThey wanted to have a maypole of their ownand the one they now hadseemed cut out for themand they decorated it so that it was beautiful to behold

Firstlittle spiders spun it round with gold threadand hung it all over with fluttering veils and flagsso finely wovenbleached so snowy white in the moonshinethat they dazzled my eyesThey took colours from the butterfly's wingand strewed these over the white linenand flowers and diamonds gleamed upon itso that I did not know my sausage-peg againthere is not in all the world such a maypole as they had made of itAnd now came the real great party of elvesThey were quite without clothesand looked as dainty as possibleand they invited me to be presentbut I was to keep at a distancefor I was too large for them

And now began such musicIt sounded like thousands of glass bellsso fullso richthat I thought the swans were singingI fancied also that I heard the voice of the cuckoo and the blackbirdand at last the whole forest seemed to join inI heard children's voicesthe sound of bellsand the song of birdsthe most glorious melodiesand all came from the elves' maypolenamelymy sausagepegI should never have believed that so much could come out of itbut that depends very much upon the hands into which it fallsI was quite touchedI weptas a little mouse may weepwith pure pleasure

The night was far too shortbut it is not longer up yonder at that seasonIn the morning dawn the breeze began to blowthe mirror of the forest lake was covered with ripplesand all the delicate veils and flags fluttered away in the airThe waving garlands of spiders’ webthe hanging bridges and balustradesand whatever else they are calledflew away as if they were nothing at allSix elves brought me back my sausagepegand asked me at the same time if I had any wish that they could gratifyso I asked them if they could tell me how soup was made on a sausage-peg

“‘How we do it’asked the chief of the elveswith a smile.‘Whyyou have just seen itI fancy you hardly knew your sausagepeg again

“‘You only mean that as a joke’I repliedAnd then I told them in so many wordswhy I had undertaken a journeyand what hopes were founded on it at home.‘What advantage’I asked,‘can it be to our Mouse Kingand to our whole powerful statefrom the fact of my having witnessed all this festivityI cannot shake it out of the sausagepegand say,‘Lookhere is the pegnow the soup will come.’that would be a dish that could only be put on the table when the guests had dined.’

Then the elf dipped his little finger into the cup of a blue violetand said to me

“‘See hereI will anoint your pilgrim's staffand when you go back home to the castle of the Mouse Kingyou have but to touch his warm breast with the staffand violets will spring forth and cover its whole staffeven in the coldest winter-timeAnd so I think I've given you something to carry homeand a little more than something

But before the little Mouse said what thissomething morewasshe stretched her staff out towards the King's breastand in very truth the most beautiful bunch of violets burst forthand the scent was so powerful that the Mouse King incontinently ordered the mice who stood nearest the chimney to thrust their tails into the fire and create a smell of burningfor the odour of the violets was not to be borneand was not of the kind he liked

But what was the something more’of which you spoke?”asked the Mouse King

Why,”the little Mouse answered,“I think it is what they call effect!”and herewith she turned the staff roundand Loathere was not a single flower to be seen upon itshe only held the naked skewerand lifted this up like a music baton.“‘Violets,’the elf said to me,‘are for sightand smelland touchTherefore it yet remains to provide for hearing and taste!’”

And now the little Mouse began to beat timeand music was heardnot such as sounded in the forest among the elvesbut such as is heard in the kitchenThere was a bubbling sound of boiling and roastingand all at once it seemed as if the sound were rushing through every chimneyand pots or kettles were boiling overThe fire-shovel hammered upon the brass kettleand thenon a suddenall was quiet againThey heard the quiet subdued song of the teakettleand it was wonderful to hearthey could not quite tell if the kettle were beginning to sing or leaving offand the little pot simmeredand the big pot simmeredand neither cared for the otherthere seemed to be no reason at all in the potsAnd the little Mouse flourished her baton more and more wildlythe pots foamedthrew up large bubblesboiled overand the wind roared and whistled through the chimneyOhit became so terrible that the little Mouse lost her stick at last

That was a heavy soup!”said the Mouse King.“Shall we not soon hear about the preparation?”

That was all,”said the little Mousewith a bow

That allThen we should be glad to hear what the next has to relate,”said the Mouse King





I was born in the palace library,”said the second Mouse.“I and several members of our family never knew the happiness of getting into the dining-roommuch less into the store-roomon my journeyand here todayare the only times I have seen a kitchenWe have indeed of-ten been compelled to suffer hunger in the librarybut we got a good deal of knowledgeThe rumour penetrated even to usof the royal pnize offered to those who could cook soup upon a sausage-pegand it was my old grandmother who thereupon ferreted out a manuscriptwhich she certainly could not readbut which she had heard read outand in which it was written:‘Those who are poets can boil soup upon a sausage-peg'she asked me if I were a poetI felt quite innocent of thatand then she told me I must go outand manage to become oneI again asked what was required for thatfor it was as difficult for me to find that out as to prepare the soupbut grandmother had heard a good deal of readingand she said that there things were especially necessary:‘Understandingimaginationfeelingif you can go and get these into youyou are a poetand the sausage-peg affair will be quite easy to you

And I went forthand marched towards the westaway into the wide worldto become a poet.”

Understanding is the most important thing in every affairI knew thatfor the two other things are not held in half such respectand consequently I went out first to seek understandingYeswhere does that dwell?‘Go to the ant and be wise'said the great King of the JewsI knew that from the libraryand I never stopped till I came to the first great anthilland there I placed myself on the watchto become wise

The ants are a respectable peopleThey are understanding itselfEverything with them is like a wellworked sumthat comes rightTo word and to lay eggsthey sayis to live while you liveand to provide for posterityand accordingly that is what they doThey were divided into the clean and the dirty antsThe rank of each is indicated by a numberand the ant queen is number ONEand her view is the only correct oneshe has absorbed all wisdomand that was important for me to know

She spoke so muchand it was all so cleverthat it sounded to me like nonsenseShe declared her anthill was the loftiest thing in the worldthough close by it grew a treewhich was certainly loftiermuch loftierthat could not be deniedand therefore it was never mentionedOne evening an ant had lost herself upon the treeshe had crept up the stemnot up to the crownbut higher than any ant had climbed until thenand when she turnedand came back homeshe talked of something far higher than the anthill that she had foundbut the other ants considered that an insult to the whole communityand consequently she was condemned to wear a muzzleand to continual solitary confinement

But a short timeafterwards another ant got on the treeand made the same journey and the same discoveryand this one spoke about it with caution and indefinitenessas they saidand asmoreovershe was one of the pure ants and very much respectedthey believed herand when she died they erected an egg-shell as a memorial of herfor they had a great respect for the sciences.”

I saw,”continued the little Mouse,“that the ants are always running to and fro with their eggs on their backsOne of them once dropped her eggshe exerted herself greatly to pick it up againbut she could not succeedThen two others came upand helped her with all their mightin so much that they nearly dropped their own eggs over itbut then they stopped helping at oncefor each should think of himself firstthe ant queen had declared that by so doing they exhibited at once heart and under-standing

These two qualities,”she said,“place us ants on the highest step among all reasoning beingsUnderstandin must and shall be the predominant thingand I have the greatest share of understanding.”And so sayingshe raised herself on herself on her hind legsso that she was easily to be recognizedI could not be mistakenand I ate her upGo to the ant and be wiseand I had got the queen

I now proceeded nearer to the beforementioned lofty treeIt was an oakand had a great trunk and a farspreading topand was very oldI knew that a living bein dwelt herea Dryad as it is calledwho is born with the treeand dies with itI had heard about this in the libraryand now I saw an oak tree and an oak girlShe uttered a piercing cry when she saw me so nearLike all femalesshe was very much afraid of miceand she had more ground for fear than othersfor I might have gnawed through the stem of the tree on which her life dependedI spoke to her in a friendly and intimate wayand bade her take courageAnd she took me up in her delicate handand when I had told her my reason for coming out into the wide worldshe promised me that perhaps on that very evening I should have one of the two treasures of which I was still in quest.“She told me that Phantasy was her very good friendthat he was beautiful as the god of loveand that he rested many an hour under the leafy boughs of the treewhich then rustled more strongly than ever over the pair of themHe called her his Dryadshe saidand the tree his treefor the grand gnarled oak was just to his tastewith its root burrowing so deep in the earth and the stem and crown rising so high out in the fresh airand knowing the beating snowand the sharp windand the warm sunshineas they deserve to be known.‘Yes'the Dryad continued,‘the birds sing aloft there and tell of strange countriesand on the only dead bough the stork has built a nest which is highly ornamentalandmoreoverone gets to hear something of the land of the pyramidsAll that is very pleasing to Phantasybut it is not enough for himI myself must tell him of life in the woodswhen I was littleand the tree such a delicate thing that a stinging-nettle overshadowed itand I have to tell everythingtill now that the tree is great and strongSit you down under the green woodruffand pay attentionand when Phantasy cornesI shall find an opportunity to pinch his wingsand to pull out a little featherTake thatno better is given to any poetand it will be enough for you!’

And when Phantasy came the feather was pluckedand I seized it,”said the little Mouse.“I held it in watertill it grew softIt was very hard to digestbut I nibbled it up at lastIt is not at all easy to gnaw oneself into being a poetthere are so many things one must take into oneselfNow I had these two thingsimagination and understandinand through these I knew that the third was to be found in the libraryfor a great man has said and written that there are romances whose sole and single use is that they relieve people of their superfluous tearsand that they arein factlike sponges sucking up human emotionI remembered a few of these old bookswhich had always looked especially palatableand were much thumbed and very greasyhaving evidently absorbed a great deal of feel-in into themselves

I betook myself back to the libraryand devoured nearly a whole novelthat isthe essence of itthe soft partfor I left the crust or bindingWhen I had digested thisand a second one in additionI felt a stirring within meand I ate a bit of a third romanceand now I was a poetI said so to myselfand told the others alsoI had headacheand stomachacheand I can't tell what aches besidesI began thinking what kind of stories could be made to refer to a sausagepegand many pegs came into my mindthe ant queen must have had a particularly fine understandingI remembered the man who took a white peg in his mouthand then both he and the peg were invisibleI thought of being screwed up a pegof standing on one's own pegsand of driving a peg into one's own coffinAll my thoughts ran upon pegsand when one is a poet and I am a poetfor I have worked most terribly hard to become onea person can make poetry on these subjectsI shall therefore be able to wait upon you every day with a poem or a historyand that's the soup I have to offer.”

Let us hear what the third has to say,”said the Mouse King

Peeppeep!”was heard at the kitchen doorand a little Mouseit was the fourth of themthe one whom they looked upon as deadshot on like an arrowShe toppled the sausagepeg with the crape covering overShe had been running day and nightand had travelled on the railwayin the goods trainhaving watched her opportunityand yet she had almost come too lateShe pressed forwardlooking very much rumpledand she had lost her sausage-pegbut not her voicefor she at once took up the wordas if they had been waiting only for herand wanted to hear none but herand as if everything else in the world were of no consequenceShe spoke at onceand spoke fullyshe had appeared so suddenly that no one found time to object to her speech or to herwhile she was speakingAnd now let us hear her






I went immediately to the largest town,”she said;“the name has escaped meI have a bad memory for namesFrom the railway I was carriedwith some confiscated goodsto the councilhouseand there I ran into the dwelling of the jailerThe jailer was talking of his prisonersand especially of onewho had spoken unconsidered wordsThese words had given rise to othersand these latter had been written down and recorded

“‘The whole thing is soup on a sausagepeg,’said the jailer;‘but the soup may cost him his neck.’

Nowthis gave me an interest in the prisoner,”continued the Mouse,“and I watched my opportunity and slipped into his prisonfor there's a mousehole to be found behind every locked doorThe prisoner looked paleand had a great beard and bright sparkling eyesThe lamp smokedbut the walls were so accustomed to thatthat they grew none the blacker for itThe prisoner scratched pictures and verses in white upon the black groundbut I did not read themI think he found it tediousand I was a welcome guest

He lured me with bread crumbswith whistlingand with friendly wordshe was glad to see meand I got to trust himand we became friendsHe shared with me his bread and watergave me cheese and sausageI lived wellbut I must say that it was especially the good society that kept me thereHe let me run upon his handhis armand into his sleevehe let me creep about in his beardand called me his little friendI really got to love himfor these things are reciprocalI forgot my mission in the wide worldforgot my sausagepeg in a crack in the floorit's lying there stillI wished to stay where I wasfor if I went away the poor prisoner would have no one at alland that's having too littlein this worldI stayedbut he did not stayHe spoke to me very mournfully the last timegave me twice as much bread and cheese as usualand kissed his hand to methen he went awayand never came backI don't know his history

“‘Soup on a sausagepeg!’said the jailerto whom I now wentbut I should not have trusted himHe took me in his handcertainlybut he popped me into a cagea treadmillThat's a horrible enginein which you go round and round without getting any fartherand people laugh at you into the bargain

The jailer's granddaughter was a charming little thingwith a mass of curly hair that shone like goldand such merry eyesand such a smiling mouth

“‘You poor little mouse,’she saidas she peeped into my ugly cageand she drew out the iron rodand forth I jumped to the window boardand from thence to the roof spoutFreefreeI thought only of thatand not of the goal of my journey

It was darkand night was coming onI took up my quarters in an old towerwhere dwelt a watchman and an owlI trusted neither of themand the owl leastThat is a creature like a catwho has the great failing that she eats miceBut one may be mistakenand so was Ifor this was a very respectablewelleducated old owlshe knew more than the watchmanand as much as IThe young owls were always making a racketbutDo not make soup on a sausagepeg’ were the hardest words she could prevail on herself to uttershe was so fondly attached to her familyHer conduct inspired me with so much condfidencethat from the crack in which I was crouching I called outPeep!’to herThis confidence of mine pleased her hugelyand she assured me I should be under her protectionand that no creature should be allowed to do me wrongshe would reserve me for herselffor the winterwhen there would be short commons

She was in every respect a clever womanand explained to me how the watchman could onlywhoopwith the horn that hung at his sideadding,‘He is terribly conceited about itand imagines he's an owl in the towerWants to do great thingsbut is very smal1soup on a sausagepeg

I begged the owl to give me the recipe for this soupand then she explained the matter to me

“‘Soup on a sausagepeg'she said,‘was only a human proverband was understood in different waysEach thinks his own way the bestbut the whole really signifies nothing.’

“‘Nothing!’I exclaimedI was quite struckTruth is not always agreeablehut truth is above everythingand that's what the old owl saidI now thought about itand readily perceived that if I brought what was above everything I brought something far beyond soup on a sausagepegSo I hastened awaythat I might get home in timeand bring the highest and bestthat is above everythingnamelythe truthThe mice are an enlightened peopleand the King is above them allHe is capable of making me Queenfor the sake of truth.”

Your truth is a falsehood,”said the Mouse who had not yet spoken.“I can prepare the soupand I mean to prepare it.”




I did not travel,”the third Mouse said.“I remained in my countrythat's the right thing to doThere's no necessity for travellingone can get everything as good hereI stayed at homeI've not learned what I know from supernatural beingsor gobbled it upor held converse with owlsI have what I know through my own reflectionsWill you just put that kettle upon the fire and get water poured in up to the brimNow make up the firethat the water may boilit must boil over and overNow throw the peg inWill the King now be pleased to dip his tail in the boiling waterand to stir it roundThe longer the King stirs itthe more powerful will the soup becomeIt costs nothing at allno further materials are necessaryonly stir it round!”

Cannot any one else do that?”asked the Mouse king

No,”replied the Mouse.“The power is contained only in the tail of the Mouse King.”

And the water boiled and bubbledand the Mouse King stood close beside the kettlethere was almost danger in itand he put forth his tailas the mice do in the dairywhen they skim the cream from a pan of milkand afterwards lick the tailbut he only got his into the hot steamand then he sprang hastily down from the hearth

Of coursecertainly you are my Queen,”he said.“We'll wait for the soup till our golden weddingso that the poor of my subjects may have something to which they can look forward with pleasure for a long time.”

And soon the wedding was heldBut many of the mice saidas they were returning homethat it could not be really called soup on a sausagepegbut rather soup on a mouse's tailThey said that some of the stories had been very cleverly toldbut the whole thing might have been different.“I should have told it soand soand so!”

Thus said the criticswho are always wiseafter the fact

And this story went round the worldand opinions varied concerning itbut the story remained as it wasAnd that's the best in great things and in smallso also with regard to soup on a sausagepegnot to expect any thanks for it

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