Nail Soup - traditional swedish folk-tale
A traditional swedish folk-tale
This story will be used in connection with a nordic storytelling day on spring equinox (march 20, 2002). It can be distributed freely with this copyright notice intact.
Once upon a time there was a tramp walking through a deep forest. He made his living selling a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Now he was cold and tired and hungry and what was even worse, he had nothing left to sell. All he owned were the ragged clothes he wore and an old, bent nail.
When he came out of the forest he saw a little cottage, with smoke rising from the chimney. He knocked on the door, the door opened and a woman looked at him suspiciously.
- Please, could you be as good as to give a poor man shelter for the night, he asked.
- I know your kind, she said, if I let you in you wonīt leave before you have eaten everything I have. And I tell you, Iīm so poor I havenīt had a bite for three days. So you just go away!
But the tramp was a clever fellow, and the woman was so greedy that she immediately invited him when he said that of course he didnīt want to eat the little she had. On the contrary, he wanted her to share his evening meal.
- But first I want to see the food you say you want to share, she said.
- This is all I need, he said, and took an old, bent nail out of his pocket. Just bring me a pot and some water, and Iīll cook the best soup you ever tasted with this nail.
The woman brought a pot and looked with amazement as the tramp made a fire, cooked some water and dropped the nail in it.
- The soup might be a little thin, he said, you see I have been using the nail for seven days now. It is a pity you donīt have a little salt, that would surely make the soup taste like a soup fit for any gentlemanīs house. But what we lack, we donīt have.
- Now that I come to think of it, said the woman. I might have a little salt left since Christmas.
- How lucky, said the tramp and put the salt in the pot. Well I was thinking that perhaps you could even serve this soup to the priest, if we only had some vegetables also. But what we lack, we donīt have.
- Now that I come to think of it, said the woman. I might have some vegetables in the cellar.
The tramp praised the wisdom of the woman and the excellent taste of the soup.
- I think it would even be fit to serve the king, if we only had a little meat to add, said the tramp. But there is no use longing for the impossible. What we lack, we donīt have.
- Now that I come to think of it, said the woman. There might be some dried meat left somewhere.
The tramp happily added the meat to the by now sweet-smelling soup, the woman made the table with her finest silver spoons and her best plates. When she came to think of it, there was actually some wine left since her husbandīs funeral.
So she felt almost like a queen when they shared the soup the tramp had cooked with his nail. The next morning the tramp left without his nail, because the woman wouldnīt let him go before he agreed to sell it. And still to this day, the nail has been very useful. Not only can you make a wonderful soup, but you can also use it for cooking tales with. True, what we lack we don't have, but if you add a little of this and a little of that it will certainly be a story fit for telling to a king!
Ulf Ärnström 2002
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