ESBEN AND THE WITCH1
There was once a man who had twelve sons: the eleven eldest were both big and strong, but the twelfth, whose name was Esben, was only a little fellow. The eleven eldest went out with their father to field and forest, but Esben preferred to stay at home with his mother, and so he was never reckoned at all by the rest, but was a sort of outcast among them.
When the eleven had grown up to be men they decided to go out into the world to try their fortune, and they plagued their father to give them what they required for the journey. The father was not much in favour of this, for he was now old and weak, and could not well spare them from helping him with his work, but in the long run he had to give in. Each one of the eleven got a fine white horse and money for the journey, and so they said farewell to their father and their home, and rode away.
As for Esben, no one had ever thought about him; his brothers had not even said farewell to him.
After the eleven were gone Esben went to his father and said, ' Father, give me also a horse and money; I should also like to see round about me in the world.'
'You are a little fool,'said his father. 'If I could have let you go, and kept your eleven brothers at home, it would have been better for me in my old age.'
' Well, you will soon be rid of me at any rate,' said Esben.
1 From the Danish.