Merry Tales  by Eleanor L. Skinner

The Three Wishes

Swedish Legend

O NCE upon a time in the heart of a forest lived a woodcutter and his wife. They were very poor indeed. Their little cabin, built of rough-hewn logs, had only one room, which was very scantily and poorly furnished. One day the woodcutter said to his wife,

"How miserable we are! We work all day, and we have barely enough food to keep life in our bodies! Surely there are few who work as hard as we do and have so little!"

The housewife replied, "Yes, indeed, we are very miserable."

"Well, I'm off for another day's work," sighed the husband. "My lot is too hard."

He picked up his ax and made his way to the place in the forest where he was to perform his task. Suddenly, a dear little fairy whose face was wreathed in smiles danced into the path and stood before him.

"I am the wishing fairy," she began. "I heard what you said about your work and your life, and my heart aches for you. Now, because I am a fairy, it is in my power to grant you three wishes. Ask for any three things you desire and your wishes shall be granted." The fairy disappeared in the twinkling of an eye, and the woodcutter was left standing alone in the forest. Was he dreaming? He couldn't believe his own senses! He thought of a thousand wishes all in an instant. He would go home and talk the matter over with his wife. He turned in his path and retraced his steps to the cabin.

"Art thou ill?" demanded his wife, who came to the door.

"Oh, no, indeed, I am not ill; I am very, very happy!" he burst forth. "I met a fairy in the forest. She told me that she was very, very sorry for me, and that she would help me by granting three wishes. Think of it! Any three wishes in the world will be granted by the charming fairy."

"Wonderful!" responded the housewife.

"Oh, how happy the very thought of it makes me! Come, let us sit down and talk the matter over; for I assure you it is not easy to come to a decision. I am indeed, very, very happy."

They drew up their chairs to the little table and sat down.

"I am so  hungry," began the woodcutter. "Let us have dinner, and then, while we are eating, we can talk about our wishes and see which three are nearest our hearts' desires."

They began their humble meal immediately, and the husband continued: "Of course one of our wishes must be great riches. What do you say?"

"Oh, yes, indeed," said his wife. "I should love a beautiful house to live in, also carriages and fine clothes, and servants and—"

"Oh, for that matter," said the husband, "we could wish for an empire."

"Or rich jewels, such as great numbers of pearls and diamonds! What a wish that would be," said the wife, whose face was all aglow.

"I have it," burst forth the woodman, "let us wish for a fine large family, five sons and five daughters. What say you to that?"

"Oh!" returned his wife, "I think I prefer six sons and four daughters."

So they continued weighing one wish with another until they seemed almost in despair about coming to a decision regarding which three wishes would be the wisest and best. They finally stopped talking and ate their simple food in silence. The woodcutter did not seem to relish his soup and dry bread.

"Oh," he cried out suddenly, "how I wish I had some nice savory sausage for dinner!" No sooner had the words fallen from his lips than a large dish of fine sausages appeared on the table. What a surprise! The two were so astonished that for a few moments they could not speak. Then the wife said impatiently:

"What do you mean by making such a foolish wish? Do you not see that this dish of sausage means that one wish has been granted and that there are but two left? How could you make such a stupid, stupid wish?"

"Well," replied the husband, "to be sure I have been foolish. I really did not think what I was saying. However, we may still wish for great riches and an empire."

"Humph!" grumbled the wife, "we may wish for riches and an empire, but what about a fine large family? You have certainly been foolish in wishing for that horrid sausage. I suppose, however, you prefer sausage to a fine family;" and she burst out into tears of lamentation, crying: "How could you? How could you be so foolish? Oh, dear! Oh, dear! How very foolish and stupid you have been."

Finally her husband lost all patience and cried out: "I'm tired of your grumbling! I wish the sausage were on the end of your nose!"

In an instant the sausage was fastened to the end of the poor woman's nose. How comical she did look! The husband and wife were so astonished that they could not speak. The poor woman again burst into tears.

"Oh!" she cried. "How could you? How could you? First, you wished for sausage, and second, you wished that the sausage were fastened to my poor nose. It is terrible. It is cruel. Two wishes have been granted. There remains but one! Oh, dear, dear!"

The husband, who now saw what a dreadful mistake he had made, said meekly,

"We may still wish for great riches."

"Riches indeed!" snapped his wife. "Here I am with this great sausage fastened to the end of my nose. What good would riches do me? How ridiculous I am. It is all your fault. I was so happy at the thought of great riches, beautiful jewels, and a fine family, and now I am sad and miserable." She continued to weep so pitifully that her husband's heart was touched.

"I wish with all my heart that the sausage were not on your nose," he said. In an instant the sausage disappeared. There the two sat lamenting; but as the three wishes had been granted there is nothing further to be said.