Chapter 3 - The Brothers Lionheart Fairy tale by Astrid Lindgren

Then it happened. And I’ve never been in on anything so strange. Suddenly I was standing in front of the gate, reading that green notice: The Lionheart Brothers.

How did I get there? When did I fly? How could I find my way without asking anyone? I don’t know. The only thing I know is that suddenly I was standing there, looking at the name on the gate.

I called to Jonathan. I called several times, but he didn’t answer, and then I remembered--of course, he was sitting fishing down by the stream.

I started to run down the narrow path to the stream. I ran and ran--and down there by the bridge was Jonathan. And if I tell you this, I still can’t tell you what it felt like to see him again.

He didn’t see me coming. I tried to call “Jonathan,” but I think I was crying, since nothing came out except a funny little noise. But Jonathan heard it. He looked up and saw me. Then he cried out and flung down his fishing rod and rushed up to me and hugged me, just as if he wanted to feel that I had really come. Then I cried just a little. Why I should be crying, I don’t know, but I had longed for him so much.

Jonathan laughed instead, and we stood on the slops and hugged each other and were happier than I can say, because we were together again.

And then Jonathan said:

“Oh, so you’ve come at last, have you, Rusky Lionheart!”

Rusky Lionheart--it sounded crazy, so we giggled. And then we laughed more and more, just as if it were the funniest thing we’d heard for ages, though it was probably because we wanted something to laugh at. We were so happy that everything was whirling inside us. And when we’d laughed for ages, we wrestled together, but that didn’t stop our laughing. No, indeed not; we went on until we fell over in the grass and we lay there and rolled around laughing more and more, finally laughing so much that we fell into the stream, and then we laughed so much that I thought we’d drown.

But instead we started to swim. I’ve never been able to swim, although I’ve always wanted to learn. Now I could, just like that. I was swimming away like anything.

“Jonathan, I can swim!” I shouted.

“Yes, of course you can swim,” said Jonathan.

And then I suddenly though of something.

“Jonathan, have you noticed something?” I said. “I’ve stopped coughing.”

“Yes, of course you’ve stopped coughing,” said Jonathan. “You’re in Nangiyala now.”

I swam around for quite a while and then I scrambled up on to the bridge and stood there, wet through, the water running out of my clothes. My trousers were clinging to my legs, which was why I could see so clearly what had happened. Believe it or not, my legs were quite straight, just like Jonathan’s.

Then I thought, suppose I’ve become beautiful too? I asked Jonathan if he thought so, whether he could see if I had grown beautiful.

“Look in the mirror,” he said, and he meant the stream, for the water was shiny and still, so that you could your reflection in it. I lay down on my stomach on the bridge and peered over the edge and I saw myself in the water, but I didn’t see anything particularly beautiful about me. Jonathan came and lay down beside me, and we lay there for a long time, peering at the Lionheart Brothers down there in the water, Jonathan so beautiful with his golden hair and his eyes that fine face he has, and then me with my knobby snout and straggly hair and all that.

“No, I don’t think I’ve grown any more beautiful,” I said.

But Jonathan thought there was a great difference now.

“And you look so healthy, too,” he said.

Then I felt myself all over. I felt, as I lay there on the bridge, that I was healthy and well in every bit of me, so why did I need to be beautiful? My whole body was so happy that it seemed to laughing all over.

We lay there for a while and let the sunlight warm us, and we watched the fish swimming in and out under the bridge. But then Jonathan wanted us to go home and so did I, because I was curious to see Knights Farm, where I was going to live.

Jonathan walked ahead of me up the path to the farm, and I trotted after him with my fine straight legs. I just walked along staring at my legs and feeling how good it was to walk with them. But when we’d got a little way up the slope, I suddenly turned my head. And then--then I saw Cherry Valley at last! Oh, that valley was white with cherry blossoms everywhere. White and green, it was, with cherry blossoms and green, green grass. And through all that green and white, the river flowed like a silver ribbon. Why hadn’t I even noticed it before? Had I seen nothing but Jonathan? But now I stood quite still on the path and saw how beautiful it was, and I said to Jonathan:

“This must be the most beautiful valley on earth.”

“Yes, but not on earth,” said Jonathan, and then I remembered that I was in Nangiyala.

All around Cherry Valley were high mountains, and that was beautiful too. And down the mountain slopes, streams and waterfalls ran into the valley so that it sang of it, for it was spring.

There was something special about the air, too. It felt as if you could drink it, it was so pure and clean.

“They could do with a few kilos of this air back home,” I said, as I remembered how I used to long for air as I lay on my kitchen sofa-bed, feeling as if there were no air at all.

But here there was, and I breathed in as much of it as I could. It was as if I couldn’t have enough of it. Jonathan laughed at me and said:

“You might leave a little for me, you know.”

The path we were on was white with fallen cherry blossoms, and fine white petals came whirling down on us, so that we got them in our hair and everywhere, but I like small green paths with cherry blossom petals on them, I really do.

And at the end of the path lay Knights Farm with the green notice on the gate.

“The Lionheart Brothers,” I read aloud to Jonathan. “Just think this is where we’re going to live.”

“Yes, think of that, Rusky,” said Jonathan. “Isn’t it fine?”

And it was fine. I understood why Jonathan thought so. For my part, I couldn’t even imagine anywhere better to live.

An old white house, not at all big, with green timbers and a green door and a bit of green ground all around, where cowslips and saxifrage and daisies grew in the grass. Lilacs and cherry trees too, in full bloom, and around it all was a stone wall, a little gray wall with pink flowers on it. You could have jumped over it easily, but nevertheless, once inside the gate, that wall felt as if it protected you from everything outside; it felt as if then you were home and on your own.

Actually there were two houses there, not just one, though the other one was more like a stable or something like that. They lay at an angle to each other, and just where they met was an old bench that looked as if it had come from Stone Age, almost. It was a nice bench and a nice corner, anyhow. You almost felt like sitting there and thinking a little, or talking and looking at the birds and perhaps drinking fruit juice or something.

“I like it here,” I said to Jonathan. “Is it just as nice indoors?”

“Come and look,” he said. He was already standing by the door and just about to go in, but at that moment there was a whinny--yes, it really was a horse whinnying--and Jonathan said:

“I think we’ll take the stable first.”

He went into that other house and I ran after him; just you guess whether I ran after him!

It was indeed a stable, just as I’d thought, and there were two horses there, two beautiful brown horses, which turned their heads and whinnied at us as we came in through the door.

“This is Grim and Fyalar,” said Jonathan. “Guess which is yours.”

“Oh, go on,” I said. “Don’t you try telling me there’s a horse for me, because I just don’t believe it.”

But Jonathan said that in Nangiyala no one could manage without a horse.

“You can’t get anywhere without a horse,” he said. “And you see, Rusky, you have to go a long way here sometimes.”

It was the best thing I’d for ages--that you had to have a horse in Nangiyala--because I like horses so much. Think how soft their noses are. I don’t think there’s anything in the world so soft.

A pair of unusually beautiful horses they were, those two in the stable. Fyalar had a white blaze on his forehead, but otherwise they were just like each other.

“Then perhaps Grim is mine,” I said. Jonathan wanted me to guess.

“Well, you’re wrong there,” said Jonathan. “Fyalar’s yours.”

I let Fyalar nuzzle me, and I patted him without being a bit scared, although I’d hardly ever touched a horse before. I liked him from the start, and he seemed to like me too, at least so I thought.

“We’ve got rabbits, too,” said Jonathan. “In a hutch behind the stable. But you can look at them later.”

I might have guessed it!

“I must see them now, at once,” I said, for I’ve always wanted to keep rabbits and at home in town you just couldn’t have them.

I made a quick little tour around behind the stable, and there in a hutch were indeed three lovely little rabbits, chewing on some dandelion leaves.

“It’s funny,” I said to Jonathan afterward. “Here in Nangiyala there’s everything I ever wished for.”

“Yes, but that’s what I told you,” said Jonathan. And it was exactly as he’d told me, while he’d sat there with me in the kitchen at home. Though now I was able to see that it was true, too, and I was pleased about that.

There are something things you never forget. Never, ever, shall I forget that first evening in the kitchen at Knights Farm, how wonderful it was and what it felt like to lie talking to Jonathan just as before. Now we were living in a kitchen again as we had always done, although it didn’t look like our kitchen at home town, that’s for sure. The kitchen at Knights Farm must be ancient, I thought, with its thick beams in the ceiling and its large open fireplace. What a fireplace; it took up half the wall and if you wanted to cook some food, you had to do it directly over the fire, just as they used to in the old days. In the middle of the floor was the sturdiest table I’ve ever seen in my life, with long, wooden benches down each side, and I reckon at least a score of people could sit there and eat at the same time without being too crowded.

“We might as well live in the kitchen as we used to,” said Jonathan. “Then Mother can have the other room when she comes.”

One room and a kitchen, that was what Knights Farm was, but we weren’t used to and didn’t need any more. All the same, it was at least twice as big as at home.

At home! I told Jonathan about the note I had left on the kitchen table for Mother.

“I wrote to her that we’d meet her in Nangiyala. Though who knows when she’ll come.”

“It may be some time,” said Jonathan. “But she’ll have a good room with space for ten sewing machines, if she wants them.”

Guess what I like! I like lying in an ancient old cupboard-bed in an ancient old kitchen, talking to Jonathan while the light from the fire flickers around the walls, and when I look out of the window, I see a branch of a cherry tree swaying in the evening breeze. And then the fire gets smaller and smaller, until only the embers are left, and the shadows thicken in the corners, and I get sleepier and sleepier, and I lie there and don’t cough and Jonathan tells me things. Tells me and tells me and tells me, and in the end I heard his voice just like those whisperings again, and then I fall asleep. That’s exactly what I like, and that’s what it was like that first evening at Knights Farm, and that’s why I’ll never forget it.