Chapter 4 - The Brothers Lionheart Fairy tale by Astrid Lindgren

And the next morning we went riding. Oh, yes, I could ride, and yet it was the first time I’d ever been on horseback--I can’t understand how things are like that in Nangiyala, that you can do just anything, I mean. I galloped on as if I’d never done anything else.

But Jonathan when he was riding! The woman who had thought that my brother liked a prince in a saga, she should have been there as he came swooping along on his horse through the meadows in Cherry Valle, then she would have seen a saga prince that she never would have forgotten! Oh, as he came at a gallops and then leapt over the stream, as if flying, so that his hair was flowing around him, yes, you really could believe that he was a prince in a saga. He was nearly always dressed like that, or perhaps more like a knight. There were lots of clothes in a cupboard at Knights Farm, wherever they had come from, and they weren’t anything like the clothes we have nowadays, but just like a knight’s clothes. We had taken some out for me, too, having thrown away my ugly old rags, which I never wanted to see again. For Jonathan said we must be dressed so that it suited the times we were living in now; otherwise the people in Cherry Valley would think we were peculiar. The days of campfires and sagas; wasn’t that what Jonathan had said? As we were riding around in that beautiful valley of ours, I asked him:

“They must be dreadfully olden days that we’re living here in Nangiyala, mustn’t they?

“You could say that, in some ways,” said Jonathan. “They’re olden days for us. But you could also say that they were young days.”

He thought for a while.

“Yes, that’s it,” he said. “Young, healthy, and good days, which are easy and simple to live in.”

But then his eyes darkened.

“At least here in Cherry Valley,” he said.

“Is it different in other places?” I asked, and Jonathan said that it could indeed be different in other places.

What luck that we landed up here! Here in Cherry Valley, where life was as easy and simple as Jonathan had said. It couldn’t be easier or simpler than on a morning like this. First you’re awakened in your kitchen by the sun shining in through the window and the birds twittering and happy in the tree outside, and you see Jonathan quietly setting out bread and milk on the table for you, and when you’ve finished, you go out and feed your rabbits and groom your horse. And then you ride off, oh, you ride off, and there’d dew on the grass, glittering and shining everywhere, and bumblebees and ordinary bees humming in the cherry blossoms, and your horse gallops away and you’re not even afraid that it’ll all suddenly come to an end, like everything that’s fun usually does. Not in Nangiyala! At least not here in Cherry Valley!

We rode through the meadows, hither and thither as things came, then we followed the path along the stream, twisting and turning and suddenly we saw the morning smoke from the village down in the valley, at first just the smoke and then the whole village itself with its old houses and farm. We heard cocks crowing and dogs barking and sheep and goats bleating; it all sounded like morning, all of it. The village must have just awakened.

A woman with a basket on her arm came toward us on the path, a peasant woman, I think, neither young nor old, but a bit in between, brown skinned as you get when you’re out in all weathers. She was dressed in an old-fashioned way, rather like in the sagas.

“Oh, Jonathan, your brother’s come at last, has he?” she said, smiling in a friendly way.

“Yes, he’s come now,” said Jonathan, and you could hear that he thought that was good. “Rusky, this is Sofia,” he said then, and Sofia nodded.

“Yes, this is Sofia,” she said. “I’m glad I met you. Now you can take the basket yourselves.”

Jonathan took the basket as if he were used to doing that and didn’t have to ask what was in it.

“You’ll bring your brother down to the Golden Cockerel this evening, won’t you, so that everyone can meet him?” said Sofia.

Jonathan said that he would, and then we said good-bye to her and rode homeward. I asked Jonathan who the Golden Cockerel was.

“The Golden Cockerel Inn,” said Jonathan. “It’s the inn down in the village. We meet there and talk about what we have to talk about.”

I thought it would be fun to go with him to the Golden Cockerel in the evening and see what kind of people lived in Cherry Valley. I wanted to know everything about Cherry Valley and Nangiyala. I wanted to see if it was exactly like what Jonathan had told me. Then I happened to think of something, and I reminded him about it as we rode along.

“Jonathan, you said that in Nangiyala you could have adventures from morning till evening, and at night too, do you remember? But here it’s so quiet and there are no adventures at all.

Jonathan laughed.

“You only came yesterday, don’t forget. Silly, you’ve hardly had time to poke your nose in yet. There’ll be time enough for adventures I think.”

When I’d got my thoughts straight on the matter, I said that it was adventurous and marvelous enough as it was with Knights Farm and our horses and rabbits and everything. I didn’t need any more adventures than that.

Then Jonathan looked strangely at me, almost as if he were feeling sorry for me, and he said:

“Well, you know, Rusky, I’d like to think that that was what it would be like for you. Just like that. For I’ll have you know, there are adventures that shouldn’t happen.”

When we got home, Jonathan unpacked Sofia’s basket on the kitchen table. There was a loaf of bread in it and a bottle of milk, a little jar of honey and four pancakes.

“Does Sofia keep us in food?” I asked in surprise. I hadn’t thought much about how we would get anything to eat.

“Sometimes she does,” said Jonathan.

“For free?” I asked.

“Free, yes, perhaps you can put it that way,” said Jonathan. “Everything here in Cherry Valley is free. We give to each other and help each other according to what is needed.”

“Do you give Sofia something?” I asked.

Then he laughed again.

“Yes, indeed I do,” he said. “Horse manure for her rose beds, among other things. I look after them for her--quite free.

And then he said so quietly that I hardly heard it:

“I do quite a lot of other things for her, too.”

Just then I saw him take something else out of the basket, a tiny little rolled-up piece of paper, nothing else. He unrolled it and read something that was written on it, and then he frowned as if he didn’t like what was there. But he didn’t say anything to me, and I didn’t like to ask. I thought he would tell me what was on his piece of paper when he wanted me to know.

We had an old sideboard in a corner of the kitchen, and on that first evening at Knights Farm, Jonathan had told me something about it. There was a secret drawer in the sideboard, he said, a drawer you could neither find nor open if you didn’t know the trick. I wanted to see it at once, of course, but then Jonathan said:

“Another time. You must sleep now.”

Then I fell asleep and forgot all about it, but now I remembered it again, for Jonathan went over to the sideboard and I heard a few strange little clicks. It wasn’t difficult to work out what he was doing; he was hiding the piece of paper in the secret drawer. Then he locked the sideboard and put the key in an old mortar high up on a shelf in the kitchen.

Afterward we went swimming for a while and I dived off the bridge! Just think that I dared to! And then Jonathan made me a fishing rod just like his own and we caught some fish, just enough for dinner for the two of us. I got a fine perch and Jonathan got two.

We cooked the fish in our big fireplace, in a pot that hung on an iron chain over the fire, and when we had eaten, Jonathan said:

“Now, Rusky, we’ll see if you are a marksman. You’ll need to be that sometimes.”

He took me out to the stable, and in the harness room two bows were hanging. I realized that Jonathan had made them, for he was always making bows for the children in the yard at home in town. But these were larger and finer, very grand objects indeed.

We set up a target on the stable door and we shot at it all afternoon. Jonathan showed me what to do. I shot quite well, though not like Jonathan, of course, because he got a bull’s eye practically every time.

It was funny with Jonathan. Although he could do everything so much better than I could, he didn’t think that this was anything remarkable. He never boasted, but did everything almost as if he wished that I would do better than him. I got a bull’s eye once, I too, and he looked so pleased then, almost as if he had gotten a present from me.

When dusk began to fall, Jonathan said it was time we were on our way to the Golden Cockerel. We whistled for Grim and Fyalar. They ran free in the meadows outside Knights Farm, but when we whistled they at once came at full gallop up to the gate. We saddled them there and mounted, and then we rode at a leisurely pace down toward the village.

Suddenly I felt afraid and shy. I was not really used to meeting people, least of all people like those who lived here in Nangiyala, and I told Jonathan.

“What are you afraid of?” he asked. “You don’t think there’s anyone here who would harm you, do you?”

“No, of course not, but perhaps they’ll laugh at me.”

I thought that sounded silly when I said it, for why should they laugh at me? But I’m always imagining things like that.

“You know, I think we’ll have to start calling you Karl now, now that your name’s Lionheart,” said Jonathan. “Rusky Lionheart--that might make them laugh. You nearly laughed your head off yourself at that, and so did I.”

Yes, I wanted to be called Karl very much. It certainly suited my surname much better.

“Karl Lionheart.” I tried out how it sounded. “Karl and Jonathan Lionheart are riding here.” That sounded good, I thought.

“Though you’re still my old Rusky,” said Jonathan. “You know that, don’t you, little Karl?”

We were soon down in the village and went clattering down the village street on our horses. It wasn’t difficult to find out way, because we could hear laughter and talk from a long way away. And we saw the sign, too, with its large gilded cockerel’ oh yes, here was the Golden Cockerel, just like those friendly old inns you used to read about in books. The lights glowed in a friendly way through the windows and you really felt like trying out what it was like to go into an inn. I’d never done that before.

But first we rode into the yard and tied Grim and Fyalar up alongside a large number of other horses standing there. That was right what Jonathan had said about your needing a horse in Nangiyala. I think every single person in Cherry Valley had come riding in to the Golden Cockerel that evening. The tap room was packed with people when we went in. Men and women, large and small, everyone in the village was there, sitting and talking and enjoying themselves, although some of the little children had already fallen asleep on their parents’ laps.

What excitement there was when we came in.

“Jonathan!” they shouted. “Here’s Jonathan!”

The innkeeper himself--a large, red-cheeked, rather handsome man--shouted so he could be heard above all the noise.

‘Here’s Jonathan--no, here are the two Lionheart brothers, my goodness! Both of them!”

He came forward and swung me up on a table, so that everyone could see me, and I stood there feeling my face going red all over.

But Jonathan said:

“This is my beloved brother, Karl Lionheart, who was arrived at last. You must all be kind to him, just as kind as you are to me.”

“You can rely on that,” said the innkeeper, and he lifted me down again. But before he let me go, he held me in his arms for a while and I felt how strong he was.

“We two,” he said, “we’ll be good friends like Jonathan and me. My name’s Jossi. Though I’m mostly called the Golden Cockerel. And you can come to the Golden Cockerel whenever you like, don’t forget that, Karl Lionheart.”

Sofia was sitting there too, at a table all on her own, and Jonathan and I sat down with her. She was glad of that, I think. She smiled kindly and asked what I thought of my horse and wondered whether Jonathan could come and help her in the garden some day. But then she sat there in silence, and I noticed that she was worried about something. I noticed something else, too. Everyone sitting there in the tap room looked almost a little reverently at Sofia, and when someone got up to go, he always bowed first toward out table, just as if there were something special about her, though I couldn’t understand why. She was sitting there in her simple clothes, with a shawl over her head and her brown work-roughened hands in her lap, like any ordinary peasant woman. What was it that was remarkable about her?

It was fun at the inn. We sang lots of songs, some of which I knew beforehand, and some of which I had never heard before, but everyone was happy. Or were they? Sometimes I had a feeling that they had some secret troubles, just like Sofia. It was as if occasionally happened to think about something else, something they were afraid of. But Jonathan had said that life was easy and simple here in Cherry Valley, so what were think afraid of? Oh, well, between times, they were happy, they sang and laughed and everyone was good friends and liked each other, it seemed. But I think they liked Jonathan best. And Sofia, they liked her, too, I think.

Though afterward, when we were going home, Jonathan and I, and we were going out into the yard to get our horses, I asked:

“Jonathan, what is it that’s so special about Sofia?”

Then we heard a grumpy voice beside us say:

“Exactly! What is there so special about Sofia, I’ve often wondered.”

It was dark in the yard, so I couldn’t see who was speaking. But suddenly, he stepped forward into the light from the window, and I recognized a man who had sat near us in the inn, a man with red, curly hair and a little red beard. I had noticed him because he had sat looking surly all the time and hadn’t sung at all.

“Who’s that?” I asked Jonathan, as we clattered out through the entrance.

“His name is Hubert,” said Jonathan. “And he knows perfectly well what’s special about Sofia.”

Then we rode homeward. It was a chilly, starlit night. Never had I seen so many stars and never such brilliant ones. I tried to guess which was the Earth Star.

But Jonathan said: “The Earth star, well, that wanders about somewhere far, far away in space; you can’t se it from here.”

That was a little sad, I thought.