Soup on a Sausage-Peg – Illustration
By Hans Christian Andersen (1858)
‘ That was a remarkably fine dinner yesterday,’ observed an old Mouse of the female sex to another who had not been at the festive gathering. ‘ I sat number twenty-one from the old Mouse King, so that I was not badly placed. Should you like to hear the order of the banquet ? The courses were very well arranged mouldy bread, bacon rind, tallow candle, and sausage and then the same dishes over again from the beginning : it was just as good as having two banquets on end. There was as much joviality and agreeable jesting as in the family circle. Nothing was left but the pegs at the ends of the sausages. And the discourse turned upon these ; and at last the expression, ” Soup on a sausage-peg,” was mentioned. Every one had heard the proverb, but no one had ever tasted the sausage-peg soup, much less knew how to prepare it. A capital toast was drunk to the inventor of the soup, and it was said he deserved to be a relieving officer. Was not that witty ? And the old Mouse King stood up, and promised that the young mouse who could best prepare that soup should be his queen ; and a year was allowed for the trial.’
‘ That was not at all bad,’ said the other Mouse ; ; but how does one prepare this soup ? ‘
‘ Ah, how is it prepared ? That is just what all the young female mice, and the old ones too, are asking. They would all very much like to be queen ; but they don’t want to take the trouble to go out into the world to learn how to prepare the soup, and that they would certainly have to do. But every one has not the gift of leaving the family circle and the chimney corner. Away from home one can’t get cheese rinds and bacon every day. No, one must bear hunger, and perhaps be eaten up alive by a cat.’
Such were no doubt the thoughts by which most of them were scared from going out to gain information. Only four Mice announced themselves ready to depart. They were young and brisk, but poor. Each of them would go to one of the four quarters of the globe, and then it was a question which of them was favoured by fortune. Every one took a sausage-peg, so as to keep in mind the object of the journey. This was to be their pilgrim’s staff.
It was at the beginning of May that they set out, and they did not return till the May of the following year ; and then only three of them appeared. The fourth did not report herself, nor was there any intelligence of her, though the day of trial was close at hand.
‘ Yes, there ’s always some drawback in even the pleasantest affair,’ said the Mouse King.
And then he gave orders that all mice within a circuit of many miles should be invited. They were to assemble in the kitchen, the three travelled Mice stood in a row by themselves, while a sausage-peg, shrouded in crape, was set up as a memento of the fourth, who was missing. No one was to proclaim his opinion before the three had spoken and the Mouse King had settled what was to be said further. And now let us hear.
WHAT THE FIRST LITTLE MOUSE HAD SEEN AND LEARNED IN HER TRAVELS
‘ When I went out into the wide world,’ said the little Mouse, ‘ I thought, as many think at my age, that I had already learned everything ; but that was not the case. Years must pass before one gets so far. I went to sea at once. I went in a ship that steered towards the north. They had told me that the ship’s cook must know how to manage things at sea ; but it is easy enough to manage things when one has plenty of sides of bacon, and whole tubs of salt pork, and mouldy flour. One has delicate living on board ; but one does not learn to prepare soup on a sausage -peg. We sailed along for many days and nights ; the ship rocked fearfully, and we did not get off without a wetting. When we at last reached the port to which we were bound, I left the ship ; and it was high up in the far north.
‘ It is a wonderful thing, to go out of one’s own corner at home, and sail in a ship, where one has a sort of corner too, and then suddenly to find oneself hundreds of miles away in a strange land. I saw great pathless forests of pine and birch, which smelt so strong that I sneezed, and thought of sausage. There were great lakes there too. When I came close to them the waters were quite clear, but from a distance they looked black as ink. White swans floated upon them : I thought at first they were spots of foam, they lay so still ; but then I saw them walk and fly, and I recognized them. They belong to the goose family one can see that by their walk ; for no one can deny his parentage. I kept with my own kind. I associated with the forest and field mice, who, by the way, know very little, especially as regards cookery, though this was the very thing that had brought me abroad. The thought that soup might be boiled on a sausage-peg was such a startling idea to them, that it flew at once from mouth to mouth through the whole forest. They declared the problem could never be solved ; and little did I think that there, on the very first night, I should be initiated into the method of its preparation. It was in the height of summer, and that, the mice said, was the reason why the wood smelt so strongly, and why the herbs were so fragrant, and the lakeshso clear and yet so dark, with the white swans on them.
‘ On the margin of the wood, among three or four houses, a pole as tall as the mainmast of a ship had been erected, and from its summit hung wreaths and ribbons : this was called a maypole. Men and maids danced round the tree, and sang as loudly as they could, to the violin of the fiddler. There were merry doings at sundown and in the moonlight, but I took no part in them what has a little mouse to do with a May dance ? I sat in the soft moss and held my sausage-peg fast. The moon shone especially upon one spot, where a tree stood, covered with moss so fine that I may almost venture to say it was as fine as the skin of the Mouse King ; but it was of a green colour, so that it was a great relief to the eye.
‘ All at once, the most charming little people came marching forth. They were only tall enough to reach to my knee. They looked like men, but were better proportioned : they called themselves elves, and had delicate clothes on, of flower leaves trimmed with the wings of flies and gnats, which had a very good appearance. Directly they appeared, they seemed to be seeking for something I knew not what ; but at last some of them came towards me, and the chief pointed to my sausage-peg, and said, ” That is just such a one as we want it is pointed it is capital ! ” and the longer he looked at my pilgrim’s staff the more delighted he became.
” I will lend it,” I said, ” but not to keep.”
‘ ” Not to keep ! ” they all repeated ; and they seized the sausage-peg, which I gave up to them, and danced away to the spot where the fine moss grew ; and here they set up the peg in the midst of the green. They wanted to have a maypole of their own, and the one they now had, seemed cut out for them ; and they decorated it so that it was beautiful to behold.
‘ First, little spiders spun it round with gold thread, and hung it all over with fluttering veils and flags, so finely woven, bleached so snowy white in the moonshine, that they dazzled my eyes. They took colours from the butterfly’s wing, and strewed these over the white linen, and flowers and diamonds gleamed upon it, so that I did not know my sausage-peg again : there is not in all the world such a maypole as they had made of it. And now came the real great party of elves. They were quite without clothes, and looked as dainty as possible ; and they invited me to be present ; but I was to keep at a distance, for I was too large for them.
‘ And now began such music ! It sounded like thousands of glass bells, so full, so rich, that I thought the swans were singing. I fancied also that I heard the voice of the cuckoo and the blackbird, and at last the whole forest seemed to join in. I heard children’s voices, the sound of bells, and the song of birds ; the most glorious melodies and all came from the elves’ maypole, namely, my sausage-peg. I should never have believed that so much could come out of it ; but that depends very much upon the hands into which it falls. I was quite touched. I wept, as a little mouse may weep, with pure pleasure.
‘ The night was far too short ; but it is not longer up yonder at that season. In the morning dawn the breeze began to blow, the mirror of the forest lake was covered with ripples, and all the delicate veils and flags fluttered away in the air. The waving garlands of spiders’ web, the hanging bridges and balustrades, and whatever else they are called, flew away as if they were nothing at all. Six elves brought me back my sausage-peg, and asked me at the same time if I had any wish that they could gratify ; so I asked them if they could tell me how soup was made on a sausage-peg.
” How we do it ? ” asked the chief of the elves, with a smile. ” Why, you have just seen it. I fancy you hardly knew your sausage-peg again ? ”
‘ ” You only mean that as a joke,” I replied. And then I told them in so many words, why I had undertaken a journey, and what hopes were founded on it at home. ” What advantage,” I asked, ” can it be to our Mouse King, and to our whole powerful state, from the fact of my having witnessed all this festivity ? I cannot shake it out of the sausage-peg, and say, Look, here is the peg, now the soup will come.’ That would be a dish that could only be put on the table when the guests had dined.”
‘ Then the elf dipped his little finger into the cup of a blue violet, and said to me, -.
‘ ” See here ! I will anoint your pilgrim’s staff ; and when you go back home to the castle of the Mouse King, you have but to touch his warm breast with the staff, and violets will spring forth and cover its whole staff, even in the coldest winter-time. And so I think I’ve given you something to carry home, and a little more than something ! ”
But before the little Mouse said what this ‘ something more ‘ was, she stretched her staff out towards the King’s breast, and in very truth the most beautiful bunch of violets burst forth ; and the scent was so powerful that the Mouse King incontinently ordered the mice who stood nearest the chimney to thrust their tails into the fire and create a smell of burning, for the odour of the violets was not to be borne, and was not of the kind he liked.
‘ But what was the ” something more “, of which you spoke ? ‘ asked the Mouse King.
‘ Why,’ the little Mouse answered, ‘ I think it is what they call effect!’ and herewith she turned the staff round, and lo ! there was not a single flower to be seen upon it ; she only held the naked skewer, and lifted this up like a music baton. ‘ ” Violets,” the elf said to me, ” are for sight, and smell, and touch. Therefore it yet remains to provide for hearing and taste ! ”
And now the little Mouse began to beat time ; and music was heard, not such as sounded in the forest among the elves, but such as is heard in the kitchen. There was a bubbling sound of boiling and roasting ; and all at once it seemed as if the sound were rushing through every chimney, and pots or kettles were boiling over. The fire-shovel hammered upon the brass kettle, and then, on a sudden, all was quiet again. They heard the quiet subdued song of the tea-kettle, and it was wonderful to hear they could not quite tell if the kettle were beginning to sing or leaving off ; and the little pot simmered, and the big pot simmered, and neither cared for the other : there seemed to be no reason at all in the pots. And the little Mouse flourished her baton more and more wildly ; the pots foamed, threw up large bubbles, boiled over, and the wind roared and whistled through the chimney. Oh ! it became so terrible that the little Mouse lost her stick at last.
‘ That was a heavy soup! ’said the Mouse King.’Shall we not soon hear about the preparation ? ‘
‘ That was all,’ said the little Mouse, with a bow.
‘ That all ! Then we should be glad to hear what the next has to relate,’ said the Mouse King.