The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Olaf; or, The Fairy Gifts, Parts 1 and 2

by Mrs. Colles
Volume 4, 1893/94, pgs. 143-149, 205-210

Part I

Once upon a time, in the days when everything strange, astonishing, and delightful happened, there was born into the world a little baby, who was also a Prince. This Prince was the son of a king, and his mother, consequently, was a queen.

Of course, therefore, when he was christened many fairies were among the guests, as was the custom in those days, and as was expected, they gave him gifts of great and strange value.

They found it a little difficult, however, to think of anything new and original for their little godson. They and their sister fairies had so often bestowed on other royal babies, as well as on many who were not royal, beauty, cleverness, and wealth, that these endowments had become quite hackneyed and cheap in consequence, and the fairy godmothers felt it was high time to invent some fresh ones.

So they had put their heads together, and had succeeded on this occasion in choosing for the baby-prince certain fairy gifts which had not been given over and over again just in the same shape and order to the other little godchildren at whose christenings they had presided.

When the moment came for bestowing these gifts, the first to do so stepped up to the cradle, and waving her shining wand over the baby's little bald head, uttered the following words, in a soft musical voice:

      "Let all the birds, whose happy nests
             The woodlands hide, while pours their chant,
      To you the secrets of their breasts,
             Tell, as their trusted confidant,

      The gospel, which is purely true,
             That winter-death means better life,
      That victory is the end of strife,
             That tireless love makes all things new."

The next fairy then came forward, and doing the same as her sister, said:

      "The gift I give thee, little child,
             Is drawn from Nature's goodly store.
      Smell sweet for him, ye flow'rets wild;
             For him the garden's fragrance pour
      In one uprising incense cloud
      Thus richly is he hence endowed."

The next spoke thus:

      "O! baby-eyes, which vacant gaze,
            And see not what before them lie,
      For you let Earth's best beauty blaze.
             Enraptured look on sea and sky!
      Ay, see, and then to you shall seem,
      Earth fairer than the fairest dream!"

She drew back, and the fourth took her place, and said:

      "Along the path of daily life,
             The wayfarers who with you walk,
      Shall stop and gaze with smile of love
             On you, and joy with you to talk.
      You hearts shall win where'er you be,
      And winning, keep. My gift to thee."

The fifth followed thus:

      "Best prize of all 'tis mine to give.
             She whose first love can never change,
      Who best can teach you how to live,
             Whom naught can alter or estrange,
      Your mother, and her love to know;
      This gift of gifts I now bestow."

So saying she hung round the little Prince's neck a beautiful golden chain, on which were suspended five rich jewels, each of which contained, in some wonderful manner which I should find too difficult to explain and you too difficult to understand, the marvellous gifts just described.

The gems were evidently of different colours, but had a certain dimness as though they needed to be polished, but the fairies told the king and queen that time alone could reveal their hues, which were wonderfully brilliant when they shone out; moreover, that the chain must never be removed from the baby's neck, but would stretch with its growth.

One person alone was to have the supreme charge of cleaning and rubbing it every time the little one was washed, and that person was his mother the queen, and they added solemnly that his first reading lesson (as well as many others) was to be taught by her alone.

So saying, they bade her and the king an affectionate farewell and departed.

Weeks, months, and years passed rapidly, and the little Prince grew much as other healthy and well-cared-for babies grow, and became a strong, bright and beautiful boy--always with his mother as much as was possible, and daily washed and dressed by her own gentle hands.

When he was six years old, the queen determined to teach him to read, and one bright morning, a short time after he had picked up almost at play a knowledge of the alphabet, she placed before him a beautifully illuminated book with words in it, the letters of which blazed with bright colours, and were ornamented with delicate scrolls, leaves and flowers. She set him to read one word, and very gently and patiently helped him in doing so, but little Prince Olaf was lazy and cross, and disinclined to learn.

The sun was shining through the stained-glass windows, and lit up the pages of his beautiful lesson-book, but it only made him long to go out into the garden.

His mother let him lean against her knee while learning his lesson, but it made him all the more discontented at not being allowed to ride on her foot and play at "Ride a cock-horse."

This state of things grew worse and worse, and no attempt would he make to give his mind to his lesson. It came at last to the queen having to get up with a grave face, and saying, "I cannot stay any longer, Olaf; I have other duties to attend to. Your lesson-time for to-day is over, but you have wasted it sadly." So saying, she stooped down, and Olaf thought she was going to kiss him, but with a very sad expression, she raised her head again, and said, "No, I cannot kiss you; I would if I could, my child, but I cannot until your lesson is learnt."

Olaf felt very miserable; he was still cross, but the crossness was turning into great unhappiness.

He gazed out of window, and the sunshine seemed cruel and heartless for looking so bright. He heard the birds singing, but they only seemed to be trying to tease him by their cheery voices.

Then he thought of his mother's going without kissing him, and he said to himself that she did not love him in the least; and with that thought came over him a dreadful loneliness, and he felt himself to be like one of the beggars, whom he had seen sitting by the roadside, and asking alms in tones of dreary complaint.

"I am a beggar; I have nothing to make me happy," he said to himself, and then a fancy came into his head to go and sit by the roadside too, and beg for help from any one who passed. Miserable as the fancy was, it somehow seemed to give him a kind of dreary pleasure, and he set off at once to carry it into act.

He wandered out of the Palace, and as no one thought of the little Prince doing such a strange thing, no one was on the look-out to stop him, so he easily got away through the beautiful flowery garden, and passing by, without heeding them, its rich roses and lilies and bowers of sweet-smelling jasmine, and making his way down the long lime avenue, murmurous with bees, finally arrived at the dusty roadside which lay beyond the Palace grounds.

He was very tired, hot, and uncomfortable now, for his houseshoes were not intended for a journey of this sort, and his head ached from the heat of the sun.

He had not chosen to put on a hat. Down he sat by the road, and felt and even looked, in his now dusty clothes, like one of the beggars whom he wished to imitate.

Presently he began to find this very dull work, for to tell the truth, as there was no one there to notice him, it was not what he had expected. He saw a little bird hopping a few yards off; but it seemed quite indifferent to his presence, and as though it did not even see him; this made him feel strangely irritated, and in his anger he took up a little pebble and threw it at the bird, which though not struck, was startled, and flew away with a sharp cry; and as it did so, a number of other birds from the bushes and trees around rose in flight and vanished into the forest.

And Olaf felt more than ever desolate and alone.

While he was in this state he suddenly heard a light step approaching, and, looking up, saw a little girl in a scarlet cloak and hood, and carrying a basket, out of which peeped a yellow pat of butter, a wheaten loaf, and some new-laid eggs.

She had a sweet friendly face and shining curls, and her blue eyes looked kindly and inquiringly at Olaf as he dismally returned her glance.

Then Olaf recollected his role of beggar, and, holding out his hand, whined out an entreaty for help in the tone of voice which he had so often heard, and (as children are so fond of doing) had imitated sometimes in his games.

"What is it that you want, and what is the matter with you?" asked the little red-hooded girl in great surprise.

"I am very unhappy," complained Olaf. "I am poor and lonely; even the little birds won't come near me; they all fly away."

The little girl's look of surprise changed to one of grave disapproval; she drew back a step or two, and said:

"O, how can you! You are only pretending. You are not a real beggar at all, but a king's son; I see a fairy gift round your neck;" and with these words she left him, and stepping briskly along the road, soon disappeared from view.

Olaf felt more deserted than ever now, but, strange to say, he was also more than ever resolved to persist in playing the part he had chosen for himself, and to be a beggar; and, indeed, he had almost succeeded by this time in persuading himself that he was one.

He felt very hot and thirsty, and there was a smell of dust by the roadside where he had chosen to plant himself.

How nasty everything was! No pleasant scents of flowers such as he was used to from the rich Palace gardens and thymy slopes where he was daily taken to walk and play.

Presently he saw some one else approaching. This time it was a tall lady with a flowing robe and wonderful hair which fell around her like a golden veil.

She was very lovely and very gentle in expression, and in her hand she held a crimson rose which she often put to her face. Olaf began his begging appeal to her when she came near, and the lady turned and looked at him very gently and with surprise, and asked what he wanted.

"I am so tired, and hot, and dusty," answered Olaf. "And I can smell no nice flowers--everything is disagreeable."

The lady raised her beautiful eyebrows and said with great dignity:

"Everything disagreeable! Why, my one red rose gives scent enough to perfume the whole road. It grew in Beast's garden--he who is my Prince now." And here she blushed and looked very happy, but turning again to Olaf she said gravely: "I am afraid you are only pretending. Take care, or you may turn into a beast. I know you are a king's son and no true beggar, for I see a fairy gift round your neck"; and so saying she turned away and passed on.

And Olaf felt more lonely than ever, and ashamed too, but still he would not give up his miserable little "make-believe."

O, how horrid everything looked! He hated the sun for shining, and the sky for being blue. The breeze which now and again stirred the boughs overhead only teased him by floating his curls into his eyes. He felt crosser than ever, when just then some one else drew near, and looking up he saw another lady, gentle and lovely to look on.

Very quietly she glided towards Olaf, and always with a strange dreamy look as of one who had been long asleep, and who, now that she had awakened, was surprised and wondering at all she saw. Suddenly Olaf's begging caught her ear, and she turned her wondering eyes on him.

"What can you want, little boy?" she asked kindly.

"I am so miserable," answered he, "and everything is so horrid, and the world looks so ugly."

"The world so ugly?" she echoed in a tone of utter astonishment. "If you had been asleep for a hundred years you would only feel how impossible it is to take in the perfect beauty of the world. You would never wish to close your eyes again, but only to look and look and try to see for ever, but"--(and here she started away from him). "Oh, fie! you are only pretending. You are a king's son, for I see a fairy gift round your neck." And with a glance of reproach she, too, passed on.

And Olaf was left more than ever alone.

"No one likes me--no one pities me!" thought he. "I am a beggar! How unkind they all are!"

As he was nursing this thought there drew near another passer-by.

This time it was a young girl with a pretty but rather plaintive little face, and clothes which appeared old and soiled, as though they had been worn among dust and cinders. She stopped and looked at Olaf with kind sympathy in her eyes and they filled with tears when he began to beg of her.

"What is your trouble?" she asked gently.

"I am so lonely," whined Olaf. "No one loves me--no one feels for me."

"Have you no father or mother living?" she asked

"Y--es," faltered Olaf, for he could not but feel ashamed of himself as he thought of his loving father and tender mother.

"Oh! then, how can you say no one loves you? If you had had nobody to live with except two proud step-sisters, who made you drudge for them, and never thanked you for anything you did or showed you any affection, you might say 'no one feels for me'; but if you have a father and mother--Oh!" (and here she, too, broke off in sudden disapproval) "I see you are only making believe to be a beggar, and that is a dreadful thing to do in a world where there are real troubles. You are a king's son, and wear a fairy gift round your neck. For shame!" And she too left him.

(To be concluded in our next.)

Olaf; Or, The Fairy Gifts.
By Mrs. Colles.
The Parents Review Volume IV pgs 205-210

Part II.

And Olaf was all alone, and very desolate. And now he not only felt tired and hungry, but he also sadly longed to be with his mother, and to feel her arms around him, and her warm kisses on his face, and he would have gone home to her but for the recollection that she had not kissed him that morning when he had refused to learn his lesson. Of course he had known why this was so, and that it had pained her not to do it, but somehow he would not let himself think of this, but insisted on believing her to be, or rather on making himself regard her, as unkind and unloving.

"She can't love me, or she would have kissed me," he said to himself, and with that he sat down again, determined to stay away from home and secretly hoping that every one would be anxious at his absence, and that his mother would come to look for him. While this unamiable mood grew upon him, another wayfarer drew near, and his slow step caught Olaf's ear, absorbed as he was in his gloomy thoughts. The traveller stopped this time without being spoken to; he saw before him a tall old man in a pilgrim's dress with a long white beard which almost reached his knees, and with wonderfully earnest and penetrating eyes. Olaf could not look away from those eyes although he felt as if he wanted to do so, and that their searching gaze made him ashamed, but they held him by their steady regard, and he seemed to be trying to look down into two deep wells, trying to see the water at the bottom. "What is it all about?" at last asked the old pilgrim, but the tone in which he put the question seemed to show that he already knew what it was all about and was only giving Olaf a chance of speaking out. Olaf hung his head, then he tried to begin his beggarly whine, but somehow he could not pretend this time, and only sobbed out what he had at last really come to feel.

"My mother won't kiss me. How can she love me?"

The old pilgrim showed no surprise; he only said very quietly:

"That is because you did not learn your lesson this morning. Of course she could not kiss you, though she tried, Olaf, she tried; only until you had learnt your lesson there was something between your face and hers, and her lips could not meet yours."

Olaf felt quite frightened at the old pilgrim knowing his name and of what had happened in the morning, and most of all at this explanation of it.

What could have happened to divide his mother from him thus?

He began to cry and felt dreadfully unhappy. The old pilgrim spoke again, and this time there was something hopeful in his tone like a fresh breeze on a sunny autumn day.

"It is never too late to learn, Olaf, but your lesson must be learnt if things are ever to come right and you are ever to get home to your mother, and to feel her kiss. Get up at once and cease moping. Go on till you reach a turn to the right--take it till you come to a sign-post in the shape of a cross. On it you will see written the word you would not read this morning. It must be read, though now your mother will not be at hand to help you, and you will, therefore, find it more difficult to make out. When you have read it, you will find the way home."

And with these words the old pilgrim grasped his staff with resolute hold, and setting his face towards the west in which direction the road led, stepped onward and was gone.

At first Olaf had hoped that the old pilgrim would have taken him with him, and would have helped him to read the lesson, but seeing that such was not to be the case he got up (though not too cheerfully), for he felt a great longing to be at home again, and also there was something in the old pilgrim's look and manner which even made him afraid not to obey.

It was not long before he found himself at the turn to the right which he had been told to look out for, and, following it, lo! there, not many yards off, stood the cross-shaped sign-post of which the old pilgrim had spoken. It stood up black and massive against the sunset sky, for the sun was now low in the heavens, and above his slowly descending ball stretched a fiery canopy of crimson and gold cloud, reminding Olaf of the lateness of the hour and the long and weary time which he had squandered in playing his unprofitable game.

Olaf stood at the foot of the cross and tried to make out the letters written on its wide-spreading arms, but the sun was just passing behind a bank of purple cloud and the letters looked dim and uncertain in the sobered light. Still he did not give in, but kept his eyes fastened on them and patiently tried to spell out the word. Oh! would the sun go down before it had been read? Then it would be too late to try to learn it, at any rate, for that day.

He was feeling very weary and disheartened in this dim uncertain light, and nearly in despair of ever learning his lesson at all, when suddenly the sun came out from below the dark mass of cloud and flashed upon the letters and helped him, and he saw they were of gold and that each shone out bright and clear, and that they made the word

      "THANK YOU."

"Thank you," he exclaimed joyfully, and he seemed to be saying it partly to the sun and also to the old pilgrim, and then to the passers-by, and most of all to his mother, and yet while uttering it to all these he had a strange feeling that he was saying his prayers.

The moment he had said it, he heard the sound of fluttering wings, and from bush and brake, from wood and stream and shore came flocking innumerable birds and lit upon the ground at his feet, and on his shoulders and hands, trilling out their greetings in the loveliest concert Olaf had ever heard, and when they ceased, a thrush sitting on a bough near by sang a solo and told good news which Olaf had never understood till now--how every winter was only a getting-ready for spring, and that every spring was more lovely than the last, and that because it was so "New, new, new, new," and how there would at last come a spring which should be quite perfect, whose flowers could never fade or grow old, because all things would have become new, and everything would be perfectly finished and as it should be.

And while the thrush was singing, there came floating on the evening breeze the scent of thousands of flowers--of spring flowers, delicate primroses and cowslips, violets from the woods, the apricot-like odour of gorse from the moors, and breath of fragrant jonquils; and of summer flowers--roses, lilies, and the sweet heavy smell of jessamine. Indeed, every delicious scent inhaled by Olaf in time past without so much as a thought of grateful pleasure in its sweetness, came to him now, and was enjoyed as he had never enjoyed it before.

And while doing so he noticed for the first time the place where he stood, and how full it was of beauty. He was on a high heath covered with mossy grass in which bloomed a variety of gay flowers. Wild roses, like pink and white stars on their trailing boughs, overhung the ferns which grew near them, and beyond this bright foreground stretched the valley with its winding river and green meadows, and beyond this again rose the distant hills in dark purple shadow against the red evening sky. How utterly beautiful the world looked to Olaf! He saw it now. How was it that he had never done so before?

While he was drinking in the glory, steps approached, and he beheld coming towards him all the passers-by who had last seen him as a beggar by the roadside. First came the little girl in the red hood, who ran to him, took his hands in hers in the most friendly manner, and smiling into his face, said, "How nice to see you again! I do love you, for you, like me, have found out that things come right if we only do as we are told, I was naughty too, and talked to the wolf, when I had been told not to stop and speak to strangers; but I was sorry afterwards, and tried to obey my grannie, and so the wood-cutters saved us, and killed the wicked wolf;" and she kissed him on both cheeks, and although Olaf was a boy, he liked it.

At that moment the beautiful lady with the rose drew near, and looking at him very gently she said, "Dear little boy, this is another joy. Love conquers all ugly things. Perhaps it is well to know we can all be beasts that we may fear to become such. I will give you my sweet smelling rose to wear and to remind you of this. It came from Beast's garden--he who is my Prince now," and she blushed and, looking very happy, passed on.

Hardly had she finished speaking when the lovely lady with the wondering eyes came up, and she too stopped with a look of admiring delight at Olaf, and said, "More beauty! Oh, may I never close my eyes again! Your happy little face is in the great picture gallery now, and you see with me how wonderful it is--the happy, living, breathing world!" and she passed on.

Just then came tripping towards him a very young lady with a pretty face on which the plaintive look had turned into a very tender smile. He knew her to be the same whom he had last seen in shabby clothes, but she was now richly dressed and wore on her feet two tiny glass slippers.

She came close and, taking Olaf's face between her little hands, said:

"So you have learned to read, Olaf? Dear little brother, we were both very ignorant before. There are fairy godmothers in the world, and neither of us ought to have forgotten that, and let ourselves sit and mope, you by the roadside, or I in the cinders;" and she kissed him and passed on too.

And now Olaf saw the tall reverend figure of the old pilgrim approaching, and though his eyes looked as deep as ever, like two deep wells, there was a new light in them and it seemed to Olaf as though the water were nearer to the brink than when he saw them before.

He stopped and placed his wrinkled hand on Olaf's head, and said:

"So you have learned your lesson, little boy, even without having your mother by your side, but nevertheless you had her help. She was teaching it to you this morning, only you would not let yourself learn; still you had heard her say it, or you hardly could have read it so quickly on the cross. There she comes now to take you home, and the best gift comes with her."

And he passed on and Olaf turned eagerly where he had pointed, and there was his mother walking quickly towards him, her long robes fluttering in the evening breeze, her arms stretched out to him, and he saw that her face was full of unutterable love.

Poor little Olaf ran to her, sobbing out, half sad and wholly glad:

"Mother, mother!" and she stooped down, and gathered him into her loving arms, and hugged him to her heart, and he clasped his arms round her neck, and kissed her brow and cheeks and lips, and knew and felt how lovely she was.

"Why, Olaf!" exclaimed she, "what have you done to your fairy-chain? The jewels are blazing with light in a thousand colours. I shall never have need to polish them if they look like that."

"Mother dear, I have learnt my lesson," answered Olaf, "and the word is:

      "Thank You."

Proofread by LNL, July, 2023