LITTLE CLAUS AND BIG CLAUS: FRAGMENT OF THE LOST SEQUEL

 

From Journal of Dano-Norwegian Letters, Spring 2011

[Text below is likely fake, not HCA. See footnote.]

All of you know the story of Little Claus and Big Claus, and of how Little Claus got money by his trickery and then persuaded Big Claus to crawl into a sack, whereupon Little Claus threw him into a river. Big Claus, rich and stupid, was outwitted by his poor but very crafty neighbour, Little Claus.

Now, as it often happens, Big Claus was not quite so stupid as readers of books and such witty types would think. He actually had a knife with him at all times, perhaps in case he wanted to snack on some hard cheese he often had in his pocket. When Big Claus felt he was drowning he was able to cut his way out of the sack and survive. Rich people often have a certain amount of forethought and preparedness, though witty types hate to admit it.

Little Claus, having got rich quickly, was poor again quickly. He invested all his money in a newly found place on the other side of the earth called Queensland, where people spoke a language related to Danish and a hundred acres of land cost only one krone. Little Claus bought the whole coast of Queensland, but, at the moment of signing the contract in Copenhagen, the tide was very high on the opposite side of the world. This meant that Little Claus had bought only sea water, as was confirmed by a scholar in a green hat who was a witness at his trial for bankruptcy.

Little Claus was sentenced to debtors prison. He was only released when the fad for bottled antipodean sea water at the court of Moscow enabled him to make enough return on his investment to eliminate most of his debt.

Little Claus learned one very valuable lesson, which was to serve him well for the rest of his life: people will always believe a scholar in a green hat.

***

Big Claus, who had only learned never to crawl into a sack above a river, was resting outside his house when a scholar in a green hat came past. This scholar wagged his finger at Big Claus and said:

“Sir, you must not continue in this fashion, or the summer this year will be so hot that it will singe your hair.”

Now Big Claus did not doubt that this would happen – who doubts a scholar in a green hat? – but he was unsure of what he was doing that might lead to such an outcome.

“Scholar, how can I make the summer so hot that it singes my hair?”

“It is your outbreath, sir. When you breathe out, the air expelled is very hot. You do, of course, believe me?”

“Never would I doubt such a scholar, and one with such a hat. Yet I have been breathing like this all my life, and the last summers have been so cool that I was scarcely able to ripen my barley.”

“Ah, that was all at barley patch level. But did you note the temperature far up in the bell towers. Did you dip a finger in the waters off Copenhagen? No? Well, I assure you it was scorching above and boiling below ground level. Next it will be scorching in between, right where you now sit, and the burning air will singe the last of your hairs.”

“And I have so few hairs…”

“Put your hand to your mouth as you breathe out and see if I’m not right.”

Big Claus breathed on his hand, nodded as his eyes widened, then looked up at the scholar in dismay.

“It seems you are right. But is it certain?”

“It has been so determined by innumerable scholars like myself, many with green hats. The outbreath of all rich landholders in Denmark – not to mention that of all their livestock – is so hot that within the next year the air will burn like a furnace. It is only a matter of what to do to avert this infernal event.”

“But…but I must breathe out. It is my way. My work is strenuous.”

“Ah, then you must pay others to breathe less. Then you can breathe for them. There are large numbers of inactive and frail people in the region who do not require much air. If you pay them to be still less active, you and all your animals may continue to breathe as you like.”

“Certainly, that seems a good idea. But how shall I pay them all and be sure that they do as they promise.”

“Why, you must give the money to me, and I shall pay them. No labour in the cause of a benevolent climate is too slight for me. I am a scholar, steeped not only in theology but also in the proven physical sciences of this century of evidenciary marvels, this very latest and and most nineteenth of all centuries. Moreover, I have observed that when people are paid to be less industrious, they are scrupulously honest in keeping to their commitment.”

“I have but a hundred kroner in coin. If I give you that, will it suffice?”

The scholar was about to stretch out his hand as Big Claus fumbled in his purse, but then he seemed to think again.

“Why, a hundred kroner will do less than nothing. You must pay many times that amount – or your few remaining hairs will be singed from your skull.” The scholar stroked his chin. “I have a cousin in these parts called Little Claus. Some people say I resemble him…”

“You do look a lot like Little Claus. Why, without your black robe and green hat…”

“Enough! I have an idea. If you make a deed giving, say, half your horses and cattle over to my cousin, I will persuade him to give me a thousand kroner in exchange for the deed. That should do it!”

“But he is a bad debtor – with respect to you, sir, his cousin. He does not have a thousand kroner.”

The scholar was taken back only for a moment.

“Ah, but do you not see that he, an idler, will do little or nothing with your livestock? While you will do far less with only half your present livestock?”

“But did you not say that I would be free to work and breathe as hard as I wish?”

“Why, you will be free to do all these things, at no less than fifty percent of your previous rate! Furthermore, you will be free to work and pant and puff at one hundred percent of your future rate and capacity!”

Big Claus was not so stupid as many think. In matters of close and immediate concern he was quite intelligent, as he showed by his escape from the river. But in abstract matters of broad concern, he preferred to leave decisions to scholars, theologians and such people.

He deeded half of all his horses and cattle over to Little Claus, and handed the documents to the scholar in the green hat.

“Now you may work and pant as you like, sir. I shall be off to pay all the idle of the region this very day. And when Little Claus comes to collect his horses and cattle, make sure his breathing is very cool and slow. He owes us many years of reduced activity!”

“Indeed, I shall verify,” replied Big Claus, delighted to finally get the best of Little Claus.

“By the way, I’ll take your hundred kroner. It will be necessary for, um, processing of your application for, um, administration.”

“Administration, sir? What might that be exactly?”

“Why, fees, taxes, imposts, levies, duties, charges, pre-payments, payments, post-payments, agencies, deposits, excises, emoluments, deductions, registrations, tithes, extras, supplements, enhancements, add-ons and sundries. The usual.”

***

Even our slowest reader will have guessed that the so called scholar was Little Claus, merely dressed as a learned man. And because Little Claus could never stop at one deception, he had no sooner turned to go than he stopped, thought a moment, then swiveled about:

“Of course, it will do you no good at all, sir, unless all the landowners of the region do as you have done.”

Big Claus was suddenly despondent again and could only whimper incoherently as he caressed the few thin hairs on his skull. The pitiless scholar continued:

“You must persuade all the landowners of the region – vigorous toilers and hot breathers every one – to attend a conference in Copenhagen. I will come myself with certain representatives of the inactive and frail, and there we can determine a fair price that all industrious types must pay to them for their reduced exertions. Perhaps if you provide lavish feasts in some lordly hall of the city, all will come and hear the voice of science. Otherwise…when this summer comes…”

H. C. Anderson

_________

Footnote.

The editors offer this piece as a curiosity which is a probable fraud.

Even if one were to omit all serious textual analysis, the misspelling of the author’s name and various anachronisms would make it doubtful that this is a translation of a work by Hans Christian Andersen. There is, of course, no known Danish version. As to the claim of an Australian bamboo farmer to have found the English manuscript in the ceiling of his home while installing government subsidised insulation: that is rendered even more suspicious when one thinks that he first offered the piece to the Murdoch press for the proverbial “undisclosed amount”. Certain beer-stains on the manuscript look disconcertingly recent.

Most conclusive is the outlandishness of the plot, which has all the absurdity but none of the subtextual resonance of HCA’s masterpiece, Lille Claus øg Store Claus. If the “discovered” work was, by remote chance, a discarded draught by HCA, it is easy to see why it was discarded. The pivot of the tale, the proposal of a conference in Copenhagen where rich people are exhorted to pay poor people to exert themselves less, clearly has no point of reference or satire in real life. – Kylie Francine McGrath

 

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About mosomoso

Growing moso bamboo on the mid-coast of NSW, Australia.
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One Response to LITTLE CLAUS AND BIG CLAUS: FRAGMENT OF THE LOST SEQUEL

  1. Beth Cooper says:

    Though this is intended ter be comical, I find it a depressing story
    because it has many parallels in modern life (

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