Annie M.G. Schmidt fairytale collection at DBNL.org

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When I was a wee lad, one of my favourite fairytale books was Heksen en zo (Witches and such) by Annie M.G. Schmidt, and to my great joy and surprise I ran into the whole collection at the DBNL website. DBNL is a sort of Project Gutenberg, but they apparently have a good rapport with authors’ estates, because they manage to present in-copyright works by significant Dutch authors for free to a web audience.

This version of Heksen en zo is illustrated by Charlotte Dematons. The one we had at home was illustrated by the inimitable Carl Hollander, who also graced the works of Paul Biegel and Astrid Lindgren with his drawings.

There once was a king who was so rich that he had oysters for tea and fed real pearls to his pigs every day. When he drove by in his black carriage with golden wheels, the people bowed deep into the dust.

Sometimes a child said: “But he hasn’t got a nice face, mother.” This would startle the mother and she would whisper: “Shush, you are not allowed to say that.”

“Why not?” the child asked. “Can the king hear us?”

“No,” the mother said. “But the king has a marshal who keeps an ear to the ground.”

And this was so. The king had a marshal who could unscrew his left ear. When nobody was watching he would lay the ear between some shrubs near the window of a house. Then he would go away and leave his ear behind.

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(From: De maarschalk die zijn oor te luisteren legde, Heksen en Zo, Annie M.G. Schmidt.)

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