The Battle of Kronborg by Lise Muusmann
Henrik's War. 12-year-old Henrik Hansen faces life and death in a city under attack during the second Swedish-Danish war. He and best friend Erik must take a letter through enemy lines to reach King Frederik in Copenhagen. What was life like in Denmark back then? A story not for the faint-hearted!
This story takes place in Elsinore in 1658 during the second Swedish war. The Swedish King, Carl X Gustav, regretted that he did not conquer all of Denmark in the first war in 1657-58. In August 1658 the Swedes entered Zealand again and moved towards Copenhagen. August 17, 1658, Field Marshal Gustaf Wrangel marched into the unfortified city of Elsinore with an army of 3000 men.
12-year-old Henrik lives in Skyttestræde, with his mother, Anna, and three small brothers and sisters. Anna has a grocery stall beside their house. They are about to face the life and death threat of a Swedish occupation as the soldiers ravage the country. The beautiful castle, Kronborg, is defended by 250 brave men, among them is Soren Hansen, Henrik’s father.
Henrik has a good friend, Erik, and together they go on an assignment for Anna, to fetch fresh supplies for the stall from Henrik’s grandmother who lives along the coast in the small village of Espergærde. It turns out to be an exciting trip leading them on to another mission: taking a very important letter to the Danish King Frederik III. The letter is a top secret document from the commander of Kronborg.
Time is running out for Kronborg Castle, and for Denmark. Who will win the battle of Kronborg?
He did not understand this. Why must his mother scream so agonizingly? Henrik, who had lived 12 summers, lurked oustide the window of their small living room. He could barely discern her through the holes in the closed curtains. It was her time again. She was sitting on the edge of the old rickety bed, her shift pulled up over her thighs. She leaned back and screamed so much that he had to cover his ears. My God, how she screamed. It happened almost once a year when she was giving birth to the next child in line. Henrik had two living siblings; the rest of them had died and were buried in the cemetery. He glanced in again at the sound of the next scream. Now something seemed to happen. A small head showed just beneath the shift. Then he heard a baby crying. The midwife was pulling with all her might and now two sets of screaming resounded along skyttestræde; his mother’s and the new baby’s. Suddenly it was over. He sighed deeply and went to the dilapidated door in to the house.
Henrik stood in the doorway staring at his mother and the baby. She held the baby close to her, kissing its head. It had black hair like the other babies he remembered. Slowly he entered the room and his mother looked at him. Her face was covered with beads of sweat. She cried out again when the placenta left her. It fell to the floor with a thud. The midwife grabbed it and threw it into a dish.
”Look at him, Henrik,” his mother said and she showed him the baby. ”A little brother for you.” He nodded and tried to smile. ”Please, won’t you hold him?”
He did not answer but turned on his heel and left the room. He was too upset. Why did they need another mouth to feed now when the Swedish enemy was once more in the country, heading towards Elsinore? His mother was Dutch, his father was Danish and he had served the king for many years as a soldier at Kronborg castle.
The Swedes were heading towards the city. People talked about nothing else in the streets, on the shipping bridges and the beach. He had spoken to people arriving by boat from Copenhagen and he had become scared.
He had pains in his stomach. He had also been afraid of this birth and what could happen to his mother. Fortunately, it seemed that all went well. His mother was a strong woman. But he now had another little brother which meant that he had two brothers and a little sister. His brother and his sister were not at home. The neighbour woman, Sopie, was looking after them. He did not know what to do. He could not bear the thought of more war.
He hoped the Swedes would never reach their city and the beautiful castle where the sandstones shone in the August sun. Henrik loved the castle. He also knew it from inside out, as he had visited it many times with his father, Soren Hansen. Henrik was proud of his father. Normally Soren stayed at home overnight, but after the Swedish army had occupied most of Denmark, he’d had to stay at the castle day and night. The soldiers at Kronborg were ready to defend themselves and their castle. Kronborg – the ‘crown castle’ of Denmark - must never fall to enemy hands.
Henrik wondered whether he should go to the beach and pick up news about the Swedes? Quickly, he ran through the alley to get to the beach. On his way he ran into a herd of swine driven by his buddy, Erik. Henrik made grimaces and jerky movements with his arms. The pigs took fright and headed in all directions.
”Stop that, Henrik,” Erik shouted angrily. ”Look, the pigs are running away.” Henrik quickly raced around in the narrow alley to capture the playful pigs. He ended up falling into a giant pile of refuse. When he emerged from it he stank to high heaven. The pigs immediately stopped fleeing, to eat from the refuse.
”Phew, now you really stink. You’ll have to go to the beach and wash yourself.” Erik was holding his nose.
Henrik burst out laughing.
”You can say this, surrounded by stinking pigs!”
Erik could not help laughing.
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