In 1814 the country of Norway was founded. The people were excited and glad, and their leaders began talking together about the laws that would be made for the new country. They talked both of what they wanted and what they didn’t want, and one thing they were agreed on was there should be no more Jews! They didn’t like Jews, and never again would they be allowed to come to live in Norway.
One man, a writer, was very sad that this law should be made. He thought that it was wrong that Norway should keep out a whole group of people for good. After all, the Jews had done nothing to harm Norway! One day a story started to form in his mind. He picked up his pen and the words began to appear like magic on the paper before him…
Once there was an old Jew from Sweden whom everyone called Father Jacob. He was a woodcarver, and every wintertime when the snow had come and lay deep and crisp he used to come over to Norway on his sledge with a great sackful of toys to sell in the hamlets and villages of the east of the country.
The grown ups didn’t like him; they muttered at him behind his back and spat in the snow when his name was mentioned. “Old Jew, coming here with his rough toys and wanting our money! Why doesn’t he stay in Sweden and make money out of them?” They gave as little as they could to their children for them to spend on presents.
But all the children liked Father Jacob. He had a long silver beard and he reminded them of Father Christmas. As well as having a sackful of toys he had lots of stories of all his journeys and of animals he had seen and strange things that had befallen him. The children would gather round to listen until the stars began to crackle in the skies before running off home to bed over the snowy tracks.
One winter when Father Jacob came over into Norway everyone whispered of a terrible blizzard that was coming down from the Arctic. The people of Northern Norway had said that it lasted for three days and three nights. Father Jacob had only a thin tent to sleep in and so he went from door to door asking for shelter. “May I stay here until the storm is over? Please would you give me sanctuary just for the night?”
“We have no room, Jew, so go and find somewhere else to stay! Leave us in peace, we have little enough for ourselves and our children!” Everywhere Father Jacob went it was the same story, and at last the snow began falling wild and furious. The old man was lost in the darkness and did not even know the way back to his tent.
At last he heard the sound of a child crying. It was a little girl called Anna who had lost her way home and Father Jacob protected her with his robe from the fierce cold of the driving snow and the howling wind. He sheltered her so that the worst of the blizzard would not freeze her.
The next morning the people came running out into the deep new snow. “Anna, my Anna!” the little girl’s mother shouted with joy, as she saw her daughter struggling up alive from the ground. She hugged and hugged her, tears of happiness running down her face.
“It was Father Jacob who saved me,” Anna whispered. They all turned and looked at the old man. But there he lay in the snow, not breathing, his life over. He had died to save their little girl. Then they remembered how they had turned him away from their houses, how they had told him they had no room for him, and they hung their heads in sorrow and shame.
The writer finished his story and laid down his pen. The very next day he sent it away to be published and soon everyone in Norway was reading his tale of old Father Jacob and the little girl that he saved from the storm. But people knew that he was really writing about them and about the new law they had made to shut out all Jewish people and keep them away from Norway.
They understood they had been selfish and cruel, just like the villagers who shut out Father Jacob. The realized that Norway had room for strangers, for people of all colours and races, and for Jews too. So it was that the law was changed and once more it was possible for Jews like Father Jacob to come to Norway. So it has been ever since, thanks to the story that the writer wrote.