The Parson's Widow (1920) - full transcript

A young man is elected by a small village to be its parson. As part of his duties, he is required to marry the widow of the parson before him. This poses two problems--first, the widow is old enough to be his grandmother, and second, he is already engaged to another woman.


Now, as a thousand years ago,
the waterfall sings by the old
Norwegian village.

If we listen closely, it tells a
lot about the days gone by.

Hear, O hear my voice proclaim.
Come all ye from far and near.
I summon you to elect a parson.
For we have no good shepherd here.

These two had wandered
over the mountain from a
neighboring parish...

Sofren had struggled through
long student days and now he
was applying for the vacant post.

Mari had waited faithfully
during all the hard years.

Mari reminds Sofren that
her father will not allow
them to marry until Sofren
is truly a parson.

Sofren's two rivals to the post
had faith in their handsome
clothes and the fine learning
that was crammed into them
in Copenhagen.

Each of the three candidates
wished heartily for the Devil
himself to take away the others.

"In the beginning, Man, unlike
others creatures, was made in
the image of God."

"But we must consider why
it was that God made Man
so perfect and magnificent..."

"I am going to speak to you
about Balaam's ass and God's
strange power --- by which
He was able to open the jaws
of a dumb animal so that it
might speak like a man!"

"Now, two learned applicants
have appeared here before me."

"One of them took us to Eden.
And that is as far back as
we can go."

"Let him stay there!"

"The other one chose the text:
Am I Not An Ass? But what
has an ass to do on the pulpit?"

"My friends, I will not take you
to Eden --- you are too clever.
But I will take you to the bowels
of the Earth, deep in the roaring
jaws of Hell!"

"And so, my friends, beware that
you are not swallowed up by
the roaring jaws of Hell!"

The congregation had appointed
five wise and trusted men to pass
verdicts on the applicants.

When the two theologians from
Copenhagen saw they could not
reach their goal by words alone,
they joined forces to invite
everyone to a feast that evening.

Out of common decency,
they were obliged to invite
Sofren too.

At last, the verdict was Sofren.

"According to the law of our
parish, the late parson's widow,
Dame Margarete, claims
the right to demand that his
successor marry her."

"Since Dame Margarete insists
on her right, we have asked
her to come here tonight so
the candidate may have a
look at her."

"Night has fallen already.
Will you do me the honor
to accompany me to the

Sofren had heard that Dame
Margarete might be a witch.
But he did not feel it would
do him any harm just to enter
the house.

"My lot is not an easy one.
This the fourth time I must
be handed over like a piece
of furniture to whomever
claims me..."

"But I am attached to this
place, to every chair and

"...and if you part with what has
become so important to your
life, your innermost heart gets
torn open. And you die..."

"You are not engaged to any
young maiden, are you?"

"I hope that you will accept
my hospitality. It is dark
and long way to the Inn."

The next morning,
Sofren woke up late.

Never in his life had he been
so well dressed! He wore a
black coat and breeches that
had been put beside his bed.

"I had the most wonderful sleep
last night. I felt I was resting
in Abraham's bosom."

"Indeed... there I have
never slept."

In front of him lay a gleaming
white herring. He was drawn
to it as if by a magic power.

Dame Margarete's two old
servants had been with her
as long as anyone could

After Sofren had eaten the
fat herring and emptied the
bottle of schnapps, he felt
very strange.

As if in a fog, he saw Dame
Margarete, not old and ugly,
but as a young smiling girl.

"Dame Margarete, I love
you! Let me stay here
with you always."

"Isn't it so, Master Sofren,
that you offered me your
heart and hand and asked
me to be your wife?"

"Of course you will have your
freedom. You have your room
and I have mine. I only wish to
stay and manage everything
as before."

"Sofren, how could you!"

"How did the widow
bewitch you?"

"With a herring she gave me."

"It made me so dizzy
that I proposed to her."

"I cannot get you if I do not get
the post, and I will not get that
unless I wed the old woman."

"But after she dies, I inherit
everything. Then we can marry."

"Can Dame Margarete really
not see who it is?

"Why, it is my sister Mari."

"She is so unhappy at having to
leave me! I beg you to let Mari
live at the parsonage in return
for help around the house."

"Do you think the old woman
will be done for soon?"

A few weeks later, a neighboring
parson joined the two in wedlock.

Even though both bride
and bridegroom preferred
a quiet ceremony, it was
the custom in the area to
hold a big celebration.

"We will now drink to the
health of the bridal couple
and wish them a long and
happy life."

The day after the wedding.
Sofren made up for it.

"In the future. I suggest you
and your companions be less
high and mighty. For I am
master of this house."

"Master Sofren is too big for his
boots. Give him a drubbing!"

"I suggest you concentrate
on prayers and sermons.
Do not play master here.
I am master of this house!"

Time passed by... Dame
Margarete had not yet died
and Sofren had not been
able to see Mari alone.

It was not the only time
that Sofren was unlucky.

"Oh! The Parson cast amorous
glances at me!"

"Let the fine fellow go!"

"I will have you know
I am a decent girl!"

Sofren was at his wit's
end. Finally he stooped
to courting at night just
as peasant lads did.

"I had a sudden stomachache
and was just going to ask my
sister for some drops."

"If you need drops, you had
better come to me!"

Sofren would not give up. A night
or two later he tried again.

"My little popsy!"

"Shame, that you cannot
leave us girls alone!"

One evening they sat together
all three, working.

"Do you know what country
folk say about you, Dame
Margarete? That you got
your former husband through
black magic!"

I also wonder a good deal
about that herring you gave
me --- was it real?

"No, it had a spell cast upon it!"

"And they say you have
a potion which can prolong
one's life."

"It must be the truth... just look
at me. I will live for at least
another hundred years!"

A few nights later the
full moon came shining
into Dame Margarete's

"Never have I seen the like.
The Devil himself walking
in the pastor's slippers!"

A couple of hours went by
but Dame Margarete held out

"So that is how the Devil looks!"

Sofren did one stupid trick
after another. However,
one day something happened
of the greatest importance to

"Shouldn't you prepare your
Sunday sermon instead of
idling here?"

Sofren hoped Dame Margarete
would stay up in the loft and
mayby in the meantime he could
meet Mari.

But Mari was where Sofren
least expected.

"Be careful, Dame Margarete!
The ladder is gone!"

"The thigh-bone is broken and
she suffered a concussion. But
she will recover."

Several weeks passed before
Sofren was allowed to enter
the sickroom.

During this time, Sofren truly
grew fond of Dame Margarete,
who nursed little Mari day and
night as tenderly as a mother.

"I am reminded of my youth..."

"My first husband and I were
engaged for many years
when he applied for the post
here and learned he could
have it only if he wedded
the parson's widow."

"We knew that the widow was
weak and could scarcely live
long. It was a sore temptation
to us..."

"Yes, God forgive us. We built
our happiness on the hope of
another's death."

"Five years we had to wait. But
these rooms hold memories of
thirty happy years, and in the
churchyard is a grave that is
never out of my thoughts."

"Forgive us, Dame Margarete!"

"Mari and I are not sister and
brother --- she is my fiancee.
We have also waited for your
death, Dame Margarete!"

"Poor children!
Poor children!"

Not long afterwards, Mari was
on her feet again --- thanks to
Dame Margarete's tender care.

But Dame Margarete now spent
half the day in the churchyard
by her first husband's grave.

One morning at breakfast, Dame
Margarete was missing.

Do not forget, when my mortal
remains are taken away, to put
a horseshoe over the door and to
strew linseed after me so that I
shall not haunt you.

A week later the funeral
took place.

"I render thanks for all the good
I have known in my days."

My voice I raise by tones of bells
In praise of the Lord of Lords.
To call God's folk to church
And now to sound a burial hymn.

Following her own wish, Dame
Margarete was buried with her
first husband.

"We owe her a great debt, Mari.
She taght you to keep a good
home, and she taught me to be
a honorable man."