Sunday, 21 April 2019

An Evening at the Neighbour’s Tenement

When one observes the life and the bustle in the streets here in Kristiania these days, it van be difficult to believe that it was not so long ago that the streets were often as quiet as a church in the middle of the day. Back then—thirty–forty years ago—one rarely saw such traffic during the liveliest market that one now sees daily in the square or the city’s other most populous neighbourhoods.

The grass grew fresh and green between the stones, in the streets I wandered as a child; chickens strutted and pecked undisturbed outside. The sexton stood half the day at the open window, asking the maids about their employer’s business, or listening to what they had eaten for dinner. Only rarely was the gossip and quiet broken by the rattle of carriages. Ducks splashed in the gutter in the middle of the street, without a notion of watchmen and gaols, and the hawk likewise hunted boldly for its young; yes, according to a legend that ought to be believed, the hawk once went so far as to attack the honourable clergy, diving into the old provost Lumholtz’s wig, who, without a hat and with his hands behind his back, took his customary afternoon walk, wearing a broad-skirted, pearl-grey robe with steel buttons, black breeches, and silver-buckled shoes. “Well, look at that rascal!” he shouted, in his strong, Jutlandic accent, as he stood there robbed, threatening the bird with his fist, which rose with its well-dressed, powdered prey, which the owner had never dreamed would dress a hawk’s nest. The children in the street, whom he probably scared, were sure he was going to shout after it: “You must wahrhaftig go to the workhouse!”—an adage he used with confirmands and those he considered “argumentative and incompatible with cohabitation,” when on his evening walks he observed people by looking through their windows.

The children tumbled, screamed, and made a noise, and practically took the street as their possession, and to the extent that no one up in Vollgatene and far out in the suburbs can imagine. I and the children in the neighbourhood stayed mostly in the meadow where the Exchange now stands, and in the cemetery, where the abattoirs have since been built. Between the gravestones and the graves, and beneath the old chestnut trees, which have long since been felled, our play was lively and lusty in the cool summer evenings, and I will never forget the apprehensive mood that gripped us when, in the twilight, we stared through the cracks in the church wall at the solemn coffins in the crypt, until we imagined they opened and the dead rose up; and in dread we flew home—only for another night to venture the same. In the autumn we would rather stay around the tenements, which at that time did not house nearly as many as they do now; it was the exception that more than one, at most a couple of families, lived in a tenement building.

Our neighbouring tenement was one of the most popular places to play and gather in the whole street; it was an old building, with a large courtyard surrounded by storage sheds, lofts, and dark, secretive passages, and shacks on all sides. Above all this, tall, rose the bare walls of the neighbourhood’s backyards and side buildings, making the old building even scarier and bleaker. All of the tenement’s usable and occupied rooms faced the street, and it was only through a couple of low-level kitchen windows, with small, leaded green panes, and from the long passageways, that one could see what was going on in the courtyard. In the autumn, therefore, the gang of children in the neighbourhood had one of their freest playgrounds; the play and activity out there rarely disturbed any of the tenement’s few residents, and we were never scolded, unless the owner, an aging merchant, went into his storage sheds. All of these rooms and lofts, shacks, and passageways were the best hiding places one could wish for. For us they were just as many foreign places and countries, and many a bold voyage was made there; even so, we seldom completely fearlessly approached the lofty hayloft and the long, dark passage that went past it, and away to the great rooms. Up there at that time lived a lieutenant, and there was also the nursery and the lady’s bedroom. But it was by no means for fear of the lady or lieutenant that we kept away from the attic; admittedly, the lieutenant would not have anything to do with us within his bounds when he was home, but he was quite a kind man, and his sabers, pistols and rifles were, for many of us, as appealing as the pastoral and hunting scenes with all kinds of strange animals that adorned his “rooms”—the finest apartment in the house. The lady was young, cheerful and easy to laugh, and rarely scolded the life we ​​kept, except when the lieutenant had been to a feast and wanted to strengthen himself after his night, with a lengthy after-dinner nap. She was also very often out visiting, often watching comedies at the Grensehaven. No, neither the madam nor the lieutenant scared us; but when the sun didn’t shine, it was black and uncanny in this passage and in the loft next to it, especially in the autumn, and of course we knew that the nisse lived there. Ola the hand had told us, and Kari Gusdal had confirmed that Gudbrand the hand, who served in the tenement when “his grandfather” was alive, had wrestled the nisse in the hayloft. Gudbrand was so strong that he could lift a horse and carry four barrels of rye, but the nisse was stronger; it was like wrestling on a sauna wall, Gudbrand said, and for all his wrestling, he was not good enough to move him off the spot. But when the nisse grew tired of it, he took Gudbrand as a tuft of hay and flung him down into the stable through the open hatch; since that time Gudbrand hadn’t had a day of good health, but was crooked and lame for the rest of his life, as we all had seen him.

No matter how lusty and noisy our playing was in the old tenement building during the bright day, in the evening the fear of the nisse quietened it, and I don’t think any of the whole noisy flock had the courage to put his foot in the yard after twilight, without a companion. If, on the rare occasion, when the lady was out in the evening, we were allowed to come upstairs and listen to tales from the nanny, our movement was always as a flock and company. But the tiled corner by the stove in the parlour was the place where we were allowed to gather, when darkness fell; there were not too many of us, and the father of the house was in bed. Yes, there was a parlour and a tiled corner with a stove, which one would now have trouble finding. The parlour spread the entire depth and length of the house, with one exception; a partition wall separated an alcove, and a small, so-called office, with a desk and some ledgers. Inside, the father of the house sat in the evenings with a green screen above his eyes, and read in Wolff’s Journal, Riise’s Archive or Elmqvist’s Fruitful Reading, and sucked on his black-smoked meerschaum pipe. But the partition wall didn’t divide the parlour all the way across, it went just two-thirds of the way in; there it bent at a right angle, and left room for a large red-painted bench, and just opposite it stood the stove—a three-story stove with two large doors on the broad side. Inside was a flaming fire which was sufficient, and as cheese crusts and potatoes were cooked in the ashes and embers, we played quietly and talked carefully, so as not to disturb “father.” Occasionally, we got the farm boy to tell tales, and that was grand; sometimes the father of the house would also join us, and tell stories about hulders and nisses, and about trolls with noses so long that they reached down to the saddle button, or that they had to tie them in knots; or he told about the journeys of witches so the hair stood up on our heads. But he had to be in a really good mood, which he always was when he had taken some turns to the corner cabinet; from there we heard a secretive clinking sound and ringing as of glass, but what he really did there, none of us had been able to find out. Certainly, he grew redder and redder, and gladder and gladder with each turn, and then it might happen that one or another of us might dare to snatch at his shirt-tails to have a little chase; he just laughed and pursued the guilty one, and made the most incredible steps and turns with his glossy-booted legs.

If he came home late from the city, he was often sour and cross, scolding at the slightest noise, and he chased us out into the kitchen. So it was, one autumn evening that I remember very well. But on this evening, the kitchen was not a bad place of exile. Old Kari Gusdal was there, baking lefser and flat bread, as was the custom of the time in most houses where the master or the mother-in-law was from the countryside. And she was rich in legends and adventures, was old Kari; she told well, was rarely unwilling when we asked her, and gladly gave us a lefse as well.

A fire flared up in the hearth, which lighted the entire room, which was so dark and scary during the day. The girls went around, chatting with each other and minding their own business, and Ola the hand, who was from Soløy, like the houseowner, sat beside the fireplace, with a black-smoked nosewarmer in one corner of his mouth, and occasionally put a little more tobacco on the ember. His fresh appearance and powerful build formed a striking contrast to Kari Gusdal’s long, serious face and tall, dark, bent figure; she was as childlike as any, but now she looked merely ghostlike in the red light cast by the embers beneath the baking slab. When she sat by the baking board and rolled out the dough, spun the lefser to widen them, and turned them on to the skillet with the baking stick, she was most relaxed and willing to tell tales. This night she did not hesitate; when we asked her, she started to tell right away. She told slowly and thoughtfully and with unwavering earnestness, but so vividly that we thought we perceived both trolls and dragons and princes, and the whole land of tales; she encaptured our whole souls, so that we forgot everything—except the lefser that she had to pass to us in between the tales. I will not try to reproduce any of these stories; most of them, or some that resemble them, or that are similar, are now in print, and I have forgotten many of them, never to discover them again. And one of them, “Hans Who Travelled to China,” floats in indistinct, misty forms in my memory as one of the most glorious and imaginative tales I have ever heard; but it is futile to attempt to conjure it forth in its entirety. Perhaps it has also borrowed some of the greatness in which it now stands before me from the inclarity of a childish perception.

But however it was or wasn’t, Kari told tale after tale for a couple of hours. When she turned to nisse stories for a change, the houseowner came out and asked one of the girls for his sandwiches. Now there was sunshine and good times; his cheeks shone, he squinted happily with his glossy eyes, and there was no scorn, even when the girl replied that the lady had forgotten to leave the pantry key out before she went to the Grensehaven; he merely asked Kari Gusdal for a few lefser for dinner, in a pleasant manner.

“Yes, the houseowner shall surely have them,” replied old Kari; “But if I’m going to sit here and stuff all these blessed kids with both tales and lefser, then I’ll never be done with the baking, neither today nor tomorrow,” she continued, as she began to roll out a new lefse. “Won’t the houseowner allow them into the parlour, to free my hands? Ola kan tell, then, too.”

“Come Ola and help me, so we can chase these lefse-eaters and tale-tubs in,” said the master, and he started chasing and corralling us like one chases sheep or chickens. We were not at all afraid anymore, for now there was no sign of bad weather on his face, and as a diversion we gladly moved into the corner by the stove in the parlour; laughing noisily we tumbled in. When we came to rest here, Ola the hand, who had sat down on the edge of the wood box, began to tell all sorts of legends and stories from his home town—about the river folk who danced around will-o’-the-wisps, about the Dånås man and the Dånås woman, about the farm guardian who slew the hulder, about the mountain dog that always says “woof, woof, woof!” about how Margret Elset escaped the troll, and many more. It was easy to see that he amused himself and his master as much as us with these stories, which for both of them called forth images and memories of their youth. It was more a conversation between the two of them than telling for us; occasionally, the master also spoke up and corrected what was told, or told the like. But he did not forget to take a turn across to his lefser, away in the corner cupboard, and every time he returned, he smacked his lips, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and squinted even more gladly with his wet eyes.

He believed it was quite incredible, the story of Margret Elset who escaped from the mountain without the troll hitting her with the glowing iron rod it shot after her. “Well, I have not spoken with her, you see,” said the farm boy, “but she has told my mother many times, and I heard it from her. The houseowner may say what he pleases, but Simen the tailor’s boy, he was among the mountainfolk, I know so, because I heard it from his own mouth. The houseowner may not have known him perhaps, for he was probably here before the boy was born, but this Simen, he was the nephew of old Rasmus the tailor, who went from farm to farm, and tailored like a master with a whole staff.”

Yes, he had known him.

“Well, this Rasmus and the whole tailor-staff,” continued the farm boy, “they sat in Kåten which, as the houseowner knows, lies half a league north of Våler church. They tailored for Christmas, and rattled their scissors, they sang folksongs, they sewed so that the thread flew about them, and talked of needle and thread and flat irons, and Rasmus sometimes wondered what might have become of Simen, whom he had sent along a league of road or so, looking for some tailoring things. At length he came, but he had nothing with him, and he was as white as a white-washed wall.

“‘Well, now you shall hear it, both for sack and rope!’ said Rasmus. ‘Have you have fetched baptismal water and shod all the groundless stones, since you have been gone all day? You must have crawled just like a fly in a milk bucket! Where do you have the things and the sewing stuff? — What’s that, don’t you have anything? Now you listen here…’

“‘God bless you, uncle, you mustn’t scold,’ said Simen, ‘for I have been among the mountain folk.’

“But Rasmus the tailor didn’t quite believe in such, and he said, ‘No, now I have to laugh, said the man, when they signed his daughter up as a soldier,’ and he did; he laughed until he grew more crooked than he was. But when Simen told how things had gone, he understood he had to believe it.

“Just as he went along the king’s road, he said, and he thought he was far beyond half way, then it was just as if everything suddenly passed away, ‘and I thought I was standing outside the door here in Kåten again,’ he said. ‘But how this happened, I could not understand. It was fun, and that was just as well, for I was afraid to go in; but then I heard tailoring from inside, the rattling of scissors, and the singing of folksongs that we usually sing, and then I thought I had got lost, and that I was outside Kåten again. When I came in,’ he said, ‘I saw no craftsmen, but the Kåten-woman came to me with a silver mug and offered me a drink of beer.’ This he thought was strange, that was clear, for he had so clearly heard the rattle of the scissors from outside. So he understood things were wrong, and so he emptied the beer behind him and returned the mug to the woman. Immediately afterwards, someone opened the closet door, and he caught a glimpse in. There sat a whole flock of womenfolk around a table, and all of them had long, ugly cow tails, beneath their skirts, and one of them had a child on her arm. ‘When I got a look at them,’ he said, ‘I saw it was Anne Pers-Bråten, who was snatched away at Michaelsmas, and she who before had looked like the Kåten-woman, she had also got a long tail. Now I said that it was best I go,’ he said, ‘and so I grasped the door and said thank you for the visit.’

“‘Well, my boy,’ she said, offering me the silver mug of beer, ‘you wouldn’t come so easily from here, had you not had that on your finger,’ and she pointed at the silver ring, which I got after my grandmother. That was good.”

“Dear, yes, if I could correctly remember all fables I heard about changelings and the mountain-struck, and hulders and trolls and witches and the devil and his great-grandmother,” said the houseowner, “we wouldn’t be finished tonight; and if I told what I still know, then all these little ones would grow so scared that they wouldn’t dare go home tonight,” he continued, smacking at his tobacco pipe.

But none of us were afraid, we declared loudly; we certainly dared to hear the stories, even if they were about trolls with nine heads, for our strength was in our number, and the fire was burning so brightly in the stove that there was no darkness in any corner of the parlour. Well, if that were so, then he would tell. When he had cleared his voice and taken some deep drags from his tobacco pipe, he began a somewhat fumbling and insecure performance, with some small interruptions at times to tend to his pipe, and other times to visit the corner cabinet, and tell about the subterraneans.

“Somewhere in Solør there was, yes there was a wedding. They ate and they drank—like they always drink at weddings—and while they were drinking and eating, they heard a sound from a corner of the parlour. Of course, yes, it was like a laugh, the hoarse laughter of several people—but as they didn’t see anyone, and it came from a corner, where they could see, they understood they had uninvited guests at the feast. Of course, it was the subterraneans, for when in the olden days something that they couldn’t understand was going on, it was always the subterraneans who were abroad and had done it, and it wasn’t long between each time they saw them, how they travelled and went around with noses so long and red that they reached the saddle button.”

With that he drank a glass of beer and continued: “Of course, it was now also confirmed that it had been the subterraneans, who laughed hoarsely in the corner; for it happened, then, that a wife, who had connections to these subterraneans, came to speak with a hulder fellow, who of course lived in a mound close by, and who sometimes borrowed butter and milk and other things, but always paid properly again—when the womenfolk get to gossiping, then we know how things go—of course, no grain goes down a hen’s gullet without cackling—certainly, they also talked about the wedding.

“‘Well, it was scant fare there,’ said the hulder-maid, ‘everything was so crossed and crinkled, that we didn’t have a taste of any of it, for the meagre drops of soup that we caught between dish and mouth, were not even a mouthful. And we would have come hungry from the wedding farm, had not Hans Bergersen—he was the kitchen master—dropped a piece of meat down on the floor, which we fought over and pulled at. Old father was so eager for it, and tore it and strained at it, so that he fell on his back and turned his legs in the air; that was what we laughed at.’”

We listeners also laughed at this, and demanded more. Ole said he had heard the story and even knew to name bride, groom and their family, and the wife and several of the guests, but I no longer remember these names.

The master started again and said, “Watch now, for now there will be witch stories—Boo!

“It was in the olden days, of course, but it was a long after the time when the mountain cabins were built for the travellers who cross Dovrefjell, for there was someone who was going to cross the mountain at Christmas time, travelling south to Kristiania. He was supposed to drink to Christmas there, which was stupid of him, because of course they drink more and better at all times of the year in Trondheim than in Kristiania. But what was I saying? Yes, it was that when he came to one of the cabins—I think it was Kongsvoll—he should spend the night, and it was Christmas Eve. He came in, and of course the fire was burnimg, and it was comfotable, and good and warm, as well a traveller might need; but on a stool in front of the hearth sat a big black cat, staring at him. He had never seen such a cat, it was so big and black and sleek that it gleamed, and its eyes shone like embers, and when he looked from it and looked at it again, of course, they were as large as tin plates. But there were no folk, neither to see nor to hear, for it was Christmas Eve. Well, he sat down and thought all sorts of things. But just as he sat, a cat came rushing through the door after the other. This he thought was a shame and uncanny, and he began to chase them out; but, of course, for every cat that he chased out, two–three came in again. This would do no good but to fill the cabin, and so he gave up, and sat down to wait for his guide, who had gone to another cabin to find folk. Well, he had found folk, and the first thing he said when he came in, of course, was:

“‘Now you’re going to hear some news, father; yesterday morning, the parson’s wife at Lesja fell down the stabbur steps and broke her thigh bone, and they said she wouldn’t live the night.’

“‘What’s that?’ said the big cat sitting on the stool by the hearth; ‘If the great puss is dead, then the regiment of course belongs to me.’

“Then he understood that he was among witches, because of course Dovrefjell has always been just as good for witches’ meetings as Blocksberg.”

This was rather an uncanny story, which caused us children to move closer together, yes, several also pulled their legs to them and gave an involuntary “Uff, I’m scared!” The fact that the stove had burned out, so that only a faint reddish cast fell from the embers into the large, creepy living room, gave our childish imaginations free rein, and made things even worse; for the strip of light from the office door, caused only a slight twilight at the other end of the room.

It was otherwise strange how the narrator improved during the story; the performance grew more secure, his words and expressions more illustrative, only sometimes something came out a little backwards; but at the same time his gait and movements became more and more unsteady and fumbling, and towards the end he had to sit down. He reiterated: “You must not be afraid. What is this kind of prank? It is nothing but talk and fable, you know that, don’t you? Now, here is one that is much worse.”

No objections helped, no “uff!” or “huff!” He gave us the choice of nothing to listen to, or to listen to the stories he wanted to tell, and we preferred to listen to the most horrible above the even more horrible silence and quiet of the creepy darkness that brooded over us. So he began on a new story:

“There was a parson and a parson’s wife who had come up from Denmark, and many came from there in the olden days. But these parson-folk I am talking about were of course so bothered by rats that they lay on rats and trod on rats, and wherever they went, they touched rats.”

Now, several of us fancied that they began to crawl and creep around us; anxious exclamations and suppressed laughter interrupted the story.

“The rats got into everything, even stealing away food; they did nothing but mischief. But one Sunday afternoon it got worse than you can imagine, for of course, they got into the cauldron that stood boiling in the hearth, wanting to pull out the portions of back out of it. But the cook thought this too bad, and of course she took a ladle full of boiling fat and poured it over their backs, and struck at them.

“Soon afterwards one of the neighbors came and asked the parson if he could have something that was good for burns, for his wife had burnt her back terribly, and of course it wasn’t long before another came to for a cure for a burnt back and burnt thighs and burned everywhere, and so it went all afternoon; one neighbor came after the other. Then they could understand they were witches.”

Before he had spoken the whole word, there was terrible commotion from upstairs; it sounded like a table of glasses, plates and other things had been overturned in the lieutenant’s room. But we had all heard that he was not at home; indeed, many of us had even seen him go out, and there was therefore even worse noise in the parlour; for frightened as we were, we all screamed over one another: “There they are! There they are!”

“Yes, they’re taking the lieutenant off with them; let them take him and have him!” said the houseowner, breaking into a clucking laugh, which did not seem to want to end. However, as we children were not reassured, a candle was lit and one of the girls was called in and asked what the noise upstairs was. She said it had to be the nanny who had knocked over the fireside companion with a wood basket, for the lieutenant had gone out.

Now Ole offered to tell a little tale about Goodman Bear who took the sleigh, and this offer was received with pleasure above all the horror.

“There was farmer who went into the mountains for a load of hay to feed his cattle through the winter. When he came to the haystacks, he backed the sleigh and horse up tight, went into the stacks, and began to turn the hay down on to the sleigh. But there was a bear in the hay, lying there in hibernation, and when it felt that the man began moving around, it charged out, right on to the sleigh. When the horse got wind of the bear, it was frightened, and bolted down the mountain, as if it had stolen both the bear and the sleigh; he wasted no time—that was fine—and it ran many times faster on the way down than when it had come up. The bear has a reputation for never being scared, but he was less than pleased with his sleigh-ride, where he sat; he held on tight, as best he could, and glared around him, looking for an opportunity to throw himself off; but he wasn’t used to sledding, and he found none.

“When he had driven a good while, he met a merchant.

“‘Where in the name of God are you off to today?’ said the merchant. ‘He surely has but little time and a long journey before him, since he is driving so quickly.’

“But the bear answered not a word, you understand; he had enough to do, holding on tightly.

“After a while, he met a peasant woman. She greeted him, bobbed her head, and begged a shilling in the name of the Lord. The bear said nothing, but holding on tightly, he drove on as fast as the sleigh would carry him.

“When he had come a way farther down, he met Mikkel the fox.

“‘Hello there. Are you out for a drive?’ called Mikkel. ‘Slow down a little; let me sit on the back and hitch a lift.’

“The bear answered not a word, but holding on tightly, he drove as fast as the horse could run.

“‘Well! If you won’t take me with you, then I conjure that though today you drive as a fur-dressed cad, tomorrow you’ll hang with your back unclad,’ screamed the fox after him. The bear heard not a word of what Mikkel said; he drove just as quickly as before.

“When the horse came to the farm, he galloped into the stall at full tilt, so that he shed both harness and sleigh, and the bear struck his skull on the beam of the door and dropped down dead on the spot.

“The farmer had remained in the haystacks, loading hay, until he judged that he had a full load on the sleigh. But when he came to tie the load down, he discovered that he had neither horse nor sleigh, you understand. Then he had to trudge down the road to recover his horse.

“After a while, he met the merchant.

“‘Have you seen any horse and sleigh?’ he said to the merchant.

“‘No,’ said the merchant, ‘but I saw the bailiff down here. He drove so fast, he must have been on his way to flay someone.’

“After a while, he met the peasant woman.

“‘Have you met any horse and sleigh?’ he said to the peasant woman.

“‘No,’ said the woman, ‘but I met the parson down here. He must have been on parish business, he drove so fast. He was riding with a farmer.’

“After a while, the farmer met the fox.

“‘Have you seen any horse and sleigh?’ said the farmer.

“‘Yes,’ answered Mikkel, ‘but Goodman Bear sat on it, and drove as if he had stolen both horse and sleigh.’

“‘The devil take him! He will drive my horse to death,’ said the farmer.

“‘Pull off his skin, then, and roast him over the embers,’ said Mikkel. ‘But should you recover your horse, would you take me over the mountain? I can be a good travelling companion,’ said the fox, ‘and I would like the experience of having four legs before me.’

“‘What will you give me for the ride?’ said the farmer.

“‘You may have either wet or dry,’ said the fox. ‘You’ll always have as much from me as from Goodman Bear, for he is unusually greedy when he steals a ride, and hangs on to the back of the horse.’

“‘Yes, you shall have a ride over the mountain,’ said the farmer. ‘Just you meet me here tomorrow.’ He understood that Mikkel was tricking him, you understand, and was playing a prank.

“So he took a loaded gun with him on the sleigh, and when Mikkel came, thinking he would ride for nothing, he received a charge of shot in his carcass, and then the farmer drew his pelt off him, so he had both bearskin and fox pelt.”

While there was talk back and forth about these two heroes of the fable, the houseowner said he was going to tell us about someone who was out on a Christmas journey, and that was the troll with the trotting trousers.

“My aunt,” he said, “was from Stadsbygden in Trondheim, and of course, there was an annex church called the Monastery. In this church there was a goblet, and I suppose it is still there, for she had seen it herself, and drunk wine from it, and it was very heavy and splendidly plated both inside and out, it was given one Christmas day in olden times, and of course it happened like this: there was a man who was going to go there for Lauds on Christmas Eve. He went on skis, as everyone does in the mountain villages during the winter, but as he ran past a mountain, of course a door opened, and out came a troll with a nose as long as a rake handle, and with a great goblet in his fist, and bade him drink from it. He dared do nothing but receive it from him, but he knew that whoever drank such a troll drink, he was as good as dead, for it was stronger than the strongest spirits, but he knew what to do; he tipped the drink behind him and then he could see how strong it was, for a drop splashed on one of his skis, and of course, it burned a hole in it. When he had done this, he set off and took off with the goblet.

“‘Just you wait until I put on my trotting trousers, and I’ll certainly get you!’ cried the troll. But the man skied as quickly as he could, and promised that if he could save himself and the goblet from the troll, then he would offer it on the altar on Christmas Day. He went so fast down the slopes that he thought he didn’t touch the ground for long stretches; but the troll came trotting after him, and it trotted so quickly in its trousers that it finally sat on his back.

“The man prayed to God that he would come well from this, and when he was a distance from the church the day dawned. ‘Well, look at the red–gold horse on the hillside!’ said the man. Then the troll let go, and immediately it burst. But don’t be too sure—for trolls walk again.”

“There it is! There it is! And there it is!” he shouted and tickled and poked those of us he could get hold of. The whole company got up, screaming and laughing noisily, and repaid him by pulling at his shirt tails and hanging on his legs, as he with uncertain steps staggered across the floor. The result was that he tumbled amidst the company, and his pipe flew in one direction, while his wig went in another. His fall increased our laughter and noise, which grew even more when one of the smallest of the company started crying, “because father has pulled his hair off.”

The old man, however, began to complain that he had hurt himself, and he asked Ole to take us up to the nursery, as it was too early to send us home.

“Yes, go up to Anne now,” said Ole, “and I’ll tell you about the princess who served the king, east of the sun and west of the moon, on a parade ground behind the tower of Babylon.”

We set off bravely, for we were many; but we didn’t get a candle because we going past the hayloft, and when we came to the hayloft-passage, our manly courage failed. One of us thought he saw two glowing eyes in there, and the whole flock of boys streamed giddily towards the lieutenant’s door, which was closer than the nursery door. It was apparently not locked properly, because it yielded, and several of us tumbled in across the floor.

The stove inside burned and crackled, and a strip of light fell from the hole in the stove into the room and onto a strange shrouded figure, bowed down beneath the divan table, to get to the other side and fall upon us, or so we thought. But this was not the worst thing. From the couch came an awful oath: “God’s death, I’ll tan your very hide!”

It was no more than six paces to the nursery door, but as one we all charged past the hayloft passage, down the stairs again, and heard in horror as the lieutenant’s door was slammed shut so that it rattled. Nothing in the world that night could make us go upstairs again; it was a close thing that we dared go home, each to his own.

When the sexton the next afternoon stuck his red face, with three well-dressed curls of hair behind each ear, out through his open window, he waved me over to him, and when he had asked me, and had received a careful account of what had happened the previous night, he said :

“Tell me, my son, did you perhaps notice what manner of ghost it really was?”

Hahaugen

Up in Gol in Hallingdal, shortly before the main road divides to Ål and Hemsedal, there is a large, tall mound that has a distinctive shape; it is called Hahaugen. Mound folk have always dwelt therein, and to this day people in the village hear music and songs from the mound.

But one Christmas Eve in the olden days, a peasant boy, Gudbrand Golberg, skied away to the mound, for he wanted to see how the mound folk marked Christmas. The mound opened up before him, and out came a girl with blonde hair, and wearing a blue skirt, and she was so beautiful that he had never seen her match. She offered him a large horn of a Christmas drink; but when he took the horn and glanced down into it, Gudbrand was afraid to drink, for the drink was like fire and flame. He poured it behind him, over his shoulder; it fizzed in the snow and hissed on his skis, for a drop that splashed burned a hole right through. With that let himself go down the slopes with the horn, and the old troll screamed: “Well, just you wait until I put on my trotting trousers!”

Even though Gudbrand gave it everything, it wasn’t long before he heard the troll trotting and trotting so that he thought it must be just behind his skis, ready to grab him by his neck. But by then he wasn’t far from home, either.

Then the Golberg troll called out of the Golberg boulder: “Run on the tilled, and not on the trodden, Gudbrand!” He understood that to mean that he had to stick to the parts of the field that were furrowed, and where the soil had been blessed when the crop was planted; the troll would have no power there. Gudbrand obeyed, for here he knew every stone. The troll followed him along the edges of the fields and threatened and swore that if it did not recover the horn, it would trouble the folk of Golberg to the ninth generation. But then the sun rose, and then the troll stood there as log and stone.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

The Seven Foals

There was once upon a time a poor couple; they lived in a wretched cabin far away in the forest, and they had no more than that they lived from the hand to mouth, and with want and hardship, too. But they had three sons, and the youngest of them was Askeladden, for he did nothing but lie about, raking the ashes.

One day the eldest boy said he wanted to go into service. He was immediately allowed, and so he went out into the world. He walked and he walked all day, and when evening came, he arrived at a king’s farm. The king stood on the stairs and asked where he was going.

“Oh, I’m just looking for somewhere to go into service, father,” said the boy.

“Do you want to serve me, and herd my seven foals?” asked the king. “If you can herd them a whole day, and tell me in the evening what they eat and drink, then you shall have the princess and half the kingdom; but if you can’t, then I shall cut three red stripes into your back.”

Well, the boy thought this would be easy work; he would certainly manage it, he said.

In the morning, when the day had dawned, the stable master slipped the seven foals. They ran away and the boy ran after them; and it may well have been that they went over mountain and valley, through bushes and scrub. When the boy had run like this for a good while, he began to grow tired, and when he had continued a while more, he was done with all his herding. And just like that he came to a mountain cleft, where an old woman sat, spinning on a drop spindle. When she saw the boy, running after the foals until the sweat ran, the woman shouted, “Come here, come here, my dear son, and I shall nitpick you!” The boy would like that; he sat in the mountain cleft with the woman, and laid his head in her lap, and then she nitpicked him all day, while he lay there lazily.

As the evening drew close, the boy wanted to go; “I may as well wander straight back home,” he said, “for there is no use in my going to the king’s farm.”

“Stay a little in the dark,” said the woman, “and the king’s foals will come before us here. Then you can run home with them again; no one knows that you have been lying here all day instead of herding the foals.”

When they arrived, she gave the boy a water jar and a patch of moss; he should show the king these, and say it was what the seven foals ate and drank.

“Have you now been herding faithfully and well all day?” said the king, when the boy appeared before him in the evening.

“Yes, I certainly have,” said the boy.

“Then I suppose you can tell me what my seven foals eat and drink,” said the king.

Well, the boy showed him the water jar and the patch of moss he had got from the woman. “There you see their food, and there you see their drink,” said the boy.

But then the king understood how he had herded, and he grew so angry that he commanded them to chase him out again that very moment, but first they should cut three red stripes into his back and rub salt into them.

When the boy returned home, you can imagine how it was to meet him; he had gone out into service once, he said, but he never would again.

The next day the second son said he wanted to go out into the world and try his luck. His parents said no, and bade him look at his brother’s back, but the boy did not give up; he insisted. And at length he was allowed to go, and so he set off.

When he had walked all day, he too came to the king’s farm, and there was the king, standing on the porch; he asked where he was going, and when the boy replied that he was looking for somewhere to go into service, the king said he could serve him, and herd his seven foals. And then the king set the same punishment and same wages for him as he had set for his brother. Well, the boy was immediately willing; he went into service with the king, for he would be able to take care of the foals and tell the king what they ate and drank, he said.

In the gray light of morning the stable master slipped the seven foals; they ran off over mountain and valley, with the boy behind. But things went just as well with him as with his brother; when he had run after the foals for a long, long time, so that he was both sweaty and tired, he passed by a cleft. An old woman was sitting there, spinning on a drop spindle, and she called to the boy: “Come here, come here, my dear son, and I shall nitpick you!” This seemed good to the boy; he let the foals run on their way and sat down in the cleft with the woman. Then he sat, and then he lay, and lazed around the whole day.

When the foals returned in the evening, he also got a patch of moss and a water jar from the woman, which he was to show the king. But when the king asked the boy, “Can you tell me what the seven foals eat and drink?” and the boy held out the patch of moss and water jar and said, “Well, here you see their food, and here you see their drink.” The king grew angry again, and bade them cut three red stripes into his back and rub salt in them, and then chase him home at once.

When the boy came home again, he too told how things had gone for him, and he said that he had gone out into service once, but he never would again.

On the third day, Askeladden wanted to go on his way; he wanted to try to herd the seven foals, too, he said.

The others laughed and made fun of him: “As things went the way they did with us, then we’re sure you will manage it! That’s likely; you who never has done anything but lying in the ashes, digging!” they said.

“Well, I want to go on my way anyway,” said Askeladden, “now that I’ve got it into my head.” And no matter how the others laughed and how his parents begged, it didn’t help; Askeladden went on his way.

When he had walked all day, he too came to the king’s farm at twilight. There wasthe king, standing on the porch, and he asked where he was going.

“I am looking for somewhere to go into service,” said Askeladden.

“Where are you from, then?” asked the king, for now he wanted a little better understanding, before he took anyone into service.

Askeladden told him where he was from, and said he was the brother of the two who had herded the king’s seven foals. And then he asked if he couldn’t try to herd them the following day.

“Indeed,” said the king—he grew so angry if they but came to mind, “if you are the brother of those two, then you are not good for much, either; I have had enough of that sort!”

“Yes, but since I have come here now, I might as well try, too,” said Askeladden.

“Oh well, if you really want your back flayed, then it’s all the same to me,” said the king.

“I’d rather have the king’s daughter,” said Askeladden.

In the morning, in the twilight, the stable master slipped the seven foals again, and they went over mountains and valleys, through bushes and scrub, and Askeladden went after them.

When he had run like this for a good while, he too came to the cleft; there sat the old woman again, spinning on her drop spindle, and she shouted to Askeladden: “Come here, come here, my dear son, and I shall nitpick you!” she said.

“Kiss me behind, kiss me behind!” said Askeladden, as he jumped and ran, and held on to a foal’s tail.

When he had come past the cleft, the youngest foal said: “Sit upon my back, for we have a long way to go.” And he did so.

Then they travelled a long, long way more. “Do you see anything now?” said the foal.

“No,” said Askeladden.

They then travelled a good distance still.

“Do you see anything now?” asked the foal.

“Oh, no,” said the boy.

When they had travelled a long, long distance, the foal asked again: “Do you see anything now?”

“Yes, now I think I see something white,” said Askeladden. “It looks like a great big birch stump.”

“Yes, that’s where we are going in,” said the foal.

When they came to the stump, the oldest foal broke it aside. Then there was a door where the stump had stood; inside was a small parlour and in the parlour was nothing but a small hearth and a couple of stools; but behind the door hung a large, rusty sword and a small jar.

“Can you wield the sword?” asked the foal.

Askeladden tried, but he couldn’t; then he had to take a sip from the jar, first once, then once again, and then once more still, and then he could handle it as if it were nothing.

“Yes, now you have to take the sword with you,” said the foal; “with that you shall cut off the heads of all seven of us on your wedding day, then we will be princes again, as we were before. For we are brothers of the princess you will have when you can tell the king what we eat and drink; a foul troll has thrown this form on us. When you have cut off our heads, be careful to put each head by the tail of the body on which it sat, and the magic will have no more power over us.

Askeladden promised, and so they went on.

When they had travelled a long, long way, the foal asked: “Do you see anything?”

“No,” said Askeladden.

So they travelled for a good while still. “And now?” asked the foal. “Do you see anything now?”

“Oh, no,” said Askeladden.

Then they travelled many, many leagues more, both over mountains and valleys. “Now then?” said the foal. “Don’t you see anything yet?”

“Yes,” said Askeladden, “now I see something like a strip that grows blue, far, far away.”

“Yes, that is a river, that is,” said the foal; “we shall cross it.”

Across the river was a beautiful long bridge, and when they were on the other side, they again travelled a long, long distance. Then the foal asked again if Askeladden did not see anything.

Well, this time he saw something darkening, far away, as if it were a church tower.

“Yes, we’ll be going in there,” said the foal.

When the foals entered the cemetery, they became human again and looked like king’s sons, with such fine clothes that they gleamed; and then they went into the church, and there they received bread and wine from the parson, who stood before the altar. Askeladden also went in; but after the parson had laid his hands on the princes, and had given them the blessing, they left the church again, and Askeladden did so, too; but he took with him a bottle of wine and a loaf of altar bread. And as soon as the seven sons of the king came out into the cemetery, they turned into foals again. Then Askeladden sat on the back of the youngest, and then they went back the same way they had come, but much, much faster. First, they travelled across the bridge, then past the stump, and then past the woman who sat in the mountain cleft, spinning; and they went so fast that Askeladden could not hear the woman calling for him, but even so, he heard enough to understand that she was terribly angry.

It was almost dark when they returned to the king’s farm in the evening, and the king himself stood in the yard waiting for them.

“Have you now herded faithfully all day?” said the king to Askeladden.

“I’ve done my best, I have,” said Askeladden.

“So can you tell me what my seven foals eat and drink?” asked the king.

Askeladden took out the altar bread and the wine bottle, and showed the king.

“There you can see their food, and there you see their drink,” he said.

“Yes, you have herded faithfully and well,” said the king, “and you shall have the princess and half the kingdom.”

Then preparations were made for a wedding, and it should be so stately and bountiful that it would be both heard of and asked of, said the king. But as they were sitting at the wedding table, the groom got up and went down into the stable, for he had forgotten something there, and he had to fetch it, he said.

When he came down, he did as the foals had said, and cut off their heads, all seven of them, first the oldest, and then all the others, according to their age. And then he took care to put each head by the tail of the foal it had been sitting on. And as he did so, they became princes again.

When he came back in to the wedding table with the seven princes, the king was so happy that he both kissed and patted Askeladden; and his bride loved him even more than she had before. “You have half the kingdom now,” said the king, “and you will receive the other half after my death, for my sons, they can procure themselves land and kingdoms, now that they have become princes again.” So it may be that there was joy and fun at that wedding.

I was also there, but there was no one who gave me thought; I got nothing but a slice of bread with butter on, and I put it on the oven, and the bread burned, and the butter ran, and I never had a crumb.1


  1. The original speaks of a slice of cake, but a reliable source tells me it is in fact bread. 

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

The Man’s Daughter and the Woman’s Daughter

There were once a couple of folk who had married; each had their own daughter. The woman’s daughter was bored and lazy and would never do anything, and the daughter of the man was clever and willing; but even so, she could never make her mother laugh, and both the woman and her daughter wanted to be rid of her. So there was once that both of them went to the well, to spin; the woman’s daughter should spin flax, but the man’s daughter had nothing but bristles. “You are always so clever and reliable,” said the woman’s daughter, “but even so, I’m not afraid to spin against you.” Well, they agreed together that the one who first broke their thread would jump in the well. Just like that, the man’s daughter broke her thread and so she had to jump in the well. But when she came to the bottom, she did not hurt herself, and far and wide around, she saw nothing other than a beautiful green meadow.

She walked a little way across the meadow, and then she came to a hedge; she would cross that. “Oh, don’t tread so heavily on me,” said the hedge, “and I’ll help you another time, I will.” She made herself as light as a feather and stepped so gently that she hardly even came close to it.

Then she went a bit farther, and she came to a branded cow that went around with a milk bucket hanging from its horns; it was a big, beautiful cow, and its udder was full and stiff. “Oh, please milk me,” said the cow, “for I am so full of milk; drink as much as you like, and pour the rest on my hoofs, and I’ll help you back, I will.”

The man’s daughter she did as the cow bade her; she merely took hold of the teats, and the milk splashed in the bucket. Then she drank her fill, and she poured the rest on its hoofs, and she hung the bucket back on the cow’s horns.

When she had gone for a while farther through the meadow, she met a large ram, and it had such thick and long wool that it pulled it along behind it where it went, and a big pair of shear hung from one horn. “Oh, shear me,” said the ram, “for here I go panting from all this wool, for it is so hot that I am ready to suffocate. Take as much as you want and wind the rest around my neck, and I’ll help you back.” Well, she was immediately willing, and the ram lay down in her lap, and it lay so still, and she sheared it so nicely that it didn’t even get the slightest scratch in its skin. Then she took as much as she wanted of the wool, and the rest she wound around the ram’s neck.

A little farther on she came to an apple tree, and it was so full of apples that all the branches were bent to the ground, and in by the trunk there was a small staff. “Oh, please, pick the apples from me,” said it, “so that my branches can be straight, for it is wearying to stand so crooked; but strike gently and carefully, so that you do not beat me up; eat as much as you want, and put the rest in by my roots, and I’ll help you back, I will.” Well, she picked those she could reach, and then she took the staff and carefully knocked the others down; then she ate well, and she laid the rest nicely by its roots.

Then she went a long, long way, and then she came to a large farm. There lived a troll-hag with her daughter. She went in and asked if she could go into service. “Oh, that won’t do any good,” said the troll-hag; “We have had many, but none of them were any good.”

But she asked so beautifully that in the end they took her into service. Yes, they took her, and the troll-hag gave her a grain sieve and bade her fetch water in it. She thought it was unreasonable to fetch water in a grain sieve, but she went anyway, and when she came to the well, the small birds sang:

“Smear in clay,
stick in straw!
Smear in clay,
stick in straw!”

Well, she did so, and then she could carry water in the grain sieve quite well; but when she came home with the water, and the troll-hag saw her, she said, “You have not suckled this at your own breast!” Then the troll-hag said she should to go to the barn and muck it out and do the milking; But when she got there, the shovel was so big and heavy that she couldn’t use it; she couldn’t even move it. She didn’t know what to do; but the birds sang that she should take the broom and throw out a little, and all the rest would follow. She did so, and it was hardly done before the barn was as clean as if it had been both mucked out and swept. Now she had to milk the cows; but they were so uneasy, they both kicked and bucked, so she couldn’t get close enough to milk them. But then the birds sang outside:

“Small stream,
squirt a little sip
to all the little birds!”

Well, she did so, she squirted a small stream of milk to the little birds, and then all the cows stood still and let her milk them, and they neither bucked nor kicked; they didn’t even lift a foot.

When the troll-hag saw her come in, she said, “You haven’t suckled this at your own breast! But take this black wool, now, and wash it white.” The girl did not know at all how she should finish this; she had never seen anyone wash black wool white; but still, she said nothing. She took the wool and went out to the well with it. Then the little birds sang that she should take the wool and put it up in the big bucket that stood there, and then it would become white enough.

“No, no,” said the troll-hag when she came back in with the wool, “you’re no use at all; you can do whatever is wanted. You are going to annoy the life out of me; it’s best I be rid of you!”

Then the troll-hag set out three boxes, one red, one green and one blue, and she was allowed to take the one she wanted, and that would be her wage. She didn’t know what to do, but the little birds sang:

“Don’t take the green,
don’t take the red;
but take the blue,
that we have put
three crosses on to!”

She took the blue, as the birds sang. “Please yourself, then!” said the troll-hag, “you will have to make up for that!”

When the man’s daughter should leave, the troll-hag shot a glowing iron rod after her; but she slipped behind the door, just like that, and hid, so that it did not hit her; for the little birds had told her how she should behave herself. She went on now as fast as she could; but when she came across to the apple tree, she heard the road rumbling; it was the troll-hag and her daughter who came after her. The girl was so scared she didn’t know where she should go.

“Come here to me, you” said the apple tree, “and I’ll help you; go beneath my branches and hide, for if they grab hold of you, they will take the box from you and tear you to death.”

Well, she did so, and just like that, then the hag and her daughter came.

“Have you seen a girl walking about here, you?” said the troll-hag.

“Oh yes,” said the apple tree, “one ran past a while ago, but she is so far away now that you will never catch her up.”

Then the troll-hag turned around and returned home.

The girl walked a way farther, but when she came across to the ram, she heard it began to rumble again, so that she didn’t know where to put herself, so scared and terrified she was; for she could guess it was the troll-hag again.

“Come here to me, and I’ll help you,” said the ram; “hide under my wool, and they won’t see you; otherwise, they will take the casket from you and tear you to death.”

Just like that, the troll-hag came travelling.

“Have you seen a girl walking about here, you?” she said to the ram.

“Oh yes,” said the ram, “I saw one a while ago, but she ran so quickly that you will never catch her up.”

So the troll-hag turned around and went home.

When the girl had come as far as to the cow, she heard it begin to rumble again.

“Come here to me, you,” said the cow, “and I’ll help you, hide beneath my udder; otherwise, the troll-hag will come and take the box from you and tear you to death.”

It wasn’t long before she came. “Have you seen a girl walking about here, you?” said the troll-hag to the cow.

“Yes, I saw one a while ago, but she is far away by now, because she ran so fast; you probably won’t catch her up,” said the cow. The troll-hag turned around, then, and returned home.

When the girl had come a long, long way along, and she was not far from the hedge, she heard it began to rumble again, and she was both scared and terrified; for she knew it was the troll-hag who had turned around again.

“Come here to me, and I’ll help you,” said the hedge; “creep beneath my twigs so they don’t see you; otherwise, they’ll take the box from you and tear you to death.” Well, she went in beneath the twigs in the hedge.

“Have you seen a girl walking about here, you?” said the troll-hag to the hedge.

“No, I haven’t seen any girl,” replied the hedge, and was so angry that it hissed, and then it made itself so big that there was no way to cross it; and so there was nothing for the troll-hag to do but turn around and return home.

When the man’s daughter had safely come home, both the woman and her daughter grew even more envious of her than they had been before, for now she was even more beautiful, and so fair that it was a pleasure to see her. She was not allowed to remain inside with them; they chased her out to the pigsty, where she should stay. She washed it out until it was nice and clean, and then she opened the box, for she wanted to see what she had received for her wage; and as soon as she opened it, there was so much gold and silver and so many precious things in it, that the walls and the ceiling were hanging full, and it was a lot finer in the pigsty than in the costliest of king’s farm. When her stepmother and daughter saw this, they were astounded, and started to pry, asking how she had fared in service. “Oh,” she said, “you understand that, since I have received such a wage, that they were such folk, and such a wife to serve that there is not her like.”

Well, then the woman’s daughter would also go into service, so that she could also get such a box of gold. They then sat down to spin again; but now the woman’s daughter should spin the bristles and the man’s daughter should spin flax, and the one whose thread broke first would go down the well. It didn’t take long before the woman’s daughter’s thread broke, you know, and so they threw her into the well.

Now things went just the same way; she fell to the bottom, but didn’t hurt herself, and then she came to a beautiful, green meadow. When she had walked for a while, she came to the hedge.

“Don’t tread heavily upon me, you, and I’ll help you in return,” it said.

“Oh, what do I care about a heap of twigs?” she said, making herself heavy and treading onto the hedge so that it began to crack.

In a little while she came to the cow, which needed milking.

“Please milk me, you,” said the cow, “and I’ll help you back; drink as much as you want, but pour the rest on my hoofs.”

Well, she did so: she milked the cow, and then she drank as much as she could, and then there was nothing left to pour on its hoofs, and the bucket she threw across the ground.

When she had walked a way farther, she came to the ram that went about, pulling its wool behind it.

“Please, please shear me, and I will serve you back, I will,” said the ram. “Take as much of the wool as you want, and wrap the rest around my neck.”

She did so, but she was so careless that she cut big holes in its skin, and she took all the wool with her.

After a little while she came to the apple tree, which stood quite crooked, bearing its apples.

“Please, pick my apples, so that my branches may straighten, for it is wearying to stand so crooked,” said the apple tree. “But be careful so that you do not beat me up; eat as much as you like, but put the rest neatly by my roots; and I’ll help you back.”

She plucked off the closest, and then she beat down those she could reach with the rod; but she didn’t care about anything, and tore and knocked down big branches, and ate until she could manage no more, and then she threw the rest beneath the tree.

When she had walked for a little distance, she came to the farm where the troll-hag lived; she asked to go into service. The troll-hag said she didn’t want any maid, either they were good for nothing, or they were far too clever and cheated her out of what she had. The woman’s daughter did not give in, but said she wanted to go into service, and so the troll-hag said she would take her in, if she was good for anything.

The first thing she had to do was fetch water in the grain sieve. So she went to the well and poured water into the grain sieve; but as fast as she poured it in, it ran out again. Then the birds sang:

“Smear in clay,
stick in straw!
Smear in clay,
stick in straw!”

But she didn’t care what the birds said; she threw clay at the birds, so that they flew far away, and then she had to go home again with the empty grain sieve, and was scrubbed by the troll-hag.

Then she should muck out the barn and milk the cows, but she was certainly too good for that, she thought. Even so, she went to the barn; but when she got there, she couldn’t at all manage the shovel, so big it was. The birds said the same to her as they had to the man’s daughter, that she should take the broomstick and throw out a little, so the rest would follow; but she took the broomstick and threw it at the birds. When she went to do the milking, the cows were so uneasy that they bucked and kicked, and every time she had a little in the bucket, they knocked it over. The birds sang:

“Small stream,
squirt a little sip
to all the little birds!”

But she beat and struck the cows, threw and slung everything she came across at the birds, and carried herself so things were quite different. And she neither mucked out nor milked. When she came in, the troll-hag both struck and scolded her. And then, when she should wash the black wool white; things didn’t go any better.

The troll-hag thought this was too bad, and so she set forth three boxes, one red, one green and one blue, and said that she had no need for her; she was good for nothing in the world. But even so, as her wage she should be allowed to take the box she wanted. Then the birds sang:

“Don’t take the green,
don’t take the red;
but take the blue,
that we have put
three crosses on to!”

She didn’t care what the birds were singing, but took the red one, which she had been staring at the most, and then she went home. And she got to go in peace and quiet; no one was following her. When she got home, her mother was very happy, and they immediately went into the great parlour and put the box there, because they thought there was nothing but gold and silver in it, and they thought that walls and the ceiling would be gilded. But when they opened the box, only worms and toads squirmed out, and when the woman’s daughter opened her mouth, it was just the same: both worms and toads tumbled out, and all the abominations that may be imagined, so it was a bad idea to stay in the house with her in the end. This was the wage she received for serving the troll-hag.

Friday, 29 March 2019

The Three King’s Daughters in the Mountain Blue

There was once upon a time a king and a queen who had no children, and they took this so badly that they hardly ever had a happy moment.

One day the king stood on the porch looking out over the big fields and everything else he owned. This was enough, and more than enough; but he didn’t think he could take any joy in it, for he didn’t know what would become of it all after his time. As he stood there reflecting, a poor old woman came, who went begging in the name of God. She greeted him and curtseyed, and asked what the matter was with the king, since he looked so unhappy.

“It’s something you cannot do anything about, my woman,” said king, “ so there’s no point in my explaining it to you.”

“That may well be,” said the beggar woman. “It often takes little to make us happy. The king is thinking about how he has no heir to his land and kingdom; but he does not have to make sure of that,” she said. He would have three daughters with his queen, but he would have to look after them well, and make certain that they didn’t come out beneath the naked sky until they were fifteen years old; otherwise a flurry of snow would come and take them.

When the time came, the queen was confined and had a beautiful baby girl; the following year things went just the same way, and the third year too. The king and queen were so happy that there was no end to it; but no matter how glad the king was, he still remembered to set a guard on the cabin door.

As the king’s daughters grew, they became both beautiful and fair, and they were good and well in every way. The only thing was that they weren’t allowed to go out and play like other children. But no matter how they begged and asked their parents, and no matter how they nagged at the guard, it did no good; they must not go out before they were all fifteen years old.

Then came a day, not long before the youngest king’s daughter was to turn fifteen. The king and the queen were out driving in the good weather, and the princesses stood at the window, looking out. The sun was shining, and everything was so green and beautiful that they thought they had to go out—things would have to go as they went. So they begged and hung over the guard, the three of them, and bade him let them down into the garden; he could see how warm and beautiful it was himself—there could never be winter weather on such a day. Well, he didn’t think so, either, the guard, and as they insisted they had to go out, they might well go, he said; but it should only be for a short moment, and he would be there himself, to take care of them. When they came down to the garden, they sprang both high and low and picked their laps full of flowers and greenery, the most beautiful of what they found. At last they could not do any more; but as they were about to go in, they caught sight of a great rose at the other end of the garden. It was many times more beautiful than all the others they had found, so they simply had to have it. But as soon as they bent themselves down, to pick the rose, a huge, dense flurry of snow came, and they were gone.

There was great sorrow across the whole land, and the king had it announced from every church mound, that the one who could save the princesses would receive half the kingdom, and his golden crown, and the one he would have to wife. There were enough of those who wanted to win half a kingdom and a princess too, you may understand, and so both the prominent and the humble travelled out to every corner of the land. But there was none who could find the king’s daughters, nor even bring as much as any rumour of them.

When now all the great and mighty in the land had been out, there were a captain and a lieutenant who wanted to go on their way and make an attempt. Oh, yes! The king furnished them with both silver and gold, and wished them luck on their journey, too.

Then there was a soldier who lived with his mother in a small cabin some distance from the king’s farm. He dreamed one night that he was should go out to look for the princesses, too. In the morning he still sensed what he had dreamed, and talked about it with his mother. “This may well be some devilishness that has come to you,” said the woman; “You must dream the same three nights in a row, otherwise it doesn’t count.”

But it went just the same way the following nights, both times the same dream came again: he dreamed he should go out.

Then he washed, and pulled on his raiment, and went up into the kitchen at the king’s farm; it was only the day after the two had left.

“Go back home,” said the king; “The princesses hang too high for you,” he said. “And also I have paid out so much in travel expenses that there is nothing left today. You should rather come again another day.”

“If I am going, then I shall go today,” said the soldier. “I have no need of travel money; I want nothing but a dram in a bottle and food in a bag,” he said; but he had to have a good sack of food, as much meat and flesh as he could carry.

Yes, he would have that, if there was nothing else he wanted.

Then he set off, and he hadn’t walked many leagues before he caught up with the captain and lieutenant.

“Where are you going?” said the captain when he saw the raiment.

“I am going out to try to find the king’s daughters,” replied the soldier.

“We are, too,” said the captain. “And since you have the same errand, you may go with us; for if we don’t find them, then you certainly won’t find them, my boy!” he said.

When they had walked together for a while, the soldier took off from the highway, on to a footpath in the forest.

“Where are you going, then?” said the captain. “It’s best to follow the highway,” he said.

“That’s as maybe,” said the soldier; “but my way falls here.”

He kept to his path, and when the others saw it, they turned and came after him, too. They walked far, and farther than far away, across great moors and up through narrow valleys. At length, it grew lighter, and when they came out of the forest, there was a long, long bridge that they had to cross. And on the bridge, a bear stood guard; it raised itself up on its hind legs and came towards them, as if it would eat them.

“What do we do now?” said the captain.

“They say bears are wild for meat,” said the soldier, throwing it a forequarter.

Then they were able to pass. But at the other end of the bridge stood a lion, and it roared and came towards them with gaping jaws, as it would devour them.

“Now it’s best we turn our noses home; we will never come from this with our lives,” said the captain.

“Oh, it’s not that dangerous, though,” said the soldier; “I have heard that lions are eager for flesh, and in my knapsack I have a half pig,” he said. Then he threw a ham to the lion; it began to gnaw and eat, and so they were able to pass there too.

In the evening they arrived at a splendid large farm. The one room was finer than the other, and it shone and glittered wherever they looked. But this did their carcasses no good, you know. The captain and the lieutenant went jangling their money, wanting to buy some food; but they didn’t see any folk, nor did they find any food. So the soldier offered them meat and flesh from his sack of food. Then they were not proud, and they didn’t hesitate for long,; they took of what he had, as if they had never tasted food before.

The next day, the captain said they should go hunting and find something to live on. Close by the farm there was a large forest, and it was full both of hares and birds. The lieutenant would stay home and look after the house, and cook the rest of his food. Meanwhile, the other two shot so much that they could barely carry it all home. But when they came to the gate, the lieutenant was so frail that he was barely able to open it for them.

“What’s the matter with with you?” asked the captain.

Well, then he told that as soon as they had gone, there came a tiny fellow with a long beard, walking on crutches, and he asked so beautifully for a shilling; but when he had received it, he dropped it to the floor, and no matter how scraped after it, he was not able to get hold of it, as stiff and as crooked as he was. “I felt sorry for the old hunchback,” said the lieutenant, “and so I bent down and wanted to pick up the shilling. But then he was neither stiff nor crooked anymore; he began to use his crutches on me until I could hardly move a limb.”

“You ought to be ashamed of yourself, you who are king’s fellow, that you have let an old cripple beat you, and that, on top of it all, you are talking about it,” said the captain. “Puh! Tomorrow I shall stay home, and there shall be a different result.”

Well, the next day the lieutenant and the soldier went hunting, and the captain stayed at home to cook the food and look after the house. But if he fare worse, then neither did he fare better; after some time, the old man came and asked for a shilling. He let go of it as soon as he got it; gone it was, and gone it remained. So he asked the captain to help him find it again, and he had no better sense than to bend down to look for it. But he had hardly bent over before the old man began to beat him with his crutches; and every time the captain wanted to get up and retaliate, he received a blow so that it sparkled in his eyes. When the other two came home in the evening, he was still lying on the spot, and could neither stare nor gape.

The third day, the soldier would stay home, while the other two went out shooting. The captain said he should look out for himself well, “for the old man will surely beat you to death, my boy,” he said.

“Oh, life must be loose if one lets such an old hunchback take it,” said the soldier.

They were no more sooner out of the gate, before the fellow was there, asking for a shilling again.

“I have never owned any money,” said the soldier, “but you shall have some food, as soon as it’s ready,” he said; “but if we are to have fire, then you will have to chop some firewood.”

“I can’t,” said the fellow.

“If you can’t, then you will have to learn,” said the soldier. “It is soon done, just follow me down to the woodpile.”

There he pulled out a heavy log, cut a crack into it and drove in a wedge, so that there was a big, deep split.

“Now you have to lie down and aim along the crack, and then you will soon learn how to chop wood,” said the soldier; “meanwhile I’ll cut and strike.”

Yes, the old man was no cannier than that he did as he was bidden; he lay down and aimed along the log. When the soldier saw that his beard had come well into the crack, he knocked out the wedge and beat the fellow tender with the hammer of the axe; then he swung the axe above his head and swore that he would split his skull if he did not immediately, that very hour, tell him where the king’s daughters were.

“Spare my life, spare my life, and I’ll tell you!” cried the fellow. “Eastward of the farm here lies a great mound,” he said; “cut a square of turf from the top of the mound, and you’ll see a heavy stone slab, and beneath that there is a deep hole. You must let yourself down into that hole, and you will come into another world, and there are the princesses with the mountain trolls. But it is long, and it is dark down there, and it will take you through both water and fire.”

When the soldier had been told this and what he wanted, he struck the old fellow loose from the crack in the log, and he was not slow in bidding farewell.

When the captain and the lieutenant came home, they wondered that they had found the soldier alive. Well, he told them how things had gone, from first to last, and told where the king’s daughters were, and how they should find them. They were as glad as if they had already had them, and when they had eaten, they took with them a basket and all the ropes and lines they could find, and went to the mound, all three. First they cut loose the turf, as the fellow had said; beneath it they found a large, heavy stone slab, and it was no more than that they were fellows enough to move. Then they tried to measure how deep it was down. They tied both two and three ropes together, but they found no more bottom the last time than the first. Eventually, they had to tie together all they had, both the coarse and the fine, and then they felt that it reached down.

The captain wanted to be first on his way, you know. “But when I tug the rope, you must hurry to pull me up,” he said. It was both dark and horrible, going down, but he thought he could steel himself, just as long as it didn’t get any worse. But just like that, cold water stood above his ears, and with that, he was terrified, and began to tug the rope.

Well, then the lieutenant wanted to try, but things didn’t go much better with him. He came through the flood well enough, but when he could see the bright flames in the abyss beneath him, he fell aghast, and had to go back they way he had come, him too.

Then the soldier sat up in it; he let it go, through both water and fire, until he came to the bottom. It was so pitch dark down there that he couldn’t see his fist before his nose. He didn’t dare to drop the basket though, but went around in a circle, fumbling and groping around himself. Yes, he could see a small gleam far, far away, just like the dawn; he went towards it. When he had come a way, it began to lighten around him, and now it was not long before he saw a golden sun in the sky there, and then it grew both bright and beautiful, as in the right world. At first he came to a large herd, with cows so fat that they gleamed, and when he was past them, he came to a beautiful large castle.

He went through many rooms there before he met anyone. Finally he heard a spinning wheel whirring, and when he came in, the oldest king’s daughter sat there, spinning copper yarn; and both the living room and everything in it was made of copper, scoured so it gleamed.

“Oh no! Dare Christian folk come here?” said the princess. “Dear, dear me, what do you want here?”

“I want to free you out of the mountain,” replied the soldier.

“Dear me, go! If the troll comes home, he will make an end of you straightway; he has three heads,” she said.

“I wouldn’t care if he had four,” said the soldier. “If I have come, then I will stay.”

“Well, since you are so stubborn, then I shall see if I can help you,” said the king’s daughter. Then she said he should crawl behind the large brewing vat that stood in the hallway; meanwhile she would receive the troll and nitpick him until he fell asleep. “But when I go out and call the chickens, so that they come in to peck up what falls off his head, you must hurry to come,” she said. “But go out first and try to wield the sword the lies on the table.”

No, it was too heavy; he couldn’t so much as move it. So he had to take a strength tonic from the horn that hung behind the hallway door, and then he was just able to raise it. Then he took another swig, and with that he could lift it. And then he took a really big draught; then he wielded the sword as easily as could be.

Just like that the troll came rushing so that the castle shook.

“Tvi, tvi! Here it smells of Christian man’s blood and bones in my house,” he said.

“Yes, a raven flew in a while ago,” said the king’s daughter, “and he had a man’s bone in his beak, which he dropped down the chimney; I threw it out soon enough, and swept well afterwards, too, but I suppose the smell lingers. ”

“Indeed it does,” said the troll.

“But come now; I’ll nitpick you,” said the princess, “so it will be better when you wake up.”

The troll was soon willing, and it wasn’t long before he slept so that he snored. When she noticed he had fallen asleep, she put chairs and duvets under his head and began to call the chickens. Then the soldier crept in with the sword and chopped off all three of the troll’s heads with one cut.

The princess was as happy as a fiddle, and took him to her sisters, so that he could free them out of the mountain as well. First, they crossed a yard and then in through many long rooms until they came to a huge door. “Well, in you go,” said the king’s daughter; “she’s here.”

When he opened the door, there was a large hall inside, and everything there was of pure silver; there sat the middle one, spinning at a silver spinning wheel.

“You poor thing!” she said. “What do you want here?”

“To free you from the troll,” said the soldier.

“Oh dear me, just go!” said the princess. “If he finds you here, he’ll kill you on the spot!”

“I expect so, if I don’t kill him first,” the soldier said.

“Well, if that’s what you want to do,” she said, “then you must crawl behind the big vat out in the hallway. But you have to hurry to come, as soon as you hear me calling the chickens.”

But first, he had to try if he was fellow enough to wield the troll’s sword that lay on the table. It was much bigger and heavier than the first, and he could scarcely move it. Then he took three swigs from the horn, and then he was able to lift it. And when he had taken three more, he could fence with it as if it were a baker’s stick.

After a little while, it began to thunder and quake terribly, and right after that came a troll with six heads.

“Tvi, tvi!” he said, as soon as he got his nostrils in through the door. “Here it smells of Christian man’s blood and bones in my house.”

“Yes, imagine! a little while ago, a raven came flying with a thigh bone, and dropped it down the chimney,” said the king’s daughter. “I threw it out, but he threw it in. Finally, I got it away, and hurried to smoke it out; but the smell didn’t go away so soon, anyway,” she said.

“No, indeed it didn’t,” said the troll.

But then he was tired and laid his heads in the princess’s lap, and she nitpicked them until they all lay sleeping together. Then she called the hens, and then the soldier came and cut off all six heads as if they sat on cabbage stalks.

She was no less happy than the first one, you can understand; but just they danced and sang, they remembered their youngest sister, and then they took the soldier over another big yard, and through many, many rooms, until he entered the golden hall of the third daughter.

She sat spinning golden yarn at a golden spinning wheel, and from floor to ceiling it gleamed such that it hurt one’s eyes.

“Comfort and help to both you and me! What do you want here?” said she who sat there. “Go, go, or he’ll kill us both!”

“Two is just as good as one,” replied the soldier.

The princess wept and begged, but it did no good; he wanted to, and he was going to stay. Well, as there was nothing else to do, he should try to use the troll’s sword out on the hallway table. But he could do no more than move it—it was much bigger and heavier, that sword, than the other two, even. So he had to take the horn down off the wall and take three swigs from it. But even then, he could do no more than raise the sword. When he had taken three more strengthening draughts, he could lift it, and when he had drunk three more times, he wielded it as easily as if it were a feather. Then she made the same agreement with the soldier, she did, as had both the others: when the troll had fallen asleep, she would call the chickens, and then he should be quick to come and do away with him.

Just like that, there was thundering and quaking, as if the walls and ceilings would collapse.

“Tvi, tvi! Here it smells of Christian man’s blood and bones in my house,” said the troll, sniffing with all nine noses.

Yes, you’ve never seen such a thing! Just now, a raven flew and dropped a man’s bone down the chimney. I threw it out, and he threw it in, and it went back and forth,” said the princess. “He eventually buried it,” she said, and she had both swept and smoked it out, but a little of the smell remained anyway.

“Indeed, I know,” said the troll.

“Come here and lie down in my lap, and I’ll nitpick to you,” said the princess. “Then everything will be well until you’re asleep.”

Well, he did so; but when he snored his best, she supported his heads with benches and duvets, so she could get away, and begin to call the chickens. Then the soldier came in his socks, and chopped at to the troll so eight heads fell right away—the sword was too short and reached no farther.

The ninth head woke up and began to roar: “Tvi, tvi! Here it smells of a Christian!”

“Yes, here’s the one who’s a Christian,” answered the soldier; and before the troll could get up and catch hold of anyone, the soldier chopped at him, so the last head rolled away.

It may well be that the king’s daughters were joyous; they didn’t have to sit and nitpick the trolls’ heads any more; they didn’t know all the good they would do him, he who had saved them, and the youngest princess pulled off her gold ring and tied it in his hair. Then they gathered together as much gold and silver as they thought they could carry, and began on their way home.

As soon as they tugged on the rope, the captain and lieutenant pulled up the princesses, one after the other. But when they were up, the soldier thought he was foolish not to be pulled up before the king’s daughters, for he didn’t trust his comrades more than that. Now he wanted to prove them, and so he put a heavy gold nugget in the basket and moved well aside. When it had come halfway up, they cut the rope, so the basket bounced off the rock and the pieces bounced about his ears. “Now we’re rid of him,” they said. Then they threatened the princesses’ lives if they did not say that they had saved them from the trolls. They didn’t want to, least of all the youngest, but life is too precious to lose, so the two in whose power they lay were allowed to rule, anyway.

When the captain and the lieutenant now came home with the princesses, a holiday was proclaimed at the king’s farm. The king was so glad he didn’t know which foot he should stand on; he brought out his best bottle of wine from the closet and poured them a drink, the both of them. And had they not been honored before, then they were now, I would think. And they went strutting about, crowing like like masters all day, now that they were to have the king himself as father-in-law—for it was settled that each should have his own princess, whichever of them he would have, and half the kingdom between them. Both of them wanted the youngest king’s daughter, but no matter how they begged and threatened her, it did no good; she would not by any means, nor in any way. Then they spoke to the king, asking for a guard of twelve men around her; she had been so melancholy since she had been in the mountain, they said, so they were afraid she was going to do herself harm. Yes, they might well have that, and the king himself told the guard that they had to take good care of her, and follow her wherever she went and stood.

Then a feast was prepared for the two eldest, with brewing and baking; these would be weddings the like of which had been neither heard of nor asked of before. And they malted and they baked and they slaughtered as if there were no end.

Meanwhile, the soldier went wandering around down there in the other world. The thought that he would see neither people nor the light of day again was heavy; but there was one thing he could do, he thought, and so he went from room to room—for one day and two days and more—opening up cabinets and windows, and rummaging around up on the shelves, and looking at all the fine things that were there. After a long, long time he came to a drawer; he pulled it out, and there lay a golden key. So he tried this key in all the locks he could find, but there was none it fit, until he came to a small cabinet on the wall above the bed, and inside it he found a rusty old whistle.

“It might be nice to find out if there were a tune in it,” he thought, so he put it in his mouth. Then before he knew it, it began to whirr and roar from every side, and suddenly a flock of birds lighted, and it was so large that the whole ground was black.

“What does our master want today?” they asked.

If he was their master, said the soldier, then he would want to know if they could tell him how to get up on to the earth again.

No, there was no one who could tell him that; “But our mother hasn’t come yet,” they said. “If she can’t help you, then no one can.”

Then he whistled one more time, and in a little while he heard something flapping its wings far away; suddenly, it began to blow so hard that he went head over heels, like a wisp of hay in the farmyard, and if he hadn’t caught hold of the skigard fence, he would have been blown away at once.

With that an eagle dropped down before him, so huge that there was none bigger.

“You arrived suddenly,” said the soldier.

“I came as you blew,” replied the eagle.

Then he asked if she knew how to get him back from the world they were in.

“Nothing that doesn’t fly escapes from here,” said the eagle. “But if you slaughter twelve bulls, for me, so that I may eat well, I will try to help you. Do you have a knife?”

“No, but I have a sword,” said the soldier.

When the eagle had devoured the twelve bulls, she asked him to slaughter one to bring on the way. “Every time I gape, you must be quick to throw me a piece,” she said, “for otherwise I won’t manage to take you up.”

Well, he did what she bade him, and hung two big bags of meat around her neck, and slipped himself between her feathers. Then the eagle ruffled its wings, and with that, off they went, like the wind, so that the air whined. He who sat there had enough to do holding fast; he could hardly manage to make sure to throw the pieces of meat into the eagle’s gape every time she opened her beak.

Finally, the blue of day came over them; then the eagle started to fall, and flapped its wings; but the soldier was finished, and he grasped hold of the last hindquarters and threw them to her. Then she gained the power to come up with him. And when she had sat for a while, resting in a large spruce top, she set off with him again, so that lightning struck both land and water where they went. Close by the king’s farm, he got off, and the eagle flew back home; but first she told him that if there was anything he wanted, then he should just blow the whistle, and she would come straight away.

Meanwhile, they had taken off their raiment at the king’s farm, and the time approached when the captain and lieutenant were to hold weddings with both of the oldest princesses. But they were not much happier than their youngest sister; there was never a day on which they did not mourn and cry, and the closer to their wedding day, the more mournful they grew. Finally the king asked what the matter was with them; he thought it far too strange that they were not lusty and happy, now that they were free and saved and were to be married. They had to say something, and so the eldest said they could never be happy more, unless they could have such a board game as the one they had in the mountain blue.

The king thought he could probably get them one, and so he sent for all the best and most gifted goldsmiths in the country, that they should make such a gold board game for the princesses. But for every one who tried, none was good enough to make such a game.

Finally, there were no goldsmiths left but one, and he was a frail old man who had not done a proper job for many years, but only fiddled with some silver work, so little that he could hardly live from it. The soldier went to him, and apprenticed himself, and he was so pleased to have an apprentice—for he hadn’t had one in years and years—that he dug out a flask from his chest, and sat down to drink with soldier. It wasn’t long before the brandy went to his head, and when the other noticed it, he persuaded him to go up to the king and say he was good to make the game for the king’s daughters. He was willing at once; he had worked on what was just as fine and well-defined in his days, he had.

When the king heard that there was someone outside who could make the like of board game, he was not slow to come out.

“Is it true, what they say, that you can work such a game that my daughters want?” he asked.

Yes, it was no lie, replied the smith; he swore to it.

“That’s good,” said the king. “Here you have the gold to work with; but if you cannot do it, then you will lose your life, since you yourself have offered,” and in three days it should be finished.

The next morning, when the goldsmith had slept off the drink, he was not quite so confident. He both wept and carried on, and scolded his apprentice, who had caused him to make such bad decisions in his drinking. Now it was just as well he made himself shorter right away, he said, for his life he was not able to save. If not the best and most prominent goldsmiths could not make such a game, there was not much chance he could.

“Don’t whine about it; bring the gold,” the soldier said. “I shall furnish the game. But I want a room for myself to work in,” he said.

He got one right away, and thanks, too.

But time passed, and it wore on, and he took care of nothing, other than to waste time. And the goldsmith was agitated where he went, because he did not begin on the work.

“Don’t worry about it, you,” said the soldier, “there’s a long time left. If you are not satisfied with what I have promised, then you can make the game yourself.”

Things went the same way, both that day and the next, and as the goldsmith heard neither hammer or file from his room the whole of the last day, he gave completely up, because now there was no reason to think he might save his life anymore.

But as the night drew on, the soldier opened the window and blew his whistle.

Then the eagle came and asked what it was he wanted. “The gold board game that the king’s daughters had in the mountain blue,” said the soldier. “But you probably want something to live on first? Away by the barn, I have two bull carcasses for you; you may have them,” he said. When the eagle had eaten them, she wasn’t slow, and long before the sun went down, she was back with the game; then the soldier put it under his bed and lay down to sleep.

At eight o’clock the next morning the goldsmith came and banged on his door.

“How much you run about!” said the soldier. “All day long you fly around, fussing; if one may have no peace in bed, either, then no one will want to be your apprentice here,” he said.

But neither pleading nor begging would do any good; the goldsmith had to go in, and he would go in, and finally he lifted the latch.

Oh well, at least this would be the end of his complaining!

But even happier than the goldsmith were the princesses, when he came to the king’s farm with the game, and happiest of them all was the youngest.

“Did you make that game yourself?” she asked.

“No, true to say, I didn’t,” he said; “it was an apprentice I have.”

“I would like to see that apprentice,” said the king’s daughter.

Yes, all three of them would like that, and if he wanted to enjoy life, he would come. He was not afraid, neither of women or great folk, said the soldier, and if they would enjoy looking at his rags, then they would gladly have what they desired. The youngest king’s daughter recognised him immediately; she pushed aside the guard, ran to him, and offered him her hand and said, “Good day and thank you for last time!”

“Here is the one who saved us from the trolls in the mountain,” she said to the king; “I want him!” And then she snatched off his hat and showed them the ring she had tied in his hair.

Well, then came word and proof of how the captain and lieutenant had borne themselves, and so they paid for it with their lives; that was the end of their rule! But the soldier won the golden crown and half the kingdom, and he held a wedding with the youngest king’s daughter. And there they drank and caroused both stiff and strong, for they certainly could carouse, all of them, even if they could not save the king’s daughters; and if they have not drunk everying, then they sit well, drinking and carousing yet.