Thursday, 17 January 2019


There was once upon a time a woman who had a son who was called Mattis. But he was so silly that he had no sense for anything. Nor did he do much of anything, and the little he did was always backwards, and never right; they therefore called him nothing but Wrong-Mattis.

The woman thought this was too bad. And even worse she thought it was that her son stayed there and never did anything but stare at the walls.

Close by to where they lived ran a great river, and it was difficult and mean to get across. So the woman said to the boy one day that there was no shortage of timber there—it grew almost in through the cabin walls. He must chop it, move it, and try to build a bridge. The work did not progress terribly quickly, but at least he had something to be getting on with while it lasted.

When the bridge was finished, the boy was to stand down there and collect a toll from those who would cross, and his mother said he should not let anyone across unless they had paid the toll; it made no difference if they didn’t have much in the way of money; goods were also good payment, she said.

The first day there came three fellows, each with a load of hay, who wanted to cross the bridge.

“No,” said the boy, “you’re not allowed across before I have received the toll?”

“We have nothing to pay with,” they said.

“Well, then you will not come across. But it doesn’t matter if you have no money; goods are also good payment,” said the boy.

So they each gave him a tuft of hay, so that he had a small sledge-load, and then they were allowed to cross the bridge.

Then there came a pedlar, who had sewing needles and thread and other goods in his bag, and he wanted to cross.

“You’re not allowed to cross before you have paid the toll,” said the boy.

“I have nothing to pay with,” said the pedlar.

“You do have goods,” said the boy.

So the pedlar took out a couple of sewing needles and gave them to him; then he was allowed across the bridge. The boy stuck the needles into the hay, and then he left. When he had come well home, he said: “Now I have received some toll, and a way to make a living.”

“What did you get, then?” said the woman.

“Oh, three fellows came, each with a load of hay, and each of them gave me a tuft of hay, so that I had enough for a small sledge-load; and then I got a couple of sewing needles from a pedlar,” said the boy.

“What did you do with the hay?” said the woman.

“I chewed on it, I did; but it tasted of nothing but grass, so I threw it in the river,” said the boy.

“You should have spread it out over the floor of the barn,” said the woman.

“I shall do that another time, mother,” said the boy.

“Where did you put the sewing needles, then?” said the woman.

“I stuck them in the hay,” said the boy.

“Oh you are a silly!” said the woman; “you should have stuck them out and in your cap.”

“Yes, be quiet mother, I shall do so another time,” said the boy.

The next day, when the boy was down by the bridge again, a man came from the mill with a load of flour, and he wanted to cross.

“You won’t cross before you pay the toll,” said the boy.

“I don’t have a shilling to pay with,” said the man.

“Well, then you won’t get across,” said the boy; “but goods are a good payment,” he said. So he received a pound of flour, and then he let the man across.

It wasn’t long before a smith came with a load of ironware, and he wanted to cross. But that didn’t matter. “You won’t get across before you pay the toll,” said the boy. But he had no money to pay with, either, so he gave the boy a rock drill, and then he was allowed across.

When the boy came home to his mother, the toll was the first thing she asked about. “What did you get as toll today?” she said.

“Oh there came a man from the mill with a load of flour; he gave me a pound of flour. And then a smith came with a load of ironware; he gave me a rock drill,” said the boy.

“What did you do with the rock drill, then?” said the woman.

“I did what you bade me, mother,” said the boy; “I stuck out and in my cap.”

“Yes, but that is wrong,” said the woman. “You shouldn’t have stuck it out and in your cap, but you should have put it down the sleeve of your tunic.”

“Yes, yes, be quiet mother; I shall do that another time,” said the boy.

“What did you do with the flour, then?” said the woman.

“Oh, I did what you bade me, mother,” said the boy; “I spread it across the floor of the barn.”

“I have never heard of anything so wrong,” said the woman. “You should have gone home for a pail, and put it in it,” she said.

“Yes, be quiet now, mother; I shall do that another time,” said the boy.

The next day, the boy was by the bridge again, to collect the toll. Then there came one with a load of brandy and wanted to cross.

“You won’t come across before you have paid the toll,” said the boy.

“I have no shillings,” said the fellow with the load.

“Well, then you may not come across; but you do have goods, I suppose,” said the boy. Yes, he received half a pot of brandy and he poured it down the sleeve of his tunic.

A while later, a man with a herd of a goats came, and wanted to cross the bridge.

“You will not come across before you have paid the toll,” said the boy.

Well, he was no richer than the others; he had no money, and so he gave the boy a small billy-goat, and so he came across with his herd. But the boy took the buck and pressed it down into a bucket he had with him. When he came home, the woman asked again:

“What did you get today?”

“Oh, there came one with a load of brandy; he gave me half a pot of brandy,” said the boy.

“What did you do with that?” said the woman.

“Oh, I did what you bade are to, mother,” said the boy; “I poured it down the sleeve of my tunic.”

“Yes, but that was wrong, my son; you should have gone home for a bottle and poured it in there,” she said.

“Yes, be quiet, mother; I shall do that another time,” said the boy.

“Then there came a man with a herd of goats; he gave me a small billy-goat, and I pressed it down into this bucket,” he said.

“That was wrong, and wronger then wrong, that was, my son,” said the woman; “you should have tied it with some bindweed and led the buck home,” said his mother.

“Yes, be quiet, mother; I shall do that another time,” said the boy.

The next day, he went down to the bridge again, to collect the toll. Then came a man with a load of butter, wanting to cross the bridge. But the boy said he could not come across before he paid the toll.

“Well, I haven’t anything to pay with,” said the man.

“Well, then you won’t come across,” said the boy; “but if you have goods, I can take them as good payment,” he said.

So the man gave him a pat of butter, and he was allowed to cross the bridge, and the boy hurried to the bindweed patch, twisted some bindweed, and tied it to the pat of butter, and went home along the road. But where he went, he left some of the butter, and when he came home, he didn’t have any left.

“What did you get today?” said his mother.

“There came a man with a load of butter; he gave me a pat of butter,” said the boy.

“Where do you have it, then?” asked the woman

“I did what you bade me, I did, mother,” said the boy; “I tied the butter with some bindweed and led it home; but it disappeared along the road,” he said.

“Oh you are and ever shall be a silly!” said the woman. “Now you have nothing for all your effort; but if you had been like other folk, you could have had both food and brandy, both hay and tools. If you don’t learn to look after yourself any better, then I don’t know what I am going to do with you. Perhaps it would be better for you to take to your senses and marry, and find a person who can look after you. I think it best you go away and make sure you find yourself a good girl. But you must behave yourself kindly, and greet folk when you meet them.

“What shall I say then?” asked the boy. “Do you need to ask that?” said his mother. “‘God’s peace!’ is what you should say, you know.”

“Well, I shall do what you say, I shall,” said the boy, and so he set off to go a-wooing. When he had come some distance on the road, he met a greyshanks with seven cubs, and when he had got so far that he was beside them, he stopped and greeted them: “God’s peace!” When he had said this, he went home again. “I said what you bade me, I did, mother,” said the boy.

“What did you say then?” asked his mother.

“‘God’s peace!’ I said,” said the boy.

“Who did you meet then?” asked his mother.

“I met a wolf with seven cubs,” said the boy.

“Well, you certainly resemble yourself, you do!” said his mother. Why should you say ‘God’s peace’ to the wolf? You should have clapped your hands together and said: ‘Hip, hip, you wolf!’ you should have said.”

“Oh be quiet, mother; I shall say that another time,” said the boy, and he set off. And when he had come a distance on the road, he met a bridal procession. So he stopped, when he had come before the bride and the bridegroom, and clapped his hands together and said: “Hip, hip, you wolf!”

Then he went home to his mother. “I did as you bade me, I did, mother,” said the boy; “but I was beaten for it,” he said.

“What did you do, then?” asked the woman.

“I clapped my hands together and said: ‘Hip, hip, you wolf!’ I did,” said the boy.

“Who did you meet, then?” said the woman.

“I met a wedding procession,” said the boy.

“Oh you are a silly! You resemble yourself!” said his mother. “Why should you say that to a wedding procession? ‘Ride lustily, bride and bridegroom,’ you should have said,” said the woman.

“Oh be quiet, mother; I shall say that another time,” said the boy, and off he set again. Then he met a bear that was riding a horse. The boy stayed quiet until he came beside it. “Ride lustily, bride and bridegroom!” he said, and then he went home again, and told his mother he had said what she had bidden him.

“What did you say, then?” asked his mother.

“‘Ride lustily, bride and bridegroom!’ I said,” replied the boy.

“Who did you meet, then?” asked his mother.

“I met a bear that rode upon a horse,” said the boy

“Cross me, what a silly you are!” said his mother. “‘To hell with you!’ you should have said,” she said.

“Oh be quiet, mother; I shall do that another time,” said the boy. Then he set off again and met a funeral procession; when he caught up with the corpse, he greeted with: “To hell with you!” Then he went home to his mother and told her that he had said what she had bidden him.

“What did you say, then?” asked the woman.

“‘To hell with you!’ I said,” replied the boy.

“Who did you meet then?” asked his mother.

“I met a funeral procession,” said the boy, “and they gave me a beating,” he said.

“Yes, you ought to have had more of that!” said the woman; “‘God have mercy on your poor soul!’ you should have said.”

“Oh be quiet, mother; I shall do that another time,” said the boy, and then he swept off again. When he had come a distance on the road, he saw a couple of vagrants who were flaying a dog. When he came up to them, he greeted, saying: “God have mercy on your poor soul?” and when he had said it, he went home again and told that he had said what his mother had bidden him; but that he was beaten so that he could hardly make it home.

“What did you say, then?” asked the woman.

“‘God have mercy on your poor soul,’ I said,” replied the boy.

“Who did you meet?” asked his mother.

“It was a couple of vagrants who were flaying a dog,” said the boy.

“Yes, you resemble yourself!” said the woman. “It is both a sin and a shame how you go forth. One should never have heard of such an abomination! But now you must go on your way once more; care not about who you meet before you are away and marry; and see if you can find someone who better under­stands the way of the world and is wiser to behave themselves them you. And now you must behave like folk, and if it goes well, then I shall wish you luck and cry ‘Hurrah!’” she said.

Yes, the boy did everything his mother bade him. He went on his way and proposed to a girl, and she didn’t yet think that the boy could be so bad, and so she said yes, she would have him.

When the boy came home, the woman wanted to know what his girl was called. But he didn’t know. Then the woman grew angry, and said that he should go on his way again, for now she would know what his girl was called. Just before the boy was to go home again, he had good sense enough to ask for her name. Well, her name was Sølvi, she said. The boy ran, mumbling to himself:

“Sølvi, Sølvi, my maiden!
Sølvi, Sølvi, my maiden!”

But just as he ran so quickly, so that he would get home before he forgot it, he tripped over a tuffet, and so he forgot the name again. When he got to his feet, he began to look around the tuffet, but he found nothing but a shovel. He picked it up and began to dig and such with all his might. As he stood there digging, an old man came along.

“What are you digging for?” said the man. “Have you lost something here?”

“Oh yes, oh yes, I have lost the name of my maiden,” said the boy, “and I cannot find it again,” he said.

“I think her name is Sølvi,” said the man. When the boy heard it, he ran off with the shovel in his hand, shouting:

“Sølvi, Sølvi, my maiden!”

But when he had come a little way across the field, he remembered that he had brought the shovel with him, and so he threw it behind, right on the man’s leg. The man began to scream and behave as if there were a knife in him, and so the boy forgot the name, but ran home as quickly as he could. And when he came home, the first thing his mother asked him was: “What is your girl called?” The boy was just as wise; he didn’t know now any better than the first time.

“You are a great silly, you are!” said the woman. “You won’t get on with this, either. But now I shall go myself and fetch your girl home here and get you married. Meanwhile you must fetch water up to the fifth board,1 and then you should take some pork and shoulder, and you may take the greenest thing in the cabbage patch, and boil all, and when you have done that, you should ruffle up your feathers, so that you are a sweet boy for your girl when she comes. And then you can sit to wait on the chopping block.”

Well, the boy thought he would be able to manage that; he carried water and threw it in the parlour so that there was enough, but he couldn’t get it to reach up further then to the fourth row of logs; when it came up higher, it ran out. But now, they had a dog called Pork and a cat called Shoulder; these he took and put them in the soup cauldron. The greenest thing he found in the cabbage patch was a green dress the woman had thought to give her daughter-in-law; he hacked it up fine and put it in the soup; and the pig that was called All, that he cooked by itself in the brewing vat. When the boy had finished everything he found a jar of syrup and a feather quilt; first he smeared himself with the syrup, and then he cut open the quilt and rolled in the feathers, and then sat on the chopping block out in the kitchen until his mother and the girl come.

The first the thing the woman missed when she came to the farm was the dog, for it always came to meet her in the field. The next thing she missed was the cat, for it always met her in the hall, or if it was very good weather, then it came out into the yard to meet her by the gate. She didn’t see the green dress she had thought of giving to her daughter-in-law, either. And the pig, which usually grunted and followed her, wherever she went, that wasn’t there, either. And so she would go to ask about all this, but as soon as she lifted the latch, the water streamed out through the door like a waterfall, so they were almost swept away by the deluge, both the woman and the girl.

They had to go around to the kitchen door, and when they came in, this feathered figure sat there.

“What is it you have done?” said the woman.

“I have done what you bade me, mother,” said the boy, “I fetched water up to the fifth board; but it ran out just as quickly as I carried it in, so I couldn’t get it any higher than up to the fourth.” “Yes, but Pork and Shoulder, then?” said the woman, wanting to change the subject; “what have you done with them?” she said.

“I did what you bade me, mother,” said the boy; “I took them and put them in the soup cauldron. They both screamed and howled, and they bit and they scratched, and Pork was strong and kicked against me, but in the end he had to go in anyway. And All, he is boiling in the brewing vat in the great house, for there was no room for him in the soup cauldron,” he said.

“But what have you done with the new green dress I had thought to give to my daughter-in-law?” said the woman, wanting to ignore his madness.

“Oh, I did what you bade me, mother,” said the boy. “It hung in the cabbage patch and it was the greenest thing there, and so I took it and chopped it up small and put it in the soup cauldron.”

The woman went over to the hearth and pulled the cauldron off, tipped everything out, and put a new one on. But when she looked at the boy, she was horrified.

“What do you look like?” she said.

“I did as you bade me, mother,” said the boy; “first I smeared myself with syrup and made myself sweet, and then I cut open the quilt and ruffled my feathers up well,” he said.

Well, the woman ignored it as best she could, plucked the feathers off the boy, washed him, and got him clothed again.

Then there should be a wedding. But fist Mattis should go to town to sell a cow and buy for the wedding with the money. The woman told him how to behave, that both first and last, he should make sure to get something for the cow. Yes, the boy said he would certainly get something for it. When he came to the square with the cow, and they asked what he should have for it, there was no answer from him other than that he should have “something” for it. Then there came a butcher, and he bade the boy bring the cow and follow him home, and when he arrived, he spat in his hand and said: “There is your something for the cow, but look after it well!”

The boy walked home as carefully as if he were walking on eggs, and held his hand closed; but when he had come as far as the village road below the field, he met the parson, who came driving.

“Open up the gate for me, my boy!” said the parson.

The boy hurried to open up, but forgot what he had in his hand, and gripped the gate with both hands, so that “it” remained on the gate. When he felt that “it” had gone, he grew angry, and said that father had taken “something” from him. But when the parson asked him if he was all right, and said that he had not taken anything from him, the boy grew so angry that he killed the parson and buried him in a bog by the road.

When he had come home, he told his mother this, and she slaughtered a billy-goat and buried it there where the boy had buried the parson, and the parson she buried somewhere else. When she had done this, she hung up a cauldron of gruel, and when it was cooked, she got Mattis to sit whittling in the hearth. Meanwhile she went up on to the roof with the cauldron and poured the gruel down the chimney, so that it flowed over the boy.

The next day the sheriff came. When he asked, Mattis did not hide that he had killed the parson, and he said that he would gladly take the sheriff to where he had buried father, too. The sheriff asked on which day it was. “It was on the day that it rained gruel all over the world,” said the boy. When then the boy and the sheriff came to where he had buried the parson, he pulled out the billy-goat and asked: “Did your parson have horns?” And when the authority heard this, he thought that the boy was clearly out of his mind, and so he released him.

Then the wedding should be held, and the woman spoke both well and good to the boy, and said that when they sat at the table, he had to behave himself beautifully. He must not look too much at the bride, but cast an eye upon her, now and again; he could eat the peas himself, but the eggs he had to share with her, and the bones he should lay beside himself on the table, but he must make sure to lay them in a row on his plate.

So Mattis should do it, and do it well, too; he did everything his mother bade him, and nothing else. He went into the sheepfold and took out the eyes of all the sheep and goats he found, and took them with him. When they sat at the table, he sat with his back to the girl; but as he sat, he threw a sheep's eye, so that it landed on her face; after a little while longer, he threw another, and so he carried on. The eggs the boy ate up, so the girl didn’t taste even one; but when the peas came, he shared with her. When they had thus eaten a while, the boy placed his legs together and laid them on his plate.2

In the evening when they should retire, the girl was fed up and sorrowful, and she thought there was no help in having such a silly as a husband. So she said that she had forgotten something; she needed to go out for a while. But she was by no means allowed; the boy would go with her, for he was afraid she would not come in again.

“No, lie still, you?” said the bride; “here is a long bristle rope; I shall tie it to me and leave the door open. If you think I am taking too long you can just pull on the rope, and you will pull me in again.”

Well, Mattis was content with this; but when the girl came out into the yard, she met a billy-goat, loosed the rope from her and tied it to the billy-goat.

When the boy thought she had been outside for too long he began to pull on the rope, and so he pulled the billy-goat up into bed with him. When he had lain there a while, he cried:

“Mother, mother, my bride has horns like a billy-goat!”

“Don’t be mean, boy, lying there, crying,” said his mother; “those are her braids, I expect.”

Just like that, the boy screamed again:

“Mother, mother, my bride has a coat like a goat!”

“Don’t be mean, boy, lying there, crying!” said the woman.

But there was no peace to be had, for just like that, the boy screamed and crowed that his girl was like a billy-goat, both in this and in that. When morning came, the woman said:

“Get up, you my son, and set the fire!”

The boy climbed up on to a rafter beneath the roof and lit some straw and splinters and other rubbish that lay there. And there was so much smoke that he could not stay indoors; he had to get out, and it was just as the day was dawning. The woman also had to flee, and when they came out, the cabin burned so that the flames stood high through the roof.

“Rejoice! Rejoice! Hurrah!” cried the boy. He thought it such wonderful wedding fun.

  1. A figure of speech; the boy should wash the cabin. 

  2. A play on words; bones and legs are homonyms in Norwegian. 

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

A Signing Wife

[This text was first published in Gramarye: The Journal of the Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy. Issue 12, Winter 2017: pp. 66–76.]

A distance from the king’s road, in one of the villages in the midst of Gudbrandsdalen, there lay, a few years ago, a smallholder’s cabin on a mound.1 Perhaps it is still there. It was a mild April: the snow was thawing, brooks bubbled their way down through the hillsides, and the ground had begun to show some bare patches. The thrush scolded from the forest; all the clearings were full of twittering birds—the signs indicated an early spring. In the stout birch and tall rowans which stretched their bare branches out over the cabin roof in the glittering sunshine, some busy tits were flitting, whilst a chaffinch sat atop of the birch, singing with its whole heart. But it was unpleasant and dim inside the log cabin. A middle-aged woman was in the throes of blowing fire into some branches and raw firewood sticks she had placed beneath the coffee pot on the low stove. When this was eventually successful, she straightened herself and rubbed the smoke and ashes out of her stinging eyes. She did not look particularly bright.

“Folk say this casting does no good,” she began speaking, “for the child does not have rickets, they say, but that it is a changeling.2 There was a furrier here the other day, and he said the same, for when he was small, he saw a changeling out in Ringebu, and it was as willowy in its body, and as feeble as this.”

While she spoke, the expression on her plain face was so guarded and worried that it was easily understood that the furrier’s statements had fastened themselves well in her superstitious mind.

She spoke to a course-limbed woman who was approaching sixty. She was unusually tall, but where she sat she looked rather small; she had this quality to thank as the reason folk had attached the nickname Longshanks to her name, Gudbjør. In the company of the Taters she had travelled about with, she was known by other names. Grey hair stuck out from beneath her scarf, her face was dark, with bushy eyebrows and a long nose, bulbous at the root. Her low forehead and the breadth of her face across her cheekbones suggested little ability; but that did not agree with the obvious expression of cunning in her small, clever eyes, and the lively peasantry that characterised her wrinkles and facial expressions. Judging by her clothes, she had come from one of the villages in the north, and her behaviour and her whole demeanour signalled “signing wife,” or at least an itinerant troublemaker, who could be impertinent and bothersome or mild and flattering, according to the situation.3 While the smallholder’s wife spoke and tended the coffee pot, Gudbjør sat, gently rocking a hanging cradle in which there lay a restless child. Calmly and confidently she answered the smallholder’s wife’s words, even though the sharp glint in her eyes and the twitches of her mouth showed that she did not like the furrier’s explanation at all.

“Folk,” she said, “they speak about so much they do not understand, my dear Marit Rognehaugen, they talk in both weather and wind. And it may well be that the furrier understands sheepskins, but rickets and changelings he does not understand—so say I, and I shall stand by it, too. I should think I understand changelings, for I have seen enough of them. The changeling he spoke of was, I suppose, that of Brit Briskebråtån at Fron, for she had a changeling, I remember, and I suppose it was about this one that the furrier spoke, I should think. She got him straightway she was married, for first she had a beautiful child; but it was swapped for a troll-child, as angry and horribly wild as the devil himself. Never would he speak a word, but only eat and scream. She had no heart to beat it or mistreat it, though; but however it was or was not, they managed to teach her to make some noises and cook something up, so they got him to speak, and then she understood well enough what sort of fellow he was. So she bade the jutul go with him to hell, and called him a firebrand from hell, and a troll-child, bade him go whence he had come, and began to beat him about the head with her besom, and that well enough.4 But when she did so, the door flew wide open, my mother, and in came one, even though she could see no one—preserve me, no—and snatched the changeling to itself, and threw her own child in, on to the floor so hard that it could hardly cry—or perhaps that was Siri Strømhogget. It was like an old wind-dried fellow; perhaps he was loose in his joints, but he did not resemble your child any more than my old bonnet.

“I remember it well; it was at that time I was in service at the sexton’s, it was one day at lunch-time—then I saw him more than once, and I remember well how she got him, and how she got rid of him again, too. It was often spoken of at the time, for this Siri had come here from the village. She was young and served at Kvam, and I remember her well from when she was at home in Gampeskjelplassen with her parents. After that, she came out to Strømhogget, and was married with Ola, the son there. When she lay in confinement the first time, a stranger woman came into the cabin and took the child—for she had recently delivered—and laid another in its place. Siri would up to have her child back again, and she tried with all her might, but she could not move from the spot, for she was paralyzed. She wanted to scream for her aunt, who was outside, but she could not manage to open her mouth, and so frightened was she that she could not have been more frightened, even if they had stood over her with a knife.

“The child she had received was a changeling, that was easy enough to understand, for he was not like other children; he did nothing but scream, as if there were a knife in him, and he hissed and struck out around himself like a hulder cat, and he was angrier than original sin.5 He ate all the time. She did not know at all how to be rid of him, but then she decided to ask a woman who knew better, I would think, for she said that she should take the child and lay it on the rubbish heap and beat it with a decent birch switch, and she should do this three Thursday evenings in a row. Yes, she did this, and the third Thursday evening, there came flying a woman over the barn roof, and the woman threw a child into a pile of sawdust, and took to herself her own. But at the same time, Siri received such a rap across her fingers that she has the mark from, even today, and that mark have I seen with my own eyes,” added Gudbjør, to really confirm her story was the truth. “No, this child here is no more a changeling than I am a changeling. And how would it have happened that they should have switched it?” she asked.

“No, I can’t understand it, either,” said the smallholder’s wife, innocently, “for I have had castoreum in the cradle, and I have fired over him, and crossed him, and I have fastened some silver in his shirt, and a knife has stood above the door, so I don’t know how they should switch him.”

“Gosh! They have no power, then—cross me, no then! I know enough about it,” the signing wife began to speak again; “for out in the villages by Kristiansbyen, there I knew a wife who had a child she complained so much about.6 She crossed and fired over it, as best she had learned, both with castoreum and otherwise, for there was surely a lot of enchantment and devilry—God protect my mouth nevertheless—there in the village. But then there was a night she lay with the child before her in the bed, and her husband, he lay against the wall. Just as they lay, he awoke, and there was a reddish light in the cabin, just as when one sits, raking through the embers. Yes, there was one sitting there, raking in the embers with the fire poker, too, for when the husband looked over there, there was an old man over by the hearth, raking in the embers, and he was so terrible that there was no end to it, and he had a long beard, too. When it was properly light, he began to reach and reach with his arms, after the child, but he could not come loose from the stool he sat on. His arms, they grew so long, yes, so long that they reached out into the middle of the room, but from the hearth he could not come, and he could not reach the child. He sat like this for a long while, so the man was wholly terrified where he lay, and he knew not what he should do. Then he heard a noise by the window.

“‘Per, come now, then!’ it said.

“‘Oh shut your mouth!’ replied the man who sat by the hearth. ‘It has been tumbled for the child; I can’t get him.’7

“‘Then you can come out again, then, I know,’ it said outside. It was the wife who stood there to receive it.

“No, look at this beautiful little boy, here,” the signing wife cajoled, taking the child just as it awoke. It struggled against the caressing of the stranger wife, and pulled faces at her exaggerated, sweet expressions; “he is as pale and clear as an angel; he is a little soft in his joints—that he is—but when they say he is a changeling, then they lie about him, of course they do, yes! No, mother, it is rickets!” she said confidently and decisively, turning to the mother. “It is rickets!”

“Hush, hush! I think there is some knocking on the wall. Oh God, Truls is coming back!” said the smallholder’s wife, afraid that her husband would find her drinking coffee and chatting with the signing wife. She flew across and had the door open to take a look; but there was nothing to see but a tabby cat, which sat on the step, drying its wet paws after a spring hunt in an alder bush. Truls it was not, but on the wall in the sun sat a green woodpecker, pecking and hacking to awaken the sleepy insects from their winter hibernation. Just like that, it turned its head, as if it were looking for someone; but it expected nothing more than an April shower.

“Is someone there?” asked the signing wife. “Well,” she said, when she had received no for an answer, “then let the door stay open, so we may have some good of the sun, and so that we may see your husband when he comes; for he will come on this side, I suppose.”

“He went with the sled for a load of leaves for the goats,” replied the smallholder’s wife. “But I am so afraid he will come upon us. Last time he asked when you had been here, he grew so mad that there was no moderation, and then he said that I should have some shillings to go to the doctor with; he did not want to know about such nonsense and supernatural cures, for he is so well-learned. He does not believe in such, since he went around the village with the school master.”

“To the doctor? Puh!” said the signing wife, spitting. “Well, it would appeal to some, to seek out that bigwig in their need. If one does not come with gold and costly gifts,” she continued, complaining, “then they chop and bite as if they were dogs and not folk. How was it when Gjertrud Kostebakken lay with death in her throat and in such pain of labour for the third day, do you think? By no means would he come out to the unfortunate woman, for he was at a Christmas party at the magistrate’s, and neither would he go until they threatened him with the bishop and the governor. He might just as well have not bothered, either, for when he came to those parts, the woman was dead. No! Go to the doctor for such a child with rickets, the devil would do so, yes. God protect, you can go for my part,” she added, mockingly, “but can he help more than this… then never let me give anyone health again in this life. They cannot do anything for rickets, for their books say nothing about it; they have no helpful advice for the one who is sick, and they know it themselves, too, which is why they give neither powder, nor ill-tasting drinks, nor any such devilry for it. No, there is no answer other than casting, but they do not know how to do it.

“Put the casting crucible on, my mother,” she began on another tack, “for it is soon high day. Have we cast twice, then we can cast a third time, too, or it might go ill on the way. The child has rickets, but there are nine kinds of rickets in the world. Yes, yes, I have told you this, and you saw then that he had been subject to troll-rickets and water-rickets. For the first Thursday it was a man with two great horns and a long tail—that was troll-rickets. Last time it was a mermaid—yes, you saw her just as she was depicted—that was water-rickets. But now it is Thursday again, and now we shall see what it will be when it is cast again. It is the third time that is decisive, you know. There you have the child,” she said, reaching it out to the wife. “Let me have in me this drop of coffee, and I will set to.”

When the coffee was drunk, and the clinking china put away “with thanks and honour,” she went in contemplation over to the hearth and took out a snuff-horn.

“Since last Thursday,” she said, “I have been in seven church parishes, scraping lead from the church windows during the night, for the church lead ran out last time. It can weary both soul and body,” she mumbled to herself. Then she took the snuff-horn and shook down into a casting spoon some of the lead she said she had collected with so much trouble.

“You have, I suppose, fetched some north-running water at the height of the night?” she asked further.

“Yes, I was by the mill stream last night; that is the only north-running water for a long distance,” replied the smallholder’s wife, taking out a covered pail, out of which she poured some water into a beer bowl. Over that was laid a slice of malt bread through which was bored a hole with a darning needle. When the lead had melted, Gudbjør went to the door, squinted up at the sun, then took the melting spoon and poured the running lead through the hole, slowly down into the water, while she mumbled over it some words that could be heard approximately like this:

“I conjure for treachery, and I conjure for rickets;
I conjure it gone, I conjure it away;
I conjure it out, I conjure it in;
I conjure in weather, and I conjure in wind;
I conjure in north, and I conjure in west;
I conjure in south, and I conjure in east;
I conjure in earth, and I conjure in water;
I conjure in rock, and I conjure in sand;
I conjure it down in an alder root;
I conjure it into a foal’s foot;
I conjure it into Hellfire;
I conjure it in north-running water;
There it will tear, and there it will rend;
But harm to the child it shall not be.”8

As predictably as could be, the glowing hot lead hissed and spat as it went into the water.

“Listen to the enchantment, you; now it must out,” said the signing wife to the other, who stood with the child on her arm and appeared to glance about her both fraught and afeared. When the slice of bread was removed, it was seen that the lead had formed into a couple of figures in the water. The signing wife stared at them for a long time, and considered them, with her head on one side. Then she nodded and said:

“Corpse-rickets, corpse-rickets! First troll-rickets, then water-rickets, then corpse-rickets. One of them could have been enough!” she added, shaking her head. “Yes, now I see how it has happened,” she said aloud, turning to the wife of the house. “First you travelled through a forest, before a mountain, while the troll was out; there you said Jesus’ name. Then you came over a water; there you said Jesus’ name over the child. But when you came to the churchyard—was it before the cock crowed?—then you forgot to do it, and the child caught corpse-rickets.”

“In Jesus’ name, how can you know that?” exclaimed the smallholder’s wife. “It is true, every single word you say. When we travelled home from the pasture, we were late, for some sheep had been separated from us, and the night fell already when we were in Heimseterlia, and once I thought I saw a light from away in the forest, and I sort of heard a gate open in Vestnabben—there they say there are mountain folk—‘Jesus’ name, then,’ I immediately said over the child. At the time we crossed the river, I heard a scream so terrible that—‘Jesus’ name, then,’ I said over the child—but the others said it was just a northern diver that screamed at bad weather.”

“Yes, it was probably so, as long as it was a northern diver,” said the signing wife; “when it cries at an infant, the infant gets rickets.”

“I have heard this; I thought this was worst at the time,” the other confessed. “But when we came to the churchyard—it was past the deepest night—there the oxen turned mad for us, and the cattle of the folk on the farm were no different, and there was such trouble with the livestock that I forgot to stop to bless the infant!”

“That is where he caught it, mother, for it is corpse-rickets from the churchyard. Look for yourself in the bowl there: here there is a coffin, and there is a church tower, and in the coffin lies a corpse, spreading its fingers,” said the signing wife soothingly, as she interpreted the mysterious symbols the lead had become.

“Hm, hm, hm, that is some advice!” she mumbled again, but loudly enough that the other could hear it.

“What is some advice?” asked the smallholder’s wife, glad and eagerly.

“It is some advice—it is bothersome, but it will do,” said the signing wife. “I shall put together a swaddled child, and I shall bury it in the churchyard, so the dead think they have gained the child; and God help me if they understand aught else! But it depends on inherited silver. Do you have any inherited silver?”

“Yes, I have a couple of silver marks I got when I was christened. I have not been able to bring myself to touch them before, but since it concerns a life, then—” said the wife, beginning to look in the draw of an old chest.

“Yes, yes. One of them I shall lay in rock, the other in water—the third I shall bury in consecrated ground, where the rickets was caught—I must have three,” said Gudbjør, “and some rags, to make the swaddled child from.”

She got what she wanted. A manikin was soon sewn together as a swaddled child. The signing wife arose, took the doll and her staff, and said:

“Now I go to the churchyard to bury it. The third Thursday from today I shall return—then we shall see. If there is to be life, then you can see it in the child’s eyes; but if it is to die, then you shall only see the answer. Then I will go north to Joramo. I have not been there for a long time, but they have sent word for me for a child who merely has troll-rickets; it is a small matter. I shall drag him backwards beneath a strip of grass turf, and he shall return to folk.”

“Indeed. Indeed!” said the smallholder’s wife. “Joramo? That is in Lesja, isn’t it? Preserve the cross, that is a long way away!”

“Yes, it is a long journey, but it is where I was born and bred,” replied the signing wife. “I have wandered a little and gathered a little since I was there. Back then were better times for Gudbjør,” she said with a sigh, sitting herself on the bench. “But there in Joramo there was a changeling,” she continued, something half-forgotten rising in her memory as she looked backwards towards her childhood. “My aunt’s great-grandmother, she was at Joramo in Lesja, and she had a changeling. I never saw him, for he was dead and gone long before I was born, but my mother told me about him. He looked in his face like an old, weather-beaten fellow. In his eyes he was as red as a roach, and he stared in the dark like a tawny owl.9 He had a head as long as a horse’s head, and as thick as a head of cabbage, but his legs were like a sheep’s legs, and his body looked like year-old cured meat. He did nothing but howl and cry and scream, and if he got anything in his hands, then he threw it in his mother’s face. He was constantly as hungry as a village dog; everything he saw he would eat, and he ate them nearly out of their house. The older he got, the meaner he grew, and there was no end to his screaming and crying; but never did they get him to speak a single word, even though he was old enough to. He was the most loathsome troll anyone had ever heard of, and they had such unspeakable trouble with him, both night and day. They sought advice both here and there, too, and the woman was advised to do both this and that. She did not think that she had the heart to beat and strike him, however, before she was completely sure it was a changeling. But then there was one who taught her that she should say that the king was coming. She should make up a warm fire in the hearth and break an egg. The shell she should put on the fire, and the stirring stick she should stick up the chimney. Yes, she did this. When the changeling saw it, he raised himself up in the cradle and glared at it. The woman went out and peeped through the keyhole. Then he crept out of the cradle on his hands, but his legs remained lying in it, and he stretched himself out, and he grew so long, so long that he reached across the cabin floor, right up to the hearth.

“‘No,’ he said, ‘now I am as old as seven falls of wood in the Lesja forest, but never have I seen so large a stirring stick in so small a cauldron at Joramo.’

“When the woman saw this and heard what he said, she had enough; then she knew he was a changeling, and when she came in again, he crept together into the cradle, like a serpent. Thursday evening, she took him out and beat him well and good on the rubbish heap, and then it cracked and sounded around her. The second Thursday evening went the same way; but then she heard it say, as if beside her, and she understood it was her own child:

“‘Each time you strike Tjøstul Gautstigen, then they strike me, back in the mountain.’

“But on the third Thursday evening, she thrashed the changeling again. Then came a woman flying with a child, as if she were burned.

“‘Give me Tjøstul back; there you have your pup!’ she said, and threw the child to her.

“The woman reached out her hand to catch it, and she caught one of its legs; this she kept in her hand, but the rest she never saw, so hard had the mountain woman thrown.”

While she told this, the woman of the house sat so restlessly and nervously that Gudbjør finally had to notice, even though she was very preoccupied with her presentation.

“What is going on?” she asked. “Oh, your husband is coming,” she said, looking out the door; and solemnly she added: “It is not for Gudbjør to stay on your bench; but be not afraid, mother—I shall go down by the churchyard, so he doesn’t see me.”

  1. There are a number of historical king’s roads (Via Regia) in Norway, the earliest of which were opened in the early 17th century, to facilitate the movement of stone and timber. The one referenced here appears to be Den Trondhjemske kongevei, which connects the two most important cities, Christiania (now Oslo) and Trondheim. 

  2. Used these days to denote juvenile vitamin D deficiency, “rickets” has formerly been used to denote any number of diseases that cause weakness in children. The Norwegian word, “svekk,” which also has been used to denote rickets, has a similar history. 

  3. The Norwegian cunning folk were known as signefolk, where signe- denotes making the sign of the cross, a central feature of their cunning arts.  

  4. Jutul: related to the Old Norse “jǫtunn,” which denotes a race of giants in opposition to man and god. 

  5. The hulder-folk of Norway are a hidden folk, analogous to fairies in the lore of other regions. 

  6. Kristiansbyen: “Christian’s town,” i.e. Christiania (“Kristiania,” following a spelling reform in 1877), the name of the capital city of Norway from 1634 until 1924. 

  7. Tumbled, i.e. the child has been blessed with the sign of the cross. 

  8. Instead of manipulating the wording, to retain the rhyming couplets of the original, I have chosen to maintain the lexical content of the rhyme. The Norwegian is as follows:

    «Jeg maner for svik og jeg maner for svekk;
    jeg maner den bort, jeg maner den vekk;
    jeg maner den ut, jeg maner den inn;
    jeg maner i vær, og jeg maner i vind;
    jeg maner i syd, og jeg maner i øst;
    jeg maner i nord, og jeg maner i vest;
    jeg maner i jord, og jeg maner i vann;
    jeg maner i berg, og jeg maner i sand;
    jeg maner den ned i en olderrot;
    jeg maner den inn i en folefot;
    jeg maner den inn i helvetes brann;
    jeg maner i nordenrinnendes vann;
    der skal den ete, og der skal den tære;
    til mén for barnet skal den inte være.»

  9. Roach: the fresh-water fish. 

Monday, 10 December 2018

A Capercaillie Lek in Holleia

From Tyristrand, we went up through the mountains, one of the first days in May—this was long before the hunting laws had been hatched out; we were going to watch the capercaillie lek the following morning in Sjærsjøhaugen, which was said to be the surest around these parts. We were four: my friend the captain, me, an old hunter called Per Sandaker from over in the Sokne valley, and a quick boy who kept two braces of dogs; when the lek was over, we were going hare coursing. Spring had fully arrived, down in the village, but as we came up the ridges, the snow lay deep in the sheltered hollows. The evening was still comfortably mild, and the birds sang their spring songs in the woods. In the vicinity of Asksetra, where we had thought of spending the night, we began to climb Skjærsjøhaugen, to listen for the birds as they roosted for the night, as everyone from these parts who shoots birds knows to do. When we had reached the top, and had an unhindered view, the sun stood to go down, throwing its strong golden light up to the clear sky. But this sky did not rise above a happy and friendly landscape: dark, endless forests and hills, broken only by icy pools and great bogs, stretched around about, as far as the horizon.

We had not been here long after sundown before we heard a soughing flight and the heavy wingbeats of a bird buffeting its way in.

“That was no old bird,” said the captain knowingly, when he heard no sound after the bird had settled.

Two birds soon came soughing after, and landed without giving a sound. But then came one flying in with a heavier, even louder wingbeat, and when it landed, it began snapping its beak.

“That fellow wasn’t born last year. That’s the Cock-of-the-Woods,” said Per Sandaker; “as long as it isn’t the old giant himself, and I think it may be.”

Three more birds arrived, and for each one that landed, the old one began snapping its beak. Two of them made not a sound, but the third answered in the same tone.

“That’s a stranger,” said Per. “He didn’t recognise the old one, else he’d have kept his beak shut. Early in the morning he’ll regret it, for believe me, the old one will find him, and he is not one to snap at, when he’s in the right mood. I’ve seen how he swept away a squabbler that croaked at him in the lek once before.”

As he spoke, the shooter’s open, weatherbitten face took on a very strange, inscrutable mien, which seemed to hint at some mysterious story or other. According to the brief sketch of him the captain had given me, when Per Sandaker had fallen a little behind for a bit, he was supposed to be strong in stories of troll birds, emissaries and subterraneans, and grew especially particular when he told of one or another of the eighteen bears he had shot in his time. On the other hand, he kept quiet about the great number of times evil tongues had accused him of having missed.

“But what manner of ‘old one’ and ‘old giant’ is it you speak of?” I asked.

“I’ll tell you,” began the captain quickly, as we set off on our way to the pasture. Reasonably enough, he feared that this rash and untimely question after so short an acquaintance should cause Per to become suspicious and quieten his tongue. “I’ll tell you,” he replied. “There is an old capercaille in the lek which has become something of a creature of fable in the whole village. Among the shooters, he’s known by the name of ‘the bleater,’ for instead of sitting calmly in the trees, clucking, it often flies around between the treetops, bleating like a goat. Only after this manoeuvre has been performed does it sit up to gobble and drum. Such a display is unreasonable, and no one can come within shooting range. Even more often, though, it uses another trick, which is much worse; it sits calmly, and gobbles and snaps, but before it drums, it moves over to another tree. If one is so lucky as to get a shot off, it won’t bite it. Old Per has shot at it both with salt and with silver, but even though its feathers flew, it took no more notice of his sure rifle shot than of a blank. The next morning, it played just as lively, and as dissonant as before.”

“One may as well have shot at a stone,” said Per, self-assuredly. “I got close to him once, as he was displaying on the slabs over here by the bridge, right in the middle of the road that goes to Skau; and if there weren’t as many as seven hens sitting around him, as I counted, and there were more in the terrain, for there was chatter and pattle behind every bush! And they were eager; they ran around him and stretched their necks and squatted down and made themselves attractive; but the bird sat on the stone slabs and puffed his chest out, strutting like a Spanish count. Just like that, he pressed his tail up and spread into a wheel, turned around and swept his wings down towards his legs, and finally jumped into the air, as high as this… Well, I didn’t know it was this fellow, or I would have fired immediately, before he had made himself hard, perhaps. But I thought it fun to watch him. As he was in the middle of his display, then another capercaillie came flapping—it wasn’t quite as big—and joined in the display. But then there was a game! The old one raised his tail in the air, and his beard stuck out like the teeth of a carder, and then he ground his beak so that the sound went straight through me. And the other, he replied—he was no less the fellow, believe me. But then the old one rushed at him, and when they struck their beaks and wings together, it sounded so loudly that it echoed through the forest. Just like that, they jumped high towards each other and hewed with their beaks and tore with their claws and struck with their wings, and they were so angry that they didn’t notice anything around them or take any care, and I thought I could easily go over to them and take them with my hands, the both of them. But in the end, the old one got a good hold of the other’s crest, and he struck him and dealt with him so that he really squawked, and I mostly felt sorry for the bird, for he led him around by his crest, pressed him to the ground and had him beneath him, so that he came scooting across the stone slabs on him, just by my feet. Then I took aim as quickly as I could. I fired, and the bird lay dead on the spot; but the old one sat, still pulling his crest, and didn’t lift his wings. Really, I thought, if you are so calm yet, then you shall be mine. I reloaded and was about to aim at him, but then he got up and flew off; but if he was more than ten paces from me then let me never shoot a bird more in my time.

“Another time I was up here and heard how he came in, like tonight. It was an old pine he perched on. And then he began to display, display for real this time. He displayed so that the whole tree shook, and it wasn’t just gobbling and drumming, and neither did he move. When he began on the fourth movement, I was within range. He sat far down on a branch, in towards the pine trunk. Now you shall be mine, I thought, for I had cut up a silver florin and made a bullet. But blow me if I wasn’t wrong! When I fired, he flew just as straight, even though the feathers flew off him. Nothing bites at that fellow!”

“Tomorrow we shall try to get it anyway, Per, now that we know where it sits,” said the captain, with a wry wink in the corner of his eye.

“There mustn’t be a bird in the forest, when you start after it,” replied Per curtly. “Yes, God save me! If the captain wants to go after it, then… Well, I won’t wager a grain of gunpowder on him, for I tell you,” he added cannily, “that no one is supposed to have heard such display. And such a bird, too! He is the most wondrous animal one may see. He is not built like any other proper capercaillie; he’s almost half as big again, if not more.”

“Yes, you’re right, he’s is an old rascal that is not worth the powder,” said the captain. “Its meat is certainly tough and as bitter as the pine branch it displays on. But I would like to kill it, to make an end of this loose display that it has so often dragged us by the nose with. On several occasions I have gone after it, without discovering its display. I have also shot at it a couple of times, but at such range that there was little chance of hitting it. It is, of course, a grave error to shoot twice at such range in the capercaillie forest, as you well know,” he turned to me; “but last time there was no choice; for I heard that villain Sara-Anders1 going after the bird at the same time. It really is, as Per says, a strange bird, the old capercaillie. But,” he added with a little nod towards me, which indicated that he wanted to See Per Sandaker give up more of his stories, “when we come up to the pasture, I shall tell of an episode I have experienced with a troll hare, which was even more wondrous than our capercaillie.”

We soon arrived at the deserted pasture, where the boy had gone with the dogs we had taken away at Skjærsjøhaugen; at the captain’s orders, he had aired the place and made up a proper fire in the hearth.

When we had divided the guns and hunting vests between us, and made a good evening meal of the captain’s excellent packed food, he began with assumed gravity of face and gestures to tell his story of the troll hare.

“When I was a lieutenant, I was on an exercise at Toten one summer. I had dogs with me for coursing. One afternoon as I stood in the kitchen ready to go out to try the evening hunting, one of the tenants came in.

“‘Are there many hares around here?’ I asked.

“‘There are more than enough of them,’ replied the tennant. ‘Up on Sukkestadsletta there’s an old giant; many dogs and folk have been after it, but it is not good to catch, you see.’ And with that the tenant shook his head.

“‘Not good to catch? What kind of talk is that? Is there no proper dog here? When my dogs get it on its feet I think it shall be got,’ I said, patting the dogs that dragged at the harness, eager to go out.

“‘Really? Do you think that will happen then?’ said the tenant, grinning.

“I went straight up Sukkerstadsletta, and I had hardly released the dogs before the hare was on its feet and was loose. But nothing would come of it, for it ran and went to ground again and again; the dogs weren’t able to really discover its scent; but each moment it was up on its legs again, and then things went quite well until it again escaped into a bush. I ran hither and thither—it was not difficult to find a spot—and I shot at it several times, but there was nothing but miss after miss. Finally it sat before me by a spruce bush forty paces away. I shot and went quite confidently forward to pick it up; but when I reached the spruce bush, there was no hare to see, there was nothing but a log and a rag.

The following day, I cleaned my gun, for it was dirty and full of gunpowder residue. As I was doing so, the tennant came.

“‘How did it go with the hare, Lieutenant?’ he asked putting on a serious expression.

“I told him the story.

“‘There have been many after him, both dogs and folk, but he is not good to catch, you see,’ he repeated furtively. ‘You clean your gun; but it won’t help, I don’t think; the here will save itself anyway.’

“‘But God’s death, what is it with that hare! Doesn’t powder and lead bite him?’ I asked.

“‘Perhaps not,’ he replied. ‘I can tell you that there is a troll hare, the rascal; but the one who was out yesterday, that was just his emmisary, for he always goes fairly himself. But now I shall give you some advice. Take a snake—I’ll find one for you—and stuff it in the barrel of your gun, and shoot it out, and then see if powder and lead will bite it.’

“I did this; he got a living snake for me, which we threatened into the barrel of the gun; I shot it out against the barn door, and strangely enough, there was nothing to see other than a wet spot.

“Some days afterwards I went up on Sukkestadmoen. It was early one morning. The dogs had hardly been loosed before the here was on its legs. This time it didn’t go in fits and starts, but went at full tilt, and the hare hadn’t gone for half an hour before it came dancing down the slope towards me. I raised the gun to my cheek and fired. It fell on the spot, and it was a big jack, full of scars and scratches; it had no more than an ear and a half.”

“I have heard of such a hare,” said Per, who had followed the captain’s story with great attention. “He held to around here in Holleia, over towards Granbu, but they say he was mostly as black as charcoal. There were many who went after him and shot at him, but they never got the best of him before this infernal Sara-Anders came there. He shot him, for he is just everywhere, you understand. It was unfortunate we saw his snowshoe tracks, for he can never wait, like other folk, until the bird has finished its real lek.”

“I quite believe it,” said the captain, stroking his handlebar moustache. “It’s not the first time that fellow walk on peaceful grounds. But tell me, was it he who shot the troll hare inn towards Kristiania, like you told, once upon a time?”

“Oh yes, that’s right. No, it was a shooter from town, called Brande-Lars. You probably know him, you who came from Krestjan,” he said to me.

No, I didn’t know him.

“Really, you don’t know him? He still lives in a small cabin beneath the hills just below Grefsen. I met him at Halland once, when he was hunting with some city folk. He was a strange figure, but an excellent shot. He nearly never missed when he was shooting hares, and he could take out fleeing birds, like the captain does. But then there was the hare the captain was talking about. He told me about it, and a lot more.

“‘I was to slip the dogs for old Simenson on Vesletorgje-and get hold of some fresh food2 for the parson,’ he said. ‘There were three of them; one of them was called Rapp, and he was such a dog that the mound folk had no power over him, for he was red, you see; the other two were also good dogs, yes—God preserve me well. So one Ascension Day morning,’3 he said, ‘I was up by Linderudseter-Røa. There I loosed Rapp, and he drove him so that the hill squeaked and whistled. I took my post on an old charcoal heap there. When he had taken a turn, then the hare came right past me. I shot, but I missed, and then it went off at full tilt. It wasn’t long before he returned to the same spot—he was quite black down his back—and I shot and missed again.

“‘But how the devil does this hang together, will the other dogs not join in? I thought to myself,’ he said, ‘for it was Rapp who was driving, and he went without a pause. No, it couldn’t be a proper hare. But I wanted to see it once more first. Well, he came for the third time, too, and I shot and missed, and both of the other dogs were there, but they did not give it their all. But then I fed the nipple and loaded,’ he said.”

“How?” I asked

“Tell him, Per,” said the captain.

“Well, he wouldn’t tell me at first,” replied Per, “but when I had poured him a proper drink and given him a roll of tobacco, then he told me.

“‘You take the bark of a tender rowan,’ he said ‘and feed the nipple with it, and then you scrape three slivers of silver from a silver shilling that you inherited—but it must take care it is of the good old money that has been off to war—then you scrape three splinters from the fingernail of your little finger of your left hand, and then you take three grains of barley, but if you haven’t those, then you can use three crumbs of bread, and you lay all this before the bullet itself, then you will hit, even if it is the devil himself you are shooting at,’ he said. ‘I did so that time at Lindesrudsetra’ he said, ‘and when he came the fourth time, then he had to fall to the ground as soon as the gun fired!’ he said. ‘It was a small dry dog, and he was so old that he was mostly black. Well, I took him and hung him up by his hind legs from a crooked birch to gut him. But the Lord bless me,’ he said, ‘if he didn’t bleed like a small cow! And the dogs licked and slurped the blood off the ground. So I took him with me, but wherever I went, I went wrong, and all the while, the blood flowed from him. I came back to the same crooked birch again, twice. This was certainly fun! I thought,’ he said, ‘for I thought I was as familiar with this place as I was at home on my parlour floor. But when something is wrong, then it is often very wrong! Well, I will let the dogs find the way, then; and so I did! But then I came down to some outcrops of rock, and old mother was outside. She stood right in front of some young birches, up by a small birch holt, with a scarf on her head, wearing a leather tunic and black skirt, and she leaned against a walking-stick, and she looked like a wife from up in the country.

“‘“Lars,” she said, “you have caught many a hare from me in the mark here, and I have been generous with you. So couldn’t you rather have let my pasture hare run where he was? But had you not had that lively Rapp of yours, you wouldn’t have caught him, neither!”

“‘I didn’t answer a word,’ said Lars, ‘but swept down towards Merramyra and up to Bamsebråten. There I loosed the dogs, and straightway they caught a scent. Rapp took off, and I stood listening for a while, wondering whether the others would join in, for they were going over to Linderudsetra again, and I was simply aghast. Well, I could hear all three of them barking, and so I knew that it was a proper hare. It was the devil of a long run it made; but when he came about, he traipsed up the hill like a young foal, and when I saw him, he was almost the size of a small billy goat. I shot it. Then I went southwards down towards Alendsjøen. There they went out again, and then we went there in a noisy run up towards Linderudsetra again—for they had to go past there with him. At length they returned. So I shot it. Then I had three. That’s enough for today, my dear Lars, I said,’ he said, ‘and so I went down and hung them up in Simen’s cellar stairs. But God preserve me, the little black one bled for three days afterward, so that the cellar was half full of blood,’ he said.”

“You just said that there was supposed to be a troll hare here in Holleia; there are also legends that it is full of riches of precious metals in the mountains here. It wouldn’t be bad to have a share of that, right Per?” said the captain; he began to pry again, to bring forth a new tale.

“Oh, what would the captain want with them?“ replied Per, shaking his head. “He has enough and more besides. For a pauper fellow it might well do; but believe me, it isn’t easy to get hold of.”

“I think it curious that you haven’t retired after getting hold of some of it,” the captain insisted.

“And how would I do that?” Per asked. “Lying and digging in the hill, like old Jon Haugen did all over Holleia? I don’t have a mind to do it.”

“There are other ways of finding riches,” replied the captain, furtively. “What do you say to becoming good friends with the mountain women? You have certainly not been such a bad-looking fellow in your time, Per Sandaker! You could have been happy.”

“Ha, ha, ha!” Per laughed in his beard, it was apparent that he liked the captain’s humorous line. “I haven’t believed in such, for I have never seen a troll or hulder.”

“But didn’t a mountain woman live over by Holleia in the old days?” said the captain.

“Oh, that’s nothing but an old fairy tale. Of course I have heard such talk, but I don’t believe any of it,” replied Per.

“But do you know how it goes, you who have been around on the mark for so long? You should tell us what you know; this city man is a fool for such stories.”

“Perhaps so, yes, I could. But I don’t believe it is true,” Per assured us, and began.

“South of the peak of Holleia—yes, Holleia stretches between Tyristranda here and Soknedalen—there are two outcrops of rock, which they call Great Knut and Little Knut; from where you sit, you can even see a little of the top of Spiråsen, straight up from Skau. Away there are manifold old claims, and there is so much silver and wealth in the rocks that there is no end to it, they say. But it is not easy to get any of it, for in the outcrop lives an old rock woman. She owns it altogether, and sits upon it like a dragon—so they say. She is much richer than the King of Kongsberg; for when they had mined so much silver at Kongsberg, once, then the king came out into the mine and said to the folk: ‘No, now will I soon not stand you any longer down here. For if you continue in such manner, I will become a poor man; you are turning me into a beggar. No, move to my sister, Guri Knutan in Holleia; she is ten times richer than I am.’”

“Guri Knutan is a sister of the King of Ekeberg, then,” I said.

“The King of Ekeberg? Who is he? Is he from Kristjan, perhaps?” asked Per.

I told him the legend of the King of Ekeberg and how he moved, and what he said in 1814, that he would move to his brother at Kongsberg, because he could not stand all the shooting and parading there was there.

“Well then that is what he was, then, he was the brother of this woman I am telling you about,” said Per naively. “I have heard of one who moved because he couldn’t stand the shooting and parading. But he was from the mark here. Either it was this Guri’s husband or it was another, I don’t know, but he was supposed to be one who lives in the mountain and who owns a lot. Things went such that at the time They began to mine in the mark at Skau, then there was a woman, she lived by Langesjøbekken, which runs in the middle between Soknedaten and Tyristrand. This woman was called Rønnau, and they called her Rønnau Skaune. Early one morning around the time of St. John’s, she was washing clothes down in the brook, and she saw a lot of silverware—both platters and plates and spoons and ladles and all that there was, and there was so much silverware—and it all lay at the bottom of the brook, glittering and gleaming in the sun, beneath the water. When she saw all these riches, it was as if she turned completely crazy; she got to her feet and flew home, for she would fetch a vessel and take it all home. But when she returned, it was gone, every single bit. There was not so much as a gleaming silver florin; she saw nothing but the clear water running over the stones. A while afterwards, when they began to dig copper mines in the Skein mark, there was such noise and blasting and rumbling all the time, constantly, so that there was no peace at any time. Late one evening Rønnau had been down by the brook. Then she met a large man on a great black horse—he was following a whole train of moving goods and was driving some flocks of sheep and other livestock.

“‘Good evening Rønnau,’ he said. ‘I am moving now, I am.’

“‘Yes, I see that, father, but why are you doing so?’ she asked.

“‘Oh, they make so much noise in these mines here that it is breaking my skull. I can’t stand it any longer, and I am therefore moving to my brother’s in Tinn in Telemark. But listen now, Rønnau,’ he said, ‘why did you want my whole kitchen service, that time you saw the silver in the brook? If you had been satisfied with what you could carry in your skirt, then you could have had it?’

“Since that time” said Per, “I have neither heard nor seen anything of such in these parts; either it is because they have moved, or they keep themselves at home. Such nonsense has no power to show itself now, for folk don’t believe in it, you understand.”

“There you tell a greater truth them you know, my dear Per,” exclaimed the captain. “Folk who are held to be wiser than both you and me say exactly the same thing. Else you may still come across some trolls.”

After the captain’s repeated encouragements, Per shortened the night with legends and tales of his hunting achievements. Once in a while the captain gave us a hunting story as best he could, which often contained the pointed reference to one or another of the bears Per had missed, and on each occasion the shooter made his gruff face assume the attitude of a holiday, and scratched himself behind his ear; sometimes he winked significantly with one eye and said: “That was for you, Per Sandaker, take it with you home!”

At midnight, we lay down to sleep by the fire on a couple of benches, and had a short rest. When we awoke Per said that it was time to go to the lek. It was quite cold out, there was a frozen crust on the snow, so that it crunched underfoot. But the sky was almost like in the spring, clear and dark blue, with some whitish clouds that slowly sailed in from the south, forecasting that the cold nights would soon be gone. The moon stood low down by the brow of the day: instead of lighting our nightly wandering, it cast merely a mild light over the distant hills and treetops, but between the columns of the pines there lay a mysterious twilight that endlessly lengthend shadows, conjured forth fabulous figures between the trunks, and made the forest deep and secretive.

Only the robin broke the silence, with its mild Lauds song.

“There sings the bird that is first up in the morning,” said Per. “Now it won’t be long before there is life in the woods; it looks like we’ll have to wait a little.”

“There is good time, my dear Per,” said the captain. “The capercaillie plays best on the mound between us and Løndalsmyra, and I don’t think there will be any display; it’s too cold.”

“It’ll be milder towards the morning,” replied an opinionated Per, “for there’s a southerly draught in the weather, and I think there will be a fresh display, since it has been so cold these last nights. The sun display will be nothing but beautiful. Just listen to the woodcock, so freshly she rattles and scuffs; she is expecting good weather. There the snipe bleats, too. This will be good!” he added self-assuredly.

We heard the woodcock’s peculiar sound, which resembled, croak by croak, a frogs, followed by a sharp, cutting whistle, like a loud wagtail tweeting; in the weak light of the moon, which had just gone down, we saw one shadow after the other of woodcocks going over the treetops. We sensed the common snipes’ uncanny, bleating sound first close, then far off, then high in the air, and then suddenly, as it seemed, right by our ears, around as on every side, though we were unable to catch a glimpse of the bird. The wild, piercing shriek of the heron cut through the other birds; it was as if they trembled in fear, for they fell suddenly silent every time it sounded—it was a silence that made the interruption doubly uncanny. But now the woodlark gave voice to its morning song in clear, ringing tones; through the gloom of the night and its darkness, it brought to remembrance the light of day, and formed a quickening contrast to the night birds’ ghostlike behaviour and uncanny tones.

“There the capercaillie bell rings!” said the captain; “that’s what the Swedes call this small, cheerful bird; for when it starts singing, the capercaillie ends its night watch with its morning hymn. Let us now stop a little here; we are not far from the birds to arrive last yesterday; if we go closer, we night easily scare them.” When we had stood listening for a few minutes, we heard a bird displaying, a couple of hundred paces away.

“I do believe it’s the fellow that came last, grinding its bill,” said Per.“ I wonder greatly if he shall be beaten; the old one isn’t usually retiring.”

The captain gave me the choice between walking in the direction of where are had heard the bird displaying, or more northwards, where he thought the young birds sat. I chose the former; the captain went northwards. Per and I crept torwards the bird and sought with the utmost care to avoid scraping and breaking twigs. When we heard the bird screech, we stopped a moment, but during each following screech or drumming, immediately after that it had finished its gobbling, we ran two or three paces forwards. During the snapping and the gobbling, we naturally stood perfectly still. When we in this manner had approached the tree in which it sat, at fouty or fifty paces, we heard a bird come flying noisily into the tree. The sound of bills and wings that clashed together, told us that the old one had paid his visit to the strange co-suitor at the crack of dawn. During the struggle, we ran a few paces forward, but soughing wingbeats bore witness to the flight of the stranger, and of an easy victory for the old one. Now it was quiet for a while; but there cackled a hen, and immediately the bird began to play; it drummed and gobbled; but when we lifted our feet to run at it, it spread its wings and moved to another tree, There it again began its disappointing display.

“Just as I knew,” said Per, regretfully. “Now he’s off again, the old one. It does no good in the kingdoms of the world to go up against him; you may just as well go up against a flock of clouds. No, let us go a little farther northwards; there are more birds sitting there, and perhaps one of them dares lift its bill, even though they are afraid of this beast—would the devil had him!”

“Do you know where the old one usually makes his sun display?” I asked.

“Yes, of course I know,” replied Per. “He displays it in a pine on a small knoll down beneath here in Hyttetjennsmyra; but it is no good to get a shot at him, for the pine is so unreasonably tall and long.”

“There is where we want to go,” I said; “but since you think it better, we can go a little north first.”

We went a distance in the proposed direction, past a monstrously large boulder, which Per called Mjølne-Ragnhild, along the south side of Løndalsmyra. But we did not hear a single bird displaying. Per Sandaker wondered greatly at where they might be, and finally came to the conclusion that the fight had chased them away, or made them so afraid, that “they didn’t dare grumble”. The day began to grow light, when we heard a bang far to the north in Sandtjennåsen, where Per told that he and the captain usually left bear bait out. A while after we heard another bang—it was the captain’s gun, said Per, both times. We went out onto the moor towards the pine. Per did not much want to do so and gave voice to his dissent; he mumbled in fragmented sentences to himself: “Waste of powder! No, no, the captain is the fellow of a man; he has one—perhaps too—Sara-Anders it was not, that toy gun of his; there is another bang in the captain’s.”

“Dear me, Per,” I said. “Perhaps we shall bag one that is better than all the other birds in the lek.”

“Then you must show some strange arts,” said Per; “but he is a bird, and he is too hard, I should say.”

When we had come to the knoll on the other side of the frozen moor, and I saw the scant area the bird had to be felled on if it, as we thought it would, lighted in the pine top, I took the shot out of my gun and loaded it with a shotgun cartridge of steel wire. Per watched this, shook his head and expressed his lack of confidence with a:

“That’ll certainly help!”

“We’ll see,” I replied.

The outcrop we stood on lay as a small island in the midst of the great moor. Highest up on the island rose the mentioned pine, a matchless mast tree, full of woodpecker holes. On the east end of the knoll stood another pine, which had been just as mighty. But now it leaned over the moor; the storm had broken its top off, and only the two bottommost branches remained, almost naked, and like muscular giant's arms they stretched out towards the clear silver morning day. The sun began to rise; it gilded the ridges of the hills and eventually lent its light out across the dark spurce ridges. But Skjærsjømyren, which stretched so far southwards that it disappeared into the blue of the forest by the farthest bank lay still in deep shadow. The woodcock, the snipe and all the birds of the night had fallen silent; but the forest’s cheerful songbirds filled the clear morning moment with jubilent tones; the chiffchaff let its monotonous clapper go; blackcocks chattered and boomed loudly; the mistle thrush published mocking ballads and curses at everyone with its whole heart, but once in a while fell into sentimentalily, slowly chirruping some lovely verses. On the other side of the moor a capercaillie displayed in the tops. The hens made themselves loveable, clucking and snorting their hoarse nasal sounds, which from the songbirds’ perspective must have sounded the way our great-grandmothers interpreting love and the feelings of a young girl did to us.

Meanwhile, we stood hidden in a juniper scrub on the small knoll, expecting the bird at any moment; but the old one dwelt for a long time in his harem. Finally, as the rays of the sun gilded the pine tops, it came soughing upon heavy wing beats, and threw itself, not as we had expected into the tall tree above us, but into the topless pine that hung out over low moor. It was in truth a magnificent bird, a proud champion, as it sat there on the naked branch against the sky, with its glossy light-green breast in the light from the sun. A hen came afterwards and cast itself down in the top above our heads. At the same moment the bird began to display; it extended its wattles, dragged its wings behind its feet, took some steps along the branch as it made waving movements with its neck, and began thereafter to display, spreading its tail out like a mighty wheel. I stood with my finger on the hammer, and waited tensely for the decisive moment when it should spread its wings to fly, so that I would have a larger target to aim at—it was necessary at such a great distance. But the hen continued to cackle, the capercaillie played his display until the end, and had already to gobble in the new one, when a twig cracked beneath my foot. The hen gave out a sharp warning sound; but now the old one had grown so hot that he didn’t heed well-meaning advice, but stayed on his patch, until his faithful mistress took off and flew straight at him, as if she would push him down off the branch. Awakened by the warning wing beats, the old one took off to escape. But my gun was raised, and the mighty bird fell head first down on to the moor. It’s death was quick; it merely flapped its wings a couple of times. Per ran to it and picked it up, and there a shadow of amazement passed across his face, soon replaced by a satisfied, admiring grin. He shook his head and said:

“Well, I wouldn't have believed it, even if the captain himself had told me, for this is the right one. I know it by its bill: so yellow and curved and huge a bill has no other capercaillie on the mark. Look how green his breast is; it almost gleams! And so heavy and big he is!” continued Per, weighing the bird in his hand with almost childlike expressions of joy. “I don't believe its much of a lie if I say he weighs all of thirty marks. What a shot! No, the captain will certainly be happy… Ho, ho, over here!” he cried, so the echo from the hills picked it up and repeated it.

The captain soon appeared on the moor, accompanied by the boy, who had been with him, looking after the dogs. Each of them carried a capercaillie. Per lifted our prize in triumph, and called from a great distance:

“It’s the old giant, captain!”

“What do you say, fellow?” cried the captain, arriving with rapid paces. “Is it the old one? That is a real piece of work; that deserves a dram. Vivant all bird republics, pereant the sovereigns!” he cried, when he had got the bottle and the silver dish out of his hunting bag, and he drank to us.

“Didn’t I tell you the captain would be glad?” said Per, weeping, blinking his eyes, and taking a proper draught of the vessel that had been handed to him. “Now the lek will be a different kind of fun, now we’re quit of this pox.”

When we had exchanged stories of our day, the dogs were loosed, and the hunting cry filled the forest. They soon found a scent, and shortly afterwards they went off at full tilt. The echo repeated the noise manifold times between the hills, and our hearts swelled in pleasure at the sound of the ringing hunt in the morning sunshine.

  1. The name suggests Sara-Anders is of Sámi extraction, and is thus viewed with suspicion. 

  2. A gift for officials was often called “fresh food,” for that is usually what it consisted of.  

  3. Ascension day always falls on a Thursday, hence it is a day of enchantment. 

Saturday, 17 November 2018

The Bush Bride

There was once upon a time a widower who had a son and a daughter by his first wife. They were good children, the both of them, and each held the other dear in their heart. After a while, the man married again. He took a widow, who had a daughter by her first husband. She was both ugly and mean, and so was her mother, too. From the moment the new wife set foot in the house, there was no peace for the man’s children in any repose or corner, and so the boy thought it best to go out into the world, to try to earn his own bread.

When he had walked a while, he came to the king’s farm. There he went into service with the head groom, and he was useful and handy, so the horses he groomed were so fat and sleek that they gleamed.

But his sister who was left behind at home fared worse than badly. Both her stepmother and the woman’s daughter were after her, no matter where she went and stood, and scolded and banged around, so she never had so much as an hour’s peace; she had to do all the heavy work, she had to put up with harsh words both early and late, and she had but little food, too.

One day, when they had sent her to the brook for water, an ugly, foul head came up to the surface of the water.

“Wash me, will you!” said the head.

“Yes, I will certainly wash you,” said the man’s daughter, and began to scrub and wash the ugly face, and she thought it was foul work.

When she had finished, another head came up to the surface; it was even fouler.

“Brush me, will you!” said the head.

“Yes, I will certainly brush you,” said the girl, and began on the locks of hair, but you may be sure the work was no fun.

When she had brushed finished, an even fouler and uglier head came up to the surface of the water.

“Kiss me, will you!” said the head.

“Yes, I shall kiss you,” said the man’s daughter, and she did so, too; but it was the worst job she had done in her life, she thought.

Then one head spoke with the others, and they asked one another what good they could do by her.

“That she should be the finest girl there is, and as fair as the lightest day,” said the first head.

“That her hair scatters gold every time she brushes it,” said the second.

“That gold falls from her mouth every time she speaks,” said the third head.

When now the man’s daughter came home, as beautiful and as fair as the day, her stepmother and her daughter grew even more angry, and it grew worse when she spoke, and they saw that gold coins fell from her mouth. Her stepmother grew so angry that she flew at her, and chased the man’s daughter to the pigsty. There should she stay with her gold finery, and she was not allowed to set foot in the parlour.

It wasn’t long before the mother would have her rightful daughter go to the brook for some water. When she arrived with her buckets, the first head came up to the surface of the water.

“Wash me, will you!” it said.

“The rascal wash himself!” said the rightful daughter.

Then the second one came up.

“Brush me, will you!” said the head.

“The rascal brush himself!” said the rightful daughter.

Then it sank, and the third head came up.

“Kiss me, will you!” said the head.

“The rascal kiss you, you mule’s snout!” said the girl.

Then the heads spoke together again, and asked what they should do for one who was so contrary; and they agreed that she should have a nose of four cubits and a snout of three cubits and a pine bush in the midst of her forehead, and every time she spoke, ash should fall out of her mouth.

When she returned home to the cabin door with the water buckets, she called for her mother: “Open up!” she said.

“Open up yourself, my rightful daughter!” said her mother.

“I can’t reach the door past my nose!” said the daughter.

When her mother came out and saw her, you can imagine how she took it, and how she screamed and carried on; but neither the nose or the snout shrank on that account.

The man’s daughter’s brother, who served at the king’s farm, had a drawing of his sister, and he carried the image with him, and each morning and evening he kneeled before the image and prayed to Our Lord for his sister, as dear as he held her. The other stable lads had heard it, and they peeped through the keyhole into his chamber, and saw that he bent his knee before an image there. So they began to speak of how the boy knelt every morning and evening, and prayed to an icon he had, and at last they went to the king, and bade him peep through the keyhole into the boy, and then he would see. The king would not believe it; but at length they persuaded him, and he tiptoed over to the door and peeped. Yes, he saw the boy on his knees, and the picture hung on the wall, and his hands were clasped together.

“Open up!” cried the king.

But the boy didn’t hear.

Then the king called a second time, but the boy prayed so earnestly that he didn’t yet hear.

“Open up, I say!” called the king again. “It is I; I want to come in.”

Well, then the boy ran to the door and opened it, and in his hurry he forgot to hide the image. When the king came in and saw it, he stood rooted to the spot and couldn’t move, so beautiful he found the picture.

“Such a beautiful woman does not exist in this world,” said the king.

But the boy told him that the image was of his sister, whom he had drawn, and if she was no more beautiful, then she was at least no uglier, he said.

“Well, if she is so beautiful, then I will have her as queen,” said the king, and commanded the boy to travel home for her that very hour, and certainly not to tarry on the road. The boy promised he would hurry as best he could, and travelled from the king’s farm.

When the brother came home to fetch his sister, their stepmother and her rightful daughter would go with them, too. They travelled, then, all together, and the man’s daughter had with her a chest that she kept her gold in, and a dog called Little Kaværn; these two things were the sum of her inheritance from her mother. When they had travelled a while, they had to cross the sea, and the brother sat aft by the tiller, and the mother and both sisters sat forward in the boat, and then they sailed both far and at length.

After a while they could see a beach. “There where you see the white beach is where we shall land,” said the brother, pointing across the sea.

“What does my brother say?” said the man’s daughter.

“He said you should throw your chest overboard,” said the stepmother.

“Well, if my brother says it, then I shall do it,” said the man’s daughter, and so she threw the chest in.

When they now had sailed a while more, again the brother pointed across the sea: “There you see the castle we are going to,” he said.

“What does my brother say?” asked the man’s daughter.

“Now he says you should throw your dog into the sea,” replied her stepmother.

The man’s daughter wept and felt ill, for Little Kaværn was the dearest thing she had in the world, but finally she threw it overboard.

“If my brother says it, then I should do it; but who knows how little I want you to throw you out, Little Kaværn,” she said.

Then again they sailed away, a good way.

“There you see the king coming to receive you,” said the brother, pointing at the beach.

“What does my brother say?” asked the sister again.

“Now he says you should hurry to throw yourself in,” replied the stepmother.

She carried on and wept; but if her brother said it, then she thought she must do it, and so she jumped into the sea.

When they now came to the king’s farm, and the king saw the foul bride with a nose of four cubits and a snout of three cubits and a bush in the midst of her forehead, he simply felt ill. But the wedding was ready, with both brewing and baking, and the wedding folk sat waiting, and so the king had to take her, just as she was. But he was as sick and as livid as anyone can imagine, and he therefore had the boy thrown into the pit of serpents.

The first Thursday afterwards a beautiful maiden came into the kitchen on the king’s farm, and so beautifully asked the kitchen maid who lay there to borrow a brush. This she got, and then she brushed her hair so that the gold fell from it. A little dog followed her, and to this she said: “Go out, Little Kaværn, and see if it is soon day!” She said this three times, and the third time she sent the dog out, it was about the time of dawn. Then she had to go, but as she went she said:

“Huff! You ugly bush bride
Who shall lie in the kings arms!
I lie in gravel and sand,
And my brother in the pit of serpents, without weeping!”

“Now I shall came twice more, and then never again,” she said.

In the morning the kitchen girl told what she had seen and heard, and so, on the next Thursday evening, the king himself would keep watch in the kitchen, to see if it were true. And when it began to grow dark, he came out into the kitchen, to the girl. But no matter how he rubbed his eyes and tried to stay awake, it did no good; the bush bride lulled and sang, so that his eyelids closed together. And when the beautiful maiden came, he was sleeping so that he snored. Like the first time, she borrowed a brush and brushed her hair so that the gold fell, and then she sent her dog out thrice, and when it was growing light she left. As she was leaving, she said the same words as before.

“Huff! You ugly bush bride
Who shall lie in the kings arms!
I lie in gravel and sand,
And my brother in the pit of serpents, without weeping!”

“Now I shall come once more, and then never again,” she said.

The third Thursday the king held watch again. And he set two men to hold him, one under each arm; they were to shake him and pinch him every time he began to sleep. And two men were set to hold watch over the bush bride. But as the evening drew on, the bush bride began to lull and sing again, so that his eyes began to close, and his head hung down to one side.

Then the beautiful maiden came, got the brush, and brushed her hair so that the gold fell, and then she sent Little Kaværn out, to see if it was soon day, and this she did thrice. The third time it had begun to grow light, and she said:

“Huff! You ugly bush bride
Who shall lie in the kings arms!
I lie in gravel and sand,
And my brother in the pit of serpents, without weeping!”

“Now I will never come again,” she said, and would go. But the two men who held the king under his arms, held on to his hands and pressed a knife into his fist, and so he cut her little finger so much that she was blood-woken.

Then the rightful bride was awake, and the king woke. She told him how everything had happened, and how her stepmother and the woman’s daughter had betrayed her. Her brother was soon taken out of the pit of serpents—the serpents had not done him the least harm—and the stepmother and her rightful daughter were thrown in instead. And no one can tell of how glad the king was, when he was rid of the ugly bush bride, and instead took a queen who was so beautiful, and as fair as the light of day. Now the rightful wedding was held, and such that it was heard and asked of across seven kingdoms. The king and his bride drove to the church, and Little Kaværn also sat in the carriage. When the ceremony was over, they drove home again, and I haven’t been with them since.