Saturday, 22 April 2017

The Three Princesses in Kvittenland

Once upon a time there was a fisherman who lived close by the castle and fished for the king’s table. One day when he was out fishing, he caught nothing, no matter how he baited his hooks—whether he baited and fished or fished and baited, not a bone hung on the hook. But as the day drew on towards evening, a head bobbed up from the water and said: “If I have what your wife bears beneath her belt, then you shall have fish enough.” The man quickly agreed, yes, for he knew not that she was with child. And then he caught fish enough, as many as he would have. But when he came home in the evening and told of how he had caught all the fish, his wife began to weep and complain, for the promise her husband had made, and asked God to help her; for she bore a child beneath her belt, she said.

There were soon questions about why the wife was so sorrowful, up at the castle, and when the king heard of it, he promised to take the child in and make sure to save it. Time passed and time went by, and when it was time, the wife bore a boy-child; the king took him in, and brought him up as his own son, until the boy was grown.

Then one day the boy asked for leave to go out fishing with his father; he had such an inner desire to do so, he said. The king would loath allow it, but finally the boy was allowed; he went with his father, and things went well and good enough all day, until they came in to land again in the evening. Then the boy left behind his kerchief, and would run down to the boat to fetch it. But as soon as he got into it, the boat set off with him, so the water rushed by; and no matter how the boy tried to pull against it with the oars, it did not help; it went and it went all night, and eventually he came far, far away to a white strand. There he went ashore, and when he had walked a distance, he met an old man with a long white beard.

“What is this place called?” said the boy.

“Kvittenland,” replied the man. And then he asked the boy to tell him where he was from, and what he wanted, and the boy told him.1

“Well,” said the man, “when you go along the strand here, you will come to three king’s daughters who stand in the earth, so that they only have their heads up. Then the first will call—she is the eldest—and ask so beautifully for you to come and help her; and the second one will, too; but neither of them shall you go to. But the third shall you go to, and do what she asks of you; that will be your happiness, it will.”

When the boy came to the first of the princesses, she called to him and asked so beautifully that he should come to her; but he walked as if he had not seen her; in the same way, he went past the second; but the third he went up to.

“If you will do as I say, then you may have which of the three of us you will,” said the princess.

Yes, he would like that; and so she told him that three trolls had buried them, all three, in the ground there, but before, they had lived in the castle he could see away in the forest. “Now you shall go into the castle and let the trolls whip you for a night for each of us,” she said; “if you can mangage that, then you will save us.”

Yes, replied the boy, he would certainly try.

“When you go in,” continued the princess again, “there are two lions standing in the gate, but if you walk right between them, then they will not harm you. Go straight ahead, into a small dark room; there you shall lie down. Then the troll will come to beat you; but then you shall take take the flask that hangs on the wall, and anoint yourself there where he has beaten you; then you will be just as good again. Grasp hold of the sword that hangs beside the flask, and hack the troll to death.”

Yes, he did what the princess said; he walked right between the lions, as if he did not see them, and straight into the small chamber, and there he lay down.

The first night there came a troll with three heads and three switches, and whipped the boy sinfully; but he held out until the troll was finished, then he took the flask and anointed himself, and then grasped the sword and hacked the troll to death. When he then came out in the morning, the princesses were above the ground to their belts.

The second night went the same way, but the troll that came then had six heads and six switches, and it whipped even worse than the first; but when he came out in the morning, the princesses stood above ground to their calves.

The third night, there came a troll that had nine heads and nine switches, and it beat and whipped the boy until at last he fainted away; then the troll took him and threw him against the wall, so that the jar fell down again, so that it splashed over him, and then he was just as good again. Then he was not slow; he grasped the sword and hacked the troll to death, and when he that morning came out of the castle, the princesses stood comepletely upon the earth. So he took the youngest of them as queen, and lived well and good with her for a long time.

But finally he desired to travel home for a little and see his parents. This the queen was not much for; but as he yearned so much, and ultimately ought to and had to go, she said to him: “One thing you must promise me, that you do what your father asks you, but not that which your mother asks you;” and he promised. Then she gave him a ring that was such that the one who wore it could wish for two things, whatever he wanted. And so he wished to be home, and his parents could not stop wondering at how fine and beautiful he was.

When he had been at home some days, his mother said that he should go up to the castle so that the king could see what manner of man he now had become. His father said: “No, he ought not do that, for that hour will not bring us any joy.” But it did not help; his mother begged and pleaded until he went.

When he arrived up there, he was finer of clothes and all things than his foster father. This he did not much like, and so he said: “Yes, but now you may see how my queen is; I cannot see yours. I do not think you have such a beautiful queen.”

“I wish she stood just here, so you could see!” said the young king, and immediately she stood there.

But she was so sorrowful, and said to him: “Why did you not do as I asked you, and listen to what your father said to you? Now I must soon go home again, and you have used both your wishes.” With that, she tied a ring in his hair, on which her name was written, and wished herself home again.

Then the young king was full of grief, and went day out and day in, thinking only of how he might return to his queen. I should see if there is anywhere I might ask anywhere where is, he thought, and so he went out into the world.

When he had walked a while, he came to a mountain; there he met one who was lord of all the animals of the forest—for they came to him when he blew a horn he had—and so the king asked of Kvittenland.

“Well, I do not know,” replied the man, “but I shall ask my animals.” Then he blew them in, and asked if any of them knew where Kvittenland lay; but there were none that knew.

So the man gave him a pair of skis. “When you stand on these,” he said, “then you will come to my brother, who lives a hundred leagues from here; he is lord over all the birds of the air; ask him! When you have arrived, then turn the skis around so that the ends point here, and they will go home by themselves.”

When the king arrived, he turned the skis, and the lord of the animals had said, and they went back.

He asked again of Kvittenland, and the man blew in all the birds, and asked if any of them knew where Kvittenland lay. No, none of them knew of it. A long time after the others came also an old eagle; she had been away for ten years, but she knew not of it, either.

“Well, well,” said the man, “then you shall borrow a pair of skis from me; when you stand on them, then you will come to my brother, who lives a hundred leagues from here; he is lord of all the fish in the sea; you should ask him. But do not forget to turn the skis!”

The king thanked him, and got on to the skis; and when he had come to he who was lord of the fish of the sea, he turned them, and then they went back again. Then he asked of Kvittenland again.

The man blew in all the fish, but none of them knew anything. Finally came an old, old pike, which he had a terrible time blowing in. When he asked her, she said: “Yes, I am very familiar there, for now I have been cook there for ten years. Tomorrow I am going there again, for then shall the queen whom the king was lost to will be holding a wedding with another.”

“Since that is so, then I shall give you some advice,” said the man. “Over here on a moor stand three brothers who have stood there for a hundred years, fighting over a hat, a cloak, and a pair of boots; when one has these three things, he can make himself invisible and wish himself as far away as he wants. You can tell them that you want to try the things, and then pass judgement between them.”

So the king thanked him, and went and did so. “What is it you stand here, forever fighting about?” he said to the brothers; “let me try the things, and I will judge between you.” This they wanted; but when he had got the hat and the cloak and the boots, he said: “When we meet next time, you shall hear the judgement.” And with that, he wished himself on his way.

While he flew through the air, he went the same way as the North Wind.

“Where are you going?” asked the North Wind.

“To Kvittenland,” said the king, and then he told what had happened to him.

“Well,” said the North Wind, “you travel a little faster then I, you do; I have to reach in to every nook and gust and blow, I do. But when you arrive, then stand on the stair, beside the door; then I shall come, howling as if I would blow down the whole castle. When the prince who would have the queen comes out to see what is going on, you take him by the neck and throw him out, and then I will see to get him to go away.”

Yes, as the North Wind said, so the king did; he stood on the stair, and when the North Wind came gusting and howling, and took hold of the castle wall and shook it, the prince came out to see what was going on; but straightway he came, the king took him by the neck and threw him out, and then the North Wind took him and left with him. When he was rid of him, the king went into the castle. At first the queen did not recognize him, for he had grown thin and pale because he had been travelling so far and been so sorrowful; but when he showed her the ring, she grew heartily glad, and so the right wedding was held, which was asked about, both far and wide.


  1. The name of the place means “White Land,” but as it has not relevance to the plot, I have elected to let it remain in the Norwegian. 

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Tyri-Hans Who Made the King’s Daughter Laugh

Once upon a time there was a king who had a daughter, and she was so beautiful that she was renowned both far and wide; but she was so serious that she never could laugh, and she was so aware of this that she said no to eveyone who came and proposed to her, and would have no one, no matter how fine, or whether they were princes or gentlemen. The king had grown weary of this a long time ago, and thought she should marry, as any other; she had nothing to wait for—she was old enough, and neither could she grow richer, for half the kingdom would she have, as her inheritance from her mother.

So he had it pronounced in the churches, both quickly and soon, that the one who could make his daughter laugh, he would have her and half the kingdom. But were there one who tried but could not make her laugh, they would cut three stripes in his back, and rub salt in; and it is certain there were many sore backs in that kingdom. Suitors came travelling from both south and north, and from east and west, who thought it but a little matter to make a king’s daughter laugh. And strange fellows they were also, those who came. But for all the monkey business there was, and all the monkey tricks they did, the king’s daughter remained just as solemn and serious, she did.

Close by the king’s farm there lived a man who had three sons. They had also heard that the king had pronounced that the one who could make the king’s daughter laugh would have her and half the kingdom.

The eldest would go on his way first, and so off he set, and when he came to the king’s farm, he said to the king that he would certainly try to make the king’s daughter laugh.

“Yes, I am sure of it,” said the king, “but it will do little good, for here have many been who have tried; my daughter is so sorrowful that it does no good; and I would like as few people as possible to get into trouble.”

But he said he could do it; it could not be so difficult a matter to get a king’s daughter to laugh at him, for they had laughed many times at him, both distinguished and simple folk, when he was a soldier and served under Lance Corporal Nils. Then he went out on to the lawn outside the king’s daughter’s window, and began to exercise like Lance Corporal Nils. But it did not help; the king’s daughter was just as solemn and serious. So they took him and cut three broad red stripes into his back, and sent him home again.

When he had come home, the second son would go on his way. He was a schoolmaster, and a strange figure of a fellow was he. One of his legs was much longer than the other. While he was still a small boy, he raised himself up on his long leg, and was as big as a troll. And he was very good at setting out. Yes, he went to the king’s farm, and said that he would try to make the king’s daughter laugh; this was not impossible, said the king, “but God help you if you don’t get her to,” he said; “we cut the stripes broader for each one who tries.”

The schoolmaster went out on to the lawn outside the king’s daughter’s window, and he preached and massed like seven parsons, and read and sang like seven sextons who had been in the village there. The king laughed until he had to hold on to the hall column, and the king’s daughter wanted to smile, too; but then she was just as solemn and serious again, and so things went no better for Pål the schoolmaster than they had for Per the soldier—for Per and Pål were their names, you should know. They took him and cut three red stripes in his back and rubbed salt in, and then they sent him back home.

Then the youngest would go on his way, and that was Tyri-Hans. But his brothers laughed and mocked him and showed him their sore backs, and his father would not give his permission, for he said that it could do him no good, he who had no wits; nothing could he do, and nothing did he do; he just sat in the hearth, like a cat, digging in the ashes, and whittling pitch-pine sticks. But Tyri-Hans did not give in; he nagged and bothered for so long that they grew weary of his nagging, until finally he was allowed to go to the king’s farm, to try his luck.

When he arrived at the king’s farm, he did not say that he would try to make the king’s daughter laugh, but he asked if he could go into service there. No, they had no position for him; but Tyri-Hans did not give in—they surely had need of someone to carry wood and water for the kitchen maid on such a big farm, he said. Yes, the king thought so—and he was also weary of his nagging—so Tyri-Hans was finally allowed to remain there, carrying wood and water for the kitchen maid.

One day while he was fetching wood from the brook, he saw a large fish hovering beneath an old pine root that the water had cut the soil from under; he set his bucket very slowly under the fish. But on his way back home to the king’s farm, he met an old woman leading a golden goose.

“Good day, grandmother,” said Tyri-Hans. “That is a fine bird you have; such fine feathers, too. They gleam from a distance. If I had such a bird, then I could go without whittling pitch-pine sticks,” he said.

The woman thought just as well of the fish Hans had in his bucket, and said that if he would give her the fish, then he could have the golden goose, which was such that the one who touched it would stick fast, if only one said, “If you want to come along, then hold on!”

Yes, such a swap was one Tyri-Hans would make. “A bird is as good as a fish,” he said to himself. “If it is as you say, then I might well use it as a fishing hook,” he said to the woman, and was well-content with the goose.

He had not gone far before he met an old woman. When she saw the fine golden goose, she had to go to it and stroke it. She made herself as sweet and lovely as she could, and asked Tyri-Hans if she might be allowed to pat his pretty golden goose.

“You may,” said Tyri-Hans, “but you may not pluck any feathers from her.”

As soon as she patted the bird, he said, “If you want to come along, then hold on!” The woman pulled and wrestled, but she had to hold on, whether she wanted to or not, and Tyri-Hans went onwards, as if he were alone with the golden goose.

When he had gone a way further, he met a man who had something to say to the woman on account of a prank she had played on him. When he saw how hard she fought to free herself, and understood that she was stuck fast, he thought he could safely give her a shove as a greeting for last time, and so he kicked the woman, with one foot.

“If you want to come along, then hold on!” said Tyri-Hans, and the man had to follow along, hopping on one leg, whether he wanted to or not, and when he pulled and wrestled to loose himself, then it went even worse, for he was ready to fall over backwards, just like that.

Now they went on a good way, until they approached the king’s farm. There they met the king’s smith; he was on his way to the smithy, and had a pair of large forging tongs in his hand. This smith was a jokester, who was always full of trouble and tricks, and when he saw this procession coming, jumping and hopping, he first bent double with laughter. But then he said: “This is probably a new flock of geese for the princess. I wonder which of them is the gander and who among them are the geese. It must be the gander who waddles before them. Goosey, goosey, goosey, goosey, goosey!” he called, throwing out with his hand, as if he was spreading grain for the geese. But the flock did not stop—the man and the woman just looked angrily at the smith because he mocked them. Then the smith said: “It would be fun to hold the whole flock, as many as there are,” for he was a strong man; and so he took hold with his forging tongs on to the backside of the old man, and the man both screamed and writhed.

But Tyri-Hans said: “If you want to come along, then hold on!”

Then the smith had to go along, too. He certainly curled his back, braced himself against the ground, and tried to loose himself, but it did not help; he was stuck as fast as if he were screwed into the big vise in the smithy, and whether or not he would, he had to dance along.

When they arrived at the king’s farm, the farm dog came at them, barking as if it were at a vagrant or a tramp, and when the king’s daughter went to look out of the window, to see what was going on, and saw this procession, she began to laugh. But Tyri-Hans, he was not content with this. “Wait a little, and she will really open the doors of laughter,” he said, and turned aside along the back of the king’s farm, with his entourage.

When they came past the kitchen, the door was open, and the cook was pressing the porridge; but when she saw Tyri-Hans and the flock, she came out of the door at them, with the porridge press in one hand and a wooden spoon full of steaming porridge in the other, laughing so that she shook; and when she saw that the smith was there, she slapped her thigh, laughing. But when she had laughed herself finished, she also thought that the golden goose was so fine that she had to go to it and pat it.

“Tyri-Hans! Tyri-Hans!” she cried, coming over with her porridge spoon in her fist. “May I be allowed to pat that fine bird you have?”

“Let her rather pat me!” said the smith.

“You may!” said Tyri-Hans.

But when the cook heard it, she grew angry. “What is it you say?” she screamed, and hit the smith with the porridge spoon.

“If you want to come along, then hold on!” said Tyri-Hans; and she stuck fast, too, and no matter how she pulled and wrestled, and no matter how wild she was, she had to hop along.

But when they came beneath the king’s daughter’s window, she stood waiting for them, and when she saw that they had got the cook to come along, with both porridge spoon and -press, she fully opened up the doors of laughter, and laughed so that the king had to steady her. And so Tyri-Hans won the princess and half the kingdom, and they held a wedding that was both heard and asked of.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

The Pancake

Once upon a time there was a wife who had seven hungry children, and these she fried a pancake for. It was a raw-milk cake, and it lay in the pan and swelled itself so thick and good, and the children stood around, and their old father sat watching.

“Oh, let me have a little pancake, my mother; I am so hungry,” said one of the children.

“Oh, dear mother,” said the second.

“Oh, dear pretty mother,” said the third.

“Oh, dear pretty, kindly mother,” said the fourth.

“Oh, dear beautiful, pretty, kindly mother,” said the fifth.

“Oh, dear beautiful, pretty, goodly, kindly mother,” said the sixth.

“Oh, dear beautiful, pretty, goodly, kindly sweet mother,” said the seventh; and thus they asked for pancake, each one more beautifully than the last, for they were hungry and kind.

“Yes, my children, but wait until it turns,” she said—“until I turn it,” she should have said. “Then there shall be pancake for everyone; just look at how thick and contentedly it lies there.”

When the pancake heard this, it grew afraid, and just like that, it turned itself over, and would out of the pan; but it fell down again on its other side, and when it had fried there a little while, and it grew firmer, it sprang out, onto the floor, and rolled away like a wheel, out through the door and along the road.

“Hey there!” The woman came after with the pan in one hand and a wooden spoon in the other, as quickly as she could, and the children came after her, with their old father hopping at the rear.

“Hey, will you wait! Pinch it, take it, hey there!” they all cried at the same time, and tried to catch up to catch it again. But the pancake rolled and rolled, and soon it was so far ahead of them that they could not see it, for the pancake was a better runner than everyone.

When it had rolled for a while, it met a man.

“Good day, pancake,” said the man.

“Good day, manny-panny,” said the pancake.

“My dear pancake, don’t roll so quickly; tarry a little and let me eat you,” said the man.

“As I have outrun wifey-strifey, the old father, and seven screaming children, I can certainly outrun you, manny-panny,” said the pancake, and rolled and rolled until it met a hen.

“Good day, pancake,” said the hen.

“Good day, henny-penny,” said the pancake.

“My dear pancake, don’t roll so quickly; tarry a little and let me eat you,” said the hen.

“As I have outrun wifey-strifey, the old father, seven screaming children, and manny-panny, I suppose I can outrun you, henny-penny,” said the pancake, rolling like a wheel along the road. Then it met a cock.

“Good day, pancake,” said the cock.

“Good day, cocky-locky,” said the pancake.

“My dear pancake, don’t roll so quickly; tarry a little and let me eat you,” said the cock.

“As I have outrun wifey-strifey, the old father, seven screaming children, from manny-panny, and from henny-penny, then I suppose I can outrun you, cocky-locky,” said the pancake, and he continued to roll and roll, as quickly as it could. When it had rolled a long while, it met a duck.

“Good day, pancake,” said the duck.

“Good day, ducky-lucky,” said the pancake.

“My dear pancake, don’t roll so quickly; tarry a little and let me eat you,” said the duck.

“As I have outrun wifey-strifey, the old father, seven screaming children, from manny-panny, from henny-penny, and from cocky-locky, then I suppose I can outrun you, ducky-lucky,” said the pancake, and he continued to roll and roll, as quickly as it could. When it had rolled a long, long while, it met a goose.

“Good day, pancake,” said the goose.

“Good day, goosey-lucy,” said the pancake.

“My dear pancake, don’t roll so quickly; tarry a little and let me eat you,” said the goose.

“As I have outrun wifey-strifey, the old father, seven screaming children, from manny-panny, henny-penny, cocky-locky, and from ducky-lucky, then I suppose I can outrun you, goosey-lucy,” said the pancake, and rolled off again. When it had rolled a long, long while, it met a gander.

“Good day, pancake,” said the gander.

“Good day, gander-pander,” said the pancake.

“My dear pancake, don’t roll so quickly; tarry a little and let me eat you,” said the gander.

“As I have outrun wifey-strifey, the old father, seven screaming children, from manny-panny, henny-penny, cocky-locky, ducky-lucky, and from goosey-lucy, then I suppose I can outrun you, gander-pander,” said the pancake, and began to roll and roll, as quickly as it could. When it had rolled a long, long while, it met a pig.

“Good day, pancake,” said the pig.

“Good day, piggy-wiggy,” said the pancake, and it began to roll and roll, as quickly as it could.

“No, tarry a little,” said the pig. “You need not fly off like that; we two can go in peace together across the forest; it is supposed to be a little unsafe there,” he said. This the pancake thought there might be some truth to, and so they did so. But when they had gone a while, they came to a brook. The pig floated on its flesh, it was as nothing for it; but the pancake could not come over.

“Sit now on my snout,” said the pig, “and I shall carry you over,” he said.

The pancake did so.

“Snuff-cuff!” said the pig and took the pancake in one bite; and since the pancake got no further, then this tale will go no further, either.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

A Danish Hulder Legend

A man walked through a forest, and without his understanding where from, a gorgeous maiden came to him. She was so lovely that he had never seen her like. It was about the middle of the day, and since the man had heard of the the ellefolk, he had no doubt that she must be an ellemaid. She spoke well for herself, and attempted to lure him into the forest, but the man was too wise for her, and finally, he said: “Turn around, and let me see if you are behind as you are before.” When she heard this, she went on her way, and now he saw that she was hollow like a kneading trough.

Danske Sagn som de har lydt i Folkemunde. Samlede og til dels optegnede af Evald Tang Kristensen, vol. II. Århus: Gyldendalske Boghandel, 1893. p. 15

Friday, 31 March 2017

The Hunted Hulder

Collected from the Eastern Mark, Oslo.
Collector and informant unknown.

There were two woodcutters lying out by a bonfire one night in Langås. Around midnight they heard two big dogs, hunting in Asurdalen, away by the two wolf pits. The handler went up by way of Teien and came up north on Langås.

They thought this sounded very strange and ominous, and wondered what manner of dogs they might be that disturbed them in the dark of the night. They threw more wood on the fire, and lay there, listening to the strange, gruff growling of the dogs, coming closer and closer.

Then there came a barefoot girl with loose hair, running for her life straight past their fire, and she disappeared southwards, down towards the moor that lies south of the hill. She wore a white chemise and a short green skirt. Before they could sigh to themselves, there came two big black dogs following her trail, and the handler went south torwards Kloppa, then up towards Oksrudveien and towards Delet. And then there sounded a shot, and everything went quiet.

They busied themselves building up the fire again, and wondered what manner of hunt this was; but then some twigs cracked in the woods, and a short while afterwards came a big fellow with a thick black beard, walking past; they saw him in the light from the fire. He had the two black dogs in a harness, and carried a large blunderbuss over his shoulder. And on his back, like any other shot hare, her legs bound and stuffed into the barrel of the gun, hung the girl. The fellows said nothing, and he said nothing; and gone was he, as he went northwards, into the darkness of the night. But they understood that the girl was a hulder.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The Boy Who Went to the North Wind and Demanded Back His Flour

Once upon a time there was an old wife who had a son; she was pathetic and fragile, and so the boy should go out to the stabbur for her, to fetch some porridge flour for dinner. But when he stepped on to the stabbur step again, then the North Wind came blustering, took the flour from him, and went straight into the air with it. The boy went back into the stabbur for some more, but when he stepped out on to the step, the North Wind came again, and took the flour from him; and so it went the third time, too. The boy grew angry at this, and he thought it unreasonable that the North Wind should treat him so, and so he thought he would look him up, and demand the flour back.

Well, he set off; but the way was long and he walked and he walked. Finally, he came to the North Wind.

“Good day,” said the boy, “and thank you for last time.”

“Good day,” replied the North Wind—he had a gruff voice—“and thank you for last time, yourself. What do you want?” he said.

“Oh,” said the boy, “I want to ask you if you would be so kind as to return to me the flour you took from me on the stabbur step; for we have only a little, and when you behave in that way, and take from us what little we have, then there is nothing left but starve-to-death.”

“I do not have any flour,” said the North Wind, “but since you are in such need, then you shall have a tablecloth that will provide all you can want, when you simply say: ‘Tablecloth, unfold yourself and set yourself with all manner of costly fare!’”

This the boy was well-satisfied with. But as the way was so long that he could not reach home that day, he went in to an inn along the way, and when those who were there should eat their supper, he laid the tablecloth on a table that stood in the corner, and said: ‘Tablecloth, unfold yourself and set yourself with all manner of costly fare!’ He had hardly said it before the tablecloth had done it, and everyone thought it a wonderful thing; but no one liked it more than the innkeeper’s wife.

Here was no big fuss with roasting and boiling, with covering and setting, with fetching and laying out on the table, she thought. And as the night drew on, and everyone slept, she took the tablecloth and laid another in its stead, which was exactly like the one he had got from the North Wind, but which could not bring forth even an oat lefse.

When the boy awoke, he took the tablecloth, and went off with it, and that day he came home to his mother.

“Now,” he said, “I have been to the North Wind; he was a reasonable man, for he gave me this tablecloth, and when I simply say to it: ‘Tablecloth, unfold yourself and set yourself with all manner of costly fare!’ then I get everything I wish for.”

“Yes, I am sure of it,” said his mother, “but I won’t believe it before I see it.”

The boy hurried to bring out a table, laid the tablecloth on it, and said: “Tablecloth, unfold yourself and set yourself with all manner of costly fare!” But the tablecloth did not even set itself with some flatbread.

“There is nothing for it but that I go to the North Wind again, then,” said the boy, and went on his way. Far beyond a long time later, he arrived at where the North Wind dwelt.

“Good evening,” said the boy.

“Good evening,” said the North Wind.

“I want what is right for the flour you took from me,” said the boy; “for the tablecloth I got was not good for much.”

“I do not have any flour,” said the North Wind; “but here is a buck that drops gold ducats, if only you say: ‘My buck, make money!’”

The boy had nothing against this, but it was so far from home that he could not reach it the same day, so he went in to the innkeeper again. Before he ordered anything, he tried the buck, for he wanted to see if it was true, what the North Wind had said; and when the innkeeper saw this, he thought it a fine buck, and the boy had hardly fallen asleep before he took another, which did not drop gold ducats, and placed it in its stead.

The morning after, the boy went on his way, and when he came home, he said: “The North Wind is a kind man withal; now he gave me a buck that can make gold ducats, if only I say: ‘My buck, make money!’”

“I am sure of it,” said his mother, “that it is nothing more than talk, and I will not believe it before I see it.”

“My buck, make money!” said the boy; but it certainly was not money the buck made!

So he went on his way to the North Wind again, and said that the buck was good for nothing, and that he wanted his right for the flour.

“Well now, I have nothing else to give you,” said the North Wind, “but the old stick that stands over there in the corner; but it is such that when you say: ‘My stick, strike!’ then it will continue striking until you say: ‘My stick, stand still!’”

Since the way was long, the boy went in to the innkeeper that night, too; and as he could guess how things had gone with the tablecloth and the buck, he lay down immediately and began to snore on the bech, pretending to sleep. The innkeeper could understand that the stick was also good for something, so he searched one out that resembled it, and would put it there in its stead, as he heard the boy snoring. But just as the innkeeper was about to take the stick, the boy shouted: “My stick, strike!” And the stick began to strike and beat the innkeeper so that he jumped over both table and benches, and shouted and screamed: “Oh my God! Oh my God! Ask the stick to stop, or it will beat me to death; you shall have back both the tablecloth and the buck!”

As the boy thought the innkeeper had had enough, he said: “My stick, stand still!” Then he took the table cloth, and stuck it in his pocket, and his stick in his hand, bound a rope around the buck’s horn, and went home with it altogether. That was a good return for the flour.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Per, Pål, and Espen Askeladd

Once upon a time there was a man who had three sons: Per, Pål, and Espen Askeladd; but aught other than the three sons he had not, either, for he was so poor that owned not a pin on his body, and therefore he often said to them that they should go out into the world and see to earn their bread; at home with him there was nothing but starving to death, in any case.

A good distance from his cabin lay the king’s farm, and right outside the king’s windows had grown an oak that was so big that it blotted out the light on the king’s farm. The king had promised much, much money to the one who could fell the oak, but no one was good to do it, for as quickly as one cut a splinter from it, then two grew in its place. The king also wanted to dig a well that would hold water all the year, for all his neighbours had wells, but he had none, and this the king felt the shame of. To the one who could dig such a well that could hold water the whole year, the king had promised both money and more. But there was none who could do it, for the king’s farm lay high, high up on a hill, and before they had dug more than a few inches, then they reached the hard rock. But now that the king had it in his head to have these works done, he had it pronounced in all the churches, both far and wide, that the one who could cut down the great oak on the king’s farm and dig such a well as held water all the year, he would have the king’s daughter and half the kingdom.

There were enough of those who would try, you know, but for all their hewing and chopping, and for all their clearing and digging, nothing helped. The oak grew stouter and stouter with every chop, and the rock grew no softer, either.

After a while the three brothers wanted to set off to try their luck, too; and with this their father was well satisfied, for even if they did not win the king’s daughter and half the kingdom, then they might find a position in service somewhere with a good man, their father thought, and for more he could not wish; and when the brothers lit upon going to the king’s farm, their father said yes on the spot, and so Per, Pål, and Espen Askeladd set off.

When they had gone a distance, they came to a slope of spruces, and just above it lay a steep moor; and they heard someone chop-chopping up on the moor.

“I wonder what the chopping is, up on the moor,” said Espen Askeladd.

“You are always so wise in your wonderings, you are,” said Per, said Pål; “it certainly is something to wonder at, that a wood cutter is chopping up on the moor!”

“I will have fun going to see what it is, anyway,” said Espen Askeladd, and with that, off he went.

“Oh well, are you such a child, so it will do you good to learn to walk!” his brothers called after him; but he cared not about that, did Espen, he set off up the hill to whence he heard the chopping, and when he got there, he saw that it was an axe that stood chopping on a pine log.

“Good day,” said Espen Askeladd; “are you here, chopping?”

“Yes, I have been standing here chopping for many long times, waiting for you,” replied the axe.

“Yes, yes, here I am,” said Espen. Taking the axe, he knocked it off its shaft, and stuffed both into his knapsack.

When he came down again to his brothers, they began to laugh and make fun of him. “What strange thing did you see up on the moor?” they said.

“Oh, it was just an axe we heard,” said Espen.

When they had gone a distance more, they came below a crag. Above it they heard some hacking and digging.

“I wonder what it is that is hacking and digging on this crag, I do,” said Espen Askeladd.

“You are so wise to wonder!” said Per, said Pål again. “Have you never heard the birds hacking and digging in the trees before?”

“Yes, but I will have fun seeing what it is, anyway,” said Espen, and he did not care about all their laughing and making fun of him; he set off up the rocks, and when he came close by, he saw it was a hoe that stood hacking and digging.

“Good day,” said Espen Askeladd; “do you stand here, hacking and digging, all alone?”

“Yes, I do,” said the hoe, “now I have stood here, hacking and digging for many long times, waiting for you,” it said.

“Yes, yes, here I am,” replied Espen. He took the hoe, knocked it off its shaft, and hid it in his knapsack, and then he went down to his brothers again.

“It was certainly something terrible you saw there by the crag,” said Per, said Pål.

“Oh, it was nothing really; it was just a hoe we heard,” said Espen.

Then they went a good distance again, until they came to a brook; thirsty were they, all three, now after they had gone so far, and so they laid themselves down by the brook to take a drink.

“I wonder terribly where all this water comes from,” said Espen Askeladd.

“If you are not mad, then you will soon wonder yourself mad. Where does the brook come from? Have you never seen water running from a source in a field before?”

“Yes, but I want to see where it comes from, anyway,” said Espen; he went off upstream, and however much his brothers called for him and laughed at him, it did not help—he went on his way.

When he came far upstream, the brook grew smaller and smaller, and when he came even further, he saw a large walnut, and out from it the water poured.

“Good day!” said Espen again. “Do you lie here, pouring and running, all alone?”

“Yes, I do so,” said the walnut; “I have been lying here, pouring and running for many long times, waiting for you.”

“Yes, yes, here I am,” said Espen; he took a patch of moss, and pressed it into the hole, so that the water could not come out, and then he laid the walnut in his knapsack, and went off down to his brothers again.

“Now I suppose you have seen where the water comes from; it looked terribly strange, I imagine,” teased Per, teased Pål.

“Oh, it was just a hole it ran out of,” said Espen, and then the other two laughed and made fun of him again, but Espen Askeladd did not care about it; “I had fun looking for it, anyway,” he said.

When they had gone a distance more, they came to the king’s farm; but as everyone in the kingdom had heard that they could win the king’s daughter and half the kingdom if they could chop down the great oak, and dig a well for the king, there were so many who had tried their luck that the oak was twice the size and girth now than it was to begin with; for two splinters grew in place each time they cut one out with an axe, if you remember. The king had therefore set a punishment, that the one who tried and failed to cut down the oak should be set out on an island, and have both ears cut off.

But the two brothers did not let that scare them; they thought they would bring the oak down, and Per, who was eldest, would now try first. But things went with him as they had with all the others who had chopped the oak; for each splinter he cut, two grew out instead, and so the king’s folk took him, and cut off both ears, and set him out on the island. Now Pål would have his turn; but things went the same way with him: when he had chopped one–two–three chops, and they saw that the oak grew, the king’s folk took him too, and set him out on the island, and they cut his ears off even more snugly, for they thought he should have learned his lesson.

Then Espen Askeladd would have his turn.

“If you really want to look like a marked sheep, we can just as easily cut off your ears right now, to save you the trouble,” said the king. He was angry with him on account of his brothers.

“I would have fun trying first,” said Espen, and thus he was allowed to.

He took his axe out of his knapsack, and hafted it on its shaft again. “Chop by yourself!” said Espen to the axe, and it chopped so that the splinters flew, and so it was not long before the tree had to fall. When that was done, Espen took the hoe, and put it back on to its shaft. “Dig by yourself!” said Espen, and the hoe began to dig so that the earth and the stones flew, and so there was a well, as you can imagine. When he had it as deep as he wanted, Espen Askeladd took out his walnut and laid it in one corner of the bottom, and took out the moss. “Pour and run!” said Espen, and it began to run so that the water poured out of the hole, and in a little while, the well was completely full.

So Espen had chopped down the oak that had cast its shadow across the king’s windows, and made a well on the king’s farm, and so he won the king’s daughter and half the kingdom, as the king had said. But it was good that Per and Pål had lost their ears, else they would have heard—all the time, at every hour—what everyone said: that Espen Askeladd had not wondered himself so badly, yet.