Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Parson Sausage

Note on the title

There was once upon a time a girl who had been allowed to go to church to attend Mass. But she lived far away in the forest, and the church road was so long that she had to leave home early on Saturday. She walked and she walked, but however she walked, she did not arrive; she had trodden wild grass. She walked and she ran, but she didn’t find the church, nor did she come to folk, until late in the evening; then she came to a cabin far away in the forest. A light shone from the window, and inside a woman went about, cooking and tidying. So the girl went in and asked for a place to stay.

“God help me for a house this is!” said the woman; “I cannot let you stay, I cannot; it would be better to stay in the forest, beneath the sky, than to stay here,” she said, “for here dwell twelve robbers; they are my sons, and if they see you, they will kill you on the spot!”

But the girl said it was better to have a roof above her head, no matter how wrong, than to be out in the forest, beneath the night sky. Well, then she would be allowed to stay, and when they heard the robbers coming, the woman hid her as well as she could, in a corner behind some clutter which lay there. Then came all twelve faring, and between them they had the parson in his parson’s cassock, and in full church decor. They laid him on a stool and stabbed him in his throat with a butcher’s knife, butchered him like any other pig and hung him up by his hind legs. They put his blood in a butcher’s pail, made sausages from it, and cooked and roasted and ate well enough.

The girl did not feel very brave, and she did not think that her life was worth many shillings, there where she lay. But when they had eaten their fill, they settled down, the robbers, and early on Sunday morning the woman woke the girl up, put her on the right path, and then gave her some sausages as food along the way, and bade her hurry so that the robbers wouldn’t take her. But that was something she needn’t bid her, for the girl ran as quickly as she could, and then some. And when the day began to to dawn in the forest, and she glimpsed the church, then she heard a rumbling; the robbers were after her, and wanted to catch her, and so she flew away from the fields, as she thought, and when she saw the church congregation standing on the church hill, waiting for the parson, she swung the sausages in the air, crying: “Parson sausage, parson sausage!” - Then the congregation understood what had become of the parson, and so they immediately took the robbers. Some they beat, and some they hanged, and some they rolled in nail barrels. They caught eleven, but the twelfth escaped, and he walks and crawls and skulks, and if you aren’t very good, then he’ll leap down across all the hills and take you. There he is!

  1. This tale has been printed but twice: once in Norske Illustreret Kalender (1853), and once in Østberg, Henning. Asbjørnsen og Moes eventyr og sagn en bibliografi (2011). It has been called “The Secret Tale,” and considered an “abominable tale,” for reasons that are quickly apparent. I doubt I will be including it in the complete collection, but who knows?  

Friday, 19 July 2019

Five Norwegian White Bear Tales

“East of the Sun and West of the Moon,” the folktale published by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe, is known all over the world. The white bear comes to fetch a girl, takes her away, and when she looks upon him in his true human form at night, he disappears. She must then find him to loose him from his terrible enchantment. This folktale has been collected in about 80 different variants; this forthcoming book collects five of them, including three that have never been translated into English before.

I am including the following tales:

  • “The Story of the Abandoned Princess” by Camilla Collett.

  • “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” published by Asbjørnsen & Moe.

  • “Sir Varivan” collected by Asbjørnsen and written up in note form by Moe, but reconstituted in narrative form by yours truly.

  • “White Bear King Valemon” collected by Asbjørnsen.

  • “The Bear King Videvall” collected by Hallvard Bergh.

The book is illustrated, with work by Theodor Kittelsen, Otto Sinding, H. P. Hansen, H. J. Ford, and Hilde Kramer.

A brief introduction to the tale type, and the collection data and history of each text precedes the folktales.

Initially, I will be distributing this book privately, in a clothbound (hardcover) locally-printed, paperback edition (saving the environment by cutting back on the shipping). General release in POD-paperback and ebook formats will come later.

The Contributors

Camilla Collett (1813–1895) was Norway’s first novelist, her masterpiece, Amtmandens Døtre (The District Governor’s Daughters) was published in two volumes, 1854–5.

Peter Christen Asbjørnsen (1812–1885) and Jørgen Moe (1813–1882) travelled around rural Norway, collecting the tales and legends that the folk would tell them. They published the results of their collection tours in several volumes, Norske Folkeeventyr (Norwegian Folktales), beginning in 1843.

Hallvard Bergh (1850–1922) was a teacher, author of children’s books, and a collector of folk memories from the Valdres region of Norway.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Mountain Scenes: A Reindeer Hunt on the Ronde Mountains

When we left the pasture in the morning, to head into the mountains in a north-easterly direction, Brit threw the broom and the scouring-rush scrub after us, laughing and wishing we should break our necks and legs, and not shoot anything but the crows and buzzards. With this good wish for luck on our hunt, we set off on our way.

It was overcast and cool. The fog still hovered around the mountains; only once in a while did the sun break halfway through, and we could see the impressions of the towering outline of mounds and domes. Soon the pastures were behind us, and the monotone call of the snow bunting blended with the gack-gack of the grouse, down between dwarf birches, juniper bushes and willows. Only after a couple of hours did we reach the domain of lichens; reindeer moss, and gold- and grey beard lichens, and similarly frugal plants covered the slopes, forming a gray-green foreground in front of the dreary moss-covered tundra that spread itself desolately into the distance.

The whistles of golden plovers, the clunk of the crows, and wild screams of the buzzards would occasionally cut through the soughing of the wind and meltwater brooks. But after a little while, these traces of flora and fauna also grew more and more sparse; we would soon be among the endless masses of tors and moraines of the Alpine region, with meltwater rivers criss-crossing the valleys. Here the reindeer seek a healthy and airy sojourn in the summer, a sanctuary from the troublesome botfly. And here they have food in abundance. There are grasses and willows in the small valleys between these huge mounds of rock, there is lichen on the slopes, there is white saxifrage and blue gentian; the glacial buttercup shoots up, often just to the edge of the snow pockets, and on the dry slopes creep silver–white reindeer blooms. On these open plains, the reindeer catch sight of their enemies at a great distance; and the wind that constantly sweeps over them warns them of any danger that may be approaching, long before the sharp eyes of the animals can detect anything.

By dinnertime, we were by Gråhø. The sun had long since dispersed the fog, and a fresh southerly wind swept away the shadow from one bank of cloud after the other, northwards. Tor and Anders turned their red caps inside out, so they showed grey, for now we could expect to get animals in our sights. We turned our binoculars towards all the heights and slopes of few leagues around, but there was nothing to be seen. Tor went quietly in front, his head drooped as he looked down between the rocks; finally he lay down, as long as he was.

“Here are some animal tracks,” he said, showing me the mark in the clover; to my untrained eye, they were almost invisible. “And there is the remains of an eaten reindeer bloom; it’s so fresh that the sap is still seeping out of it. There’s been a hop and a chew here, and it wasn’t long ago either.”

“Look at the dog!” said Anders, who came after us, leading a strong farm dog with a pointed snout and pointed ears, in a harness. “See how he scents the wind. Either there have been animals here, or they are not far away.”

“Yes, reindeer is what he has scented; it’s neither hare nor mountain fox, since he raises his nose so high,” said Tor; he patted the dog, which wagged its tail and dragged at the scent in short, snorting breaths.

“Yes, get him, Bamse! They’re not so close yet, but it can’t be long before we’ll get to see them. I suppose it may be time to eat nons, 1 we’ve gone reasonably far today, and it’s not certain we’ll be able to enjoy any rest, when we get to see the reindeer. There is water here, and it’s good enough,” he added, putting down his knapsack and gun, without waiting for a reply. Anders tied the dog to a stone, lay down on all fours and drank of the cold meltwater that trickled between the rocks. I threw myself down, too. Only Sir John found the stop highly untimely; he complained about enjoying food, rest, tobacco, and everything possible, before he had seen some reindeer. Only after Tor had made him understand that the animals were several English miles away, and that it would, after all, take several hours for us to get close to them, did he relent. He stretched as long as he was on the uneven stones and contented himself with the food that Mari Lårgard had sent with us, with the meltwater, and a dram from the hunting flask.

Just as we had come into the mountains, Tor had grown silent and terse; he paid attention to everything, far and near. But now during our rest he was a different man. He told in short, quick sketches one hunting story he had experienced after another, and showed us the location of more than one hunting boast.

“I was stalking a buck one time,” he told me, “over there by Bleikvang pasture. He came within range, and I shot him so that he fell. But as I came towards him, he jumped in the air, set off, and gone was he! He went in towards Stygghø; I went to look for him, even though it was dark, but I couldn’t find him. I slept that night a little away from Blekvang, and in the morning I swept back to Stygghø, and as I went, I saw a crow, high between the rocks; I thought it might be interesting to see what he might be sitting on. When I came up to him, I saw an antler sticking up in the air. There lay the buck, and I was glad. But while I was skinning it, a small flock of animals came by; there were nine beautiful animals and one golden buck with antlers so big that I never saw the like. I lay down, but was not able to get a good shot at them. Finally, they went by me in a row; then I shot, and the buck went down. When I came closer to him, I thought, ‘I certainly had a time of it, getting hold of you,’ and then I took hold of one of his antlers. But as I was about to put my knife in his neck, he jumped up so we tumbled head over heels down through the scree; the knife went one way, and I and the buck went the other—but I didn’t let go. He began to butt, too, the sorry beast, and strike with his forelegs. But he didn’t have much power, because I managed to keep aside, and had a good hold of the root of his antlers. Once or twice, we tumbled down through the scree, and I took more than one knock. Then he shook and staggered his last. There he lay.

I had no tool other than an awl, and I couldn’t kill him with that. I thought I might beat his skull in with a stone, but I had no conscience for it; so I went up again, found my rifle and loaded it. When I came down again, I put the muzzle to its neck and shot; but he jumped up high once more before he fell. Then I buried them in the scree, the both of them, and laid rocks on top, so the wolverine wouldn’t eat them up; for I couldn’t find my knife to skin or part them. And I was lame and rotten in my carcass for more than eight days after that game.”

Now Sir John told some of the best stories he said he had experienced while hunting deer at a relative’s in Scotland. They, every one of them, went a certain way; first, the hunter sends the animal a killing bullet, and then he superfluously plunges his knife into its neck, according to all the rules of the sport.

“Maybe the stag doesn’t need such a strong lethal shot,” said Tor. “You have to break the legs, or hit the heart of a reindeer, before he’ll stay down. There was a shooter in the western mountains, called Gullbrand Glesne. He was married to the grandmother of the boy you saw down in the pasture last night, and he is supposed to have been a good shooter. One autumn he stalked a fine buck; he shot him so that he remained down, and he couldn’t know anything other than that the buck was stone dead. Then he went down and sat himself astride its back, as they often do, to separate the neck bone from the skull. But just as he sat down, the buck jumped up, laid his antlers backwards, and pressed him fast between them, so that he sat as if in an armchair, and then off they went, for the bullet had only raked the buck’s skull, and knocked him out. Such a ride as the one Gullbrand had, has no human ever had. They went through weather and wind, over the worst glaciers and moraines. Straight to the ridge at Besseggen went the buck. But then Gullbrand prayed to our Lord, for he thought he would never see the sun or the moon again. But finally, the reindeer began to swim right across the lake, with the shooter on his back. Meanwhile, Gullbrand had got his knife loose, and as the buck put his feet on land, he plunged the knife into his neck, and dead was he. But Gullbrand Glesne would not have made that journey again, not for all the riches there are.”

“I have heard one such story of a stalker who became a deer-rider in England,” said Sir John with his usual insensitivity for vowel sounds.

“Blicher tells a similar story from Jutland,” I said.2

“But what kind of egg was it you mentioned, Thur; Pesseggen?” he interrupted me.

“Do you mean Besseggen?” asked Tor. “There is a sharp ridge between the lakes Gjende and Bessvatnet; it is so steep it overhangs, and so narrow that when one stands and throws a stone with each hand, then they roll down, each into its own water. Reindeer shooters cross there in good weather; otherwise it is not passable. But there was a stranger from up in Skjåk, called Ola Storbråtå. He went across with an adult reindeer buck on his neck.”

“How high is the mountain above the lakes?” asked Sir John.

“Oh, it’s not quite as high as the Rondes,” said Tor, “but it’s more than seven-hundred ells. I followed a captain there once, a land surveyor who had measured it. Yes, Anders was also there.”

“Yes, he was the best man I have known,” said Anders eagerly. “He was so friendly and easy-going and carefree that there was no moderation to it. And he could tell stories about all sorts of things, and he sang ballads, the like of which I have never heard. But things nearly went badly for him up on the Rondes. We had been on top of the western peak and built a cairn; there he came out on to a cornice which was both steep and as smooth as bare ice, and he fell off, and went down a couple of hundred ells, but when we met him again, he was walking along, laughing, for he had scrubbed off most of his trousers, he said.

“Up there you can go over the edge before you know it”, said Tor, “for travelling about the Rondes and in the Ronde-fields is not easy. The reindeer find it easy enough, but the shooters are left behind, if they don’t suffer worse. There was once a reindeer shooter who should travel across there, but he also came well from it. He walked, following the trail of a flock of reindeer along a snowfield, and didn’t notice anything else; at length he could go no farther forward, nor could he come back, and he saw nothing but his impending death; so he thought, “It may as well be now as later!” He had a dog with him; he shot it first, but when he had shot, and began to reload, a great avalanche loosened, and took him with it, and he slid down with the snow until he stopped somewhere he could go on from. And he didn’t suffer any injury, but lived many years after that.”

“You tell so many stories, Thur, and don’t suffer other men to speak,” said Sir John, who had long been wanting to tell. “I also have some stories to tell, from England. There was an old shooter who came from Scotland, who told me. Once, he said, there were two stalkers in the woods, to shoot deer. They had tartan caps, the both of them, and each thought he had a lovely red deer in front of him. They crawled and they crawled, and they moved quietly forwards, and then they shot at the same time, and then they were both dead.”

“Who could have known about that?” asked Anders.

“One of them lived long enough that he got to tell it to the parson,” replied Sir John.

“But then there was another story that was equally remarkable, of the same man’s telling. There was a stalker hunting a deer, and he saw an ancient man with a tartan cap. He shouted to him, but the man didn’t answer. And when he looked up from his rifle, it was an ancient stag with great branching antlers; but when he would shoot, it was an old man with a tartan cap. He grew so scared, but he shot anyway, and it was an ancient stag with great branching antlers, the like of which hadn’t been shot for hundreds of years.”

We were rested; every trace of weariness was gone, and when we walked across the moraines again, we felt how the potent mountain air made our muscles strong and our gait easy. We had barely gone a thousand paces on the eastern slope of Gråhø before Tor stopped. He shaded his eye, reached for my binoculars and said:

“It is not easy to see the grey animals amidst the granite. There’s a flock: three, four, one fine buck, and one more! Seven, eight, ten, twelve, thirteen!” he counted.

“If there are thirteen, then one is fay,” cried Anders.

“Look at the gray stone moraine that’s covered in snow; there’s something like a tongue of snow; they’ll reach it in a little while. There’s no food to find in the moraines, you know,” said Tor, showing us with his gun where to look.

It was a league away. We had to cross a deep valley and go north of the height where the animals were, straight towards Gråhø, if we wanted to come from down wind, and meet the flock above the snowfield. It was a detour of a couple of leagues, across moraines and patches of snow, and in a storm from the south; the trip would have been heavy and exhausting enough under other circumstances, but the lust to hunt throbbed in our limbs, and the yearning to get within range of the flock of animals gave us wings and made our way easy. But when we had stalked to the edge of the snowfield, we found just the traces of the flock.

“Northwards again!” said Tor, and we headed away towards a small ridge, where we would have a clearer view.

“Get down!” said Tor suddenly, throwing himself to the ground. “I see the antler of a buck against the sky, just behind the snowfield. He is not eight hundred paces from us; lie down down flat, and we may be able to shoot at him; crawling here won’t do us any good; there isn’t a stone to hide behind.”

For a long time we didn’t see anything but the antler of the great buck. It turned here and there, as if he were on guard. It didn’t notice us; we were down wind. But suddenly the whole flock jumped on to the side of snowfield that leaned towards us. I fumbled for my gun; but Tor took me calmly by the arm and said: “Steady, now; I will say when!”

They were there, all thirteen; the calves and both bucks chased each others around in reckless play. Soon they were standing on two legs, clashing antlers and striking one another with their forefeet; now they jumped as high as a man, with all four legs in the air at the same time; now they kicked their hind legs lustily so their flanks were high up in the air, and the ice and snow showered down, and flurried and flew about them.

“This was some play,” said Anders, laughing. “They’re playing and jumping so that we can see both the sun and the moon beneath their feet.”

“Then the weather will be bad,” said Tor; “when the reindeer plays, it forewarns bad weather.”

The game continued, growing wilder and wilder; the jumping and the posing grew so bold and odd that we had to laugh aloud. But in the middle of the game one of the bucks came straight towards us at full tilt. The flock came after.

“Take care, now; aim at its chest or shoulder!” whispered Tor, but the cocking of our rifles told him that his first reminder was unnecessary. My hand shook, and my heart raced: in a few seconds the big buck would be within range. But as he approached the edge of the snowfield, a buzzard flew up out of the moraine. For one second, both the buck and the whole flock stood as if nailed to the spot, with the their heads thrown backwards and rattling antlers, staring up at the falcon, which sailed away with a wild screech. In the next second they threw themselves around like a wind, and went as a flock and company along the snowfield, followed by a whistling rifle bullet.

“Oh, that was too far; it was throwing lead into the air,” Tor said.

Sir John had chosen another target; in impotent indignation, he had sent his shot towards the innocent cause of the escape. But the proud bird merely flapped its wings, and sailed calmly over our heads.

“Some hope of hitting that!” laughed Anders.

To get a broader view, we went further on. The flock came into view again on another hill. Tor followed it closely with his eyes. When it disappeared behind the ridge, Anders said:

“That bird is always in the way, here in the mountains. Had he not been, then the flock would have come straight at us.”

“It may well be that we meet the flock yet, before the sun goes down,” Tor said.

We sat down and rested, while Sir John murmured and wondered that the reindeer were startled by so little.

“So little?” said Tor. “It runs if a snow bunting flies chirping between the rocks; and if a mountain hare pops up, then it runs off as if it were a matter of life and death!”

Sir John guessed a thousand times where the reindeer might be now, occasionally spicing his speech with an outburst of bitterness, directed at the interfering birds. Then he went to entertain himself with Tor, who a few years before had brought a relative of his on a couple of unfortunate reindeer hunts up here, a certain Bilton, author of a big book on hunting and fishing in Norway.3 In that context he told of a strange accident he’d had, the only time he had been within range of a flock of reindeer. It was up on of the mountains of Bergen. He and a couple of other Englishmen shot, the animals were frightened and ran across the new ice on a water. Sir John and his comrades pursued them until the ice broke. And the shooters who were with them risked their lives, dragging them ashore. While Sir John told in his kauderwelsch, and ended with a pious exposition on the Catholic atmosphere that had gripped him when he was in the mountains during the evening, I sat, lost in the mighty landscape before us.

The mighty massif of the Rondes lay as a great semicircle to the south; in the thin, transparent air, it looked as if it were barely a league away. In the midst of the half ring stands a solitary peak, the Trollronde.4 A cloud stood before the sun, casting a shadow across the mighty group, but the tops and the edges were sharply drawn against the clear blue sky in the south-east. It was the inside of the ring that faced us. The Trollronde, in the middle, obscured the view of some of the south-eastern Rondes. The tors we saw in the east were deeply ridged, and consisted of bright stone moraines. The southerly and westerly were all covered in great snowfields from top to bottom.

The mountain plateau stretched towards the west and north: brownish, gray–green, endless and miserable. The monotony was only interrupted by the shadows of drifting clouds and fogs rising from the wild valleys which followed the course of the river. In the sky, furthest out, from Snøhetta in the north to the abundance of the Lom- and Vågå mountains in the west, the thermals gave the mountains, their ridges, peaks and edges, fantastic dimensions. Through this quivering, transparent heat, the rays of the sun spread across the snow- and ice fields of the western mountains; wine-red clouds with golden rims hovered above them, and a blushing golden luster beamed back across the whole northwestern sky.

But it was time to come away. We still had a long and tiring walk to the cabin at Uløy, a shooting-cabin at the foot of the western Ronde; we would lie there that night, and Hans would meet us there with the pack horse. Sir John asked which direction the cabin lay in, and Tor pointed to the base of the nearest tor—roughly the same direction the flock of reindeer had taken. We walked across mountain slopes and snowfields, over heights and valleys, one scree down and the other up. The dog often strained at its harness, nosing the wind, and Tor and Anders occasionally exchanged some words between themselves, which suggested that we were still on track. We got new courage and felt no more weariness. The wind had fallen off, and the last rays of the sun lay across rocks and snowfields.

By a field immediately above us, I saw caught sight of a pair of antlers that came up from a depression.

“Get down!” whispered Tor, at the same time.

We made a plan in a hurry: I would shoot the buck to the left, Sir John the one to the right. Tor followed us with the dog and would loose it immediately if an animal was wounded. We crawled forwards between the rocks on our hands and knees, until we could see the buck in the little depression where the flock stood. They were the same thirteen animals we had seen on the ice. The buck on the left stood in a good position; there were two animals in a row with him, one before and one behind; just above stood a calf. The range was long, but not too far, and it was difficult to move farther forward without being seen. I warned Sir John, put the gun to my eye, and was about to fire, when he got up boldly, crying aloud: “Don’t shoot, for God’s sake, it’s far too far!”

“It’s not too far!” Tor whispered impatiently.

Sir John now thought that he should take the initiative, but in a confusion that was not the best testimony to his deer-hunting experiences in Scotland, he wanted first to run some paces forward; with that, he stumbled into the dog’s lead, fell over, and tore the dog loose, which at full tilt set off up through the scree. I sent my bullet after the fleeing animal, but to no avail. But during the man’s fall, Tor had snatched up his rifle, and thrown it to his cheek. It went off, and one of the bucks set off, with a mighty leap into the midst of the flock, and went head over heels into the snow. He got up again on to its forelegs, but immediately fell with a deep gasp. Anders and I began a jubilant hunting call—accompanied by some English noises, which the knight of pathetic figure made, about his knees and “the stupid reindeer he’d never get to shoot.”

We hurried to the snowfield, where the dog was on guard, licking the blood of the proud animal that was lying, still gasping for air. Tor ended its death struggle by plunging his knife into its neck, and when we had looked at it from all angles, he began to flay it. Anders helped, to speed things up. We took the skin, the antlers, and the legs with us; the rest was buried in the scree, to be fetched the following day; we tipped a castle of great stones over it, to keep it from the wolverine.

When we were about to go on our way, Sir John began again to guess where the reindeer could be; he asked Tor where he thought they had gone, and whether it mightn’t be possible to meet them, for he would still like to to shoot “a deer.”

“Yes,” said Tor seriously, “I shall tell you; we could happen upon them if we went across Bråkdalshø; I think we would probably meet them at the Rondhalsen; they won’t come down in any other place, judging by the direction they took. But before we get there, it’ll be black night, and it’s no joke to find your way there in the bright day; at night you’d break off both hands and feet.”

Sir John had no mind for such a trip in the the dark night; he held his neck and limbs too dear. So we went down on another side of Bråkdalshø, through a valley of lush grass and rich flowers, and then walked for a while on a firm grass floor along the Vesle-Ula, one of the rivers that comes down from the Rondes. The twilight came on, and the Evening Star came out. Soon the grass floor ended, and it led out into a scree of loose stones that occasionally slid out into the river beneath our feet, and sometimes we went with them.

These detours out into the cold river water caused Sir John to lighten his heart with many English expletives, which I could not begin to make sense of in Norwegian.

“You may think it is bad here now, you,” said Anders, “but you should have been with us last year after Michaelmas. Then Tor shot a buck, and we went and looked for it between the mounds here until it began to snow and flurry so that we couldn’t see our hand before us. Finally we came down into the valley by the river here and fell into a hole every other step we took. As we walked and waded in the snow and the darkness, we went out into the river or in a hole in the scree so that we hit our guns on the rocks.”

Sir John grew very tired and impatient. Every moment he asked how far it was to “the damned shooter’s cabin”, and to begin with, received the same answer: it was “a good league”. After a while, it was reduced to “a little bit;” but it never seemed to end. Finally, after a small turn up from the river, we caught the smell of it in our nostrils. Our night quarters could not be far away. But still we had to cross a hillside, go along a low ridge, and across a marsh; then we came on to the firm grass floor

“Here is the Uløy cabin,” said Tor.

I couldn’t see anything other than some heaps of rock, and a continuation of the rock wall. But down in the wall opened a small door or a hole, and a strong light shone out; shadows passed in front of the light, and a couple of people came out.

“There are probably more shooters here,” said Anders. “Good evening, Per, now you’ll meet some strangers! It’s Per Fuggelskjelle, one of those who built the cabin, to stay in during the winter, when he stays here for the grouse,” he added for us. “And here’s Hans, too. Good evening! Did you get here in time with the pack horse?”

“I came while it was light, I did, fellow, and I have decorated the cottage and put new moss in the beds; Per Fuggelskjelle came a while ago. I think you must’ve shot a buck; I see Tor is carrying a pair of antlers.”

“God damn these people and their cabins!” from Sir John. “There may be room for two here, but we are six. I remember Bilton talks about such a damned hole in his book about Norway.”

I humbled myself and crawled in. The door was certainly low, but it was better inside than out in the cold, dark night. There was a fire in the pit. It looked very warm and doll’s house-like inside.

I sat myself on the bunk; it was disturbingly close to the hearth and took up the entire length of the wall opposite the door. It was filled with reindeer moss and lichen, and Hans had provided it with a bed sheet—an unheard of luxury in the Uløy cabin—and with our capes. There was not much woodwork in the cabin; only the door was joined; the rest was largely nature’s own work. The cabin actually lies in a cleft: the right wall, where the fireplace stands, is the naked mountain wall itself; the other two are made of large slabs that reach from floor to ceiling; the low roof is also made of slabs.

After the strenuous walk through the scree beneath the dark shadow of the western Ronde in the cool evening, it was good to find shelter in this warm, clean and pleasant retreat. Eventually Sir John also bent his head beneath the door frame. But when he was inside and standing at his full height—he was three well-measured ells—he banged his forehead against one of the beams in the sloping roof, which left a sooty mark on his face. He grew fierce, but should have realized that the cabin is built just to sit or lie in.

For Per Fuggelskjelle, the builder himself, it was certainly high enough beneath the roof, for he was neither heavy nor long. Now he sat in the corner between the door wall and Anders and Tor, who have sat themselves on the long bench, the only seat in the cabin. There is little space, for the whole bench from the bunk to the door wall is only built for two people, or in height two-and-a-half. He was a real mountain shooter, this Per. There is a certain look in his playful gray–green eyes, which one would almost think should shine in the dark. As he sits there with a broad, deep-red cap forward over his high, bowed forehead and his strong, straight nose, and with the lower part of his face half hidden in a hairy animal-skin tunic, he looks good. With one foot, Per supports himself against the edge of the chimney, so the light from the fire falls upon his mountain shoe, on the thick, broad sole of one layer of bark and two layers of leather, with seam upon seam across the entire surface, and all seam heads were at least a quarter inch square. On his legs he has gray wadmel trousers that had been covered in leather where they were most worn.

Sir John had settled down beside me on the bunk, half-sitting and half-lying. He was deciphering all the crow’s feet, cattle brands, and names that the horse fetchers and shooters had scratched into the slab above the bunk. Finally, he also found “Bilton Esq.,” and alongside this famous man’s name, he satisfied himself by writing his own in his lapidary script.

Hans sat on the doorstep with one leg inside and the other outside. Anders had made a roasting spit from some willow, and the two helped each other to turn a juicy piece of reindeer buck over the heat.

While we made and ate our food, not a lot was said; we were too tired and needed to get something in us first. But when the refreshing coffee had been drunk, and the tobacco smoke lay over the small room, the conversation rose. We talked for a while about the wildlife and hunting in the mountains; but little by little we moved over to caves and enchantments. I did my best to get them to tell, and after much encoragement, Anders began on a story:

“There was a man in the Dovre forest called Ola Storbekken. He was a beast of a fellow, so big and strong and indifferent. In the winter he did nothing but travel from market to market and brawl and quarrel. He went from the market in Krestjan [Kristiania] to Branes and Kongsberg, and then to Grundset; and wherever he was, he brawled and wrangled, and wherever he brawled, he won. In the summer he went to a cattle market in Valdres and down in the fjords, and there he drank and he brawled with both the fellows from the fjord and from Hallingdal and from Valdres in the mountain lay-overs in the summer; and he won there, too, but sometimes they managed to scratch him a bit with their knives, those fellows.

“But then there was once, during the mowing; he had come to Bekke and had gone to take a nap in the cool shade. Then he was taken into the rock. It happened such that a man with a pair of gilded buck’s horns came to him and butted Ola. But Ola struck the fellow, so that he went round and round. The fellow got up and began to butt again, and at length he grabbed Storbekken like a mitten and struck him dwn beneath him, and then the both of them went straight down into the ground. It was so fine, where they came to, with silver and finery so that Ola didn’t think it could be any finer at the king’s. They offered him both brandy and wine, and Ola Bekken drank with them as a fellow, but food would he not have; he thought it horrible. Just like that, he came in again, he with the gilded buck’s horns, and before he knew it, he gave Ola a slap; but Ola struck him as before, and then they brawled and wrangled through every room, and around all the walls. Ola said it went on all night, but then the battle had been going on for more than fourteen days, and they had rung for him, three Thursday nights with the church bells. On the third Thursday evening, they treated him badly, for then they would butt him off Heimfjell. When the church bells stopped ringing, he sat in a hulder-cleft with his head outside; if a man had not passed by at the same time, and made them ring again, then the rock would have closed around him, and he might have been there still.

“But when Ola came out, he was beaten so badly that there was no moderation. He had one lump bigger than the next on his head, and his whole body was both blue and yellow, and so mad was he, that he got up, went on his way, and wanted to enter the mountain and fight with the one with the gilded buck’s horns, for he wanted to break them off the skull of the jutul.”

“My father knew Storbekke well,” said Hans, “and he told many stories about him; never had he seen a healthier fellow in a brawl, he said; but his uncle, from Heidal, was said to be even more talented, as I heard. Can’t you, Anders, tell about the womenfolk who came to him one night while he was in the mountains for the grouse?”

“Ola Hella, you mean?” asked Anders. “Yes, yes, I’ll tell you. Ola was supposed to be a good grouse shooter. So there was one winter that he was in the Heidal mountains, grouse hunting. At night he slept at a pasture, but even though he was an old man, he thought many-a-time that it was uncanny to lie there alone in the long winter night. One night he had stoked the fire, eaten supper, and lain down to sleep. But during the night he woke up. The fire had gone out in the grate, and he clearly perceived a woman lying on each side of him on the bench.

“‘Well, then!’ he thought to himself, ‘Now I’m not lying alone. But what devilry is this?’

“He touched one with his hand; she was furry, and when he withdrew his hand sharply, there was hearty sniggering and laughing from the loft. Then he touched the other, and she was furry, too. But now he grabbed for his rifle, which he had hanging over the bed, for he knew well there were mound-folk. But it wouldn’t give a spark or fire, and no matter how he clicked, it wouldn’t fire the shot. So he began to recite Our Father, and when he came to ‘but deliver us from evil,’ there was such a bustle and noise in the cabin that he thought the roof would fall into the parlour, and they rolled out from him on both sides; she who lay innermost rolled right through the wall, he said.”

Anders couldn’t come upon any more that he thought it was worth talking about. I asked Per Fuggelskjelle, therefore, to tell us something. Earlier in the evening he had, in a lively and peculiar way, told a couple of hunting stories; he spoke very quickly, occasionally stuttering and stammering a little, and then his speech flowed more quickly again. His mimicry was lively, and his intonation closely followed the contents of the story.

“Yes, I can certainly tell you some bits,” he replied and let his head fall to one side a little, and squinted with his eyes. “I could tell stories that old folk believe in, and that they say have taken place in olden times; but I suppose you believe it’s all just lies, and so I will tell you a legend that we don’t believe, either.”

“There was a shooter in Kvam in the olden days,” he began, “and he was called Per Gynt. He was always in the mountains, and there he shot both bear and moose—for in those days there was more forest on the mountains, and there dwelt such creatures. So there was once late in the autumn, long since they had left the pasture for the year, that Per should go into the mountains. All the folk had gone home from the mountains, except for three milkmaids. When he came up towards Høvringen—for he was to stay a night there, at the pasture—it was so dark that he could not see his hand in before him, and the dog began to bark greatly so that it was quite uncanny. Just like that, he bumped against something, and when he touched it, it was both cold and slippery and big. He didn’t think he had come off the road, either, so he couldn’t know what it was, but it was unpleasant.

“‘Who is this?’ said Per, for he felt it was moving.

“‘Oh, it’s the Bend,’ it replied.

“But Per Gynt none the wiser, you see; but he walked along with it for a bit, ‘for there is a place I want to get to,’ he thought. Just like that, he bumped against something again, and when he touched it, it was both big and cold and slippery.

“‘Who is this?’ said Per Gynt.

“‘Oh, it’s the Bend,’ it replied.

“‘Yes, whether you’re straight or bent, you must let me forth,’ said Per, for he realized he was going around in a ring and that the Bend had ringed itself around around the pasture. With that, the Bend moved itself a little, just enough that Per was able to get to the pasture. When he came in, it was no lighter inside than out, and he went and fumbled around the walls, and should put his gun down, and lay down his knapsack; but just as he went felt his way forward, he felt it cold and big and slipery again.

“‘Who is this?’ said Per Gynt.

“‘Oh, it’s the Bend,’ it replied.

“And wherever he felt, and wherever he started to go, he felt the ring of the Bend. ‘It is probably no good to stay here,’ thought Per Gynt, ‘since this Bend is both inside and outside; but I shall certainly set this splitting wedge to right!’ So he took his gun and went out again, and felt his way forward until he found its head.

“‘What are you?’ said Per.

“‘Oh, I am the great Bend in Etndal,’ said the great troll. So Per Gynt moved quickly and shot three shots into its head.

“‘Shoot once more!’ said the Bend.

“But Per knew better, for had he shot once more, then it would have returned to him. So they took hold, both Per and the dogs, and pulled out the great troll out, so that they could properly get into the pasture. Meanwhile there was cackling and laughter, all around from the mounds:

“‘Per Gynt pulled a lot, but the dogs pulled more,’ it said.

“In the morning he should go out hunting the animals. When he came into the mountains, he saw a girl, calling the herds across Tverrhø. But when he got up there, the girl was gone, and the herds too, and he saw nothing but a great flock of bears.

“‘Well, I have never seen bears in a flock before,’ thought Per to himself; but when he got closer, they were gone, all of them except one.

“Then there came a cry from a mound there:

“‘Mind your barrow5
Per Gynt is out
with his tail!’

“‘Oh, it’ll be unfortunate for Per, but not for my barrow, for he has not washed himself today,’ it said from the mound.

“Per washed his hands in the water he had, and shot the bear. Then there was cackling and laughter, all around from the mound.

“‘You should have minded your barrow!’ it shouted.

“‘I didn’t remember he had a washing cup between his feet,’ replied the other.

“Per flayed the bear and buried the carcass in the scree, but he took the skull and skin with him.

“On his way home he met a mountain fox.

“‘See my lamb, how fat it goes,’ it said from a mound.

“‘See Per’s tail, how high it stands,’ said it in another mound, when Per lifted his rifle to his eye and shot it.

“He flayed it and took it with him, and when he came to the pasture, he put its head outside, with a gaping mouth. Then he made up the fire and put a soup cauldron on it. But it smoked so unreasonably much that he found it difficult to keep his eyes open, and he therefore went to open a smokehole that was there. Just like that came a troll and stuck in through the hole its nose so long that it reached the chimney.

“‘Here you shall see my nosehorn!’ it said.

“‘Here you shall feel the soup corn!’ said Per Gynt, and ladled the whole soup cauldron over its nose.

“The troll ran off, and carried on; but around in all the mounds there was cackling and laughter, and it shouted:

“‘Gyri Soup-snout, Gyri Soup-snout!’

“Now it was quiet for a while; but it wasn’t long before there was some clamour and noise outside. Per looked out, and there he saw a cart with bears before; they piled up the big troll and went into the mountains with him.

“Just like that, a bucket of water came down the chimney and quenched the fire, so that Per was sitting there in the dark. Then it began to chuckle and cackle in all the corners, and then it said:

“‘Now things will go no better with Per than with the Vala milkmaids.’

“So Per made up the fire again, took his dog, locked up the pasture, and lay out northwards to the pasture at Vala, where the three milkmaids were staying. When he had gone a way north, it was burning so there, as if the Vala pasture was aflame. At the same time, he met a pack of wolves, and some of these he shot and some he beat to death. When he came to the Vala pasture, it was as dark as pitch, and there was no fire; but there were four stranger fellows inside, who carried on with the milkmaids, and they were four mound trolls, and they were called Gust Været, Trond Valfjell, Tjøstol Åbakkae and Rolv Eldførpunge. Gust Været stood outside the door, to keep watch, while the others were with the milkmaids and courted them. Per shot at him, but missed, and so Gust Været fled. When Per came in, they were carrying on terribly with the milkmaids, and two of the girls were scared out of their wits, and prayed God to help them; but the third, called Mad-Kari, was not afraid; well could they come, she said; she would like to see what such fellows were good for. But when the trolls realized that Per had come in, they began to carry on, and told Eldførpunge to stoke the fire. At the same time, he set his dogs on Tjøstol, and they pulled him on his head into the firepit, so the ash and embers surrounded him.

“‘Did you see my serpents, Per?’ said Trond Valfjell—that was what he called his wolves.

“‘Now you shall go the same way as your serpents,” said Per, and shot him. Then he beat Åbakke to death with his rifle butt, but Eldførpunge had gone up through the chimney. When Per had done this, he took the milkmaids to the village, for they dared not stay there any longer.

“But as time drew on towards Christmas time, Per Gynt was out again. He had heard of a farm at Dovre which was so full of trolls every Christmas Eve that the people fled to other farms. He wanted to go there, for he had a mind for enchantment. He dressed himself poorly, and then he took with him a tame white bear, and an awl, and pitch, and a bristle brush. When he got there, he went into the cabin and asked to be allowed to stay.

“‘God help us,’ said the man, ‘we cannot let you stay; we are leaving the farm ourselves, for every Christmas Eve it gets so full of trolls here.’

“But Per Gynt said he would be able to cleanse the house of trolls, and so he was allowed to stay, and got a sow skin, too.

“Then the bear lay behind the stove, and Per took out the pitch, awl and bristle brush, and sat himself down to make a huge shoe from the whole sow skin. He used a strong rope for laces, so that he could tighten the shoe. He also readied a pair of poles.

“Just like that they came, with fiddle and fiddler, and some danced and some ate of the Christmas food that was on the table; some of them roasted flesh, and some of them roasted frogs and toads and much else that was disgusting—they brought this Christmas fare with them. Then some saw the shoe that Per had made. That, they said, was for a big foot; then they should try it, and when they had all got up into the one foot, Per pulled the rope, and set in one of the poles, and twisted until they were stuck in the shoe all together. But then the bear stuck its nose out, and nosed the roasting.

“‘Does the white pussy cat want a sausage?’ said one of the trolls, and threw a hot roasted frog into its mouth.

“‘Scratch and strike, bear!’ said Per Gynt. Then the bear grew so angry and wild that he got up and struck and scratched all of them together, and Per Gynt struck the company with the other pole, as if he would beat their skulls in—he had split the pole into four so they couldn’t count the strikes.

“Then the trolls fled, and Per stayed there and lived well on the Christmas fare the whole holiday.

“They didn’t hear of the trolls for many years. But the man had a grey-dun mare, and Per advised him to let it foal, so the foal could frolic around between the mounds there.

“Then it was at Christmas time many years later—the man was in the forest, chopping wood for the holiday; then a troll came out and called to him:

“‘Do you still have your big white pussycat?’

“‘Yes, he lies behind the stove,’ said the man, ‘and now he has seven kittens, much bigger and angrier than he is himself.’

“‘Then we shall never again come to you!’ called the troll.”

“This Per Gynt was one of a kind,” said Anders. “He was quite an adventure merchant and legend-smith, and you would have liked to meet him. He was always telling how he had been in all the stories folk said had happened in the olden days.”

“It may be true, what you say there,” said Per Fuggelskjell. “My grandmother, she had known him, and she mimicked him more than once. But you, Tor, can’t you tell of the great shooter at Vågå who is called Jens Klomsrud? I heard there is a lot to be told of. He was related to you somehow, I think.”

“Yes,” said Tor, “but the kinship was not close, for he was married to an aunt of our great-grandfather’s. He lived in Klomsrud in Vågå itself, and lived for good and well over a hundred years ago; my grandfather still remembers him well, and said he was a good and worthy fellow. Klomsrud farm lies in the hills in Vågå, and it’s not far from there to the pastures in Veiding and Sterring. Jens Klomsrud went shooting up there in the mountains nearly the whole winter, and put out grouse traps and kept reindeer pits. One day he had been flying about the whole mountain but hadn’t got a grouse. In the twilight, he turned to visiting snares and reindeer pits, and evening fell before he came down again to Sterring, where he should stay the night; and then it burned so that it shone out through all the joints in the walls. And Jens was glad, for folk had come and made up the fire. But when he came in to the pasture, at once it went pitch dark, and when he arrived, there was a lock on the door. Jens didn’t think much about it; he was used to both this and that; he built the fire and settled for the evening. But in the night, when he had eaten and lain down to sleep, fourteen green-clad maidens came in; they were so very beautiful that he had never seen such beautiful women, and they all had yellow, flowing hair. One had a langeleik dulcimer; she began to play it, and the others began to dance around in a ring; there lay a fatwood root, so Jens could well see everything they did. But as they were dancing, they grasped after him and pulled the long hair he had on his legs.

“‘Do you like the plucking, Jens Hairy-legs?’ they said.

“Jens answered nothing; he just drew up his feet as best he could; but that didn’t help much, for the maidens were so mad and lusty that they pulled and tore at him, and called him Jens Hairy-legs, Jens Thunder-mountain, Jens Peel-mountain. But then Jens grew angry; he took his rifle, scolded them firmly, and said that if they didn’t leave immediately, he would do with them what they least wanted. Then the maidens fled, and what there was left of the night, Jens slept in peace. At first light, Jens went into the mountains, but as he passed Løvåberg above Sterring, it shouted to him:

“‘Jens Hairy-legs, you’ll get no grouse today! There will be only empty cries and peels in the mountains.’

“Jens thought both this and that. But he still went; and when he came into the mountains, there were a lot of grouse there. He shot and shot until he had neither bullets nor gunpowder, but he didn’t get a feather, and when he went home, flocks of grouse lighted right before his feet. He had never know such bad hunting, and so he thought it must have been the enchantments of the mound-folk.

“On the third day, he went out to the grouse snares and reindeer pits, and wanted to clear them, but there was neither grouse nor reindeer in them. Most of the snares had been pulled up and pulled apart; but he saw no sign of either folk or animals.

“There were a great many birds and reindeer in the mountains, and he began to shoot, but it was futile. He came home early to Sterring and thought about sweeping off to Klomsrud the same evening, but he had a lot of stavewood for snowshoes that he wanted to chop up and take home with him on the ski sled. And when he was finished, it was so late that he decided to stay there that night, too.

“A while after he had gone to bed, he woke up and was nearly smothered by smoke, because a large flagstone had been placed over the smokehole. Jens took his gun with him outdoors and cocked the hammer, but the powder would not catch, even though the flint and steel gave a spark. But just like that, it called from Løvåberg:

“‘Will you use your thunder pipe against the maidens, now, Jens Empty-bang?’

“‘What have I done, since I cannot be left in peace?’ Jens Klomsrud asked.

“‘You have brought your thunder over the roof of Kjersti Langeleik and Sigrid Sidserk and their twelve sisters, and you’ve frightened the houseless with your thunder pipe,’ it replied from the Løvå mountain.

“‘What should I give as penance?’ asked Jens. But he didn’t receive an answer.

“So he went up on to the roof and tipped down the slab with a pole, so the smoke went up, and then he slept calmly and was disturbed no more that night.

“When he had been at home in Klomsrud a little while, he went up to Sterring, to shoot, and the first morning he came across a big reindeer buck in Klumphole. He shot ten shots at him, but he didn’t hit him. Then he heard it calling from the Løvå mountain:

“‘Tomorrow you can shoot, Jens Empty-thunder. Now you have paid penance.’

“Jens left the buck and didn’t think of shooting any more that day, but went home to the pasture. In the morning he shot so much that he almost couldn’t carry all the birds, and when he was on his way home at noon, he met the reindeer buck in Klumphole. This time he fell at the first shot; and there was no one who could remember that such a large reindeer buck had been shot at Vågå; the antlers were so big that there were none like them, and they sit above the stabbur door at Klomsrud, like a great crown, to this day.”

Now it could be time to take a nap. Sir John and I shared the bunk, Tor and Anders crept under it, Hans lay on the floor, and Per Fuggelskjell lay on the bench. I slept safely and calmly for a while; but during the night four trolls came from Høvring, with a big reindeer buck on their long noses, and they dropped it on its head down through the chimney in the Uløy cabin. It was so stiflingly hot that it was unbearable. Storbekke and Per Gynt were at the trolls inside the cabin, while Jens Klomsrud and Sir John stood on the roof and gave the buck shot upon shot down through the chimney; finally, they pulled it up by its hind legs, but it jumped just as well, and was gone over the Ronde ridge.

I felt a cool draught, breathed more freely, and woke up. Per Fuggelskjell, who had curled up to get a place on the bench, agreed with Hans that it was good to stretch his legs a bit; to make room for this, he had opened the door and stuck his feet out.

“Goodness, it would be good to cook coffee on the fire, boy,” he whispered to Hans.

Anders joined them, and in my half-slumber I heard them fiddling with the coffee kettle for quite a while, chatting about cattle trade and the slaughter, about Nordfjord horses and reindeer bucks, until I, after a while, fell asleep. I woke at the first grey light. It had rained and thundered the whole night; when we came out, the fog covered the foot of Trollronde, but it was clear in the heights, and the top sailed above the sea of fog in full, sparkling sunlight. A bath in the river, and a good breakfast of trout and reindeer steak—then we went in the fresh morning between the Rondes, while Hans and Per Fuggelskjell took the road northwards, as Tor had directed them, to fetch the reindeer buck we had shot.

  1. A meal taken in the early afternoon. 

  2. Røverstuen” (“The Robbers’ Cabin,” 1827) by the Danish parson Steen Steensen Blicher (1782–1848). 

  3. William Bilton. Two Summers in Norway. 2 vols. London: Saunders & Otley, 1840. Asbjørnsen’s account appears to have borrowed liberally from Bilton, even down to the details of tying the dog to a rock, and storing dead reindeer beneath the rocks in the moraines. 

  4. Generally known these days as Trolltinden

  5. Castrated boar. 

Friday, 28 June 2019

Mountain Scenes: An Evening at the Pasture

One Sunday in August, I left Lårgard in Sell, together with a young Englishman, Sir John Tottenbroom, and the reindeer shooter Tord Ulsvollen and his brother, who were to take us hunting in the mountains between Østerdalen and Sell. The Englishman had visited parts of our country; he understood Norwegian, and could, if need be, make himself understood, too; but like most English tourists, he had mostly been in the company of farmers, and thus spoke a strange, halting farmer’s tongue. It was not always sufficient; when he grew enthusiastic, he would suddenly switch to his own language, or carry on in a crow’s tongue, which is impossible to reproduce.

Tord Ulsvollen was of medium height, dark-eyed, and had a bold, somewhat swarthy face. He looked both wise and sympathetic, was lean, but broad across his shoulders, and walked lightly but self-confidently, with a tough strength in his gait. He was an easy-going fellow. Life up there in the mountains is both dangerous and tiresome; it had taken from him all clumsiness, and had taught him to trust himself, and there was therefore a credible confidence to everything he did.

His brother Anders was light and tall and strong. He was of another kind: reckless of speech and behaviour; he set off, cared little where he placed his foot, and of course he had to hold his balance with his arms; he resembled a bear that pads off on its hind legs.

Both had red woollen hats, and pepper-and-salt coloured trousers. Anders wore a long coat, or spælkjol of the same colour; it had long skirts that slapped against his legs. Tord had laid his reindeer-skin clothes across the yoke, and walked in his shirtsleeves. He had a great rifle with an octagonal muzzle; Anders carried a fine bird rifle.

It was quiet in the forest; we heard no sound other than the tramping of the shooters’ shoe taps and the hoof falls of the yoked horse, which followed along with our food, hunting bags, and our fishing baskets. It was nature’s holiday. Towards the evening, a solitary bird began to twitter quietly in the forest; the fragrance of the spruce and pine wafted towards us in the warmth of the sun; above the forest tops, once in a while we could glimpse the river Lågen, which rushed and glittered far below, so far away that that its roar and bubbling did not reach us. The shadows grew longer and longer; the twilight and river mist laid itself across the valley, but the sun still played red between the spruces up on the ridge, and laid a glow on the Lesja mountains, which were blueing, far away. When we reached the top of the hill, the forest opened up, the pines were shorter and sparser; birch and juniper took over, the heather was lush, and we came over marshes with succulent grass. Høvringen’s thirty pastures soon lay before us, edge to edge, between thicket and rock and green banks, and behind them rose the tops of the Ronde giants towards the eastern sky. The girls called, the lur sounded, calling in in the evening stillness, and the cows streamed together, with jostling and the jangling of bells.

Tord owned one of the first pastures we came to; he bade us go in and drink some milk, but we did not have the time; we wanted to go up whither we would spend the night, and Tord promised to come after us at once. I caught a glimpse of a beautiful girl at the window, and a couple of menfolk faces. Anders told that the girl was Tord's wife's sister's daughter; the schoolmaster spent his time courting her, when he was free from school, but she would not have him, even though he owned both a farm and land and was a good schoolmaster; she liked a young boy better, who was also courting her.

When we came to the Lårgard pasture, the milkmaid stood on the flagstone outside the farmhouse door. She was a fine girl, tall and erect, in white shirtsleeves, red waistcoat, and black skirt. She stood with her back to us, and we saw only her neck and a well-formed head with blonde hair, to which the evening sunshine lent an even redder cast than it actually had; she was fetching a long-haired black goat that had climbed up on to the grassy turf roof, and stood, tearing and pulling at a birch sapling that had shot up from the turf.

“Teksa, Teksa, Teksa, Teksa, now, come, goat! Trinselire, come now, then! Here with you, you sorry troll. Will you leave the birch be and stop ripping up the roof! Here, then!” she cried.

“Good evening, Brit,” said Anders.

“God's blessing,” she replied; she turned, shielding her eyes from the evening sun, and looked at us. “God's peace! Are these stranger folk I am to greet, since Anders is with them?”1

“Yes,” said Anders, “and stout and gentle fellows they are whom you receive at the pasture. They want nothing special,” he said frankly.

“They may be stout fellows,” said Brit, but she could not keep herself from smiling as she considered us; Sir John's neat figure and long locks especially drew her attention. “And him, then? Is he a fellow, too? I think he looks to be a womanfolk in a fellow's clothes,” she said, in jest.

“Have you seen a womanfolk with a beard, and womenfolk so tall, girl?” asked Anders.

“No, no, you are right, Anders,” she replied, laughing well. “You may go in; stranger folk must not stay standing outside, you know. It is terribly unusual for you to be here, visiting us, but we are north of manners, we are, as you well know,” she continued, talking continuously with us and Anders, jesting at times a little sarcastically.

The pasture was a cabin with a sloping roof, and a large hearth in one corner. As is usual in the pastures of Gudbrandsdalen, it was spotlessly clean and tidy inside. On shelves beneath the roof, the cheeses stood in columns and rows, below were displayed the rings and harnesses, and everything had been scrubbed clean and shiny white, even to the tables and benches. The big fire in the hearth, beneath the cheese cauldron, caused a lively draught; here there was no stuffy cabin odor, but a fresh fragrance from the juniper spread across the floor, and the beautiful white saxifrage, which stood in the windows on its pulpy, mild-green crown of leaves, with ring and runners of deep yellow marigolds around—all on the occasion of our visit.

“But what do these fellows want somfar up in the mountains, then? They would do much better at home than in the pasture with the milkmaids,” Brit said, a little curious.

“We wanted to see what the mountains look like, and then we wanted to shoot reindeer,” replied Sir John.2

“Yes, shoot reindeer, you! You may hope you get to shoot some; I am afraid you will give it up, both you and your companions, before you get so far. But you should have been here this spring, when we came to the pasture; then a great reindeer buck came right up to the walls. A little way north on the Vågå pasture, there is a milkmaid called Barbro; she is some girl, she is, as young as she is; she shot a reindeer that had come inside the livestock boundary. Up beneath the roof in the cabin, there hung a blunderbuss, which she had heard should be loaded in case of wolves; she took it and stood steady, laying it across the back of the bull. Then she aimed well and long, you can imagine; and when it went off, they fell all three, both the girl and the buck and the bull; the bull began to howl terribly, afterwards, so frightened he was. But the buck remained down, and the parson had a roast.”

“We have another errand, Brit,” I said; “we would like to hear tales. Do you know anyone who is good at telling?”

“There are a couple of girls here on the pastures, whom I will send for by the herder girls, so they will come here this evening,” she replied, “and I think they can tell you some tales, if only they will. And what about the schoolmaster? He is terrible to tell stories. He was down at Marit’s, yesterday, and if he is not there, now that Hans has come, then we shall certainly hear the cuckoo at Michaelmas.”3

“Yes, I asked the schoolmaster to look in on us, and Hans and Marit, too,” said Tord, who had just come in and lain aside his rifle. “I remembered that you spoke of tales—and they certainly know some.”

“When the schoolmaster first gets going, there is no end to them, both out of the Bible and other nonsense,” said Brit. “But poor man, he will certainly be miserable now; it must be sad to burn like a piece of fatwood, alone.”

It was not long before the company from Tord’s pasture came after him. The girl was the picture of health, and red and white; she had a lively face, and a pleasant figure. Out of the boy’s open, bold face shone a fresh, uncorrupted nature. The third in the company was the schoolmaster; he was not much more than thirty years old, but his face was wrinkled; it apparently came of his eager attempts at giving himself a worthy mien. His cassock told the same story, too; it was intended to set him apart from the farmers; he went in a tobacco-brown gown with long, pointed seams, around his neck a white kerchief and a tall winged collar, tagged at the edges. On the right side of his chest, a large bump stood out; I thought at first it was a growth, but heard afterwards that it was a large inkwell that he always carried with him. His whole figure made a wholly unpleasant impression. The mountain farmer’s curiosity and frank, naïve questions were here become an intrusive, half-educated interrogation, and with every question he ventured, he looked around, as if he stood the the midst of the unwashed youth of Vågå. He pursed together his mouth in a smile that asked, “is it not well-said? Oh yes, I can certainly feel such folk in my teeth!” A flood of personal questions cascaded upon us, all in an exaggerated impersonation of obsolescent book language, but the odd bold word and idiom from the Gudbrandsdal tongue intruded occasionally.

I had heretofore replied to the schoolmaster, but now my travelling companion lost his patience; he was more sensitive than I, and it burst out of him in his mother-tongue: “God damn this man, and his staring and his mouth and his impertinence!”4

The schoolmaster looked as if he had solved a regula de tribus problem when he heard the foreign tongue. “Oh,” he said, “now I may truly remark that these are travelling men from foreign parts! Perhaps from England or France, or possibly even from Spain; a count from there came here last year.”

“Oh no, schoolmaster,” I replied. “You can certainly hear that I am Norwegian; but my friend, Sir John Tottenbroom is from England.”

“Is that so… So this well-educated man is from the Britannic kingdom?” said the schoolmaster, looking around to draw attention to his knowledge of geography, which he intended to bring to light. “Has he travelled here by way of the waters of the significant body of water called the North Sea, or has he taken the land route through France, Holland, Germany, and Sweden? And on which errand does he come to this country—if I may be permitted to be so nosey as to ask?”

“You ask, schoolmaster,” I said. “The first question I can answer. He has come by means of water, across the North Sea. But of his errand, you must ask him yourself.”

“Then you shall certainly be wise, schoolmaster; he only speaks English,” said his youthful co-suitor; he sat smoking a small meerschaum pipe with a silver lid, horn bit, and stem of copper wire.

“Well, if only he had command of the German language,” said the schoolmaster, condescendingly, “then I should talk to him; for in that I am somewhat conversant—I have studied Geddick’s Reader and Hübner’s Geography in this language!”

“Speak to him in German, schoolmaster,” I said. “He can certainly reply in the same language.”

“Damn you!” blurted Sir John; as irritated as he was, he could but laugh at the schoolmaster’s preposterous behaviour.

“You ask of my errand, schoolmaster?” he said in reasonable German. “Among other reasons, I travel to study the foolishness of mankind, and it appears there is study to be made here, too.”

“Das ist inglis, can nix underschtehn,” said the schoolmaster. “Aber!” he snapped at the first thing he grasped from the treasure chest of his knowledge: “Was ist Ihre meinung anbelangende the fact that stands geschriebet about the Euxinsch sea, dass in the year 715 das ice fraus such that it was forty ells thick, und da das eis gesmalt, so gestand von thereof likewise an excitedness out in the air, dass ein pestilence came up von which all people bestarb out in Konstantinopolis?”5

The German conversation was drowned out by our laughter at this “faktum” from Hübner’s Geography, and the schoolmaster was for a while quite embarrassed; but he appeared to be of a reconciliatory nature, and when we gathered around the hearth, he joined the circle. The girls who had been sent for had come; pretty and friendly were they all, and one of them had a really lovely face and was a winning creature, but was a little too pale to be a mountain bloom.

I asked them to tell tales, but even though Brit helped me, they claimed with laughter that they did not know any. They demurred, all of them, and no one would begin.

“No. Schoolmaster, schoolmaster!” they all cried. “He can tell; he knows both tales and canards.”

“Yes,” said the schoolmaster, “I could always tell something from the Bible story, or, for eksamplum, of the emperor Octavianus. Besides, I know a very sorrowful love story of the manly Tristram and the virtuous princess Indiane, and so on, et cetera.”

“No, dear schoolmaster,” I interrupted him; “I know these stories like the back of my hand. What I want to hear is stories of the hulders, of trolls, tales of Askeladden, and such that has never been in print before, but lives only in the mouths of the folk.”

“I cannot tell such a finasserie,” said the schoolmaster, grumpily; “it is not the business of a teacher of youths, like me, a representative of the council executive, who has sworn to uphold the Constitution. What should I say if they asked if it was true that Halsten Røen had sat telling tales like a gossipy woman?”

“What did you reply to the executive when you had told those canards—you know—and sung the evening prayer to the girls at the Christmas banquet at Ulsvolle?” asked his co-suitor, teasingly.

“What I answered has nothing to do with this matter,” said the schoolmaster. “And it is not appropriate to tell travelling men who study the variation of nature, and the customs of humanity, that which may be appropriate for you and other lay folk. I consider it much better to reap wisdom by paying attention to sharp minds and the speech of such men than telling frivolous and foolish peasant stories; though travelling men are worldly wise, and I would therefore ask some of these to teach me by means of their speech.”

I tried to make him understand that I had as much to do with teaching as I could want, in the city, and on a trip to the mountains, I would rather take a break from the burdens of teaching.

“Since no one will tell anything,” began Anders, “can I tell you a bit about a man from Heidal, a little way towards Vågå. He was called Hogne, but afterwards, they called him Hogne Trollcleaver. He was at sea for some years, but when he had earned a bit of money so he could redeem his father’s farm, he came home again to his village, and began to court a girl from Vågå, who slept at the pasture, and was a milkmaid.

“But as he came to the pasture one time, the milkmaid was gone, and the herder girl came home weeping from the mountain with the herds.

“‘What is the matter with you; where is the milkmaid?’ asked Hogne.

“‘Three mountain trolls came and took her,’ said the herder girl.

“He went off on his way to find the girl, and take care of the trolls, and he took with him one called Hårrik Longshanks. They went far and wide, over forest and mountain and deep valleys; but they found neither the mountain trolls nor the girl. When they came to Stuttgong boulder, they bumped into a troll.

“‘Stay a while, you,’ said Hogne, and he scratched him a little with his sword. Then he made a ring in the ground around him, and hewed a cross in the air above his head, so the troll remained standing, paralyzed, and could not move from the spot.

“‘Where is the milkmaid who was staying at Bønnes?’ said Hogne. The troll would not answer, but Hogne threatened his black life, and then he said that it was Flatnose in the Stuttgong boulder who had taken her.

“‘Tomorrow is the wedding,’ he said, ‘and I am going to Skola and to Presteberg to invite his kin to the banquet,’ he said.

“‘You stand there until I return,’ said Hogne, hewing some crosses above his head, and the troll is supposed to stand there by the Stuttgong boulder even to this day, according to what they tell; but I have never seen him. Either Hogne came into the mountain and got the girl, or not, I have not heard anything about that, either, but they called him Hogne Trollcleaver ever since.”

“This is an immoral story from the popish time, the indication of which is the sign of the cross, and as such it belongs to the devil,” said the schoolmaster, animatedly. “There were probably some troublesome rascals from another village who had forcefully kidnapped the milkmaid, who reasonably enough would have been a loose woman, such as there are many of at the pastures; and the trolls have been invented. I shall now tell you a true story, wherein the hulders and the trolls were given the blame in the same manner, but which was carried out by the sharp-minded machinations of a scheming man.”

He cleared his throat and built himself up, and let his gaze go slowly from one to the next. “In Prestestulen, in the parish of Våge, there lived, a long time ago, a married couple, Steingrim and Jøda, who on this hilly landscape provided for themselves and their children by breeding livestock and hunting game. Steingrim, the husband was taken by an avalanche in the mountains in Jønndal. Their grown son, Ivar was was commissioned in the same year, and Jøda was left alone to provide for many children. The second son, Bjørn, despite his young age, became his mother’s only support. He was big of growth, capable, and reckless, and soon made his mark out in the ski races, trapping, and shooting; but he was especially adept at identifying animal shelters, that is the animals’ dwellings and scrapes, during various kinds of weather, and so he was probably also as good a hunter as they say, as his experience with the delicate, sharp scent of the reindeer brought him within range of the blind shooter. Most often Bjørn was plagued with the need to go alone, and sought on every occasion to go by himself on the hunting trail, and his success in hunting caused the folk to wonder greatly. Some thought he could paralyze the birds and animals by enchantment, as soon as he laid his eyes on them, others that he lived in a compact with the mound trolls, and in certain ways, he acquired help and information of the best hunting tracks from them. Folk had their suspicions greatly strengthened when they saw him digging reindeer traps, and building himself cabins of stone in the mountains, and the mountain valleys, where others could by no means dwell at night on account of the mountain trolls. Once in a while, he told how the jutuls played pranks on him, and worked against him, but that his close friend, the jutul in Skula—called the Skulgubbe—came to his aid on such occasions.”

It was easy to see that the schoolmaster’s story would be as long and boring as his style of piety was ridiculous. It was therefore not without some satisfaction that I noticed the agitation that came upon him, when he noticed how his intended had removed herself; through the window we saw that she was on her way to one of the neighbouring pastures, and when her co-suitor followed her, the schoolmaster’s disquiet grew into distraction; he stuttered and stammered and fumbled after words.

“No, forgive me, I cannot remember it correctly; I do have a small errand to attend to. You, Tord, you should tell the ending. You know it, too,” he said, hurrying out.

The girls laughed and felt sorry for the “poor schoolmaster” and his jealousy. Then Tord began, and continued to tell.

“The neighbouring farm to Preststule is Øvsteng. There lived a man called Bård. He was also a shooter, but he was continually envious of Bjørn, for he always had such good fortune. This Bård Øvsteng had a daughter called Rønnog. To her Bjørn went a-courting in secret; but when her father got wind of it, he said that if he so much as saw Bjørn on the farm, then it would go no better with him than with a reindeer: he would shoot him down on the spot.

“‘My daughter shall not have any old forest bear,’6 he added.

“But now he would marry her off to one from Skårvangen who was called Sevall Uppistugum, who was a fool and ‘scaregirl.’7 Rønnog pleaded her case beautifully enough; it did no good, but she didn’t have to move to the bridegroom’s before the banquet, which would be held on St. John’s Feast.8

“The bride groom himself rode around, inviting to the banquet, and he came to Skogbygde, too, where the bride had her kin and neighbours. At Synsteng the man went out and asked:

“‘Which day will it be, then? You forgot to say.’

“‘I don’t know if it will be tomorrow, or a day out in next week, but you must be ready—then we will blow the lur when we come up the road,’ he replied.9

“This heard Bjørn’s brother, and he made short work of telling him about it; Bjørn didn’t take long to find out what he would do. He let his mother and brother look after things in Skogbygde; he lived in Skårgangen himself. First he thought he would meet the procession on the church road, so they would not reach the bride. In the night he went up the cleft at Skårvang, and would pull down the goat bridge that lies in the heights there, but Sevall’s father and a couple of others were there, fixing it up. So he thought he would flood out the lower Mål bridge, and he did so, too.

“The day after, Sevall and the wedding procession rode from Skårvangen. When they came down in Skogbygde, some of the procession rode up towards Øvsteng, for the bride. The others were content to remain on the road. While they rested and drank to each other from their hipflasks, and blew on their lurs, Bjørn’s brother lay in wait in a dense birch thicket, a little way down the road, and when they left, he quietly followed.

“But it took time enough for the guests to get ready to follow, since the banquet was not a daily occurrance. Finally, the bride came, and her folk, and with them, the bridegroom and those who had gone to get her.

“When they came on to the road, they heard that the Mål bridge had been swept away, and so they went a long way up on the moor, and came across the ford at Sambu. The church stood in southern Sambu at that time, and when they arrived, it was long into the evening. It was simply a bad idea to come to the banquetting farm in the night, and therefore Bottol Hole and Alv Svare divided the banquetting party between them. There they were given both food and drink, and they needed it, too, for they had been out nearly all day, and had not tasted anything but from their hipflasks.

“When they had eaten their fill, Bottol and Alv managed to quiet them down a while. The bride and the bridegroom lay in the tithe loftet.

“Late in the evening, Bjørn’s brother told him that the bride now lay in the tithe.

“‘I wonder if she will remain lying there until the sun rises,’ said Bjørn.

“As the night drew on, and the bride and groom quietened down in the tithe loft, there came in through the door an immensely large frigge, with a green skirt and a long, gleaming knife in her hand.

“She snatched the bride out of the bridegroom’s arms; he grasped after her, but at the same time the hulder stabbed with her backhand into the wall with the knife, so the splinters flew. The the bridegroom dared not even look after them. He went out into the cabin, where all the invited party slept, and wept and carried on, and said he thought the Jønndal hulder had been in the loft, and had taken from him his bride, for she had said that Rønnog should be her son’s wife, and mistress in Jønndal; and now he said he would make an end of himself.

“‘Had she but let me lie with her, then perhaps the trolls would not have been so eager for her,’ he added.

“They tried as best they could to comfort him; but when they heard this, they began to laugh heartily. Now Sevall wanted to go home to Skarvangen and complain to his mother. But when the company came to the bridge across Skjerva, the timbers had been hewn asunder; the bridge was gone, and they could not get across. And no matter how they cried and called, it was not possible to hear a word, for the river had grown, and ran as if in a waterfall.

“So they sent word to the parson. He said they should take the bells from Vågå church, carry them up Jønndalen, and ring them for three whole days.

“Well, they took the Vågå bells across the Jætta river, and up a tall hill, into the Jønndalsgråtom; it was called the bells boulder afterwards.

“They rang them for three whole days, but the bride was gone, and gone she remained.

“Then there was an old fellow, who advised them to ring three Thursday evenings after one another. But that didn’t help any better, either. Finally Bjørn Preststule came, and said that he had dreamt that Rønnog had struggled terribly against the enchantment; but the old man of Skule had promised to help him to free her again, for the old man of Skule bore a grudge against the Jønndal hulder. And there was no one but Bjørn who could free her, for it was he she held dear.

“When Bård and Sevall heard this, they approached Bjørn, threatened his life, and tried to get him to produce Rønnog. But this got Bjørn’s cockles up, and he argued with them for so long that he finally got her.”

“Yes, it happened so,” said Brit, when Tord had ended his tale, which with its bold elements resembled the days of the sagas; “but when the schoolmaster tells it, he goes on for so long about the parson and the bailiff that no one can understand; and on top of that, he says that it was Bjørn Preststule who took the bride from the tithe loft. But it was not. He only freed her out again; it was the Jønndal hulder who took her.”

None of us contradicted Brit; but we needed a closer explanation of all the many names and places in Tord’s tale, as unfamiliar as we were up there. And now it was told in great detail of the rivers, mountains, and fishing waters, of fish, birds, animals, and people. While we spoke of this, Brit set forth everything that was good of pasture food. When we were all but finished eating, Marit came back and began to whisper and laugh with the other girls; Brit laughed and enjoyed herself, too. And when Anders would know what Marit had done with the schoolmaster, she told him that Hans had led him a fool around the district, from one pasture to the next. He had first gone around and told the girls what they should answer the schoolmaster, and whenever the schoolmaster lifted the latch and asked after Marit, they replied: “Yes, they just now went out through that door, Hans and Marit; they said they would go on to the next pasture.” But in the end, he met some fellows who drank to him and poured him a drink, and so that was the end of the schoolmaster, “for he cannot take more than a hen can, the poor thing,” said Brit, in sympathy.

“Yes,” added Marit, “now he is so satisfied that his mouth is nearly square on him. But he is angry at Hans. I am very sure he will come here soon, and then you will hear a fuss.”

It was not long before we heard Hans. He had a good bass, and sang a shepherd’s ballad with an unusual melody. He made himself clearly heard, remained standing outside, and sang clearly some verses that appeared to be about the schoolmaster’s love and his red hair:

Pål’s Hens

Pål on the hill slipped his hens out one morning,
Over the hill all the hens they did run.
Pål he could tell by the way they were running,
A fox was abroad with its tail so long.
   Cluck, cluck, cluck, said the hens on the hillside,
   Cluck, cluck, cluck, said the hens on the hillside,
Pål he flew off, and was bawling his eyes out:
"Now I don't dare go straight home to my ma!”

Pål he went farther out over the hillside,
There saw a hen that a fox lay and gnawed.
Pål in his fist picked a stone up to throw it,
Well did he strike so the fox it did run.
   The fox it flew, its tail was wagging,
   The fox it flew, its tail was wagging,
How Pål did weep for the hen he was missing,
“Now I don't dare go straight home to my ma!

“Had I a beak then, and had I some claws,
And did I know just where the foxes did lie.
Then I would scratch them, and then I would claw them,
On the fore of their necks and the backs of their thighs.
   Shame on all the foxes so ruddy,
   Shame on all the foxes so ruddy,
God, how I wish they all lay as dead now,
Then would I dare to go home to my ma!

She cannot lay and she cannot crow,
And she cannot crawl, and she cannot strut.
I shall go to the mill for some grinding,
And make up the flour I yesterday lost.
   “Well!” said Pål, “I'm not at all fearful,
   Well!” said Pål, “I'm not at all fearful,
A mouthful of courage has helpéd so many,
Now do I dare go straight home to my ma!”

Pål dropped the corn down on to the millstone,
So that it sounded from every wall.
So that the chaff it did flurry about him,
and grew like a goat’s coat—shaggy and long.
   Pål began his bleating in laughter,
   Pål began his bleating in laughter,
“I have been paid for the hen and the egg, now,
Now do I dare go straight home to my ma!”

When the ballad had come to an end, he came in, a little red on his head, and sat calmly in away in a corner, and lit his pipe. It wasn’t long before the schoolmaster came, too, together with a stranger. He had pulled his collar up high and sought to present himself in all his dignty. But his stiff eyes and his uncertain step gave him away before he opened his mouth.

“With your permission, begging your pardon, my high-born gentlemen,” he said with a thick tongue, making a brave attempt at bowing, “it was not well done of me to fly out of the door without a by-your-leave, respectfully leaving your entertainment to this worthy reindeer shooter, who is a layman by calling, and these lovely shepherd girls. But I am a teacher of youths, and in reverence to, and in the fear of God, I am not to be trifled with, for I am to be held as a lower stratum of the clerical class, and hold a strict watch on discipline and the sixth commandment, so I do not suffer such. No, I do not! And I must tell you plainly, that it was a nasty thing that the boys ran after the skirts before their beards grow on their chins. And as I now saw this Hans so easily run after the womenfolk… well, well!”—here he spat in righteous indignation—“for as I say, I am a great counterpoint to common foolery, flapping, easy boasting, and prating, drunkenness, and loose dancing.”

“Golly, how hard you are today, schoolmaster!” said Margit. “I suppose you are fun when the fiddle begins to play; I am almost as happy as a fiddle myself.”

“It is true, my child,” said the schoolmaster evasively, and with a sweet smile, “I spoke only of the loose dancing. And I too consider it to be a rare pleasure to see the girls dance, that is when it is by the side of a worthy man, who maintains an appropriate decency.”

But immediately it was as if the loveliness he praised overmanned him; he broke out in a sniffling tremolo, in praise of wine and beauty, which did not appear to agree too well with the strict principles he held in his mouth:

“What is all the world’s gold and riches,
and what then is pleasure?
Without wine and lovely girls
is the world merely an event
Everyone who hold
the girls so dear
is a fool
whoever he is.”

“That is a lovely verse, that is,” said Hans, sticking his head forth from his corner, with his pipe in his mouth. “But now I shall sing a verse for you that perhaps you have never heard before:

“Oh you poor thing, you old fool,
You drank of the bottle in the cupboard,
You thought that it was brandy
But all the time, it was terpentine,
But all the time, it was terpentine.”

The verse referred, as I later heard, to an incident in the schoolmaster’s life; it provoked him strongly, so much more as he had stood in the belief that his co-suitor was not present. He dried his mouth with the corner of his shirt collar, and said:

“Youths today are so impertinent; it comes from their not having tasted the rod enough. You mouthy pillock! You stick a tobacco pipe in your mouth, and run a-courting of a Saturday, unloading insults upon worthy men, who are in possession of greater learning than you; stand up, I say, when I am talking!” he interjected. “This was the custom among the Spartans, that the youths should stand before the aged and old fellows. I have gone to school at Parson Grønbech’s for twenty years, I have, you hear; stand up, I say!”

But Hans remained sitting calmly, exactly where he sat, with an amused face, and two rows of gleaming white teeth. The schoolmaster’s inebriation had obviously affected him, and I do not know how it would have ended, had Marit not come between them. She offered him a bowl of milk, and said:

“Oh, don’t take any notice of the upstart, schoolmaster! Be glad again, and remember there are folk from far away among us.”

When he had drunk, he turned to us, as if he would excuse his condition and contradict the impression that Hans's innuendos may have given us.

“That corrupting alcohol! It is that which is the mother of foolishness. But I am a humble sober man, if I should with respect say so myself, and I am generally not given over to any superfluous enjoyment of the corrupting habit of drunkenness. But I must certainly make excuse, my high-born gentlemen and worthy parishioners, for being away for so long. It is not easy to go through the doorway to leave a neighbour’s party. Truly, some good friends and neighbours came travelling with brandy bottles in their pockets, and sometimes a dram does the world of good in your body. Yes, I readily admit it does; I am in possession of such vanity that I will take a dram when I can get one, but never immoderately.

“Let us drink, let us drink
Brandy while we can!
Many an unfortunate has it not,
but must drink water.”

he recklessly began to sing.

“No,” he insisted, “not in immoderation, God bless me! for I remember well both what I have said and done, and what I shall do and say, too. But it is a corrupting drink anyway, for it draws you in the same way Botta Moen’s Christmas beer does. But what I was supposed to remember, that was the strange story about Bjørn Preststulen, whom I unfortunately left in the midst of the game. I suppose you told everything, my worthy friend Tor Ulsvollen, concerning how the clergy came into disrepute, and the civil courts had to discuss the matter?”

"No, that's what I said,” said Brit; “you have such a long tale on top, school master, that no one can understand. He said nothing about it, did Tor.”

“It is a lack of enlightenment, my child, a lack of learning,” said the schoolmaster importantly, “that which is forgotten, is almost the strangest thing in the whole story, even though that is where the disagreement and process begins, I should think. Yes, it went thus, you see, that the time these fellows—yes, Sevald Oppistuen—when he and Bård Østeng, they sat firmly upon Bjørn Preststulen, and with threats and oaths would force him to release her, or to reveal how this might happen, then Bjørn began to doubt what he should do. For he saw the hay mowing before him, and naturally he had something to do other than to keep Rønnog hidden away in shooter cabins or other holes in the mountains. He told them that they would be unsuccessful in such an attempt against the jutul, and that he did not dare try, himself, for until he had requested the help of the old man of Skule, however he had been made aware of this. But then he suggested to them that all three of them should go to the parson and choose him as arbitrator, to which they agreed. And Bjørn explained very abstractly what manner of spirit had spoken to him, with revelations in a dream, and especially that he had with all respect received a command to marry her. The parson demanded a postponement for both parties, until the girl herself could give testimony, and when Bjørn, a day later, came out with her, she explained what she had suffered from the jutul, and how the hulder of Jønndal hurried along her marriage to her son, so that after this match they should be entirely in her possession, and how Bjørn and the old man of Skule had freed her from staying in the mountain and becoming a troll woman. While he examined the evidence and the assertions of both parties, the parson fell into confusion, which means so much as that he was so intricately involved in this labyrinth that he did not know how to extricate himself from it. Bjørn’s revelation, he thought, was perhaps the intervention of the Highest, against which the parson would hardly bring judgement. Sevald and Rønnog had been consecrated by the parson and the word of God, both of which were significant. Bjørn had Rønnog’s undivided love even from her childhood. Sevald had by no means her love, but the consent of her parents, who were old and consequently understood and realized what served their children’s well-being and happiness more than they did themselves. But the parents’ unrestricted exercise of authority in their children’s marriages often makes them executioners, and so on, said the parson—yes, to himself, you understand. Upon reflection, this was the result: “I am not dealing with this intricate matter; it must, of course, be judged in the civil courts. In the meantime, however, Bjørn as her deliverer must keep her.”

But the civil court judged thus:

“Bjørn Preststulen may enter into marriage with Rønnog Bårdsdatter Østeng without any charge, and Sevald Oppistuen and Bård Østeng must flee the country for having disqualified him.”

But nothing came of that, for Bjørn took his father-in-law into grace for his misdemeanor, and they eventually became the best of friends. “

This triumph put the schoolmaster on to the legend of Bjørn Preststulen. But the written word is dead and powerless. An impotent, indescribable comedy lay over his presentation, calm in intonation, in expression, in the rise and fall of his voice, in the way his intoxication appeared in what he said, for “the beer went with him.” Suddenly all of us had to laugh together; even Tor laughed loudly, as serious as he was. And the Englishman lay on a bench, bent over in laughter “at this caricature.” But the schoolmaster understood nothing; he laughed along, and accepted it as approval. He asked Brit for another bowl of milk, and then let his mouth run again.

"Now,” he said, “I want to tell a terribly truthful story from a more recent time, which is also somewhat of a peculiarity, because it contains foretellings or revelations about approaching times and events. At the farm Fliti in the parish of Lesja, there was a man named Jens Ivarssøn, whose forefathers from time immemorial had inhabited this farm. This Jens was a thoughtful man, helpful, of few words, and no one had anything to say about his morality and reputation. Once he went to the pasture in Lordal, and there he would pick up his horses, to work them in the fields, and drive lumber on the river. But he did not come to the pasture, and no one asked of him any more, since all inquiry was in vain. But in the eighth year his wife married again, and while the wedding procession was at the church, her previous husband Jens came into the farm without anyone having noticed where he came from. He immediately left the farm again by a side entrance, to avoid company, and would not speak to any person. But now there was gossip and prating and talk and chatter about who this man could be. Some said it was one, and some said it was not another; but no matter who saw him, they all agreed that he had the appearance of Jens.

“But he avoided their gaze and curious questions, until the wedding procession came home, and when his eldest son, with others, took the wedding horses, to tether them in a remote meadow, then he went with with his son, who did not recognise him, before Jens by the tethers appealed to him thus: ‘Not like that, my son; you should always attach the tether to the left forefoot, otherwise the horse is forced to go against its nature.’ Now he recognised his father and asked him to go home with him, to which he expressed his willingness. And when Jens entered the wedding parlour, everything fell silent. For now everyone recognized him, and his wife burst into tears and asked for forgiveness and would embrace him. While Jens comforted her as best he could, and then said too that he had no objection to her new marriage, and then he expressed in a curious manner that he himself was neither able nor determined to marry or to remain there, but that his purpose was merely to arrange matters for his defenseless descendants. When he had said this, he asked the married folk to sit in the high seats, and in the hearing of the whole curious wedding entourage, he spoke forth to them his last will with regard to the division of his estate between his children, in so far as their inheritance and estate rights to the farm were required, which was confirmed by hand and mouth. When all this had been accomplished, Jens would take his leave and go; but they continued to beleaguer him with their curious questions, to which he mostly gave evasive answers. Among other things, his wife said:

“‘Bless God, you came home, so we could discover your will, and that you may know your offspring will remain here.’

“‘Yes,’ replied Jens, ‘my offspring will stay here until the end of the country, but then a battle will be fought at Lillehammer, and it will be the largest that has ever taken place on Norwegian soil. The blood of men shall flow above the knees of the cockerels, and the those from Gudbrandsdalen shall decide whether Norway should yet be called a kingdom. In France, the peasant club was established, and there it will again rise first, and with the scallopian battles change the state of the peoples in the countries.’

“‘When will that great battle in this country take place?’ was the question remaining.

“‘When broad roads through the country's fjords make the enemy’s entrance easy,’ Jens replied, ‘and when voting is the country’s law, then this spark of war will be slowly ignited, and Norway and Sweden shall be ruled under one scepter. Before the union of these, Lågen shall abduct the beautiful Flat-Sell and unite with the Scottish lochs, and the Norwegian mountains should begin to calve, as well as a magpie building its nest in the parlour stove in Fliti.’

“After these and other amusing and remarkable predictions, Jens Ivarssøn left the folk, and no one saw where he went any more.”

It looked as if the schoolmaster now came more and more to his senses and roused himself. He spoke more clearly than before, especially towards the end; it appeared that his tongue had regained its accustomed skill. But as he was about to rise, he began to rave, much to our wonder. He said good-bye and pressed our hands all with reckless bowing and scraping, and went on his way, “because his health was not the best,” he said.

When the schoolmaster was well gone, and his life and peculiarity had properly been discussed, Anders asked the beautiful pale girl from the neighboring pasture to tell. “I know you know a lot, Ragnill, and you can tell, too, you can, when you’re of a mind,” he said. “Tell us a bit now, you! About how it was with Steffen Åseng’s daughter.”

“It is soon told,” she replied happily, though blushing modestly when she turned to us and began to tell.

“This Steffen was from Røllstad at Fron; he was married to the daughter of Åseng in Heiddal, and had a little girl by her. But as they were staying at the pasture one summer, she was taken into the mountain; she wasn’t more than eight years old at the time. Her parents searched for her so, because she was such a strikingly beautiful young girl. I have some kinship with the Røllstad folk; my grandfather was often with them, and he often told me about her.

“When she disappeared, they formed a manhunt, and rang the church bells for her; but gone was she, and gone she remained, and they never saw her again.

“Many years later, two fishermen were staying up in the Heimdal mountains. They were staying in a small stone cabin there, and had a fire at night. Then a woman came in, and she was both big and beautiful and well-formed. She told them that she was Steffen Åseng’s daughter, and that she was the one who had been taken many years before, and had been with the mound-folk the whole time.

“‘But tomorrow I shall have a wedding with the old man in the Rånå boulder,’ she said, ‘and so I would ask you to throw steel over me and loose me, for if I am not loosed, then I shall have to remain with them for ever. When you are fishing at the mound down by the river, you will see us,’ she said, ‘for we will come from the Trostem boulder and travel to Rånå boulder. It’s easy to recognise the bridegroom; he rides before on a black horse, and has a nose so long that it reaches down to the saddle button.’

“They promised that they would be careful when the bridal procession came, and offered to throw steel over her, and with that she left.

“The next day, they hid themselves away a little way from the mound by the river and waited. As the sun began to set, the bridal procession came. You’ve never seen som many stately fellows, urbanely dressed and proud, and so many matrons and maidens with silk dresses and silver finery. And every one of them rode on a good horse; but the bride rode before, and the bridegroom had had a nose so long that it reached down to the saddle button. The fishermen were mostly confounded, for such a stateliness and finery had they never seen. When the procession came so close, the bride looked to one side. Then they took aim, but when they should throw over her, they had no steel. And so she had to go with the mound-folk to the Rånå boulder at Lesja, and there she is still, if she hasn’t pined away and died.”

“Yes,” said the herding girl, who had just come in, “I heard such a tale once, of one who was called Kari. She was staying at the Graven pasture out by Øyer and was taken while she was there, but she came well from it. There was one evening when she herded the cattle home. Just as they came down in the home stretch, she became aware of a little boy who was herding cattle back into the woods—for there is a forest on the mountains out there. Kari asked him to stop, but it did not help. So Kari grew angry, she did, and began using her mouth at him, and eventually she took him and shook and struck him on the top of the knoll; but then the top burst, and Kari fell, too, and the knoll collapsed so that both the boy and Kari fell a long way down through the mountain. At last they fell down to a large castle, and the boy took her with him. Now she understood that he was of the mound-folk, even though he was both big and stout. They went through many rooms, which were so beautiful that Kari would never have believed there could be anything so beautiful in the world. And there was such music that no one can believe how beautiful it was.

“There they bade her dance and offered her both food and drink, and they came with lefser—they looked like our plane shavings—but Kari said no, and they didn’t get another word from her, either: ‘No, not even thank you.’

“The time that Kari was away, and they missed her from the pasture, they sent to the farm to tell of it. When her parents were told she was gone, they were sorrowful, you understand; they thought she had got lost in the mountains, and they searched and formed a manhunt, but it didn’t do much good. Then they began to understand how things hung together, so they fetched the sexton from the church at Øyer.

“When it began to ring, an old man in the castle got up—he had a long white beard—and got into a bed away in a corner.

“‘Throw her out again!’ he shouted so that it thundered in the mountain. ‘The bell-cow from Øyer is in the mountains, clanging so as to break my skull.’

“With that they threw Kari out of the castle, from aloft, so she fell into a marsh.

“And gone was the castle and all its glory. They found her again close by the pasture, and there she walked on a grassy ground, wading, as if in a marsh.

“She followed the folk who were up there, looking for her and got a horse to ride home to Graven. But just as she rode, she jumped down off the horse and sang and danced some strange dances; it was so beautiful that the they nearly wept as they listened. And she had learned them in the hulder castle with the mound-folk, she said.”

“Now, you must also tell us something, Brit,” said Anders, who appeared to be eager to bring each and everyone into the entertainment. “You must remember Mari Kleivmillom, your grandmother’s sister; and if you remember her, then you remember when she told about the time she stayed as milkmaid in the pasture at Val, north of Høvringe here,” he added for our benefit.

"I remember that well,” Brit replied. “And when my brothers and sisters were small, she often told them of it, and every time she told it, she wept.

“It was while she was away that she had to go up to the pasture at Val and stay as undermilkmaid, and she went up with the cattle early in the spring.

“It must have been so good to go up to Valsætré and be underbudeie, and ho went uphill with quintessential tilé in the spring.

“When she had been there for a while, there came up a fellow called Gullbrann, who was supposed to fix the fence at another pasture; but he stayed at the pasture at Val and slept there at night, and Marit was glad, for she was afraid, and there were no other folk anywhere else. At length he was engaged to her, I think. Then there was one morning she should slip the cows; she had just watered the milk cow, so it would be able to put it away while she tended to the heifer; and when she had slipped them, she bent over the bulkhead to loose the milk cow, which stood licking up from the slop bucket. But suddenly the cow fell so mad that she jumped forward across the floor. Foam came from its mouth, and Marit couldn’t loose it. But on the side of the stall, there stood a big, stranger fellow, spreading his fingers towards her. She was terribly scared, you understand, when she saw such a fellow, ran ​​out of the door, and shouted for Gullbrann, who was fixing the fence just down below. Well, he came up immediately, but he saw no one. But the cow was almost mad, and foamed at the mouth.

“At length he managed to loose it. But Marit was nearly out of her mind, and that was because she had spoken of it immediately, and had not waited overnight. Gullbrann had to take her home, and at every brook she had to cross, she nearly lost her wits. At great length, she recovered, but every time she spoke of it since, she wept.

“Then they sent up the proper milkmaid. That was one called Myra-Rønnog, and she brought one they called Mad-Kari. They said that they wouldn’t be afraid of the mound-folk; they could just come. At that time a milkmaid had come to the Lom pasture, too. These three girls went about, herding the cattle, and were so wild and mad that there was no moderation. They flew over every mound that summer, running after grouse chicks, to kill them, and when they came to Valfjell, they shouted for Trond Fjell, and said he could come to them on Saturday night, and he would be allowed to lie with them. When they came to the Kvennstugu valley, they shouted for Tjøstol Bakke, and when they reached a mountain knoll away by Sletthø, which was called the Eldførpungen, they called for Kristoffer Pungen, and said the same to him.

“When they had cleared up in the evening, they clambered up on the cattle trap and cried: "Trond Fjell, Kristoffer Pungen, Tjøstol Bakke, come now; we are going to bed!” For these girls didn’t believe what folk said, that there were mound-folk abroad, and that these fellows lived in the mountains here. But they did become aware of them, I should think .

“For one Thursday evening late in the autumn—yes, it was so late that folk were going home from the pastures—then the girls had made finished their toilette for the evening and sat by the fire, talking about their boys, you see. Suddenly the door opened and in came the three small fellows. They didn’t say one word, and neither did the girls, either, but they saw them well enough, for the fellows went back and forth there, or sat on the bench. They had blue, foot-length tunics, big red eyes and long noses. After a while they left; but the following night they returned; then they began to appear more, and Myra-Rønnog and the girls from the Lom pasture grew more and more frightened. They prayed God for help; but Mad-Kari was not yet afraid.

“They were out again Saturday evening, and then they made such a noise with the girls that there was no end, for they were certainly fellows, no matter how small they were. But then a shooter arrived, called Per Gynt. He shot Bakke and killed Trond Valfjell, but Eldførpungen went up the chimney.”

We sat a little, talking about how lonely the girls are in the desolate mountains when, as the custom is on some farms, they stay up at the pasture with the young animals until wintertime, to give them the mountain feed and the moss that has been gathered. As we sat like that, a couple of the girls who had gone home came back and told, through incessant laughter, that the schoolmaster had got stuck in a stone quarry down the hill and could neither come up or go down.

“I’ll try to help him, I shall,” said Hans; “but I would rather go with your pack-horse to the cabins at Uløy, and look to your getting some reindeer tomorrow.”

“No, no, I think the world must be coming to an end!” said Brit, laughing, “Are you leaving Marit while the schoolmaster is here?”

“The schoolmaster hasn’t thought of proposing, neither tomorrow, nor the next day; he’d rather kill himself, after such a trip as he’s had this evening. I know how he does, I do,” Hans replied.

“Well, of course you can go with the pack-horse!” said Anders. “I’ll go with Tor and these fellows; there may be an opportunity to shoot a reindeer.”

“That may be so,” said Hans, as he left with Marit, to help the schoolmaster.

We pulled the benches up to the fireplace, made ourselves places out of hunting bags, knapsacks and capes, and soon lay sleeping soundly.

  1. Historically, the use of the third person in addressing someone directly is a marker of civility in Norwegian.  

  2. Sir John’s language is a grotesque mixture of Norwegian and English, and as the narrator says, it is “impossible to reproduce.” I have therefore not even made an attempt. 

  3. The common cuckoo leaves Norway in late July. Michaelmas is at the end of September. 

  4. This exclamation is, for some reason, given in Norwegian, in the original. 

  5. Johann Hübner (1668–1731) published Kurtze Fragen aus der alten und neuen Geographie (Short Questions from the Old and the New Geography) in Leipzig in 1693. [Svenska: http://runeberg.org/ymer/1884/0315.html] In Asbjørnsen’s text, this passage is given as a mixture of Norwegian and German, which I have attempted to translate into English and German. However, the syntax that German and Norwegian, but not English, have in common makes this a fool’s errand. 

  6. Bjørn means bear; there is thus a play on words here in the original. 

  7. “Scaregirl,” after the model of “scarecrow.” 

  8. 23rd June. 

  9. This custom of blowing lurs to call the guests to the wedding that has been prepared is the origin of “trumpeting a wedding,” which appears in Norwegian folktales.