Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Molly Who Was a Terror at Eating

There was, upon a time, a man who had a molly, and it was so terribly big and such a terror at eating that he could not have her any longer. So she should be taken to the river, with a stone about her neck; but before she should go, she was given a meal. The wife put a porridge bowl before her, and a small trough of butter-fat. She guzzled this down, and set off through the window. There stood the husband in the barn, threshing.

“Good day, man of the house,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly,” said the man; “have you had any food today?” he said.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” she said; and so she took and ate up the man.

When she had done this, she went to the cow-shed; there sat the wife, milking.

“Good day, you wife in the cow-shed,” said the molly.

“Good day, is that you, molly?” said the wife; “have you eaten up your food?” she said.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she took and ate up the wife.

“Good day, you bell-cow,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the bell-cow.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she took and ate up the bell-cow, too.

Then she sat up in the garden; there stood a man, coppicing.

“Good day, you man in the coppice,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the woodsman.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she took and ate up the woodsman, too.

Then she came to a cairn; there stood a weasel, peeping out.

“Good day, you weasel in the cairn,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the weasel.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she took and ate up the weasel, too.

When she had gone a distance more, she came to a hazel thicket; there sat a squirrel, gathering nuts.

“Good day, you squirrel in the thicket,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the squirrel.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice and the weasel in the cairn, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she took and ate up the squirrel, too.

When she had gone a distance more, she met Mikkel the fox, who was lurking at the edge of the forest.

“Good day, Mikkel Smittom,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the fox.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice and the weasel in the cairn and the squirrel in the thicket, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she took and ate up the fox, too.

When she had gone a little more, she met a hare.

“Good day, you hopping hare,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the hare.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice and the weasel in the cairn and the squirrel in the thicket and Mikkel Smittom, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she took and ate up the hare, too.

When she had gone a way further, she met a greyshanks.

“Good day, greyshanks the wise,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the greyshanks.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice and the weasel in the cairn and the squirrel in the thicket and Mikkel Smittom and the hopping hare, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she took and ate up the greyshanks, too.

So she went into the forest, and when she had gone far, and farther than far, over mountains and deep valleys, she met a bear cub.

“Good day, jumping bear,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the bear cub.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice and the weasel in the cairn and the squirrel in the thicket and Mikkel Smittom and the hopping hare and greyshanks the wise, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she took and ate up the bear cub, too.

When the molly had come a little further on, she met the she-bear, who ripped at the stumps so that the splinters flew, she was so enraged that she had lost her cub.

“Good day, bitter she-bear,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the bear.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice and the weasel in the cairn and the squirrel in the thicket and Mikkel Smittom and the hopping hare and greyshanks the wise and jumping bear, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she took and ate up the she-bear, too

When the molly had come a little further on, she met the bear himself.

“Good day, goodman bear,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the bear.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice and the weasel in the cairn and the squirrel in the thicket and Mikkel Smittom and the hopping hare and greyshanks the wise and jumping bear and bitter she-bear, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she took and ate up the bear, too.

So the molly went far and farther than far, until she came back to the village; there she met a wedding party on the road.

“Good day, you wedding party on the road,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the wedding party.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice and the weasel in the cairn and the squirrel in the thicket and Mikkel Smittom and the hopping hare and greyshanks the wise and jumping bear and bitter she-bear and goodman bear, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she ate up both the bride and the bridesgroom and the whole wedding party, with the kitchen master and the fiddler and the horses, and everything.

When she had gone a way further, she came to the church, where she met a funeral party.

“Good day, you funeral party by the church,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the funeral party.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice and the weasel in the cairn and the squirrel in the thicket and Mikkel Smittom and the hopping hare and greyshanks the wise and jumping bear and bitter she-bear and goodman bear and the wedding party in the road, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she set upon the funeral party and ate up both the body and the funeral party.

When she had done this, she went to heaven, and when she had gone far, and farther than far, she met the moon in the clouds.

“Good day, you moon in the clouds,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the moon.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice and the weasel in the cairn and the squirrel in the thicket and Mikkel Smittom and the hopping hare and greyshanks the wise and jumping bear and bitter she-bear and goodman bear and the wedding party in the road and the funeral party by the church, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she took and set up the moon, and ate it up, both in its waxing and in its waning.

Then the molly went far, and father than far, until she met the sun.

“Good day, you sun in the sky,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the sun.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice and the weasel in the cairn and the squirrel in the thicket and Mikkel Smittom and the hopping hare and greyshanks the wise and jumping bear and bitter she-bear and goodman bear and the wedding party in the road and the funeral party by the church and the moon in the clouds, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she took and ate up the sun in the sky.

So the molly went far, and father than far, until she came to a bridge; there she met a huge billy-goat.

“Good day, you buck on the bridge,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the buck.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice and the weasel in the cairn and the squirrel in the thicket and Mikkel Smittom and the hopping hare and greyshanks the wise and jumping bear and bitter she-bear and goodman bear and the wedding party in the road and the funeral party by the church and the moon in the clouds and the sun in the sky, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly.

“We shall quarrel about that,” said the buck, and butted the molly so that she fell off the bridge and into the river, and there she burst.

Then they climbed out, and each went on their way, and were just as whole as before, all whom the molly had eaten, both the husband in the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice and the weasel in the cairn and the squirrel in the thicket and Mikkel Smittom and the hopping hare and greyshanks the wise and jumping bear and bitter she-bear and goodman bear and the wedding party in the road and the funeral party by the church and the moon in the clouds and the sun in the sky.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

The Fisher’s Sons

There was, upon a time, a man who was out fishing; he carried on all day, struggling and rowing, but he did not get even one bite. When evening drew in, and he rowed the way home, he felt a bite, and when he hauled it up, it was a big halibut. When he brought it to the surface, the fish began to speak, and asked so beautifully to be let out again. No, said the man, he could not do that; he had striven the whole day, without catching anything, so he had to take it home for dinner. Well, as there was no escape, the fish asked him to chop it up into eight pieces: two he should give to his wife, two he should give to the dog, two the mare, and two he should lay on the table, and liver and lungs he should bury down in the cellar. This the man did. As time passed, the wife fell pregnant and gave birth to two boys, the dog had two pups, the mare two foals, and on the table came up two swords.

The boys grew up, and big, strong lads they became, and they were so alike that folk could hardly tell them from one another. So one asked permission to go out into the world, to try his luck. He was allowed, and the father said that he should take the dog that barked first, and the horse that whinnied first, and the sword that moved first when he came in to them.

Thus he equipped himself and travelled away. When he had ridden far, and farther than far, he came to a great sandy strand; just as he rode along it, he met a carriage that was dressed in black, and inside sat a princess in mourning. He who drove let her out on to the beach, and drove on his way. This the boy thought was strange, and so he went over to the maiden and asked why she should sit there. Well, she said, a troll would come, who ate nothing but maidenly flesh; it had eaten up all the maidens in the land, and she was the last one left, for she was the daughter of the king; and the king had promised her to the one who could save her.

Was there no way to save her from the troll? he asked. No, there was not.

“Well, I will dare try, anyway,” said the boy. But the king’s daughter begged and pleaded that he should go on his way; it was enough that the troll made an end of her, without it also taking his life.

Then the sea began to roar and roil, and then up came a great troll.

“Do you sit here with my bride?” said the troll.

“It is no more yours than mine,” said the boy.

“We will quarrel about this,” said the troll.

“Certainly,” said the boy. “Horse, up and kick; dog, up and bite; sword, forth and hack!” he said.

Then there was a struggle, and it did not last long before the troll had to bite the earth, and when it was done, the boy cut out its tongue and hid it.

Then they travelled, and the king’s daughter was glad, you may be sure of that. As they approached the king’s farm, she said that he should remain sitting there until the king returned to him with a horse and carriage. But the boy did not want this; if it was to be so, then he would prefer to go with her immediately, “for you will only forget me,” he said.

“How could I forget you who has saved me in my direst need?” said the king’s daughter, and then she took a ring and tied it in his hair.

So he had to remain there, and she travelled. But when she came to cross the great bridge outside the king’s farm, she met the king’s charcoal burner.

“Have you returned alive?” he said.

Yes, she told of how the boy had come to save her.

“Now you shall tell the king that it was I who saved you,” said the charcoal burner, “or I shall throw you off the bridge.” No, she did not want that, but he threatened her life, and so she thought she could always tell the truth, if only she could make it home.

She had a little dog, and it came out to meet her, and when she came into the king’s farm, it jumped up and licked her around the mouth, so she simply forgot about the boy. The king was glad, you can imagine, because she was saved and he had received her back, but he thought it bad that the charcoal burner should have her. But however it was or was not, they began to prepare the wedding.

Meanwhile, the boy sat, waiting and waiting; but when nobody came for him, then he travelled to another king’s farm, which was not far from there. There lived the king’s son, the brother of the princess the boy had saved.

The boy asked what manner of feast they held over there in the other king’s farm. Oh, it was the sister, who held a wedding with a charcoal burner who had saved her from the sea troll, said the king’s son.

“Why are you not at the wedding, then?” the boy asked.

“No, I do not quite agree with my father,” he said; “but it would be fun to have some of the food and drink they have on the wedding farm,” said the king’s son.

“It is not much to ask,” said the boy. “My horse and my dog and my sword, go forth and take the platter and the beer barrel that sits before the bride!” Yes, they went between guard and servant in the midst of the hall, and took the platter and barrel.

When the king’s son and the boy had tasted the meat and the flesh, and had drunk themselves satisfied, the king’s son said that it would be fun to taste the roast and the wine that they had on the wedding farm.

“It is not much more to ask that,” said the boy. “My horse and my dog and my sword, go forth and take the roast and the wine that stands on the end of the king’s table!” Yes, they went among all the guards and servants, and took the roast and the wine, and left with them. This the king wanted to know about, but before he could ask, they had gone, both the animals and the sword.

When the king’s son and the boy had lived well, eaten the roast, and drunk the wine, the king’s son thought it would be fun to taste the wedding cake, too.

“It is no more difficult than before,” said the boy. “My horse and my dog and my sword, go forth to the king’s farm and take the wedding cake that sits before the queen.” Yes, they were not slow to do so, but this time they had to strike and bite and hew their way forward. And they were delayed so long that the king discovered who owned the animals and the sword. So he sent a messenger, to ask the boy to the wedding. But he would not go, unless the king himself came and was reconciled with his son, and brought them to the wedding with horses and a carriage. Well, there was nothing else for it, and so they both went to the wedding.

The boy was seated at the table, right beside the bride, and on the other side, the charcoal burner. The great troll had he hung up above the table.

“What manner of huge body is that?” said the boy.

“It is the great troll I killed when I saved the maiden,” said the charcoal burner.

“It is strange that such a great troll would have no tongue,” said the boy, looking into its mouth.

“No, such great trolls have no tongue,” said the charcoal burner.

“That is some nonsense! Everything that lives has a tongue,” said the boy.

“Not at all.”

“Now you shall see,” said the boy. He took out the tongue and stuck it in the troll’s mouth; “stick fast!” he said, and it stuck fast.

“Dare you now say it has no tongue?” said the boy.

Then the king’s daughter turned around, and so she saw the ring that hung in his hair. “It is he who saved me!” she said.

This the king thought was strange. “You said it was the charcoal burner,” he said. So she told him how everything had gone, that the charcoal burner should throw her from the bridge if she did not say that it was he who had saved her. And then the king grew wroth, and had the charcoal burner put down in the last pile he had built, so the glowing flame stood up over him. Then the right wedding was held, and the king was so glad that he drank until he danced.

In the evening, when the bridal couple had gone down into the wedding chamber, the boy saw a light that burned, far away. He asked what it was. Oh, there was a troll woman who lived there, said the king’s daughter, the mother of the troll he had killed. When the boy heard this, he had to set off, and that immediately. She asked him not to go, but it did no good; had had to, and should.

When he came into the troll woman’s cabin, he asked if he might stay the night, “and where shall I put my horse and my dog and my sword?” he said.

“Take three hairs from your head and bind them!” said the troll woman. Yes, he did so, but then they turned to stone, all of them, and him, too.

The king’s daughter waited and waited, for seven long and seven broad, but no matter how she waited, her bridegroom did not return, and so there was mourning on the king’s farm again.

Since they had not heard from the boy for a very long time, either—where he was from—the fisher, his father thought he would look to see how he fared. He went down into the cellar, where he had buried the liver and the lungs of the fish—there was blood everywhere. When he came up again, he said to his other son: “Now you must go on your way; your brother is in mortal danger!”

Yes, he took the other horse, the other dog, and the other sword, and then he travelled. When he had ridden a good distance, he also came to the sandy strand, where his brother had done away with the great troll. There he met an old man, and he asked what manner of farms lay over there, and why they were dressed in black.

Yes, he could tell everything: that the king’s daughter had been saved by a boy, and about the wedding and the charcoal burner, and that the boy had gone from the king’s daughter on their wedding night—and no one had seen anything of him since. The boy understood that he told of his brother, and so he went straight up to the king’s farm. There he received a royal welcome, for he was so like the other, that both the king and the king’s daughter thought it was the right bridegroom. They were so unreasonably glad that there was no end to it. But when he came into the bridal chamber in the evening, he too asked what manner of light they saw.

“Do you not remember what manner of light it is?” said the king’s daughter. “It is where you travelled to, last time we came in here.”

“Yes, indeed!” said the boy, and so he had to and would go on his way, there was no question about it.

When he came into the troll woman’s cabin, he too asked if he might stay, “and where shall I put my horse and my dog and my sword?” he said.

She said to him, as to his brother, that he should take three hairs from his head and bind them. “Fetch first my brother, and his horse and his dog and his sword!” he said. She knew nothing of them, she said, but then the boy cried: “My horse and my dog and my sword, forth and kick and bite and hew!” and so she had to give in. She took a flask down from the wall, and dripped on to four stones that lay there, and so they returned to life again. But the first thing they used their life for was to beat the troll woman to death. Then they took the flask, and splashed over the cairn that stood outside, and with that, all the stones came back to life; they turned into folk and livestock, all of them. Then they went back to the king’s farm, where they trumpeted a wedding that was heard of and asked of across seven kingdoms, for then the right bridegroom had come.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Mackerel Trolling

I grew up by the sea; I went between reef and wave there for as long as I could remember. They are skilful seamen, where I come from, and no wonder, for they start early. When children learn to walk, the first thing they do in the morning, in nothing but their shirt, is toddle up on to the nearest rock to look at the weather and the sea; and if it is calm, they put their finger in their mouth and lift it up, to feel where the draught comes from. As soon as they can lift an oar, they are in the boats, and it is not long before they play with the dangers of the sea.

I was often together with a pilot down there, who was one of the most stalwart seamen I have known. The days I was together with him are perhaps among the best I can remember. Free and as happy as a bird, I flew out among the waves; in a light dinghy, we shot between the reefs, chasing ducks, eiders, and seals; with a decked boat, we laid to far out to sea, trolling for mackerel; and when he had a ship to pilot in, it happened that I sailed the boat home after the pilot. Since that time, I have always had a strong yearning for the salt of the sea.

But instead of losing myself in exclamations about the glories of the sea, I want to tell of a trip we made when I, a few years ago, was visiting at home. And it was then that my my old friend told me the story that I will now share.

It was such that we spent some days off the outer sea reefs. We sailed with a decked boat, a large whaler’s boat. There was Rasmus Olsen (that was my friend’s name), the pilot’s boy, and me. One morning, in the twilight, we set out to sea to troll for mackerel. There was a gentle breeze from land, which barely moved the heavy fog that brooded over the reefs and the sea-scoured rocks; the gulls flapped, alarmed around us, with hoarse screeches; the terns cried their “three eggs!” and the oyster-catcher mocked, “click click,” which has made many-a-shooter who has missed smile. The air hung damp and dense over the blue–grey sea; here and there swam an awk, a guillemot, a flock of eiders, or a porpoise, sighing.

Rasmus sat at the helm in the stern, while the boy went back and forth between the stern and the bow. Rasmus was a big, tall man with a brown, weather-beaten face. His expression was jovial, but behind his wise, grey eyes lay something seriously enquiring that witnessed that he was used to mortal danger, and to look deeper than the smile on his face and his jolly words might suggest he did. As he sat there, with his sou’wester down over his ears, in a long, yellow–grey canvas tunic, he appeared almost supernaturally big in the dense morning air; he looked like a revenant from the viking age—but the vikings did not use tobacco; Rasmus Olsen did, and very much so, too.

“There’s not enough wind to capsize a bark boat in a brook,” said Rasmus, swapping his wad of tobacco for a black-smoked chalk pipe, whilst looking out on every side. “Yesterday evening, when the sun went down, the sky was full of the strangest clouds, but now there isn’t a hatful.”

The pilot’s boy replied that he thought it was easing up ahead—he sat on the forehatch with the starboard oar, easing the helm, as the current went directly west.

“The devil! This is not sunset weather,” replied Rasmus; “it won’t come until longer out in the day; but then we shall have more than we bargained for.”

But there soon came a fresher breeze in the air; we did not need the oars to hold our course, and we made good speed out to sea. The fog dissipated after a while, and behind us rose the coastline of the outer naked holms; but before us lay the sea in its endless expanse, blushing in the morning sun. The wind from land still had power enough; but the higher the sun climbed, the clearer the sky, the fresher it blew in from the sea; the rising fog laid itself like a blanket across the land—now it was a stiff mackerel gale. We were soon in the midst of a shoal of mackeral; the lines came out, and there were continuous bites, so that the lines danced; with a wiggle and a squirm, one gleaming silver fish after the other was pulled up and thrown into the boat. But the joy was short-lived, as usual. As the day drew on, the gale increased more and more; the sea drew in, the waves grew; finally the lines stood taut, and the lead weights hopped across the waves, and the sea spray showered in over our little nutshell, sending foam and spray high up the mainsail. The lines were pulled in. The pilot’s boy sat in the main hatch, swinging his legs, and from old habit, gazed out, here and there. At times he was down in the hold, looking at his clock, which lay in a big, red-painted ship’s chest.

“Yes, that chest and that clock,” said Rasmus with a nod: “those he holds dear, and he is right to do so, too, for had they not existed, then he would now be lying, digging pebbles on the seabed.”

I asked for an explanation, and he told:

“It was October last year. It was difficult weather; I could barely hold at sea, but I stayed out. And he was with me. After a long time, I hailed a Dutchman, and came aboard her, too; but I was uncertain of the boat and the boy. My thoughts were not where they should have been, for every moment I looked for the boat and the boy; and finally I saw that he took in a breaker aft—and gone was he. We could not help, even if the skipper had wanted to, for it was too far off. I prayed for myself, and thought that I would never see him again. But the first person I met when I came home—it was the boy! He had come home a long time before I did. He took out the clock and showed me, and said: ‘I have salvaged the clock, father, and she still runs.’ Now, thank God, I thought, that you are saved; we can always afford another boat, even though it had cost me half the third hundred dollars; and brand new sails were on her.

“How was he saved?

“Well, it went like this… yes, yes, little-un,” he said to the boy, who laughed, swinging his legs even more. “He won’t drown who is to hang. A brig that belongs a little north of here came. Suddenly they heard a cry; a hand ran forwards, but there was nothing to see, for they thought least that it came from overboard; but just like that they heard a cry from before the bows, and when the captain himself came forwards to look out, the boy sat on the ship’s chest, holding a clock high above the waves. The captain just managed to signal to the helmsman, so they did not sail into him; they lay to, shoved out a pole and hauled him up.”

As the day drew on, the wind calmed, and now, once in a while, a fish jumped. “Well, well,” said Rasmus, shaking his head a little as he lit his pipe. “Something is brewing, down south there. The blast we had was just a morning dram. You’ll see how we are treated. Even the fish know it; they are not biting; and the birds are afraid—listen how they hiss and screech and seek land. It will be right witches’ weather tonight. Well, look at that! If she tumbles any closer, then God help me, I could…” spit on it, he was going to say, but at that moment my gun reported, which I had thrown up to my eye, and fired upon a porpoise, which had been frolicking up between the waves, close by us. When it felt the lead, it whipped up the sea with its fluke, so the spray reached us, up to the height of the mast.

“That witch will not be sending us any weather,” I said, seeing the sea turn red with the blood. Rasmus was not slow to hack the boathook in it, and we hauled it into the boat. He hummed, well satisfied at the prospect of all the train oil he would have, turned the heavy animal from one side to the other, stroked it as if it were a fox cub, and reassured himself that it was a fat, heavy brute, which would be welcome as boat grease and lamplight.

As we spoke about witches and witches’ weather, a strange tale of a witch came to my remembrance; I thought I had heard it from Rasmus, once in my childhood, but it was so unclear to me that I was uncertain whether it was something I had been told or dreamed. I asked Rasmus if he hadn’t told me such a story of three witches.

“Oh, that!” he replied, laughing; “that is of the kind they call skipper lies these days; but in the old days, they believed in it just like ‘Our Father.’ My old grandfather told me it when I was a small boy; but whether it was his grandfather or great-grandfather who was the cabin boy, I don’t remember. Enough about that; it went like this:

“He had sailed with a skipper, as a cabin boy, all summer, but when they should set sail in the autumn, he had qualms, and would not go along. The skipper liked him well, for even though he was still a youth, he had a good grasp of things aboard; he was a big, strong lad, and was not afraid of getting his hands dirty when there was work to do; he almost did the work of an old hand, and cheerful was he, too, and kept life in the others; the skipper would therefore rather not lose him. But the boy had no desire to ride the blue moor in the autumn evenings; but he would remain aboard until they were laden, and were ready to sail. One Sunday, the crew had shore leave, and the skipper was up with a forester, buying some timber and lumber as deck cargo—it was his own merchandise, I would think—and the boy was to watch the ship. But I must not forget this: this boy was born on a Sunday, and had found a four-leafed clover; he was sighted, therefore—he could see the invisible, but they could not see him.

“Well, well—it will be bad weather,” Rasmus interrupted himself; he got up and shielded his eyes with his hand, so he could look southwards without being blinded by the glare of the sun, which had just come out through a split in the clouds. “Look how it is winding up; there will be thunder and lightning. Best to turn in time. We haven’t a puff left, now; we sit here in dead water, drifting like a sack of hay, but we must reef before it falls upon us. Come, John!”

While the reefing was done, I took the helm and looked out for the weather. It was smooth, and almost still; the wind had stilled, but the boat rocked on the swell. Far to the south, a dark bank stood in silhouette; we had first seen it as a narrow edge that blended into the sky and the sea, but afterwards, it rose like a wall or a blanket, with a border of heavy, straw-yellow, rolled-up thunder clouds on the top. In parts, the blanket of cloud was lighter, or more translucent; it looked as though there was a light behind. There was no flash to see, but we heard a distant, faint rolling, that I first thought came from the sea.

“Now,” said Rasmus, when he had lit his pipe and taken the helm again. “So the boy was sighted, and just as he was sitting forward in the berthdeck, he heard talk from the hold. He looks through a crack, and there he sees three coal-black ravens on the ’tween deck beams in there, and they are talking about their husbands. All of them were bored of them, and now they would kill them. It was easy to understand that they were witches who had transformed themselves.

“‘But is it certain that no one can hear us here?’ said one of these ravens. From its voice, the boy could hear that it was the skipper’s wife.

“‘No, you can see,’ said the other two, which were the wives of the first and second mates; ‘there is not a mother’s soul aboard.’

“‘Well, then I will tell it; I know some good advice to get rid of them,’ the skipper’s wife began to speak again, and hopped closer to the other two; ‘we can make ourselves into three breakers, and wash them overboard, and sink the ship, with man and mouse.’

“Yes, yes, the others thought this was a good idea; they sat for a long time, speaking of the day and the waters.

“‘But I don’t suppose there is anyone to hear us,’ said the skipper’s wife again.

“‘You know there isn’t,’ both of the others replied.

“‘Yes, well, there is some advice against it, and if it were followed, it would be dear for us; it would cost life and blood.’

“‘What advice is that, sister?’ asked one of the mate’s wives.

“‘But are you sure that no one can hear us? I thought I saw smoke from the berthdeck.’

“‘You know we have looked in every nook. They have forgotten to turn the heat down in the galley, that’s why there is smoke,’ said the mates’ wives. ‘Just tell us!’

“‘If they buy three clutches of wood—but it has to be full-length and untrimmed—and throw one of the clutches out, log by log, when the first sea comes, and the second clutch out, log by log, when the second comes, and the third clutch out, log by log, when the third comes, then there is no hope for us.’

“‘Yes, it is true, sister; then there is no hope for us, then there is no hope for us!’ said the mates’ wives. ‘But then, there is no one who knows!’ they shouted, laughing. And when they had done this, they flew up through the main hatch, and screeched and cawed like three ravens.

“When they were to sail, the boy would not for the life of him go with them, and no matter what the skipper said to him or promised him, it did not help; he would by no means go along. Finally, they asked if he was afraid, since the autumn approached, and perhaps he would rather sit in the corner by the stove, behind his mother’s skirts.

“No, said the boy, that he was not, and he did not believe they had ever seen such a side of him. This he would show them, too, for now he would go with them; but the conditions he set were that they should buy three clutches of full-measure birch wood, and that he would be allowed to command as if he were captain, on a day that he would decide upon.

“The skipper asked what manner of mockery this was, and whether he had ever heard of a cabin boy ever being trusted to command a ship.

“But the boy replied that it was all the same to him; if they would not buy three clutches of birch wood, and obey him as if he were captain for a single day—and day the skipper and crew would hear about beforehand—then he would not set his foot on the ship again; and even less would his hands smell of pitch and tar there.

“The skipper thought this was curious, and that he was a strange boy; but he finally gave in, for in the end, he wanted him to come along, and he thought too that he would clear his head in the braces when they were at sea. The first mate thought the same: ‘Oh, let him have command! If it gets too much, then we can give him a hand,’ he said. Now, the birch wood was bought, measured well, and untrimmed, and they sailed.

“When the day came that the cabin boy was to be skipper, it was beautifully calm weather. But he bid all hands to reef and take in sail, so they showed nothing more than the close-reefed sails. And it was just as the dog watch ended and the first day watch should come on duty. Both the skipper and the crew laughed and said: ‘Now we know who has command; shall we take in the rest, too?’

“‘Not yet,’ said the cabin boy, ‘but in a little bit.’

“Just like that a squall came over them, so hard and strong that they thought they would overturn, and had they not struck and reefed, then there was no question but that they would have gone under when the first breaker hit the ship. The boy commanded them to throw out the first clutch of birch wood, but log for log, one at a time, never two, and they must not touch the other two clutches. Now they were ready to obey, and they laughed no longer at him, but threw out the birch wood, log by log. When the last went, they heard a groan, as from one who lies dying, and at once the squall was over.

“‘God be praised!’ said the crew.

“‘I would say so, and stand by it for the owners, too, that you have saved both the ship and the cargo,’ said the skipper.

“‘Yes, that is well enough, but we’re not done yet,’ said the boy, ‘it’s coming in worse,’ and he commanded them to tighten each cleat, as close as the rest of the topsail. The next squall came even harder than the first, and it was so wild and infernal that they thought it would cost them their lives. When it was at its roughest, the boy said that they should throw the second clutch of wood overboard, and they did so. They threw it out log by log, and minded that they did not take any of the third. When the last log went, they heard a deep groan again, and then it stilled.

“‘Now we have one left, and it will be the worst,’ said the boy, and commanded all hands to stations, and the ship sailed under nothing but its tackle and rigging. The last squall came worse than either of the others; the ship lay over so that they thought they would never right again, and the seas broke over the aftcastle and the forecastle. But the boy commanded them to throw out the last clutch of wood, log by log, and not two at a time. When the last log went, then they heard a deep groan, and when it calmed, the sea was coloured with blood, as far as they could see.

“When they came over, the skipper and the mates spoke of writing to their wives.

“‘You may as well not bother,’ said the boy, ‘for you have no wives any more.’

“‘What talk is this, you pup? Have we no wives?’ said the skipper.

“‘Have you made an end of them, perhaps?’ said the first mate.

“‘Oh no, we have all had an equal hand in it, all of us,’ replied the boy; and then he told them of what he had seen and heard, that Sunday he was baboon, when the crew had shore leave, and the skipper had bought some timber from the forester.

“When they came home, they heard that their wives had disappeared the day before the bad weather, and no one had either heard or seen them since.”

Rasmus remained sitting, telling one story after the other. As evening drew in, the bad weather approached slowly, and rose in the sky, like a dark curtain. Bolts of lightning shot down towards the sea, or they went horizontally like snakes, and ran like flamezones around the richly folded clouds, or they made the whole thing translucent like lace or muslin. The storm was still a good distance away; the thunder crashed weakly, and the sea rolled nothing but long, smooth swells, as far as the eye could see; but it was the colour of blood and wine, for the sun went down in red storm clouds, and the colours were taken up in the mirror of the sea. But it was clear enough that we would not escape the weather; the sea grew, the current set us towards land, and it was only now and then that a gust of wind filled the sail. By the last of the daylight we saw, far away by the edge of the sky, a black stripe; as it approached, a white edge of whipped-up foam went before it, and the storm and the night were upon us. As an arrow, the boat shot on its way, and it was not long before we were by the outer reefs. The screams of alarmed sea birds sounded hoarse and weak through the breakers. The holms and the reefs took a little off the violence of the sea, but further in, where the full force of the sea hit, it grew again, and in the flashes of lightning, we saw tall, foaming breakers along the shore, and the roar sounded like thunder. Rasmus kept a keen eye in the darkness, that which appeared impenetrable to me; I could not see anything but the broad, white band of foam which we approached at alarming speed. After and long, long time, I became aware of a small dark point that we were headed for. A few minutes later, we sailed through the narrow sound beneath Ullerhodet, and were happy to reach the safety of the harbour, where tall mountains calmed the wind and weather.

Monday, 22 May 2017

The Cock and the Hen in the Nutwood

The cock and the hen went, upon a time, to the nutwood to pick nuts.

Then the hen got a nutshell stuck in her throat, and lay, flapping her wings. The cock would fetch some water for her, so he ran to the spring and said: “My dear spring, give me some water; I will give the water to Tuppa, my hen, who lies dying in the nutwood.”

“You will have no water from me before I have some leaves from you,” replied the spring.

So the cock ran to the linden: “My dear linden, give me some leaves; the leaves I will give to the spring, the spring will give me some water, the water I will give to Tuppa, my hen, who lies dying in the nutwood.”

“You will have no leaves from me before I have some red-gold bands from you,” replied the linden.

So the cock ran to the Virgin Mary: “My dear Virgin Mary, give me some red-gold bands; the red-gold bands I will give to the linden, the linden will give me some leaves, the leaves I will give to the spring, the spring will give me some water, the water I will give to Tuppa, my hen, who lies dying in the nutwood.”

“You will have no red-gold bands from me before I have some shoes from you,” replied the Virgin Mary.

So the cock ran to the shoemaker: “My dear shoemaker, give me some shoes; the shoes I will give to the Virgin Mary, the Virgin Mary will give me some red-gold bands, the red-gold bands I will give to the linden, the linden will give me some leaves, the leaves I will give to the spring, the spring will give me some water, the water I will give to Tuppa, my hen, who lies dying in the nutwood.”

“You will have no shoes from me before I have some bristles from you,” replied the shoemaker.

So the cock ran to the sow: “My dear sow, give me some bristles; the bristles I will give to the shoemaker, the shoemaker will give me some shoes, the shoes I will give to the Virgin Mary, the Virgin Mary will give me some red-gold bands, the red-gold bands I will give to the linden, the linden will give me some leaves, the leaves I will give to the spring, the spring will give me some water, the water I will give to Tuppa, my hen, who lies dying in the nutwood.”

“You will have no bristles from me before I have some grain from you,” replied the sow.

So the cock ran to the thresher: “My dear thresher, give me some grain; the grain I will give to the sow, the sow will give me some bristles, the bristles I will give to the shoemaker, the shoemaker will give me some shoes, the shoes I will give to the Virgin Mary, the Virgin Mary will give me some red-gold bands, the red-gold bands I will give to the linden, the linden will give me some leaves, the leaves I will give to the spring, the spring will give me some water, the water I will give to Tuppa, my hen, who lies dying in the nutwood.”

“You will have no grain from me before I have a lefse from you,” replied the thresher.

So the cock ran to the baker-woman: “My dear baker-woman, give me a lefse; the lefse I will give to the thresher, the thresher will give me some grain, the grain I will give to the sow, the sow will give me some bristles, the bristles I will give to the shoemaker, the shoemaker will give me some shoes, the shoes I will give to the Virgin Mary, the Virgin Mary will give me some red-gold bands, the red-gold bands I will give to the linden, the linden will give me some leaves, the leaves I will give to the spring, the spring will give me some water, the water I will give to Tuppa, my hen, who lies dying in the nutwood.”

“You will have no lefse from me before I have some wood from you,” replied the baker-woman.

So the cock ran to the woodcutter: “My dear woodcutter, give me some wood; the wood I will give to the baker woman, the baker woman will give me a lefse, the lefse I will give to the thresher, the thresher will give me some grain, the grain I will give to the sow, the sow will give me some bristles, the bristles I will give to the shoemaker, the shoemaker will give me some shoes, the shoes I will give to the Virgin Mary, the Virgin Mary will give me some red-gold bands, the red-gold bands I will give to the linden, the linden will give me some leaves, the leaves I will give to the spring, the spring will give me some water, the water I will give to Tuppa, my hen, who lies dying in the nutwood.”

“You will have no wood from me before I have an axe from you,” replied the woodcutter.

So the cock ran to the smith: “My dear smith, give me an axe; the axe I will give to the woodcutter, the woodcutter will give me some wood, the wood I will give to the baker woman, the baker woman will give me a lefse, the lefse I will give to the thresher, the thresher will give me some grain, the grain I will give to the sow, the sow will give me some bristles, the bristles I will give to the shoemaker, the shoemaker will give me some shoes, the shoes I will give to the Virgin Mary, the Virgin Mary will give me some red-gold bands, the red-gold bands I will give to the linden, the linden will give me some leaves, the leaves I will give to the spring, the spring will give me some water, the water I will give to Tuppa, my hen, who lies dying in the nutwood.”

“You will have no axe from me before I have some coke from you,” replied the smith.

So the cock ran to the cokeburner: “My dear cokeburner, give me some coke; the coke I will give to the smith, the smith will give me an axe, the axe I will give to the woodcutter, the woodcutter will give me some wood, the wood I will give to the baker woman, the baker woman will give me a lefse, the lefse I will give to the thresher, the thresher will give me some grain, the grain I will give to the sow, the sow will give me some bristles, the bristles I will give to the shoemaker, the shoemaker will give me some shoes, the shoes I will give to the Virgin Mary, the Virgin Mary will give me some red-gold bands, the red-gold bands I will give to the linden, the linden will give me some leaves, the leaves I will give to the spring, the spring will give me some water, the water I will give to Tuppa, my hen, who lies dying in the nutwood.”

So the coke-burner felt sorry for the cock, and gave him some coke, so the smith got coke, and the woodcutter an axe, and the baker-woman wood, and the thresher a lefse, and the sow grain, and the shoemaker bristles, and the Virgin Mary shoes, and the linden red-gold bands, and the spring leaves, and the cock water; and this he gave to Tuppa, his hen, who lay dying in the nutwood—and she got well again.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

The Golden Castle that Hung in the Air

There was, upon a time, a poor man who had three sons. When he died, the elder two would go out into the world to try their luck; but they would not, by any means, have the youngest with them. “You, then,” they said, “you are good for nothing but sitting and holding the pitch lantern, and digging in the ashes and blowing in the embers, you are!”

“Well, well, I shall go by myself alone, then,” said Askeladden, “and then I will not be in disagreement with my travelling companions, either.”

The two went on their way, and when they had travelled for some days, they came to a great forest; there they sat down to rest, and would take of the food they had packed, for they were both weary and hungry. As they sat there, an old woman came up through a tussock, and asked for a little food; she was so old and frail that her mouth quivered and her head shook, and she had to walk with a stick; she had not had a crumb of bread in her mouth in a hundred years, she said. But the boys just laughed and ate, and said that since she had survived for so long, then she would survive the rest, even if she did not eat up their crumbs; they had but little food, and none to lose.

When they had eaten both good and long, and rested, they set off again, and after a long time and distance, they came to the king’s farm; there they went into service, both of them.

A while after they had left home, Askeladden gathered together the crumbs his brothers had left behind, and put them in his small knapsack. And he took with him the old gun that was not locked, for he thought it would always be good to have on the road; then he set off.

When he had walked for some days, he too came into the great forest that his brothers had gone through, and since he grew both weary and hungry, he sat beneath a tree and would rest, and take a little to eat; but he was still sharp, and when he took out his food, he saw there was a portrait hanging on a tree, and it depicted a young maiden or a princess, whom he thought was so gorgeous that he could not take his eyes off it. He forgot his food and knapsack, and took down the portrait, and laid it down and gazed at it.

Just like that, the old woman came up through the tussock, quivering of lip, shaking her head, and walking with a stick, and she asked for some food; for she had not had a crumb of bread in her mouth these last hundred years, she said.

“It may be time you had a little to live on, then, old mother,” said the boy, and gave her some of the breadcrumbs he had. The woman said that no one had called her mother in a hundred years, and she would surely do him a mother’s deed in return, she said. She gave him a ball of grey yarn, which he should merely roll before him, and he would come to wherever he wanted to go. But the portrait, she said, he should not mind; he would only get in to trouble on its account. Askeladden thought this all well and good, but the portrait he would not be without. So he put it under his arm, and rolled the ball of woollen yarn before him, and it was not long before he came to the king’s farm, where his brothers were in service. He also asked to go into service, but they replied that they had no use for him, for they had recently taken on two footmen; but he asked so beautifully that at last he was allowed to go to the stable master and be trained to look after the horses. Askeladden was willing, for he liked horses, and he was both good and clever at it. So he soon learned to brush and groom them, and it was not long before everyone in the king’s farm held him dear. But every free moment he had, he was up beholding the portrait; for he had hung it on a hook in the stable loft.

His brothers were sleepy and lazy, and thus they often received harsh words and blows. And when they saw that things went better with Askeladden than with themselves, they grew envious of him, and told the head groom that he was an idolator—that he prayed to a picture, and not to Our Lord. Even though the head groom liked Askeladden, it was not long before he told the king. But the king merely ranted and raved at him; he was now nothing but sullen and mournful, for his daughters had been taken by a troll. But they trumped in the king’s ears for so long that he wanted to discover what the boy was about. When he came up to the stable loft and saw the portrait, it was his youngest daughter who was painted in it. But when Askeladden’s brothers heard it, they were soon ready to say to the head groom: “If our brother wanted to, he has said, he is good to return the king’s daughter to him.”

You may imagine it was not long before the head groom went to the king with this; he called for Askeladden and said: “Your brothers say that you can return my daughter, and now you shall do it.” Askeladden replied that he had never known it was the king’s daughter before the king had said so himself, and if he could save her, and fetch her, then he would certainly do his best; but he needed two days to prepare himself and equip himself in. This he would certainly have.

The boy took out the ball of grey woollen yarn and threw it on its way, and it went before and he came after, until he came to the old woman from whom he had received it. He asked her what he should do; and she said that he should take his old gun with him, and three-hundred crates of nails and horseshoe-nails, and three-hundred barrels of meal, and three-hundred pigs and three-hundred bull carcasses, and roll the ball of yarn on his way until he met a crow and a troll-child. Then he would certainly arrive, for they were of her kin. Yes, the boy did what she said; he went into the king’s farm and took his old gun, and asked the king for meat and flesh, and horses and boys and vehicles to carry it. The king thought it was a lot to need; but since he could return his daughter, he would have everything he demanded, even it it were half the kingdom.

When the boy had equipped himself, he rolled the ball of yarn on his way; and he had not walked for many days before he came to a tall mountain. There sat a crow up in a pine tree. Askeladden went under the tree and began to aim and point with his gun.

“No, don’t shoot! Don’t shoot me, and I will help you,” cried the crow.

“I have never heard anyone boast about roast crow,” said the boy, “and since you value your life, then I may just as well spare you.” Then he threw down his gun, and the crow flew down, and said:

“Up here on the mountain is a young troll-child who has got so lost that he cannot find his way down again; I will help you up, and then you can take the child home, and receive a reward that you may well need. When you get there, the troll will offer you anything of the finest things he has, but you shall take nothing other than the grey ass that stands behind the stable door.”

Then the crow took the boy on his back and flew up the mountain and set him down up there. When he had walked a little, he heard the troll-child whining and complaining that he could not get down again. The boy spoke kindly enough wih him; they became friends, and liked each other, and he took it upon himself to help him down. And then he would take the troll-child home to the troll garden, so he would not get lost on the way home. So they went to the crow, and he took them on his back, the both of them, and carried them to the mountain troll.

When the troll saw his child again, he was so glad that he forgot himself, and said to the boy that he could come in and take what he wanted, for he had saved his son; he offered both gold and silver and everything rare and costly; but the boy said he would rather have a horse. Yes, he should have a horse then, said the troll, and so they went to the stable. There it was full of the finest horses, which shone like the sun and the moon, but the boy thought every one of them too large for him. Then he peeked behind the stable door, and then he saw the grey ass that stood there. “This I will have,” he said, “for it suits me; if I fall off, then it is not further to the ground than this.” The troll was reluctant to lose his ass, but since he he had said it, then he had to stand by it. So the boy got the ass, with saddle and bridle and everything that went with it, and then he set off on his way.

They travelled through forest and mark, over mountain and broad moors. When they had travelled farther than far, the ass asked if the boy saw anything. “No, I see nothing but a tall mountain on the horizon,” said the boy.

“Yes, that mountain shall we pass through,” said the ass.

“Really?” said the boy. When they came to the mountain, a unicorn charged them, as if it would eat them alive.

“I think I am mostly afraid,” said the boy.

“Oh, don’t be,” said the ass. “Unload two-score bull carcasses, and bid it bore a hole and clear a way through the mountain,” it said. The boy did so.

When the unicorn had eaten itself satisfied, they promised two-score slaughtered pigs, if it would go before them and bore a hole in the mountain so that they could get through. When it heard this, it bore a hole and cleared a way through the mountain, so quickly that they could hardly keep up; and when it was finished, they threw two-score pigs to it.

When they had come well from this, they travelled far away through the countries, and they went across forest and mark, over mountain and wild moors again. “Do you see anything now?” asked the ass.

“Now I see nothing but sky and wild mountains,” said the boy. So they travelled far, and farther than far, and when they came higher up, the mountain grew more even and flatter, so they could see widely around them.

“Do you see anything now?” said the ass.

“Yes, I see something far, far away,” said the boy; “it glitters and shines like a small star.”

“It is certainly not so small,” said the ass.

When they had travelled far, and farther than far again, it asked: “Can you see anything now?”

‪“Yes, now I see something far away; it shines like a moon,” said the boy.‬

‪“That’s no moon,” said the ass; “it is the silver castle we are going to,” it said. “When we arrive, three dragons lie guard by the gate; they have not woken in a hundred years, so moss has grown on their eyes.”

“I think I will be mostly afraid of them,” said the boy.

“Oh, don’t be,” said the ass; “you must wake the youngest and throw him two-score bull carcasses and slaughtered pigs; then he will talk to the other two, and then you will get into the castle.”

They travelled far, and farther than far, before they arrived at the castle; but when they arrived, it was big and fine, and everything they saw was cast in silver. And outside the gate lay the dragons, blocking it so that no one could get in; but they had been left in peace and quiet, and had not been much bothered on their watch, for they were so covered in moss that no one could see what they were made of; and between them there were two small patches of forest growing among the moss.

The boy woke the smallest of them, and it began to rub its eyes, to clear away the patches of moss. When the dragon saw that there were folk, it came towards him with its mouth gaping; but then the boy stood ready, and threw in it bull carcasses and hurled in it pigs, until it had eaten enough, and grew a little more reasonable to talk to. The boy asked it to wake the others, and ask them to move away so that he could go into the castle. But it dared and would not, said the dragon, for they had not been awake and had not tasted food for a hundred years; it was afraid they would move around in a daze and gobble up anything, be it alive or dead. The boy thought there would be no danger, for they could leave a hundred bull carcasses and a hundred slaughtered pigs, and move away a little, and so they could eat themselves full, and gather themselves together before they returned. Yes, this the dragon wanted, too, and thus they did so; but before the dragons were fully awake and rubbed the moss away from their eyes, they stumbled about in a daze, and snapped at both this and that; and the youngest dragon had work enough avoiding them before they had eaten enough meat. Then they swallowed down whole bull- and pig carcasses, and ate until they were satisfied; and then they grew quite placid and good-natured, and let the boy go between them, into the castle.

There was everything so fine that he had never thought there could be such finery anywhere; but it was empty of folk, for he went from room to room and opened every door, but he saw no one.

But yes; finally he peeped through a doorway into a chamber he had not yet seen. Inside sat a princess, spinning; and she was happy and glad when she saw him.

“No, no! Do Christian-folk dare come here?” she cried. “But it would be best you left again, or the troll might kill you; for a great troll with three heads lives here.” The boy said he would not remove himself, even if the troll had seven. When the princess heard this, she wanted him to try to wield the great, rusty sword that hung behind the door; no, he could not wield it, he could not even lift it.

“Well,” said the princess, “since you cannot do it, then you may take a draught from the flask that hangs beside it, for that is what the troll does when he takes it out to use.” The boy took a couple of swigs; then he could wield it as if it were a baker’s lefse stick.

Just like that the troll swept in. “Hu! Here it smells of a Christian man!” it screamed.

“It does so,” said the boy, “but you do not need to snort out of your nose for that; you will no longer have any trouble from the smell,” he said. And then he hacked all its heads off it.

The princess was as happy as if she had received something good. But as time passed, she grew sullen; for she yearned for her sister, who was taken by a troll with six heads, and lived in a castle of gold, three hundred leagues beyond the end of the world. The boy thought this was not so bad; he could fetch both the princess and the castle, and so he took the sword and the vessel, mounted the ass, and asked the dragons to come with him and bring the meat and flesh and nails he had.

When they had been on the way for a while, and travelled far, far away, across both land and strand, the ass said one day: “Do you see anything?”

“I see nothing but land and water and sky and tall mountains,” said the boy. So they travelled far, and farther than far.

“Do you see anything now?” said the ass. Yes, he had seen something before him, he said, something far, far away; it shone like a small star, said the boy.

“It will certainly grow bigger,” said the ass. When they had travelled a long distance further, it asked: “Do you see anything now?”

“Now I see it shines like a moon,” said the boy.

“Well, well,” said the ass.

When they had travelled far, and farther than far, across land and strand, over mound and moor again, the ass asked: “Do you see anything now?”

“I think it shines most like the sun,” said the boy.

“Yes, it is the golden castle we are going to,” said the ass; “but outside lies a lindworm that blocks the road and keeps guard.”

“I think I will be scared,” said the boy.

“Oh, don’t be,” said the ass. “We will bend layers of branches over it, and between them, layers of horseshoe nails, and light it on fire, and we will be well rid of it.”

After a long, long time, they came to where the castle hung; but the lindworm lay before, blocking the road in. So the boy gave the dragons a good measure of bull- and pig carcasses so that they would help him, and bent over it a layer of branches, then a layer of horseshoe nails, until they had used up the three-hundred cases that they had; and when that was done, they set it on fire, and burned up the lindworm alive.

When they were well finished with this, one dragon flew underneath, and lifted the castle up, and the other two went far up into the sky, and loosed the chain hooks that it hung on, and put it down on the ground. When this was done, the boy went in, and here it was even finer than in the silver castle; but he saw no folk, until he came into the innermost room; there lay the princess on a golden bed. She slept so soundly that she should have been dead, but that she was not, even though he was not the fellow enough to wake her, and she was as red and white as milk and blood.

Just as the boy stood there, looking at her, the troll swept in. No sooner had it got its first head through the door than it said: “Huff! Here it smells of a Christian man!”

“Perhaps,” said the boy, “but you don’t need to snort so hard through your nose, anyway; you shall not long have the trouble of it,” he said, and then he hacked off all its heads, as if they were set on cabbage stalks. Then the dragons took the golden castle on their backs and went home with it—it did not take them long, I wouldn’t think—and placed it beside the silver castle, so they shone both far and wide.

When the princess from the silver castle came to the window in the morning and saw it, she was so glad that she ran over to the golden castle at the very same hour; but when she saw her sister, who lay sleeping as if she were dead, she said to the boy that they could not bring her back to life before they had the waters of death and life, and that these stood in two wells on each side of a golden castle that hung in the air, nine-hundred leagues beyond the end of the world, and there lived the third sister.

Well, there was nothing else to do, said the boy; he would have to fetch her too, and it was not long before he was on his way. And he travelled far, and farther than far, through many kingdoms, through mark and forest, over mountains and shore, over rock and wave. Finally he came to the end of the world, and then he travelled both far, and farther than far, over heath and mound and tall peaks.

“Do you see anything?” said the ass one day.

“I see nothing but the sky and the earth,” said the boy.

“Do you see anything now?” said the ass, when a few days had passed.

“Yes, now I think I can glimpse something high up and far away, like a small star,” said the boy.

“It certainly is not so small,” said the ass.

When they had travelled for some days more, it asked: “Do you see anything now?”

“Yes, now I think it shines like the moon.”

“Indeed,” said the ass. And they travelled for some days more. “Do you see anything now?” asked the ass.

“Yes, now it shines like the sun,” replied the boy.

“That is where we are going,” said the ass; “it is the golden castle that hangs in the air. There lives a princess who has been taken by a troll with nine heads; but all the wild animals of the earth there are lie guard, blocking the way in,” said the ass.

“Huff! I think I am most afraid now,” said the boy.

“Oh don’t be,” said the ass. And then it said he would be in no danger if he did not try to stop there, but travel again after he had filled his vessels with water; for it was not passable for more than an hour of the day, and that was high day; but was he not fellow enough to be finished in that time, and get away, then he would be ripped into a thousand pieces.

Yes, he would do this, said the boy; he would certainly not stop for too long.

They arrived at twelve o’clock. Then all the wild and dangerous animals there are lay as a fence outside the gate, and on both sides of the road; but they slept like logs and rocks, and there was not one of them that even lifted a leg. The boy went between them, making certain that he did not tread on toes or tail tips, and filled his vessels with the waters of life and death; and while he did so, he looked at the castle that was cast in gleaming gold. It was the finest thing he had seen, and he thought it must be even finer on the inside. “Puh! I have time,” thought Askeladden. “I can always look around for half-an-hour.” And so he opened up and went inside. But there it was more beautiful than beautiful; he went from one stately room to the next; it was covered in gold and pearls and everything costly. There were no folk there. But finally he came into one chamber; there lay a princess, sleeping on a golden bed again, as if she were dead; but she was as beautiful as the most beautiful queen, and red and white as blood and snow, and so beautiful as nothing he had ever seen, except for her portrait; for it was she who was depicted there. They boy forgot both the water he should fetch, and the animals, and all the castle, and gazed only at the princess, and he thought he could never have enough of looking at her; but she slept as one dead, and he was not good to wake her.

When the evening drew in, the troll came sweeping in and banged and bumped into the gates and the doors, so that the noise went throughout the castle.

“Huff! Here it smells of a Christian man!” it said, sticking its first head in through the door, sniffing.

“That may be,” said the boy, “but you have no business huffing so that the bellows tear; you shall not have the trouble of the smell for long,” he said, and with that, he hacked off all its heads. But when he was finished, he grew so tired that he could not keep his eyes open; so he lay down on the bed beside the princess. And she slept both night and day, as if she would never wake; but at midnight, she was awake for a moment, and then she said to him that he had saved her; but she had to remain there three more years; if she did not come home to him then, then he should come to fetch her.

He did not wake up until it was past one o’clock on the next day, and heard that the ass had begun to bray and carry on, and so he thought it best to start off on his way home; but first he cut a fold off the princess’s dress, and took it with him. But however it was or was not, he had dawdled for so long that the animals had begun to wake up and move around, and by the time he had climbed the hill, they surrounded him so that he thought it looked hopeless. But the ass said he should splash a few drops of the water of death on them. He did so, and then they fell down on the spot, and moved not a limb more.

While they were on the way home, the ass said to the boy: “When you have attained honour and glory, you will see that you forget me and what I have done for you, so that I am brought to my knees with hunger.” No, that would never happen, said the boy.

When he arrived at the home of the princess, with the water of life, he splashed some drops on his sister so that she awoke, and then you can be sure there was joy and happiness.

Then they went home to the king, and he was also glad and happy because he had got them back; but he went and waited and waited for the three years to pass, until his youngest daughter should come. The boy who had fetched them, he made a powerful man, so that he was the first in the country beside the king. But there were many who were envious that he had become such a great fellow, and there was one—his name was the Red Knight—who they said would have the eldest princess; he got her to splash some of the water of death on the boy, so that he slept.

When the three years were over, and it was some time into the fourth, a foreign sailing ship came sailing, and on it was the third sister, and she had with her a three year-old child. She sent a messenger up to the king’s farm, and said that she would not set foot on land before they sent he who had been to the golden castle and saved her. So they sent one of the highest ranking there in the king’s farm, and when he came aboard, he struck his hat from his head and bowed and bent himself.

“Can this be your father, my son?” said the princess to the child, who played with a golden apple.

“No, my father does not crawl like a cheese maggot,” said the boychild. Then they sent another of the same kind, and it was the Red Knight. But things went no better for him than they had for the first one; and the princess sent word with him that if they did not send the right one, then things would go badly with them.

When they heard this, they had to wake the boy, with the water of life, and then he went down to the princess’s ship; but he did not bow too much, I would not think; he just nodded his head, and took out the fold that he had cut out of her dress at the golden castle.

“There is my father!” cried the boy, and gave him the golden apple that he had been playing with. Then there was great joy and gladness over the whole kingdom, and the old king was the happiest of them all, for he had got back his favourite again.

When it was discovered what the Red Knight and the eldest princess had done to the boy, the king would have them rolled in a barrel of nails each; but Askeladden and the youngest princess interceded, and they were let off.

When they trumpeted the wedding in the king’s farm, then there came a day the boy stood looking out of the window—it was the beginning of spring, this was, and they were slipping the horses and the livestock, and the last to come out of the stable was the ass; but it was so starved that it came out on its knees through the stall door. Then he was so badly affected because he had forgotten it, that he went down and did not know what good he could do it; but the ass said that the best he could do was to chop its head off it. He was loath to do it, but the ass pleaded so nicely that he had to do it at last; and as soon as the head fell on to the ground, the enchantment that had been cast on him came to an end, and there stood the most beautiful prince that anyone could want to see. He got the second princess, and then they trumpeted a wedding that was heard of and asked of across seven kingdoms.

Then they built houses,
Then they patched shoes,
Then they had princes,
Whene’er they did choose.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Hippocampus

The hippocampus (crooked horse) is known in Greek mythology as Poseidon’s horse. My understanding is that the motif is also quite widespread in folklore. Below are two short legends from Norway.

Sea-horse and Sea Serpent in Battle

The belief in great serpents, the lindworm, sea serpents, and such was common. There were supposed to be great serpents in many mountain lakes, about which there are many legends. At times, great serpents came into the fjord and lay close by mighty waterfalls, to drink “burst” water.

Once, a terribly long time ago, it happened some place one Sunday evening, when the folk came out of church, that a terribly long sea serpent had laid itself across the bay, so that those who should go home by way of the sea could not get out with their boats. There lay the sea serpent, day after day, and no one dared go out on the fjord, and everybody was frightened, and had no idea what to do about getting home. But then they made an effort to keep calm, and then it was not long, either, before a great sea-horse came at full tilt from the sea, and attacked the sea serpent and killed it. Then all the folk were terrified, got into their boats, and rowed home, each to his own; and all the sea was red from the blood that had run out of the sea serpent.

Norsk folkeminnesamling: Rasmus Løland 1, p. 29

The Sea-horse that Attacked

Many boats lay fishing by Grip, off Kristiansand, among them a fembøring that lay a little by itself. Suddenly there came a huge, ugly beast that laid its forelegs on the gunwales and tried to overturn it. The animal had long claws on its feet, just like a dog, and they were so long that they almost reached across to the other side of the boat.

The crew of four managed to get the animal off, but after a short while it came again and laid its forelegs and claws on the gunwales. Also this time, they managed to remove the nuisance, but after that, they rowed in to land.

Not before the following day did they row out to sea again. Then there was such a terrible storm that they never came back.

— Sivertsen, Birger. “Havhest” in For noen troll. Oslo: Andresen & Butenschøn, 2000. p 304.

Monday, 8 May 2017

The Hen Trips in the Mountain

Once upon a time there was an old widow who lived in a remote village tight by a hill with her three daughters. She was so poor that she owned nothing but a hen, and this she held as dearly as the apple of her eye; she clucked for it and tended it, both early and late.

But one day, just like that, the hen disappeared. The wife then went around about the cabin, searching and calling, but the hen was, and remained gone.

“You must go out to try to find our hen,” said the wife to her eldest daughter; “we must have it back, even if we must take it out of the mountain.” So the daughter went out to look for it; she went both hither and thither, and searched and called, and no hen did she find. But suddenly she heard from within the mountain wall:

The hen trips in the mountain!
The hen trips in the mountain!

She would then go over to see what it was, but by the mountain wall, she fell through a trapdoor, deep, deep into a chamber beneath the earth. Down there, she walked through many rooms, the one finer than the other, but in the innermost, an ugly great man of the mountain came to her.

“Will you be my sweetheart?” he asked.

No, she said, by no means; she wanted to go back up and look for her hen, which was missing.

Then the man of the mountain grew so angry that he took her and twisted her head off her, and threw both head and body down into the cellar.

The mother sat at home, and waited and waited, but no daughter returned. She waited a good while longer, but as she neither saw nor heard anything of her, she said to the middle daughter that she should go out looking for her sister; “and you can call for the hen at the same time,” she said.

The second sister would thus out, and things went just the same way with her; she went and she called, and suddenly she too heard from the mountain wall:

The hen trips in the mountain!
The hen trips in the mountain!

This she thought was strange; she would go over to see what it was, and then she too fell through the trapdoor, deep, deep down into the chamber. There she walked through all the rooms, but in the innermost, the man of the mountain came to her and asked if she would be his sweetheart. No, she would by no means be that; she wanted to go up again immediately, and search for the hen that was missing. But then the man of the mountain grew angry; he took her and twisted her head off, and threw head and body down into the cellar.

When the wife now sat waiting for her second daughter too, for seven long and seven broad, and no daughter was to hear or see, she said to the youngest: “Now, truly you must go and look for your sisters. Bad it was when the hen went missing; even worse would it be if we did not find your sisters. The hen you can always call at the same time.”

Well, the youngest was to go out, then; she went hither and thither and searched and called, but she did not see the hen, and neither did she see her sisters. A long time after a long time, she also came to the mountain wall, and there she heard it say:

The hen trips in the mountain!
The hen trips in the mountain!

This she thought was strange; she would go over to see, and then she fell through the trapdoor, deep, deep down into the chamber. Down there, she walked through one room finer than the other; but she was not so afraid, and gave herself good time to look at both one thing and another, and so she caught sight of the cellar trapdoor, too. She looked down through it, and soon recognised her sisters, who lay down there.

As soon as she had got the cellar trapdoor closed again, the man of the mountain came to her.

“Will you be my sweetheart?” asked the man of the mountain.

“Yes, I will,” said the girl, for she understood well enough how things had gone for her sisters.

When the troll heard this, she was given fine, fine clothes, the finest she could wish for, and anything else she would have, so glad was he that someone would be his sweetheart.

But when she had been there a while, there was a day she was even more downcast and quiet than she usually was, and so the man of the mountain asked what she was so sullen for.

“Oh,” said the girl, “it is because I cannot go home to mother; she is certainly both hungry and thirsty, and she has no one with her, either.”

“Well, you cannot be allowed to go to her,” replied the troll, “but put some food in a sack, and I shall carry it to her.”

Yes, she thanked him for this—she would do it, she said; but at the bottom of the sack, she placed a deal of gold and silver, and then she put some food on top, and then said to the troll that now the sack was ready, but he must by no means look in it, and he promised that he would not, too.

When the man of the mountain went, she peeped out at him through a small hole there was in the trapdoor; when he had gone a part of the way, he said: “it is so heavy, this sack; I will look to see what there is in it,” and he began to loosen the bands; but then the girl shouted: “I can see you! I can see you!”

“Those are some damnable eyes you have in your head, then,” said the troll, and so he did not dare try that again.

When he arrived at where the widow lived, he threw the sack in though the cabin door. “There you have some food from your daughter; she lacks nothing,” he said.

When the girl had now been in the mountain a good while more, a billy-goat one day fell through the trap door.

“Who is it who sent for you, you shaggy beast?” said the troll, he was terribly wild, and so he took the buck and twisted off its head, and threw it down into the cellar.

“Oh no, why did you do that?” said the girl. “I could have had fun with it down here.”

“You don’t need to start whining, I know,” said the troll, “I can soon bring life back to the billy-goat, I can.” With that, he took a jar that hung on the wall, set the billy-goat’s head back in place and rubbed it in from the jar, and then it was just as good again.

Ho, ho! thought the girl, that jar must be worth something.

When she had been with the troll a good while more, she made sure the troll was out, took the eldest of her sisters, put her head in place, and rubbed her in from the jar, as she had seen the troll do with the goat; and straightway her sister came back to life. The girl put her in a sack, and put some food on top, and as soon as the troll returned, she said to him: “Dear me! You must go home to mother with some food again; she is certain to be both thirsty and hungry, the poor thing; alone is she, too. But do not look in the sack!”

Yes, he would go with the sack, he said, and neither would he look in it; but when he had gone a part of the way, he thought the sack was so heavy, and when he had walked a while, he said that he would see what was in the sack. “What manner of eyes does she have, if she can see me now?” he said to himself.

But as soon as he began to loosen it, she who sat in the sack said: “I can see you! I can see you!”

“Those are some damnable eyes you have in your head, too then,” said the troll—he thought it was she in the mountain who spoke. He dared not look down into the sack again, but carried the sack to the mother, as quickly as he could; and when he came to the cabin door, he threw it in. “There you have some food from your daughter; she lacks nothing,” he said.

Now, when the girl had been in the mountain for a good while, she did the same with the other sister; she put her head on her, rubbed her in from the jar, and put her in the sack. But this time, she filled as much gold and silver upon her as there was room for, and right on top, she laid a little food.

“Dear me!” she said to the troll. “Now you must go home to my mother with some more food again; but do not look in the sack!”

Yes, the troll would satisfy her in this, and he promised too that he would not look in the sack. But when he had gone a part of the way, the sack grew terribly heavy, he thought; and when he had walked even further, he was simply exhausted; he had to put down the sack and take a breather, and then he would loosen the fastenings and look in; but she who sat in the sack cried: “I can see you! I can see you!”

“Those are some damnable eyes you have in your head, too!” said the troll, and so he dared not look in the sack any more, but hurried as quickly as he could, and carried the sack all the way to the mother. When he came outside the cabin door, he threw it in: “There you have some food from your daughter; she lacks nothing,” he said.

When the girl had been there a good while longer still, the troll was going out once; the girl pretended that she was miserable and sick, and whined and carried on.

“It is no good your coming home before twelve o’clock,” she said, “for I will not be able to make your food ready before then, so miserable and ill I am.”

When the troll had well gone, she stuffed her clothes with straw and set this straw girl in the corner by the hearth, with a stirrer in its hand, so that it looked as if it were herself standing there. Then she hurried home, and brought a shooter to stay in her mother’s cabin.

When it was twelve o’clock, and even more, the troll came home.

“Bring the food!” he said to the straw girl.

No, she did not answer.

“Bring the food, I said!” said the troll again; “I am hungry!”

No, she did not answer.

“Bring the food!” screamed the troll a third time. “Listen to what I say, or I will waken you, so help me!”

No, the girl stood just as still.

Then he grew so wild that he struck her, so that the straw was spread to the walls and ceiling. And when he saw this, he sensed a trick, and began to search, both high and low, and finally came down into the cellar, too; there were both of the girl’s sisters, gone, and so he understood straight away how things had gone. Yes, she would pay! he said, and began on the way to where the mother lived. But when he arrived at the cabin, the shooter shot, so the troll dared not go in, for he thought it was thunder. He set off home again, as quickly as he could; but as quickly as he came to the trapdoor, the sun streamed, and he burst.

There is certainly gold and silver enough yet. If only one knew where the trapdoor was.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Redfox and Askeladden

Once upon a time there was a king who had many hundred sheep and many hundred goats and cows; and many hundred horses had he too, and silver and gold in great heaps and piles. But even so, he was so sorrowful that he mostly would not see folk, and even less talk to them. He had been like this since his youngest daughter had been lost. But it would have been bad enough, even if he had never lost her, for there was a troll who constantly made a mess and trouble there, so that folk hardly ever came to the king’s farm; just like that he would loose all the horses so that they trampled down the fields and meadows and ate up the grain; just like that he tore the heads off the king’s ducks and geese; sometimes he killed the cows in the stall, or drove the sheep and goats over the hill; and every time they would take some fish from the pond, they had all been chased up on to the land, all of them.

But then there were a couple of old folk who had three sons; one of them was called Per, the second was called Pål, and the third they called Espen Askeladd, for he lay drawing in the ashes, all the time.

These were bold lads, but Per, who was the eldest, he would be the boldest, and so he asked his father’s permission to go out into the world to try his luck.

“Yes, you have permission; late is better than never, my boy,” said the fellow. So he got some brandy in a flask, and some food in his knapsack, and then he took to his feet, and went down the hill. When he had gone a distance, he walked by a old woman who lay beside the road.

“Oh, my dear boy, give me a small crumb of food today,” said the woman.

But Per, he hardly looked aside, but merely adjusted his knapsack, and continued on his way.

“Well, well,” said the woman, “if you go, you’ll see that it goes as it goes,” she said.

Per went far, and farther than far, until he came to the king’s farm. There stood the king under the porch, feeding the hens.

“Good evening, and God’s blessing,” said Per.

“Tippe, tippe, tippe, tuppe, tuppe—!” said the king, scattering and scattering both east and west, minding him not a whit.

“Yes, stand there, you, and scatter grain, and cackle hen language until you turn into a bear,” said Per to himself; “you shall not have me talking to you,” he thought; and so he went into the kitchen and sat down on the bench like any great fellow.

“What kind of rascal are you?” said the cook, for Per had not yet grown a beard. This he thought was impertinent and mockery, and so he began to beat the cook; but just like that the king came in and had them cut three red stripes into his back; then they rubbed salt into the wounds, and let him go home the same way he had come.

When Per had come well home, Pål would out. Oh yes, he also took some brandy in a flask and some food in his knapsack, and took to his feet down the hill. When he had walked a part of the way, he met the woman who asked for food, but he swept past without even replying, and at the king’s farm, things went not a hair better for him than they had for Per. The king said, “tippe, tippe,” and the cook called him a naughty child, and when he would beat her for that, the king came with a kitchen knife and cut three red stripes and rubbed glowing embers in them, and sent him home with a sore back.

Then Askeladden crept up from the pit, and began to move around; the first day, he shook off the ash, and the second he washed and combed himself, and the third he dressed himself in his Sunday best.

“Well, look at that!” said Per; “now a new sun shines here. I suppose you want to go to the king’s farm and win the king’s daughter and half the kingdom. Oh, stay in the ashes, you,” he said. But Askeladden did not listen in that ear, he went into his father, and asked for leave to go out a little into the world.

“What will you do, out in the world?” said the old man. “It didn’t go so well with Per or Pål; how will things go with you?” he said.

But Askeladden did not give in before he was given leave to go.

His brothers did not want him to have even a crumb of food, but his mother gave him a crust of cheese and a meat bone, and with that, he went on his way. He was in no hurry: “you will arrive in time,” he thought; “you have the whole day before you, and then the moon will rise, if luck is with you.” So he placed one foot in front of the other, and took his time on the hills, and watched his path well.

After a longer than long time, he met the old woman who lay off the road.

“You poor old, crooked thing; I suppose you’re hungry,” said Askeladden.

She was, said the woman.

“In that case, I will share with you,” said Askeladden, giving her the crust of cheese.

“Are you cold, too?” he said; he saw her teeth were chattering. “You shall have my old tunic; it doesn’t have much in the way of sleeves, and little back, but it was a good garment, when it was new.”

“Wait a little,” said the woman. She rummaged in her great pocket. “Here you have an old key,” she said. “I have neither better nor worse to give you; but when you look through the keyring, then you can see anything you want to.”

When he arrived at the king’s farm, the cook was carrying water, and she was struggling terribly with it. “That is too heavy for you,” said Askeladden. “It is better that I do it,” he said.

The cook was the one who was glad! And afterwards, she always let Askeladden scrape the pot; but it was not long before he made a number of enemies for of it, and they lied to the king, and said taht he had said that he was good to do both this and that.

One day, the king came out and asked Askeladden it it was true that he was good to keep the fish in the pond, so the troll could not hurt them. “They say you have said you are good for it,” he said.

“I have not said it,” said Askeladden; “but had I said it, then I would also have been good to do it.”

Well, however it was, he would try anyway, if he wished to save the skin on his back, said the king.

Well, then he would try, said Askeladden; for he had no wish to go with red stripes beneath his shirt, he said.

In the evening, Askeladden peeped through the keyring, and then he saw that the troll was afraid of thyme. He went to gather all the thyme he could find. Some of it he scattered on the water, and some on the land, and the rest he spread around the bank of the pond.

And so the troll had to leave the fish in peace; but now the sheep suffered for it; the troll chased them over knoll and cliff all that night.

So there were some of the other servants who had been out again, saying that Askeladden had said that he knew how to save the sheep, too, he did; if only he would. He had said he was good for it, that was certain.

Well, the king went out to him and said the same as before, and threatened to cut three broad red stripes in his back, if he did not do it.

So there was nothing else for it. Askeladden thought it would have been good to wear the king’s uniform and red tunic, but he would have to go without, since he had made himself do it, he said.

And so he began with the thyme again; but it was an almost endless task, for when he bound some thyme on to the sheep, then they ate it off one another again; and so it went, for the sheep ate more quickly than he could bind it. But finally, he made an ointment of thyme and pitch, and rubbed them with it. The cows and horses were also rubbed down with the thyme ointment, so that the troll left them in peace.

But one day, when the king was out hunting, he got lost in the forest; he rode around for many days, and had neither food nor drink, and his clothes suffered so terribly in the dense forest that he finally had hardly a rag left on his body. Then the troll came and said that if he could have the first thing the king met when he came to his land, then he would let him home to the king’s farm again. Yes, this the troll would have; the king thought it would probably be his little dog that would bark and play when it met him. But when he came so close to the king’s farm that they could see him, the eldest king’s daughter, with all the folk following her, went to meet the king, and received him both good and well.

When he saw that it was she who was first, he grew so sick that he fell to the ground immediately; and from that time, he was mostly half mad.

In the evening, the troll should come to fetch the king’s daughter, and she was decked out and sat in a meadow out by the tarn, weeping and mourning. There was one called Redfox, who should go with her, but he was so afraid that he climbed up a timber spruce, and remained sitting there.

Just like that, Askeladden came and sat down on the ground beside the king’s daughter. And she was glad, don’t you know, when she saw there were yet Christian-folk who dared to be with her. “Lay your head in my lap, and will nitpick you,” she said. Espen Askeladd did as she said, and while she did it, he fell asleep, and so she took a gold ring from her finger and tied it into his hair.

Just like that, the troll came, huffing; he was so heavy afoot that the forest groaned and creaked for half a league before him. When he saw Redfox, who sat in the spruce top, like a small blackcock, he spat at him—“Puh!” he said—so both Redfox and the timber spruce crashed to the ground, and there he lay, wriggling like a fish on dry land.

“Hu hu!” said the troll. “If you sit here nitpicking Christian-folk, then I will eat you,” he said.

“Puh!” said Askeladden, as soon as he awoke, and began to look at the troll through the keyring.

“Hu hu! What are you looking at me for?” said the troll to Askeladden. “Hu hu!” Then he hurled an iron bar at him, so that it stood fifteen cubits into the rock; but Askeladden was so swift afoot that he got out of the way as soon as the troll threw it.

“Puh! What a womanly throw!” said Askeladden. “Give me your toothpick, and you shall see a throw.” Yes, the troll plucked out the iron bar in one snatch; it was the size of three gate bars. Meanwhile, Askeladden stared at the sky, both south and north.

“Hu hu! What are you staring at, now?” said the troll.

“I am looking to see which star I should throw it to,” said Askeladden; “do you see the tiny little one straight to the north? I will take that,” he said.

“No, you let it sit as it sits,” said the troll; “you will not throw away my iron bar.”

“Well, well, then you shall have it back,” said Askeladden; “but perhaps you think it better that I sling you up to the moon a turn,” he said. No, the troll did not want that either.

“Then what about blind-man’s buff? Do you not want to play blind-man’s buff?” said Askeladden.

Yes, that might be good, “but you shall go first,” he said to Askeladden.

“Oh yes, of course,” said the boy; “but it is fairest if we all count, then we won’t have anything to argue about.” Yes, yes, they would do so, then. And then you should know that Askladden made it so that the troll was blindfolded, and should made the first attempt. And you should have seen the blind-man’s buff, hey! They went around on the edge of the forest; the troll crashed and tore into the tree stumps so that the splinters flew, and it sounded accordingly.

“No, no, should the troll be blind-man for long?” screamed the troll, and furious was he.

“Wait a little,” said Askeladden, “and I will stand still and call until you catch me.” Meanwhile, he took a hooked fishing line and sprang over to the other side of the tarn, in which there was no bottom. “Come now; here I stand,” called Askeladden.

“Is it ditches and forest?”

“You can surely hear that here is no forest,” said Askeladden, and swore that there was neither stump nor forest. “Come now!” So off he set again.

“Plump!” it said, and there lay the troll in the tarn, and Askeladden stabbed him in his eyes with the hook, every time he got his head above the water.

Now the troll begged so thinly for his life that the boy felt sorry for him; but first he had to renounce the king’s daughter, and bring the other one, whom the troll had taken before, and promise that folk and livestock would be left in peace; then the troll was let out and crawled home to his mountain.

Then Redfox was the fellow again, came down from the spruce, and took the king’s daughter with him up to the castle, and threatened her to say that it was he who had saved her. And then he crept down to receive the other one, when Askeladden had let her into the garden.

Now there was such joy in the king’s farm that it could be heard, and was asked about across the land and kingdom, and Redfox would have a wedding with the youngest daughter.

Yes, that was well and good, but it was not so well yet—for just like that, the troll had gone down into the earth and clogged all the waterways; “if I cannot but make trouble,” he thought, “then they shall have no water to boil their wedding porridge in.”

There was nothing for it, other than to send for Askeladden again. He took himself an iron pole that was fifteen cubits long, and six smiths who were to make it glowing red. Then he looked through the keyring; and he saw the troll just as well beneath the ground as above, and drove the pole down through the ground and down the back of the troll so that it smelled of burned horn for seven leagues.

“Hau! Hau!” screamed the troll. “Let me up!” Just like that, he came rushing up the hole, and was burned up to his neck. But Askeladden was not slow. He took the troll and laid it out on a pole that was garlanded with thyme, and there it had to lie, and say where it had got eyes from, since he had hacked them out with the fishing hook.

“I stole myself a raw turnip,” said the troll; “I rubbed it with some fat, then I cut it how I wanted, and fastened it in with cloves; and better eyes would I not wish on a Christian man.”

Then came the king and both king’s daughters, and would see the troll, and Redfox walked so proudly and haughtily that his tail was higher than his neck. But then the king caught sight of something that blinked in Askeladden’s hair. “What do you have there?” he said.

“Oh, that is the ring that your daughter gave me when I saved her from the troll,” said Askeladden. And now it all came out, how everything had happened. Redfox wept and pleaded for himself; but no matter how he carried on, weeping, it did not help, he had to go to the snakepit, and there he immediately burst.

Then they made an end of the troll, and then they began to carry on and dance at Askeladden’s wedding; for now he was the celebrated one. He won the youngest king’s daughter and half the kingdom.

Now my tale I lay upon a sleigh,
and drive to you, whose words do better play,
But if no better words you can contrive,
Then shame on you who blames me, when I strive.