Sunday, 29 October 2017


There was once, upon a time, a couple of poor folk; they had nothing except for three sons. What the elder two were called, I do not know; but the youngest was called Per.

When the parents were dead, the children should inherit them, but there was nothing more to have than a cauldron, a lefse iron, and a cat. The eldest, who was to have the best, took the cauldron: “When I lend the cauldron out, then I will always be able to scrape it,” he said.

The second took the lefse iron: “For when I lend out the iron, I will always have a taste of the lefses,” he said.

But the third, he had nothing to choose between; if he wanted anything, then it had to be the cat. “If I lend out the cat, then I will not have anything for her,” he said. “If the cat has a drop of milk, then she will have it for herself. But I will take her with me anyway; it would be a shame to leave her here to fend for herself.”

So the brothers went out into the world to try their luck, and each took his own way.

But when the youngest had walked a while, the cat said, “You will receive the same in return, for not leaving me behind in the old cabin to fend for myself. Now I shall go into the forest and find some strange animals; and you shall go to the king’s farm that you see away over there, and say that you come with a small gift for the king. When he then asks who it is from, you shall say it is from Herre-Per.”1

Well, Per had not waited long before the cat returned with a reindeer from the forest. She had jumped up on to the reindeer’s head and sat between its antlers. “If you do not go straight to the king’s farm, I will scratch your eyes out,” she said, and so the reindeer dared aught else.

When Per now came to the king’s farm, he went straight into the kitchen with the reindeer, and said: “I come with a small gift for the king, if he will not despise it.”

The king came out to the kitchen, and when he saw the big, fine reindeer, he was well pleased. “But my dear friend, who sends me such a fine gift, then?” said the king.

“Oh, it surely comes from Herre-Per,” said the boy.

“Herre-Per?” said the king. “Where does he live, then?” For he thought it a shame not to know such a good man.

But this the boy would by no means tell; he dared not for fear of his master, he said. So the king gave Per a lot of money as a tip, and bade him greet them at home, and sent his thanks for the gift.

The next day, the cat went into the forest again, and jumped up on to the head of a hart, sat between its eyes, and threatened it into going to the king’s farm. There, Per went into the kitchen with it again, and said that he came again with a small gift for the king, if he would not despise it. The king was even more pleased with the hart than he had been with the reindeer, and asked again whom it was who could have sent him so fine a gift.

“It is surely from Herre-Per,” said the boy. But when the king would know where Herre-Per lived, he received the same reply as he had the day before, and this time, Per received even more money as a tip.

The third day, the cat came back with a moose. When Per then came into the kitchen on the king’s farm, he said that he again had a small gift for the king, if he would not despise it. The king came out to the kitchen at once, and when he saw the beautiful moose, he was so glad that he did not know which foot he should stand on. And on that day, he gave Per even more—much, much more—money as a tip—it was certainly a hundred dollars. He would finally know where this Herre-Per lived, and dug and asked both about this and about the other. The boy said that he dared not tell him, for his master had forbidden it, both strictly and sternly.

“So ask this Herre-Per to look in to me,” said the king.

Yes, this would the boy do, he said.

But when he came out of the king’s farm again, and met the cat, then he said: “Yes, you have put me in a situation now; the king wants me to visit him, and I have nothing but the rags I stand and walk in.”

“Oh, do not be worried about that,” said the cat. “In three days, you shall have horses and a carriage, and such beautiful clothes that the gold shall drip from you; then you will be able to visit the king. But whatever you see at the king’s, you shall say that you have a much finer and more beautiful home; you must not forget this.”

No, Per would certainly remember that, he said.

When the three days were up, the cat came with a carriage and horses and clothes and everything Per needed. Everything was so beautiful that no one had seen the like before. So he travelled, and the cat ran with him.

The king received him both well and good, but whatever the king offered him, and whatever he showed him, then Per said that it was good enough, but that he had an even finer and more beautiful home. The king liked this no more than a bit. But Per insisted, and finally the king grew so angry that he could no longer control himself. “Now I want to go home with you,” said the king, “and see if it is true, that yours is a finer and more beautiful home. And if you are lying, then God help you! I say no more.”

“Well, you have put me in a situation,” said Per to the cat. “Now the king wants to come home with me, but my home is not good to find.”

“Oh, do not worry about that,” said the cat. “You just travel behind where I run before.”

So they travelled. First Per, who drove behind where the cat ran before, and then the king with all his.

When they had driven a good distance, they came to a great big flock of sheep that had wool so long that it almost reached the ground.

“If you will say that the flock of sheep belongs to Herre-Per, when the king asks you, then you shall have this silver spoon,” said the cat to the shepherd; she had taken the silver spoon from the king’s farm.

Yes, he would do so.

So when the king came, he said to the shepherd: “Well, I have never seen such a beautiful, big flock of sheep. Who owns it, my little boy?”

“It is certainly Herre-Per’s,” said the boy.

After a little while, they came to a great herd of striped cattle; they were so fat that they gleamed.

“If you say that the cattle belong to Herre-Per, when the king asks you, then you shall have this silver ladle,” said the cat to the herder girl—the silver ladle had she also taken from the king’s farm.

“Yes, of course,” said the herder girl.

When the king then came, he wondered at the great big cattle, for such beautiful cattle had he never seen before, he said. And so he asked the girl who was herding them, who owned the striped herd there.

“Oh, that is Herre-Per,” said the girl.

So they travelled a little farther, and then they came to a great, great string of horses; they were the most beautiful horses one might see, big and sleek, and six of each kind—both red and bay and blue.

“If you will say that the string of horses is Herre-Per’s, when the king asks you, then you shall have this silver stirring stick,” said the cat to the herder—she had also taken the stirring stick from the king’s farm.

Yes, he certainly would, said the boy.

So when the king came, he was simply in wonder at the large string of beautiful horses, for such horses had he never seen the like of, he said. He then asked the herder boy who the red and bay and blue horses belonged to.

“Oh, they are certainly Herre-Per’s,” said the boy.

When they had travelled a good distance more, they came to a castle. First there was a gate of brass, then one of silver, and then one of gold; the castle itself was of silver, and it gleamed so that it hurt one’s eyes, for the sun began to shine on it, the moment they arrived. There they went in, and there the cat said that Per should say he lived.

Inside the castle was even finer than the outside; everything was of gold, both chairs and tables and benches. When the king had now walked around and seen everything, both high and low, he grew full of shame.

“Yes, it is grander at Herre-Per’s than at mine; it can do no good to deny it,” he said. And then he wanted to leave again. But Per bade him stay to eat supper with him, and the king did so, but grim and grumpy was he the whole time.

While they sat at the table, the troll who owned the castle came knocking at the gate.

“Who is it who eats my food and drinks my mead like pigs in here?” cried the troll.

As soon as the cat heard him, she sprang out to the gate.

“Wait a little while and I will tell you how the farmer treats the winter crop,” said the cat. “First the farmer harrows his field,” she said, “then he manures it, and then he harrows it again.”

Suddenly the sun began to shine.

“Look around, and you shall see the gorgeous, beautiful maiden behind you!” said the cat to the troll.2

Then the troll turned around and saw the sun, and then it burst.

“Now all this is yours,” said the cat to Herre-Per. “And now you shall chop off my head; it is the only thing I require of you for what I have done for you.”

“No,” said Herre-Per, “that is something I will not do.”

“Well,” said the cat, “if you do not do it, then I will scratch out your eyes.”

Well, Herre-Per had to do it then, even though he did not want to. He chopped off the cat’s head.

Immediately she became the most gorgeous princess anyone could see with their eyes, and Herre-Per was completely taken with her.

“Yes, this glory has been mine before,” said the princess, “but the troll there had transformed me, so I had to be your parents’ cat. Now you may do with me what you will, if you will have me as queen or not; for now are you king over the whole kingdom,” said the princess.

Oh yes, it may well be that Herre-Per would have her as queen. So there was a wedding and a feast for eight days, and then I was Herre-Per and his queen no longer.

  1. Herre-Per: “Mr Per,” “Master Per,” or even “Sir Per” or “Lord Per.” No matter how I translate the name, I risk the imposition of societal structures from English-speaking countries upon Norwegian society. 

  2. Thomas Grønbukt has produced a beautiful illustration of this moment

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Veslefrikk with His Fiddle

There was once, upon a time, a smallholder who had a single son, and this boy was feeble and had such poor health that he could not manage to go to work. He was called Frikk, and so small of growth was he that they called him Veslefrikk.1

At home there was little to bite and retch, so his father went out in the village and would bind him as a herder or a messenger boy. But there was none who would have his boy until he came to the sheriff; he would take him, for he had recently chased away his messenger boy, and there was none who would go to him, for he had a reputation of being a hoarder. Better something than nothing, thought the smallholder. Food he would have, then; for at the sheriff’s he would work for his keep. Wages and clothing were not discussed. But when the boy had been there for three years, he would leave, and so the sheriff gave him all his wages at once. He should have a shilling a year—less it could not be, said the sheriff—so he got three shillings altogether.

Veslefrikk thought this was a lot of money, for he had never had so much, but he asked if he should not have something more.

“You have got more than you should have,” said the sheriff.

“Should I not have anything for clothing, then?” said Veslefrikk. “Those I had when I came here, I have worn out, and I have not got any more.” And now he was so ragged that his rags hung and swung around him, he said.

“Now you have got what we agreed upon, and three shillings on top, so I have nothing more to give you,” said the sheriff. But he would be allowed to go into the kitchen and put a little food in his knapsack. And then he went out on the road to the village to buy clothes. He was both lusty and happy, for he had never seen a shilling before, and just like that, he felt to make sure that he had them, all three.

When he had gone far, and farther than far, he came into a tight valley with tall mountains on every side, so that he thought there was no way to go forward. He began to wonder what might be on the other side, and how he might come over.

But he had to go up, and so he began on his way; he could not manage much, and had to rest from time to time, and then he counted how much money he had. When he came up to the highest point, there was nothing but a great mossy plateau. There he sat to make sure that he had his shillings with him, and before he knew it, he came to a pauper who was so big and tall that the boy began to scream when he saw properly how big and tall he was.

“Do not be afraid, you,” said the pauper, “I will not harm you, I merely beg a shilling in God’s name!”

“Dear me,” said the boy, “I only have three shillings, and these I would go to town with, to buy clothes,” he said.

“It is worse for me than it is for you,” said the pauper; “I have no shilling, and I am even more ragged than you.”

“Well, then you shall have it, then,” said the boy.

When he had gone a while, he grew weary and sat down to rest again. When he looked up, there was a pauper again, but he was even bigger and uglier than the first, and when the boy properly saw how how big and ugly and tall he was, then he began to scream.

“Do not be afraid of me, I will do you no harm, I merely beg a shilling in God’s name,” said the pauper.

“Dear me, truly,” said the boy; “I have only two shillings, and these I am going to town, to buy clothes with, so…”

“It is worse for me than for you,” said the pauper. “I have no shilling, and a bigger body and fewer clothes.”

“Well, then you shall have it,” said the boy.

So he went a while until he grew weary again, and so he sat down to rest, and when he had done so well, there came to him a pauper again. And he was so big and ugly and tall that the boy looked up and up until he looked all the way up to the sky, and when he saw just how big and ugly and ragged he was, he began to scream.

“Do not be afraid of me, my boy” said the man; “I will do you no harm, for I am merely a pauper who begs a shilling in God’s name,” said the pauper.

“Dear me, so true!” said Veslefrikk. “I have only one shilling left, and I am going to town with it, to buy myself some clothes. Had I but met you before…”

“Well, I have no shilling, I don’t, and bigger body and fewer clothes, so it is worse for me than for you,” said the pauper.

So, he would have the shilling, then, said Veslefrikk; there was nothing for it, for it was such that each had his, and he had none.

“Yes, since you have such a good heart that you give away everything you have,” said the pauper, “then I shall give you a wish for each shilling.” It was the same pauper who had received them all three; he had merely changed his form each time, so that the boy would not recognise him.

“I have always had such a desire to hear the fiddle sound, and see the folk so lusty and glad that they dance,” said the boy, “so—if I may wish for what I will, then I wish for a fiddle that is such that all that has life must dance to it,” he said.

This he would have, but it was a feeble wish, said the pauper. “You must wish better with the other shillings.”

“I have always wanted so to hunt and shoot,” said Veslefrikk, “so if I may wish for what I will, then I wish for a gun that is such that I hit everything I aim at, no matter how far away.”

This he would have, but it was a feeble wish, said the pauper. “You should wish better with the last shilling.”

“I have always wanted to be together with folk who are kind and good-hearted,” said Veslefrikk, “so if I may have what I wish for, then I wish that no one may refuse me the first thing I ask for.”

“That wish is not so feeble,” said the pauper, and then he struck out between the mounds and was gone, and the boy lay down to sleep, and the next day he came down off the mountain, with his fiddle and his gun.

First he went to the merchant’s and asked for some clothes, and on a farm, he asked for a horse, and on another, he asked for a sleigh. Another place he asked for a reindeer-skin coat. And there was not a no to be heard for him, no matter how much he asked for, they had to give him what he asked for. Finally, he went through the village like a fancy bigwig, and had both horse and sleigh.

When he had travelled a way, he met the sheriff with whom he had been in service.

“Good day, master,” said Veslefrikk with the fiddle, stopping to greet him.

“Good day,” said the sheriff. “Have I been your master?” he asked.

“Yes, do you not remember that I served you for three years for three shillings?” said Veslefrikk.

“My word, you have recovered in a hurry, then,” said the sheriff. “How have things gone, since you are become such a bigwig?”

“Well, that is the thing,” said the little one.

“Are you so lusty that you go with a fiddle now, too?” said the sheriff.

“Yes, I have always wanted to get folk dancing,” said the boy, “but the bravest thing I have is this gun here,” he said, “for it fells nearly everything I point it at, no matter how far away it is. Do you see that magpie that sits in the spruce over there?” said Veslefrikk. “What do you wager I can hit it from where we now stand?” he said.

Ther sheriff was very willing to wager horse and farm and a hundred dollars that he was not good enough for it—but then he too should wager all the money he had, but he could collect it when it fell, for he never thought any gun could reach so far. But as soon as the gun sounded, the magpie fell down into a large dog-rose bush, and the sheriff struck out into the bush after it, to pick it up and bring it to the boy. At the same moment, Veslefrikk began to play the fiddle, and the sheriff began to dance so that the thorns tore at him; and the boy played and the sheriff danced and cried and begged for mercy, until the rags flew off him, and he had hardly a thread on him.

“Well, now I think you are as ragged as I was when I left your service,” said the boy, “so now you will have to suffer with it.” But first, the sheriff had to give him what he had wagered on his not hitting the magpie.

When the boy came to the town, he went into a guesthouse. He played, and those who came there danced, and he lived lustily and well; there was no grief for him, for no one could say no to whatever he asked for.

But when they were in their best spirits, the constables came to take the boy to the town hall, for the sheriff had complained about him, and said that he has assaulted him and robbed him and nearly taken his life. And now he should hang, there was no question about it. But Veslefrikk had an answer to all the complaints about him, and that was the fiddle. He began to play on it, so the constables danced until they lay there, gasping. Then they sent soldiers and guard to him. But things went no better with them than with the constables; when Veslefrikk took out his fiddle, they had to begin dancing for as long as he could make it sound. But they were done long before then.

Finally they surprised him and took him while he slept at night, and when they had got him, he was sentenced to hang immediately, and they took him straight to the gallows. A crowd of people streamed together to see this spectacle, and the sheriff was there, too, happy to the core that he would have justice for his money and his skin, and to see that they should hang him.

But things did not go so quickly; for Veslefrikk was poorly to walk, and poorer he made himself. His fiddle and his gun he dragged with him, too—no one was good to take them from him—and when he came to the gallows and should climb up the ladder, he rested on each step. On the top step he sat down and asked if they could refuse him him a wish, if he might be allowed to do one thing. He had such a desire to sound a tune and play a melody on his fiddle before they hanged him. No, it was both a sin and a shame to refuse him this, they said; there was no refusal to what he asked for. But the sheriff begged that for God’s sake they should not let him even pluck a string, else it would be over for all of them. Should the boy be allowed to play, then they should tie him to the birch that stood there.

Veslefrikk was not slow in getting the fiddle to sound, and everyone who was there began to dance, both those who walked on two, and those who went on four—both prevost and parson and magistrate and bailiff and sheriff and master, and dogs and swine. They danced and laughed and cried one upon the other. Some danced until they lay as dead, some danced until they fainted. It went badly with them all, but it went worst of all with the sheriff, for he stood tied to the birch and danced and scoured large chunks of his back off on it. There was none who thought of doing anything to Veslefrikk, and he got to leave with his gun and his fiddle as he would, and he lived well all his days, for there was none who could refuse the first thing he asked for.

  1. Vesle = tiny. 

Saturday, 30 September 2017

The Charcoal Burner

There was, upon a time, a charcoal burner who had a son, and he was also a charcoal burner. When his father was dead, the son married, but he did not want to do anything; he was terrible at watching the stacks, too, and finally no one wanted him to burn charcoal any more. But then he did burn a stack once, and travelled to town with some loads of charcoal for sale, and when he had sold them, he wandered out on to the town street, and looked around. On the way home, he fell in with some neighbours and village folk, and boasted and drank and talked of everything he had seen in the town. The funniest thing he had seen, he said, was that there were so many parsons there, and all the folk went up to them to greet them and doffed their caps for them; “I wish I were a parson, too, so perhaps they would greet me, too; now they pretend not to see me,” he said.

“Well, if nothing else, then you are black enough,” said the charcoal burner’s neighbours; “but as we are out travelling anyway, then we can go to the auction after the old parson, and have us a dram, and meanwhile, you can buy a gown and collar,” they said. So they did so, and when he came home, he had not one shilling left.

“I suppose you have both means of living and shillings, now,” said his wife.

“Yes, now there shall be means of living, mother,” said the charcoal burner, “for now I have become a parson,” he said. “Here you can see both gown and collar.”

“You want me to believe that; strong beer makes for strong words,” said his wife. “You are just as happy, no matter which end turns up,” she said.

“You shall neither complain nor boast of the stack before the kiln is cool,” said the charcoal burner.

Then there came a day that so many parson-dressed folk went past the charcoal burner’s, on their way to the king’s farm, that they understood that something was going on there. Yes, the charcoal burner wanted to go with them, he too, and dressed in his parson clothes. His wife said that it was just as well to remain at home, for if he got a shilling for holding some big fellow’s horse, then she supposed the tobacco-shilling would go down his throat.

“Everyone talks of drink, but none of the thirst, mother,” said the charcoal burner; “the more one drinks, the more one thirsts,” he said, sweeping out to the king’s farm.

There all the strangers were bidden into the king, and the charcoal burner followed along, he too.

Then the king said to them that he had lost his costliest finger ring, and he thought it had been stolen. Therefore he had bidden all the parson-schooled in the land, to see if one of them could tell him who the thief was. And then he promised to reward the one who could tell him: were he still a student parson, he would receive a position; were he a parson, he would be a provost; were he a provost, he would be a bishop; were he a bishop, he would be second only to the king. Then the king went from one to the next, and asked them every one, and when he came to the charcoal burner, then he said: “Who are you?”

“I am the wise parson, and the true prophet,” said the charcoal burner.

“So I suppose you can tell me who has taken my ring, then,” said the king.

“Yes, it is not completely meaningless that nothing is kept secret, but that it should come abroad,” said the charcoal burner, “but it is not every year that the salmon plays in the pine tops,” he said. “Now, I have read for seven years for me and mine, and have not received a position yet, so if the thief should be exposed, then I must have good time and a lot of paper, for I must write and calculate through many a land.”

Yes, he should have good time, and as much paper as he wanted, so long as he could bring forth the thief.

So he came up to a chamber in the king’s farm, and it was not long before they understood that he must know more than “Our Father,” for he wrote on so much paper that it lay there in huge heaps and piles, and there was not one who understood a word of what he wrote, for it just looked like hooks and crow’s feet. But time passed, and he did not get to know of any thief. So the king grew weary of it, and so he said that if he could not bring forth the thief in three days, then he should lose his life.

“He who will rule should not be in a hurry; one should not shovel the charcoal out before the stack is extinguished,” said the charcoal burner. But the king insisted, and the charcoal burner understood that his life was worth little.

Now, there were three king’s servants, who served for him on each their day, and these three had agreed together to steal the ring. When the first servant came in and cleared the table or tidied after supper, and went out again, the charcoal burner sighed a deep sigh, looking after him: “That was the first,” he said; he meant the first of three days he had left of his life.

“This parson can do more than feed himself,” said the servant, when he got his comrades by himself, and then he told them how he had said that, “I was the first, he said.”

The second, who served him the next day, should take note of what he said, and right enough, when he took out the supper things, the charcoal burner glared greatly at him, and sighed deeply, and then he said: “That was the second.”

Then the third should take note of how he behaved himself on the third day, and things went worse, not better; for when the servant took hold of the door to go out with the cups and plates, then the charcoal burner folded his hands and said: “That was the third,” and then he sighed as if his heart would break.

He came out so frightened that he could hardly breathe, and said that it was obvious that the parson knew it, and so they went in and fell on their knees and beseeched and blessed that he must not tell who it was who had taken the ring; they would gladly give him a hundred dollars each if he would not send them to their ruin. He promised so, both certainly and well; they would not come to ruin when he got the money and the ring and a great dollop of porridge. This he balled properly around the ring and then he let one of them give it to the king’s biggest boar, and tend it so that it did not give it from itself again.

In the morning, the king came, and he was not pleased, and wanted the thief immediately.

“Yes, now I have calculated and written through many countries,” said the charcoal burner, “but it is no person who has stolen the ring,” he said.

“Puh! Who is it, then?” said the king.

“Oh, it is the king’s biggest boar,” said the charcoal burner. So they took and slaughtered the boar, and it had the ring in it, that was true enough.

So the charcoal burner received a position as parson, and the king was so glad that he gave him horses and a farm and a hundred dollars, too. The charcoal burner was not slow to move, and the first Sunday he took up his position, he should go to church to read out his commission; but before he went, he was to have some lunch, so he laid his commission from him on the flatbread, but made a mistake, and dipped the letter into his soup, and when he felt how tough it was to chew, he gave the dog the whole thing, and it gulped it all down at once.

Now he did not know what to do. But to church he had to go, for the congregation was waiting, and when he arrived there, he went straight up into the pulpit. There he began to assert himself such that everyone thought: this certainly is a fine parson. But as things continued, it was not so fine any more.

“The words, my audience, that you should have heard this day, fed the dogs; but come another Sunday, my dear parishioners, then you will hear something else! And this sermon is over.”

This, thought everyone, was an odd parson, for such a sermon had they never heard; but then they said: he had better improve, and does he not, then there shall be a meeting with him.

The next Sunday there was a new mass; it was so full of folk who would listen to the parson that there was hardly room for them in the church. Yes, he came then, too, and immediately went up into the pulpit; there he stood a while without saying a word; but then he thundered all at once: “Listen, you, old buck-Berit, why do you sit so far back in the church?”

“Oh, my shoes are all broken, father,” she said.

“Oh, you could take an old sow skin and make yourself new shoes, so you could come as far forward in the church as the other gentlewomen—. Besides, you must consider which way you take; for I see when you come to church, then some come from the north, and some from the south; and the same it is when you leave church again; but you stop, I suppose, and thus I ask you where you go. Yes, who knows where any of us go? And I should inform you of a black mare that has been lost to our old parson-mother. She has feathered hoofs and a hanging mane and more of such which I will not mention in this place. And also, I have a hole in my trouser pocket, I know so, but you do not; but if you have a patch that might fit the hole, that neither you nor I know.”

This sermon were some of the congregation well-satisfied with. They thought nothing other than that he might make a good parson out of himself, in time, they said. But most of them thought it was far too bad, and when there was a meeting with the provost, then they complained about the parson, and said that these were sermons the like of which no one had heard before, and there there was one who remembered the last one, and read it up for the provost.

This was a very good sermon, said the provost; given that he had spoken in parables of seeking the light and eschewing the darkness and its deeds, of those who walk the broad and the narrow paths; and especially, he said, it was how he informed of the black parson’s mare, a glorious parable of how things should turn out for us in the end. The pocket with the hole in, that should mean his need, and the patch was the sacrifice and mild gifts he expected from the church, said the provost.

“Yes, we understood so much, we too, it was the parson’s pouch, it was,” they also said.

Finally, the prevost said he thought the church had got such a good and wise parson that they should not complain about him, and finally, that they would not get another; but as they thought things grew worse rather than better, they complained to the bishop.

Yes, after a long, long while, he came too, and there there was to be a conference with the bishop. But the day before, the charcoal burner had been in the church, so that no one knew about it, and had sawn loose the pulpit, so that it barely hung there when one carefully went up on to it. Then, when the church was gathered, and he should preach for the bishop, he hobbled up into the pulpit, and began to expound, as he was wont to; but when he had carried on a while, he began to go harder, struck out with his arms and cried loudly: “If there be any here who has any evil misdeed against them, then it is best that he leave this place; for on this day there shall be an occurrance the like of which has not taken place since the creation of the world.” And with that, he struck the pulpit so that it thundered, and the pulpit and the parson and the whole lot fell down off the church wall with a crash, so the congregation rushed out of the church as if the last day had come.

But then the bishop said to the congregation that he wondered how the church could complain against such a parson who had such gifts in the pulpit, and so much wisdom that he could foretell coming events. He thought he ought at least be a provost, and it was not long before he was that, either. So there was nothing for it; they had to put up with him.

Now it was such that the king and queen there in the country had no children, but when the king heard that there might be one on the way, he was curious to know if it was to be an heir to the country and kingdom, or if it was merely to be a princess. So all the learnéd men in the land gathered to the castle, so they might tell what it would be. But when there was none of them who could, then both the king and the bishop remembered the charcoal burner, and it was not long before they called him in, to ask him about it. No, he could not do it either, he said, for it was no good to guess what no one could know.

“Yes, yes,” said the king, “I am just as happy whether you know it or not, I am, but you are the wise parson and the true prophet, and can foretell approaching things, and if you will tell it, then you shall lose both gown and collar,” said the king. “But it does not matter; I will try you first,” he said, and he took the largest silver goblet he owned and went down to the strand. “Can you tell me what is in this goblet,” said the king, “then you can probably tell the other thing, too,” he said, holding the lid of the goblet.

The charcoal burner wrung his hands and misbehaved: “Oh you unhappiest of creeps and crabs on this earth; what do you have to show for all your wear and tear?” he said.

“Yes, there you see that you know it,” said the king, for he had a large crab in the silver goblet. So the charcoal burner had to go into the queen’s hall. He took a chair and sat down in the middle of the floor, and the queen walked back and forth in the hall.

“One should not make a stall for an unborn calf, neither argue about a name before the child is born,” said the charcoal burner; “but such have I never seen nor heard,” he said. “When the queen walks towards me, then I think it is to be a prince, and when she walks away from me, then it looks as if it will be a princess.”

It was twins, so the charcoal burner was right on this occasion, too. And for foretelling what no one could guess, he got money by the load, and then he was the highest next to the king.

Trip, trap, trill; here is more than he will.

“Shoo, puss! Will you get off the table!”

There was a boy who would out a-courting, once upon a time. It was far away in an isolated valley. Everything was old-fashioned with the people he visited: they lived in a smokey cabin, where the smoke rose, and the light came down, through a smoke hole. Here there was an elligible girl who was so beautiful that she was sought after, but she too had a fault.

They received the suitor well enough, but as they set the table both with lefses and flatbread and cured ham and sour-cream porridge, and a large pat of butter, there was a tear in an article of clothing that needed tacking together quickly. For that they needed a needle, but there was no sewing needle to be found.

Then the mother in the cabin said: “You should be looking, too, my daughter, you whose vision is so good.” Well, she began looking, both high and low. At last, she began to look along the pole used to open the smoke hole.

“There it is,” she said: “up top, by the opening.” No one could see a sewing needle up there. However, when the needle had been retrieved, and the tear had been darned together, everything seemed to be well and good, and the girl paced importantly around on the earthen floor. But they had a ginger cat, there in the cabin; she thought it had sat down on the table—but it was the pat of butter she mistook for the cat—and she slapped the pat of butter so that it splattered against the wall: “Shoo! Will you get off the table, puss!” she said.

The girl obviously had good vision.

The Cockerel Who Fell into the Brewing Vat

There was once, upon a time, a tuppe and a toppe who went out into the field and scratched and kicked and pecked.

Just like that, the hen found a grain of barley, and the cockerel a hops bud, and they were going to grow malt and brew some Christmas beer.

“I pluck the barley and I malt the malt, and brew beer, and the beer is good,” clucked the hen.

“Is the beer good and strong?” said the cockerel, flying up on to the edge of the vat, and he would take a taste. But when he should bow himself to drink a drop, he began to flap his wings, and then he fell head first into the brewing vat and drowned.

When the hen saw this, she was so terribly upset that she flew up on to the mantlepiece and began to cry and weep. “Buck, buck, buck, ba-karr! Buck, buck, buck, ba-karr!” she screamed continuously, and would never stop.

“What has upset you, Tuppe mother hen, since you grieve and weep so?” said the hand quern.

“Well, Toppe the father cockerel fell into the brewing vat and drowned, and there he lies dead,” said the hen; “therefore do I grieve and weep,” said the hen.

“Well, if I can do aught else, then I shall grind and mill,” said the hand quern, beginning to grind with all its might.

When the chair heard this, then it said, “What is the matter, quern, since you grind and mill so?”

“Well, Toppe the father cockerel fell into the brewing vat and drowned, Tuppe the mother hen sits upon the wall shelf and grieves and weeps, therefore do I grind and mill,” said the hand quern.

“Can I do aught else, then shall I rock,” said the chair, beginning to creak and groan.

This the door heard, and it said to it: “What is wrong with you? Why are you rocking, chair?”

“Well, Toppe the father cockerel fell into the brewing vat and drowned, Tuppe the mother hen sits upon the wall shelf and grieves and weeps, the quern grinds and mills, therefore do I creak and groan,” said the chair.

“Well, can I do aught else, then I can open and slam,” said the door, and began to fly open and slam shut, and sound and noise so that it went into the marrow of one’s bones.

This heard the sawdust bin.

“Why do you open and slam so, you door?” it said.

“Well, Toppe the father cockerel fell into the brewing vat and drowned, Tuppe the mother hen sits upon the wall shelf and grieves and weeps, the quern grinds and mills, the chair creaks and groans, therefore do I open and slam,” said the door.

“Well, can I do aught else, then I shall flurry and smoke,” said the sawdust bin, beginning to smoke so that the parlour stood in a fog.

This saw the rake that stood outside, looking in through the window.

“Why do you flurry so, sawdust bin?” it said.

“Well, Toppe the father cockerel fell into the brewing vat and drowned, Tuppe the mother hen sits upon the wall shelf and grieves and weeps, the quern grinds and mills, the chair creaks and groans, the door opens and slams, therefore do I flurry and smoke,” said the sawdust bin.

“Well, can I do aught else, then I can rasp and rake,” it said, beginning to rake around about.

This the aspen stood watching.

“Why do you rasp and rake so, rake?” it said.

“Well, Toppe the father cockerel fell into the brewing vat and drowned, Tuppe the mother hen sits upon the wall shelf and grieves and weeps, the quern grinds and mills, the chair creaks and groans, the door opens and slams, the sawdust bin flurries and smokes, therefore do I rasp and rake,” said the rake.

“Well, can I do aught else, then I shall quiver and quake in my leaves.”

This the birds noticed.

“Why do you quiver and quake so, aspen?” said the birds to it.

“Toppe the father cockerel fell into the brewing vat and drowned, Tuppe the mother hen sits upon the wall shelf and grieves and weeps, the quern grinds and mills, the chair creaks and groans, the door opens and slams, the sawdust bin flurries and smokes, the rake rasps and rakes, therefore do I quiver and quake,” said the aspen.

“Well, can we do aught else, then we will pluck our feathers off us,” said the birds, beginning to pick and pluck so their feathers flurried.

This stood the man, watching, and so he asked the birds: “Why do you pluck your feathers off you, birds?”

“Well, Toppe the father cockerel fell into the brewing vat and drowned, Tuppe the mother hen sits upon the wall shelf and grieves and weeps, the quern grinds and mills, the chair creaks and groans, the door opens and slams, the sawdust bin flurries and smokes, the rake rasps and rakes, the aspen quivers and quakes, therefore do we pick and pluck the feathers off ourselves,” said the birds.

“Well, can I do aught else, then I will pull the apart the besoms,” said the man, beginning to rip and pull the besoms so that the twigs flew both east and west.

His wife stood cooking porridge for supper, watching this.

“Why do you pull apart the besoms, husband?” she asked.

“Well, Toppe the father cockerel fell into the brewing vat and drowned, Tuppe the mother hen sits upon the wall shelf and grieves and weeps, the quern grinds and mills, the chair creaks and groans, the door opens and slams, the sawdust bin flurries and smokes, the rake rasps and rakes, the aspen quivers and quakes, the birds pick and pluck their feathers off themselves, therefore do I pull apart the besoms,” said the man.

“Well, then I will smear the porridge around, too,” said his wife, and that she did, too; she took one spoonful after the other and smeared it all around the walls, so that no one could see what they were made of for the porridge.

Then they drank the wake of the cockerel who fell into the brewing vat and drowned, and if you will not believe it, then you can go thence and taste both of the beer and of the porridge.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Ivar Pennskjegg

A little bit of folk-horror as we approach Halloween. “Pennskjegg” means sparse-/ thin-beard, perhaps pretty-beard.

Ivar Pennskjegg

There was one called Ivar Pennskjegg. He was so fine on the outside. But he was a murderer.

So there was a fine maid on a farm whom he was so fond of. So he asked her home to him.

“I cannot find my way there,” she said.

“I shall lay a red thread out, all the way across my meadow, so you shall merely follow the thread,” he said.

So she found her way. First she came into a large parlour. There was it extremely fine. It was as if it shone everywhere.

And in the midst of the floor stood a large mirror. Then she opened the bedchamber door, and there she saw a bowl of blood and a man’s head on a table.

Then she lifted the cellar hatch, and there it was full of dead folk. Then she heard such a whining. Then she sprang into the parlour and hid herself behind the mirror.

Then in came Ivar Pennskjeggwith a fine maiden and went out into the bedchamber. And then he said this:

“Will you drink of the bowl of blood and eat of the man’s head, then you shall live. And if you will not, then you shall die.”

And she was not good for it.

So first he chopped off her little finger. And he threw it behind the mirror. Then the maid took and hid the finger. There was a fine gold ring on it.

Then Ivar chopped off her head and cast her down into the cellar. Now he rose and closed the door.

Then she was so angry, she wept and wailed. Then she prayed to God that the door would open so that she might come out again. She did so. Then was she so glad that she came home again. Then Ivar came to the farm and asked her again.

“You shall come to me first, you,” she said.

So he came. And then there was a great banquet. And there should each tell their dream. So she told:

“I dreamed that I once was lost. And I did not know where I was. And then it said from away on the farm: ‘I shall lay a red thread from your home all the way to mine, so you don’t get lost.’”

“That was just like me,” said Ivar.

“Then I came in and there stood a great mirror in the midst of the floor. And there it was so fine that it shone to the walls.”

“That was just like at mine,” said Ivar.

“Then I opened the bedchamber door and on a table there stood a bowl of blood with a man’s head by it. Then I lifted the cellar hatch, and if was full of dead folk.”

“That was not just like at mine.”

“Then I heard such a whining. So I sprang into the parlour and hid myself behind the mirror. Then he came in with a fine maiden and went into the bedchamber. And then he said this:

“‘Will you drink of the bowl of blood and eat of the man’s head, then you shall live. And if you will not, then you shall die.’

“And she was not good for it.

“So first he chopped off her little finger. And he threw it behind the mirror where I was. So I took her finger. There was a fine gold ring on it. Then he chopped off her head and stuffed her down into the cellar.”

“That was not just like at mine.”

“That was that, that. And if you will not believe me, then you shall see.”

Then she threw the finger with the ring on to the table.

Then he was taken and made an end of.

So he did not kill any more fine maidens.

And she got everything that he left behind.

  • Date: 1915
  • Location: Sunndal, Møre og Romsdal
  • Informant: Ann Tronsatter Gravem after Hælg Olsdatter Kalløra
  • Collector: E. Langset

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

The Jøtul’s Servant Boy

The following tale is a variant of Askeladden Who Had an Eating Competition with a Troll. This variant is, in my opinion, much livelier that that which Asbjørnsen and Moe published.

The Jøtul’s Servant Boy

There was, upon a time, a jøtul who wanted a servant boy, and at last he got one, too, and he was a little rascal in whom there was no strength; but he was such a fellow to talk for himself that he appeared better than those who were big and strong.

So the jøtul would try him, to see if he was good for anything, and so he bade him go and fetch some water, and made him a couple of buckets to carry it in; but his buckets were so big and heavy that the boy was not able even to lift them off the ground, nor would he even try to, either.

He said that he would do nothing with the buckets, it was nothing for him to go carrying water in buckets; he would rather carry the whole well home at once, or he would not bother. The jøtul did not want this. He would go himself, instead, and fetch the water home in water buckets, and leave the well for next time.

Then he bade the boy bring in a clutch of firewood, but it was not small twigs he used, this fellow; they were big logs the size of treetrunks.

So the boy said that it was hardly worth going and getting a clutch of firewood; he was not used to such easy work. No, when he took a mind to it, he would bring in the whole woodshed at once. This the jøtul thought was too much, and so he would carry the firewood in, himself.

So the jøtul came in with the firewood and laid some kindling in the pit, and bade the boy light the fire. So the boy began to blow into the embers, but he was no good at getting it to burn, before the jøtul came and began to blow, himself. Then it was a different matter; he blew so that the wind gusted from him, so strongly that the boy was lifted off the floor and blew up into the vent, as if he were a fly.

“Where are you off to?” said the jøtul?

“Can’t you see I am dancing?” said the boy. “I thought about our cooking and eating some food, and when I saw that it began to burn, I grew so glad that I couldn’t help myself; I got up and took a little turn.”

So the jøtul cooked some porridge and poured it into a bowl, and then they began to eat. So the jøtul said that they should eat a contest, and see if the boy was good enough to meet him in the middle of the bowl.

The boy said that he would just pop out and put on a cardigan, and so he went out and he found and big knapsack, which he tied before his belly, and put a cardigan over it. Then he went in again and pretended to eat a contest with the jøtul, but he put in the bag much more than he ate, but the jøtul did not notice.

Afterwards, the jøtul said they should go out and jump a contest, and then he would see if the boy wouldn’t lose. The boy was not very good at jumping because of the knapsack he was carrying.

“I think I have a trick for this belly, first, for I feel that it is full,” he said, and so he took out his knife and cut into his cardigan and into the bag, so that the porridge fell out, and then he could jump so easily that he went like a bird around the jøtul.

So the jøtul grew afraid that the boy would win, and so he thought that he had better use the same trick that the boy had used. So he took his knife and cut, like the boy had cut. But he was unfortunate with his belly, and then he was no more.

“Now, I doubt but that you have finished jumping,” said the boy, and so he went in and took all his money, and then he went home again.

  • Location: Voss, Hordaland
  • Collector: Ivar Aasen

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Further Legends of the Fylgje

Previous legends here: “The Hug, the Vardøger, and the Fylgje.”

It seems that any appearance of a person’s spirit, be they alive or dead, may be interpreted as their fylgje. Here the legends turn dark…

The Mo-men and the Revenge of the Dead

The two brothers Peder and Johannes Mo were renowned as fox trappers. The foxes came straight to the farm and into the trap just outside the cabin door. The folk of the village speculated about whether or not the fox trapping was quite natural, and in this they were not wholly wrong, either.

The brothers had a sister called Rebekka, who was the milkmaid for one of the brothers. One evening, when she stood in the barn, taking hay for the livestock, she grabbed hold of something unpleasant, which felt like a human head. She went into the shed for the lantern, and then she saw that it really was a human head, too, off which the flesh had been partially scraped.

On a plank above the stacks of hay, there lay two more heads, which smelled of the brothers’ skis and fox traps. She understood then what kind of bait the brothers used and what they waxed their skis with, when they went into the forest, to lure the foxes into the traps.

Rebekka was filled with such disgust for her brothers that she fled from service and would never go back. Neither did she remain silent about what she had seen or what she knew, and from that time, they never used a Mo-man to dig any graves.


One Tollev’s eve some years later, the two brothers sat drinking together. They also mocked the stupid superstition of the folk, and their fear of the dead. In order to trap the foxes, they had taken a limb here, a lump of fat there, and no revenant had hindered them so far, nor made them suffer for it, they said.

“But you are not completely free of fear,” said Johannes to his brother. “I bet you don’t dare go up to the church, and take the missal from the altar, for if the dead shall ever be out, then it will be tonight, as dark as it is.”

But Peder was brave. He wagered Johannes a jug of brandy, and went to the church.

Just as the clock struck twelve midnight, he walked into the churchyard through the western gate. But hardly had he closed the gate behind him before he was surrounded by the dead. They were so many that they filled the churchyard, and it was impossible for Peder to go forwards. It was also impossible for him to go back; and he was pushed and pressed towards the southern gate and further in the direction of Svartdalen.

It occured to him that, if he could reach the bottom of Svartdalen, and wade across the Mo brook, he would escape the revenants, as they dare not cross running water. This plan succeeded, and he followed the southern side of the brook, down towards the sea. Here, by the mouth of the brook, he crossed again, and was allowed unhindered home. He went straight into the loft and went to bed without going down to his wife. She sat down in the parlour, waiting for him.

He called for her, but merely asked her to put out the light before she came into him. She misheard or misunderstood, and came in with the burning candle in her hand.

“Now I am lost,” he exclaimed. “Had I but slept until morning without seeing a candle, I would have been saved; but now the dead will fall upon me and kill me.”

He then told her what he had experienced since he had gone out to fetch the missal; and he had hardly finished his story before the dead swarmed into the chamber. Enraged, they grasped him by the throat, and throttled him in front of his wife.

Some time later, the brother Johannes was also struck by the dead, which was the death of him.

This revenge of the dead did not come unexpectedly. The village folk had even wondered that the revenge had come so late. But the fate of the Mo-men, even today, appears to have been a warning to those who might decide to improve their trapping by the dark arts.


Punished Theft of Human Bones

The Swede Ole Rønlund was, in deference to his fatherland’s law, moved over to Norway, and had settled in southern Krogstrand. He had once heard of the usefulness of possessing a bone of the dead. Using it, one could bind a thief, and force him to carry the bounty back, and one could conjure the dead to whom the bone had belonged, and ask for advice.

Ole determined to get hold of such a bone, and at the very first opportunity, he stole one from the churchyard. He knew, of course, that this was a dangerous experiment, and he therefore commissioned Erik Kristiansen Siljelid to drive him from Mo to Skonseng.

The conditions were good, and by midnight, the driver was holding the horse and sleigh by the north gate of the churchyard. Ole had already stolen the bone, and hidden it in the churchyard, so now he could simply go in and fetch it. But as he grasped the bone, he was surrounded by the dead. He struck out around himself, and went backwards out of the churchyard gate; backwards he also threw himself on to the sleigh, fencing both with arms and legs, to keep the crowd of the dead at bay until he was rid of them at the crossroads to Gullsmedsvigen. He came from this unscathed, and thought the danger was now over.

But unfortunately, he was a dilettante, as they say; for hardly had he fallen asleep before he was accosted by the dead whose bone he had stolen. And, for head and for neck, he had to take the bone back that same night. With a supplication of forgiveness, he laid the bone whence he had taken it, and he had to be thankful that he escaped with his life.


The Fylgje as Gjenganger

Jens Strømmen had been a merchant for close to 40 years. He was rich and owned two farms, Strømmen and Sjøvigen. Both he and his wife were miserly folk, and they would never hear of being parted from their worldly goods, or of dying.

But the the wife died—it was a Saturday, and next Saturday the husband also died.

Soon afterwards, the wife began to walk again, and she nearly scared the life out of folk, slamming doors, or by breaking plates and kitchenware.

She continued this for several years, and folk dared not go out at night because of her.

One day, she came and said to her daughter’s daughter, who was with child, that she would take the child to her, but she comforted the horrified mother by telling her that the child would be looked after. And so it went; the child died as soon as it was born.

The husband also began to walk again. He went around all the time, and took care of the things he had left behind.

Then his daughter’s daughter’s husband said to him on one occasion, that both he and the other heirs were content with the inheritance that had fallen to them.

And from that time they never again saw the fylgjes of the deceased.

Olsen, O. T. Norske folkeeventyr og sagn, 1912.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

The Hug, the Vardøger, and the Fylgje

The hug (pronounced “hoog”) is an interesting relic of the pre-Christian Norse world view. One of Odin's ravens was called Huginn, which is the same word in Old Norse (the other, Muninn represents will, remembrance). Note: “Hugin and Munin don’t have distinct personalities. They’re a duplicate form of the same underlying idea.” (The source goes on to discuss the shamanistic dimension of the anthropomorphism of mind and thought in totemic animals.)

Hug is still a current word in Norwegian, meaning mind or thought (“å komme i hug” (to come in mind/ thought) is how Norwegians express “to remember”).


A vardøger (pronounced “VAR-dög-er,” “VAR-doeg-er” where the “ö” or “oe” sound is the first vowel in “Goethe”, or the sound of the “-uh” in “puh!”) is a working of the hug, described as a kind of premonitionary déjà-vu. A recurring experience, common even today, is when someone in the house hears a key in the front door, a footfall on the stair, the sound of someone taking off and storing their outer clothing, only for there to be no one behind the noises. A while later, the same sounds will be heard again, but this time, the person will enter the building.


A fylgje (a companion, a follower) appears to be a further concretisation of the vardøger. Here, a spirit will manifest itself to act on behalf of its host. I have read somewhere that if you meet your fylje, you will die, which means that the nautical draugen is a fylje (although he is anything but benevolent).

It is all but impossible to separate the vardøger from the fylgje, and as you will see below, any distinction appears relatively unimportant to those who have had experiences with them. Here, then, is a selection of legends collected in northern Norway in 1870, by Ole Tobias Olsen. (All published in Olsen, O. T. Norske folkeeventyr og sagn, 1912.)

The Fylgje Warns of the Smith’s Boy’s Death

Around 1840 there lived in Hammerfest a smith and his wife, who were among the most respectable folk of the town. The man had an apprentice who worked in the workshop and had his bedchamber on the first floor of the workshop, to which there was a steep staircase.

One day, the smith took an order for some work for a man on one of the neighbouring islands. The boy was sent over there to carry out the work, and was expected to return when he, in a couple of days, was finished.

The same day he should come home, his mistress the smith’s wife stood in the kitchen, cooking porridge. Then the boy steps in, dressed in his neatest blue suit for travelling, and stands by the door. The wife looks at him and wonders. She knew his work could not be finished so early, that he should not have been able to finish so early, and thus be home, and she soon realised that it was the boy’s fylgje she saw before her. She wondered what this visit could mean, and what the boy’s fylgje had to warn of. She thus bravely addressed the fylgje with these words: “If you are one of the good messengers, then stand; but if you are of the evil, then go!” As soon as she uttered these words, the figure appeared to glide out through the doorway and disappear. The wife ran immediately after, to see which direction the fylgje went, but it was as blown away, and the wife went back to her work, reflecting on the vision.

Late in the evening the boy came home, ate, and then went to bed. In the night he got up to go outdoors. He had stumbled over a stack of iron bars on the workshop floor, and died there and then.

Then they understood that the fylgje had wanted to warn that the boy was finished, not just with his work on the island, but also with his life’s work.


Fru Ingjær’s Fylgja

The parson Ingjær, Rødø, should once travel to visit a school inwards up Melfjord. Before he travelled, he asked his wife, who was in blessed circumstances, if he dare be away from her. She replied that he could safely dare, as she was not expecting to deliver her offspring for a time yet. With this message, the parson travelled, to stay away for at most eight days.

He hurried as best he could, and had already come as far as to Rønviken on the way back, and was about a league from home. Here the bad weather forced him to seek shelter, despite his determined resolution to reach home that same evening; but the boatsmen refused to shove off in such weather.

The parson, therefore, asked the boatsmen to keep their eye on the weather, and wake him straightway it turned such that they could shove off. He retired with his clothes on, so that he might be ready at any time to board the boat; but he lay quite awake, smoking his pipe until just after midnight. Then he saw the door suddenly open, and his wife came in, and began to talk to him.

She was ready for her great voyage, she said, and would he meet her, then he would have to hurry to come straightway. With that she closed the door after herself, and disappeared.

The parson, aghast, rose and went out. He woke the boatsmen, and bade them for God’s sake to hurry, so they might shove off. But the weather was still just as inclement. The sea-spray stood in a cloud, and it was impossible to leave shore, let alone cross the Rødøfjord. The parson had therefore to return to his chamber. He still lay in his clothes, thinking.

Then the door opened again, and again he saw his wife come in.

“If you want to meet me, then you must come straightway,” she said, and disappeared.

Again the parson rushed up and got hold of the boatsmen. “Now we shall go,” he said, “whatever the weather. Now we have to shove off.”

The folk thought that the parson had a screw loose; but they let themselves be pursuaded to go out to the boat and shove off from land.

It was two-o’clock in the morning when they shoved off, and four-o’clock in the morning when they finally—with great effort, and in danger of their lives—arrived ashore on Rødø.

The parson sprang out of the boat and ran to the parsonage aw quickly as he could.

Out in the courtyard, he met madam Jentoft. He asked her how things stood, and she replied that, under the circumstances, things stood not well. She bade him go upstairs, to get out of his clothes and warm himself, before going in to see his wife.

He did so, and sat a while in a chair in the upstairs salon, with his his wife lying in the chamber below. Then the door opens, and his wife’s fylgje comes in to him a third time.

“If you want to bid me farewell, then come straightway,” she said, and disappeared.

The parson sprang up, aghast, and rushed to the door, to go down the stairs; but here he fainted, and remained lying until folk came and helped him up.

As soon as he had regained his senses, he hurried in to his wife, who lay, already struggling for breath.

She recognised him and reached out her hand. He had hardly managed to grasp it and bend himself over her before she gave up the ghost.


The Fylgje as Vardøger

When Jacob Nilsen Tjern one evening sat at table with his folks, a vardøger came and began to rankle some carpentry tools that lay on a shelf above his head. Both he and all his folk noticed the noise from the tools, and it repeated itself several times.

“Let the tools lie,” said Jacob. “When we have occasion to use them, then we will use them.”

Straightway it fell quiet and the tools were left alone. But before Jacob got up the next morning, he received a message from Peder Olsen Toftlien, that his son was dead, and that he had to make a coffin for the deceased.

Peder soon began to make the coffin, and in that connection he had use for the carpentry tools.

He understood well that it was the fylgje of the deceased, who had been out to warn him.


Karen Nilsdatter’s Vardøger

Another time, Jacob Nilsen sat together with all his folk in the cabin, when he again received a warning by means of a fylgje. He and his folk namely heard a plank up in the loft lifted into the air and dropped again. Jacob soon understood what this should mean.

“Let the board lie; when the time comes, we shall surely use it,” he said.

Hardly had he said these words before everything fell quiet. A hour afterwards a messenger from Kvanlien arrived there.

The wife on the farm, Karen Nilsdatter, whose mother, old Karen, had had dealings with the subterraneans, was dead, and Jacob was bidden to make a coffin for the dead.

As he was in need of materials, he had to take the board that the vardøger had played with, and use it for Karen’s coffin.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017


Olav Eivindson Austad (1843–1929) was perhaps the greatest storyteller from Setesdal in Agder, and an informant to Jørgen Moe, Knut Liestøl, Torleiv Hannaas, and others. His tales have some amusing angles, compared with other variants. Take, for example, the attached variant (↓) of “The Molly of Dovre


There was a boy who came one Christmas Eve to a man and asked to be housed.

“Yes,” said the man, “you may be housed; but hither come so many trolls this evening that we have to flee, ourselves.”

“Oh yes, but as long as I am housed,” said the boy, “then I will stay anyway.”

“Yes, you shall certainly be housed,” said the man. “And you may eat and drink as much as you will. But we shall flee.”

When they had gone, the boy sat at the table and began to eat and drink. When he had done so, he clambered up onto a plank in the loft, and lay down there.

Then there came in so many trolls that there was no moderation. Some were big, and some were small. And one was so big that it was chilling, and with a nose so long that it mostly lay beneath the table. He was the tallest, and he should sit in the highest seat.

Then they began to eat, and then they were down in the cellar for beer. And they came with their cups, and they said:

“I will pour you some, Trond! I will pour you some, Trond!”

“I will pour you some, Trond!” said the boy—then he fired, and shot off him his long nose.

Then they began to wail and scream, and haul and drag him out. When they came out into the courtyard, no one has ever heard such a wailing.

Then it called out from the mountain:

“What kind of racket are they making?”

And they answered:

“Big brother Berrfjell has lost his nose.”

“Ha ha ha!” they replied, and laughed so well.