Thursday, 8 October 2015

Askeladden Who Had an Eating Contest with a Troll

Once upon a time there was a farmer who had three sons, and he was in dire straits, and old and frail, and his sons would not pull their weight. The farm encompassed a good large forest, and the farmer desired the boys to chop wood in the forest, so that they might pay off some debts. In the fullness of time, he got them thinking along the same lines, and the eldest went out first to chop some wood. When he had come to the forest, and prepared to fell a bearded spruce, a great big troll came to him.

"If you chop down my forest, I'll kill you!" said the troll.

When the boy heard this, he threw down his axe, and fled home any way he could. He arrived home, out of breath, and told of what had transpired, but his father called him a scaredy-cat: the troll had never scared him from chopping wood when he was young, he claimed.

The next day, the second son went on his way, and he fared just the same. When he had felled a few strokes on the spruce, the troll came to him, as well, and said:

"If you chop down my forest, I'll kill you!"

The boy hardly dared look at him before he threw down his axe and fled, like his brother had, and just as quickly. When he came home again, his father was angry and said that never had the troll scared him when he was young.

On the third day, Askeladden wished to go out.

"You?" said the two elder brothers. As if you're going to manage it, you who never has set his foot outside the front door!"

He didn't answer them, Askeladden, but asked only that he might have a good lunch to take with him. His mother had no cheeses, and so she hung up the cauldron to make him some. He put them in his sack, and set off.

After he had chopped a while, the troll came to him and said:

"If you chop down my forest, I'll kill you!"

But the boy wasn't slow; he ran through the forest to the cheeses, and squeezed one, so that the whey ran out of it.

"If you're not quiet," he shouted at the troll, "I'll squeeze you, like I'm squeezing the water out of this stone."

"Oh dear, no. Spare me!" said the troll. "I'll help you chop."

Yes, on that condition, the boy agreed, and the troll was good at chopping, so they managed to fell and hew a good many logs that day.

When the evening was drawing in, the troll said,

"Now come home with me; it's closer to me that to you."

The boy agreed to go with him, and when they arrived home to the troll, he made up the fire, whilst the boy should go for water for the cauldron, but the iron water buckets were so large and heavy that he couldn't so much as move them. So the boy said,

"It's hardly worth taking these thimbles, I'll bring back the whole well."

"Dear me, no!" said the troll. "I can't lose my well. You make up the fire, I'll go for the water."

When he came back with the water, they cooked up a large cauldron of porridge.

"It's all the same to me," said the boy, "but if you're thinking what I'm thinking, we'll see who can eat the most."

"Oh yes!" said the troll, for he was sure that he would win at this.

They sat at the table, but the boy stealthily put on his sack before him, and spooned more into the sack than into himself. When the sack was full, he took out his hunting knife and cut a flap in the sack. The troll watched him, but said nothing.

When they had eaten a good while longer, the troll put down his spoon.

"No, I cannot eat another spoonful," he said.

"You should eat," the boy answered. "I'm not half-full yet. If you do what I did, and cut a hole in your belly, you will be able to eat all you want."

"But doesn't it hurt terribly?" the troll asked.

"Oh, nothing to speak of," answered the boy.

So the troll did as the boy said, and as you can imagine, that was the end of him. But the boy took all the silver and gold there was in the cave, and took it home. He could always pay some of the debts with it.

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