Thursday, 17 December 2015

A Tale from “Legends from the Mill”

I have been busy, busy, busy at work before Christmas, so I have had little time to prepare something more substantial, this #FolkloreThursday. I have, however, taken the time to pluck the following folktale out of my draft of Peter Christen Asbjørnsen’s “Legends from the Mill”, so that you have something from the folklore of Norway to enjoy this week.

It was up in the country somewhere, and no one could mill there, for the place was full of enchantment. But there was a poor woman who simply had to mill a little grain one evening, and she asked if she might be allowed to mill there that night.

“God bless me, no!” said the man who owned the mill. “You can’t mill there tonight: it won’t do you any good, nor the mill,” he said. But the woman said she had to be allowed to mill, for she hadn’t enough flour to boil gruel, and had nothing for her children to eat. So finally she was allowed to go to the mill and mill at night.

When she got there, she built the fire up under a pot of tar that stood there, got the mill running, and sat down to darn a stocking by the hearth. After a while, a woman came in and greeted her.

“Good evening to you,” she said to the old woman.

“Good evening,” said the old woman. She remained sitting, darning.

But just like that, the woman who had come in began to rake the embers out over the hearth. The old woman began to rake them together again.

“What’s your name, then?” the woman from the netherworld asked the other.

“My name is ‘Aye,’” said the old woman.

She thought that a strange name and began to rake the embers out over the hearth. The old woman began to scold her and rake the embers together again. They continued in this way for quite a while, but eventually the old woman managed to tip the pot of tar over the other. She began to scream and shout, and then ran out and called:

“Father, father, Aye has burned me!”

“Well, if you did it, you’ll have to bear it,” came the reply from the mountain.

My project over the holidays is a new translation of Jonas Lie’s “Elias and the Draug,” to scare your socks off in the new year.

Merry Christmas.

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