Thursday, 14 January 2016

The King of Ekeberg

The King of Ekeberg is a lively figure in the folklore of Peter Christen Asbjørnsen. He is an ugly, old mound troll who features in two tales, “On the Alexandrian Height” and “The King of Ekeberg”. He is described as “an ugly, withered old man with red eyes” and “a dry withered trollman, who was seven times the age of the trees”. Happily for him, however, he marries “the step-daughter of the king of Håøykollen”, whom we may assume to be another mound troll. His bride, a beautiful young girl, is “so fine and beautiful beyond measure”.

The neck, who is interested in the wedding of the King of Ekeberg—whether he desires the bride for himself, wants the gold and finery she is wearing, or simply wishes to insult the groom—transforms himself into “a grey horse with a gilded saddle”, lies at the bride’s feet in order that she might mount, and then runs off with her, “so the sparks flew under the horse’s legs”. There is much shouting and fussing. The King of Ekeberg throws himself onto a horse, and sets off in pursuit.

We don’t get to know the outcome of the chase; when we meet the King of Ekeberg again, however, he is an expectant father. With the help of a woman who has unwittingly promised to act as midwife, the queen is delivered. The child, one of “the worthy royal couple’s obedient servants and minions”, is hideous: “his wife always bore the meanest, ugliest changelings: incorrigible screamers with big heads and red eyes, of whom their parents sought to rid themselves as soon as they could”, hence the prevalence of changelings in the area, according to Asbjørnsen.

We last meet the King of Ekeberg in 1814. He has “a diverse load of personal belongings and a great herd of muley and branded cattle”. He is moving to his brother at Kongsberg, in hopes of a quieter life:

the ceaseless drumming and cannon-fire of the military during the last war, the clattering of the great magazine- and baggage carriages that thundered down the road, over the King of Ekeberg’s roof, and shook his house so the silverware rattled on the walls, caused him to despair of his life there.
Ekebergbakken
A view of Ekebergbakken
There is more about the King of Ekeberg’s changelings in a previous post.

No comments:

Post a Comment