Thursday, 19 May 2016

Legends from the Mill

The sawmill at Brekke, shortly before production ceased.
The frame narrative that surrounds the folk legends contained in this text celebrates the Norwegian landscape, which, the narrator claims, provides necessary relief from the worries of modern life. The restorative quality of the natural world is a theme that Asbjørnsen cultivated through many of his frame narratives.

After the heat of the day, the evening breeze brought a refreshing fragrance from the conifers with it; and the distant, retreating tones of the cuckoo’s evening song put me into a wistful frame of mind.

Here, the narrator, a fictionalised version of Asbjørnsen, walks around Maridal water, and stops to fish in the Aker river, catching little until a passing messenger boy gives him some good advice on his technique. Chilled in the evening air, the pair retire to the warmth of a nearby sawmill, and fall into conversation with an old man who works there. Understanding that this man has some tales to tell, the narrator tells a tale about the mill-snarl. The first tale gets the others telling theirs.

As in most of Asbjørnsen's frame narratives, the final tale is the most significant, as well as the most disturbing. Here, the tale of the witches in the form of cats is put into the rustic mouth of the sawmill worker. In reality, Asbjørnsen received this tale from Camilla Collet, a much more refined source.

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