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Thursday, 15 September 2016

East of the Sun and West of the Moon

This folktale is the second in my book of Five Norwegian White Bear Tales, where it appears with some different illustrations.

There was once upon a time a poor peasant who had a cabin full of children and not much to give them, neither of food nor clothing. They were all beautiful, yet the youngest, who was beautiful beyond measure, was the most beautiful of all.

One Thursday evening in the late autumn, when the weather was bad – terribly dark, with rain, and such a wind that made the walls creak – and they sat around the hearth, each with something to be getting along with, just like that, there were three knocks at the window. The man went out to see what was afoot, and when he came out, a large white bear stood there.

“Good evening,” said the white bear.

“Good evening,” said the man.

“If you will give me your youngest daughter, I will make you as rich as you now are poor,” he said.

Well, though the man considered it desirable enough to be so rich, he thought too that he should speak with his daughter first, so he went in and said that there was a great white bear outside, who promised to make them rich, if only he might have her. She said no, and that she would not. So the man went out again and agreed with the bear that he should come again on the next Thursday evening for her answer. In the meantime they gave her neither peace nor rest. They spoke of all the riches they would have, counting them, too; they told her how well she would fare, and eventually she gave in. She washed herself, arranged her rags, and adorned herself as best she could, and kept herself ready to travel. There was not much she would be taking with her, though.

The next Thursday evening the white bear came to fetch her. She sat herself on its back, grasping her bundle, and off they went.

When they had gone a good part of their journey, the white bear said: “Are you afraid?”

No, she was not.

“Well, just hold on tight to my rugged coat, and it won’t be dangerous, either,” it said.

She rode and she rode, and after a long distance and time they came to a large mountain. There the white bear knocked, a gate opened, and they entered a castle. There were candles in all the rooms, and it gleamed both of gold and silver. In a great hall stood a table that was set so sumptuously that you cannot imagine how sumptuous it was. The white bear gave her a silver bell. When she wanted something, she needed only to ring it, and then she would have it.

Well, when she had eaten, and as the evening drew on, she grew sleepy from her journey, and thought she would like to go to bed. So she rang the bell. She had hardly touched it, though, before she came into a chamber in which there was a bed made up for someone to lie in, with silken bedspreads and curtains and golden drapery. And everything that was there was of gold and silver. When she had gone to bed, and put out the light, a person came in to her, and lay down beside her. It was the white bear, who cast off the form of the bear at night. She never got to see him, for he always came in after she had put out the light; and before the light of morning, he was gone again.

Things went good and well for a while. Then she began to grow sullen and sorrowful; she was alone the whole day, and she longed for home and her parents and siblings. When the white bear asked what the matter was, she said that she was miserable when she was alone, and she longed for her parents and siblings; it was because she could not go to them that she was so sorrowful.

“I’m sure there’s a way,” said the white bear, “only you must promise me that you won’t speak with your mother while you are alone, only when there are others listening; for she will take you by the hand,” he said, “and will want to take you to a chamber and speak with you there alone. You must not agree to it, or you will make us both unhappy.”

One Sunday, the white bear came and said that now they could travel to her parents. So they travelled; she sat on his back, and they went both far and long. At last they came to a big white farm. Her siblings ran outside, playing; and it was so good to see that it pleased her.

“Your parents live here,” said the white bear; “don’t forget what I said to you, or you will make both you and me unhappy.”

She crossed herself; she would never forget. And when she had arrived, the white bear turned and left.

There was such joy when she came into her parents that there was no end to it. They felt that they could not thank her fully for what she had done for them; now everything was both well and good. And everybody asked her how she fared where she was. She fared both well and good, and had everything she could wish for, she said; what she said about the rest, I cannot say, but I do not think they knew much about it.

But that evening, when they had eaten dinner, things went the way the white bear had said; her mother would speak with her alone in a chamber. She remembered what the white bear had said, however, and would by no means allow it.

“What we have to talk about,” she said, “we can always talk about.” yet however it happened or not, her mother persuaded her in the end, and then she had to tell how she fared.

She said that a person always came and lay by her side when she had put out the lights in the evening; she never saw him, for he was always gone before the morning light. She was grieved by this, for she wanted so much to see him. And during the day, she was alone, and had a poor time of it.

“Huff! It may well be a troll you lie with,” said her mother. “Now I shall give you some advice, and then you will see him. I shall give you a stub of a candle, which you may keep in your bosom; use the light on him when he is asleep, but be careful you do not drip any tallow on him.”

Well, she took the candle, and hid it in her bosom; and in the evening, the white bear came to fetch her.

When they had gone some way, the white bear asked if things had gone the way he had said.

Yes, she could not deny it.

“Well, if you have followed the advice of your mother, then you have brought unhappiness upon us both, and it is finished between us,” he said.

No, she had done no such thing.

When she arrived home, and had gone to bed, things went as they usually did; a person came and lay down beside her. And as the night drew on, and she heard that he slept, she got up, struck a light, lit the candle, and shone it on him; then she saw that he was the handsomest prince one might ever set eyes upon, and she fell so in love with him that she felt she could not live unless she kiss him at once, at that very moment. She did so, too. Three warm drops of tallow fell on to his shirt, and he awakened.

“Oh, what have you done, now?” he said. “Now you have made the both of us unhappy. Had you but held out for the rest of the year, then I would have been saved. For I have a stepmother who has enchanted me, so that I am a white bear by day, and a person by night. Now things are finished between us; I must leave you, and go to her. She lives in a castle that lies east of the sun and west of the moon. And a princess with a nose that is three cubits long lives there; she I shall now have.”

Though she wept and wailed, there was nothing to be done about it; he had to leave. So she asked if she might go with him.

No, that would never do.

“Can you tell me the way, so that I can look for you? I am sure that is allowed,” she said.

Yes, that was allowed, but there was no way there; it lay east of the sun and west of the moon and she would never find her way.

In the morning, when she awoke, both the prince and the castle were gone. She lay in a small green clearing in the middle of the dense, dark forest, and beside her lay the same rags that she had brought from home. When she had rubbed the sleep from her eyes, and wept herself weary, she set off on her way, and walked for many, many days, until she came to a great mountain.

By the mountain sat an old woman, playing with a golden apple. She asked her if she knew the way to the prince who was with his stepmother in a castle that lay east of the sun and west of the moon, and should have a princess with a nose three cubits long.

“Where do you know him from?” asked the woman. “Perhaps it was you who should have him.”

Yes, it was.

“Is it you indeed?” said the woman. “I know nothing more about him than that he lives in a castle that lies east of the sun and west of the moon, and perhaps you will arrive late, maybe never. But you may borrow my horse, and you can ride it to the woman who is my neighbour. Perhaps she can tell you. When you have arrived, then strike the horse below its left ear, and bid it return home. And you may take this golden apple with you.”

She mounted the horse, and rode for a long, long time. At last she came to a mountain, where there sat an old woman outside, with a golden yarn swift. She asked her if she knew the way to the castle that lay east of the sun and west of the moon. This one said the same as the other woman, that she knew nothing about it, but that it was probably east of the sun and west of the moon, “perhaps you will arrive late, maybe never. You may borrow my horse to the woman who is my closest neighbour; perhaps she may know. When you have arrived, then strike the horse below its left ear, and bid it return home.” And then she gave her the yarn swift, for she might have use of it, she said.

The girl mounted the horse, and again rode for a long time. And after a longer time than long, she came to a great mountain. There sat there an old woman, spinning on a golden spinning wheel. She asked her if she knew the way to the prince, and where the castle was, which lay east of the sun and west of the moon.

Things went the same way: “Perhaps it was you who should have had the prince there,” said the woman.

Yes, it really should have been.

Unfortunately, she knew the way no better than the other two. East of the sun and west of the moon was what she knew, “perhaps you will arrive late, maybe never,” she said. “You may borrow my horse. I think you should ride to the East Wind, and ask him. Perhaps he may know the place, and can blow you thither. When you have arrived, strike the horse under its ear, and it will return home.” And then she gave her the golden spinning wheel. “You may have use of it,” said the woman.

She rode for many days and for a long time before she arrived. But after a longer than long time, she arrived, and she asked the East Wind if he could tell her the way to the prince who lived east of the sun and west of the moon.

Yes, that prince he had certainly heard tell of, said the East Wind, and of the castle, too. He didn't know the way there, for he had never blown so far. “If you want, I will take you to my brother, the West Wind. Perhaps he knows, for he is much stronger. You can sit on my back, and I shall carry you thither.”

Indeed, she did so, and the journey was quite fresh. When they arrived, they went in, and the East Wind said that she whom he had brought with him was the one who should have the prince in the castle that lay east of the sun and west of the moon, and that she was travelling in search of him, and that he had brought her here, and would like to hear if the West Wind knew where it was.

“No, I have never blown so far,” said the West Wind. “But if you want, then I will take you to the South Wind, for he is much stronger than either of us, and he has blown about both far and wide. Perhaps he can tell you. You can sit on my back, and I shall carry you thither.”

Indeed, she did so. They travelled to the South Wind, and I don’t think the journey took very long. When they arrived, the West Wind asked if he could tell the girl the way to the castle that lay east of the sun and west of the moon; this was she who should have the prince there.

“Indeed,” said the South Wind, “is it she? Yes, I have blown about in every place in my time,” he said, “but I have never blown so far. If you want, then I will take you to my brother, the North Wind. He is the eldest and the strongest of us all, and if he does not know where it is, then there is no one more to ask in this world. You can sit up on my back, and I will carry you thither.”

Well, she sat upon his back and he blew away in a fair manner. This made the journey short. When they arrived where the North Wind dwelt, he was so wild and unruly that his cold gusts could be felt from afar.

“What do you want?” he screamed from a great distance, so that their insides froze.

“Oh, stop being grim,” said the South Wind; “it is I, and also she who should have the prince who lives in the castle east of the sun and west of the moon. She wants to ask you whether you have been there, and can tell her the way, for she wants very much to find him again.”

“Yes, I know where it is, surely enough,” said the North Wind; “I blew an aspen leaf thither – but only once, for then I was so weary that I hadn’t the strength to blow for many days afterwards. Yet if it is such that you are determined to go, and you’re not afraid to go with me, then I shall take you on my back, and see if I can blow you thither.”

Yes, she would and must go by any means possible; she was not afraid, no matter how bad it might be.

“Well then, you shall lie here tonight,” said the North Wind, “for we must have a whole day or even more, if we are to reach the place.”

Early the next morning, the North Wind woke her, blew himself up, and made himself so great and strong that he was fearsome. And then they were off, high up through the air as if they were straight on their way to the ends of the earth. There was such a storm in the village that it blew down houses and whole copses. And hundreds of ships were wrecked when they passed over the great sea. They went far, so far that no one can believe how far it was. And they travelled ever farther out to sea. The North Wind grew wearier and wearier, and so exhausted that he was barely able to blow any longer. And lower and lower he came, until finally he was low enough for the crests of the waves to lap at her heels.

“Are you afraid?” said the North Wind.

No, she said, she was not.

But now they were not far from land, and there was just enough strength left in the North Wind that he threw her on to the beach, beneath the windows of the castle that lay east of the sun and west of the moon. And he was so tired and miserable that he had to rest for many days before he could return home.

The next morning, she sat playing with the golden apple outside the castle windows, and the first one she saw was the long-nosed one who should have the prince.

“What will you have for your golden apple, there?” she said, looking out the window.

“It is not for sale, neither for gold nor for money,” said the girl.

“If it is not for sale, neither for gold nor for money, then what will you have for it? You may have what you will,” said the princess.

“Well, if I may come up to the prince who is here, and stay with him tonight, then you shall have it,” said she who had come with the North Wind.

Yes, she might do that; it could be arranged.

The princess got the golden apple. But when the girl came up to the prince’s room in the evening, he was asleep. She shouted at him, and shook him, and in between, she wept, yet she could not awaken him, for they had given him a sleeping draught that evening. In the morning, when the light of day returned, the long-nosed princess came and chased her out again.

Later in the day, she sat down beneath the castle windows to wind skeins on the yarn swift, and things went the same way. The princess asked what she would have for it, and she said that it was not for sale, neither for gold nor for money. But if she were allowed to come up to the prince, and stay with him though the night, then she could have it.

When she came up, he was asleep again, and no matter how she shouted and shook him, he slept so well that she could not bring him to life. When the light of day returned, the long-nosed princess came and chased her out through the door again.

As the day wore on, the girl sat herself outside the castle windows, spinning on the golden spinning wheel, and the long-nosed princess would have that, too. She opened the window, and asked what she would have for it. The girl said, now as on the other two occasions, that it was not for sale, neither for gold nor for money. Were she allowed to come up to the prince who was there, though, and stay with him through the night, then she could have it.

Yes, she might well do that.

But some Christian folk were staying in the chamber closest to the prince’s. They had heard a woman crying and shouting at him, two nights in a row, and they told the prince. In the evening, when the princess came with the sleeping draught, he pretended to drink it, but poured it out behind him, for he understood that it was a sleeping draught.

When the girl now came in, the prince was awake, and she had to tell him how she had come to be there.

“Yes, and you have come at the right time, too,” said the prince, “for tomorrow I am to marry; but I do not want long-nose, and you are the only one who can save me.

“I will say that I want to see what my bride it good for, and ask her to wash my shirt that has three tallow-stains on it. She will agree, for she does not know that it was you who did it. But only Christian folk can do this, and not such a pack of trolls. And then I will say that I want none other for a bride than she who can do it. And you can, I know.”

There was great delight and joy for them that night, but the next day, when the wedding was to be held, the prince said: “I want to see what my bride is good for, first.”

Yes, that he might well do, said his stepmother.

“I have a fine shirt, which I shall wear as bridegroom; it has three drops of tallow on it, which I want washed off. I have vowed that I will not take anyone but she who is good to do it. Can she not do this, then she is not worth marrying.”

Well, this was a small matter, they thought, and so they agreed to it. And she with the long nose began to wash it as best she could; but the more she washed and scrubbed, the larger the stains grew.

“Oh, if you can’t wash it,” said her mother the old troll-hag, “then let me have it.” But she barely touched the shirt before it grew even worse; and the more she washed and scrubbed, the larger and blacker the stains grew.

Then the other trolls would try to wash it; but the longer they continued, the uglier and fouler it grew, until the whole of his shirt finally looked as if it had been up the chimney.

“Oh, none of you is any good,” said the prince. “A foundling girl sits outside the windows here; I am certain that she is much better to wash than any of you. Come in here, girl!” he shouted.

Well, in she came.

“Can you wash this shirt clean?” he said.

“Oh, I don’t know,” she said; “I’ll try.”

And she had hardly to touch the shirt and dip it in the water before it was as glaringly white as fresh snow, and even whiter still.

“Yes, I will have you,” said the prince.

Then the old troll-hag grew so angry that she burst; and the long-nosed princess, and the small trolls probably burst too, for I haven’t heard of them since. The prince and his bride released the Christian folk who had been staying there, and they took as much gold and silver as they could carry, and moved far away from the castle that lies east of the sun and west of the moon.

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