Thursday, 6 October 2016

Stupid Husbands and Trolls for Wives

Once upon a time there were two women who argued, as women are sometimes wont to do, and when they had nothing more to argue about, they began to bicker about their husbands, about which of them was the stupidest. The longer they argued, the angrier they became, until finally they were close to pulling each other’s hair, for as one knows, “disagreements are easier to encourage than to turn; and things are most difficult when reason is lacking.” One of them said that there was nothing she could not get her husband to believe, when she said it was so, for he was as gullible as the trolls; and the other said that, no matter how bad it might be, she could always get her husband to do something, when she said it should be done, for he was such as could find neither needle nor skein.

“Well, let us try to see which one of us can fool them best. Then we shall see which if them is the stupidest,” they said; and they agreed about this.

So, when her husband came home from the forest, one of the women said: “God help us! It is too bad; you are certainly sick, if you’re not a coward.”

“There is nothing wrong but a want of food and drink,” said the man.

“God save me, it is true!” whined the woman. “It is getting worse and worse; you are most like a corpse to look at. You must go to bed. Oh, you will certainly not last long!”

She continued in this manner until she got her husband to believe he was at death’s door, and got him to go to bed, fold his hands, and close his eyes; and she laid him out on corpse straw, and got him in a coffin; but, so that he did not suffocate while he lay there, she had some holes made in the lid, so he could breathe and look out.

The other woman, she took a pair of carders and sat herself as if carding, but she had no wool on them. Her husband came in and saw this monkey business.

“There is little point in spinning without a wheel, but carding without wool is just womanly folly,” said the man.

“Without wool?” said the woman. “I have wool; but you cannot see it, for it is so fine,” she said.

When she had finished carding, she pulled forth her spinning wheel and began spinning.

“No, this is pure madness,” said the man. “You are sitting and spinning and cursing the wheel while you have nothing on it.”

“Nothing on it?” said the woman. “The thread is so fine that you need other eyes to see it,” she said.

When she was finished spinning, she dressed the thread, set up her loom with warp and weft, and weaved the fabric. Then she took it off the loom, pressed it and cut it, and sewed clothes from it—for her husband. And when they were ready, she hung them in the stabbur loft. Her husband could see neither the fabric nor the clothes, but now he had begun to believe that they were so fine that he could not see them; and so he said: “Yes, yes, when it is so fine, then it is so fine.”

But there came a day that his wife said to him, “Today you are going to a wake; the husband Nord-i-gården is being put in the ground today; and you shall have your new clothes on.” Well, then he was going to a wake, and she helped him put on his new clothes, for they were so fine that he might tear them apart, should he help himself.

When he came to the wake, they had already been drinking, both stiff and strong; I do not think the grief was any greater for seeing him in his new church clothes. But when they began to go to the churchyard, and the deceased looked through the breathing holes, he began to laugh and guffaw. “Well, I must laugh, now,” he said. “Does Ola Sør-i-gården go naked at my wake?”

When the funeral procession heard this, they were not slow to remove the coffin lid, and he with the new church clothes, he asked how it happened that he lay in the coffin and yet spoke and laughed, he for whom they held a wake; he should rather weep. “Weeping never dug anybody up from the grave,” said the other. And as they spoke, they discovered that it was their wives who had arranged all of this.

So the men went home and did the wisest thing either of them had ever done; and if anyone wants to know what that was, they should ask the birch.

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