Thursday, 24 November 2016

The Young Boys Who Met the Trolls in Hedal Forest

In a place up in Vågå in Gudbrandsdalen, there once, in the old days, lived a couple of poor folk. They had many children; and two of their sons, who were as good as half-grown, were always wandering around the village, begging. They knew, therefore, all the roads and paths, and they knew the way to Hedalen by foot.

Once, they wanted to walk there. They had heard that some falconers had built themselves a cabin by Mæla, so they would drop in on their way, to see the birds, and how they caught them. And thus they walked over Langmyrene. But it was so late in the autumn that the milkmaids had driven home from the pastures, and thus they found nowhere to stay, and found no food, either. They had, therefore, to keep to the road to Hedalen; and it was but a shallow track, and so, when darkness fell, they lost the track and missed the hawkers’ cabin, too. And before they knew what to do, they were in the midst of the densest forest of Bjølstad. When they understood that they could not get through, they began to gather branches, build a fire, and build a lean-to, for they had a small axe. And then they pulled up heather and moss, which they made a matress from. A while after they had retired, they heard someone snorting and sniffing loudly. The boys listened very carefully, to discover whether it was an animal or a forest troll they could hear. But then it sniffed even more loudly and said:

“It smells of Christian blood, here!”

Then they heard steps so heavy that the ground shook beneath them, and so they knew that the trolls were out.

“God help us! What shall we do now?” said the youngest boy to his brother.

“Oh, you will remain standing beneath the pine tree, where you are, and stay ready to gather our sacks and run, when you see them coming; and I shall take the small axe,” said the other.

Erik Werenskiold

Immediately, they saw the trolls charging; and they were so big and huge that their heads were up in the pine tops. But they had one eye between the three of them, and they took it in turns to use it; they had holes in their foreheads, which they put it in, and turned it with their hands. The one who went in front had to have it, and the others went behind, holding on to the first.

“Run,” said the eldest of the boys, “but don’t flee so far, until you see how it goes; since they have their eye up so high, it is difficult for them to see me when I get behind them.”

Well, the brother ran away, and the trolls went after him. Meanwhile, the eldest boy got behind them and chopped at the last troll on its ankle, so that it raised a terrifying scream; and the first one was so alarmed that it jumped, and let go of the eye; and the boy was not slow to snatch it. It was bigger than if you put two clay bowls together, and so clear that even though the night was fully dark, it was as light as day when he looked through it.

When the trolls realised that he had taken from them their eye, and that he had injured one of them, they began to threaten everything that was evil, if he did not immediately return to them their eye.

“I am not afraid of trolls, nor threats,” said the boy. “Now I have three eyes alone, and you three have none; and two of you must carry the third.”

“If we don’t get our eye back this moment, you will be turned to log and stone!” shrieked the trolls.

But the boy said that was a bit rash; he was not afraid, neither of boasting, nor enchantment, he said; if they did not leave him be, then he would chop at all three of them, so they would have to crawl along the ground like creepy crawlies.

When the trolls heard this, they were afraid, and began to say good words. They promised him beautifully that, if he would give their eye back, then he would have both gold and silver and everything he asked for. Well, the boy thought that this sounded quite good, but he would have the gold and the silver first; and so he said that if one of them would go home and fetch so much gold and silver that he and his brother could fill their sacks, and give them good steel bows, too, then they would have their eye. But for now, he would keep it.

The trolls complained, and said that none of them could go, when they did not have the eye to see with; but then one of them began to scream for their wife, for they had one wife together, all three. After a while, there was an answer from a hill far to the north. Then one of the trolls said that she should come with two steel bows and two buckets full of gold and silver. And it was not long before she came, I would think.

When she heard how things had gone, she also began to threaten with enchantments. But the trolls were afraid, and told her to be wary of the little wasp; she could not be certain that he would not take her eye, too. So she threw the buckets and the gold and the silver and the bows to them, and went back to the hill with the trolls. And since that time, no one has heard that the trolls have walked in Hedal forest, sniffing for Christian blood.

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