Wednesday, 7 December 2016

The Yule Buck and the Girl

I had to translate this amusing tale for this pre-Christmas #FolkloreThursday. The humour plays on the ambiguity of the Yule buck. On the one hand, the Yule buck may simply be a goat, albeit a devilish one; on the other hand, it may be a costumed Christmas visitor in the vein of the old fashioned, terrifying embodiment of the Icelandic Jólasveinarnir. The tearing off of its clothes points at the latter being the more likely interpretation.

For us in the 21st century, the final lines, even in Norwegian, may be understood to have an explicitly sexual meaning. Such was not the case back in 1870, when Ole Tobias Olsen collected this tale in Rana, Nordland. However, back at the time of collection, the Norwegian adjective “heit” also denoted a warmth of feeling, which is a shade of meaning that we also have in the English phrase, “burning love.”

Although this tale is not explicit, I will be including it in the erotic folktale collection, for there is a heavy implication of illicit intention.

The Yule Buck and the Girl

One autumn a long time ago, there was such a long drought that the millrace dried up for folk; they had to use a hand mill to grind their flour and malt.

So there was a girl who sat milling for all she was worth, day after day; but it helped little, and she grew less and less eager, and more and more bored of it. Just as she sat like that, the Yule buck came to her and asked if she wanted help with the milling.

“I wouldn’t say no to that,” replied the girl, “if only there were someone who would.”

“I shall help you,” said the buck, “if I may lie with you Yuletide night.”

“Oh, well—yes, I suppose you may,” said the girl, a little lazily, “if only I may escape this blessed grinding.”

So the buck began to grind, and the girl just sat at her ease, watching.

So it went all autumn; the buck milled so the flour flew, and all the while he sang:

Grind, grind now like a fool,
But fourteen days until Yule.
As Yuletide night draws on,
I’ll sleep on a maiden’s bosom.

But on Yuletide eve, the girl became horrified. She went to the farmer and told him of the wages she had promised the buck for milling, and asked for advice.

“Don’t be afraid,” said the man. “I shall help you.”

So when the evening came, and the girl should go to bed, he took a cauldron of tar and hung it over the fire until it was at the point of boiling, and then he put it in the bed before her.

A while later something came thundering up the stairs and into the loft, straight towards the bed. There it tore off its clothes, and sat right in the cauldron of tar. And then there was a dance, perhaps! The buck got up as quickly as he could, and went through the door with a screech and a scream:

Ow! Ow! The Christian girl was hot!
She was hot! She was hot!
She was burning hot!

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