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Sunday, 22 January 2017

Askeladden Who Stole the Troll’s Silver Ducks

Updated 2019-10-10

Once upon a time there was a poor man who had three sons. When he died, the eldest two would go out into the world to try their luck, but they would by no means have the youngest with them.

“You there!” they said. “You are good for nothing but sitting, digging in the ashes, you are.”

“Then I shall go alone,” said Askeladden.

The pair set off and came to the king’s farm, where they went into service, one of them in the stable, the other under the gardener. Askeladden also set off, and took with him a big kneading trough, which was the only thing his parents had left him, and which the other two were not interested in; it was heavy to carry, but he didn’t want to leave it behind.

When he had walked a while, he too came to the king’s farm, and asked to go into service. They replied that they had no use for him; but he asked so earnestly and beautifully that they finally said that he was allowed to stay in the kitchen and carry wood and water for the kitchen maids. He was industrious and skillful, and it wasn’t long before everyone held him dear. However, the other two were lazy and were therefore scolded and received little pay, and so they grew envious of Askeladden, when they saw how things went better with him.

Straight opposite the king’s farm, on the other side of a large lake, lived a troll, and it had seven silver ducks that lay swimming on the water, and they could see them from the king’s farm. The king had often coveted these, and so the brothers said to the head groom: “Our brother has said that if he wanted to, he could get the king the seven silver ducks.”

You should know it was not long before the head groom told the king. The king then called Askeladden in to him, and said: “Your brothers say that you can get me the silver ducks, and now you shall.”

“I have neither said nor thought it,” said the boy.

But the king insisted: “You have said it and you shall do it,” he said.

“Well, well,” said the boy, “if it cannot be otherwise, then let me have a quarter of rye and a quarter of wheat, and I’ll try.” He was granted this, and he put it in the kneading trough that he had brought from home, and rowed it across.

When he got to the other side, he began to walk the bank and scatter and scatter, and eventually he lured the ducks into the trough, and then he rowed it back as quickly as he could.

When he was in the middle of the lake, the troll came out and saw him.

“Have you gone with my seven silver ducks?” it shouted.

“Ye-es!” said the boy.

“Are you coming back?” asked the troll.

“I might be,” said the boy.

When he returned to the king with the seven silver ducks, he was held even dearer in the king’s farm, and the king himself said that it was well done. But his brothers grew all the more angry and envious of him, and so they decided to tell the head groom that now he had said he was able to get the king the troll’s bedquilt with a silver square and a golden square and a silver and golden square in it, whenever he wanted. And the head groom was not slow to tell the king this time either.

So the king said to the boy that his brothers had said he had agreed to get the troll’s quilt with silver and golden squares in it, and now he would do it or he would lose his life.

Askeladden replied that he had neither said nor thought it, but that did no good. And so he asked for three days to consider the matter. When these had passed, he rowed over in the kneading trough, and paced back and forth in thought. Eventually he saw that the folk in the mountain hung the bedquilt out, to air it. And when they had gone back into the mountain again, Askeladden swiped it and rowed back as quickly as he could.

When he was half-way, the troll came out and saw him.

“Is it you who took my seven silver ducks?” shouted the troll.

“Ye-es!” said the boy.

“Have you now taken my bedquilt with a silver square and a golden square and a silver and golden square in it, too?”

“Ye-es!” said the boy.

“Are you coming back again?”

“I might be,” said the boy.

When he returned with the silver and gold bedquilt, everyone held him dearer than before, and he became servant to the king himself. For all this, the other two grew angrier still, and to avenge themselves, they decided to tell the head groom: “Now our brother has said that he can get the king the troll’s golden harp, which is such that all who hear it are gladdened, no matter how sorrowful they were.”

Well, the head groom soon told the king again, and he said to the boy: “Have you said it, then you shall do it. If you can, then you shall have the princess and half the kingdom. But can you not do it, then you shall lose your life.”

“I have neither said nor thought it,” Askeladden replied, “but there is nothing for it; I have to try. But I will have to have six days consider the matter.”

Yes, he would have them, but he should go on his way when they had passed.

He put a nail, a stick of birch, and a candle stub in his pocket, rowed over, and paced back and forth, tutting outside. After a while, the troll came out and saw him.

“Is it you who has taken my seven silver ducks?” shouted the troll.

“Ye-es!” said the boy.

So the troll took hold of him, and took him with him into the mountain.

“Now, my daughter,” he said, “I have got hold of the one who has taken my seven silver ducks, and my bedquilt with silver and golden squares in. Put him in the coop, now, and then we will slaughter him and have what we are owed.”

She was soon willing to do this, and put him in the coop. There he stayed for eight days; but he had the best of everything that he asked for, both of food and drink, and as much as he wanted.

When the eight days were over, the troll said that his daughter should go down and cut his little finger, so they could see if he was fat.

She went down to the coop. “Give me your finger!” she said. But Askeladden poked out the nail, and she cut into that.

“Oh no, he is still as hard as iron,” said the troll daughter, when she came in to her father again; “he is not yet ready.”

Eight days later, things went the same way, only now Askeladden poked out the birch stick.

“He is a little tenderer,” she said, when she came in to the troll again; “but he would still be as hard as wood to chew.”

But eight days later, the troll told his daughter to go down to see if he was fat.

“Give me your finger!” said the troll daughter to Askeladden in the coop. This time he poked the candle stub out.

“Now he is tolerable,” she said.

“Well, then,” said the troll, “I will travel away, and invite to a banquet; meanwhile, you slaughter him, and roast half and boil half.”

When the troll was well away, the daughter began to sharpen a big long knife.

“Do you have that to slaughter me with?” asked the boy.

“Yes. You!” said the troll daughter.

“But it is not sharp,” said the boy. “I can sharpen it so that you may take my life much more easily.”

So she let him have the knife, and he began to sharpen it.

“Let my try it on your plait of hair,” said the boy; “I think it must be good now.” This he was allowed to do. And as soon as he took hold of the plait, he pulled her head backwards, and cut it off the troll daughter. And he boiled half and roast half, and set it on the table. Then he put on her clothes and sat over in the corner.

When the troll returned with the banqueters, he told his daughter—for he thought it was she who sat there—that she should also come and take some food.

“No,” replied the boy, “I don’t want any food, for I am sulking and sorrowful.”

“Oh, you know the remedy for that,” said the troll; “get the golden harp to play.”

“Yes. Where is it again?” asked Askeladden in reply.

“You know well – you were the last one to use it; it is hanging over there, above the door,” said the troll.

The boy did not need telling twice; he took it and went out and in, playing. But suddenly he pushed the kneading trough out, and rowed away so that the water streamed past the trough.

After a while, the troll thought that his daughter had been outside for too long, and went out to see what was the matter with her. Then he caught sight of the boy in the trough, far, far out on the water.

“Is it you who has taken my seven silver ducks?” shouted the troll.

“Yes!” said Askeladden.

“Then it is you who took my bedquilt with a silver square and a golden square in it, too.”

“Yes!” said Askeladden.

“Have you now taken my golden harp?” shrieked the troll.

“Yes, surely I have!” said the boy.

“Have I not eaten you up, then?”

“No, it was your daughter you ate!” replied the boy.

When the troll heard this, he grew so angry that he burst, and so Askeladden rowed back and took with him as much gold and silver as the trough could carry.

When he came to the king’s farm with the golden harp, he got the king’s daughter and half the kingdom, as the king had promised him. And he did nothing but good for his brothers, whom he thought had wanted nothing but the best for him, in what they had said.

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