Saturday, 25 February 2017

The Gjertrud-bird

In the old good days, when Our Lord and St Peter walked and wandered here on earth, they once came into a wife who sat baking. Her name was Gjertrud, and she had a red cap on her head. Since they had walked a long way, and were both hungry, Our Lord asked her politely for a lefse to taste. Yes, he might have one, but she took a small portion of dough and rolled it out; even so, it grew so large that it filled the whole griddle. No, that lefse was too big, he could not have that. She took an even smaller portion of dough, but when she had rolled it out and folded it on to the griddle, then that lefse was also too big, and he could not have that one, either. The third time, she took an even smaller portion of dough, a tiny one. Also this time the lefse was far too big.

“Well then, I haven't anything to give you,” said Gjertrud. “You may leave again without so much as a taste, for my lefses grow too big, all of them.” Then Our Lord grew angry and said: “Because you wished me so ill, you will be punished by becoming a bird, and taking your dry feed from between the bark and the wood, and drinking no more often than every time it rains.”

And he had hardly finished speaking before she had become a woodpecker, and flew from the baking table, up through the chimney.1 And even today, one may still see her flying around with her red cap and black all over, after the chimney blackened her. She hammers and picks at trees, for food, and chirps with the expectation of rain, for she is always thirsty, and then she expects to drink.


  1. Gjertrudsfuglen (the Gjertrud-bird) is the Norwegian folkname for the black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius). 

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