Monday, 13 March 2017

Grim Buckskin

Once upon a time there was a couple of rich folk who had twelve sons; and the youngest would not stay at home once he had grown up; he wanted to go out into the world to try his luck. His parents said they thought things were good and well at home, and that he might well stay with them, but he had no peace inside him; he would and should go on his way, and so he should be allowed.

When he had walked for a good while, he came to a king’s farm. He asked to go into service, and was allowed. The king’s daughter in the country had been taken into a mountain by a troll, and the king had no more children; therefore was he, and all the land, in great mourning; and the king had promised the king’s daughter and half the kingdom to the one who could rescue her, but there was none who could do so, despite there being many enough who tried.

Now, after the boy had been there for a year or so, he wanted to go home to visit his parents; but when he arrived home, his parents were dead, and his brothers had shared everything they owned between themselves, so that there was nothing left for the boy.

“Shall I not have anything after father and mother, then?” asked the boy.

“Who could have known that you were still alive, who has wandered and flapped about?” his brothers replied. “But no matter; up on the moors there are twelve mares. We have not divided them yet, and so, if you want them for your share, you may have them.”

Yes, the boy was content with this; he thanked them, and went on his way up on the moors, where the mares grazed.

When he got up there, and found them, each of them had a suckling foal, and with one of the mares was a large buckskin colt; it was such that it shone.

“You are beautiful, my young foal!” said the boy.

“Yes, but if you will kill the other foals so I may suckle from all the mares for a year, then you will see how big and beautiful I will be then,” said the foal.

The boy did so: he killed them all, and then went home.

When he came up the next year to see to the foal and to his mares, it was fat—so fat that its coat gleamed—and so big that the boy could only just manage to mount it; and all the mares had a foal each again.

“Well, it is true I received as much in return for letting you suckle from all the mares,” said the boy to the colt; “but now you are big enough, so you must come with me.”

“No, I will stay here for a year longer,” said the foal. “Kill all the foals now, so I may suckle from all the mares this year, too, and then you will see that I will grow big and beautiful by the summer.”

Yes, the boy did so again. And when he came up to the moors after the second year, to look to his foal and mares, they each had a new foal; but the buckskin foal was so big that the boy could by no means reach up when he tried to touch its neck to feel how fat it was; and so smooth was it that it shone.

“Big and beautiful were you last year, my foal, but this year you are even finer,” said the boy; “such a horse is not to be found at the king’s farm. But now you must come with me.”

“No,” said the buckskin again; “I must stay here for another year. Just kill the twelve foals now again, so I can suckle from the mares this year too, and then you shall see me next summer!”

Yes, the boy did so, too: he killed all the foals, and then he returned home again.

But when he came again the next year, to look to the buckskin and his mares, he was simply terrified. So big and course an adult he had never thought a horse could be, for the buckskin had to kneel on all fours before the boy could get up on to it—he had trouble enough getting on to it even though it lay down—and so enormously fat was it that it gleamed and shone as if from a mirror.

And this time the buckskin was not unwilling to go with the boy. He mounted it, and when he came riding home to his brothers, they clapped their hands together and crossed themselves, for such a horse had they neither seen nor heard of before.

“If you will give me good shoes beneath my horse, and a saddle and bridle as fine as any that exist,” said the boy, “then you shall have all twelve of my mares as they stand up on the moors, and their twelve suckling foals, too.” (That year each mare had bourne a foal, too.)

This the brothers were content with, and so the boy got shoes for the horse such that splinters of stone flew high into the air when he rode over the mountains, and such a golden saddle and such a golden bridle did he get that they lighted and flashed at a distance.

“Now we travel to the king’s farm!” said Grim Buckskin—that was his name; “but remember well to ask the king for good space in the stable and good feed for me.”

Yes, the boy promised he would not forget.

He rode off, and you can imagine that it did not take long to get to the king’s farm on such a horse as he had.

When he arrived, the king stood out on the threshold, and he glared and stared at he who came riding. “No, no,” he said. “Such a fellow and such a fine horse have I never seen in my life before!” And when the boy asked if he could go into service on the king’s farm, the king grew so glad that he was ready to dance there where he stood on the threshold; and it might well happen that he would go into service.

“Yes, but a good stable and adequate feed will I have for my horse,” said the boy.

Yes, he would have meadow grass and oats, as much as the buckskin would have; and all the other knights would have to take their horses out of the stable, for there Grim Buckskin would stand alone, so that he might have ample space.

But it was not long before the others at the king’s farm grew envious of the boy, and they did not know all the evil they would do, if only they dared. Finally, they decided to tell the king that he had said that he was good to rescue the king’s daughter, whom the troll had taken into the mountain a long time hence, whenever he liked.

The king called him straightway before him, and said that so-and-so had told him what the boy had said he was good for, and now he would do so, too. If he could, then he should know that the king had promised his both his daughter and half the kingdom, and this he would have, fairly and squarely; but if he could not, then he would be killed. The boy denied saying it, but that did no good—the king would not listen in that ear—and so there was nothing for it other than that he had to try.

He went down to the stable, as dour and sorrowful as he was. And Grim Buckskin asked what he was dour about; the boy told him, and said that he did not know how he should go about it; “for rescuing the king’s daughter, that is just not a good idea,” said the boy.

“Oh, it can be done, I suppose,” said Grim Buckskin; “I shall help you. But first I must be well shod. You must demand twenty pounds of iron and twelve pounds of steel for the shoes, and one smith to forge and one to shoe.”

Yes, the boy did so, and he was not refused; he got both the iron and the steel and the smiths, and thus was Grim Buckskin shod both well and good; and the boy rode out of the king’s farm so the dust swirled behind him.

But when he arrived at the mountain the king’s daughter had been taken into, what he needed to do was climb the mountain wall to where he would go into the mountain, for the mountain stood straight up and down, as steep as a cabin wall and as smooth as a glass window. The first time the boy rode on the path, he came a way up the mountain wall, but then Buckskin slid with both forelegs and they rode down again so that the moors resounded. The second time he rode, he got a way further up, but then one foreleg slid, and down they came, as if there had been an earthquake. But the third time, Buckskin said, “Now let us try!” and then he tilted at the wall so that the stones flew to the heavens about them, and thus they came up; the boy rode in at full tilt and snatched the king’s daughter up on to the horn of the saddle, and went out again before the troll got so far as to get up—and thus was the king’s daughter rescued.

When the boy returned to the king’s farm, the king was both happy and satisfied that he had got his daughter back, don’t you know; but however it did or did not happen, the others in the king’s farm had provoked the king, so that he was angry with the boy withal.

“Thank you, for you have rescued my daughter,” he said to the boy, when he came into the castle with her; and then he would leave.

“She should be mine, as well as yours, now, for you are a man of your word, are you not?” said the boy.

“Yes, yes,” said the king; “you shall have her, since I have said it; but first you must get the sun to shine here on the king’s farm.” For there was a high mountain just outside the windows, that threw its shadow so that the sun did not come in.

“That was not in our agreement,” replied the boy, “but I don’t suppose that helps; I must try my best, for the king’s daughter will I have.”

He went down to Buckskin again, and told what the king had demanded, and then Grim Buckskin said they could do it; but he had to have new shoes beneath him, and these would take twenty pounds of iron and twelve pounds of steel; and two smiths were needed, one to forge and one to shoe. Then they would get the sun to shine on the king’s farm. When the boy demanded this, he got it at once—the king thought it would be shameful to refuse him—and so Grim Buckskin was shod with new shoes, and those shoes did the job. The boy mounted, and off they went on their way again; and for each jump that Grim Buckskin made, the mountain sank by fifteen cubits down into the earth, and so they carried on until the king could no longer see the mountain.

When the boy came down to the king’s farm again, he asked if the king’s daughter should not now be his, for now he knew nothing other than that the sun shone in the castle, he said. But then the others at the king’s farm had provoked the king again, and so he replied that the boy should have her, he had never thought anything else, but first he should secure her so fine a bridal horse as the groom’s horse was. The boy said that the king had never spoken of this before, and now he believed he deserved the king’s daughter; but the king insisted, and if the boy could not do it, then he would lose his life, said the king.

The boy went down to the stable again, and sullen and dour was he, you may imagine. There he told Grim Buckskin that now the king had demanded he get the king’s daughter as fine a bridal horse as the horse the groom had, or he would lose his life; “it will be no good, I don’t think,” he said, “for there is not the like of you in all the world.”

“Oh yes, there is the like of me,” replied Grim Buckskin, “but it will not be easy to get it, for it is in Hell. But we must try. Now, you shall go up to the king and demand new shoes beneath me, and they will take twenty pounds of iron and twelve pounds of steel again, and two smiths, one to forge and one to shoe, but mind the nails and the toe are properly sharp; and twelve barrels of rye and twelve barrels of barley and twelve bull carcasses must we have with us; and all twelves bullskins must we have with us, with twelve-hundred nails in each, you must also demand; all this we must have, and a tar barrel with twelve barrels of tar in.”

The boy went up to the king and demanded everything Grim Buckskin had said, and again the king thought it would shame him to refuse him it, and so he got everything.

Then he mounted Grim Buckskin and rode off, and when he had ridden far, far away, over mountain and moor, Buckskin asked: “Do you hear anything?”

“Yes, there is a terrible rustling up in the air; I think I am afraid,” said the boy.

“It is all the wild birds of the forest, flying; they have been sent to stop us,” said Grim Buckskin. “But cut holes in the sacks, and they will have so much to gorge on that they will forget us.”

Yes, the boy did so, he cut holes in the sacks of grain, so that the grain and the rye ran out on every side. Then the wild birds of the forest came, so dense that the sun was blotted out; but when they saw the grain, they could not help themselves, but lighted and hacked and pecked at the grain and the rye, and finally they began to flock together and fight amongst themselves; they did nothing to the boy and Grim Buckskin, they simply forgot about them.

Now the boy rode again, both far and farther, over mountain and valley, over hill and heath; then Grim Buckskin stopped to listen, and then he asked the boy if heard anything.

“Yes, I hear a terrible rumbling from the forest on every side; I think I am scared now,” said the boy.

“It is all the wild animals of the forest, it is,” said Grim Buckskin; “they have been sent out to stop us. But throw out the twelve bull carcasses and they will have enough to do with them, and then they will forget about us.”

Yes, the boy threw out the bull carcasses, and then came all the wild animals of the forest, both bear and greyshanks and lion and all kinds of terrible animal; but when they saw the bull carcasses, they tore them up and fought over them until their blood flowed, and they simply forgot about the boy and Grim Buckskin.

So the boy rode on his way again, many, many horizons, for with Grim Buckskin he was not slow, you can imagine. Then Buckskin neighed. “Do you hear anything?”

“Yes, I heard what sounded like a foal neighing, so faintly, far, far away,” replied the boy.

“It was an adult foal, it was,” said Grim Buckskin; “it sounds so faint because he is so far away from us.”

So they travelled a good distance, a horizon or so more. Then Grim Buckskin neighed once more. “Do you hear anything now?” he said.

“Yes, now I clearly hear that it neighs like a grown horse,” replied the boy.

“Yes, you shall hear it yet once more,” said Grim Buckskin, “and then you will hear there is speech in it.”

They travelled a horizon or so more, and then Grim Buckskin neighed for a third time; but before he managed to ask the boy if he heard anything, it neighed over on the moor, so that the boy thought that rock and mountain would rend.

“Now it is here,” said Grim Buckskin. “Quickly now, and throw over me the bull skins with the nails in them, and throw the barrels of tar across the ground; then climb the great spruce there. When it comes, it will spew fire from both nostrils, which will catch the tar barrels. And pay attention: if the flames rise, then I am winning; but if they fall, then I am losing. But if you see that I am winning, then throw the bridle on it—you have to take it off me—and then it will be docile.”

As soon as the boy had managed to throw the nailed bull hides over Grim Buckskin, and the tar barrel across the ground, and had climbed the spruce, then there came a horse with fire shooting from it, and the fire caught the tar barrels immediately; and it and Grim Buckskin began to fight, so that the stones danced up to the sky. They bit and they kicked both with forelegs and hind legs; and sometimes the boy looked at them, and sometimes he looked at the barrel of tar. But finally the flames rose: for wherever the other horse bit, and wherever it kicked, it struck the nailed hides, and it had to retreat. When the boy saw this, he was not slow to come down from the tree and throw the bridle on it, and then it was so docile that he could steer it with a thread of twine. This horse was also a buckskin, and so like Grim Buckskin was it that no one could tell them apart.

The boy mounted the buckskin horse he had caught, and rode back home to the king’s farm; and Grim Buckskin ran loose with him. When he arrived, the king stood out in the courtyard.

“Can you now tell me which horse I have caught, and which I had before?” said the boy. “Can you not, then I think your daughter belongs to me.”

The king went and looked at both buckskins, both high and low, both before and behind, but there was not a hair of difference between them.

“No,” said the king, “that I cannot tell you; and since you have got my daughter as fine a bridal horse, you shall have her. But one thing must we try first, if it is to be. Now she shall first hide herself twice,” he said, “and afterwards you shall hide yourself twice; if you can find her both times she has hidden herself, but she cannot find you both times you have hidden yourself, then it is meant to be, and then you shall have the king’s daughter.”

“That is not part of the agreement, either,” said the boy; “but we must try, since that is the way things stand,” and the king’s daughter should hide herself first.

She turned herself into a duck, and lay swimming on the water that was close by the king’s farm. But the boy simply went down to the stable and asked Grim Buckskin where she had hidden herself. “Oh, you need only take your gun and go down to the pond and aim at the duck that lies swimming there,” said Grim Buckskin, “and I am sure she will come forth again.”

The boy snatched up his gun and went down to the water. “I want to squeeze that duck,” he said and began to aim at it.

“No, no, dear me! Don’t shoot! It is I,” said the king’s daughter. So he found her this time.

The second time, she turned herself into a loaf of bread, and laid herself on the table with four others; and so like the other loaves was she that no one could tell them apart. But the boy went down to the stable, to Grim Buckskin again, and said that now had the king’s daughter hidden herself, and he had no idea where she had hidden herself. “Oh, simply take and sharpen a good bread knife, and pretend that you will cut right through the third loaf from the left of the five that lie on the table in the king’s farm, and then she will come forth again,” said Grim Buckskin.

Yes, the boy went up to the kitchen and began to sharpen the biggest bread knife he could find, then gripped the third loaf of bread from the left, and set the knife to it, as if he would cut it right through. “I want a crust from this loaf,” he said.

“No, dear me! Don’t cut! It is I!” said the king’s daughter again; and so he had found her the second time, too.

Then it was his turn to hide himself. First, he turned himself into a horsefly, and hid himself in Grim Buckskin’s left nostril. The king’s daughter went and searched and sniffed everywhere, both high and low, and then she wanted to go into Grim Buckskin’s stall, as well; but he began to bite and kick around himself so that she dared not, and so she could not find him.

“Well, since I cannot find you, then you must come forth by yourself,” she said; and straightway the boy stood by her side on the stable floor.

The second time, Grim Buckskin again told him what he should turn himself into, and this time he turned himself into a clod of earth, and set himself between hoof and shoe on Grim Buckskin’s left forefoot. The king’s daughter went and searched, and searched again, both outside and inside, and finally she came into the stable and wanted to go into Grim Buckskin’s stall. Yes, this time he let her approach him, and she sniffed both high and low; but under his hoofs she could not come—he stood too heavily on his legs for that, Grim Buckskin did; and so she could not find the boy.

“Yes, then you had better come forth by yourself, since I cannot find you,” said the king’s daughter; and straightway the boy stood beside her on the stable floor.

“Yes, now you are mine,” said the boy to the king’s daughter; “for now you can see it is meant to be,” he said to the king.

“Yes, if it is meant to be, then so be it,” said the king.

A wedding was prepared, both well and quickly, and the boy mounted Grim Buckskin, and the king’s daughter his like; so you can imagine that it did not take long to get to church.

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