Monday, 1 May 2017

Redfox and Askeladden

Once upon a time there was a king who had many hundred sheep and many hundred goats and cows; and many hundred horses had he too, and silver and gold in great heaps and piles. But even so, he was so sorrowful that he mostly would not see folk, and even less talk to them. He had been like this since his youngest daughter had been lost. But it would have been bad enough, even if he had never lost her, for there was a troll who constantly made a mess and trouble there, so that folk hardly ever came to the king’s farm; just like that he would loose all the horses so that they trampled down the fields and meadows and ate up the grain; just like that he tore the heads off the king’s ducks and geese; sometimes he killed the cows in the stall, or drove the sheep and goats over the hill; and every time they would take some fish from the pond, they had all been chased up on to the land, all of them.

But then there were a couple of old folk who had three sons; one of them was called Per, the second was called Pål, and the third they called Espen Askeladd, for he lay drawing in the ashes, all the time.

These were bold lads, but Per, who was the eldest, he would be the boldest, and so he asked his father’s permission to go out into the world to try his luck.

“Yes, you have permission; late is better than never, my boy,” said the fellow. So he got some brandy in a flask, and some food in his knapsack, and then he took to his feet, and went down the hill. When he had gone a distance, he walked by a old woman who lay beside the road.

“Oh, my dear boy, give me a small crumb of food today,” said the woman.

But Per, he hardly looked aside, but merely adjusted his knapsack, and continued on his way.

“Well, well,” said the woman, “if you go, you’ll see that it goes as it goes,” she said.

Per went far, and farther than far, until he came to the king’s farm. There stood the king under the porch, feeding the hens.

“Good evening, and God’s blessing,” said Per.

“Tippe, tippe, tippe, tuppe, tuppe—!” said the king, scattering and scattering both east and west, minding him not a whit.

“Yes, stand there, you, and scatter grain, and cackle hen language until you turn into a bear,” said Per to himself; “you shall not have me talking to you,” he thought; and so he went into the kitchen and sat down on the bench like any great fellow.

“What kind of rascal are you?” said the cook, for Per had not yet grown a beard. This he thought was impertinent and mockery, and so he began to beat the cook; but just like that the king came in and had them cut three red stripes into his back; then they rubbed salt into the wounds, and let him go home the same way he had come.

When Per had come well home, Pål would out. Oh yes, he also took some brandy in a flask and some food in his knapsack, and took to his feet down the hill. When he had walked a part of the way, he met the woman who asked for food, but he swept past without even replying, and at the king’s farm, things went not a hair better for him than they had for Per. The king said, “tippe, tippe,” and the cook called him a naughty child, and when he would beat her for that, the king came with a kitchen knife and cut three red stripes and rubbed glowing embers in them, and sent him home with a sore back.

Then Askeladden crept up from the pit, and began to move around; the first day, he shook off the ash, and the second he washed and combed himself, and the third he dressed himself in his Sunday best.

“Well, look at that!” said Per; “now a new sun shines here. I suppose you want to go to the king’s farm and win the king’s daughter and half the kingdom. Oh, stay in the ashes, you,” he said. But Askeladden did not listen in that ear, he went into his father, and asked for leave to go out a little into the world.

“What will you do, out in the world?” said the old man. “It didn’t go so well with Per or Pål; how will things go with you?” he said.

But Askeladden did not give in before he was given leave to go.

His brothers did not want him to have even a crumb of food, but his mother gave him a crust of cheese and a meat bone, and with that, he went on his way. He was in no hurry: “you will arrive in time,” he thought; “you have the whole day before you, and then the moon will rise, if luck is with you.” So he placed one foot in front of the other, and took his time on the hills, and watched his path well.

After a longer than long time, he met the old woman who lay off the road.

“You poor old, crooked thing; I suppose you’re hungry,” said Askeladden.

She was, said the woman.

“In that case, I will share with you,” said Askeladden, giving her the crust of cheese.

“Are you cold, too?” he said; he saw her teeth were chattering. “You shall have my old tunic; it doesn’t have much in the way of sleeves, and little back, but it was a good garment, when it was new.”

“Wait a little,” said the woman. She rummaged in her great pocket. “Here you have an old key,” she said. “I have neither better nor worse to give you; but when you look through the keyring, then you can see anything you want to.”

When he arrived at the king’s farm, the cook was carrying water, and she was struggling terribly with it. “That is too heavy for you,” said Askeladden. “It is better that I do it,” he said.

The cook was the one who was glad! And afterwards, she always let Askeladden scrape the pot; but it was not long before he made a number of enemies for of it, and they lied to the king, and said that he had said that he was good to do both this and that.

One day, the king came out and asked Askeladden it it was true that he was good to keep the fish in the pond, so the troll could not hurt them. “They say you have said you are good for it,” he said.

“I have not said it,” said Askeladden; “but had I said it, then I would also have been good to do it.”

Well, however it was, he would try anyway, if he wished to save the skin on his back, said the king.

Well, then he would try, said Askeladden; for he had no wish to go with red stripes beneath his shirt, he said.

In the evening, Askeladden peeped through the keyring, and then he saw that the troll was afraid of thyme. He went to gather all the thyme he could find. Some of it he scattered on the water, and some on the land, and the rest he spread around the bank of the pond.

And so the troll had to leave the fish in peace; but now the sheep suffered for it; the troll chased them over knoll and cliff all that night.

So there were some of the other servants who had been out again, saying that Askeladden had said that he knew how to save the sheep, too, he did; if only he would. He had said he was good for it, that was certain.

Well, the king went out to him and said the same as before, and threatened to cut three broad red stripes in his back, if he did not do it.

So there was nothing else for it. Askeladden thought it would have been good to wear the king’s uniform and red tunic, but he would have to go without, since he had made himself do it, he said.

And so he began with the thyme again; but it was an almost endless task, for when he bound some thyme on to the sheep, then they ate it off one another again; and so it went, for the sheep ate more quickly than he could bind it. But finally, he made an ointment of thyme and pitch, and rubbed them with it. The cows and horses were also rubbed down with the thyme ointment, so that the troll left them in peace.

But one day, when the king was out hunting, he got lost in the forest; he rode around for many days, and had neither food nor drink, and his clothes suffered so terribly in the dense forest that he finally had hardly a rag left on his body. Then the troll came and said that if he could have the first thing the king met when he came to his land, then he would let him home to the king’s farm again. Yes, this the troll would have; the king thought it would probably be his little dog that would bark and play when it met him. But when he came so close to the king’s farm that they could see him, the eldest king’s daughter, with all the folk following her, went to meet the king, and received him both good and well.

When he saw that it was she who was first, he grew so sick that he fell to the ground immediately; and from that time, he was mostly half mad.

In the evening, the troll should come to fetch the king’s daughter, and she was decked out and sat in a meadow out by the tarn, weeping and mourning. There was one called Redfox, who should go with her, but he was so afraid that he climbed up a timber spruce, and remained sitting there.

Just like that, Askeladden came and sat down on the ground beside the king’s daughter. And she was glad, don’t you know, when she saw there were yet Christian-folk who dared to be with her. “Lay your head in my lap, and will nitpick you,” she said. Espen Askeladd did as she said, and while she did it, he fell asleep, and so she took a gold ring from her finger and tied it into his hair.

Just like that, the troll came, huffing; he was so heavy afoot that the forest groaned and creaked for half a league before him. When he saw Redfox, who sat in the spruce top, like a small blackcock, he spat at him—“Puh!” he said—so both Redfox and the timber spruce crashed to the ground, and there he lay, wriggling like a fish on dry land.

“Hu hu!” said the troll. “If you sit here nitpicking Christian-folk, then I will eat you,” he said.

“Puh!” said Askeladden, as soon as he awoke, and began to look at the troll through the keyring.

“Hu hu! What are you looking at me for?” said the troll to Askeladden. “Hu hu!” Then he hurled an iron bar at him, so that it stood fifteen cubits into the rock; but Askeladden was so swift afoot that he got out of the way as soon as the troll threw it.

“Puh! What a womanly throw!” said Askeladden. “Give me your toothpick, and you shall see a throw.” Yes, the troll plucked out the iron bar in one snatch; it was the size of three gate bars. Meanwhile, Askeladden stared at the sky, both south and north.

“Hu hu! What are you staring at, now?” said the troll.

“I am looking to see which star I should throw it to,” said Askeladden; “do you see the tiny little one straight to the north? I will take that,” he said.

“No, you let it sit as it sits,” said the troll; “you will not throw away my iron bar.”

“Well, well, then you shall have it back,” said Askeladden; “but perhaps you think it better that I sling you up to the moon a turn,” he said. No, the troll did not want that either.

“Then what about blind-man’s buff? Do you not want to play blind-man’s buff?” said Askeladden.

Yes, that might be good, “but you shall go first,” he said to Askeladden.

“Oh yes, of course,” said the boy; “but it is fairest if we all count, then we won’t have anything to argue about.” Yes, yes, they would do so, then. And then you should know that Askladden made it so that the troll was blindfolded, and should made the first attempt. And you should have seen the blind-man’s buff, hey! They went around on the edge of the forest; the troll crashed and tore into the tree stumps so that the splinters flew, and it sounded accordingly.

“No, no, should the troll be blind-man for long?” screamed the troll, and furious was he.

“Wait a little,” said Askeladden, “and I will stand still and call until you catch me.” Meanwhile, he took a hooked fishing line and sprang over to the other side of the tarn, in which there was no bottom. “Come now; here I stand,” called Askeladden.

“Is it ditches and forest?”

“You can surely hear that here is no forest,” said Askeladden, and swore that there was neither stump nor forest. “Come now!” So off he set again.

“Plump!” it said, and there lay the troll in the tarn, and Askeladden stabbed him in his eyes with the hook, every time he got his head above the water.

Now the troll begged so thinly for his life that the boy felt sorry for him; but first he had to renounce the king’s daughter, and bring the other one, whom the troll had taken before, and promise that folk and livestock would be left in peace; then the troll was let out and crawled home to his mountain.

Then Redfox was the fellow again, came down from the spruce, and took the king’s daughter with him up to the castle, and threatened her to say that it was he who had saved her. And then he crept down to receive the other one, when Askeladden had let her into the garden.

Now there was such joy in the king’s farm that it could be heard, and was asked about across the land and kingdom, and Redfox would have a wedding with the youngest daughter.

Yes, that was well and good, but it was not so well yet—for just like that, the troll had gone down into the earth and clogged all the waterways; “if I cannot but make trouble,” he thought, “then they shall have no water to boil their wedding porridge in.”

There was nothing for it, other than to send for Askeladden again. He took himself an iron pole that was fifteen cubits long, and six smiths who were to make it glowing red. Then he looked through the keyring; and he saw the troll just as well beneath the ground as above, and drove the pole down through the ground and down the back of the troll so that it smelled of burned horn for seven leagues.

“Hau! Hau!” screamed the troll. “Let me up!” Just like that, he came rushing up the hole, and was burned up to his neck. But Askeladden was not slow. He took the troll and laid it out on a pole that was garlanded with thyme, and there it had to lie, and say where it had got eyes from, since he had hacked them out with the fishing hook.

“I stole myself a raw turnip,” said the troll; “I rubbed it with some fat, then I cut it how I wanted, and fastened it in with cloves; and better eyes would I not wish on a Christian man.”

Then came the king and both king’s daughters, and would see the troll, and Redfox walked so proudly and haughtily that his tail was higher than his neck. But then the king caught sight of something that blinked in Askeladden’s hair. “What do you have there?” he said.

“Oh, that is the ring that your daughter gave me when I saved her from the troll,” said Askeladden. And now it all came out, how everything had happened. Redfox wept and pleaded for himself; but no matter how he carried on, weeping, it did not help, he had to go to the snakepit, and there he immediately burst.

Then they made an end of the troll, and then they began to carry on and dance at Askeladden’s wedding; for now he was the celebrated one. He won the youngest king’s daughter and half the kingdom.

Now my tale I lay upon a sleigh,
and drive to you, whose words do better play,
But if no better words you can contrive,
Then shame on you who blames me, when I strive.

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