Monday, 8 May 2017

The Hen Trips in the Mountain

Once upon a time there was an old widow who lived in a remote village tight by a hill with her three daughters. She was so poor that she owned nothing but a hen, and this she held as dearly as the apple of her eye; she clucked for it and tended it, both early and late.

But one day, just like that, the hen disappeared. The wife then went around about the cabin, searching and calling, but the hen was, and remained gone.

“You must go out to try to find our hen,” said the wife to her eldest daughter; “we must have it back, even if we must take it out of the mountain.” So the daughter went out to look for it; she went both hither and thither, and searched and called, and no hen did she find. But suddenly she heard from within the mountain wall:

The hen trips in the mountain!
The hen trips in the mountain!

She would then go over to see what it was, but by the mountain wall, she fell through a trapdoor, deep, deep into a chamber beneath the earth. Down there, she walked through many rooms, the one finer than the other, but in the innermost, an ugly great man of the mountain came to her.

“Will you be my sweetheart?” he asked.

No, she said, by no means; she wanted to go back up and look for her hen, which was missing.

Then the man of the mountain grew so angry that he took her and twisted her head off her, and threw both head and body down into the cellar.

The mother sat at home, and waited and waited, but no daughter returned. She waited a good while longer, but as she neither saw nor heard anything of her, she said to the middle daughter that she should go out looking for her sister; “and you can call for the hen at the same time,” she said.

The second sister would thus out, and things went just the same way with her; she went and she called, and suddenly she too heard from the mountain wall:

The hen trips in the mountain!
The hen trips in the mountain!

This she thought was strange; she would go over to see what it was, and then she too fell through the trapdoor, deep, deep down into the chamber. There she walked through all the rooms, but in the innermost, the man of the mountain came to her and asked if she would be his sweetheart. No, she would by no means be that; she wanted to go up again immediately, and search for the hen that was missing. But then the man of the mountain grew angry; he took her and twisted her head off, and threw head and body down into the cellar.

When the wife now sat waiting for her second daughter too, for seven long and seven broad, and no daughter was to hear or see, she said to the youngest: “Now, truly you must go and look for your sisters. Bad it was when the hen went missing; even worse would it be if we did not find your sisters. The hen you can always call at the same time.”

Well, the youngest was to go out, then; she went hither and thither and searched and called, but she did not see the hen, and neither did she see her sisters. A long time after a long time, she also came to the mountain wall, and there she heard it say:

The hen trips in the mountain!
The hen trips in the mountain!

This she thought was strange; she would go over to see, and then she fell through the trapdoor, deep, deep down into the chamber. Down there, she walked through one room finer than the other; but she was not so afraid, and gave herself good time to look at both one thing and another, and so she caught sight of the cellar trapdoor, too. She looked down through it, and soon recognised her sisters, who lay down there.

As soon as she had got the cellar trapdoor closed again, the man of the mountain came to her.

“Will you be my sweetheart?” asked the man of the mountain.

“Yes, I will,” said the girl, for she understood well enough how things had gone for her sisters.

When the troll heard this, she was given fine, fine clothes, the finest she could wish for, and anything else she would have, so glad was he that someone would be his sweetheart.

But when she had been there a while, there was a day she was even more downcast and quiet than she usually was, and so the man of the mountain asked what she was so sullen for.

“Oh,” said the girl, “it is because I cannot go home to mother; she is certainly both hungry and thirsty, and she has no one with her, either.”

“Well, you cannot be allowed to go to her,” replied the troll, “but put some food in a sack, and I shall carry it to her.”

Yes, she thanked him for this—she would do it, she said; but at the bottom of the sack, she placed a deal of gold and silver, and then she put some food on top, and then said to the troll that now the sack was ready, but he must by no means look in it, and he promised that he would not, too.

When the man of the mountain went, she peeped out at him through a small hole there was in the trapdoor; when he had gone a part of the way, he said: “it is so heavy, this sack; I will look to see what there is in it,” and he began to loosen the bands; but then the girl shouted: “I can see you! I can see you!”

“Those are some damnable eyes you have in your head, then,” said the troll, and so he did not dare try that again.

When he arrived at where the widow lived, he threw the sack in though the cabin door. “There you have some food from your daughter; she lacks nothing,” he said.

When the girl had now been in the mountain a good while more, a billy-goat one day fell through the trap door.

“Who is it who sent for you, you shaggy beast?” said the troll, he was terribly wild, and so he took the buck and twisted off its head, and threw it down into the cellar.

“Oh no, why did you do that?” said the girl. “I could have had fun with it down here.”

“You don’t need to start whining, I know,” said the troll, “I can soon bring life back to the billy-goat, I can.” With that, he took a jar that hung on the wall, set the billy-goat’s head back in place and rubbed it in from the jar, and then it was just as good again.

Ho, ho! thought the girl, that jar must be worth something.

When she had been with the troll a good while more, she made sure the troll was out, took the eldest of her sisters, put her head in place, and rubbed her in from the jar, as she had seen the troll do with the goat; and straightway her sister came back to life. The girl put her in a sack, and put some food on top, and as soon as the troll returned, she said to him: “Dear me! You must go home to mother with some food again; she is certain to be both thirsty and hungry, the poor thing; alone is she, too. But do not look in the sack!”

Yes, he would go with the sack, he said, and neither would he look in it; but when he had gone a part of the way, he thought the sack was so heavy, and when he had walked a while, he said that he would see what was in the sack. “What manner of eyes does she have, if she can see me now?” he said to himself.

But as soon as he began to loosen it, she who sat in the sack said: “I can see you! I can see you!”

“Those are some damnable eyes you have in your head, too then,” said the troll—he thought it was she in the mountain who spoke. He dared not look down into the sack again, but carried the sack to the mother, as quickly as he could; and when he came to the cabin door, he threw it in. “There you have some food from your daughter; she lacks nothing,” he said.

Now, when the girl had been in the mountain for a good while, she did the same with the other sister; she put her head on her, rubbed her in from the jar, and put her in the sack. But this time, she filled as much gold and silver upon her as there was room for, and right on top, she laid a little food.

“Dear me!” she said to the troll. “Now you must go home to my mother with some more food again; but do not look in the sack!”

Yes, the troll would satisfy her in this, and he promised too that he would not look in the sack. But when he had gone a part of the way, the sack grew terribly heavy, he thought; and when he had walked even further, he was simply exhausted; he had to put down the sack and take a breather, and then he would loosen the fastenings and look in; but she who sat in the sack cried: “I can see you! I can see you!”

“Those are some damnable eyes you have in your head, too!” said the troll, and so he dared not look in the sack any more, but hurried as quickly as he could, and carried the sack all the way to the mother. When he came outside the cabin door, he threw it in: “There you have some food from your daughter; she lacks nothing,” he said.

When the girl had been there a good while longer still, the troll was going out once; the girl pretended that she was miserable and sick, and whined and carried on.

“It is no good your coming home before twelve o’clock,” she said, “for I will not be able to make your food ready before then, so miserable and ill I am.”

When the troll had well gone, she stuffed her clothes with straw and set this straw girl in the corner by the hearth, with a stirrer in its hand, so that it looked as if it were herself standing there. Then she hurried home, and brought a shooter to stay in her mother’s cabin.

When it was twelve o’clock, and even more, the troll came home.

“Bring the food!” he said to the straw girl.

No, she did not answer.

“Bring the food, I said!” said the troll again; “I am hungry!”

No, she did not answer.

“Bring the food!” screamed the troll a third time. “Listen to what I say, or I will waken you, so help me!”

No, the girl stood just as still.

Then he grew so wild that he struck her, so that the straw was spread to the walls and ceiling. And when he saw this, he sensed a trick, and began to search, both high and low, and finally came down into the cellar, too; there were both of the girl’s sisters, gone, and so he understood straight away how things had gone. Yes, she would pay! he said, and began on the way to where the mother lived. But when he arrived at the cabin, the shooter shot, so the troll dared not go in, for he thought it was thunder. He set off home again, as quickly as he could; but as quickly as he came to the trapdoor, the sun streamed, and he burst.

There is certainly gold and silver enough yet. If only one knew where the trapdoor was.

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