Saturday, 17 June 2017

The Fisher’s Sons

There was, upon a time, a man who was out fishing; he carried on all day, struggling and rowing, but he did not get even one bite. When evening drew in, and he rowed the way home, he felt a bite, and when he hauled it up, it was a big halibut. When he brought it to the surface, the fish began to speak, and asked so beautifully to be let out again. No, said the man, he could not do that; he had striven the whole day, without catching anything, so he had to take it home for dinner. Well, as there was no escape, the fish asked him to chop it up into eight pieces: two he should give to his wife, two he should give to the dog, two the mare, and two he should lay on the table, and liver and lungs he should bury down in the cellar. This the man did. As time passed, the wife fell pregnant and gave birth to two boys, the dog had two pups, the mare two foals, and on the table came up two swords.

The boys grew up, and big, strong lads they became, and they were so alike that folk could hardly tell them from one another. So one asked permission to go out into the world, to try his luck. He was allowed, and the father said that he should take the dog that barked first, and the horse that whinnied first, and the sword that moved first when he came in to them.

Thus he equipped himself and travelled away. When he had ridden far, and farther than far, he came to a great sandy strand; just as he rode along it, he met a carriage that was dressed in black, and inside sat a princess in mourning. He who drove let her out on to the beach, and drove on his way. This the boy thought was strange, and so he went over to the maiden and asked why she should sit there. Well, she said, a troll would come, who ate nothing but maidenly flesh; it had eaten up all the maidens in the land, and she was the last one left, for she was the daughter of the king; and the king had promised her to the one who could save her.

Was there no way to save her from the troll? he asked. No, there was not.

“Well, I will dare try, anyway,” said the boy. But the king’s daughter begged and pleaded that he should go on his way; it was enough that the troll made an end of her, without it also taking his life.

Then the sea began to roar and roil, and then up came a great troll.

“Do you sit here with my bride?” said the troll.

“It is no more yours than mine,” said the boy.

“We will quarrel about this,” said the troll.

“Certainly,” said the boy. “Horse, up and kick; dog, up and bite; sword, forth and hack!” he said.

Then there was a struggle, and it did not last long before the troll had to bite the earth, and when it was done, the boy cut out its tongue and hid it.

Then they travelled, and the king’s daughter was glad, you may be sure of that. As they approached the king’s farm, she said that he should remain sitting there until the king returned to him with a horse and carriage. But the boy did not want this; if it was to be so, then he would prefer to go with her immediately, “for you will only forget me,” he said.

“How could I forget you who has saved me in my direst need?” said the king’s daughter, and then she took a ring and tied it in his hair.

So he had to remain there, and she travelled. But when she came to cross the great bridge outside the king’s farm, she met the king’s charcoal burner.

“Have you returned alive?” he said.

Yes, she told of how the boy had come to save her.

“Now you shall tell the king that it was I who saved you,” said the charcoal burner, “or I shall throw you off the bridge.” No, she did not want that, but he threatened her life, and so she thought she could always tell the truth, if only she could make it home.

She had a little dog, and it came out to meet her, and when she came into the king’s farm, it jumped up and licked her around the mouth, so she simply forgot about the boy. The king was glad, you can imagine, because she was saved and he had received her back, but he thought it bad that the charcoal burner should have her. But however it was or was not, they began to prepare the wedding.

Meanwhile, the boy sat, waiting and waiting; but when nobody came for him, then he travelled to another king’s farm, which was not far from there. There lived the king’s son, the brother of the princess the boy had saved.

The boy asked what manner of feast they held over there in the other king’s farm. Oh, it was the sister, who held a wedding with a charcoal burner who had saved her from the sea troll, said the king’s son.

“Why are you not at the wedding, then?” the boy asked.

“No, I do not quite agree with my father,” he said; “but it would be fun to have some of the food and drink they have on the wedding farm,” said the king’s son.

“It is not much to ask,” said the boy. “My horse and my dog and my sword, go forth and take the platter and the beer barrel that sits before the bride!” Yes, they went between guard and servant in the midst of the hall, and took the platter and barrel.

When the king’s son and the boy had tasted the meat and the flesh, and had drunk themselves satisfied, the king’s son said that it would be fun to taste the roast and the wine that they had on the wedding farm.

“It is not much more to ask that,” said the boy. “My horse and my dog and my sword, go forth and take the roast and the wine that stands on the end of the king’s table!” Yes, they went among all the guards and servants, and took the roast and the wine, and left with them. This the king wanted to know about, but before he could ask, they had gone, both the animals and the sword.

When the king’s son and the boy had lived well, eaten the roast, and drunk the wine, the king’s son thought it would be fun to taste the wedding cake, too.

“It is no more difficult than before,” said the boy. “My horse and my dog and my sword, go forth to the king’s farm and take the wedding cake that sits before the queen.” Yes, they were not slow to do so, but this time they had to strike and bite and hew their way forward. And they were delayed so long that the king discovered who owned the animals and the sword. So he sent a messenger, to ask the boy to the wedding. But he would not go, unless the king himself came and was reconciled with his son, and brought them to the wedding with horses and a carriage. Well, there was nothing else for it, and so they both went to the wedding.

The boy was seated at the table, right beside the bride, and on the other side, the charcoal burner. The great troll had he hung up above the table.

“What manner of huge body is that?” said the boy.

“It is the great troll I killed when I saved the maiden,” said the charcoal burner.

“It is strange that such a great troll would have no tongue,” said the boy, looking into its mouth.

“No, such great trolls have no tongue,” said the charcoal burner.

“That is some nonsense! Everything that lives has a tongue,” said the boy.

“Not at all.”

“Now you shall see,” said the boy. He took out the tongue and stuck it in the troll’s mouth; “stick fast!” he said, and it stuck fast.

“Dare you now say it has no tongue?” said the boy.

Then the king’s daughter turned around, and so she saw the ring that hung in his hair. “It is he who saved me!” she said.

This the king thought was strange. “You said it was the charcoal burner,” he said. So she told him how everything had gone, that the charcoal burner should throw her from the bridge if she did not say that it was he who had saved her. And then the king grew wroth, and had the charcoal burner put down in the last pile he had built, so the glowing flame stood up over him. Then the right wedding was held, and the king was so glad that he drank until he danced.

In the evening, when the bridal couple had gone down into the wedding chamber, the boy saw a light that burned, far away. He asked what it was. Oh, there was a troll woman who lived there, said the king’s daughter, the mother of the troll he had killed. When the boy heard this, he had to set off, and that immediately. She asked him not to go, but it did no good; had had to, and should.

When he came into the troll woman’s cabin, he asked if he might stay the night, “and where shall I put my horse and my dog and my sword?” he said.

“Take three hairs from your head and bind them!” said the troll woman. Yes, he did so, but then they turned to stone, all of them, and him, too.

The king’s daughter waited and waited, for seven long and seven broad, but no matter how she waited, her bridegroom did not return, and so there was mourning on the king’s farm again.

Since they had not heard from the boy for a very long time, either—where he was from—the fisher, his father thought he would look to see how he fared. He went down into the cellar, where he had buried the liver and the lungs of the fish—there was blood everywhere. When he came up again, he said to his other son: “Now you must go on your way; your brother is in mortal danger!”

Yes, he took the other horse, the other dog, and the other sword, and then he travelled. When he had ridden a good distance, he also came to the sandy strand, where his brother had done away with the great troll. There he met an old man, and he asked what manner of farms lay over there, and why they were dressed in black.

Yes, he could tell everything: that the king’s daughter had been saved by a boy, and about the wedding and the charcoal burner, and that the boy had gone from the king’s daughter on their wedding night—and no one had seen anything of him since. The boy understood that he told of his brother, and so he went straight up to the king’s farm. There he received a royal welcome, for he was so like the other, that both the king and the king’s daughter thought it was the right bridegroom. They were so unreasonably glad that there was no end to it. But when he came into the bridal chamber in the evening, he too asked what manner of light they saw.

“Do you not remember what manner of light it is?” said the king’s daughter. “It is where you travelled to, last time we came in here.”

“Yes, indeed!” said the boy, and so he had to and would go on his way, there was no question about it.

When he came into the troll woman’s cabin, he too asked if he might stay, “and where shall I put my horse and my dog and my sword?” he said.

She said to him, as to his brother, that he should take three hairs from his head and bind them. “Fetch first my brother, and his horse and his dog and his sword!” he said. She knew nothing of them, she said, but then the boy cried: “My horse and my dog and my sword, forth and kick and bite and hew!” and so she had to give in. She took a flask down from the wall, and dripped on to four stones that lay there, and so they returned to life again. But the first thing they used their life for was to beat the troll woman to death. Then they took the flask, and splashed over the cairn that stood outside, and with that, all the stones came back to life; they turned into folk and livestock, all of them. Then they went back to the king’s farm, where they trumpeted a wedding that was heard of and asked of across seven kingdoms, for then the right bridegroom had come.

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