Tuesday, 5 December 2017

The Sweetheart in the Forest

There was once upon a time a man who had a daughter. She was so beautiful that she was renowned across many kingdoms, and suitors came to her like as many leaves as fall in an autumn. One of them made out that he was richer than all the others. Handsome and fine was he, too. And so he should have her. And from that time, he often came to visit.

As time passed, he wanted her to come to his place, to see how he lived. He could not fetch her, to accompany her, but when the day came that she should visit, he would scatter peas along the road, all the way to his front door. But however it did or did not happen, he scattered the peas a day early.

She walked far, and for a long time, through forest and mark, and finally she came to a big fine house, which lay on a green mound in the midst of the forest; but he was not home, and she found no folk in the house, either. First she came into the kitchen, but there was nothing to see there, other than a wondrous bird, which hung in a cage beneath the roof. Then she went into the parlour, and there it was so stately that it was simply unbelievable. But as she continued to walk around, the bird cried after her: “Beautiful maiden, be bold, but be not too bold!” When she came into the bedchamber, it cried the same again. There stood a number of chest of drawers. She pulled open the drawers, and they were full of gold- and silver finery, and everything that was beautiful.

When she went into the next chamber, the bird cried again: “Beautiful maiden, beautiful maiden, be bold, but be not too bold!” There it was full, hanging with fine womenfolk clothes all around the walls. When she went into the third chamber, the bird began to scream: “Beautiful maiden, beautiful maiden, be bold, but be not too bold!” Here there stood many buckets full of blood.

But when she went into the last chamber, the bird shrieked: “Beautiful maiden, beautiful maiden, be bold, but be not too bold!” There it was full of dead bodies, and skeletons of slain womenfolk. She was so horrified that she wanted to spring out again. But she got no farther than to the closest chamber, where all the blood stood. Then cried the bird: “Beautiful maiden, beautiful maiden, spring under the bed; he is coming now!”

She was not slow to obey the bird, and hid under the bed; she crawled as far in against the wall as she could, yes, she was so scared that she would have liked to have crawled into the wall, had she been able.

Then came her sweetheart with another maiden. She asked so weakly and feebly that he might spare her life, and then she would not expose him to anyone, but no prayer was of help. He ripped off her everything, both clothes and gold, even to a ring she had on her little finger. He pulled at it, but could not pull it off, so he chopped off the finger, so that it bounced under the bed. And the maiden who lay there took it to herself and hid it.

The sweetheart said to a little boy who was with him that he should crawl under the bed and take out the finger. Yes, he lay down and felt under, and felt she who lay there; but she squeezed his hand hard, and he understood her meaning.

“It lies so far underneath that I cannot reach it,” he said. “It will have to lie there until daylight, and then I shall fetch it.”

Early in the morning, the robber went out again, and the boy should remain at home to look after the house, and receive the maiden he expected; but he should not let her into the two rooms he knew about.

When he had well gone into the forest, the boy went in and said that she could come out.

“You were lucky you were early, or he would have killed you, like all the others,” he said.

She did not stop long, you should know, but hurried home as quickly as she could, and when her father asked why she had returned so soon, she told him what she had heard and seen.

After some time passed, the suitor came visiting again, and he was so fine that it dripped from him, and he asked why she had not come to visit him as she had promised.

A visiting man on a sleigh had been in the way, said her father. Now he would have to do with what the house could provide. And so he bade him stay there, for he had invited to a feast, and they might just as well drink to the engagement.

When they had eaten, and still sat at the table, the daughter of the house said that she had had such a strange dream a couple of nights previously, and had they a mind to listen, then she would tell them. But then everyone would have to remain sitting still until she was finished. Yes, they would like to hear, and they would sit still, they all promised, and the sweetheart did so, too.

“I dreamt that I walked upon a broad road, and there where I walked, peas were scattered.”

“Yes, that is like when you walk to my place, my dear,” said the sweetheart.

“Then the road grew narrower and narrower, and it stretched far through forest and wilderness.”

“That is like the way to my place, that is, my dear,” he said.

“Then I came to a green mound and to a beautiful big house.”

“That is like my place, that is,” he said.

“Then I came into the kitchen. I saw no folk there, but beneath the roof hung a wondrous bird in a cage, and when I went into the parlour it cried after me: ‘Beautiful maiden, be bold, but be not too bold!’”

“That is just like at my place, my dear,” said the sweetheart.

“Then I went into the bedchamber, and the bird cried the same as it cried before. In there were many chests of drawers, and when I pulled out the drawers and looked down in them, they were full of silverware and gold finery, and everything that is beautiful.”

“Yes, it was at my place, my dear,” he said. “I too have many drawers with gold and silver and costly things.”

Then I went into another chamber; the bird cried to me again, the same as he had said before, and there were womenfolk clothes hanging all around the walls.”

“Yes, that is also at my place, my dear,” he said. “There are clothes, and finery both of silk and velvet.”

“When I went into the next chamber, the bird began to scream: ‘Beautiful maiden, beautiful maiden, be bold, but be not too bold!’ And in that chamber there stood barrels and buckets along all the walls, and they were full of blood!”

“Fie, that is terrible; it is nothing like at my place, my dear,” said the sweetheart. Now he was hurting, and wanted to leave.

“It is just a dream I am telling, of course,” said the daughter of the house. “Remain sitting; you can always manage to listen.

“When I went into the next chamber, the bird began to scream the same as it had said before: ‘Beautiful maiden, beautiful maiden, be bold, but be not too bold!’ There lay many dead bodies, and skeletons of slain folk.”

“No, it was certainly not at my place!” said the sweetheart, wanting to leave.

“Do sit,” she said. “It is nothing but a dream, and I am sure you can manage to listen. I too thought that it was terrible, and ran out again. But I came no further than the other chamber, where all the blood barrels stood. Then the bird screeched that I should spring under the bed and hide myself, for now he was coming. And so he came, and he had a maiden with him, who was so beautiful that I thought I had not seen her equal. She pleaded so prettily that he should spare her life; but he cared not a whit for that. She wept and she pleaded; he ripped off her clothes and took everything she had, and spared neither her life nor anything else. But on her left hand, she had a finger ring that he could not pull off, so he hacked the finger off her, and it bounced under the bed to me.”

“Fie! That is nothing like at my place, my dear,” said the sweetheart.

“Yes, at your place it was! There is the finger, and there is the ring, and there is the man who hacked it off,” she said.

So they took him and killed him and burned both him and the house in the forest.


  1. Simon, I am really pleased to have stumbled on your blog for two reasons ... 1) I have a love for fairytales, and 2) I am teaching myself Bokmal.
    I appreciate you are not making literal transcriptions of the original texts, but it would really help me if you could also include a weblink to a similar rendition of each story told in Bokmal.

  2. Hi Duncan,
    Thank you for your interest in the tales. From now on, I will link to the original tale in my posts, but going back and editing more than 130 posts will take too much work. Note, though that the tales weren't written in bokmål, but in a form that was the first step out of the Danish written language that had been imposed upon Norway during the union with Denmark. Asbjørnsen especially also recreated regional dialects in his texts.

    The whole collection may be found in Norwegian here: http://runeberg.org/folkeven/