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Sunday, 8 May 2022

The Forest of Brass and Silver and Golden Leaves

A long time ago, there lived a man and his wife far away in the forest. They had a small boy and they lived in poverty. Well, they both died, and the poor little boy was left all alone in the world. He had no one to turn to, and he mourned and wept every day, for his mother and father had left him alone in the world.

Now, one day he went to the grave of his parents. There he sat weeping, his thoughts weighing heavily upon his mind. As he sat there, he saw a small caterpillar crawling about in the grass. The caterpillar tried to climb up a long straw, but fell down again. The same thing happened many times, and the little boy forgot his sorrow and sat watching in fascination. He saw how the caterpillar was just as helpless as he was himself, and so he took a large blade of grass, rolled it around the caterpillar, and took it home with him.

When he got home, he collected a big pile of lush green grass and laid the caterpillar on top. The caterpillar crawled about and ate the grass and began to grow. But the most marvellous thing was that, as it grew, it began to look like an animal – a calf; it grew four feet and a tail. And as it grew even bigger, small horns began to appear on its head.

Before the end of the summer, the caterpillar had grown into a big, strong bull. And one day, before the boy knew what had happened, the bull said to him (for animals could talk back then): “Yes, you have been kind and cared for me and given me food, and I have grown big and strong. You must gather together the little you have and clamber up on to my back, for we shall now go out into the wide world and take a look around.”

The boy did as the bull said. He didn’t own much, but he tied the little he had into a bundle and clambered up on to the back of the bull. And then they set off into the big, wide world.

Then suddenly one day they came to a wonderful forest. The leaves gleamed so brightly that they could almost hurt your eyes. And when the boy looked a little more closely, all the leaves on all the trees were of pure brass. He had never seen such beautiful and pretty leaves before, and he thought to himself that he had to break off a leaf. But the bull was quick to say: “No, you mustn’t take any of the leaves in the forest here. For a terrible big troll owns this forest, and if you pull a leaf off any of the trees, it’ll come and tear us apart.” Indeed, the boy promised that he wouldn’t, but suddenly he couldn’t help himself and he took a leaf.

This was barely done before there was a horrible, deafening rumble. “Oh, what have you done now?” said the bull. “Now that you’ve taken a brass leaf, the troll is coming to get us. You must get down off my back, and I’ll try and see what I can do.”

The boy had barely come down from his back before the troll came charging through the forest. And it was a fearful fight. But just like that, the bull drove its horn into the midst of the troll’s chest and tossed it far away through the forest. And then it was over. “Yes, it turned out well this time,” said the bull, “and now you can sit up on my back again, for we are going much farther.” So the boy clambered up on to the bull again, and then it set off.

Now they travelled far and at length. And suddenly one day they again came to a wonderful forest. It glittered and it gleamed so that looking at it could almost hurt your eyes. When the boy took a closer look, all the leaves on the trees were of pure silver, and as they passed through the forest, he wanted more and more to break off a leaf. But then the bull said: “No, you must not take any leaf, for in this forest there is a troll that is much bigger than the one in the brass forest. If you break off any leaf, it’ll come and get us, and that can be really dangerous.”

Indeed, the boy promised he would not do so, but suddenly he couldn’t help himself, and he broke a leaf off a branch. Immediately there was a horrible, deafening rumble. “Oh no, what have you done now?” said the bull. “Now you have broken off a leaf, and now the troll is coming to get us. You must get down off my back, and I shall try and see what I can do.”

The boy had barely come down from his back before the troll came charging through the forest. This one was much bigger and scarier than the first. And it was a fearful fight. They stabbed and they kicked so that earth and bushes flurried in the air, but suddenly, the bull drove its horn into the midst of the troll’s chest and tossed it far, far away through the forest. And then it was over. “Yes, it turned out well this time,” said the bull, “and now you can sit up on my back again, for we are going much farther still.” So the boy clambered up on to the bull again, and then it set off.

Far they went, and at length. And then one day they came to a forest that the boy could never even have dreamed of. Not only did it glitter and gleam, but when the sun shone, then it was as if the whole forest stood aflame. When the boy looked more carefully, all the leaves on the trees were of pure gold. And small birds fluttered and flew and sang throughout the whole forest. Indeed, he could never have imagined something so fine and pretty. “You must not pull off or take any leaf from here,” said the bull, “for here is a troll who is as big and ugly as the other two together. So if you take a leaf from here, then it‘ll come, and the outcome would not be certain.”

Indeed, he promised he would not take any leaf. But it wasn’t so long before he couldn’t control himself, and he broke off a gold leaf, and immediately there was a horrible, deafening rumble that shook the whole forest, it was so terrible. “Oh no, what have you done now?” said the bull. “Now you have broken off a leaf, and now the troll is coming to get us. You must get down off my back, and I shall try and see what I can do. But I’m terribly afraid this time.”

The boy had barely come down from his back before the troll came charging through the forest. It was so big and ugly and foul that there was no end to it. And this is how things went: the troll went straight for the bull. The bull threw himself to one side, and the troll nearly stumbled, but it kept its legs. Things continued in this manner for a long time. But then, just like that, the bull drove its horns into the troll’s chest and tore it completely open. And that was the end of it. “Yes, it turned out well this time as well,” said the bull, “and now you can sit up on my back again, for we are going much farther still.”

After they now had travelled for a while, they came to a beautiful great castle. “Well, now we have arrived, and now we are not going any farther,” said the bull. “And so you must take me and kill me, for I have finished my work.” No, the boy would not hear anything of it; the bull had been so steadfast, and saved him from the trolls. “Yes, you must do it,” said the bull, “for otherwise I shall have to stab you to death, which would certainly be much worse.” When the boy heard this, there was nothing to do but kill the bull. And then a handsome fine prince stood before him. And when he turned around to look, a beautiful princess stood on the steps of the castle.

“Well, now the enchantment is broken,” said the prince. And then he said: “My sister stands by the castle. The brass and silver and golden forests are ours, but three foul trolls wanted these fine, pretty forests, and when our father and mother died, they turned me into a caterpillar. Then they each took a forest, and there they stayed, taking care that no one would come and take the forests from them.

“But the day came when you found me on the grass on the grave of your parents. And you took me home and cared for me. And I started to grow and became a great bull, with big, sharp horns. And when I had grown so big that I could manage to take the life of the troll, we set off. And now you see how things have gone. Now you should stick the brass and the silver and then gold leaves in the buttonhole on your tunic, and we shall go in to my sister’s castle.” You can imagine how overjoyed she was, now that the enchantment was broken, and now that her brother had returned home.

The prince gave the boy his sister for his wife, as well as half of the land, and half of the brass and the silver and the golden forests. They lived happily for a long time. And if they are not dead, then yet they live.

AT 511A
Location: Beiarn in Nordland
Informant: Arne Øynes
Collector: Erling Vegusdal Eriksen
Date: 1953?

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