Friday, 24 March 2017

Per, Pål, and Espen Askeladd

Once upon a time there was a man who had three sons: Per, Pål, and Espen Askeladd; but aught other than the three sons he had not, either, for he was so poor that owned not a pin on his body, and therefore he often said to them that they should go out into the world and see to earn their bread; at home with him there was nothing but starving to death, in any case.

A good distance from his cabin lay the king’s farm, and right outside the king’s windows had grown an oak that was so big that it blotted out the light on the king’s farm. The king had promised much, much money to the one who could fell the oak, but no one was good to do it, for as quickly as one cut a splinter from it, then two grew in its place. The king also wanted to dig a well that would hold water all the year, for all his neighbours had wells, but he had none, and this the king felt the shame of. To the one who could dig such a well that could hold water the whole year, the king had promised both money and more. But there was none who could do it, for the king’s farm lay high, high up on a hill, and before they had dug more than a few inches, then they reached the hard rock. But now that the king had it in his head to have these works done, he had it pronounced in all the churches, both far and wide, that the one who could cut down the great oak on the king’s farm and dig such a well as held water all the year, he would have the king’s daughter and half the kingdom.

There were enough of those who would try, you know, but for all their hewing and chopping, and for all their clearing and digging, nothing helped. The oak grew stouter and stouter with every chop, and the rock grew no softer, either.

After a while the three brothers wanted to set off to try their luck, too; and with this their father was well satisfied, for even if they did not win the king’s daughter and half the kingdom, then they might find a position in service somewhere with a good man, their father thought, and for more he could not wish; and when the brothers lit upon going to the king’s farm, their father said yes on the spot, and so Per, Pål, and Espen Askeladd set off.

When they had gone a distance, they came to a slope of spruces, and just above it lay a steep moor; and they heard someone chop-chopping up on the moor.

“I wonder what the chopping is, up on the moor,” said Espen Askeladd.

“You are always so wise in your wonderings, you are,” said Per, said Pål; “it certainly is something to wonder at, that a wood cutter is chopping up on the moor!”

“I will have fun going to see what it is, anyway,” said Espen Askeladd, and with that, off he went.

“Oh well, are you such a child, so it will do you good to learn to walk!” his brothers called after him; but he cared not about that, did Espen, he set off up the hill to whence he heard the chopping, and when he got there, he saw that it was an axe that stood chopping on a pine log.

“Good day,” said Espen Askeladd; “are you here, chopping?”

“Yes, I have been standing here chopping for many long times, waiting for you,” replied the axe.

“Yes, yes, here I am,” said Espen. Taking the axe, he knocked it off its shaft, and stuffed both into his knapsack.

When he came down again to his brothers, they began to laugh and make fun of him. “What strange thing did you see up on the moor?” they said.

“Oh, it was just an axe we heard,” said Espen.

When they had gone a distance more, they came below a crag. Above it they heard some hacking and digging.

“I wonder what it is that is hacking and digging on this crag, I do,” said Espen Askeladd.

“You are so wise to wonder!” said Per, said Pål again. “Have you never heard the birds hacking and digging in the trees before?”

“Yes, but I will have fun seeing what it is, anyway,” said Espen, and he did not care about all their laughing and making fun of him; he set off up the rocks, and when he came close by, he saw it was a hoe that stood hacking and digging.

“Good day,” said Espen Askeladd; “do you stand here, hacking and digging, all alone?”

“Yes, I do,” said the hoe, “now I have stood here, hacking and digging for many long times, waiting for you,” it said.

“Yes, yes, here I am,” replied Espen. He took the hoe, knocked it off its shaft, and hid it in his knapsack, and then he went down to his brothers again.

“It was certainly something terrible you saw there by the crag,” said Per, said Pål.

“Oh, it was nothing really; it was just a hoe we heard,” said Espen.

Then they went a good distance again, until they came to a brook; thirsty were they, all three, now after they had gone so far, and so they laid themselves down by the brook to take a drink.

“I wonder terribly where all this water comes from,” said Espen Askeladd.

“If you are not mad, then you will soon wonder yourself mad. Where does the brook come from? Have you never seen water running from a source in a field before?”

“Yes, but I want to see where it comes from, anyway,” said Espen; he went off upstream, and however much his brothers called for him and laughed at him, it did not help—he went on his way.

When he came far upstream, the brook grew smaller and smaller, and when he came even further, he saw a large walnut, and out from it the water poured.

“Good day!” said Espen again. “Do you lie here, pouring and running, all alone?”

“Yes, I do so,” said the walnut; “I have been lying here, pouring and running for many long times, waiting for you.”

“Yes, yes, here I am,” said Espen; he took a patch of moss, and pressed it into the hole, so that the water could not come out, and then he laid the walnut in his knapsack, and went off down to his brothers again.

“Now I suppose you have seen where the water comes from; it looked terribly strange, I imagine,” teased Per, teased Pål.

“Oh, it was just a hole it ran out of,” said Espen, and then the other two laughed and made fun of him again, but Espen Askeladd did not care about it; “I had fun looking for it, anyway,” he said.

When they had gone a distance more, they came to the king’s farm; but as everyone in the kingdom had heard that they could win the king’s daughter and half the kingdom if they could chop down the great oak, and dig a well for the king, there were so many who had tried their luck that the oak was twice the size and girth now than it was to begin with; for two splinters grew in place each time they cut one out with an axe, if you remember. The king had therefore set a punishment, that the one who tried and failed to cut down the oak should be set out on an island, and have both ears cut off.

But the two brothers did not let that scare them; they thought they would bring the oak down, and Per, who was eldest, would now try first. But things went with him as they had with all the others who had chopped the oak; for each splinter he cut, two grew out instead, and so the king’s folk took him, and cut off both ears, and set him out on the island. Now Pål would have his turn; but things went the same way with him: when he had chopped one–two–three chops, and they saw that the oak grew, the king’s folk took him too, and set him out on the island, and they cut his ears off even more snugly, for they thought he should have learned his lesson.

Then Espen Askeladd would have his turn.

“If you really want to look like a marked sheep, we can just as easily cut off your ears right now, to save you the trouble,” said the king. He was angry with him on account of his brothers.

“I would have fun trying first,” said Espen, and thus he was allowed to.

He took his axe out of his knapsack, and hafted it on its shaft again. “Chop by yourself!” said Espen to the axe, and it chopped so that the splinters flew, and so it was not long before the tree had to fall. When that was done, Espen took the hoe, and put it back on to its shaft. “Dig by yourself!” said Espen, and the hoe began to dig so that the earth and the stones flew, and so there was a well, as you can imagine. When he had it as deep as he wanted, Espen Askeladd took out his walnut and laid it in one corner of the bottom, and took out the moss. “Pour and run!” said Espen, and it began to run so that the water poured out of the hole, and in a little while, the well was completely full.

So Espen had chopped down the oak that had cast its shadow across the king’s windows, and made a well on the king’s farm, and so he won the king’s daughter and half the kingdom, as the king had said. But it was good that Per and Pål had lost their ears, else they would have heard—all the time, at every hour—what everyone said: that Espen Askeladd had not wondered himself so badly, yet.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

The Hidden Children of Adam

(Elen Johnsdatter Ucce, 1926, Kautokeino.)

“First it was so that I was herding reindeer, and then I caught sight of a person who lay on the other side of a pit. I thought it was a proper person—that it was he who I worked for—and I went over. When I reached the pit, I fell, and I did not get to speak with him. Then he disappeared, but I had seen him plainly, both his figure and his face. He was ruddy and had a crooked nose, and he wore a gákti [the traditional Sami tunic] and a shirt. He got up and took a lasso and his tobacco pouch and binoculars up from the ground, hung the lasso over a shoulder and one arm, and smiled so furtively at me. Then he disappeared, and I did not manage to reach him.

“When I came to my tent, I asked my husband what he had been doing there, what he had seen.

“‘Well, I have not been there,’ he replied.

“Then I began to think that it had been the husband in the other tent. He came over to our tent. Then I asked him, too, if he had been there. He replied that he had not been there. Then we began to guess at who it might have been. We decided that it could not have been a proper person, but one of the hidden children of Adam, as the háldier [hulder] are called.”

— Brita Pollan (ed.). Samiske beretninger. Oslo: Aschehoug & Co. 1997. p. 341f.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Askeladden and the Good Helpers

Once upon a time there was a king, and this king had heard tell of a ship that sailed as swiftly on land as on water; so he also wanted such a one, and to the one who could build it he promised the king’s daughter and half the kingdom, and he pronounced this in churches all over the country. There were many who tried, you know, for half the kingdom would be good to have, and the king’s daughter could be good, too; but things went badly for most.

Well, there were three brothers away in a forest village; the eldest was called Per, the second was called Pål, and the youngest was called Espen Askeladd, due to his habit of sitting, digging and raking in the ashes. But on the Sunday the king’s pronouncement was read out in church, it was fortunate that he too was in church. When he came home and told about it, Per, who was eldest, asked his mother for a parcel of food, for now he would go off on his way and try to build the ship, and win the king’s daughter and half the kingdom.

When he had his knapsack on his neck, he swept off. On his way, he met an old man who was crooked and frail.

“Where are you off to?” said the man.

“I am off to the forest, to make a trough for my father; he does not like to eat together with the rest of us,” said Per.

“A trough it shall be!” said the man.

“What do you have in your sack?” asked the man.

“Muck,” said Per.

“Muck it shall be!” said the man.

So Per swept into the oak forest and chopped and logged as best he could; but for all his chopping and for all his logging, he got nothing but trough after trough. When dinner time came around, he would have something to eat, and took up his knapsack. But it was not food that was in his knapsack. As he now had nothing to eat, and his carpentry went no better, he grew weary of his work, shouldered his axe and sack, and rushed home to his mother again.

Then Pål would go on his way and try his luck, to build the ship and win the king’s daughter and half the kingdom. He asked his mother for some food, and when he had it, he shouldered his sack and set off across the mark. On his way, he met an old man who was crooked and in need of God’s grace.

“Where are you off to?” said the man.

“Oh, I am going to the forest, to make a pig’s trough for our little pig,” said Pål.

“A pig’s trough it shall be!” said the man.

“What do you have in your sack?”

“Muck,” said Pål.

“Muck it shall be!” said the man.

So Pål swept off to the forest, and began to chop and log with all his might; but however he chopped, and however he joined, there was never anything other than trough forms and pig troughs. He did not give in yet, but carried on until late in the afternoon before he thought about taking any food; then he suddenly grew so hungry that he had to take out his sack of food immediately; but when he took it up, there was not a crumb of food in the sack. Pål grew so wroth that he turned the sack inside out and beat it against a treestump, took his axe, and swept out of the forest and home, just like that.

When Pål had come home, Askeladden wanted to go on his way, and asked his mother for some food. “Perhaps I will be the fellow to build the ship and win the king’s daughter and half the kingdom,” he said.

“Yes, I expect you will!” said his mother; “you who does nothing but stir and rake in the ashes! No, you may not have any food!” said the woman.

Askeladden did not give up for that; he asked for so long that eventually he was allowed. He did not get any food, but that did not matter, for he stole away a couple of oat lefses and a little flat beer, and set off.

When he had walked for a while, he met the same old fellow, crooked and pathetic and frail.

“Where are you off to?” the man asked.

“Oh, I am going to the forest, if that might help, to build a ship that sails as swiftly on land as on the water,” said Askeladden; “for the king has pronounced that the one who can build such a ship shall have the king’s daughter and half the kingdom,” he said.

“What do you have in your sack?” asked the man.

“Oh, it is not much to speak of; it is supposed to be some food,” Askeladden replied.

“If you give me a little of your food, then I shall help you,” said the man.

“You are welcome,” said Askeladden, “but it is nothing more than two oat lefses and a little flat beer.”

It did not matter what it was; if only he could have it, then he would surely help.

When they came up to the old oak forest, the man said this: “Now, you should cut out a splinter and then you should put it back in again as it stood before, and when you have done so, you can lie down and sleep.”

Well, Askeladden did as he said; he lay down to sleep, and in his sleep, he thought he heard chopping and hammering and logging and sawing and carpentry, but he could not awaken before the man woke him. Then the ship stood fully clad with oak.

“Now you should climb aboard, and everyone you meet, you should take with you,” said the fellow. So Espen Askeladd thanked him for the ship, sailed away, saying he would do so.

When he had sailed a distance, he came to a tall, thin wretch who lay close by a mountain, eating granite.

“Who are you for a fellow, lying here, eating granite?” said Askeladden.

Well, he was so hungry for meat that he could never be sated, and therefore did he have to eat granite, he said; and then he asked if he might be allowed to sail with the ship.

“If you want to come, then climb aboard,” said Askeladden.

He wanted to, yes, and so he took with him some big granite rocks for food.

When they had sailed a distance more, they met one who lay on a sunny bank, sucking at a barrel tap.

“Who are you for a fellow?” said Espen Askeladd, “and what good does it do, lying, sucking at a barrel tap?”

“Oh, when one has no barrel, then one must be satisfied with the tap,” said the man; “I am so thirsty for beer that I can never slake my thirst for beer and wine,” he said; and then he asked if he might be allowed to sail with the ship.

“If you want to come, then climb aboard,” said Askeladden.

He wanted to, yes, and so he climbed aboard, and brought the tap along, for the sake of his thirst.

When they had sailed a distance more, they met someone who lay with one ear to the ground, listening.

“Who are you for a fellow, and what shall lying, listening to the ground be good for?” said Espen Askeladd.

“I am listening to the grass, for I have such hearing that I hear it growing,” he said; and then he asked if he might be allowed to sail with the ship.

There was no refusal to that. “If you want to come, then climb aboard,” said Askeladden.

When they had sailed a distance more, they came to one who aimed and aimed.

“Who are you for a fellow, and what good does standing aiming do?” said Askeladden.

“I see so sharply,” he said, “that I can easily shoot to the end of the world;” and then he asked if he might be allowed to sail with the ship.

“If you want to come, then climb aboard,” said Askeladden.

Yes, that he would, and so he climbed up.

When they had sailed a distance more, they came to one who jumped on one foot, and the other had seven ship’s ballast weights fastened to it.

“Who are you for a fellow,” said Askeladden, “and what good does jumping around on one leg, with seven ship’s ballast weights on the other, do?”

“I fly so easily,” he said. “If I walked on both feet, I would come to the ends of the earth in five minutes;” and then he asked if he might be allowed to sail with the ship.

“If you want to come, then climb aboard,” said Askeladden.

Yes, this he would, and so he climbed aboard the ship with Askeladden and his companions.

When they had sailed a distance more, they met one who stood holding his mouth.

“What manner of fellow are you?” said Askeladden, “and what good does standing there, holding your mouth do?” he said.

“Oh, I have seven summers and fifteen winters in my body,” he said, “so I must hold my mouth; for were they all to slip out, then they would straightway destroy all the world,” he said; and then he asked if he might be allowed to sail with the ship.

“If you want to come, then climb aboard,” said Askeladden.

Yes, he would go with them, and so he climbed aboard, with the others.

When they had sailed a good distance, they arrived at the king’s farm.

Askeladden swept straight in to the king and said that now the ship stood ready out in the yard, and now he would have the king’s daughter, as the king had promised.

The king was none too pleased at this, for Askeladden did not look too special, but was both black and sooty, and the king would fain give his daughter to such a wretch. So he said that he would have to wait a little; he could not have the king’s daughter before he had emptied the king’s meat store of three-hundred barrels of meat; “it is the same if you can do it before tomorrow, then you shall have her,” said the king.

“I will try,” said Askeladden, “and I suppose I am allowed to take one of my friends with me.”

Yes, this he was allowed, even if he wanted to take all six, said the king, for he believed it was impossible, even if he had six-hundred.

Askeladden took only he who ate granite and was always so hungry for meat; and when they came and opened the store, he had eaten everything, so there was nothing left but six small cured shoulders, one each for the other friends. So Askeladden swept in to the king and said that now that the meat store was empty, he would have the king’s daughter.

The king went out to the store, and it was empty, sure enough; but Askeladden was both black and sooty, and the king thought it far too bad that such a wretch should have his daughter. So he said that he had a cellar full of beer and old wine, three-hundred barrels of each kind, which he would have drunk up first. “And it is the same if you are fellow enough to drink it up by this time tomorrow, then you shall have her,” said the king.

“I shall try,” said Askeladden; “but may I take one of my friends?” he said.

“By all means,” said the king; he thought he had so much beer and wine that they would find it impossible, all seven.

Askeladden took with him he who sucked at the tap and was always thirsty for beer, and the king locked them in the cellar. There he drank barrel after barrel, as long as there was some left, but in the last he left some, so that there was a couple of pots for each of the friends.

In the morning they opened up the cellar and straightway Askeladden swept in to the king, and said that he was finished with the beer and the wine, and now he would have the king’s daughter, as he had promised.

“Well, first I must go down into the cellar to see,” said the king, for he did not believe it; but when they came down into the cellar, there was nothing but empty barrels. But Askeladdden was both black and sooty, and the king thought it would be unseemly to have such a son-in-law. So he said it was the same to him if he could get water from the ends of the earth in ten minutes, for the princess’s tea, then he would have both her and half the kingdom; for that was simply impossible, he thought.

“I shall try,” said Askeladden.

So he went to he who hopped on one foot and had seven ship’s ballast weights on the other, and said that he could untie the weights and use his legs as quickly as he could, for he should have water from the ends of the earth, for the king’s daughter’s tea, in ten minutes.

He took off the weights, took a pail, and gone was he straightway. But time passed, seven long and seven broad, and he did not return; finally there were no more than three minutes until his time was up, and the king was as content as if he had won a mark.

But then Askeladden called for he who could hear the grass grow, and said that he should listen for what had become of him.

“He has fallen asleep at the well,” he said; “I can hear him snoring, and the trolls are nit-picking him,” he said.

Then Askeladden called for he who could shoot straight to the ends of the earth, and asked him to put a bullet in the troll. Yes, he did so, he shot it right in its eye; the troll let out a roar, so he awoke, he who should fetch the tea water, and when he came to the king’s farm, there was still a minute left of the ten.

Askeladden swept in to the king, and said that here was the water, and now he should have the king’s daughter, he should think; there was now nothing more to talk about. But the king thought him black and sooty, now as before, and did not like to have him as son-in-law. So the king said that he had three-hundred embraces of wood that he would dry grain with in the sauna, “and it is the same if you are a fellow to sit in there and burn it all up, then you shall have her, there is no doubt about it,” he said.

“I must try,” said Askeladden; “but I suppose I am allowed to take one of my friends.”

“Yes, or all six,” said the king, for he thought it would be warm enough for them all.

Askeladden took with him he who had the fifteen winters and the seven summers in his body, and swept down to the sauna in the evening; but the king had built up the fire so that it was such a bonfire that they might have cast coke ovens. They could not come out again, for they had hardly gone in before the king threw the bolt across and hung a couple of padlocks besides.

Then said Askeladden: “You should let out six–seven winters, so that it is about summer-warm.” Then it grew so that they could bear it there; but as the night drew on, it got a little too chilly. Then Askeladden said that he should temper it with a couple of summers, and then they slept until long into the day.

But when they heard the king moving about outside, Askeladden said: “Now you should let out a couple more winters, but make the last one go straight in his face.” Yes, he did so, and when the king opened the door to the sauna, thinking they lay burnt up, they sat there, shivering from the cold so that their teeth chattered; and he with the fifteen winters in his body let the last one out right in the king’s face, so he got a big frost-blister.

“Do I get the king’s daughter now?” said Askeladden.

“Yes, take her, and have her, and take the kingdom, as well,” said the king; he dared not say no any longer.

So they held a wedding and trumpeted and made a spectacle and sent up fireworks. While they went grasping after charges, they took me for one and gave me porridge in a bottle and milk in a basket, and then they shot me all the way here, so that I might tell how things went.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Grim Buckskin

Once upon a time there was a couple of rich folk who had twelve sons; and the youngest would not stay at home once he had grown up; he wanted to go out into the world to try his luck. His parents said they thought things were good and well at home, and that he might well stay with them, but he had no peace inside him; he would and should go on his way, and so he should be allowed.

When he had walked for a good while, he came to a king’s farm. He asked to go into service, and was allowed. The king’s daughter in the country had been taken into a mountain by a troll, and the king had no more children; therefore was he, and all the land, in great mourning; and the king had promised the king’s daughter and half the kingdom to the one who could rescue her, but there was none who could do so, despite there being many enough who tried.

Now, after the boy had been there for a year or so, he wanted to go home to visit his parents; but when he arrived home, his parents were dead, and his brothers had shared everything they owned between themselves, so that there was nothing left for the boy.

“Shall I not have anything after father and mother, then?” asked the boy.

“Who could have known that you were still alive, who has wandered and flapped about?” his brothers replied. “But no matter; up on the moors there are twelve mares. We have not divided them yet, and so, if you want them for your share, you may have them.”

Yes, the boy was content with this; he thanked them, and went on his way up on the moors, where the mares grazed.

When he got up there, and found them, each of them had a suckling foal, and with one of the mares was a large buckskin colt; it was such that it shone.

“You are beautiful, my young foal!” said the boy.

“Yes, but if you will kill the other foals so I may suckle from all the mares for a year, then you will see how big and beautiful I will be then,” said the foal.

The boy did so: he killed them all, and then went home.

When he came up the next year to see to the foal and to his mares, it was fat—so fat that its coat gleamed—and so big that the boy could only just manage to mount it; and all the mares had a foal each again.

“Well, it is true I received as much in return for letting you suckle from all the mares,” said the boy to the colt; “but now you are big enough, so you must come with me.”

“No, I will stay here for a year longer,” said the foal. “Kill all the foals now, so I may suckle from all the mares this year, too, and then you will see that I will grow big and beautiful by the summer.”

Yes, the boy did so again. And when he came up to the moors after the second year, to look to his foal and mares, they each had a new foal; but the buckskin foal was so big that the boy could by no means reach up when he tried to touch its neck to feel how fat it was; and so smooth was it that it shone.

“Big and beautiful were you last year, my foal, but this year you are even finer,” said the boy; “such a horse is not to be found at the king’s farm. But now you must come with me.”

“No,” said the buckskin again; “I must stay here for another year. Just kill the twelve foals now again, so I can suckle from the mares this year too, and then you shall see me next summer!”

Yes, the boy did so, too: he killed all the foals, and then he returned home again.

But when he came again the next year, to look to the buckskin and his mares, he was simply terrified. So big and course an adult he had never thought a horse could be, for the buckskin had to kneel on all fours before the boy could get up on to it—he had trouble enough getting on to it even though it lay down—and so enormously fat was it that it gleamed and shone as if from a mirror.

And this time the buckskin was not unwilling to go with the boy. He mounted it, and when he came riding home to his brothers, they clapped their hands together and crossed themselves, for such a horse had they neither seen nor heard of before.

“If you will give me good shoes beneath my horse, and a saddle and bridle as fine as any that exist,” said the boy, “then you shall have all twelve of my mares as they stand up on the moors, and their twelve suckling foals, too.” (That year each mare had bourne a foal, too.)

This the brothers were content with, and so the boy got shoes for the horse such that splinters of stone flew high into the air when he rode over the mountains, and such a golden saddle and such a golden bridle did he get that they lighted and flashed at a distance.

“Now we travel to the king’s farm!” said Grim Buckskin—that was his name; “but remember well to ask the king for good space in the stable and good feed for me.”

Yes, the boy promised he would not forget.

He rode off, and you can imagine that it did not take long to get to the king’s farm on such a horse as he had.

When he arrived, the king stood out on the threshold, and he glared and stared at he who came riding. “No, no,” he said. “Such a fellow and such a fine horse have I never seen in my life before!” And when the boy asked if he could go into service on the king’s farm, the king grew so glad that he was ready to dance there where he stood on the threshold; and it might well happen that he would go into service.

“Yes, but a good stable and adequate feed will I have for my horse,” said the boy.

Yes, he would have meadow grass and oats, as much as the buckskin would have; and all the other knights would have to take their horses out of the stable, for there Grim Buckskin would stand alone, so that he might have ample space.

But it was not long before the others at the king’s farm grew envious of the boy, and they did not know all the evil they would do, if only they dared. Finally, they decided to tell the king that he had said that he was good to rescue the king’s daughter, whom the troll had taken into the mountain a long time hence, whenever he liked.

The king called him straightway before him, and said that so-and-so had told him what the boy had said he was good for, and now he would do so, too. If he could, then he should know that the king had promised his both his daughter and half the kingdom, and this he would have, fairly and squarely; but if he could not, then he would be killed. The boy denied saying it, but that did no good—the king would not listen in that ear—and so there was nothing for it other than that he had to try.

He went down to the stable, as dour and sorrowful as he was. And Grim Buckskin asked what he was dour about; the boy told him, and said that he did not know how he should go about it; “for rescuing the king’s daughter, that is just not a good idea,” said the boy.

“Oh, it can be done, I suppose,” said Grim Buckskin; “I shall help you. But first I must be well shod. You must demand twenty pounds of iron and twelve pounds of steel for the shoes, and one smith to forge and one to shoe.”

Yes, the boy did so, and he was not refused; he got both the iron and the steel and the smiths, and thus was Grim Buckskin shod both well and good; and the boy rode out of the king’s farm so the dust swirled behind him.

But when he arrived at the mountain the king’s daughter had been taken into, what he needed to do was climb the mountain wall to where he would go into the mountain, for the mountain stood straight up and down, as steep as a cabin wall and as smooth as a glass window. The first time the boy rode on the path, he came a way up the mountain wall, but then Buckskin slid with both forelegs and they rode down again so that the moors resounded. The second time he rode, he got a way further up, but then one foreleg slid, and down they came, as if there had been an earthquake. But the third time, Buckskin said, “Now let us try!” and then he tilted at the wall so that the stones flew to the heavens about them, and thus they came up; the boy rode in at full tilt and snatched the king’s daughter up on to the horn of the saddle, and went out again before the troll got so far as to get up—and thus was the king’s daughter rescued.

When the boy returned to the king’s farm, the king was both happy and satisfied that he had got his daughter back, don’t you know; but however it did or did not happen, the others in the king’s farm had provoked the king, so that he was angry with the boy withal.

“Thank you, for you have rescued my daughter,” he said to the boy, when he came into the castle with her; and then he would leave.

“She should be mine, as well as yours, now, for you are a man of your word, are you not?” said the boy.

“Yes, yes,” said the king; “you shall have her, since I have said it; but first you must get the sun to shine here on the king’s farm.” For there was a high mountain just outside the windows, that threw its shadow so that the sun did not come in.

“That was not in our agreement,” replied the boy, “but I don’t suppose that helps; I must try my best, for the king’s daughter will I have.”

He went down to Buckskin again, and told what the king had demanded, and then Grim Buckskin said they could do it; but he had to have new shoes beneath him, and these would take twenty pounds of iron and twelve pounds of steel; and two smiths were needed, one to forge and one to shoe. Then they would get the sun to shine on the king’s farm. When the boy demanded this, he got it at once—the king thought it would be shameful to refuse him—and so Grim Buckskin was shod with new shoes, and those shoes did the job. The boy mounted, and off they went on their way again; and for each jump that Grim Buckskin made, the mountain sank by fifteen cubits down into the earth, and so they carried on until the king could no longer see the mountain.

When the boy came down to the king’s farm again, he asked if the king’s daughter should not now be his, for now he knew nothing other than that the sun shone in the castle, he said. But then the others at the king’s farm had provoked the king again, and so he replied that the boy should have her, he had never thought anything else, but first he should secure her so fine a bridal horse as the groom’s horse was. The boy said that the king had never spoken of this before, and now he believed he deserved the king’s daughter; but the king insisted, and if the boy could not do it, then he would lose his life, said the king.

The boy went down to the stable again, and sullen and dour was he, you may imagine. There he told Grim Buckskin that now the king had demanded he get the king’s daughter as fine a bridal horse as the horse the groom had, or he would lose his life; “it will be no good, I don’t think,” he said, “for there is not the like of you in all the world.”

“Oh yes, there is the like of me,” replied Grim Buckskin, “but it will not be easy to get it, for it is in Hell. But we must try. Now, you shall go up to the king and demand new shoes beneath me, and they will take twenty pounds of iron and twelve pounds of steel again, and two smiths, one to forge and one to shoe, but mind the nails and the toe are properly sharp; and twelve barrels of rye and twelve barrels of barley and twelve bull carcasses must we have with us; and all twelves bullskins must we have with us, with twelve-hundred nails in each, you must also demand; all this we must have, and a tar barrel with twelve barrels of tar in.”

The boy went up to the king and demanded everything Grim Buckskin had said, and again the king thought it would shame him to refuse him it, and so he got everything.

Then he mounted Grim Buckskin and rode off, and when he had ridden far, far away, over mountain and moor, Buckskin asked: “Do you hear anything?”

“Yes, there is a terrible rustling up in the air; I think I am afraid,” said the boy.

“It is all the wild birds of the forest, flying; they have been sent to stop us,” said Grim Buckskin. “But cut holes in the sacks, and they will have so much to gorge on that they will forget us.”

Yes, the boy did so, he cut holes in the sacks of grain, so that the grain and the rye ran out on every side. Then the wild birds of the forest came, so dense that the sun was blotted out; but when they saw the grain, they could not help themselves, but lighted and hacked and pecked at the grain and the rye, and finally they began to flock together and fight amongst themselves; they did nothing to the boy and Grim Buckskin, they simply forgot about them.

Now the boy rode again, both far and farther, over mountain and valley, over hill and heath; then Grim Buckskin stopped to listen, and then he asked the boy if heard anything.

“Yes, I hear a terrible rumbling from the forest on every side; I think I am scared now,” said the boy.

“It is all the wild animals of the forest, it is,” said Grim Buckskin; “they have been sent out to stop us. But throw out the twelve bull carcasses and they will have enough to do with them, and then they will forget about us.”

Yes, the boy threw out the bull carcasses, and then came all the wild animals of the forest, both bear and greyshanks and lion and all kinds of terrible animal; but when they saw the bull carcasses, they tore them up and fought over them until their blood flowed, and they simply forgot about the boy and Grim Buckskin.

So the boy rode on his way again, many, many horizons, for with Grim Buckskin he was not slow, you can imagine. Then Buckskin neighed. “Do you hear anything?”

“Yes, I heard what sounded like a foal neighing, so faintly, far, far away,” replied the boy.

“It was an adult foal, it was,” said Grim Buckskin; “it sounds so faint because he is so far away from us.”

So they travelled a good distance, a horizon or so more. Then Grim Buckskin neighed once more. “Do you hear anything now?” he said.

“Yes, now I clearly hear that it neighs like a grown horse,” replied the boy.

“Yes, you shall hear it yet once more,” said Grim Buckskin, “and then you will hear there is speech in it.”

They travelled a horizon or so more, and then Grim Buckskin neighed for a third time; but before he managed to ask the boy if he heard anything, it neighed over on the moor, so that the boy thought that rock and mountain would rend.

“Now it is here,” said Grim Buckskin. “Quickly now, and throw over me the bull skins with the nails in them, and throw the barrels of tar across the ground; then climb the great spruce there. When it comes, it will spew fire from both nostrils, which will catch the tar barrels. And pay attention: if the flames rise, then I am winning; but if they fall, then I am losing. But if you see that I am winning, then throw the bridle on it—you have to take it off me—and then it will be docile.”

As soon as the boy had managed to throw the nailed bull hides over Grim Buckskin, and the tar barrel across the ground, and had climbed the spruce, then there came a horse with fire shooting from it, and the fire caught the tar barrels immediately; and it and Grim Buckskin began to fight, so that the stones danced up to the sky. They bit and they kicked both with forelegs and hind legs; and sometimes the boy looked at them, and sometimes he looked at the barrel of tar. But finally the flames rose: for wherever the other horse bit, and wherever it kicked, it struck the nailed hides, and it had to retreat. When the boy saw this, he was not slow to come down from the tree and throw the bridle on it, and then it was so docile that he could steer it with a thread of twine. This horse was also a buckskin, and so like Grim Buckskin was it that no one could tell them apart.

The boy mounted the buckskin horse he had caught, and rode back home to the king’s farm; and Grim Buckskin ran loose with him. When he arrived, the king stood out in the courtyard.

“Can you now tell me which horse I have caught, and which I had before?” said the boy. “Can you not, then I think your daughter belongs to me.”

The king went and looked at both buckskins, both high and low, both before and behind, but there was not a hair of difference between them.

“No,” said the king, “that I cannot tell you; and since you have got my daughter as fine a bridal horse, you shall have her. But one thing must we try first, if it is to be. Now she shall first hide herself twice,” he said, “and afterwards you shall hide yourself twice; if you can find her both times she has hidden herself, but she cannot find you both times you have hidden yourself, then it is meant to be, and then you shall have the king’s daughter.”

“That is not part of the agreement, either,” said the boy; “but we must try, since that is the way things stand,” and the king’s daughter should hide herself first.

She turned herself into a duck, and lay swimming on the water that was close by the king’s farm. But the boy simply went down to the stable and asked Grim Buckskin where she had hidden herself. “Oh, you need only take your gun and go down to the pond and aim at the duck that lies swimming there,” said Grim Buckskin, “and I am sure she will come forth again.”

The boy snatched up his gun and went down to the water. “I want to squeeze that duck,” he said and began to aim at it.

“No, no, dear me! Don’t shoot! It is I,” said the king’s daughter. So he found her this time.

The second time, she turned herself into a loaf of bread, and laid herself on the table with four others; and so like the other loaves was she that no one could tell them apart. But the boy went down to the stable, to Grim Buckskin again, and said that now had the king’s daughter hidden herself, and he had no idea where she had hidden herself. “Oh, simply take and sharpen a good bread knife, and pretend that you will cut right through the third loaf from the left of the five that lie on the table in the king’s farm, and then she will come forth again,” said Grim Buckskin.

Yes, the boy went up to the kitchen and began to sharpen the biggest bread knife he could find, then gripped the third loaf of bread from the left, and set the knife to it, as if he would cut it right through. “I want a crust from this loaf,” he said.

“No, dear me! Don’t cut! It is I!” said the king’s daughter again; and so he had found her the second time, too.

Then it was his turn to hide himself. First, he turned himself into a horsefly, and hid himself in Grim Buckskin’s left nostril. The king’s daughter went and searched and sniffed everywhere, both high and low, and then she wanted to go into Grim Buckskin’s stall, as well; but he began to bite and kick around himself so that she dared not, and so she could not find him.

“Well, since I cannot find you, then you must come forth by yourself,” she said; and straightway the boy stood by her side on the stable floor.

The second time, Grim Buckskin again told him what he should turn himself into, and this time he turned himself into a clod of earth, and set himself between hoof and shoe on Grim Buckskin’s left forefoot. The king’s daughter went and searched, and searched again, both outside and inside, and finally she came into the stable and wanted to go into Grim Buckskin’s stall. Yes, this time he let her approach him, and she sniffed both high and low; but under his hoofs she could not come—he stood too heavily on his legs for that, Grim Buckskin did; and so she could not find the boy.

“Yes, then you had better come forth by yourself, since I cannot find you,” said the king’s daughter; and straightway the boy stood beside her on the stable floor.

“Yes, now you are mine,” said the boy to the king’s daughter; “for now you can see it is meant to be,” he said to the king.

“Yes, if it is meant to be, then so be it,” said the king.

A wedding was prepared, both well and quickly, and the boy mounted Grim Buckskin, and the king’s daughter his like; so you can imagine that it did not take long to get to church.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

The Gjertrud-bird

In the old good days, when Our Lord and St Peter walked and wandered here on earth, they once came into a wife who sat baking. Her name was Gjertrud, and she had a red cap on her head. Since they had walked a long way, and were both hungry, Our Lord asked her politely for a lefse to taste. Yes, he might have one, but she took a small portion of dough and rolled it out; even so, it grew so large that it filled the whole griddle. No, that lefse was too big, he could not have that. She took an even smaller portion of dough, but when she had rolled it out and folded it on to the griddle, then that lefse was also too big, and he could not have that one, either. The third time, she took an even smaller portion of dough, a tiny one. Also this time the lefse was far too big.

“Well then, I haven't anything to give you,” said Gjertrud. “You may leave again without so much as a taste, for my lefses grow too big, all of them.” Then Our Lord grew angry and said: “Because you wished me so ill, you will be punished by becoming a bird, and taking your dry feed from between the bark and the wood, and drinking no more often than every time it rains.”

And he had hardly finished speaking before she had become a woodpecker, and flew from the baking table, up through the chimney.1 And even today, one may still see her flying around with her red cap and black all over, after the chimney blackened her. She hammers and picks at trees, for food, and chirps with the expectation of rain, for she is always thirsty, and then she expects to drink.


  1. Gjertrudsfuglen (the Gjertrud-bird) is the Norwegian folkname for the black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius). 

Friday, 24 February 2017

A Night in the Northern Mark

This is the last text in the first volume of Norwegian Hulder Tales and Folk Legends. If you make the effort of getting past the multitude of references to places in areas you probably have never visited, “A Night in the Northern Mark” will reward you with numerous entertaining and informative tales of hulder fish, will o’ the wisps, buried hulder treasures, and a hulder farm.

As a result of the poll I did on Twitter the other week, I am now making this text available directly on the Web, as well as in .pdf format. I hope this will mean that more people read it.

The .pdf may be found here (29 A5 pages).

The Web page may be found here (approx. 6000 words).

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

The Hen Who Went to Dovre Mountain so All the World Would Not End

Once upon a time there was a hen who flew up and perched in a great oak tree one evening. That night, she dreamed that all the world would come to an end, if she did not go to Dovre mountain. Straightway she jumped down and started on her way.

When she had gone a way, she met a cockerel.

“Good day, Cocky Locky,” said the hen.

“Good day, Henny Penny; where are you off to, so early?” said the cockerel.

“Oh, I am going to Dovre mountain, so that all the world will not come to an end,” said the hen.

“Who has said so, Henny Penny?” said the cockerel.

“I sat in the oak tree, and dreamed it last night,” said the hen.

“I will come with you,” said the cockerel.

So they went a long distance, and then they met a duck.

“Good day, Cocky Locky; where are you off to, so early?” said the duck.

“I am going to Dovre mountain, so that all the world will not come to an end,” he said.

“Who has said so, Cocky Locky?”

“Henny Penny,” said the cockerel.

“Who has said so, Henny Penny?” said the duck.

“I sat in the oak tree, and dreamed it last night,” said the hen.

“I will join you,” said the duck.

So off they went, and went a distance more, and then they met a gander.

“Good day, Gander Lander,” said the duck.

“Good day, Ducky Lucky,” said the gander. “Where are you off to, so early?”

“I am going to Dovre mountain, so that all the world will not come to an end,” said the duck.

“Who has said so, Ducky Lucky?” said the gander.

“Cocky Locky.”

“Who has said so, Cocky Locky?”

“Henny Penny.”

“How do you know this, Henny Penny?” said the gander.

“I sat in the oak tree, and dreamed it last night, Gander Lander” said the hen.

“I want to go with you,” said the gander.

When they had gone a distance further, they met a fox.

“Good day, Foxy Loxy,” said the gander.

“Good day, Gander Lander.”

“Where are you off to, Foxy Loxy?”

“Where are you off to, Gander Lander?”

“I am going to Dovre mountain, so that all the world will not end,” said the gander.

“Who has said so, Gander Lander,” said the fox.

“Ducky Lucky.”

“Who has said so, Ducky Lucky?”

“Cocky Locky.”

“Who has said so, Cocky Locky?”

“Henny Penny.”

“How do you know this, Henny Penny?”

“I sat in the oak tree, and dreamed it last night, that if I do not come to Dovre mountain, then all the world shall end,” said the hen.

“Nonsense!” said the fox. “All the world will not end if you do not go thither. No, come with me to my lair; it is much better, for there it is both good and warm.”

Well, they followed the fox home to his lair, and when they arrived, the fox stoked the fire so that it made them all sleepy. The duck and the gander sat themselves in a corner, and the cockerel and the hen flew up to a perch.

When the gander and the duck had fallen soundly asleep, the fox took the gander, laid it on the embers, and roasted it. The hen sniffed the searing smell; she jumped up to a higher perch and said through her slumber: “Fie! It stinks so, it stinks so!”

“Nonsense,” said the fox. “The smoke is merely blowing down the chimney. Go back to sleep and be quiet!”

So the hen slept again.

The fox had hardly devoured the gander before he did the same to the duck; he took her, laid her on the embers, and roasted her to eat.

Then the hen awoke again, and jumped up to a higher perch. “Fie! It stinks so, it stinks so!” she said; and when she opened her eyes and saw that the fox had eaten them both—both the gander and the duck—she flew up to the highest perch and sat there, looking up the chimney.

“Well, well, look at all those delicious geese flying there!” she said to the fox. Mikkel went out to get himself a new fat roast. Meanwhile, the hen woke the cockerel and told him how things had gone with Gander Lander and Ducky Lucky. Then Cocky Locky and Henny Penny flew up through the chimney; and if they had not come to Dovre mountain, then had all the world certainly come to an end.