Wednesday, 6 September 2017

The Jøtul’s Servant Boy

The following tale is a variant of Askeladden Who Had an Eating Competition with a Troll. This variant is, in my opinion, much livelier that that which Asbjørnsen and Moe published.

The Jøtul’s Servant Boy

There was, upon a time, a jøtul who wanted a servant boy, and at last he got one, too, and he was a little rascal in whom there was no strength; but he was such a fellow to talk for himself that he appeared better than those who were big and strong.

So the jøtul would try him, to see if he was good for anything, and so he bade him go and fetch some water, and made him a couple of buckets to carry it in; but his buckets were so big and heavy that the boy was not able even to lift them off the ground, nor would he even try to, either.

He said that he would do nothing with the buckets, it was nothing for him to go carrying water in buckets; he would rather carry the whole well home at once, or he would not bother. The jøtul did not want this. He would go himself, instead, and fetch the water home in water buckets, and leave the well for next time.

Then he bade the boy bring in a clutch of firewood, but it was not small twigs he used, this fellow; they were big logs the size of treetrunks.

So the boy said that it was hardly worth going and getting a clutch of firewood; he was not used to such easy work. No, when he took a mind to it, he would bring in the whole woodshed at once. This the jøtul thought was too much, and so he would carry the firewood in, himself.

So the jøtul came in with the firewood and laid some kindling in the pit, and bade the boy light the fire. So the boy began to blow into the embers, but he was no good at getting it to burn, before the jøtul came and began to blow, himself. Then it was a different matter; he blew so that the wind gusted from him, so strongly that the boy was lifted off the floor and blew up into the vent, as if he were a fly.

“Where are you off to?” said the jøtul?

“Can’t you see I am dancing?” said the boy. “I thought about our cooking and eating some food, and when I saw that it began to burn, I grew so glad that I couldn’t help myself; I got up and took a little turn.”

So the jøtul cooked some porridge and poured it into a bowl, and then they began to eat. So the jøtul said that they should eat a contest, and see if the boy was good enough to meet him in the middle of the bowl.

The boy said that he would just pop out and put on a cardigan, and so he went out and he found and big knapsack, which he tied before his belly, and put a cardigan over it. Then he went in again and pretended to eat a contest with the jøtul, but he put in the bag much more than he ate, but the jøtul did not notice.

Afterwards, the jøtul said they should go out and jump a contest, and then he would see if the boy wouldn’t lose. The boy was not very good at jumping because of the knapsack he was carrying.

“I think I have a trick for this belly, first, for I feel that it is full,” he said, and so he took out his knife and cut into his cardigan and into the bag, so that the porridge fell out, and then he could jump so easily that he went like a bird around the jøtul.

So the jøtul grew afraid that the boy would win, and so he thought that he had better use the same trick that the boy had used. So he took his knife and cut, like the boy had cut. But he was unfortunate with his belly, and then he was no more.

“Now, I doubt but that you have finished jumping,” said the boy, and so he went in and took all his money, and then he went home again.

  • Location: Voss, Hordaland
  • Collector: Ivar Aasen

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Further Legends of the Fylgje

Previous legends here: “The Hug, the Vardøger, and the Fylgje.”

It seems that any appearance of a person’s spirit, be they alive or dead, may be interpreted as their fylgje. Here the legends turn dark…

The Mo-men and the Revenge of the Dead

The two brothers Peder and Johannes Mo were renowned as fox trappers. The foxes came straight to the farm and into the trap just outside the cabin door. The folk of the village speculated about whether or not the fox trapping was quite natural, and in this they were not wholly wrong, either.

The brothers had a sister called Rebekka, who was the milkmaid for one of the brothers. One evening, when she stood in the barn, taking hay for the livestock, she grabbed hold of something unpleasant, which felt like a human head. She went into the shed for the lantern, and then she saw that it really was a human head, too, off which the flesh had been partially scraped.

On a plank above the stacks of hay, there lay two more heads, which smelled of the brothers’ skis and fox traps. She understood then what kind of bait the brothers used and what they waxed their skis with, when they went into the forest, to lure the foxes into the traps.

Rebekka was filled with such disgust for her brothers that she fled from service and would never go back. Neither did she remain silent about what she had seen or what she knew, and from that time, they never used a Mo-man to dig any graves.

—•—

One Tollev’s eve some years later, the two brothers sat drinking together. They also mocked the stupid superstition of the folk, and their fear of the dead. In order to trap the foxes, they had taken a limb here, a lump of fat there, and no revenant had hindered them so far, nor made them suffer for it, they said.

“But you are not completely free of fear,” said Johannes to his brother. “I bet you don’t dare go up to the church, and take the missal from the altar, for if the dead shall ever be out, then it will be tonight, as dark as it is.”

But Peder was brave. He wagered Johannes a jug of brandy, and went to the church.

Just as the clock struck twelve midnight, he walked into the churchyard through the western gate. But hardly had he closed the gate behind him before he was surrounded by the dead. They were so many that they filled the churchyard, and it was impossible for Peder to go forwards. It was also impossible for him to go back; and he was pushed and pressed towards the southern gate and further in the direction of Svartdalen.

It occured to him that, if he could reach the bottom of Svartdalen, and wade across the Mo brook, he would escape the revenants, as they dare not cross running water. This plan succeeded, and he followed the southern side of the brook, down towards the sea. Here, by the mouth of the brook, he crossed again, and was allowed unhindered home. He went straight into the loft and went to bed without going down to his wife. She sat down in the parlour, waiting for him.

He called for her, but merely asked her to put out the light before she came into him. She misheard or misunderstood, and came in with the burning candle in her hand.

“Now I am lost,” he exclaimed. “Had I but slept until morning without seeing a candle, I would have been saved; but now the dead will fall upon me and kill me.”

He then told her what he had experienced since he had gone out to fetch the missal; and he had hardly finished his story before the dead swarmed into the chamber. Enraged, they grasped him by the throat, and throttled him in front of his wife.

Some time later, the brother Johannes was also struck by the dead, which was the death of him.

This revenge of the dead did not come unexpectedly. The village folk had even wondered that the revenge had come so late. But the fate of the Mo-men, even today, appears to have been a warning to those who might decide to improve their trapping by the dark arts.

 

Punished Theft of Human Bones

The Swede Ole Rønlund was, in deference to his fatherland’s law, moved over to Norway, and had settled in southern Krogstrand. He had once heard of the usefulness of possessing a bone of the dead. Using it, one could bind a thief, and force him to carry the bounty back, and one could conjure the dead to whom the bone had belonged, and ask for advice.

Ole determined to get hold of such a bone, and at the very first opportunity, he stole one from the churchyard. He knew, of course, that this was a dangerous experiment, and he therefore commissioned Erik Kristiansen Siljelid to drive him from Mo to Skonseng.

The conditions were good, and by midnight, the driver was holding the horse and sleigh by the north gate of the churchyard. Ole had already stolen the bone, and hidden it in the churchyard, so now he could simply go in and fetch it. But as he grasped the bone, he was surrounded by the dead. He struck out around himself, and went backwards out of the churchyard gate; backwards he also threw himself on to the sleigh, fencing both with arms and legs, to keep the crowd of the dead at bay until he was rid of them at the crossroads to Gullsmedsvigen. He came from this unscathed, and thought the danger was now over.

But unfortunately, he was a dilettante, as they say; for hardly had he fallen asleep before he was accosted by the dead whose bone he had stolen. And, for head and for neck, he had to take the bone back that same night. With a supplication of forgiveness, he laid the bone whence he had taken it, and he had to be thankful that he escaped with his life.

 

The Fylgje as Gjenganger

Jens Strømmen had been a merchant for close to 40 years. He was rich and owned two farms, Strømmen and Sjøvigen. Both he and his wife were miserly folk, and they would never hear of being parted from their worldly goods, or of dying.

But the the wife died—it was a Saturday, and next Saturday the husband also died.

Soon afterwards, the wife began to walk again, and she nearly scared the life out of folk, slamming doors, or by breaking plates and kitchenware.

She continued this for several years, and folk dared not go out at night because of her.

One day, she came and said to her daughter’s daughter, who was with child, that she would take the child to her, but she comforted the horrified mother by telling her that the child would be looked after. And so it went; the child died as soon as it was born.

The husband also began to walk again. He went around all the time, and took care of the things he had left behind.

Then his daughter’s daughter’s husband said to him on one occasion, that both he and the other heirs were content with the inheritance that had fallen to them.

And from that time they never again saw the fylgjes of the deceased.

Olsen, O. T. Norske folkeeventyr og sagn, 1912.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

The Hug, the Vardøger, and the Fylgje

The hug (pronounced “hoog”) is an interesting relic of the pre-Christian Norse world view. One of Odin's ravens was called Huginn, which is the same word in Old Norse (the other, Muninn represents will, remembrance). Note: “Hugin and Munin don’t have distinct personalities. They’re a duplicate form of the same underlying idea.” (The source goes on to discuss the shamanistic dimension of the anthropomorphism of mind and thought in totemic animals.)

Hug is still a current word in Norwegian, meaning mind or thought (“å komme i hug” (to come in mind/ thought) is how Norwegians express “to remember”).

Vardøger

A vardøger (pronounced “VAR-dög-er,” “VAR-doeg-er” where the “ö” or “oe” sound is the first vowel in “Goethe”, or the sound of the “-uh” in “puh!”) is a working of the hug, described as a kind of premonitionary déjà-vu. A recurring experience, common even today, is when someone in the house hears a key in the front door, a footfall on the stair, the sound of someone taking off and storing their outer clothing, only for there to be no one behind the noises. A while later, the same sounds will be heard again, but this time, the person will enter the building.

Fylgje

A fylgje (a companion, a follower) appears to be a further concretisation of the vardøger. Here, a spirit will manifest itself to act on behalf of its host. I have read somewhere that if you meet your fylje, you will die, which means that the nautical draugen is a fylje (although he is anything but benevolent).

It is all but impossible to separate the vardøger from the fylgje, and as you will see below, any distinction appears relatively unimportant to those who have had experiences with them. Here, then, is a selection of legends collected in northern Norway in 1870, by Ole Tobias Olsen. (All published in Olsen, O. T. Norske folkeeventyr og sagn, 1912.)

The Fylgje Warns of the Smith’s Boy’s Death

Around 1840 there lived in Hammerfest a smith and his wife, who were among the most respectable folk of the town. The man had an apprentice who worked in the workshop and had his bedchamber on the first floor of the workshop, to which there was a steep staircase.

One day, the smith took an order for some work for a man on one of the neighbouring islands. The boy was sent over there to carry out the work, and was expected to return when he, in a couple of days, was finished.

The same day he should come home, his mistress the smith’s wife stood in the kitchen, cooking porridge. Then the boy steps in, dressed in his neatest blue suit for travelling, and stands by the door. The wife looks at him and wonders. She knew his work could not be finished so early, that he should not have been able to finish so early, and thus be home, and she soon realised that it was the boy’s fylgje she saw before her. She wondered what this visit could mean, and what the boy’s fylgje had to warn of. She thus bravely addressed the fylgje with these words: “If you are one of the good messengers, then stand; but if you are of the evil, then go!” As soon as she uttered these words, the figure appeared to glide out through the doorway and disappear. The wife ran immediately after, to see which direction the fylgje went, but it was as blown away, and the wife went back to her work, reflecting on the vision.

Late in the evening the boy came home, ate, and then went to bed. In the night he got up to go outdoors. He had stumbled over a stack of iron bars on the workshop floor, and died there and then.

Then they understood that the fylgje had wanted to warn that the boy was finished, not just with his work on the island, but also with his life’s work.

 

Fru Ingjær’s Fylgja

The parson Ingjær, Rødø, should once travel to visit a school inwards up Melfjord. Before he travelled, he asked his wife, who was in blessed circumstances, if he dare be away from her. She replied that he could safely dare, as she was not expecting to deliver her offspring for a time yet. With this message, the parson travelled, to stay away for at most eight days.

He hurried as best he could, and had already come as far as to Rønviken on the way back, and was about a league from home. Here the bad weather forced him to seek shelter, despite his determined resolution to reach home that same evening; but the boatsmen refused to shove off in such weather.

The parson, therefore, asked the boatsmen to keep their eye on the weather, and wake him straightway it turned such that they could shove off. He retired with his clothes on, so that he might be ready at any time to board the boat; but he lay quite awake, smoking his pipe until just after midnight. Then he saw the door suddenly open, and his wife came in, and began to talk to him.

She was ready for her great voyage, she said, and would he meet her, then he would have to hurry to come straightway. With that she closed the door after herself, and disappeared.

The parson, aghast, rose and went out. He woke the boatsmen, and bid them for God’s sake to hurry, so they might shove off. But the weather was still just as inclement. The sea-spray stood in a cloud, and it was impossible to leave shore, let alone cross the Rødøfjord. The parson had therefore to return to his chamber. He still lay in his clothes, thinking.

Then the door opened again, and again he saw his wife come in.

“If you want to meet me, then you must come straightway,” she said, and disappeared.

Again the parson rushed up and got hold of the boatsmen. “Now we shall go,” he said, “whatever the weather. Now we have to shove off.”

The folk thought that the parson had a screw loose; but they let themselves be pursuaded to go out to the boat and shove off from land.

It was two-o’clock in the morning when they shoved off, and four-o’clock in the morning when they finally—with great effort, and in danger of their lives—arrived ashore on Rødø.

The parson sprang out of the boat and ran to the parsonage aw quickly as he could.

Out in the courtyard, he met madam Jentoft. He asked her how things stood, and she replied that, under the circumstances, things stood not well. She bid him go upstairs, to get out of his clothes and warm himself, before going in to see his wife.

He did so, and sat a while in a chair in the upstairs salon, with his his wife lying in the chamber below. Then the door opens, and his wife’s fylgje comes in to him a third time.

“If you want to bid me farewell, then come straightway,” she said, and disappeared.

The parson sprang up, aghast, and rushed to the door, to go down the stairs; but here he fainted, and remained lying until folk came and helped him up.

As soon as he had regained his senses, he hurried in to his wife, who lay, already struggling for breath.

She recognised him and reached out her hand. He had hardly managed to grasp it and bend himself over her before she gave up the ghost.

 

The Fylgje as Vardøger

When Jacob Nilsen Tjern one evening sat at table with his folks, a vardøger came and began to rankle some carpentry tools that lay on a shelf above his head. Both he and all his folk noticed the noise from the tools, and it repeated itself several times.

“Let the tools lie,” said Jacob. “When we have occasion to use them, then we will use them.”

Straightway it fell quiet and the tools were left alone. But before Jacob got up the next morning, he received a message from Peder Olsen Toftlien, that his son was dead, and that he had to make a coffin for the deceased.

Peder soon began to make the coffin, and in that connection he had use for the carpentry tools.

He understood well that it was the fylgje of the deceased, who had been out to warn him.

 

Karen Nilsdatter’s Vardøger

Another time, Jacob Nilsen sat together with all his folk in the cabin, when he again received a warning by means of a fylgje. He and his folk namely heard a plank up in the loft lifted into the air and dropped again. Jacob soon understood what this should mean.

“Let the board lie; when the time comes, we shall surely use it,” he said.

Hardly had he said these words before everything fell quiet. A hour afterwards a messenger from Kvanlien arrived there.

The wife on the farm, Karen Nilsdatter, whose mother, old Karen, had had dealings with the subterraneans, was dead, and Jacob was bidden to make a coffin for the dead.

As he was in need of materials, he had to take the board that the vardøger had played with, and use it for Karen’s coffin.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Trond

Olav Eivindson Austad (1843–1929) was perhaps the greatest storyteller from Setesdal in Agder, and an informant to Jørgen Moe, Knut Liestøl, Torleiv Hannaas, and others. His tales have some amusing angles, compared with other variants. Take, for example, the attached variant (↓) of “The Molly of Dovre

Trond

There was a boy who came one Christmas Eve to a man and asked to be housed.

“Yes,” said the man, “you may be housed; but hither come so many trolls this evening that we have to flee, ourselves.”

“Oh yes, but as long as I am housed,” said the boy, “then I will stay anyway.”

“Yes, you shall certainly be housed,” said the man. “And you may eat and drink as much as you will. But we shall flee.”

When they had gone, the boy sat at the table and began to eat and drink. When he had done so, he clambered up onto a plank in the loft, and lay down there.

Then there came in so many trolls that there was no moderation. Some were big, and some were small. And one was so big that it was chilling, and with a nose so long that it mostly lay beneath the table. He was the tallest, and he should sit in the highest seat.

Then they began to eat, and then they were down in the cellar for beer. And they came with their cups, and they said:

“I will pour you some, Trond! I will pour you some, Trond!”

“I will pour you some, Trond!” said the boy—then he fired, and shot off him his long nose.

Then they began to wail and scream, and haul and drag him out. When they came out into the courtyard, no one has ever heard such a wailing.

Then it called out from the mountain:

“What kind of racket are they making?”

And they answered:

“Big brother Berrfjell has lost his nose.”

“Ha ha ha!” they replied, and laughed so well.

Source

Friday, 11 August 2017

The Bear and the Cheese

Here’s something you don't often see translated: a folktale that relies on a specific dialect for its effect.

The Bear and the Fox

The fox came carrying a sweet cheese. Then he met the bear. The bear asked him where he had got that.

“Well,” said the fox, “It lay at the bottom of a churn. So I drank up all the water, and thus I found the cheese. If you will do the same, then there is one for you, too.”

The bear went to a tarn.1 The moon shone so brightly, and showed itself a cheese in the water. So the bear drank until he burst.

And the Norwegian source, for those who choose to dig a little deeper.

Bjørnen og osten

Reven kom berande med ein søtost. Så møtte han bjørnen. Bjørnen spurde kvar han hadd fenge den.

«Jau,» sa reven, «han låg på botnen i ei tjørn. Så drakk eg opp alt vatnet, og dermed fann eg osten. Vi du gjera like eitt, så er der ein åt deg òg.»

Bjørnen reiste åt ei tjørn. Månen skein så blankt, og det viste seg ein ost i vatnet. Så drakk bjørnen til han sprakk.

  • Collector: A. Leiro
  • Informant: Nils Røydland
  • Location: Evanger
  • Date: 1930
  • ATU: 34B
  • Source: NEB 4, p. 52

  1. Whilst the tale is recorded in a variant of nynorsk, the denouement rests on the oral dialect homophone, tjørn, which means both churn and tarn.  

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Lillekort

There was, once upon a time, a couple of poor folk; they lived in a paltry cabin where there was nothing but bleak want, so that they had nothing to bite or to burn. But, had they nothing else, then they had the pure blessing of God in children, and with each year, they had one more. Now they were expecting one more. The husband was none too pleased with this. He often paced and wept and gave voice to his pain, and said that there must be a time when he had enough of God’s gifts. And when the time came for his wife to have the child, he went into the forest for some wood, for he would not see the new screamer; he would in time hear it screaming for food, he said.

When the husband had well gone, the wife had a beuatiful boy-child, and as soon as he had come into the world, he looked around the cabin.

“Oh dear mother,” he said, “give me some clothes after my brothers, and some food for a few days, and I will go out into the world and try my luck. You have children enough anyway, I see.”

“Oh, dear me, my son,” said the mother, “you are yet too small; there is nothing that may be done.”

But the boy-child insisted, and begged and pleaded for so long that the mother had to let him have some old rags and a little food in a bundle. And so he went, cheerfully and trustingly, out into the world.

But hardly had he gone than the wife had another boy; he looked around and said: “Oh dear mother, give me some clothes after my brothers, and food for a couple of days, and then I will go out into the world and find my twin brother. You have children anyway, you do.”

“Dear, oh dear me, my son, you are far too small, you poor thing,” said the wife; “there is nothing that may be done.”

But it did not help; the boy-child begged and pleaded for so long, until he got some old rags and a bundle of food, and then he rambled bravely enough out into the world, to find his twin brother.

When now the youngest had gone a while, he saw his brother a way off before him. He cried out to him and bid him stay: “Do stay,” he said, “you go on your way as if you were paid for it. But you should have seen your youngest brother before you went out into the world.” The eldest stopped then, and looked behind, and when the youngest had caught up, and had told of how things stood, that he was his brother, he countinued: “But let us sit down and look to see what mother has given us for food,” and so they did.

When they had gone a distance, they came to a brook that flowed through a green meadow, and there the youngest said that they should give each other names. “Since we had to hurry, there was no time to do it at home, so we must do it here,” he said.

“What do you want to be called, then?” the eldest asked.

“I will be called Lillekort,” replied the other; “and you? What do you want to be called?”

“I will be called King Lavring,” replied the eldest.

So they Christened each other, and then went on. But when they had walked a little while, they came to a crossroads, and there they agreed to part and go each their own way. This they did, but hardly had they walked a little while before they met again. They parted again, and each took his own way, but after a little while, it went the same: they met again before they knew it. And so it went the third time. Then they agreed that they should head off in different directions, the one to the east, and other to the west.

“But if real need and calamity should ever befall you,” said the eldest, “then call for me three times, and I shall come and help you; but you must not call for me before you are in your direst need!”

“It will not be so soon that we see each other, then,” said Lillekort.

And so they bid each other farewell, and Lillekort went east, and King Lavring went west.

When now Lillekort had walked a while alone, he met an old, old crooked woman, who had but one eye. This Lillekort snatched.

“Ow! Ow!” cried the woman. “Where has my eye gone?”

“What will you give me for an eye?” said Lillekort.

“I will give you a sword that is such that it can win against a whole militia, no matter how great it is,” replied the woman.

“Yes, give me it,” said Lillekort.

The woman gave him the sword, and so she got her eye back.

Then Lillekort went on, and when he had walked a while, he again met an old, old crooked woman, who had but one eye; this Lillekort stole before she knew it.

“Ow! Ow! Where has my eye gone?” cried the woman.

“What will you give me for an eye?” said Lillekort.

“I will give you a ship that can sail over fresh water and salt water, mountain and deep valleys,” replied the woman.

“Yes, give me it,” said Lillekort.

The woman gave him a tiny ship, which was no bigger than that he put it in his pocket; then she got her eye back, and they each went off in different directions.

When he had wandered a long time, he met for the third time an old, old crooked woman, who had only one eye; this Lillekort stole again. And when the woman screamed and misbehaved, and asked where her eye had gone, Lillekort said: “What will you give me for an eye?”

“I will give you the ability to brew a hundred batches of malt in one brew,” said the woman.

Yes, for that art, the woman got her eye back, and they went off, each in their own direction.

But when Lillekort had gone a little way, he thought it might be worth it to try the ship. So he took it out of his pocket and stepped, first one foot and then the other, and hardly had he stepped into it with the other than it grew as big as ships on the sea. Then said Lillekort: “Go now over fresh water and salt water, mountains and deep valleys, and do not stop before you come to the king’s farm!” And straightway the ship shot off like a bird of the air, until it came a little below the king’s farm; there it stopped. In the windows of the king’s farm, they had stood watching Lillekort come sailing, and everyone was so awed that they sprang down to see what manner of man had come sailing on a ship in the air. But as they sprang down from the king’s farm, Lillekort had stepped out of the ship and put it back into his pocket; for as soon as he stepped out of it, it became as small as it had been when he got it from the old woman. Those from the king’s farm saw nothing but a small, ragged boy, who stood down by the strand. The king asked where he was from, but the boy said that he did not know. He did not know how he had got there, either. But he asked so beautifully for permission to go into service on the king’s farm; if there was nothing else he could do, he could at least carry water and wood for the kitchen girls, he said. And he was allowed to do so.

When Lillekort came up to the king’s farm, he saw that it was all dressed in black, without as well as within, both walls and ceilings. He then asked a kitchen maid what this could mean. “Yes, I will tell you,” she answered; “the king’s daughter was, a long time ago, promised to three trolls, and next Thursday evening, one of them will come to fetch her. The Red Knight has said that he is good to save her, but we wonder if he be fellow enough to do it. And so you see there is solemn mourning here.”

When Thursday evening came, the Red Knight went with the princess down to the strand—for there should she meet the troll, and so he should be there to look after her. But he did not do the troll any great harm, I would not think, for no sooner had the princess set foot on the edge of the strand than the Red Knight clambered up a great tree that stood there, and hid himself as best he could between the branches. The princess wept and asked so heartily that he should not go from her. But the Red Knight did not care about that: “It is better that one lose their life than two,” said the Red Knight.

Meanwhile, Lillekort asked the kitchen maid for leave to go down to the strand a while.

“Oh, what do you want to do there, then?” said the kitchen maid. “You have nothing to do there.”

“Oh yes, dear me, let me go,” said Lillekort; “I would like to go down there and have a little fun with the other boys, too.”

“Well, well, go then,” said the kitchen maid, “but do not let me catch you there longer than when the evening cauldron should be hung up, and the roast should be put on the spit; and then bring a decent clutch of wood, when you come back into the kitchen.”

Yes, Lillekort promised this, and sprang down to the strand.

As soon as he had come down to where the princess sat, the troll came travelling, so that it roared and foamed around it. It was so great and huge that it was terrible, and it had five heads.

“Fire!” screamed the troll.

“Fire back!” said Lillekort.

“Can you fence?” cried the troll.

“Can I not, then I can learn,” said Lillekort.

Then the troll struck out at him with a great, thick iron bar he had in his fist, so that the earth was showered five cubits into the air.

“Well!” said Lillekort. “That was really something! Now you shall see a chop from me!”

Then he grasped the sword he had got from the old, crooked woman, and chopped at the troll so that all five heads rolled across the sand.

When the princess saw that she was saved, she was so glad that she did not know how to behave; she both jumped and danced. “Sleep now a little on my lap,” she said to Lillekort, and whilst he lay there, she pulled a golden tunic on to him.

But it was not long before the Red Knight clambered down again, out of his tree, when he saw that there was no more danger. He threatened the king’s daughter for as long as it took, until she had to promise that she would tell that it was he who had saved her; for if she did not, then he would kill her. Then he took the lungs and the tongues out of the troll and laid them in his kerchief, and then led the princess back to the king’s farm. And if he had not been honoured before, then he was now. The king did not know what he should do to honour him, and so he always sat at the right hand of the king at table.

Lillekort, he went first out to the troll ship and took with him a whole heap of gold- and silver goods and other beautiful things, and then he went back to the king’s farm. When the kitchen maid saw all the gold and silver, she was terrified, and asked: “But my darling, dear Lillekort, where have you got all this from?” for she was afraid that he might not have got it in the correct manner.

“Oh,” replied Lillekort, “I was at home a little and there had these goods fallen out of some vessels, and so I brought them here for you.” Yes, when the kitchen maid heard they were for her, she asked no more about it, but thanked Lillekort, and all was well and good again.

The second Thursday went the same way. All were in solemn mourning, but the Red Knight said that if he had saved the king’s daughter from one troll, then he could save her from one more, and he led her down to the strand. But he did not do that troll much harm, either; for when the time came that they should expect the troll, he said, as he had the last time, “It is better that one lose their life than two,” and clambered up the tree again.

Lillekort asked this time, too, for leave to go down to the strand a little.

“Oh, what do you want there?” said the kitchen maid.

“Yes, my dear, let me go!” said Lillekort. “I would like so much to go down and have a little fun with the other boys.”

Yes, he was allowed to go, but he had to promise to be back before the roast needed turning, and then he should bring a full clutch of wood.

Lillekort was hardly down by the strand before the troll came travelling so that it roared and foamed around it, it was as big again as the other troll, and it had ten heads.

“Fire!” screamed the troll.

“Fire back!” said Lillekort.

“Can you fence?” cried the troll.

“Can I not, then I can learn,” said Lillekort.

Then the troll struck out at him with his iron bar—it was even bigger than the one the first troll had—so that the earth sprayed ten cubits into the air.

“Well!” said Lillekort. “That was something, that was! Now you shall see a chop from me!”

Then he grasped his sword and chopped at the troll, so that all ten heads danced across the sand.

Then the king’s daughter said to him again: “Sleep a little while on my lap,” and while Lillekort lay there, she pulled a silver tunic on to him.

As soon as the Red Knight noticed that there was no longer any danger, he clambered down from the tree, and threatened the princess for so long that she had to promise to say that it was he who had saved her. He put the tongues and the lungs of the troll and laid them in his kerchief, and led the king’s daughter back to the castle. Here there was rejoicing and joy, you should know, and the king did not know at all how he should behave to show the Red Knight honour and glory enough.

But Lillekort took with him a clutch of gold- and silver goods and such from the troll ship. When he came back to the king’s farm, the kitchen maid clapped her hands together and wondered over where he had got all the gold and silver from. But Lillekort replied that he had been at home a while, and these were the goods that had fallen out of some vessels; these he had brought with him for the kitchen maid, he said.

When the third Thursday evening came, things went just the same way as they had the first times. The whole king’s farm was dressed in black, and everyone was in solemn mourning, and sobbed. But the Red Knight said he thought they did not have so much to be afraid of; had he saved the king’s daughter from two trolls, then he could save her from the third, too. He led her down to the strand, but when the time drew close to when the troll was to come, he clambered up a tree and hid himself again. The princess wept and bid him stay, but it did not help; he repeated himself: “It is better that one lose their life than two,” said the Red Knight.

That evening Lillekort also asked leave to go down to the strand.

“Oh what will you do there?” replied the kitchen maid. But he asked for so long until he was at last allowed to go; but then he had to promise that he would be back in the kitchen when the roast should be turned.

No sooner had he come to the strand, than that the troll came so that it roared and foamed around it; it was much, much bigger than any of the others, and fifteen heads had it.

“Fire!” screamed the troll.

“Fire back!” said Lillekort.

“Can you fence?” shrieked the troll.

“Can I not, then I can learn,” said Lillekort.

“I shall teach you!” shrieked the troll, and struck out at him with his iron bar, so the spray of earth stood fifteen cubits into the air.

“Well!” said Lillekort. “That was something, too! Now you shall see a chop from me!”

Immediately he grasped his sword and chopped at the troll, so all fifteen heads danced across the sand.

Then the princess was saved, and she both thanked and blessed Lillekort because he had saved her.

“Sleep now a little while in my lap,” she said, and while he lay there, she pulled a brass tunic on to him.

“But how shall we reveal that it was you who saved me?” said the king’s daughter.

“I shall tell you,” replied Lillekort. “When the Red Knight has led you home again, and pretends to be the one who has saved you, then you know he will have you and half the kingdom. But when they ask you on your wedding day who you want to fill your bowls, you shall say: ‘I want the little boy who is in the kitchen and carries wood and water for the kitchen maid.’ As I fill the bowls, I will spill a drop on his plate, but not on yours, and so he will grow angry and strike me, and this we will both do thrice. But the third time, you shall say: ‘Shame on you, who strikes the desire of my heart! He has saved me, and him will I have!’”

Then Lillekort sprang back to the king’s farm, just like the other times; but first he was out on the troll ship, as quickly as he could, and brought a whole batch of gold and silver and other costly things, and from that he gave the kitchen maid a whole lap-full of gold and silver goods.

As soon as the Red Knight saw that all danger was over, he climbed down from the tree, and threatened the king’s daughter to promise to say that he had saved her. Then he led her back to the king’s farm. And was there not enough honour and glory given him before, then it was now: the king thought of nothing other than how he should honour he who had saved his daughter from the three trolls; it was given that he should have both her and half the kingdom, he said.

But on the day of the wedding, the princess asked that she might have the little boy who was in the kitchen and carried wood and water for the kitchen maid, to fill the bowls at the wedding table. “Oh, what do you want with that blackened rag-boy in here?” the Red Knight said; but the princess said she wanted him to serve and none other, and finally she was allowed, too. And so everything went the way it was agreed upon between Lillekort and the kng’s daughter: he spilled a drop on the Red Knight’s plate, but none on hers, and each time, the Red Knight struck him. At the first strike, the ragged tunic fell off Lillekort, and at the second strike, the brass tunic fell off, and at the third strike, the silver tunic, so that he stood there in a golden tunic, so gleaming and fine that he shone.

Then the king’s daughter said: “Shame on you, who strikes the desire of my heart! He has saved me, and him will I have!”

The Red Knight cursed and swore that he had saved her, but then the king said: “The one who has saved my daughter has, I suppose, something to show for it.” Yes, the Red Knight sprang quickly for his kerchief with the lungs and tongues in, and Lillekort fetched all the gold and silver and every fine thing he had taken from the troll ships, and they each laid theirs before the king. “He who has such costly things of gold and silver and precious stones,” said the king, “he must have killed the trolls, for such is not to be had from anyone else.” And so the Red Knight was thrown into the pit of serpents, and Lillekort should have the princess and half the kingdom.

One day, the king and Lillekort took a walk. Then Lillekort asked the king if he had not had any more children.

“Yes,” said the king, “I have had another daughter, but she has the troll taken, for there was no one who could save her. Now you shall have one of my daughters, but if you can save the one whom the troll has taken, too, then you shall have her and the other half of the kingdom.”

“I will have to try,” said Lillekort; “but I must have an iron chain that is five-hundred cubits long, and then I want five-hundred men, and supplies for them for fifteen weeks; for I will go far to sea,” he said.

Yes, this he would have, but the king was afraid he did not have a ship that was big enough to carry everything.

“I have a ship myself,” said Lillekort, taking the one he had been given by the old wife, out of his pocket.

The king laughed at him, thinking it was nothing more than a joke, but Lillekort merely asked for what he had desired, and then the king would see.

They came then with it altogether, and Lillekort asked them to put the chain into the ship first, but there was none who could lift it, and many could not make room in the tiny ship at once. Then Lillekort himself took the chain at one end, and laid some links up in the ship, and as he threw the chain in, the ship grew bigger and bigger, and finally it was so large that the chain and the five-hundred men and the supplies and Lillekort had good room.

“Go now over fresh water and salt water, mountains and deep valleys, and do not stop before you come whither the king’s daughter is,” said Lillekort to the ship. And straightway they shot off so that it whistled and whined around them, over both land and water.

When they had sailed in such a manner, far, far away, the ship stopped in the midst of the sea. “Yes, now we have arrived,” said Lillekort, “but it is another matter how we are to come from here again.”

Then he took the iron chain and wrapped one end of it around his waist. “Now I have to go to the bottom,” he said, “but when I jerk the chain, and want to come up again, you must all pull as one man, otherwise there will be no life to think of, for you as much as for me.” And with that, he jumped into the sea so that the golden spray stood around him. He sank and he sank, and finally he came to the bottom. There he saw a great rock with a door in it, and this he went through. When he came in, he found the other king’s daughter; she sat sewing, but when she saw Lillekort, she clapped her hands together.

“Oh, thank God!” she cried. “Now, I have not seen a Christian man since I came here.”

“Yes, I have come for you,” said Lillekort.

“Oh, you will not get me,” said the king’s daughter; “it is not even worth thinking about. If the troll sees you, he will kill you.”

“It is well you speak of him,” said Lillekort; “where is he? It might be fun to see him.”

So the king’s daughter told him that the troll was out to see if he could find someone who could brew a hundred batches of malt in one brew; for there was to be a feast at the troll’s, and nothing less would do.

“Yes, I can do that,” said Lillekort.

“Yes, if only the troll were not so quick-tempered, so I could tell him,” replied the king’s daughter; “but he is so quick to anger that he will rip you to pieces as soon as he comes in, I am afraid. But I should try to think of something. Now you can hide yourself in the basket here, and we shall see how things go.”

Well, Lillekort did so, and hardly had he crept into the basket and hidden himself before the troll came.

“Huff! Here it smells of a Christian man’s blood,” said the troll.

“Yes, a bird flew across the roof, with a Christian man’s bone in its beak, and it dropped it down the chimney,” replied the king’s daughter; “I hurried quickly enough to be rid of it, but it is that it smells of, anyway.”

“Well, I suppose it is,” said the troll.

Then the king’s daughter asked him if he had found someone who could brew a hundred batches of malt in a single brew.

“No, there is no one who can do it,” said the troll.

“A little while ago there was one here who could do it,” said the king’s daughter.

“You are always so wise, you are,” said the troll, “so why did you let him go again, then? You knew I wanted to find someone like that.”

“Oh, I did not let him go, either,” said the king’s daughter, “but father is so quickly angry, and so I hid him in the basket; if father has not found anyone, then here he is.”

“Let him come in,” said the troll.

When Lillekort came, the troll asked him if it was true that he could brew a hundred batches of malt in a single brew.

“Yes,” said Lillekort.

“It was good that I found you,” said the troll. “Set straight to work; but so help you if you do not brew the beer strong!”

“Oh, it will surely have a strong flavour,” said Lillekort, and began to brew. “But I must have more trolls to carry the brewing vat,” said Lillekort; “those I have cannot manage much.”

Yes, he got more, so many that it swarmed, and then the brewing got under way.

When the wort was finished, they should all taste it, you understand, first the troll itself, and then the others; but Lillekort had brewed the wort so strong that they fell dead like flies, each as he drank it. Finally there was none left but a pathetic old woman, who lay behind the stove. “Oh, you poor thing,” said Lillekort, “you should taste the wort, too,” and then he scraped around the bottom of the brewing vessel with a stick, and gave it to her; then he was rid of them all.

As he stood now and looked around, he caught sight of a large chest. This Lillekort took and filled with gold and silver, then tied the chain around himself and the king’s daughter and the chest, and jerked it with all his might. Then the crew hauled them up in good condition.

When Lillekort had come aboard again, he said: “Go now over salt water and fresh water, mountains and deep valley, and do not stop before you have come to the king’s farm,” and straightway the ship shot off, so the golden wake stood around it. When those at the king’s farm saw the ship, they were not slow to meet it with song and music, and received them, but gladest of all was the king, who now had got his other daughter, too.

But he who was uneasy was Lillekort, for both king’s daughters would have him, and he wanted none but the first he had saved—she was the youngest. Therefore he went very often in thought of how he might behave in order to have her, for he would rather not act against the other. One day he went thinking about this, he suddenly thought that if only he had his brother with him, King Lavring, who was so like him that none could tell the difference between them, then he could have the other king’s daughter and half the kingdom, for he thought that he had enough with the one half. Hardly had he thought of it before he left the castle and called for King Lavring. No, no one came. So he called again, a little louder, but no, there still came no one. So Lillekort called a third time, and that with all his might, and then his brother stood there.

“I said you should not call for me unless you were in your direst need,” he said to Lillekort, “and here there is not even a mosquito that can do anything to you.”

With that, he struck him so that Lillekort rolled across the ground.

“Shame on you for striking!” said Lillekort; “first I have won the one king’s daughter and half the kingdom, and then the other king’s daughter and the other half of the kingdom, and now I had thought to give you one of the king’s daughters and half the kingdom with me—do you think it reasonable to behave like that?”

When King Lavring heard this, he apologised to his brother and they were soon good friends, and reconciled.

“Now, you know” said Lillekort, “that we are so alike that no one can distinguish the one of us from the other; change clothes with me now, and go up to the castle, so the king’s daughters think it is I who comes. The first one to kiss you, you shall have, and I shall take the other,” for he knew that the eldest king’s daughter was the strongest, and so he understood how things might go.

This was King Lavring soon willing to do; he changed clothes with his brother and went up to the castle. When he came into the room with the king’s daughters, both thought it was Lillekort, and both immediately ran to him, and the eldest, who was biggest and strongest, pushed her sister aside, took King Lavring around the neck and kissed him; and so he had her, and Lillekort had the youngest king’s daughter. Then perhaps there was a wedding, and such that it was heard of and asked of across seven kingdoms.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Molly Who Was a Terror at Eating

There was, upon a time, a man who had a molly, and it was so terribly big and such a terror at eating that he could not have her any longer. So she should be taken to the river, with a stone about her neck; but before she should go, she was given a meal. The wife put a porridge bowl before her, and a small trough of butter-fat. She guzzled this down, and set off through the window. There stood the husband in the barn, threshing.

“Good day, man of the house,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly,” said the man; “have you had any food today?” he said.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” she said; and so she took and ate up the man.

When she had done this, she went to the cow-shed; there sat the wife, milking.

“Good day, you wife in the cow-shed,” said the molly.

“Good day, is that you, molly?” said the wife; “have you eaten up your food?” she said.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she took and ate up the wife.

“Good day, you bell-cow,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the bell-cow.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she took and ate up the bell-cow, too.

Then she sat up in the garden; there stood a man, coppicing.

“Good day, you man in the coppice,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the woodsman.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she took and ate up the woodsman, too.

Then she came to a cairn; there stood a weasel, peeping out.

“Good day, you weasel in the cairn,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the weasel.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she took and ate up the weasel, too.

When she had gone a distance more, she came to a hazel thicket; there sat a squirrel, gathering nuts.

“Good day, you squirrel in the thicket,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the squirrel.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice and the weasel in the cairn, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she took and ate up the squirrel, too.

When she had gone a distance more, she met Mikkel the fox, who was lurking at the edge of the forest.

“Good day, Mikkel Smittom,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the fox.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice and the weasel in the cairn and the squirrel in the thicket, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she took and ate up the fox, too.

When she had gone a little more, she met a hare.

“Good day, you hopping hare,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the hare.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice and the weasel in the cairn and the squirrel in the thicket and Mikkel Smittom, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she took and ate up the hare, too.

When she had gone a way further, she met a greyshanks.

“Good day, greyshanks the wise,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the greyshanks.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice and the weasel in the cairn and the squirrel in the thicket and Mikkel Smittom and the hopping hare, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she took and ate up the greyshanks, too.

So she went into the forest, and when she had gone far, and farther than far, over mountains and deep valleys, she met a bear cub.

“Good day, jumping bear,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the bear cub.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice and the weasel in the cairn and the squirrel in the thicket and Mikkel Smittom and the hopping hare and greyshanks the wise, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she took and ate up the bear cub, too.

When the molly had come a little further on, she met the she-bear, who ripped at the stumps so that the splinters flew, she was so enraged that she had lost her cub.

“Good day, bitter she-bear,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the bear.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice and the weasel in the cairn and the squirrel in the thicket and Mikkel Smittom and the hopping hare and greyshanks the wise and jumping bear, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she took and ate up the she-bear, too

When the molly had come a little further on, she met the bear himself.

“Good day, goodman bear,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the bear.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice and the weasel in the cairn and the squirrel in the thicket and Mikkel Smittom and the hopping hare and greyshanks the wise and jumping bear and bitter she-bear, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she took and ate up the bear, too.

So the molly went far and farther than far, until she came back to the village; there she met a wedding party on the road.

“Good day, you wedding party on the road,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the wedding party.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice and the weasel in the cairn and the squirrel in the thicket and Mikkel Smittom and the hopping hare and greyshanks the wise and jumping bear and bitter she-bear and goodman bear, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she ate up both the bride and the bridesgroom and the whole wedding party, with the kitchen master and the fiddler and the horses, and everything.

When she had gone a way further, she came to the church, where she met a funeral party.

“Good day, you funeral party by the church,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the funeral party.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice and the weasel in the cairn and the squirrel in the thicket and Mikkel Smittom and the hopping hare and greyshanks the wise and jumping bear and bitter she-bear and goodman bear and the wedding party in the road, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she set upon the funeral party and ate up both the body and the funeral party.

When she had done this, she went to heaven, and when she had gone far, and farther than far, she met the moon in the clouds.

“Good day, you moon in the clouds,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the moon.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice and the weasel in the cairn and the squirrel in the thicket and Mikkel Smittom and the hopping hare and greyshanks the wise and jumping bear and bitter she-bear and goodman bear and the wedding party in the road and the funeral party by the church, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she took and set up the moon, and ate it up, both in its waxing and in its waning.

Then the molly went far, and father than far, until she met the sun.

“Good day, you sun in the sky,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the sun.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice and the weasel in the cairn and the squirrel in the thicket and Mikkel Smittom and the hopping hare and greyshanks the wise and jumping bear and bitter she-bear and goodman bear and the wedding party in the road and the funeral party by the church and the moon in the clouds, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly; and so she took and ate up the sun in the sky.

So the molly went far, and father than far, until she came to a bridge; there she met a huge billy-goat.

“Good day, you buck on the bridge,” said the molly.

“Good day, molly; have you had any food today?” said the buck.

“Oh, I have had a little, but I am mostly fasting,” said the molly; “it has only been a porridge bowl and a trough of butter-fat and the husband of the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice and the weasel in the cairn and the squirrel in the thicket and Mikkel Smittom and the hopping hare and greyshanks the wise and jumping bear and bitter she-bear and goodman bear and the wedding party in the road and the funeral party by the church and the moon in the clouds and the sun in the sky, and swing me round if I don’t take you, too,” said the molly.

“We shall quarrel about that,” said the buck, and butted the molly so that she fell off the bridge and into the river, and there she burst.

Then they climbed out, and each went on their way, and were just as whole as before, all whom the molly had eaten, both the husband in the house and the wife in the cow-shed and the bell-cow in the stall and the man in the coppice and the weasel in the cairn and the squirrel in the thicket and Mikkel Smittom and the hopping hare and greyshanks the wise and jumping bear and bitter she-bear and goodman bear and the wedding party in the road and the funeral party by the church and the moon in the clouds and the sun in the sky.

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.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Mackerel Trolling

I grew up by the sea; I went between reef and wave there for as long as I could remember. They are skilful seamen, where I come from, and no wonder, for they start early. When children learn to walk, the first thing they do in the morning, in nothing but their shirt, is toddle up on to the nearest rock to look at the weather and the sea; and if it is calm, they put their finger in their mouth and lift it up, to feel where the draught comes from. As soon as they can lift an oar, they are in the boats, and it is not long before they play with the dangers of the sea.

I was often together with a pilot down there, who was one of the most stalwart seamen I have known. The days I was together with him are perhaps among the best I can remember. Free and as happy as a bird, I flew out among the waves; in a light dinghy, we shot between the reefs, chasing ducks, eiders, and seals; with a decked boat, we laid to far out to sea, trolling for mackerel; and when he had a ship to pilot in, it happened that I sailed the boat home after the pilot. Since that time, I have always had a strong yearning for the salt of the sea.

But instead of losing myself in exclamations about the glories of the sea, I want to tell of a trip we made when I, a few years ago, was visiting at home. And it was then that my my old friend told me the story that I will now share.

It was such that we spent some days off the outer sea reefs. We sailed with a decked boat, a large whaler’s boat. There was Rasmus Olsen (that was my friend’s name), the pilot’s boy, and me. One morning, in the twilight, we set out to sea to troll for mackerel. There was a gentle breeze from land, which barely moved the heavy fog that brooded over the reefs and the sea-scoured rocks; the gulls flapped, alarmed around us, with hoarse screeches; the terns cried their “three eggs!” and the oyster-catcher mocked, “click click,” which has made many-a-shooter who has missed smile. The air hung damp and dense over the blue–grey sea; here and there swam an awk, a guillemot, a flock of eiders, or a porpoise, sighing.

Rasmus sat at the helm in the stern, while the boy went back and forth between the stern and the bow. Rasmus was a big, tall man with a brown, weather-beaten face. His expression was jovial, but behind his wise, grey eyes lay something seriously enquiring that witnessed that he was used to mortal danger, and to look deeper than the smile on his face and his jolly words might suggest he did. As he sat there, with his sou’wester down over his ears, in a long, yellow–grey canvas tunic, he appeared almost supernaturally big in the dense morning air; he looked like a revenant from the viking age—but the vikings did not use tobacco; Rasmus Olsen did, and very much so, too.

“There’s not enough wind to capsize a bark boat in a brook,” said Rasmus, swapping his wad of tobacco for a black-smoked chalk pipe, whilst looking out on every side. “Yesterday evening, when the sun went down, the sky was full of the strangest clouds, but now there isn’t a hatful.”

The pilot’s boy replied that he thought it was easing up ahead—he sat on the forehatch with the starboard oar, easing the helm, as the current went directly west.

“The devil! This is not sunset weather,” replied Rasmus; “it won’t come until longer out in the day; but then we shall have more than we bargained for.”

But there soon came a fresher breeze in the air; we did not need the oars to hold our course, and we made good speed out to sea. The fog dissipated after a while, and behind us rose the coastline of the outer naked holms; but before us lay the sea in its endless expanse, blushing in the morning sun. The wind from land still had power enough; but the higher the sun climbed, the clearer the sky, the fresher it blew in from the sea; the rising fog laid itself like a blanket across the land—now it was a stiff mackerel gale. We were soon in the midst of a shoal of mackeral; the lines came out, and there were continuous bites, so that the lines danced; with a wiggle and a squirm, one gleaming silver fish after the other was pulled up and thrown into the boat. But the joy was short-lived, as usual. As the day drew on, the gale increased more and more; the sea drew in, the waves grew; finally the lines stood taut, and the lead weights hopped across the waves, and the sea spray showered in over our little nutshell, sending foam and spray high up the mainsail. The lines were pulled in. The pilot’s boy sat in the main hatch, swinging his legs, and from old habit, gazed out, here and there. At times he was down in the hold, looking at his clock, which lay in a big, red-painted ship’s chest.

“Yes, that chest and that clock,” said Rasmus with a nod: “those he holds dear, and he is right to do so, too, for had they not existed, then he would now be lying, digging pebbles on the seabed.”

I asked for an explanation, and he told:

“It was October last year. It was difficult weather; I could barely hold at sea, but I stayed out. And he was with me. After a long time, I hailed a Dutchman, and came aboard her, too; but I was uncertain of the boat and the boy. My thoughts were not where they should have been, for every moment I looked for the boat and the boy; and finally I saw that he took in a breaker aft—and gone was he. We could not help, even if the skipper had wanted to, for it was too far off. I prayed for myself, and thought that I would never see him again. But the first person I met when I came home—it was the boy! He had come home a long time before I did. He took out the clock and showed me, and said: ‘I have salvaged the clock, father, and she still runs.’ Now, thank God, I thought, that you are saved; we can always afford another boat, even though it had cost me half the third hundred dollars; and brand new sails were on her.

“How was he saved?

“Well, it went like this… yes, yes, little-un,” he said to the boy, who laughed, swinging his legs even more. “He won’t drown who is to hang. A brig that belongs a little north of here came. Suddenly they heard a cry; a hand ran forwards, but there was nothing to see, for they thought least that it came from overboard; but just like that they heard a cry from before the bows, and when the captain himself came forwards to look out, the boy sat on the ship’s chest, holding a clock high above the waves. The captain just managed to signal to the helmsman, so they did not sail into him; they lay to, shoved out a pole and hauled him up.”

As the day drew on, the wind calmed, and now, once in a while, a fish jumped. “Well, well,” said Rasmus, shaking his head a little as he lit his pipe. “Something is brewing, down south there. The blast we had was just a morning dram. You’ll see how we are treated. Even the fish know it; they are not biting; and the birds are afraid—listen how they hiss and screech and seek land. It will be right witches’ weather tonight. Well, look at that! If she tumbles any closer, then God help me, I could…” spit on it, he was going to say, but at that moment my gun reported, which I had thrown up to my eye, and fired upon a porpoise, which had been frolicking up between the waves, close by us. When it felt the lead, it whipped up the sea with its fluke, so the spray reached us, up to the height of the mast.

“That witch will not be sending us any weather,” I said, seeing the sea turn red with the blood. Rasmus was not slow to hack the boathook in it, and we hauled it into the boat. He hummed, well satisfied at the prospect of all the train oil he would have, turned the heavy animal from one side to the other, stroked it as if it were a fox cub, and reassured himself that it was a fat, heavy brute, which would be welcome as boat grease and lamplight.

As we spoke about witches and witches’ weather, a strange tale of a witch came to my remembrance; I thought I had heard it from Rasmus, once in my childhood, but it was so unclear to me that I was uncertain whether it was something I had been told or dreamed. I asked Rasmus if he hadn’t told me such a story of three witches.

“Oh, that!” he replied, laughing; “that is of the kind they call skipper lies these days; but in the old days, they believed in it just like ‘Our Father.’ My old grandfather told me it when I was a small boy; but whether it was his grandfather or great-grandfather who was the cabin boy, I don’t remember. Enough about that; it went like this:

“He had sailed with a skipper, as a cabin boy, all summer, but when they should set sail in the autumn, he had qualms, and would not go along. The skipper liked him well, for even though he was still a youth, he had a good grasp of things aboard; he was a big, strong lad, and was not afraid of getting his hands dirty when there was work to do; he almost did the work of an old hand, and cheerful was he, too, and kept life in the others; the skipper would therefore rather not lose him. But the boy had no desire to ride the blue moor in the autumn evenings; but he would remain aboard until they were laden, and were ready to sail. One Sunday, the crew had shore leave, and the skipper was up with a forester, buying some timber and lumber as deck cargo—it was his own merchandise, I would think—and the boy was to watch the ship. But I must not forget this: this boy was born on a Sunday, and had found a four-leafed clover; he was sighted, therefore—he could see the invisible, but they could not see him.

“Well, well—it will be bad weather,” Rasmus interrupted himself; he got up and shielded his eyes with his hand, so he could look southwards without being blinded by the glare of the sun, which had just come out through a split in the clouds. “Look how it is winding up; there will be thunder and lightning. Best to turn in time. We haven’t a puff left, now; we sit here in dead water, drifting like a sack of hay, but we must reef before it falls upon us. Come, John!”

While the reefing was done, I took the helm and looked out for the weather. It was smooth, and almost still; the wind had stilled, but the boat rocked on the swell. Far to the south, a dark bank stood in silhouette; we had first seen it as a narrow edge that blended into the sky and the sea, but afterwards, it rose like a wall or a blanket, with a border of heavy, straw-yellow, rolled-up thunder clouds on the top. In parts, the blanket of cloud was lighter, or more translucent; it looked as though there was a light behind. There was no flash to see, but we heard a distant, faint rolling, that I first thought came from the sea.

“Now,” said Rasmus, when he had lit his pipe and taken the helm again. “So the boy was sighted, and just as he was sitting forward in the berthdeck, he heard talk from the hold. He looks through a crack, and there he sees three coal-black ravens on the ’tween deck beams in there, and they are talking about their husbands. All of them were bored of them, and now they would kill them. It was easy to understand that they were witches who had transformed themselves.

“‘But is it certain that no one can hear us here?’ said one of these ravens. From its voice, the boy could hear that it was the skipper’s wife.

“‘No, you can see,’ said the other two, which were the wives of the first and second mates; ‘there is not a mother’s soul aboard.’

“‘Well, then I will tell it; I know some good advice to get rid of them,’ the skipper’s wife began to speak again, and hopped closer to the other two; ‘we can make ourselves into three breakers, and wash them overboard, and sink the ship, with man and mouse.’

“Yes, yes, the others thought this was a good idea; they sat for a long time, speaking of the day and the waters.

“‘But I don’t suppose there is anyone to hear us,’ said the skipper’s wife again.

“‘You know there isn’t,’ both of the others replied.

“‘Yes, well, there is some advice against it, and if it were followed, it would be dear for us; it would cost life and blood.’

“‘What advice is that, sister?’ asked one of the mate’s wives.

“‘But are you sure that no one can hear us? I thought I saw smoke from the berthdeck.’

“‘You know we have looked in every nook. They have forgotten to turn the heat down in the galley, that’s why there is smoke,’ said the mates’ wives. ‘Just tell us!’

“‘If they buy three clutches of wood—but it has to be full-length and untrimmed—and throw one of the clutches out, log by log, when the first sea comes, and the second clutch out, log by log, when the second comes, and the third clutch out, log by log, when the third comes, then there is no hope for us.’

“‘Yes, it is true, sister; then there is no hope for us, then there is no hope for us!’ said the mates’ wives. ‘But then, there is no one who knows!’ they shouted, laughing. And when they had done this, they flew up through the main hatch, and screeched and cawed like three ravens.

“When they were to sail, the boy would not for the life of him go with them, and no matter what the skipper said to him or promised him, it did not help; he would by no means go along. Finally, they asked if he was afraid, since the autumn approached, and perhaps he would rather sit in the corner by the stove, behind his mother’s skirts.

“No, said the boy, that he was not, and he did not believe they had ever seen such a side of him. This he would show them, too, for now he would go with them; but the conditions he set were that they should buy three clutches of full-measure birch wood, and that he would be allowed to command as if he were captain, on a day that he would decide upon.

“The skipper asked what manner of mockery this was, and whether he had ever heard of a cabin boy ever being trusted to command a ship.

“But the boy replied that it was all the same to him; if they would not buy three clutches of birch wood, and obey him as if he were captain for a single day—and day the skipper and crew would hear about beforehand—then he would not set his foot on the ship again; and even less would his hands smell of pitch and tar there.

“The skipper thought this was curious, and that he was a strange boy; but he finally gave in, for in the end, he wanted him to come along, and he thought too that he would clear his head in the braces when they were at sea. The first mate thought the same: ‘Oh, let him have command! If it gets too much, then we can give him a hand,’ he said. Now, the birch wood was bought, measured well, and untrimmed, and they sailed.

“When the day came that the cabin boy was to be skipper, it was beautifully calm weather. But he bid all hands to reef and take in sail, so they showed nothing more than the close-reefed sails. And it was just as the dog watch ended and the first day watch should come on duty. Both the skipper and the crew laughed and said: ‘Now we know who has command; shall we take in the rest, too?’

“‘Not yet,’ said the cabin boy, ‘but in a little bit.’

“Just like that a squall came over them, so hard and strong that they thought they would overturn, and had they not struck and reefed, then there was no question but that they would have gone under when the first breaker hit the ship. The boy commanded them to throw out the first clutch of birch wood, but log for log, one at a time, never two, and they must not touch the other two clutches. Now they were ready to obey, and they laughed no longer at him, but threw out the birch wood, log by log. When the last went, they heard a groan, as from one who lies dying, and at once the squall was over.

“‘God be praised!’ said the crew.

“‘I would say so, and stand by it for the owners, too, that you have saved both the ship and the cargo,’ said the skipper.

“‘Yes, that is well enough, but we’re not done yet,’ said the boy, ‘it’s coming in worse,’ and he commanded them to tighten each cleat, as close as the rest of the topsail. The next squall came even harder than the first, and it was so wild and infernal that they thought it would cost them their lives. When it was at its roughest, the boy said that they should throw the second clutch of wood overboard, and they did so. They threw it out log by log, and minded that they did not take any of the third. When the last log went, they heard a deep groan again, and then it stilled.

“‘Now we have one left, and it will be the worst,’ said the boy, and commanded all hands to stations, and the ship sailed under nothing but its tackle and rigging. The last squall came worse than either of the others; the ship lay over so that they thought they would never right again, and the seas broke over the aftcastle and the forecastle. But the boy commanded them to throw out the last clutch of wood, log by log, and not two at a time. When the last log went, then they heard a deep groan, and when it calmed, the sea was coloured with blood, as far as they could see.

“When they came over, the skipper and the mates spoke of writing to their wives.

“‘You may as well not bother,’ said the boy, ‘for you have no wives any more.’

“‘What talk is this, you pup? Have we no wives?’ said the skipper.

“‘Have you made an end of them, perhaps?’ said the first mate.

“‘Oh no, we have all had an equal hand in it, all of us,’ replied the boy; and then he told them of what he had seen and heard, that Sunday he was baboon, when the crew had shore leave, and the skipper had bought some timber from the forester.

“When they came home, they heard that their wives had disappeared the day before the bad weather, and no one had either heard or seen them since.”

Rasmus remained sitting, telling one story after the other. As evening drew in, the bad weather approached slowly, and rose in the sky, like a dark curtain. Bolts of lightning shot down towards the sea, or they went horizontally like snakes, and ran like flamezones around the richly folded clouds, or they made the whole thing translucent like lace or muslin. The storm was still a good distance away; the thunder crashed weakly, and the sea rolled nothing but long, smooth swells, as far as the eye could see; but it was the colour of blood and wine, for the sun went down in red storm clouds, and the colours were taken up in the mirror of the sea. But it was clear enough that we would not escape the weather; the sea grew, the current set us towards land, and it was only now and then that a gust of wind filled the sail. By the last of the daylight we saw, far away by the edge of the sky, a black stripe; as it approached, a white edge of whipped-up foam went before it, and the storm and the night were upon us. As an arrow, the boat shot on its way, and it was not long before we were by the outer reefs. The screams of alarmed sea birds sounded hoarse and weak through the breakers. The holms and the reefs took a little off the violence of the sea, but further in, where the full force of the sea hit, it grew again, and in the flashes of lightning, we saw tall, foaming breakers along the shore, and the roar sounded like thunder. Rasmus kept a keen eye in the darkness, that which appeared impenetrable to me; I could not see anything but the broad, white band of foam which we approached at alarming speed. After and long, long time, I became aware of a small dark point that we were headed for. A few minutes later, we sailed through the narrow sound beneath Ullerhodet, and were happy to reach the safety of the harbour, where tall mountains calmed the wind and weather.