Monday, 22 May 2017

The Cock and the Hen in the Nutwood

The cock and the hen went, upon a time, to the nutwood to pick nuts.

Then the hen got a nutshell stuck in her throat, and lay, flapping her wings. The cock would fetch some water for her, so he ran to the spring and said: “My dear spring, give me some water; I will give the water to Tuppa, my hen, who lies dying in the nutwood.”

“You will have no water from me before I have some leaves from you,” replied the spring.

So the cock ran to the linden: “My dear linden, give me some leaves; the leaves I will give to the spring, the spring will give me some water, the water I will give to Tuppa, my hen, who lies dying in the nutwood.”

“You will have no leaves from me before I have some red-gold bands from you,” replied the linden.

So the cock ran to the Virgin Mary: “My dear Virgin Mary, give me some red-gold bands; the red-gold bands I will give to the linden, the linden will give me some leaves, the leaves I will give to the spring, the spring will give me some water, the water I will give to Tuppa, my hen, who lies dying in the nutwood.”

“You will have no red-gold bands from me before I have some shoes from you,” replied the Virgin Mary.

So the cock ran to the shoemaker: “My dear shoemaker, give me some shoes; the shoes I will give to the Virgin Mary, the Virgin Mary will give me some red-gold bands, the red-gold bands I will give to the linden, the linden will give me some leaves, the leaves I will give to the spring, the spring will give me some water, the water I will give to Tuppa, my hen, who lies dying in the nutwood.”

“You will have no shoes from me before I have some bristles from you,” replied the shoemaker.

So the cock ran to the sow: “My dear sow, give me some bristles; the bristles I will give to the shoemaker, the shoemaker will give me some shoes, the shoes I will give to the Virgin Mary, the Virgin Mary will give me some red-gold bands, the red-gold bands I will give to the linden, the linden will give me some leaves, the leaves I will give to the spring, the spring will give me some water, the water I will give to Tuppa, my hen, who lies dying in the nutwood.”

“You will have no bristles from me before I have some grain from you,” replied the sow.

So the cock ran to the thresher: “My dear thresher, give me some grain; the grain I will give to the sow, the sow will give me some bristles, the bristles I will give to the shoemaker, the shoemaker will give me some shoes, the shoes I will give to the Virgin Mary, the Virgin Mary will give me some red-gold bands, the red-gold bands I will give to the linden, the linden will give me some leaves, the leaves I will give to the spring, the spring will give me some water, the water I will give to Tuppa, my hen, who lies dying in the nutwood.”

“You will have no grain from me before I have a lefse from you,” replied the thresher.

So the cock ran to the baker-woman: “My dear baker-woman, give me a lefse; the lefse I will give to the thresher, the thresher will give me some grain, the grain I will give to the sow, the sow will give me some bristles, the bristles I will give to the shoemaker, the shoemaker will give me some shoes, the shoes I will give to the Virgin Mary, the Virgin Mary will give me some red-gold bands, the red-gold bands I will give to the linden, the linden will give me some leaves, the leaves I will give to the spring, the spring will give me some water, the water I will give to Tuppa, my hen, who lies dying in the nutwood.”

“You will have no lefse from me before I have some wood from you,” replied the baker-woman.

So the cock ran to the woodcutter: “My dear woodcutter, give me some wood; the wood I will give to the baker woman, the baker woman will give me a lefse, the lefse I will give to the thresher, the thresher will give me some grain, the grain I will give to the sow, the sow will give me some bristles, the bristles I will give to the shoemaker, the shoemaker will give me some shoes, the shoes I will give to the Virgin Mary, the Virgin Mary will give me some red-gold bands, the red-gold bands I will give to the linden, the linden will give me some leaves, the leaves I will give to the spring, the spring will give me some water, the water I will give to Tuppa, my hen, who lies dying in the nutwood.”

“You will have no wood from me before I have an axe from you,” replied the woodcutter.

So the cock ran to the smith: “My dear smith, give me an axe; the axe I will give to the woodcutter, the woodcutter will give me some wood, the wood I will give to the baker woman, the baker woman will give me a lefse, the lefse I will give to the thresher, the thresher will give me some grain, the grain I will give to the sow, the sow will give me some bristles, the bristles I will give to the shoemaker, the shoemaker will give me some shoes, the shoes I will give to the Virgin Mary, the Virgin Mary will give me some red-gold bands, the red-gold bands I will give to the linden, the linden will give me some leaves, the leaves I will give to the spring, the spring will give me some water, the water I will give to Tuppa, my hen, who lies dying in the nutwood.”

“You will have no axe from me before I have some coke from you,” replied the smith.

So the cock ran to the cokeburner: “My dear cokeburner, give me some coke; the coke I will give to the smith, the smith will give me an axe, the axe I will give to the woodcutter, the woodcutter will give me some wood, the wood I will give to the baker woman, the baker woman will give me a lefse, the lefse I will give to the thresher, the thresher will give me some grain, the grain I will give to the sow, the sow will give me some bristles, the bristles I will give to the shoemaker, the shoemaker will give me some shoes, the shoes I will give to the Virgin Mary, the Virgin Mary will give me some red-gold bands, the red-gold bands I will give to the linden, the linden will give me some leaves, the leaves I will give to the spring, the spring will give me some water, the water I will give to Tuppa, my hen, who lies dying in the nutwood.”

So the coke-burner felt sorry for the cock, and gave him some coke, so the smith got coke, and the woodcutter an axe, and the baker-woman wood, and the thresher a lefse, and the sow grain, and the shoemaker bristles, and the Virgin Mary shoes, and the linden red-gold bands, and the spring leaves, and the cock water; and this he gave to Tuppa, his hen, who lay dying in the nutwood—and she got well again.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

The Golden Castle that Hung in the Air

There was, upon a time, a poor man who had three sons. When he died, the elder two would go out into the world to try their luck; but they would not, by any means, have the youngest with them. “You, then,” they said, “you are good for nothing but sitting and holding the pitch lantern, and digging in the ashes and blowing in the embers, you are!”

“Well, well, I shall go by myself alone, then,” said Askeladden, “and then I will not be in disagreement with my travelling companions, either.”

The two went on their way, and when they had travelled for some days, they came to a great forest; there they sat down to rest, and would take of the food they had packed, for they were both weary and hungry. As they sat there, an old woman came up through a tussock, and asked for a little food; she was so old and frail that her mouth quivered and her head shook, and she had to walk with a stick; she had not had a crumb of bread in her mouth in a hundred years, she said. But the boys just laughed and ate, and said that since she had survived for so long, then she would survive the rest, even if she did not eat up their crumbs; they had but little food, and none to lose.

When they had eaten both good and long, and rested, they set off again, and after a long time and distance, they came to the king’s farm; there they went into service, both of them.

A while after they had left home, Askeladden gathered together the crumbs his brothers had left behind, and put them in his small knapsack. And he took with him the old gun that was not locked, for he thought it would always be good to have on the road; then he set off.

When he had walked for some days, he too came into the great forest that his brothers had gone through, and since he grew both weary and hungry, he sat beneath a tree and would rest, and take a little to eat; but he was still sharp, and when he took out his food, he saw there was a portrait hanging on a tree, and it depicted a young maiden or a princess, whom he thought was so gorgeous that he could not take his eyes off it. He forgot his food and knapsack, and took down the portrait, and laid it down and gazed at it.

Just like that, the old woman came up through the tussock, quivering of lip, shaking her head, and walking with a stick, and she asked for some food; for she had not had a crumb of bread in her mouth these last hundred years, she said.

“It may be time you had a little to live on, then, old mother,” said the boy, and gave her some of the breadcrumbs he had. The woman said that no one had called her mother in a hundred years, and she would surely do him a mother’s deed in return, she said. She gave him a ball of grey yarn, which he should merely roll before him, and he would come to wherever he wanted to go. But the portrait, she said, he should not mind; he would only get in to trouble on its account. Askeladden thought this all well and good, but the portrait he would not be without. So he put it under his arm, and rolled the ball of woollen yarn before him, and it was not long before he came to the king’s farm, where his brothers were in service. He also asked to go into service, but they replied that they had no use for him, for they had recently taken on two footmen; but he asked so beautifully that at last he was allowed to go to the stable master and be trained to look after the horses. Askeladden was willing, for he liked horses, and he was both good and clever at it. So he soon learned to brush and groom them, and it was not long before everyone in the king’s farm held him dear. But every free moment he had, he was up beholding the portrait; for he had hung it on a hook in the stable loft.

His brothers were sleepy and lazy, and thus they often received harsh words and blows. And when they saw that things went better with Askeladden than with themselves, they grew envious of him, and told the head groom that he was an idolator—that he prayed to a picture, and not to Our Lord. Even though the head groom liked Askeladden, it was not long before he told the king. But the king merely ranted and raved at him; he was now nothing but sullen and mournful, for his daughters had been taken by a troll. But they trumped in the king’s ears for so long that he wanted to discover what the boy was about. When he came up to the stable loft and saw the portrait, it was his youngest daughter who was painted in it. But when Askeladden’s brothers heard it, they were soon ready to say to the head groom: “If our brother wanted to, he has said, he is good to return the king’s daughter to him.”

You may imagine it was not long before the head groom went to the king with this; he called for Askeladden and said: “Your brothers say that you can return my daughter, and now you shall do it.” Askeladden replied that he had never known it was the king’s daughter before the king had said so himself, and if he could save her, and fetch her, then he would certainly do his best; but he needed two days to prepare himself and equip himself in. This he would certainly have.

The boy took out the ball of grey woollen yarn and threw it on its way, and it went before and he came after, until he came to the old woman from whom he had received it. He asked her what he should do; and she said that he should take his old gun with him, and three-hundred crates of nails and horseshoe-nails, and three-hundred barrels of meal, and three-hundred pigs and three-hundred bull carcasses, and roll the ball of yarn on his way until he met a crow and a troll-child. Then he would certainly arrive, for they were of her kin. Yes, the boy did what she said; he went into the king’s farm and took his old gun, and asked the king for meat and flesh, and horses and boys and vehicles to carry it. The king thought it was a lot to need; but since he could return his daughter, he would have everything he demanded, even it it were half the kingdom.

When the boy had equipped himself, he rolled the ball of yarn on his way; and he had not walked for many days before he came to a tall mountain. There sat a crow up in a pine tree. Askeladden went under the tree and began to aim and point with his gun.

“No, don’t shoot! Don’t shoot me, and I will help you,” cried the crow.

“I have never heard anyone boast about roast crow,” said the boy, “and since you value your life, then I may just as well spare you.” Then he threw down his gun, and the crow flew down, and said:

“Up here on the mountain is a young troll-child who has got so lost that he cannot find his way down again; I will help you up, and then you can take the child home, and receive a reward that you may well need. When you get there, the troll will offer you anything of the finest things he has, but you shall take nothing other than the grey ass that stands behind the stable door.”

Then the crow took the boy on his back and flew up the mountain and set him down up there. When he had walked a little, he heard the troll-child whining and complaining that he could not get down again. The boy spoke kindly enough wih him; they became friends, and liked each other, and he took it upon himself to help him down. And then he would take the troll-child home to the troll garden, so he would not get lost on the way home. So they went to the crow, and he took them on his back, the both of them, and carried them to the mountain troll.

When the troll saw his child again, he was so glad that he forgot himself, and said to the boy that he could come in and take what he wanted, for he had saved his son; he offered both gold and silver and everything rare and costly; but the boy said he would rather have a horse. Yes, he should have a horse then, said the troll, and so they went to the stable. There it was full of the finest horses, which shone like the sun and the moon, but the boy thought every one of them too large for him. Then he peeked behind the stable door, and then he saw the grey ass that stood there. “This I will have,” he said, “for it suits me; if I fall off, then it is not further to the ground than this.” The troll was reluctant to lose his ass, but since he he had said it, then he had to stand by it. So the boy got the ass, with saddle and bridle and everything that went with it, and then he set off on his way.

They travelled through forest and mark, over mountain and broad moors. When they had travelled farther than far, the ass asked if the boy saw anything. “No, I see nothing but a tall mountain on the horizon,” said the boy.

“Yes, that mountain shall we pass through,” said the ass.

“Really?” said the boy. When they came to the mountain, a unicorn charged them, as if it would eat them alive.

“I think I am mostly afraid,” said the boy.

“Oh, don’t be,” said the ass. “Unload two-score bull carcasses, and bid it bore a hole and clear a way through the mountain,” it said. The boy did so.

When the unicorn had eaten itself satisfied, they promised two-score slaughtered pigs, if it would go before them and bore a hole in the mountain so that they could get through. When it heard this, it bore a hole and cleared a way through the mountain, so quickly that they could hardly keep up; and when it was finished, they threw two-score pigs to it.

When they had come well from this, they travelled far away through the countries, and they went across forest and mark, over mountain and wild moors again. “Do you see anything now?” asked the ass.

“Now I see nothing but sky and wild mountains,” said the boy. So they travelled far, and farther than far, and when they came higher up, the mountain grew more even and flatter, so they could see widely around them.

“Do you see anything now?” said the ass.

“Yes, I see something far, far away,” said the boy; “it glitters and shines like a small star.”

“It is certainly not so small,” said the ass.

When they had travelled far, and farther than far again, it asked: “Can you see anything now?”

‪“Yes, now I see something far away; it shines like a moon,” said the boy.‬

‪“That’s no moon,” said the ass; “it is the silver castle we are going to,” it said. “When we arrive, three dragons lie guard by the gate; they have not woken in a hundred years, so moss has grown on their eyes.”

“I think I will be mostly afraid of them,” said the boy.

“Oh, don’t be,” said the ass; “you must wake the youngest and throw him two-score bull carcasses and slaughtered pigs; then he will talk to the other two, and then you will get into the castle.”

They travelled far, and farther than far, before they arrived at the castle; but when they arrived, it was big and fine, and everything they saw was cast in silver. And outside the gate lay the dragons, blocking it so that no one could get in; but they had been left in peace and quiet, and had not been much bothered on their watch, for they were so covered in moss that no one could see what they were made of; and between them there were two small patches of forest growing among the moss.

The boy woke the smallest of them, and it began to rub its eyes, to clear away the patches of moss. When the dragon saw that there were folk, it came towards him with its mouth gaping; but then the boy stood ready, and threw in it bull carcasses and hurled in it pigs, until it had eaten enough, and grew a little more reasonable to talk to. The boy asked it to wake the others, and ask them to move away so that he could go into the castle. But it dared and would not, said the dragon, for they had not been awake and had not tasted food for a hundred years; it was afraid they would move around in a daze and gobble up anything, be it alive or dead. The boy thought there would be no danger, for they could leave a hundred bull carcasses and a hundred slaughtered pigs, and move away a little, and so they could eat themselves full, and gather themselves together before they returned. Yes, this the dragon wanted, too, and thus they did so; but before the dragons were fully awake and rubbed the moss away from their eyes, they stumbled about in a daze, and snapped at both this and that; and the youngest dragon had work enough avoiding them before they had eaten enough meat. Then they swallowed down whole bull- and pig carcasses, and ate until they were satisfied; and then they grew quite placid and good-natured, and let the boy go between them, into the castle.

There was everything so fine that he had never thought there could be such finery anywhere; but it was empty of folk, for he went from room to room and opened every door, but he saw no one.

But yes; finally he peeped through a doorway into a chamber he had not yet seen. Inside sat a princess, spinning; and she was happy and glad when she saw him.

“No, no! Do Christian-folk dare come here?” she cried. “But it would be best you left again, or the troll might kill you; for a great troll with three heads lives here.” The boy said he would not remove himself, even if the troll had seven. When the princess heard this, she wanted him to try to wield the great, rusty sword that hung behind the door; no, he could not wield it, he could not even lift it.

“Well,” said the princess, “since you cannot do it, then you may take a draught from the flask that hangs beside it, for that is what the troll does when he takes it out to use.” The boy took a couple of swigs; then he could wield it as if it were a baker’s lefse stick.

Just like that the troll swept in. “Hu! Here it smells of a Christian man!” it screamed.

“It does so,” said the boy, “but you do not need to snort out of your nose for that; you will no longer have any trouble from the smell,” he said. And then he hacked all its heads off it.

The princess was as happy as if she had received something good. But as time passed, she grew sullen; for she yearned for her sister, who was taken by a troll with six heads, and lived in a castle of gold, three hundred leagues beyond the end of the world. The boy thought this was not so bad; he could fetch both the princess and the castle, and so he took the sword and the vessel, mounted the ass, and asked the dragons to come with him and bring the meat and flesh and nails he had.

When they had been on the way for a while, and travelled far, far away, across both land and strand, the ass said one day: “Do you see anything?”

“I see nothing but land and water and sky and tall mountains,” said the boy. So they travelled far, and farther than far.

“Do you see anything now?” said the ass. Yes, he had seen something before him, he said, something far, far away; it shone like a small star, said the boy.

“It will certainly grow bigger,” said the ass. When they had travelled a long distance further, it asked: “Do you see anything now?”

“Now I see it shines like a moon,” said the boy.

“Well, well,” said the ass.

When they had travelled far, and farther than far, across land and strand, over mound and moor again, the ass asked: “Do you see anything now?”

“I think it shines most like the sun,” said the boy.

“Yes, it is the golden castle we are going to,” said the ass; “but outside lies a lindworm that blocks the road and keeps guard.”

“I think I will be scared,” said the boy.

“Oh, don’t be,” said the ass. “We will bend layers of branches over it, and between them, layers of horseshoe nails, and light it on fire, and we will be well rid of it.”

After a long, long time, they came to where the castle hung; but the lindworm lay before, blocking the road in. So the boy gave the dragons a good measure of bull- and pig carcasses so that they would help him, and bent over it a layer of branches, then a layer of horseshoe nails, until they had used up the three-hundred cases that they had; and when that was done, they set it on fire, and burned up the lindworm alive.

When they were well finished with this, one dragon flew underneath, and lifted the castle up, and the other two went far up into the sky, and loosed the chain hooks that it hung on, and put it down on the ground. When this was done, the boy went in, and here it was even finer than in the silver castle; but he saw no folk, until he came into the innermost room; there lay the princess on a golden bed. She slept so soundly that she should have been dead, but that she was not, even though he was not the fellow enough to wake her, and she was as red and white as milk and blood.

Just as the boy stood there, looking at her, the troll swept in. No sooner had it got its first head through the door than it said: “Huff! Here it smells of a Christian man!”

“Perhaps,” said the boy, “but you don’t need to snort so hard through your nose, anyway; you shall not long have the trouble of it,” he said, and then he hacked off all its heads, as if they were set on cabbage stalks. Then the dragons took the golden castle on their backs and went home with it—it did not take them long, I wouldn’t think—and placed it beside the silver castle, so they shone both far and wide.

When the princess from the silver castle came to the window in the morning and saw it, she was so glad that she ran over to the golden castle at the very same hour; but when she saw her sister, who lay sleeping as if she were dead, she said to the boy that they could not bring her back to life before they had the waters of death and life, and that these stood in two wells on each side of a golden castle that hung in the air, nine-hundred leagues beyond the end of the world, and there lived the third sister.

Well, there was nothing else to do, said the boy; he would have to fetch her too, and it was not long before he was on his way. And he travelled far, and farther than far, through many kingdoms, through mark and forest, over mountains and shore, over rock and wave. Finally he came to the end of the world, and then he travelled both far, and farther than far, over heath and mound and tall peaks.

“Do you see anything?” said the ass one day.

“I see nothing but the sky and the earth,” said the boy.

“Do you see anything now?” said the ass, when a few days had passed.

“Yes, now I think I can glimpse something high up and far away, like a small star,” said the boy.

“It certainly is not so small,” said the ass.

When they had travelled for some days more, it asked: “Do you see anything now?”

“Yes, now I think it shines like the moon.”

“Indeed,” said the ass. And they travelled for some days more. “Do you see anything now?” asked the ass.

“Yes, now it shines like the sun,” replied the boy.

“That is where we are going,” said the ass; “it is the golden castle that hangs in the air. There lives a princess who has been taken by a troll with nine heads; but all the wild animals of the earth there are lie guard, blocking the way in,” said the ass.

“Huff! I think I am most afraid now,” said the boy.

“Oh don’t be,” said the ass. And then it said he would be in no danger if he did not try to stop there, but travel again after he had filled his vessels with water; for it was not passable for more than an hour of the day, and that was high day; but was he not fellow enough to be finished in that time, and get away, then he would be ripped into a thousand pieces.

Yes, he would do this, said the boy; he would certainly not stop for too long.

They arrived at twelve o’clock. Then all the wild and dangerous animals there are lay as a fence outside the gate, and on both sides of the road; but they slept like logs and rocks, and there was not one of them that even lifted a leg. The boy went between them, making certain that he did not tread on toes or tail tips, and filled his vessels with the waters of life and death; and while he did so, he looked at the castle that was cast in gleaming gold. It was the finest thing he had seen, and he thought it must be even finer on the inside. “Puh! I have time,” thought Askeladden. “I can always look around for half-an-hour.” And so he opened up and went inside. But there it was more beautiful than beautiful; he went from one stately room to the next; it was covered in gold and pearls and everything costly. There were no folk there. But finally he came into one chamber; there lay a princess, sleeping on a golden bed again, as if she were dead; but she was as beautiful as the most beautiful queen, and red and white as blood and snow, and so beautiful as nothing he had ever seen, except for her portrait; for it was she who was depicted there. They boy forgot both the water he should fetch, and the animals, and all the castle, and gazed only at the princess, and he thought he could never have enough of looking at her; but she slept as one dead, and he was not good to wake her.

When the evening drew in, the troll came sweeping in and banged and bumped into the gates and the doors, so that the noise went throughout the castle.

“Huff! Here it smells of a Christian man!” it said, sticking its first head in through the door, sniffing.

“That may be,” said the boy, “but you have no business huffing so that the bellows tear; you shall not have the trouble of the smell for long,” he said, and with that, he hacked off all its heads. But when he was finished, he grew so tired that he could not keep his eyes open; so he lay down on the bed beside the princess. And she slept both night and day, as if she would never wake; but at midnight, she was awake for a moment, and then she said to him that he had saved her; but she had to remain there three more years; if she did not come home to him then, then he should come to fetch her.

He did not wake up until it was past one o’clock on the next day, and heard that the ass had begun to bray and carry on, and so he thought it best to start off on his way home; but first he cut a fold off the princess’s dress, and took it with him. But however it was or was not, he had dawdled for so long that the animals had begun to wake up and move around, and by the time he had climbed the hill, they surrounded him so that he thought it looked hopeless. But the ass said he should splash a few drops of the water of death on them. He did so, and then they fell down on the spot, and moved not a limb more.

While they were on the way home, the ass said to the boy: “When you have attained honour and glory, you will see that you forget me and what I have done for you, so that I am brought to my knees with hunger.” No, that would never happen, said the boy.

When he arrived at the home of the princess, with the water of life, he splashed some drops on his sister so that she awoke, and then you can be sure there was joy and happiness.

Then they went home to the king, and he was also glad and happy because he had got them back; but he went and waited and waited for the three years to pass, until his youngest daughter should come. The boy who had fetched them, he made a powerful man, so that he was the first in the country beside the king. But there were many who were envious that he had become such a great fellow, and there was one—his name was the Red Knight—who they said would have the eldest princess; he got her to splash some of the water of death on the boy, so that he slept.

When the three years were over, and it was some time into the fourth, a foreign sailing ship came sailing, and on it was the third sister, and she had with her a three year-old child. She sent a messenger up to the king’s farm, and said that she would not set foot on land before they sent he who had been to the golden castle and saved her. So they sent one of the highest ranking there in the king’s farm, and when he came aboard, he struck his hat from his head and bowed and bent himself.

“Can this be your father, my son?” said the princess to the child, who played with a golden apple.

“No, my father does not crawl like a cheese maggot,” said the boychild. Then they sent another of the same kind, and it was the Red Knight. But things went no better for him than they had for the first one; and the princess sent word with him that if they did not send the right one, then things would go badly with them.

When they heard this, they had to wake the boy, with the water of life, and then he went down to the princess’s ship; but he did not bow too much, I would not think; he just nodded his head, and took out the fold that he had cut out of her dress at the golden castle.

“There is my father!” cried the boy, and gave him the golden apple that he had been playing with. Then there was great joy and gladness over the whole kingdom, and the old king was the happiest of them all, for he had got back his favourite again.

When it was discovered what the Red Knight and the eldest princess had done to the boy, the king would have them rolled in a barrel of nails each; but Askeladden and the youngest princess interceded, and they were let off.

When they trumpeted the wedding in the king’s farm, then there came a day the boy stood looking out of the window—it was the beginning of spring, this was, and they were slipping the horses and the livestock, and the last to come out of the stable was the ass; but it was so starved that it came out on its knees through the stall door. Then he was so badly affected because he had forgotten it, that he went down and did not know what good he could do it; but the ass said that the best he could do was to chop its head off it. He was loath to do it, but the ass pleaded so nicely that he had to do it at last; and as soon as the head fell on to the ground, the enchantment that had been cast on him came to an end, and there stood the most beautiful prince that anyone could want to see. He got the second princess, and then they trumpeted a wedding that was heard of and asked of across seven kingdoms.

Then they built houses,
Then they patched shoes,
Then they had princes,
Whene’er they did choose.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Hippocampus

The hippocampus (crooked horse) is known in Greek mythology as Poseidon’s horse. My understanding is that the motif is also quite widespread in folklore. Below are two short legends from Norway.

Sea-horse and Sea Serpent in Battle

The belief in great serpents, the lindworm, sea serpents, and such was common. There were supposed to be great serpents in many mountain lakes, about which there are many legends. At times, great serpents came into the fjord and lay close by mighty waterfalls, to drink “burst” water.

Once, a terribly long time ago, it happened some place one Sunday evening, when the folk came out of church, that a terribly long sea serpent had laid itself across the bay, so that those who should go home by way of the sea could not get out with their boats. There lay the sea serpent, day after day, and no one dared go out on the fjord, and everybody was frightened, and had no idea what to do about getting home. But then they made an effort to keep calm, and then it was not long, either, before a great sea-horse came at full tilt from the sea, and attacked the sea serpent and killed it. Then all the folk were terrified, got into their boats, and rowed home, each to his own; and all the sea was red from the blood that had run out of the sea serpent.

Norsk folkeminnesamling: Rasmus Løland 1, p. 29

The Sea-horse that Attacked

Many boats lay fishing by Grip, off Kristiansand, among them a fembøring that lay a little by itself. Suddenly there came a huge, ugly beast that laid its forelegs on the gunwales and tried to overturn it. The animal had long claws on its feet, just like a dog, and they were so long that they almost reached across to the other side of the boat.

The crew of four managed to get the animal off, but after a short while it came again and laid its forelegs and claws on the gunwales. Also this time, they managed to remove the nuisance, but after that, they rowed in to land.

Not before the following day did they row out to sea again. Then there was such a terrible storm that they never came back.

— Sivertsen, Birger. “Havhest” in For noen troll. Oslo: Andresen & Butenschøn, 2000. p 304.

Monday, 8 May 2017

The Hen Trips in the Mountain

Once upon a time there was an old widow who lived in a remote village tight by a hill with her three daughters. She was so poor that she owned nothing but a hen, and this she held as dearly as the apple of her eye; she clucked for it and tended it, both early and late.

But one day, just like that, the hen disappeared. The wife then went around about the cabin, searching and calling, but the hen was, and remained gone.

“You must go out to try to find our hen,” said the wife to her eldest daughter; “we must have it back, even if we must take it out of the mountain.” So the daughter went out to look for it; she went both hither and thither, and searched and called, and no hen did she find. But suddenly she heard from within the mountain wall:

The hen trips in the mountain!
The hen trips in the mountain!

She would then go over to see what it was, but by the mountain wall, she fell through a trapdoor, deep, deep into a chamber beneath the earth. Down there, she walked through many rooms, the one finer than the other, but in the innermost, an ugly great man of the mountain came to her.

“Will you be my sweetheart?” he asked.

No, she said, by no means; she wanted to go back up and look for her hen, which was missing.

Then the man of the mountain grew so angry that he took her and twisted her head off her, and threw both head and body down into the cellar.

The mother sat at home, and waited and waited, but no daughter returned. She waited a good while longer, but as she neither saw nor heard anything of her, she said to the middle daughter that she should go out looking for her sister; “and you can call for the hen at the same time,” she said.

The second sister would thus out, and things went just the same way with her; she went and she called, and suddenly she too heard from the mountain wall:

The hen trips in the mountain!
The hen trips in the mountain!

This she thought was strange; she would go over to see what it was, and then she too fell through the trapdoor, deep, deep down into the chamber. There she walked through all the rooms, but in the innermost, the man of the mountain came to her and asked if she would be his sweetheart. No, she would by no means be that; she wanted to go up again immediately, and search for the hen that was missing. But then the man of the mountain grew angry; he took her and twisted her head off, and threw head and body down into the cellar.

When the wife now sat waiting for her second daughter too, for seven long and seven broad, and no daughter was to hear or see, she said to the youngest: “Now, truly you must go and look for your sisters. Bad it was when the hen went missing; even worse would it be if we did not find your sisters. The hen you can always call at the same time.”

Well, the youngest was to go out, then; she went hither and thither and searched and called, but she did not see the hen, and neither did she see her sisters. A long time after a long time, she also came to the mountain wall, and there she heard it say:

The hen trips in the mountain!
The hen trips in the mountain!

This she thought was strange; she would go over to see, and then she fell through the trapdoor, deep, deep down into the chamber. Down there, she walked through one room finer than the other; but she was not so afraid, and gave herself good time to look at both one thing and another, and so she caught sight of the cellar trapdoor, too. She looked down through it, and soon recognised her sisters, who lay down there.

As soon as she had got the cellar trapdoor closed again, the man of the mountain came to her.

“Will you be my sweetheart?” asked the man of the mountain.

“Yes, I will,” said the girl, for she understood well enough how things had gone for her sisters.

When the troll heard this, she was given fine, fine clothes, the finest she could wish for, and anything else she would have, so glad was he that someone would be his sweetheart.

But when she had been there a while, there was a day she was even more downcast and quiet than she usually was, and so the man of the mountain asked what she was so sullen for.

“Oh,” said the girl, “it is because I cannot go home to mother; she is certainly both hungry and thirsty, and she has no one with her, either.”

“Well, you cannot be allowed to go to her,” replied the troll, “but put some food in a sack, and I shall carry it to her.”

Yes, she thanked him for this—she would do it, she said; but at the bottom of the sack, she placed a deal of gold and silver, and then she put some food on top, and then said to the troll that now the sack was ready, but he must by no means look in it, and he promised that he would not, too.

When the man of the mountain went, she peeped out at him through a small hole there was in the trapdoor; when he had gone a part of the way, he said: “it is so heavy, this sack; I will look to see what there is in it,” and he began to loosen the bands; but then the girl shouted: “I can see you! I can see you!”

“Those are some damnable eyes you have in your head, then,” said the troll, and so he did not dare try that again.

When he arrived at where the widow lived, he threw the sack in though the cabin door. “There you have some food from your daughter; she lacks nothing,” he said.

When the girl had now been in the mountain a good while more, a billy-goat one day fell through the trap door.

“Who is it who sent for you, you shaggy beast?” said the troll, he was terribly wild, and so he took the buck and twisted off its head, and threw it down into the cellar.

“Oh no, why did you do that?” said the girl. “I could have had fun with it down here.”

“You don’t need to start whining, I know,” said the troll, “I can soon bring life back to the billy-goat, I can.” With that, he took a jar that hung on the wall, set the billy-goat’s head back in place and rubbed it in from the jar, and then it was just as good again.

Ho, ho! thought the girl, that jar must be worth something.

When she had been with the troll a good while more, she made sure the troll was out, took the eldest of her sisters, put her head in place, and rubbed her in from the jar, as she had seen the troll do with the goat; and straightway her sister came back to life. The girl put her in a sack, and put some food on top, and as soon as the troll returned, she said to him: “Dear me! You must go home to mother with some food again; she is certain to be both thirsty and hungry, the poor thing; alone is she, too. But do not look in the sack!”

Yes, he would go with the sack, he said, and neither would he look in it; but when he had gone a part of the way, he thought the sack was so heavy, and when he had walked a while, he said that he would see what was in the sack. “What manner of eyes does she have, if she can see me now?” he said to himself.

But as soon as he began to loosen it, she who sat in the sack said: “I can see you! I can see you!”

“Those are some damnable eyes you have in your head, too then,” said the troll—he thought it was she in the mountain who spoke. He dared not look down into the sack again, but carried the sack to the mother, as quickly as he could; and when he came to the cabin door, he threw it in. “There you have some food from your daughter; she lacks nothing,” he said.

Now, when the girl had been in the mountain for a good while, she did the same with the other sister; she put her head on her, rubbed her in from the jar, and put her in the sack. But this time, she filled as much gold and silver upon her as there was room for, and right on top, she laid a little food.

“Dear me!” she said to the troll. “Now you must go home to my mother with some more food again; but do not look in the sack!”

Yes, the troll would satisfy her in this, and he promised too that he would not look in the sack. But when he had gone a part of the way, the sack grew terribly heavy, he thought; and when he had walked even further, he was simply exhausted; he had to put down the sack and take a breather, and then he would loosen the fastenings and look in; but she who sat in the sack cried: “I can see you! I can see you!”

“Those are some damnable eyes you have in your head, too!” said the troll, and so he dared not look in the sack any more, but hurried as quickly as he could, and carried the sack all the way to the mother. When he came outside the cabin door, he threw it in: “There you have some food from your daughter; she lacks nothing,” he said.

When the girl had been there a good while longer still, the troll was going out once; the girl pretended that she was miserable and sick, and whined and carried on.

“It is no good your coming home before twelve o’clock,” she said, “for I will not be able to make your food ready before then, so miserable and ill I am.”

When the troll had well gone, she stuffed her clothes with straw and set this straw girl in the corner by the hearth, with a stirrer in its hand, so that it looked as if it were herself standing there. Then she hurried home, and brought a shooter to stay in her mother’s cabin.

When it was twelve o’clock, and even more, the troll came home.

“Bring the food!” he said to the straw girl.

No, she did not answer.

“Bring the food, I said!” said the troll again; “I am hungry!”

No, she did not answer.

“Bring the food!” screamed the troll a third time. “Listen to what I say, or I will waken you, so help me!”

No, the girl stood just as still.

Then he grew so wild that he struck her, so that the straw was spread to the walls and ceiling. And when he saw this, he sensed a trick, and began to search, both high and low, and finally came down into the cellar, too; there were both of the girl’s sisters, gone, and so he understood straight away how things had gone. Yes, she would pay! he said, and began on the way to where the mother lived. But when he arrived at the cabin, the shooter shot, so the troll dared not go in, for he thought it was thunder. He set off home again, as quickly as he could; but as quickly as he came to the trapdoor, the sun streamed, and he burst.

There is certainly gold and silver enough yet. If only one knew where the trapdoor was.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Redfox and Askeladden

Once upon a time there was a king who had many hundred sheep and many hundred goats and cows; and many hundred horses had he too, and silver and gold in great heaps and piles. But even so, he was so sorrowful that he mostly would not see folk, and even less talk to them. He had been like this since his youngest daughter had been lost. But it would have been bad enough, even if he had never lost her, for there was a troll who constantly made a mess and trouble there, so that folk hardly ever came to the king’s farm; just like that he would loose all the horses so that they trampled down the fields and meadows and ate up the grain; just like that he tore the heads off the king’s ducks and geese; sometimes he killed the cows in the stall, or drove the sheep and goats over the hill; and every time they would take some fish from the pond, they had all been chased up on to the land, all of them.

But then there were a couple of old folk who had three sons; one of them was called Per, the second was called Pål, and the third they called Espen Askeladd, for he lay drawing in the ashes, all the time.

These were bold lads, but Per, who was the eldest, he would be the boldest, and so he asked his father’s permission to go out into the world to try his luck.

“Yes, you have permission; late is better than never, my boy,” said the fellow. So he got some brandy in a flask, and some food in his knapsack, and then he took to his feet, and went down the hill. When he had gone a distance, he walked by a old woman who lay beside the road.

“Oh, my dear boy, give me a small crumb of food today,” said the woman.

But Per, he hardly looked aside, but merely adjusted his knapsack, and continued on his way.

“Well, well,” said the woman, “if you go, you’ll see that it goes as it goes,” she said.

Per went far, and farther than far, until he came to the king’s farm. There stood the king under the porch, feeding the hens.

“Good evening, and God’s blessing,” said Per.

“Tippe, tippe, tippe, tuppe, tuppe—!” said the king, scattering and scattering both east and west, minding him not a whit.

“Yes, stand there, you, and scatter grain, and cackle hen language until you turn into a bear,” said Per to himself; “you shall not have me talking to you,” he thought; and so he went into the kitchen and sat down on the bench like any great fellow.

“What kind of rascal are you?” said the cook, for Per had not yet grown a beard. This he thought was impertinent and mockery, and so he began to beat the cook; but just like that the king came in and had them cut three red stripes into his back; then they rubbed salt into the wounds, and let him go home the same way he had come.

When Per had come well home, Pål would out. Oh yes, he also took some brandy in a flask and some food in his knapsack, and took to his feet down the hill. When he had walked a part of the way, he met the woman who asked for food, but he swept past without even replying, and at the king’s farm, things went not a hair better for him than they had for Per. The king said, “tippe, tippe,” and the cook called him a naughty child, and when he would beat her for that, the king came with a kitchen knife and cut three red stripes and rubbed glowing embers in them, and sent him home with a sore back.

Then Askeladden crept up from the pit, and began to move around; the first day, he shook off the ash, and the second he washed and combed himself, and the third he dressed himself in his Sunday best.

“Well, look at that!” said Per; “now a new sun shines here. I suppose you want to go to the king’s farm and win the king’s daughter and half the kingdom. Oh, stay in the ashes, you,” he said. But Askeladden did not listen in that ear, he went into his father, and asked for leave to go out a little into the world.

“What will you do, out in the world?” said the old man. “It didn’t go so well with Per or Pål; how will things go with you?” he said.

But Askeladden did not give in before he was given leave to go.

His brothers did not want him to have even a crumb of food, but his mother gave him a crust of cheese and a meat bone, and with that, he went on his way. He was in no hurry: “you will arrive in time,” he thought; “you have the whole day before you, and then the moon will rise, if luck is with you.” So he placed one foot in front of the other, and took his time on the hills, and watched his path well.

After a longer than long time, he met the old woman who lay off the road.

“You poor old, crooked thing; I suppose you’re hungry,” said Askeladden.

She was, said the woman.

“In that case, I will share with you,” said Askeladden, giving her the crust of cheese.

“Are you cold, too?” he said; he saw her teeth were chattering. “You shall have my old tunic; it doesn’t have much in the way of sleeves, and little back, but it was a good garment, when it was new.”

“Wait a little,” said the woman. She rummaged in her great pocket. “Here you have an old key,” she said. “I have neither better nor worse to give you; but when you look through the keyring, then you can see anything you want to.”

When he arrived at the king’s farm, the cook was carrying water, and she was struggling terribly with it. “That is too heavy for you,” said Askeladden. “It is better that I do it,” he said.

The cook was the one who was glad! And afterwards, she always let Askeladden scrape the pot; but it was not long before he made a number of enemies for of it, and they lied to the king, and said taht he had said that he was good to do both this and that.

One day, the king came out and asked Askeladden it it was true that he was good to keep the fish in the pond, so the troll could not hurt them. “They say you have said you are good for it,” he said.

“I have not said it,” said Askeladden; “but had I said it, then I would also have been good to do it.”

Well, however it was, he would try anyway, if he wished to save the skin on his back, said the king.

Well, then he would try, said Askeladden; for he had no wish to go with red stripes beneath his shirt, he said.

In the evening, Askeladden peeped through the keyring, and then he saw that the troll was afraid of thyme. He went to gather all the thyme he could find. Some of it he scattered on the water, and some on the land, and the rest he spread around the bank of the pond.

And so the troll had to leave the fish in peace; but now the sheep suffered for it; the troll chased them over knoll and cliff all that night.

So there were some of the other servants who had been out again, saying that Askeladden had said that he knew how to save the sheep, too, he did; if only he would. He had said he was good for it, that was certain.

Well, the king went out to him and said the same as before, and threatened to cut three broad red stripes in his back, if he did not do it.

So there was nothing else for it. Askeladden thought it would have been good to wear the king’s uniform and red tunic, but he would have to go without, since he had made himself do it, he said.

And so he began with the thyme again; but it was an almost endless task, for when he bound some thyme on to the sheep, then they ate it off one another again; and so it went, for the sheep ate more quickly than he could bind it. But finally, he made an ointment of thyme and pitch, and rubbed them with it. The cows and horses were also rubbed down with the thyme ointment, so that the troll left them in peace.

But one day, when the king was out hunting, he got lost in the forest; he rode around for many days, and had neither food nor drink, and his clothes suffered so terribly in the dense forest that he finally had hardly a rag left on his body. Then the troll came and said that if he could have the first thing the king met when he came to his land, then he would let him home to the king’s farm again. Yes, this the troll would have; the king thought it would probably be his little dog that would bark and play when it met him. But when he came so close to the king’s farm that they could see him, the eldest king’s daughter, with all the folk following her, went to meet the king, and received him both good and well.

When he saw that it was she who was first, he grew so sick that he fell to the ground immediately; and from that time, he was mostly half mad.

In the evening, the troll should come to fetch the king’s daughter, and she was decked out and sat in a meadow out by the tarn, weeping and mourning. There was one called Redfox, who should go with her, but he was so afraid that he climbed up a timber spruce, and remained sitting there.

Just like that, Askeladden came and sat down on the ground beside the king’s daughter. And she was glad, don’t you know, when she saw there were yet Christian-folk who dared to be with her. “Lay your head in my lap, and will nitpick you,” she said. Espen Askeladd did as she said, and while she did it, he fell asleep, and so she took a gold ring from her finger and tied it into his hair.

Just like that, the troll came, huffing; he was so heavy afoot that the forest groaned and creaked for half a league before him. When he saw Redfox, who sat in the spruce top, like a small blackcock, he spat at him—“Puh!” he said—so both Redfox and the timber spruce crashed to the ground, and there he lay, wriggling like a fish on dry land.

“Hu hu!” said the troll. “If you sit here nitpicking Christian-folk, then I will eat you,” he said.

“Puh!” said Askeladden, as soon as he awoke, and began to look at the troll through the keyring.

“Hu hu! What are you looking at me for?” said the troll to Askeladden. “Hu hu!” Then he hurled an iron bar at him, so that it stood fifteen cubits into the rock; but Askeladden was so swift afoot that he got out of the way as soon as the troll threw it.

“Puh! What a womanly throw!” said Askeladden. “Give me your toothpick, and you shall see a throw.” Yes, the troll plucked out the iron bar in one snatch; it was the size of three gate bars. Meanwhile, Askeladden stared at the sky, both south and north.

“Hu hu! What are you staring at, now?” said the troll.

“I am looking to see which star I should throw it to,” said Askeladden; “do you see the tiny little one straight to the north? I will take that,” he said.

“No, you let it sit as it sits,” said the troll; “you will not throw away my iron bar.”

“Well, well, then you shall have it back,” said Askeladden; “but perhaps you think it better that I sling you up to the moon a turn,” he said. No, the troll did not want that either.

“Then what about blind-man’s buff? Do you not want to play blind-man’s buff?” said Askeladden.

Yes, that might be good, “but you shall go first,” he said to Askeladden.

“Oh yes, of course,” said the boy; “but it is fairest if we all count, then we won’t have anything to argue about.” Yes, yes, they would do so, then. And then you should know that Askladden made it so that the troll was blindfolded, and should made the first attempt. And you should have seen the blind-man’s buff, hey! They went around on the edge of the forest; the troll crashed and tore into the tree stumps so that the splinters flew, and it sounded accordingly.

“No, no, should the troll be blind-man for long?” screamed the troll, and furious was he.

“Wait a little,” said Askeladden, “and I will stand still and call until you catch me.” Meanwhile, he took a hooked fishing line and sprang over to the other side of the tarn, in which there was no bottom. “Come now; here I stand,” called Askeladden.

“Is it ditches and forest?”

“You can surely hear that here is no forest,” said Askeladden, and swore that there was neither stump nor forest. “Come now!” So off he set again.

“Plump!” it said, and there lay the troll in the tarn, and Askeladden stabbed him in his eyes with the hook, every time he got his head above the water.

Now the troll begged so thinly for his life that the boy felt sorry for him; but first he had to renounce the king’s daughter, and bring the other one, whom the troll had taken before, and promise that folk and livestock would be left in peace; then the troll was let out and crawled home to his mountain.

Then Redfox was the fellow again, came down from the spruce, and took the king’s daughter with him up to the castle, and threatened her to say that it was he who had saved her. And then he crept down to receive the other one, when Askeladden had let her into the garden.

Now there was such joy in the king’s farm that it could be heard, and was asked about across the land and kingdom, and Redfox would have a wedding with the youngest daughter.

Yes, that was well and good, but it was not so well yet—for just like that, the troll had gone down into the earth and clogged all the waterways; “if I cannot but make trouble,” he thought, “then they shall have no water to boil their wedding porridge in.”

There was nothing for it, other than to send for Askeladden again. He took himself an iron pole that was fifteen cubits long, and six smiths who were to make it glowing red. Then he looked through the keyring; and he saw the troll just as well beneath the ground as above, and drove the pole down through the ground and down the back of the troll so that it smelled of burned horn for seven leagues.

“Hau! Hau!” screamed the troll. “Let me up!” Just like that, he came rushing up the hole, and was burned up to his neck. But Askeladden was not slow. He took the troll and laid it out on a pole that was garlanded with thyme, and there it had to lie, and say where it had got eyes from, since he had hacked them out with the fishing hook.

“I stole myself a raw turnip,” said the troll; “I rubbed it with some fat, then I cut it how I wanted, and fastened it in with cloves; and better eyes would I not wish on a Christian man.”

Then came the king and both king’s daughters, and would see the troll, and Redfox walked so proudly and haughtily that his tail was higher than his neck. But then the king caught sight of something that blinked in Askeladden’s hair. “What do you have there?” he said.

“Oh, that is the ring that your daughter gave me when I saved her from the troll,” said Askeladden. And now it all came out, how everything had happened. Redfox wept and pleaded for himself; but no matter how he carried on, weeping, it did not help, he had to go to the snakepit, and there he immediately burst.

Then they made an end of the troll, and then they began to carry on and dance at Askeladden’s wedding; for now he was the celebrated one. He won the youngest king’s daughter and half the kingdom.

Now my tale I lay upon a sleigh,
and drive to you, whose words do better play,
But if no better words you can contrive,
Then shame on you who blames me, when I strive.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

The Three Princesses in Kvittenland

Once upon a time there was a fisherman who lived close by the castle and fished for the king’s table. One day when he was out fishing, he caught nothing, no matter how he baited his hooks—whether he baited and fished or fished and baited, not a bone hung on the hook. But as the day drew on towards evening, a head bobbed up from the water and said: “If I have what your wife bears beneath her belt, then you shall have fish enough.” The man quickly agreed, yes, for he knew not that she was with child. And then he caught fish enough, as many as he would have. But when he came home in the evening and told of how he had caught all the fish, his wife began to weep and complain, for the promise her husband had made, and asked God to help her; for she bore a child beneath her belt, she said.

There were soon questions about why the wife was so sorrowful, up at the castle, and when the king heard of it, he promised to take the child in and make sure to save it. Time passed and time went by, and when it was time, the wife bore a boy-child; the king took him in, and brought him up as his own son, until the boy was grown.

Then one day the boy asked for leave to go out fishing with his father; he had such an inner desire to do so, he said. The king would loath allow it, but finally the boy was allowed; he went with his father, and things went well and good enough all day, until they came in to land again in the evening. Then the boy left behind his kerchief, and would run down to the boat to fetch it. But as soon as he got into it, the boat set off with him, so the water rushed by; and no matter how the boy tried to pull against it with the oars, it did not help; it went and it went all night, and eventually he came far, far away to a white strand. There he went ashore, and when he had walked a distance, he met an old man with a long white beard.

“What is this place called?” said the boy.

“Kvittenland,” replied the man. And then he asked the boy to tell him where he was from, and what he wanted, and the boy told him.1

“Well,” said the man, “when you go along the strand here, you will come to three king’s daughters who stand in the earth, so that they only have their heads up. Then the first will call—she is the eldest—and ask so beautifully for you to come and help her; and the second one will, too; but neither of them shall you go to. But the third shall you go to, and do what she asks of you; that will be your happiness, it will.”

When the boy came to the first of the princesses, she called to him and asked so beautifully that he should come to her; but he walked as if he had not seen her; in the same way, he went past the second; but the third he went up to.

“If you will do as I say, then you may have which of the three of us you will,” said the princess.

Yes, he would like that; and so she told him that three trolls had buried them, all three, in the ground there, but before, they had lived in the castle he could see away in the forest. “Now you shall go into the castle and let the trolls whip you for a night for each of us,” she said; “if you can mangage that, then you will save us.”

Yes, replied the boy, he would certainly try.

“When you go in,” continued the princess again, “there are two lions standing in the gate, but if you walk right between them, then they will not harm you. Go straight ahead, into a small dark room; there you shall lie down. Then the troll will come to beat you; but then you shall take take the flask that hangs on the wall, and anoint yourself there where he has beaten you; then you will be just as good again. Grasp hold of the sword that hangs beside the flask, and hack the troll to death.”

Yes, he did what the princess said; he walked right between the lions, as if he did not see them, and straight into the small chamber, and there he lay down.

The first night there came a troll with three heads and three switches, and whipped the boy sinfully; but he held out until the troll was finished, then he took the flask and anointed himself, and then grasped the sword and hacked the troll to death. When he then came out in the morning, the princesses were above the ground to their belts.

The second night went the same way, but the troll that came then had six heads and six switches, and it whipped even worse than the first; but when he came out in the morning, the princesses stood above ground to their calves.

The third night, there came a troll that had nine heads and nine switches, and it beat and whipped the boy until at last he fainted away; then the troll took him and threw him against the wall, so that the jar fell down again, so that it splashed over him, and then he was just as good again. Then he was not slow; he grasped the sword and hacked the troll to death, and when he that morning came out of the castle, the princesses stood comepletely upon the earth. So he took the youngest of them as queen, and lived well and good with her for a long time.

But finally he desired to travel home for a little and see his parents. This the queen was not much for; but as he yearned so much, and ultimately ought to and had to go, she said to him: “One thing you must promise me, that you do what your father asks you, but not that which your mother asks you;” and he promised. Then she gave him a ring that was such that the one who wore it could wish for two things, whatever he wanted. And so he wished to be home, and his parents could not stop wondering at how fine and beautiful he was.

When he had been at home some days, his mother said that he should go up to the castle so that the king could see what manner of man he now had become. His father said: “No, he ought not do that, for that hour will not bring us any joy.” But it did not help; his mother begged and pleaded until he went.

When he arrived up there, he was finer of clothes and all things than his foster father. This he did not much like, and so he said: “Yes, but now you may see how my queen is; I cannot see yours. I do not think you have such a beautiful queen.”

“I wish she stood just here, so you could see!” said the young king, and immediately she stood there.

But she was so sorrowful, and said to him: “Why did you not do as I asked you, and listen to what your father said to you? Now I must soon go home again, and you have used both your wishes.” With that, she tied a ring in his hair, on which her name was written, and wished herself home again.

Then the young king was full of grief, and went day out and day in, thinking only of how he might return to his queen. I should see if there is anywhere I might ask anyone where it is, he thought, and so he went out into the world.

When he had walked a while, he came to a mountain; there he met one who was lord of all the animals of the forest—for they came to him when he blew a horn he had—and so the king asked of Kvittenland.

“Well, I do not know,” replied the man, “but I shall ask my animals.” Then he blew them in, and asked if any of them knew where Kvittenland lay; but there were none that knew.

So the man gave him a pair of skis. “When you stand on these,” he said, “then you will come to my brother, who lives a hundred leagues from here; he is lord over all the birds of the air; ask him! When you have arrived, then turn the skis around so that the ends point here, and they will go home by themselves.”

When the king arrived, he turned the skis, and the lord of the animals had said, and they went back.

He asked again of Kvittenland, and the man blew in all the birds, and asked if any of them knew where Kvittenland lay. No, none of them knew of it. A long time after the others came also an old eagle; she had been away for ten years, but she knew not of it, either.

“Well, well,” said the man, “then you shall borrow a pair of skis from me; when you stand on them, then you will come to my brother, who lives a hundred leagues from here; he is lord of all the fish in the sea; you should ask him. But do not forget to turn the skis!”

The king thanked him, and got on to the skis; and when he had come to he who was lord of the fish of the sea, he turned them, and then they went back again. Then he asked of Kvittenland again.

The man blew in all the fish, but none of them knew anything. Finally came an old, old pike, which he had a terrible time blowing in. When he asked her, she said: “Yes, I am very familiar there, for now I have been cook there for ten years. Tomorrow I am going there again, for then shall the queen whom the king was lost to will be holding a wedding with another.”

“Since that is so, then I shall give you some advice,” said the man. “Over here on a moor stand three brothers who have stood there for a hundred years, fighting over a hat, a cloak, and a pair of boots; when one has these three things, he can make himself invisible and wish himself as far away as he wants. You can tell them that you want to try the things, and then pass judgement between them.”

So the king thanked him, and went and did so. “What is it you stand here, forever fighting about?” he said to the brothers; “let me try the things, and I will judge between you.” This they wanted; but when he had got the hat and the cloak and the boots, he said: “When we meet next time, you shall hear the judgement.” And with that, he wished himself on his way.

While he flew through the air, he went the same way as the North Wind.

“Where are you going?” asked the North Wind.

“To Kvittenland,” said the king, and then he told what had happened to him.

“Well,” said the North Wind, “you travel a little faster then I, you do; I have to reach in to every nook and gust and blow, I do. But when you arrive, then stand on the stair, beside the door; then I shall come, howling as if I would blow down the whole castle. When the prince who would have the queen comes out to see what is going on, you take him by the neck and throw him out, and then I will see to get him to go away.”

Yes, as the North Wind said, so the king did; he stood on the stair, and when the North Wind came gusting and howling, and took hold of the castle wall and shook it, the prince came out to see what was going on; but straightway he came, the king took him by the neck and threw him out, and then the North Wind took him and left with him. When he was rid of him, the king went into the castle. At first the queen did not recognize him, for he had grown thin and pale because he had been travelling so far and been so sorrowful; but when he showed her the ring, she grew heartily glad, and so the right wedding was held, which was asked about, both far and wide.


  1. The name of the place means “White Land,” but as it has no relevance to the plot, I have elected to let it remain in the Norwegian. 

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Tyri-Hans Who Made the King’s Daughter Laugh

Once upon a time there was a king who had a daughter, and she was so beautiful that she was renowned both far and wide; but she was so serious that she never could laugh, and she was so aware of this that she said no to eveyone who came and proposed to her, and would have no one, no matter how fine, or whether they were princes or gentlemen. The king had grown weary of this a long time ago, and thought she should marry, as any other; she had nothing to wait for—she was old enough, and neither could she grow richer, for half the kingdom would she have, as her inheritance from her mother.

So he had it pronounced in the churches, both quickly and soon, that the one who could make his daughter laugh, he would have her and half the kingdom. But were there one who tried but could not make her laugh, they would cut three stripes in his back, and rub salt in; and it is certain there were many sore backs in that kingdom. Suitors came travelling from both south and north, and from east and west, who thought it but a little matter to make a king’s daughter laugh. And strange fellows they were also, those who came. But for all the monkey business there was, and all the monkey tricks they did, the king’s daughter remained just as solemn and serious, she did.

Close by the king’s farm there lived a man who had three sons. They had also heard that the king had pronounced that the one who could make the king’s daughter laugh would have her and half the kingdom.

The eldest would go on his way first, and so off he set, and when he came to the king’s farm, he said to the king that he would certainly try to make the king’s daughter laugh.

“Yes, I am sure of it,” said the king, “but it will do little good, for here have many been who have tried; my daughter is so sorrowful that it does no good; and I would like as few people as possible to get into trouble.”

But he said he could do it; it could not be so difficult a matter to get a king’s daughter to laugh at him, for they had laughed many times at him, both distinguished and simple folk, when he was a soldier and served under Lance Corporal Nils. Then he went out on to the lawn outside the king’s daughter’s window, and began to exercise like Lance Corporal Nils. But it did not help; the king’s daughter was just as solemn and serious. So they took him and cut three broad red stripes into his back, and sent him home again.

When he had come home, the second son would go on his way. He was a schoolmaster, and a strange figure of a fellow was he. One of his legs was much longer than the other. While he was still a small boy, he raised himself up on his long leg, and was as big as a troll. And he was very good at setting out. Yes, he went to the king’s farm, and said that he would try to make the king’s daughter laugh; this was not impossible, said the king, “but God help you if you don’t get her to,” he said; “we cut the stripes broader for each one who tries.”

The schoolmaster went out on to the lawn outside the king’s daughter’s window, and he preached and massed like seven parsons, and read and sang like seven sextons who had been in the village there. The king laughed until he had to hold on to the hall column, and the king’s daughter wanted to smile, too; but then she was just as solemn and serious again, and so things went no better for Pål the schoolmaster than they had for Per the soldier—for Per and Pål were their names, you should know. They took him and cut three red stripes in his back and rubbed salt in, and then they sent him back home.

Then the youngest would go on his way, and that was Tyri-Hans. But his brothers laughed and mocked him and showed him their sore backs, and his father would not give his permission, for he said that it could do him no good, he who had no wits; nothing could he do, and nothing did he do; he just sat in the hearth, like a cat, digging in the ashes, and whittling pitch-pine sticks. But Tyri-Hans did not give in; he nagged and bothered for so long that they grew weary of his nagging, until finally he was allowed to go to the king’s farm, to try his luck.

When he arrived at the king’s farm, he did not say that he would try to make the king’s daughter laugh, but he asked if he could go into service there. No, they had no position for him; but Tyri-Hans did not give in—they surely had need of someone to carry wood and water for the kitchen maid on such a big farm, he said. Yes, the king thought so—and he was also weary of his nagging—so Tyri-Hans was finally allowed to remain there, carrying wood and water for the kitchen maid.

One day while he was fetching wood from the brook, he saw a large fish hovering beneath an old pine root that the water had cut the soil from under; he set his bucket very slowly under the fish. But on his way back home to the king’s farm, he met an old woman leading a golden goose.

“Good day, grandmother,” said Tyri-Hans. “That is a fine bird you have; such fine feathers, too. They gleam from a distance. If I had such a bird, then I could go without whittling pitch-pine sticks,” he said.

The woman thought just as well of the fish Hans had in his bucket, and said that if he would give her the fish, then he could have the golden goose, which was such that the one who touched it would stick fast, if only one said, “If you want to come along, then hold on!”

Yes, such a swap was one Tyri-Hans would make. “A bird is as good as a fish,” he said to himself. “If it is as you say, then I might well use it as a fishing hook,” he said to the woman, and was well-content with the goose.

He had not gone far before he met an old woman. When she saw the fine golden goose, she had to go to it and stroke it. She made herself as sweet and lovely as she could, and asked Tyri-Hans if she might be allowed to pat his pretty golden goose.

“You may,” said Tyri-Hans, “but you may not pluck any feathers from her.”

As soon as she patted the bird, he said, “If you want to come along, then hold on!” The woman pulled and wrestled, but she had to hold on, whether she wanted to or not, and Tyri-Hans went onwards, as if he were alone with the golden goose.

When he had gone a way further, he met a man who had something to say to the woman on account of a prank she had played on him. When he saw how hard she fought to free herself, and understood that she was stuck fast, he thought he could safely give her a shove as a greeting for last time, and so he kicked the woman, with one foot.

“If you want to come along, then hold on!” said Tyri-Hans, and the man had to follow along, hopping on one leg, whether he wanted to or not, and when he pulled and wrestled to loose himself, then it went even worse, for he was ready to fall over backwards, just like that.

Now they went on a good way, until they approached the king’s farm. There they met the king’s smith; he was on his way to the smithy, and had a pair of large forging tongs in his hand. This smith was a jokester, who was always full of trouble and tricks, and when he saw this procession coming, jumping and hopping, he first bent double with laughter. But then he said: “This is probably a new flock of geese for the princess. I wonder which of them is the gander and who among them are the geese. It must be the gander who waddles before them. Goosey, goosey, goosey, goosey, goosey!” he called, throwing out with his hand, as if he was spreading grain for the geese. But the flock did not stop—the man and the woman just looked angrily at the smith because he mocked them. Then the smith said: “It would be fun to hold the whole flock, as many as there are,” for he was a strong man; and so he took hold with his forging tongs on to the backside of the old man, and the man both screamed and writhed.

But Tyri-Hans said: “If you want to come along, then hold on!”

Then the smith had to go along, too. He certainly curled his back, braced himself against the ground, and tried to loose himself, but it did not help; he was stuck as fast as if he were screwed into the big vise in the smithy, and whether or not he would, he had to dance along.

When they arrived at the king’s farm, the farm dog came at them, barking as if it were at a vagrant or a tramp, and when the king’s daughter went to look out of the window, to see what was going on, and saw this procession, she began to laugh. But Tyri-Hans, he was not content with this. “Wait a little, and she will really open the doors of laughter,” he said, and turned aside along the back of the king’s farm, with his entourage.

When they came past the kitchen, the door was open, and the cook was pressing the porridge; but when she saw Tyri-Hans and the flock, she came out of the door at them, with the porridge press in one hand and a wooden spoon full of steaming porridge in the other, laughing so that she shook; and when she saw that the smith was there, she slapped her thigh, laughing. But when she had laughed herself finished, she also thought that the golden goose was so fine that she had to go to it and pat it.

“Tyri-Hans! Tyri-Hans!” she cried, coming over with her porridge spoon in her fist. “May I be allowed to pat that fine bird you have?”

“Let her rather pat me!” said the smith.

“You may!” said Tyri-Hans.

But when the cook heard it, she grew angry. “What is it you say?” she screamed, and hit the smith with the porridge spoon.

“If you want to come along, then hold on!” said Tyri-Hans; and she stuck fast, too, and no matter how she pulled and wrestled, and no matter how wild she was, she had to hop along.

But when they came beneath the king’s daughter’s window, she stood waiting for them, and when she saw that they had got the cook to come along, with both porridge spoon and -press, she fully opened up the doors of laughter, and laughed so that the king had to steady her. And so Tyri-Hans won the princess and half the kingdom, and they held a wedding that was both heard and asked of.