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Thread: Swedish and Norwegian Folk Tales

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    Swedish and Norwegian Folk Tales

    Buried Alive - Sweden

    Many years ago an epidemic swept over Dalland, to which thousands of persons fell victims. Many people fled to the forests, or to other regions. The churches were deserted, and those remaining were not enough to bury the dead. At this stag an old Finlander came along, who informed the few survivors that they need not hope for cessation of the scourge until they had buried some living thing. The advice was followed. First a cock was buried alive, but the plague continued as violent as ever. Next, a goat, but this also proved ineffectual. At last a poor boy, who frequented the neighbourhood, begging, was lured to a wood-covered hill at the point where the river Daleborg empties into Lake Venem. Here a deep hole was dug, the boy meantime sitting near, enjoying a piece of bread and butter that had been given him. When the grave was deep enough, the boy was dropped into it and the diggers began hurriedly to shovel the dirt upon him. The lad begged and prayed them not to throw dirt upon his bread and butter, but the spades flew faster, and in a few minutes, still alive, he was entirely covered and left to his fate. Whether this stayed the plague is not know, but many who after night pass the hill, hear, it is said, a voice as if from a dying child, crying, "Buried alive! Buried Alive!"

    Footnote in the original text:
    As late as 1875 a farmer near Mariestad (during an epidemic among his cattle) buried a live cow in the ground. Whether this cruel expedient was effective the author is not informed.

    Source: Herman Hofberg, Swedish Fairy Tales, translated by W. H. Myers (Chicago, W. B. Conkey Company, 1893), p. 140. English corrected in this version.

    The Ghost-Child - Sweden

    Many years ago there died on the estate of Sundshult, in the parish of Nafverstad, a child of illegitimate birth, which, because of this, was not christened and could not be accorded Christian burial, or a place in heaven, and whose spirit, therefore, was left to wander the earth, disturbing the rest and making night uncomfortable for the people of the neighbourhood. One time, just before Christmas, the parish shoemaker, on his rounds, was detained at the house of a patron, and, having much work before him, he was still sewing late into the night, when he was unexpectedly startled from his employment by a little child appearing before him, which said,

    "Why do you sit there? Move aside."

    "For what?" asked the shoemaker.

    "Because I wish to dance," said the spectre.

    "Dance away, then!" said the shoemaker.

    When the child had danced some time, it disappeared, but returned soon and said, "I will dance again, and I'll dance your light out for you."

    "No," said the shoemaker, "let the light alone. But who are you that you are here in this manner?"

    "I live under the lower stone of the steps to the porch."

    "Who put you there?" asked the shoemaker.

    "Watch when it dawns, and you will see my mother coming, wearing a red cap. But help me out of this, and I'll never dance again."

    This the shoemaker promised to do, and the spectre vanished.

    The next day a servant girl from the neighbouring estate came, who wore upon her head a red handkerchief. Digging was begun under the designated step, and in time the skeleton of a child was found, encased in a wooden tub. The body was that day taken to the churchyard, and the mother, who had destroyed her child, turned over to the authorities. Since then the child spectre has danced no more.

    Source: Herman Hofberg, Swedish Fairy Tales, translated by W. H. Myers (Chicago, W. B. Conkey Company, 1893), pp. 105-106.

    The Swan Maiden - Sweden

    A young peasant in the parish of Mellby [in Blekinge], who often amused himself with hunting, saw one day three swans flying toward him, which settled down upon the strand of a sound nearby. Approaching the place, he was astonished at seeing the three swans divest themselves of their feathery attire, which they threw into the grass, and three maidens of dazzling beauty step forth and spring into the water. After sporting in the waves awhile they returned to the land, where they resumed their former garb and shape and flew away in the same direction from which they came. One of them, the youngest and fairest, had, in the meantime, so smitten the young hunter that neither night nor day could he tear his thoughts from the bright image. His mother, noticing that something was wrong with her son, and that the chase, which had formerly been his favourite pleasure, had lost its attractions, asked him finally the cause of his melancholy, whereupon he related to her what he had seen, and declared that there was no longer any happiness in this life for him if he could not possess the fair swan maiden. "Nothing is easier," said the mother. "Go at sunset next Thursday evening to the place where you last saw her. When the three swans come, give attention to where your chosen one lays her feathery garb, take it, and hasten away." The young man listened to his mother's instructions, and, betaking himself, the following Thursday evening, to a convenient hiding place near the sound, he waited, with impatience, the coming of the swans. The sun was just sinking behind the trees when the young man's ears were greeted by a whizzing in the air, and the three swans settled down upon the beach, as on their former visit. As soon as they had laid off their swan attire they were again transformed into the most beautiful maidens, and, springing out upon the white sand, they were soon enjoying themselves in the water. From his hiding place the young hunter had taken careful note of where his enchantress had laid her swan feathers. Stealing softly forth, he took them and returned to his place of concealment in the surrounding foliage. Soon thereafter two of the swans were heard to fly away, but the third, in search of her clothes, discovered the young man, before whom, believing him responsible for their disappearance, she fell upon her knees and prayed that her swan attire might be returned to her. The hunter was, however, unwilling to yield the beautiful prize, and, casting a cloak around her shoulders, carried her home. Preparations were soon made for a magnificent wedding, which took place in due form, and the young couple dwelt lovingly and contentedly together. One Thursday evening, seven years later, the hunter related to her how he had sought and won his wife. He brought forth and showed her, also, the white swan feathers of her former days. No sooner were they placed in her hands than she was transformed once more into a swan, and instantly took flight through the open window. In breathless astonishment, the man stared wildly after his rapidly vanishing wife, and before a year and a day had passed, he was laid, with his longings and sorrows, in his allotted place in the village churchyard.

    Source: Herman Hofberg, Swedish Fairy Tales, translated by W. H. Myers (1895).

    The Troll With Labour-Pains - Sweden

    In the year 1660, when I and my wife had gone to my farm (fäboderne), which is three quarters of a mile from Ragunda parsonage, and we were sitting there and talking a while, late in the evening, there came a little man in at the door, who begged of my wife to go and aid his wife, who was just then in the pains of labour. The fellow was of small size, of a dark complexion, and dressed in old grey clothes. My wife and I sat a while, and wondered at the man; for we were aware that he was a troll, and we had heard tell that such like, called by the peasantry Vettar (spirits), always used to keep in the farmhouses, when people left them in harvest time. But when he had urged his request four or five times, and we thought on what evil the country folk say that they have at times suffered from the Vettar, when they have chanced to swear at them, or with uncivil words bid them go to hell, I took the resolution to read some prayers over my wife, and to bless her, and bid her in God's name go with him. She took in haste some old linen with her, and went along with him, and I remained sitting there. When she returned, she told me, that when she went with the man out at the gate, it seemed to her as if she was carried for a time along in the wind, and so she came to a room, on one side of which was a little dark chamber, in which his wife lay in bed in great agony. My wife went up to her, and, after a little while, aided her till she brought forth the child after the same manner as other human beings. The man then offered her food, and when she refused it, he thanked her, and accompanied her out, and then she was carried along, in the same way in the wind, and after a while came again to the gate, just at ten o'clock. Meanwhile, a quantity of old pieces and clippings of silver were laid on a shelf, in the sitting room, and my wife found them next day, when she was putting the room in order. It is to be supposed that they were laid there by the Vettar.

    That it in truth so happened, I witness, by inscribing my name. Ragunda, the 12th of April, 1671. Pet. Rahm.

    Source: Thomas Keightley, The Fairy Mythology, Illustrative of the Romance and Superstition of Various Countries (London: H. G. Bohn, 1850), pp. 122-123.

    The Clergyman's Wife who was Midwife to a Troll - Sweden

    A clergyman's wife in Swedish Lappmark, the cleverest midwife in all Sweden, was summoned one fine summer's evening to attend a mysterious being of Troll race and great might, called Vitra. At this unusual call she took counsel with her husband, who, however, deemed it best for her to go. Her guide led her into a splendid building, the rooms whereof were as clean and elegant as those of very illustrious folk; and in a beautiful bed lay a still more beautiful woman, for whom her services were required, and who was no other than Vitra herself. Under the midwife's care Vitra speedily gave birth to a fair girl, and in a few minutes had entirely recovered, and fetched all sorts of refreshments, which she laid before her benefactress. The latter refused to eat, in spite of Vitra's reassuring persuasion, and further refused the money which the troll-wife pressed upon her. Vitra then sent her home, bidding her look on the table when next she entered her cowherd hut and see what she would find there. She thought no more of the matter until the following spring, when on entering the hut she found on the table half a dozen large spoons of pure silver with her name engraved thereon in neat letters. These spoons long remained an heirloom in the clergyman's family to testify the truth of the story.

    Source: Edwin Sidney Hartland: The Science of Fairy Tales: An Inquiry into Fairy Mythology (London: Walter Scott, 1891), p. 38.

    Note : For another version of the same tale see " Thomas Keightley, The Fairy Mythology, Illustrative of the Romance and Superstition of Various Countries (London: H. G. Bohn, 1850), pp. 122-123. quoted in Volume Four of "Folktales of the Northern Traditions".

    The Dwarf of Folkared's Cliff - Sweden

    It is probably that there are few places more gloomy and uninviting than certain parts of the parish of Sibbarp, in the Province of Halland. Dark heaths cover a good portion of the parish, and from their dull brown surface rises, here and there, a lonely, cheerless mountain. One of these is Folkared's Cliff, in the southern part of the parish, noted of old as the abiding place of little trolls and dwarfs. One chilly autumn day a peasant, going from Hogared, in Ljungby, to Folkared, in Sibbarp, in order to shorten his journey took a shortcut by way of the cliff, upon reaching which he perceived a dwarf about the size of a child seven or eight years old, sitting upon a stone crying. "Where is your home?" asked the peasant, moved by the seeming distress of the little fellow. "Here," sobbed the dwarf, pointing to the mountain. "How long have you lived here?" questioned the peasant in surprise. "Six hundred years." - "Six hundred years! You lie, you rascal, and you deserve to be whipped for it." - "Oh! Do not strike me," pleaded the dwarf, continuing to cry. "I have had enough of blows already today." - "Who have you received them from?" asked the peasant. "From my father." - "What capers did you cut up that you were thus punished?" - "Oh, I was set to watch my old grandfather and when I chanced to turn my back he fell and hurt himself upon the floor." The peasant then understood what character of person he had met, and grasping his dirk he prepared to defend himself. But instantly he heard an awful crash in the mountain, and the dwarf had vanished.

    Source: Herman Hofberg, "Swedish Fairy Tales", translated by W. H. Myers (Chicago, W. B. Conkey Company, 1893), pp. 86-88. Translation modified here by Shaun D. L. Brassfield-Thorburnpe.

    The Princess On The Glass Hill - Norway

    ONCE upon a time there was a man who had a meadow which lay on the side of a mountain, and in the meadow there was a barn in which he stored hay. But there had not been much hay in the barn for the last two years, for every St. John's eve, when the grass was in the height of its vigor, it was all eaten clean up, just as if a whole flock of sheep had gnawed it down to the ground during the night. This happened once, and it happened twice, but then the man got tired of losing his crop, and said to his sons--he had three of them, and the third was called Cinderlad--that one of them must go and sleep in the barn on St. John's night, for it was absurd to let the grass be eaten up again, blade and stalk, as it had been the last two years, and the one who went to watch must keep a sharp look-out, the man said. The eldest was quite willing to go to the meadow; he would watch the grass, he said, and he would do it so well that neither man, nor beast, nor even the devil himself should have any of it. So when evening came he went to the barn, and lay down to sleep, but when night was drawing near there was such a rumbling and such an earthquake that the walls and roof shook again, and the lad jumped up and took to his heels as fast as he could, and never even looked back, and the barn remained empty that year just as it had been for the last two. Next St. John's eve the man again said that he could not go on in this way, losing all the grass in the outlying field year after year, and that one of his sons must just go there and watch it, and watch well too. So the next oldest son was willing to show what he could do. He went to the barn and lay down to sleep, as his brother had done; but when night was drawing near there was a great rumbling, and then an earthquake, which was even worse than that on the former St. John's night, and when the youth heard it he was terrified, and went off, running as if for a wager.

    The year after, it was Cinderlad's turn, but when he made ready to go the others laughed at him, and mocked him. "Well, you are just the right one to watch the hay, you who have never learned anything but how to sit among the ashes and bake yourself!" said they. Cinderlad, however, did not trouble himself about what they said, but when evening drew near rambled away to the outlying field. When he got there he went into the barn and lay down, but in about an hour's time the rumbling and creaking began, and it was frightful to hear it. "Well, if it gets no worse than that, I can manage to stand it," thought Cinderlad. In a little time the creaking began again, and the earth quaked so that all the hay flew about the boy. "Oh! if it gets no worse than that I can manage to stand it," thought Cinderlad. But then came a third rumbling, and a third earthquake, so violent that the boy thought the walls and roof had fallen down, but when that was over everything suddenly grew as still as death around him. "I am pretty sure that it will come again," thought Cinderlad; but no, it did not. Everything was quiet, and everything stayed quiet, and when he had lain still a short time he heard something that sounded as if a horse were standing chewing just outside the barn door. He stole away to the door, which was ajar, to see what was there, and a horse was standing eating. It was so big, and fat, and fine a horse that Cinderlad had never seen one like it before, and a saddle and bridle lay upon it, and a complete suit of armour for a knight, and everything was of copper, and so bright that it shone again. "Ha, ha! it is thou who eatest up our hay then," thought the boy; "but I will stop that." So he made haste, and took out his steel for striking fire, and threw it over the horse, and then it had no power to stir from the spot, and became so tame that the boy could do what he liked with it. So he mounted it and rode away to a place which no one knew of but himself, and there he tied it up. When he went home again his brothers laughed and asked how he had got on. "You didn't lie long in the barn, if even you have been so far as the field!" said they. "I lay in the barn till the sun rose, but I saw nothing and heard nothing, not I," said the boy. "God knows what there was to make you two so frightened." "Well, we shall soon see whether you have watched the meadow or not," answered the brothers, but when they got there the grass was all standing just as long and as thick as it had been the night before.

    The next St. John's eve it was the same thing, once again: neither of the two brothers dared to go to the outlying field to watch the crop, but Cinderlad went, and everything happened exactly the same as on the previous St. John's eve: first there was a rumbling and an earthquake, and then there was another, and then a third: but all three earthquakes were much, very much more violent than they had been the year before. Then everything became still as death again, and the boy heard something chewing outside the barn door, so he stole as softly as he could to the door, which was slightly ajar, and again there was a horse standing close by the wall of the house, eating and chewing, and it was far larger and fatter than the first horse, and it had a saddle on its back, and a bridle was on it too, and a full suit of armor for a knight, all of bright silver, and as beautiful as anyone could wish to see. "Ho, ho!" thought the boy, "is it thou who eatest up our hay in the night? but I will put a stop to that." So he took out his steel for striking fire, and threw it over the horse's mane, and the beast stood there as quiet as a lamb. Then the boy rode this horse, too, away to the place where he kept the other, and then went home again. "I suppose you will tell us that you have watched well again this time," said the brothers. "Well, so I have," said Cinderlad. So they went there again. and there the grass was, standing as high and as thick as it had been before, but that did not make them any kinder to Cinderlad.

    When the third St. John's night came neither of the two elder brothers dared to lie in the outlying barn to watch the grass, for they had been so heartily frightened the night that they had slept there that they could not get over it, but Cinderlad dared to go, and everything happened just the same as on the two former nights. There were three earthquakes, each worse than the other, and the last flung the boy from one wall of the barn to the other, but then everything suddenly became still as death. When he had lain quietly a short time, he heard something chewing outside the barn door; then he once more stole to the door, which was slightly ajar, and behold, a horse was standing just outside it, which was much larger and fatter than the two others he had caught. "Ho, ho! it is thou, then, who art eating up our hay this time," thought the boy; "but I will put a stop to that." So he pulled out his steel for striking fire, and threw it over the horse, and it stood as still as if it had been nailed to the field, and the boy could do just what he liked with it. Then he mounted it and rode away to the place where he had the two others, and then he went home again. Then the two brothers mocked him just as they had done before, and told him that they could see that he must have watched the grass very carefully that night, for he looked just as if he were walking in his sleep; but Cinderlad did not trouble himself about that, but just bade them go to the field and see. They did go, and this time too the grass was standing, looking as fine and as thick as ever.

    The King of the country in which Cinderlad's father dwelt had a daughter whom he would give to no one who could not ride up to the top of the glass hill, for there was a high, high hill of glass, slippery as ice, and it was close to the King's palace. Upon the very top of this the King's daughter was to sit with three gold apples in her lap, and the man who could ride up and take the three golden apples should marry her, and have half the kingdom. The King had this proclaimed in every church in the whole kingdom, and in many other kingdoms too. The Princess was very beautiful, and all who saw her fell violently in love with her, even in spite of themselves. So it is needless to say that all the princes and knights were eager to win her, and half the kingdom besides, and that for this cause they came riding thither from the very end of the world, dressed so splendidly that their raiments gleamed in the sunshine, and riding on horses which seemed to dance as they went, and there was not one of these princes who did not think that he was sure to winthe Princess. When the day appointed by the King had come, there was such a host of knights and princes under the glass hill that they seemed to swarm, and everyone who could walk or even creep was there too, to see who won the King's daughter. Cinderlad's two brothers were there too, but they would not hear of letting him go with them, for he was so dirty and black with sleeping and grubbing among the ashes that they said everyone would laugh at them if they were seen in the company of such an oaf.

    "Well, then, I will go all alone by myself," said Cinderlad. When the two brothers got to the glass hill, all the princes and knights were trying to ride up it, and their horses were in a foam; but it was all in vain, for no sooner did the horses set foot upon the hill than down they slipped, and there was not one which could get even so much as a couple of yards up. Nor was that strange, for the hill was as smooth as a glass window-pane, and as steep as the side of a house. But they were all eager to win the King's daughter and half the kingdom, so they rode and they slipped, and thus it went on. At length all the horses were so tired that they could do no more, and so hot that the foam dropped from them and the riders were forced to give up the attempt. The King was just thinking that he would cause it to be proclaimed that the riding should begin afresh on the following day, when perhaps it might go better, when suddenly a knight came riding up on so fine a horse that no one had ever seen the like of it before, and the knight had armour of copper, and his bridle was of copper too, and all his accoutrements were so bright that they shone again. The other knights all called out to him that he might just as well spare himself the trouble of trying to ride up the glass hill, for it was of no use to try; but he did not heed them, and rode straight off to it, and went up as if it were nothing at all. Thus he rode for a long way--it may have been a third part of the way up--but when he had got so far he turned his horse round and rode down again. But the Princess thought that she had never yet seen so handsome a knight, and while he was riding up she was sitting thinking, "Oh! how I hope he may be able to come up to the top!" And when she saw that he was turning his horse back she threw one of the golden apples down after him, and it rolled into his shoe. But when he had come down from off the hill he rode away, and that so fast that no one knew what had become of him. So all the princes and knights were bidden to present themselves before the King that night, so that he who had ridden so far up the glass hill might show the golden apple which the King's daughter had thrown down. But no one had anything to show. One knight presented himself after the other, and none could show the apple. That night, too, Cinderlad's brothers came home again and had a long story to tell about riding up the glass hill. At first, they said, there was not one who was able to get even so much as one step up, but then came a knight who had armour of copper, and a bridle of copper, and his armour and trappings were so bright that they shone to a great distance, and it was something like a sight to see him riding. He rode one-third of the way up the glass hill, and he could easily have ridden the whole of it if he had liked; but he had turned back, for he had made up his mind that that was enough for once. "Oh! I should have liked to see him too, that I should," said Cinderlad, who was as usual sitting by the chimney among the cinders. "You, indeed!" said the brothers, "you look as if you were fit to be among such great lords, nasty beast that you are to sit there!" Next day the brothers were for setting out again, and this time too Cinderlad begged them to let him go with them and see who rode; but no, they said he was not fit to do that, for he was much too ugly and dirty. "Well, well, then I will go all alone by myself," said Cinderlad. So the brothers went to the glass hill, and all the princes and knights began to ride again, and this time they had taken care to roughen the shoes of their horses; but that did not help them: they rode and they slipped as they had done the day before, and not one of them could get even so far as a yard up the hill. When they had tired out their horses, so that they could do no more, they again had to stop altogether. But just as the King was thinking that it would be well to proclaim that the riding should take place next day for the last time, so that they might have one more chance, he suddenly bethought himself that it would be well to wait a little longer to see if the knight in copper armour would come on this day too. But nothing was to be seen of him. Just as they were still looking for him, however, came a knight riding on a steed that was much, much finer than that which the knight in copper armour had ridden, and this knight had silver armour and a silver saddle and bridle, and all were so bright that they shone and glistened when he was a long way off. Again the other knights called to him, and said that he might just as well give up the attempt to ride up the glass hill, for it was useless to try; but the knight paid no heed to that, but rode straight away to the glass hill, and went still farther up than the knight in copper armour had gone; but when he had ridden two-thirds of the way up he turned his horse around, and rode down again. The Princess liked this knight still better than she had liked the other, and sat longing that he might be able to get up above, and when she saw him turning back she threw the second apple after him, and it rolled into his shoe, and as soon as he had got down the glass hill he rode away so fast that no one could see what had become of him. In the evening, when everyone was to appear before the King and Princess, in order that he who had the golden apple might show it, one knight went in after the other, but none of them had a golden apple to show. At night the two brothers went home as they had done the night before, and told how things had gone, and how everyone had ridden, but no one had been able to get up the hill. "But last of all," they said, "came one in silver armour, and he had a silver bridle on his horse, and a silver saddle, and oh, but he could ride!" He took his horse two-thirds of the way up the hill, but then he turned back. He was a fine fellow," said the brothers, "and the Princess threw the second golden apple to him!" "Oh, how I should have liked to see him too!" said Cinderlad. "Oh, indeed! He was a little brighter than the ashes that you sit grubbing among, you dirty black creature!" said the brothers. On the third day everything went just as on the former days. Cinderlad wanted to go with them to look at the riding, but the two brothers would not have him in their company, and when they got to the glass hill there was no one who could ride even so far as a yard up it, and everyone waited for the knight in silver armour, but he was neither to be seen nor heard of. At last, after a long time, came a knight riding upon a horse that was such a fine one, its equal had never yet been seen. The knight had golden armour, and the horse a golden saddle and bridle, and these were all so bright that they shone and dazzled everyone, even while the knight was still at a great distance. The other princes and knights were not able even to call to tell him how useless it was to try to ascend the hill, so amazed were they at sight of his magnificence. He rode straight away to the glass hill, and galloped up it as if it were no hill at all, so that the Princess had not even time to wish that he might get up the whole way. As soon as he had ridden to the top, he took the third golden apple from the lap of the Princess and then turned his horse about and rode down again, and vanished from their sight before anyone was able to say a word to him. When the two brothers came home again at night they had much to tell of how the riding had gone off that day, and at last they told about the knight in the golden armour too. "He was a fine fellow, that was! Such another splendid knight is not to be found on earth!" said the brothers. "Oh, how I should have liked to see him too!" said Cinderlad. "Well, he shone nearly as brightly as the coal-heaps that thou art always lying raking among, dirty black creature that thou art!" said the brothers. Next day all the knights and princes were to appear before the King and Princess--it had been too late for them to do it the night before--in order that he who had the golden apple might produce it. They all went in turn, first princes, and then knights, but none of them had a golden apple. "But somebody must have it," said the King, "for with our own eyes we all saw a man ride up and take it." So he commanded that everyone in the kingdom should come to the palace, and see if he could show the apple. And one after the other they all came, but no one had the golden apple, and after a long, long time Cinderlad's two brothers came likewise. They were the last of all, so the King inquired of them if there was no one else in the kingdom left to come. "Oh! yes, we have a brother," said the two, "but he never got the golden apple! He never left the cinder-heap on any of the three days." "Never mind that," said the King; "as everyone else has come to the palace, let him come too." So Cinderlad was forced to go to the King's palace. "Hast thou the golden apple?" asked the King. "Yes, here is the first, and here is the second, and here is the third, too," said Cinderlad, and he took all three apples out of his pocket, and with that drew off his sooty rags, and appeared there before them in his bright golden armour, which gleamed as he stood. "Thou shalt have my daughter, and the half of my kingdom, and thou hast well earned both!" said the King. So there was a wedding, and Cinderlad got the King's daughter, and everyone made merry at the wedding, for all of them could make merry, though they could not ride up the glass hill, and if they have not left off their merry-making they must be at it still.

    Source : Andrew Lang, "The Blue Fairy Book". Lang's Source : Asbjornsen and Moe.

    The Tusse-Folk Aid In A Harvest - Norway

    During the eighteenth century, one autumn Old Tore and Marte, who lived in Austaana in Kvitseid, were having a lot of difficulty getting help with the harvest. Their large, beautiful field was ripe - so ripe that the grain was falling to the ground. Yet there was not one person they could hire to do the mowing for them. They thought they might have to ask their neighbours for help with the harvest, as folk often did in those days if they were in need. So Tore and Marte brewed ale and baked bread - enough for a feast. They brewed in the out buildings; and on the evening before the neighbours were expected to visit and start work in the fields, the beer was already ready in the tub. During that night, the couple heard the sound of work being done in the field - and the sounds of many feet walking and treading in the out buildings. And they could also hear voices which seemed to say -

    "All can mow, but none tie a cross. We tie it best, And soon we can rest."

    The next morning the people of Austaana had a big surprise - the whole field, large as it was, had been mown. But the sheaves had been tied in such a way that no one in the area had seen before. Since that time onward, it has been called a "straight tie". The normal way of making a tie was in the form of a cross, but the Tusse would not tie it that way.

    When Tore and Marte went to the out buildings to fetch the ale, it was all gone bar a little of the dregs. The Tusse had quaffed the drink as pay for their work -When Marte empied the dregs from the tub she discovered three or four silver spoons at the bottom, left behind by the Tusse.. These spoons have been handed down at the farm from generation to generation and are engraved with the name Tore.

    Source : A tale collected by Kjetil A. Flatin in Norway (1930). Retold here by Shaun D. L. Brassfield-Thorburnpe

    Fox Wants to Taste Horseflesh - Norway

    One day the Bear was lying eating a horse which he had killed. Fox was about again and came slinking along, his mouth watering for a tasty bit of the horseflesh. He sneaked in and out and round about till he came up behind the Bear, when he made a spring to the other side of the carcass, snatching a piece as he jumped across.

    The Bear was not slow either. He made a dash after Fox and caught the tip of his red tail in his paw. Since that time the Fox has always had a white tip to his tail.

    "Wait a bit, Fox, and come here," said the Bear, "and I'll teach you how to catch horses."

    Yes, Fox was quite willing to learn that, but he didn't trust himself too near the Bear.

    "When you see a horse lying asleep in a sunny place," said the Bear, "you must tie yourself fast with the hair of his tail to your brush, and then fasten your teeth in his thigh," he said.

    Before long the Fox found a horse lying asleep on a sunny hillside, and so he did as the Bear had told him. He knotted and tied himself well to the horse with the hair of the tail and then fastened his teeth into his thigh.

    Up jumped the horse and began to kick and gallop, so that Fox was dashed against stock and stone, and was so bruised and battered that he nearly lost his senses.

    All at once a hare rushed by. "Where are you off to in such a hurry, Fox?" asked the Hare.

    "I'm having a ride, Bear!" said the Fox.

    The Hare sat up on his hind legs and laughed till the sides of his mouth split right up to his ears, at the thought of Fox having such a grand ride; but since then the Fox has never thought of catching horses again.

    That time it was the Bear who for once had the better of Fox. Otherwise, they say the Bear is as simple minded as the trolls.

    Source: P. C. Asbjørnsen, Fairy Tales from the Far North, translated from the Norwegian by H. L. Brækstad (New York: A. L. Burt Company, n.d.), pp. 169-171. Translation date : September 1897, London. This version altered slightly e.g the name "Reynard" has been returned to "Fox"; "Bruin" to "Bear"; "Bunny" to "Hare" etc. by Shaun D. L. Brasfield-Thorburnpe

    Your Hen Is in the Mountain - Norway

    Once there was an old widow who lived, with her three daughters, far away from the rest of the world, next to a mountain. She was so poor that her only animal was a single hen, which she prized as the apple of her eye. It was always cackling at her heels, and she was always running to look after it. One day, all at once, the hen was gone. The old woman went out, and walked around and around the cottage, looking and calling for her hen, but it was gone, and could not be found.

    So the woman said to her oldest daughter, "You must just go out and see if you can find our hen, for we must have it back, even if we have to fetch it out of the mountain."

    The daughter was ready enough to go, so she set off and walked up and down, and looked and called, but she could not find the hen. Suddenly, just as she was about to give up the hunt, she heard someone calling out from a cleft in the rock:

    Your hen is in the mountain!

    Your hen is in the mountain!

    So she went into the cleft to see what it was, but she had barely set foot inside, when she fell through a trapdoor, deep, deep down, into an underground cavern. When she got to the bottom she went through many rooms, each finer than the one before it; but in the innermost room of all, a large ugly troll came to her and asked, "Will you be my sweetheart?"

    "No! I will not," she said. She wouldn't have him for any price! All she wanted was to get above ground again as fast as ever she could, and to find her lost hen. Then the troll got so angry that he picked her up, twisted her head off, and then threw both the head and body into the cellar.

    While this was going on, her mother sat at home waiting and waiting, but no daughter came. After she had waited a bit longer, and neither heard nor saw anything of her daughter, she told her middle daughter to go out and look for her sister, and, she added, "Give our hen a call at the same time."

    So the second sister had to set off, and the very same thing happened to her. She was looking and calling, and suddenly she too heard a voice calling from the cleft in the rock:

    Your hen is in the mountain! Your hen is in the mountain!

    She thought that this was strange, and went to see what it was. She too fell through the trapdoor, deep, deep down, into the cavern. She too went from room to room, and in the innermost one the troll came to her and asked if she would be his sweetheart? No, she would not. All she wanted was to get above ground again, and hunt for her lost hen. The troll got angry, and picked her up, twisted her head off, and threw both head and body into the cellar.

    Now, when the old woman had sat and waited seven lengths and seven breadths for her second daughter, and could neither see nor hear anything of her, she said to the youngest, "Now, you must go out and look for your sisters. It was silly to lose the hen, but it would be sillier still to lose both your sisters. Of course, you can give the hen a call at the same time." You see, the old woman's heart was still set on her hen.

    Yes, the youngest was ready to go, and she walked up and down, hunting for her sisters and calling the hen, but she could neither see nor hear anything of them. She too came to the cleft in the rock, and heard something say:

    Your hen is in the mountain! Your hen is in the mountain!

    She thought that this was strange, so she too went to see what it was, and she too fell through the trapdoor, deep, deep down, into a cavern. When she reached the bottom she went from one room to another, each grander than the one before it; but she wasn't at all afraid, and took time to look carefully about her. As she was peeping into this and that, she saw the trapdoor into the cellar, and looked down it, and what should she see there but her dead sisters. She barely had time to slam to the trapdoor before the troll came to her and asked, "Will you be my sweetheart?"

    "With all my heart," answered the girl, for she saw very well how it had gone with her sisters. When the troll heard that, he brought her the finest clothes in the world. Indeed, she had only to ask, and she got whatever she wanted, because the troll was so glad that someone would be his sweetheart.

    One day, after she had been there a little while, she was looking very gloomy and downcast, so the troll asked her what was the matter, and why she was so sad.

    "Ah!" said the girl, "it's because I can't get home to my mother. I know that she has very little to eat and drink, and she has no one with her."

    "Well!" said the troll, "I can't let you go to see her; but just stuff some meat and drink into a sack, and I'll carry it to her."

    With many thanks, she said that she would do that. However, she put a lot of gold and silver into the bottom of the sack, then laid a little food on top. She told the ogre the sack was ready, but that he must be sure not to look into it. He gave his word not to look inside, and set off. As the troll walked off, she peeped out at him through a chink in the trapdoor. When he had gone a little way, he said, "This sack is very heavy. I'll just see what is inside." He was about to untie the sack, when the girl called out to him, "I can still see you! I can still see you!"

    "The devil you can!" said the troll; "you must have mighty sharp eyes!" And the troll did not try to look into it again. When he reached the widow's cottage, he threw the sack in through the cottage door, saying, "Here you have meat and drink from your daughter; she doesn't want for anything."

    After the girl had been in the mountain a good bit longer, one day a billy goat fell down the trapdoor.

    "Who sent for you, you long bearded beast!" said the troll, in an awful rage, and he picked up the goat, twisted his head off, and threw him into the cellar.

    "Oh!" said the girl, "why did you do that? I might have had the goat to play with down here."

    "Well!" said the troll, "you don't need to be so down in the mouth about it. I can bring the billy goat back to life again."

    So saying, he took down a flask that was hanging on the wall, put the billy goat's head on his body again, and smeared it with some ointment from flask, and he was as well and as lively as before.

    "Aha!" said the girl to herself; "that flask is worth something -- that it is."

    When she had been in the mountain some time longer, on a day when the troll was away, she took her oldest sister, put her head on her shoulders, smeared her with some of the ointment from the flask, just as she had seen the troll do with the billy goat, and in an instant her sister came to life again.

    The girl stuffed her into a sack, laid a little food over her, and when the troll came home, she said to him, "Dear friend! Now do go home to my mother with a morsel of food again. I'm certain that the poor thing is both hungry and thirsty, and besides that, she's all alone in the world. But you must not look into the sack."

    He said that he would carry the sack, and that he would not look into it. But when he had gone a little way, he thought that the sack was getting very heavy; and when he had gone a bit further he said to himself, "Come what will, I must see what's inside this sack, for however sharp her eyes may be, she can't see me all this way off."

    But just as he was about to untie the sack, the girl inside the sack called out, "I can still see you! I can still see you!"

    "The devil you can!" said the ogre; "then you must have mighty sharp eyes," for he thought it was the girl inside the mountain who was speaking. So he didn't dare so much as to peep into the sack again, but carried it straight to her mother as fast as he could, and when he got to the cottage door he threw it in through the door, and cried out, "Here you have meat and drink from your daughter; she wants for nothing."

    When the girl had been in the mountain a while longer, she did the very same thing with her other sister. She put her head on her shoulders, smeared her with ointment from the flask, brought her to life, and put her into the sack. This time she crammed in also as much gold and silver as the sack would hold, laying just a little food on top.

    "Dear friend," she said to the troll, "you really must run home to my mother with a little food again; and don't look into the sack."

    Yes, the troll was eager to do as she wished, and he gave his word too that he wouldn't look into the sack; but when he had gone a little way he began to think that the sack was getting very heavy, and when he had gone a bit further, he could scarce stagger along under it, so he set it down, and was just about to untie the string and look into it, when the girl inside the sack cried out, "I can still see you! I can still see you!"

    "The devil you can," said the troll, "then you must have mighty sharp eyes."

    Well, he did not dare to try to look into the sack, but hurried straight to the girl's mother. When he got to the cottage he threw the sack in through the door, and roared out, "Here you have food from your daughter; she wants for nothing!"

    After the girl had been there a good while longer, on a day when the troll had decided to go out for the day, the girl pretended to be sick. She moaned and complained. "There's no need for you to come home before twelve o'clock tonight," she said, "for I won't be able to have supper ready before then. I'm just too sick!"

    As soon as the troll was out of the house, she stuffed some of her clothes with straw, and stood this straw girl in the corner by the chimney, with a broom in her hand, so that it looked just as though she herself were standing there. After that she stole off home, and got a marksman to stay in the cottage with her mother.

    So when the clock struck twelve, or thereabouts, the troll came home, and the first thing he said to the straw girl was, "Give me something to eat."

    But she did not answer him.

    "Give me something to eat, I say!" called out the troll, "for I am almost starved."

    But she did not have a word for him.

    "Give me something to eat!" roared out the ogre the third time. "I think you'd better open your ears and hear what I say, or else I'll wake you up, I will!"

    But the girl stood just as still as ever; so he flew into a rage, and gave her such a slap in the face, that the straw flew all about the room. When he saw that he had been tricked, he began to hunt everywhere. When he came to the cellar, and found both the girl's sisters missing, he soon figured out what had happened, and ran off to the cottage, saying, "I'll soon pay her for this!"

    But when he reached the cottage, the marksman fired off his piece. The troll did not dare go into the house, for he thought it was thunder. So he set off for home again as fast as he could run; but just as he reached the trapdoor, the sun rose and he exploded.

    There's a lot of gold and silver down there still, if you only knew where the trapdoor is!

    Source: Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe, Høna tripper i berget, Norske Folkeeventyr (Christiania [Oslo], 1842-1852), translated by George Webb Dasent (1859). This version adapted slightly here.

    Not Driving and not Riding - Norway
    There was once a king's son who had wooed a maiden. But when they had come to an understanding and were on good terms, he lost all interest in the girl. Now he didn't want to marry her because she wasn't good enough for him. And he thought he would try to be quit of her. But he said he would take her all the same, if she could come to him

    Not driving and not riding not walking and not sliding, not hungry and not full, not naked and not clad, nor by day, and not by night.

    For he believed she could never manage that. She took three barleycorns and bit them in two, so she was not full, but she was not fasting either. And then she draped a net over herself, so she was not naked and not clad.

    She then took a ram and seated herself on its back, so her feet dragged along the ground. Thus she shuffled forward, and then she was not driving and not riding, not walking and not sliding.

    And it was in the twilight between night and day. When she reached the guards, she asked to be allowed to talk with the prince, but they would not let her in because she looked such a sight. But the prince was awakened by all the commotion, and came to the window. She shuffled across and wrung off one of the ram's horns; and she took it and, standing up on the ram's back, she knocked on the window with it. So they had to open up and make her into a princess.

    The Boys who met the Trolls in the Hedal Woods - Norway

    On a small farm in Våga, in Gudbrandsdalen, there once lived, in the old days, a poor couple. They had many children, and two of the sons, who were half-grown, always had to wander about the countryside begging. So they were familiar with all the roads and trails and they also knew the short cut to Hedal. One day they wanted to go there, but they heard that some falconers had built a hut at Mæla, and they wanted to stop there too, to see the birds and how the men caught them, so they took the footpath over Longmoss. But it was already late in the fall and the dairymaids had gone home from the summer pastures, and there was nowhere the boys could find shelter, nor food either. So they had to keep to the road to Hedal, but that was only an overgrown cowpath, and when darkness came they lost the path, nor did they find the falconers' hut either, and before they knew it, they were right in the midst of the thickest part of the Bjølstad forest. When they realized that they couldn't find their way out, they started cutting branches, made up a fire, and built themselves a shelter of pine branches, for they had a hatchet with them. And then they gathered heather and moss, of which they made a bed. A while after they had lain down, they heard something snuffing and snorting very hard. The boys were ears, and listened well to hear whether it might be an animal or a Forest Troll, which they heard. But then it started snorting even harder and said:" I smell the smell of Christian blood here!" Then they heard it tread so heavily that the earth shook under it, and they could tell that the Trolls were out. "God help us! What'll we do now?»said the younger boy to his brother. "Oh, you'll just have to stay under the fir tree where you're standing, and be ready to take the bags and run for your life when you see them coming. I'll take the hatchet," said the other. Just when they saw the Trolls come rushing, and they were so big and tall that their heads were level with the tops of the firtrees. But they had only one eye among the three of them, and they took turns using it. Each had a hole in his forehead to put it in, and guided it with his hands. The one who went ahead had to have it, and the others went behind him and held onto him. "Take to your heels!" said the elder of the boys. "But don't run too far before you see how it goes. Since they have the eye so high up, it'll be hard for them to see when I came behind them." Well, the brother ran ahead, with the Trolls at his heels. In the meantime, the elder brother went behind them and chopped the hindmost Troll in the ankle, so that he let out a horrible shriek. Then the first Troll became so frightened that he jumped, and dropped the eye, and the boy wasn't slow in grabbing it up. It was bigger than two lids put together, and it was so clear, that even though it was pitch black, the night became as light as day when he looked trough it. When the Trolls discovered that he had taken the eye from them, and that he had wounded one of them, they started threatening him with all the evil there was, if he didn't give them back the eye that very minute. I'm not afraid of Trolls or threats," said the boy, "Now I have three eyes to myself, and you don't have any. And still two of you have to carry the third." "If we don't get our eye back this very minute, you'll be turned into sticks and stones!" shrieked the Trolls. But the boy felt there wasn't any hurry; he was afraid of neither boasting nor magic, he said. If they didn't leave him alone, he would chop at all three of them so they would have to crawl along the hill creeping, crawling worms. When the Trolls heard this, they became frightened and started to sing another tune. They pleaded quite nicely that, it he gave them back the eye he would get both gold and silver, and everything he wanted. Well, the boy thought that was all very fine, but he wanted the gold and silver first. So he said that if one of them would go home and fetch so much gold and silver that he and his brother could fill their bags, and give him and his brother two good steel bows besides, they should get the eye. But until then he would keep it. The Trolls carried on and said that none of them could walk as long as he didn't have an eye to see with. But then one of them started yelling for the old woman, for they had one old woman among the three of them. After a while there was an answer in the mountain for to the north. So the Trolls said that she wasn't long before she was there. When she saw what had happened, she started threatening with magic. But the Trolls became still more frightened and bade her be careful of that little wasp. She couldn't be certain that he wouldn't take her eye, too. So she flung the buckets, and the gold and silver, and the bows at them, and strode home to the mountain with the Trolls. And since then, no one has ever heard that the Trolls have been about in the Hedal Woods sniffing after Christian blood.

    The Troll-Cat - Denmark

    About a quarter of a mile from Soröe lies Pedersborg, and a little farther on is the town of Lyng. Just between these towns is a hill called Bröndhöi (Spring-hill), said to be inhabited by the troll-people. There goes a story that there was once among these troll-people of Bröndhöi an old cross-grained curmudgeon of a troll, whom the rest nick-named Knurremurre (Rumble-grumble), because he was evermore the cause of noise and uproar within the hill. The Knurremurre having discovered what he thought to be too great a degree of intimacy between his young wife and a young troll of the society, took this in such ill part, that he vowed vengeance, swearing he would have the life of the young one. The latter, accordingly, thought it would be his best course to be off out of the hill till better times; so, turning himself into a noble tortoise-shell tom-cat, he one fine morning quitted his old residence, and journeyed down to the neighboring town of Lyng, where he established himself in the house of an honest poor man named Plat. Here he lived for a long time comfortable and easy, with nothing to annoy him, and was as happy as any tom-cat or troll crossed in love well could be. He got every day plenty of milk and good grout to eat, and lay the whole day long at his ease in a warm arm-chair behind the stove. Plat happened one evening to come home rather late, and as he entered the room the cat was sitting in his usual place, scraping meal-grout out of a pot, and licking the pot itself carefully. "Harkye, dame," said Plat, as he came in at the door, "till I tell you what happened to me on the road. Just as I was coming past Bröndhöi, there came out a troll, and he called out to me, and said,

    Harkye Plat, Tell your cat, That Knurremurre is dead.

    The moment the cat heard these words, he tumbled the pot down on the floor, sprang out of the chair, and stood up on his hind-legs. Then, as he hurried out of the door, he cried out with exultation, "What! is Knurremurre dead? Then I may go home as fast as I please." And so saying he scampered off to the hill, to the amazement of honest Plat; and it is likely lost no time in making his advances to the young widow.

    Source: Thomas Keightley, The Fairy Mythology (London: H. G. Bohn, 1850), pp. 120-121.

    The Troll Builder - Denmark

    When Esbern Snare was about building a church in Kalundborg, he saw clearly that his means were not fully adequate to the task. But a troll came to him and offered his services; and Esbern Snare made an agreement with him on these conditions, that he should be able to tell the troll's name when the church was finished; or in case he could not, that he should give him his heart and his eyes.

    The work now went on rapidly, and the troll set the church on stone pillars; but when all was nearly done, and there was only half a pillar wanting in the church, Esbern began to get frightened, for the name of the troll was yet unknown to him.

    One day he was going about the fields all alone, and in great anxiety on account of the perilous state he was in; when, tired, and depressed, by reason of his exceeding grief and affliction, he laid him down on Ulshøj bank to rest himself a while. While he was lying there, he heard a troll-woman within the hill saying these words:

    Lie still, baby mine!
    Tomorrow cometh Fin,
    Father thine,
    And giveth thee
    Esbern Snare's
    eyes and heart
    to play with.

    When Esbern heard this, he recovered his spirits, and went back to the church. The troll was just then coming with the half pillar that was wanting from the church; but when Esbern saw him, he hailed him by his name, and called him "Fin." The troll was so enraged at this, that he went off with the half pillar through the air, and this is the reason that the church has but three pillars and a half.

    Source: Thomas Keightley, The Fairy Mythology: Illustrative of the Romance and Superstition of Various Countries (London: H. G. Gohn, 1850), pp. 116-117. This story is also told by H. A. Guerber in his Myths of the Norsemen from the Eddas and Sagas (London: George G. Harrap and Company, 1909), pp. 240-241, and in a ballad entitled "Kallundborg Church" by John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892).

    Notes : Kalundborg (also spelled Kallundborg) is a city in North-West Sjælland (Zealand). Esbern Snare's famous church, the Frue Kirke, built in 1170, is still extant. This story has close parallels with the myth of the building of Asgard's Walls as well as the well known tradition of gaining power through knowledge of a "true name".

    The Little Elder-Tree Mother - Denmark

    There was once a little boy who had caught cold; he had gone out and got wet feet. Nobody had the least idea how it had happened; the weather was quite dry. His mother undressed him, put him to bed, and ordered the teapot to be brought in, that she might make him a good cup of tea from the elder-tree blossoms, which is so warming. At the same time, the kind-hearted old man who lived by himself in the upper storey of the house came in; he led a lonely life, for he had no wife and children; but he loved the children of others very much, and he could tell so many fairy tales and stories, that it was a pleasure to hear him.
    "Now, drink your tea," said the mother; "perhaps you will hear a story."

    "Yes, if I only knew a fresh one," said the old man, and nodded smilingly. "But how did the little fellow get his wet feet?" he then asked. "That," replied the mother, "nobody can understand."

    "Will you tell me a story?" asked the boy. "Yes, if you can tell me as nearly as possible how deep is the gutter in the little street where you go to school." "Just half as high as my top-boots," replied the boy; "but then I must stand in the deepest holes."

    "There, now we know where you got your wet feet," said the old man. "I ought to tell you a story, but the worst of it is, I do not know any more." "You can make one up," said the little boy. "Mother says you can tell a fairy tale about anything you look at or touch." "That is all very well, but such tales or stories are worth nothing! No, the right ones come by themselves and knock at my forehead saying: ‘Here I am.’"

    "Will not one knock soon?" asked the boy; and the mother smiled while she put elder-tree blossoms into the teapot and poured boiling water over them. "Pray, tell me a story."

    "Yes, if stories came by themselves; they are so proud, they only come when they please.-But wait," he said suddenly, "there is one. Look at the teapot; there is a story in it now."

    And the little boy looked at the teapot; the lid rose up gradually, the elder-tree blossoms sprang forth one by one, fresh and white; long boughs came forth; even out of the spout they grew up in all directions, and formed a bush-nay, a large elder tree, which stretched its branches up to the bed and pushed the curtains aside; and there were so many blossoms and such a sweet fragrance! In the midst of the tree sat a kindly-looking old woman with a strange dress; it was as green as the leaves, and trimmed with large white blossoms, so that it was difficult to say whether it was real cloth, or the leaves and blossoms of the elder-tree.
    "What is this woman's name?" asked the little boy. "Well, the Romans and Greeks used to call her a Dryad," said the old man; "but we do not understand that. Out in the sailors' quarter they give her a better name; there she is called elder-tree mother. Now, you must attentively listen to her and look at the beautiful elder-tree. "Just such a large tree, covered with flowers, stands out there; it grew in the corner of an humble little yard; under this tree sat two old people one afternoon in the beautiful sunshine. He was an old, old sailor, and she his old wife; they had already great-grandchildren, and were soon to celebrate their golden wedding, but they could not remember the date, and the elder-tree mother was sitting in the tree and looked as pleased as this one here. ‘I know very well when the golden wedding is to take place,’ she said; but they did not hear it-they were talking of bygone days.
    "‘Well, do you remember?’ said the old sailor, ‘when we were quite small and used to run about and play-it was in the very same yard where we now are-we used to put little branches into the ground and make a garden.’ "‘Yes,’ said the old woman, ‘I remember it very well; we used to water the branches, and one of them, an elder-tree branch, took root, and grew and became the large tree under which we are now sitting as old people.’

    "‘Certainly, you are right,’ he said; ‘and in yonder corner stood a large water-tub; there I used to sail my boat, which I had cut out myself-it sailed so well; but soon I had to sail somewhere else.’

    "‘But first we went to school to learn something,’ she said, ‘and then we were confirmed; we both wept on that day, but in the afternoon we went out hand in hand, and ascended the high round tower and looked out into the wide world right over Copenhagen and the sea; then we walked to Fredericksburg, where the king and the queen were sailing about in their magnificent boat on the canals.’ "‘But soon I had to sail about somewhere else, and for many years I was travelling about far away from home.’ "‘And I often cried about you, for I was afraid lest you were drowned and lying at the bottom of the sea. Many a time I got up in the night and looked if the weathercock had turned; it turned often, but you did not return. I remember one day distinctly: the rain was pouring down in torrents; the dust-man had come to the house where I was in service; I went down with the dust-bin and stood for a moment in the doorway, and looked at the dreadful weather. Then the postman gave me a letter; it was from you. Heavens! how that letter had travelled about. I tore it open and read it; I cried and laughed at the same time, and was so happy! Therein was written that you were staying in the hot countries, where the coffee grows. These must be marvellous countries. You said a great deal about them, and I read all while the rain was pouring down and I was standing there with the dust-bin. Then suddenly some one put his arm round my waist-’

    "‘Yes, and you gave him a hearty smack on the cheek,’ said the old man.

    "‘I did not know that it was you-you had come as quickly as your letter; and you looked so handsome, and so you do still. You had a large yellow silk handkerchief in your pocket and a shining hat on. You looked so well, and the weather in the street was horrible!’
    "‘Then we married,’ he said. ‘Do you remember how we got our first boy, and then Mary, Niels, Peter, John, and Christian?’ ‘Oh yes; and now they have all grown up, and have become useful members of society, whom everybody cares for.’ "‘And their children have had children again,’ said the old sailor. ‘Yes, these are children's children, and they are strong and healthy. If I am not mistaken, our wedding took place at this season of the year.’

    "‘Yes, to-day is your golden wedding-day,’ said the little elder-tree mother, stretching her head down between the two old people, who thought that she was their neighbour who was nodding to them; they looked at each other and clasped hands. Soon afterwards the children and grandchildren came, for they knew very well that it was the golden wedding-day; they had already wished them joy and happiness in the morning, but the old people had forgotten it, although they remembered things so well that had passed many, many years ago. The elder-tree smelt strongly, and the setting sun illuminated the faces of the two old people, so that they looked quite rosy; the youngest of the grandchildren danced round them, and cried merrily that there would be a feast in the evening, for they were to have hot potatoes; and the elder mother nodded in the tree and cried ‘Hooray’ with the others." "But that was no fairy tale," said the little boy who had listened to it. "You will presently understand it," said the old man who told the story. "Let us ask little elder-tree mother about it." "That was no fairy tale," said the little elder-tree mother; "but now it comes! Real life furnishes us with subjects for the most wonderful fairy tales; for otherwise my beautiful elder-bush could not have grown forth out of the teapot." And then she took the little boy out of bed and placed him on her bosom; the elder branches, full of blossoms, closed over them; it was as if they sat in a thick leafy bower which flew with them through the air; it was beautiful beyond all description. The little elder-tree mother had suddenly become a charming young girl, but her dress was still of the same green material, covered with white blossoms, as the elder-tree mother had worn; she had a real elder blossom on her bosom, and a wreath of the same flowers was wound round her curly golden hair; her eyes were so large and so blue that it was wonderful to look at them. She and the boy kissed each other, and then they were of the same age and felt the same joys. They walked hand in hand out of the bower, and now stood at home in a beautiful flower garden. Near the green lawn the father's walking-stick was tied to a post. There was life in this stick for the little ones, for as soon as they seated themselves upon it the polished knob turned into a neighing horse's head, a long black mane was fluttering in the wind, and four strong slender legs grew out. The animal was fiery and spirited; they galloped round the lawn. "Hooray! now we shall ride far away, many miles!" said the boy; "we shall ride to the nobleman's estate where we were last year." And they rode round the lawn again, and the little girl, who, as we know, was no other than the little elder-tree mother, continually cried, "Now we are in the country! Do you see the farmhouse there, with the large baking stove, which projects like a gigantic egg out of the wall into the road? The elder-tree spreads its branches over it, and the cock struts about and scratches for the hens. Look how proud he is! Now we are near the church; it stands on a high hill, under the spreading oak trees; one of them is half dead! Now we are at the smithy, where the fire roars and the half-naked men beat with their hammers so that the sparks fly far and wide. Let's be off to the beautiful farm!" And they passed by everything the little girl, who was sitting behind on the stick, described, and the boy saw it, and yet they only went round the lawn. Then they played in a side-walk, and marked out a little garden on the ground; she took elder-blossoms out of her hair and planted them, and they grew exactly like those the old people planted when they were children, as we have heard before. They walked about hand in hand, just as the old couple had done when they were little, but they did not go to the round tower nor to the Fredericksburg garden. No; the little girl seized the boy round the waist, and then they flew far into the country. It was spring and it became summer, it was autumn and it became winter, and thousands of pictures reflected themselves in the boy's eyes and heart, and the little girl always sang again, "You will never forget that!" And during their whole flight the elder-tree smelt so sweetly; he noticed the roses and the fresh beeches, but the elder-tree smelt much stronger, for the flowers were fixed on the little girl's bosom, against which the boy often rested his head during the flight.

    "It is beautiful here in spring," said the little girl, and they were again in the green beechwood, where the thyme breathed forth sweet fragrance at their feet, and the pink anemones looked lovely in the green moss. "Oh! that it were always spring in the fragrant beechwood!"

    "Here it is splendid in summer!" she said, and they passed by old castles of the age of chivalry. The high walls and indented battlements were reflected in the water of the ditches, on which swans were swimming and peering into the old shady avenues. The corn waved in the field like a yellow sea. Red and yellow flowers grew in the ditches, wild hops and convolvuli in full bloom in the hedges. In the evening the moon rose, large and round, and the hayricks in the meadows smelt sweetly. "One can never forget it!" "Here it is beautiful in autumn!" said the little girl, and the atmosphere seemed twice as high and blue, while the wood shone with crimson, green, and gold. The hounds were running off, flocks of wild fowl flew screaming over the barrows, while the bramble bushes twined round the old stones. The dark-blue sea was covered with white-sailed ships, and in the barns sat old women, girls, and children picking hops into a large tub; the young ones sang songs, and the old people told fairy tales about goblins and sorcerers. It could not be more pleasant anywhere.

    "Here it's agreeable in winter!" said the little girl, and all the trees were covered with hoar-frost, so that they looked like white coral. The snow creaked under one's feet, as if one had new boots on. One shooting star after another traversed the sky. In the room the Christmas tree was lit, and there were song and merriment. In the peasant's cottage the violin sounded, and games were played for apple quarters; even the poorest child said, "It is beautiful in winter!" And indeed it was beautiful! And the little girl showed everything to the boy, and the elder-tree continued to breathe forth sweet perfume, while the red flag with the white cross was streaming in the wind; it was the flag under which the old sailor had served. The boy became a youth; he was to go out into the wide world, far away to the countries where the coffee grows. But at parting the little girl took an elder-blossom from her breast and gave it to him as a keepsake. He placed it in his prayer-book, and when he opened it in distant lands it was always at the place where the flower of remembrance was lying; and the more he looked at it the fresher it became, so that he could almost smell the fragrance of the woods at home. He distinctly saw the little girl, with her bright blue eyes, peeping out from behind the petals, and heard her whispering, "Here it is beautiful in spring, in summer, in autumn, and in winter," and hundreds of pictures passed through his mind. Thus many years rolled by. He had now become an old man, and was sitting, with his old wife, under an elder-tree in full bloom. They held each other by the hand exactly as the great-grandfather and the great-grandmother had done outside, and, like them, they talked about bygone days and of their golden wedding. The little girl with the blue eyes and elder-blossoms in her hair was sitting high up in the tree, and nodded to them, saying, "To-day is the golden wedding!" And then she took two flowers out of her wreath and kissed them. They glittered at first like silver, then like gold, and when she placed them on the heads of the old people each flower became a golden crown. There they both sat like a king and queen under the sweet-smelling tree, which looked exactly like an elder-tree, and he told his wife the story of the elder-tree mother as it had been told him when he was a little boy. They were both of opinion that the story contained many points like their own, and these similarities they liked best. "Yes, so it is," said the little girl in the tree. "Some call me Little Elder-tree Mother; others a Dryad; but my real name is ‘Remembrance.’ It is I who sit in the tree which grows and grows. I can remember things and tell stories! But let's see if you have still got your flower." And the old man opened his prayer-book; the elder-blossom was still in it, and as fresh as if it had only just been put in. Remembrance nodded, and the two old people, with the golden crowns on their heads, sat in the glowing evening sun. They closed their eyes and-and- Well, now the story is ended! The little boy in bed did not know whether he had dreamt it or heard it told; the teapot stood on the table, but no elder-tree was growing out of it, and the old man who had told the story was on the point of leaving the room, and he did go out. "How beautiful it was!" said the little boy. "Mother, I have been to warm countries!"

    "I believe you," said the mother; "if one takes two cups of hot elder-tea it is quite natural that one gets into warm countries!" And she covered him up well, so that he might not take cold. "You have slept soundly while I was arguing with the old man whether it was a story or a fairy tale!"

    "And what has become of the little elder-tree mother?" asked the boy. "She is in the teapot," said the mother; "and there she may remain."

    Source : "The Little Elder-Tree Mother" by Hans Christian Andersen (1845)

    The Smith and the Troll's Prisoner - Denmark

    As a smith was at work in his forge late one evening, he heard great wailing out on the road, and by the light of the red-hot iron that he was hammering, he saw a woman whom a troll was driving along, bawling at her "A little more! A little more!" He ran out, put the red-hot iron between them, and thus delivered her from the power of the troll. He led her into his house and that night she was delivered of twins. In the morning he waited on [went to] her husband, who he supposed must be in great affliction at the loss of his wife. But to his surprise he saw there, in bed, a woman the very image of her he had saved from the troll. Knowing at once what she must be, he raised an axe he had in his hand, and cleft her skull. The matter was soon explained to the satisfaction of the husband, who gladly received his real wife and her twins.

    Source: Thomas Keightley, The Fairy Mythology: Illustrative of the Romance and Superstition of Various Countries (London: H. G. Bohn, 1850), p. 392. Keightley's source: Thiele, I, 88.

    Peter Ox - Denmark

    There were once upon a time a peasant and his wife who lived in Jutland, but they had no children. They often lamented that fact and were also sad to think that they had no relatives to whom to leave their farm and other possessions. So the years went by and they became richer and richer, but there was no one to inherit their wealth.

    One year the farmer bought a fine calf which he called Peter, and it was really the finest animal that he had ever seen, and so clever that it seemed to understand nearly everything that one said to it. It was also very amusing and affectionate, so that the man and his wife soon became as fond of it as if it were their own child.

    One day the farmer said to his wife, "Perhaps the sexton of our church could teach Peter to talk then we could not do better than to adopt him as our child, and he could then inherit all our property."

    "Who can tell?" said the wife, "Our sexton is a learned man and perhaps he might be able to teach Peter to talk, for Peter is really very clever. Suppose you ask the sexton."

    So the farmer went over to the sexton and asked him whether he did not believe that he could teach his calf to talk, because he wanted to make the animal his heir. The crafty sexton looked around to see that no one was near, and then said that he thought he could do so. "Only you must not tell anybody," he said, "for it must be a great secret, and the minister in particular must not know anything about it, or I might get into serious trouble as such things are strictly forbidden. Moreover it will cost a pretty penny as we shall need rare and expensive books." The farmer said that he did not mind, and handing the sexton a hundred dollars to buy books with, promised not to say a word about the arrangement to anyone.

    That evening the man brought his calf to the sexton who promised to do his best. In about a week the farmer returned to see how his calf was getting on, but the sexton said that he did not dare let him see the animal, else Peter might become homesick and forget all that he had already learned. Otherwise he was making good progress, but the farmer must pay another hundred dollars, as Peter needed more books. The peasant happened to have the money with him, so he gave it to the sexton and went home filled with hope and pleasant anticipations.

    At the end of another week the man again went to make inquiry about Peter, and was told by the sexton that he was doing fairly well. "Can he say anything?" asked the farmer.

    "Yes, he can say 'ma,'" answered the sexton.

    "The poor animal is surely ill," said the peasant, "and he probably wants mead. I will go straight home and bring him a jug of it." So he fetched a jug of good, old mead and gave it to the sexton for Peter. The sexton, however, kept the mead and gave the calf some milk instead.

    A week later the farmer came again to find out what Peter could say now. "He still refuses to say anything but 'ma,'" said the sexton.

    "Oh! he is a cunning rogue;" said the peasant, "so he wants more mead, does he? Well, I'll get him some more, as he likes it so much. But what progress has he made?"

    "He is doing so well," answered the sexton, "that he needs another hundred dollars' worth of books, for he cannot learn anything more from those that he has now."

    "Well then, if he needs them he shall have them." So that same day the farmer brought another hundred dollars and a jug of good, old mead for Peter.

    Now the peasant allowed a few weeks to elapse without calling on Peter, for he began to be afraid that each visit would cost him a hundred dollars. In the meantime the calf had become as fat as he would ever be, so the sexton killed him and sold the meat carefully at a distance from the village. Having done that he put on his black clothes and went to call on the farmer and his wife. As soon as he had bid them good day he asked them whether Peter had reached home safe and sound.

    "Why no," said the farmer, "he has not run away, has he?"

    "I hope," said the sexton, "that after all the trouble I have taken he has not been so tricky as to run away and to abuse my confidence so shamefully. For I have spent at least a hundred dollars of my own money to pay for books for him. Now Peter could say whatever he wanted, and he was telling me only yesterday that he was longing to see his dear parents. As I wanted to give him that pleasure, but feared that he would not be able to find his way home alone, I dressed myself and started out with him. We were hardly in the street when I suddenly remembered that I had left my stick at home, so I ran back to get it. When I came out of the house again, I found that Peter had run on alone. I thought, of course, that he had gone back to your house. If he is not there, I certainly do not know where he can be."

    Then the people began to weep and lament that Peter was lost, now especially when they might have had such pleasure with him, and after paying out so much money for his education. And the worst of it was that they were again without an heir. The sexton tried to comfort them and was also very sorry that Peter had deceived them so. But perhaps he had only lost his way, and the sexton promised that he would ask publicly in church next Sunday whether somebody had not seen the calf. Then he bade the farmer and his wife good-bye and went home and had some good roast veal for dinner.

    One day the sexton read in the paper that a new merchant, named Peter Ox, had settled in the neighboring town. He put the paper into his pocket and went straight to the farmer and read this item of news to him. "One might almost believe," he said, "that this is your calf."

    "Why yes," said the farmer, "who else should it be?" Then his wife added, "Yes father, go at once to see him, for I feel sure that it can be no other than our dear Peter. But take along plenty of money for he probably needs it now that he has become a merchant."

    On the following morning the farmer put a bag of money on his shoulder, took with him some provisions, and started to walk to the town where the merchant lived. Early next morning he arrived there and went straight to the merchant's house. The servants told the man that the merchant had not gotten up yet. "That does not make any difference for I am his father; just take me up to his room."

    So they took the peasant up to the bedroom where the merchant lay sound asleep. And as soon as the farmer saw him, he recognized Peter. There were the same thick neck and broad forehead and the same red hair, but otherwise he looked just like a human being. Then the man went to him and bade him good morning and said, "Well, Peter, you caused your mother and me great sorrow when you ran away as soon as you had learned something. But get up now and let me have a look at you and talk with you."

    The merchant, of course, believed that he had a crazy man to deal with, so he thought it best to be careful. "Yes I will get up," he said, and jumped out of bed into his clothes as quickly as possible.

    "Ah!" said the peasant, "now I see what a wise man our sexton was; he has brought it to pass that you are like any other man. If I were not absolutely certain of it, I should never dream that you were the calf of our red cow. Will you come home with me?" The merchant said that he could not as he had to attend to his business. "But you could take over my farm and I would retire. Nevertheless if you prefer to stay in business, I am willing. Do you need any money?"

    "Well," said the merchant, "a man can always find use for money in his business."

    "I thought so," said the farmer, "and besides you had nothing to start with, so I have brought you some money." And with that he poured out on the table the bright dollars that covered it entirely.

    When the merchant saw what kind of a man his new found acquaintance was, he chatted with him in a very friendly manner and begged him to remain with him for a few days.

    "Yes indeed," said the farmer, "but you must be sure to call me father from now on."

    "But I have neither father nor mother living," answered Peter Ox.

    "That I know perfectly well," the peasant replied, "for I sold your real father in Copenhagen last Michaelmas, and your mother died while calving. But my wife and I have adopted you as our child and you will be our heir, so you must call me father."

    The merchant gladly agreed to that and kept the bag of money; and before leaving town the farmer made his will and bequeathed all his possessions to Peter after his death. Then the man went home and told his wife the whole story, and she was delighted to learn that the merchant Peter Ox was really their own calf.

    "Now you must go straight over to the sexton and tell him what has happened;" she said, "and be sure to refund to him the hundred dollars that he paid out of his own pocket for Peter, for he has earned all that we have paid him, because of the joy that he has caused us in giving us such a son and heir."

    Her husband was of the same opinion and went to call on the sexton, whom he thanked many times for his kindness and to whom he also gave two hundred dollars.

    Then the farmer sold his farm, and he and his wife moved into the town where the merchant was, and lived with him happily until their death.

    Source: Sven Grundtvig, Danish Fairy Tales, translated by J. Grant Cramer (Boston: Four Seas Company, 1919), pp. 9-14.

    The Troll Turned Cat - Denmark

    About a quarter of a mile from Soröe lies Pedersborg, and a little farther on is the town of Lyng. Just between these towns is a hill called Bröndhöi (Spring-hill), said to be inhabited by the troll-people.

    There goes a story that there was once among these troll-people of Bröndhöi an old cross-grained curmudgeon of a troll, whom the rest nick-named Knurremurre (Rumble-grumble), because he was evermore the cause of noise and uproar within the hill. The Knurremurre having discovered what he thought to be too great a degree of intimacy between his young wife and a young troll of the society, took this in such ill part, that he vowed vengeance, swearing he would have the life of the young one. The latter, accordingly, thought it would be his best course to be off out of the hill till better times; so, turning himself into a noble tortoise-shell tom-cat, he one fine morning quitted his old residence, and journeyed down to the neighboring town of Lyng, where he established himself in the house of an honest poor man named Plat.

    Here he lived for a long time comfortable and easy, with nothing to annoy him, and was as happy as any tom-cat or troll crossed in love well could be. He got every day plenty of milk and good grout to eat, and lay the whole day long at his ease in a warm arm-chair behind the stove.

    Plat happened one evening to come home rather late, and as he entered the room the cat was sitting in his usual place, scraping meal-grout out of a pot, and licking the pot itself carefully. "Harkye, dame," said Plat, as he came in at the door, "till I tell you what happened to me on the road. Just as I was coming past Bröndhöi, there came out a troll, and he called out to me, and said,

    Harkye Plat
    Tell your cat,
    That Knurremurre is dead.

    The moment the cat heard these words, he tumbled the pot down on the floor, sprang out of the chair, and stood up on his hind-legs. Then, as he hurried out of the door, he cried out with exultation, "What! is Knurremurre dead? Then I may go home as fast as I please." And so saying he scampered off to the hill, to the amazement of honest Plat; and it is likely lost no time in making his advances to the young widow.

    Source: Thomas Keightley, The Fairy Mythology (London: H. G. Bohn, 1850), pp. 120-121.

    Loftur the Sorcerer - Iceland

    Once there was a student at the Seminary at Hólar. His name was Loftur; he practised magic, and tried to interest others in this practise. Loftur kept to his sorcery studies until he had learned everything contained in the spell-book Gráskinna (Grey-skin-cover). Then he sought to gain even more hidden knowledge from other sorcerers, but nobody knew more than he did.

    Early one winter Loftur spoke to a schoolmate, who was thought to be brave, and asked him to help in calling back to life the ancient bishops. The student did not want to do this,
    but Loftur threatened him with death if he did not agree. The student asked Loftur how he would be able to help, as he knew no magic. Loftur answered that he was to just stand in the belfry and hold the bell rope. He was forbidden to move at all, but rather was to watch Loftur and then ring the bell as soon as he saw Loftur make a hand signal.

    Loftur explained that he wanted to raise the dead because: "Those who have mastered magic in the way I have can only employ it to work evil, and they will surely perish when they die - and yet if one knows enough, the Devil will no longer have any power over a man and must serve him, without getting control over the sorcerer. Anyone who knows that much can use his knowledge as he will. But this knowledge is hard to come by now, ever since The Black School was closed, and Bishop Gottskalk the Evil had the book Rauðskinna (Red-skin-cover) buried with him. This is why I plan to call him from the dead and get the book from him by magic."

    After others had gone to their beds they went to the church, beneath the moonlight. The student stopped in the belfry. Loftur went up into the pulpit and began chanting. The long dead bishops arose from their graves, one after the other, and some of these begged him to stop, but Loftur did not stop his chant. Three of the dead bishops wore crowns, the first, the one in the middle, and also the last one.

    Despite all this, Gottskalk still did not come from his grave - so Loftur started chanting as never before. He turned the words of the Psalms into praises for the Devil and made a sorry confession of all his good deeds. The three crowned dead bishops kept as far away as possible from Loftur and faced him with their hands raised - the other dead bishops looked at them and kept their gaze away from Loftur. At last a heavy sound was heard, and a dead man arose bearing a staff in his left hand and a red book under his right arm. He did not waer a crucifix on his chest, and he looked unkindly at the other dead bishops. He gazed at Loftur, who chanted all the more during this. Gottskalk moved a little closer to Loftur and said scornfully: "You chant well, my son, and better than I would have expected. But you will not get my Rauðskinna." Loftur then seemed to turn himself inside out and chanted in a way he had never done before. He changed The Blessing and The Lord's Prayer into praises for the Devil, and the church shook like a straw in the wind. The student, watching in the belfry, thought he saw Gottskalk move again closer to Loftur and he seemed to thrust a corner of the book towards the magician. He had been frightened all this time but now he shook with his terror. He thought he saw the bishop lift the book and Loftur stretch out his hand. So he pulled the bell rope as hard as he could and everything that had appeared vanished into the floor with a whispering sound.

    Loftur stood still for a while in the pulpit. Then he staggered down and found his companion, and said: "Now the worst has happened. I could have waited for the dawn and the bishop would then have had to let go of the book, but he was too strong for me. He made me so wild that if I had but chanted one stave more the whole church would have collapsed into the ground - and that was what he wanted. I saw the faces of the crowned bishops and became worried, but I knew that you would faint by the bell rope and ring the bell. The book was so close, I thought I could reach it. I tried my best and even managed to touch a corner. But I could not get a good grip to hold it. Things must be as they are, and thus I will be doomed."

    Loftur felt sure he would die on a certain Sunday. His friends advised him to flee and ask help from the priest at Staðastaður, who was thought very religious and had helped people in trouble before. Loftur stayed with the priest until that Sunday arrived. On this day the priest had to leave home to give the last rites to an old friend and Loftur felt so ill that he could not go with the priest but stayed behind in his home. No sooner had the priest had left than Loftur became well. He walked to the next farm and there got the farmer to take out his boat and go fishing with him. Although there was no wind that day, the boat has never been seen since. One man thought he had seen a grey furred hand rise from the sea when the boat had just been launched, grab the stern where Loftur was sat, and pull everything under the waves. But who can say for sure?

    Source : A popular Icelandic folktale retold here by Shaun D. L. Brassfield-Thorburnpe

    The Black School - Iceland

    Once upon a time there existed somewhere in the world, nobody knows where, a school which was called the Black School. There the pupils learned witchcraft and all sorts of ancient arts. Wherever this school was, it was somewhere below ground, and was held in a strong room which, as it had no window, was eternally dark and changeless. There was no teacher either, but everything was learnt from books with fiery letters, which could be read quite easily in the dark. Never were the pupils allowed to go out into the open air or see the daylight during the whole time they stayed there, which was from five to seven years. By then they had gained a thorough and perfect knowledge of the sciences to be learnt. A shaggy gray hand came through the wall every day with the pupils' meals, and when they had finished eating and drinking took back the horns and platters. But one of the rules of the school was, that the owner should keep for himself that one of the students who should leave the school the last every year. And, considering that it was pretty well known among the pupils that the devil himself was the master, you may fancy what a scramble there was at each year's end, everybody doing his best to avoid being last to leave the school. It happened once that three Icelanders went to this school, by the name of Sæmundur the Learned, Kálfur Arnason, and Hálfdán Eldjárnsson; and as they all arrived at the same time, they were all supposed to leave at the same time. Sæmundur declared himself willing to be the last of them, at which the others were much lightened in mind. So he threw over himself a large mantle, leaving the sleeves loose and the fastenings free. A staircase led from the school to the upper world, and when Sæmundur was about to mount this the devil grasped at him and said, "You are mine!"But Sæmundur slipped out of this mantle and made off with all speed, leaving the devil the empty cloak. However, just as he left the school the heavy iron door was slammed suddenly to, and wounded Sæmundur on the heels. Then he said, "That was pretty close upon my heels," which words have since passed into a proverb. The Sæmundur contrived to escape from the Black School, with his companions, scot-free.Some people relate, that, when Sæmundur came into the doorway, the sun shone upon him and threw his shadow onto the opposite wall. And as the devil stretched out his hand to grapple with him, Sæmundur said, "I am not the last. Do you not see who follows me?" So the devil seized the shadow, mistaking it for a man, and Sæmundur escaped with a blow on his heels from the iron door.But from that hour he was always shadowless, for whatever the devil took, he never gave back again.

    Source: Jón Arnason, Icelandic Legends, translated by George E. J. Powell and Eiríkur Magnússon (London: Richard Bentley, 1864), pp. 226-228.

    Note : Sæmundur the Learned (1054-1133) was Iceland's earliest known scholar. The "Elder" or "Poetic" Edda was once thought to have been written by him, although this theory is now largely dismissed academically.

    The Origin of the Elves : Two Versions - Iceland

    Once, God Almighty came to visit Adam and Eve. They received him with joy, and showed him everything they had in the house. They also brought their children to him, to show him, and these He found promising and full of hope. Then He asked Eve whether she had no other children than these whom she now showed him. She said "None." But it so happened that she had not finished washing them all, and, being ashamed to let God see them dirty, had hidden the unwashed ones. This God knew well, and said therefore to her, "What man hides from God, God will hide from man." These unwashed children became forthwith invisible, and took up their abode in mounds, and hills, and rocks. From these are the elves descended, but we men from those of Eve's children whom she had openly and frankly shown to God. And it is only by the will and desire of the elves themselves that men can ever see them.

    Note : In Northern traditions Elves and similar supernatural creatures are frequently referred to as the "Hidden-Ones". This tale seeks to explain this term which is far older than the advent of Christianity in Northern Europe. - Shaun D. L. Brassfield-Thorburnpe

    Once a traveller lost his way, and he knew not whither to turn or what to do. At last, after wandering about for some time, he came to a hut, which he had never seen before; and on his knocking at the door, an old woman opened it, and invited him to come in, which he gladly did. Inside, the house seemed to be a clean and good one. The old woman led him to the warmest room, where were sitting two young and beautiful girls. Besides these, no one else was in the house. He was well received and kindly treated, and having eaten a good supper was shown to bed. He asked whether one of the girls might stay with him, as his companion for the night, and his request was granted. And now wishing to kiss her, the traveller turned towards her, and placed his hand upon her; but his hand sank through her, as if she had been of mist, and though he could well see her lying beside him, he could grasp nothing but the air. So he asked what this all meant, and she said, "Be not astonished, for I am a spirit. When the devil, in times gone by, made war in heaven, he, with all his armies, was driven into outer darkness. Those who turned their eyes to look after him as he fell, were also driven out of heaven; but those who were neither for nor against him, were sent to the earth and commanded to dwell there in the rocks and mountains. These are called elves and hidden people. They can live in company with none but their own race. They do either good or evil, which they will, but what they do they do thoroughly. They have no bodies as you other mortals, but can take a human form and be seen of men when they wish. I am one of these fallen spirits, and so you can never hope to embrace me." To this fate the traveller yielded himself, and has handed down to us this story.

    Source: Jón Arnason, Icelandic Legends, translated by George E. J. Powell and Eiríkur Magnússon (London: R. Bentley, 1864). Translation adapted slightly here.

    White Cap - Iceland

    A certain boy and girl, whose names this tale telleth not, once lived near a church. The boy being mischievously inclined, was in the habit of trying to frighten the girl in a variety of ways, till she became at last so accustomed to his tricks, that she ceased to care for anything whatever, putting down everything strange that she saw and heard to the boy's mischief.

    One washing-day, the girl was sent by her mother to fetch home the linen, which had been spread to dry in the churchyard. When she had nearly filled her basket, she happened to look up, and saw sitting on a tomb near her a figure dressed in white from head to foot, but was not the least alarmed, believing it to be the boy playing her, as usual, a trick. So she ran up to it, and pulling its cap off said, "You shall not frighten me, this time."

    Then when she had finished collecting the linen she went home. But, to her astonishment -- for he could not have reached home before her without her seeing him -- the boy was the first person who greeted her on her arrival at the cottage.

    Among the linen, too, when it was sorted, was found a mouldy white cap, which appeared to be nobody's property, and which was half full of earth.

    The next morning the ghost (for it was a ghost that the girl had seen) was found sitting with no cap upon its head, upon the same tombstone as the evening before. And as nobody had the courage to address it, or knew in the least how to get rid of it, they sent into the neighbouring village for advice.

    An old man declared that the only way to avoid some general calamity, was for the little girl to replace on the ghost's head the cap she had seized from it, in the presence of many people, all of whom were to be perfectly silent. So a crowd collected in the churchyard, and the little girl, going forward, half afraid, with the cap, placed it upon the ghost's head, saying, "Are you satisfied now?"

    But the ghost, raising its hand, gave her a fearful blow, and said, "Yes, but are you now satisfied?"

    The little girl fell down dead, and at the same instant the ghost sank into the grave upon which it had been sitting, and was no more seen.

    Source: Jón Arnason, Icelandic Legends, translated by George E. J. Powell and Eiríkur Magnússon (London: Richard Bentley, 1864), pp. 157-158.

    The Deacon of Myrká - Iceland

    A long time ago a deacon lived at Myrká, in Egafjördur. He was in love with a girl named Gudrún, who dwelt in a farm on the opposite side of the valley, separated from his house by a river.

    The deacon had a horse with a grey mane, which he was always in the habit of riding, and which he called Faxi.

    A short time before Christmas, the deacon rode to the farm at which his betrothed lived and invited her to join in the Christmas festivities at Myrká, promising to fetch her on Christmas Eve. Some time before he had started out on this ride there had been heavy snow and frost, but this very day there came so rapid a thaw that the river over which the deacon had safely ridden, trusting to the firmness of the ice, became impassable during the short time he spent with his betrothed. The floods rose, and huge masses of drift ice were whirled down the stream.

    When the deacon had left the farm, he rode on to the river, and being deep in thought did not perceive at first the change that had taken place. As soon, however, as he saw in what state the stream was, he rode up the banks until he came to a bridge of ice, on to which he spurred his horse. But when he arrived at the middle of the bridge, it broke beneath him, and he was drowned in the flood.

    Next morning, a neighbouring farmer saw the deacon's horse grazing in a field, but could discover nothing of its owner, whom he had seen the day before cross the river, but not return. He at once suspected what had occurred, and going down to the river, found the corpse of the deacon, which had drifted to the bank, with all the flesh torn off the back of his head, and the bare white skull visible. So he brought the body back to Myrká, where it was buried a week before Christmas.

    Up to Christmas Eve the river continued so swollen that no communication could take place between the dwellers on the opposite banks, but that morning it subsided, and Gudrún, utterly ignorant of the deacon's death, looked forward with joy to the festivities to which she had been invited by him.

    In the afternoon Gudrún began to dress in her best clothes, but before she had quite finished, she heard a knock at the door of the farm. One of the maidservants opened the door, but seeing nobody there, thought it was because the night was not sufficiently light, for the moon was hidden for the time by clouds. So saying, "Wait there till I bring a light," went back into the house. But she had no sooner shut the outer door behind her, than the knock was repeated, and Gudrún cried out from her room, "It is someone waiting for me."

    As she had by this time finished dressing, she slipped only one sleeve of her winter cloak on, and threw the rest over her shoulders hurriedly. When she opened the door, she saw the well known Faxi standing outside, and by him a man whom she knew to be the deacon. Without a word he placed Gudrún on the horse, and mounted in front of her himself, and off they rode.

    When they came to the river it was frozen over, all except the current in the middle, which the frost had not yet hardened. The horse walked onto the ice, and leaped over the black and rapid stream which flowed in the middle. At the same moment the head of the deacon nodded forward, so that his hat fell over his eyes, and Gudrún saw the large patch of bare skull gleam white in the midst of his hair. Directly afterwards, a cloud moved from before the moon, and the deacon said,

    The moon glides, Death rides,

    Seest thou not the white place

    In the back of my head

    Garún, Garún?

    Not a word more was spoken till they came to Myrká, where they dismounted. Then the man said,

    Wait here for me,

    Garún, Garún,

    While I am taking Faxi, Faxi,

    Outside the hedges, the hedges!

    When he had gone, Gudrún saw near her in the churchyard, where she was standing, an open grave, and half sick with horror, ran to the church porch, and seizing the rope, tolled the bells with all her strength. But as she began to ring them, she felt someone grasp her and pull so fiercely at her cloak that it was torn off her, leaving only the one sleeve into which she had thrust her arm before starting from home. Then turning round, she saw the deacon jump headlong into the yawning grave, with the tattered cloak in his hand, and the heaps of earth on both sides fall in over him, and close the gave up to the brink.

    Gudrún knew now that it was the deacon's ghost with whom she had had to do, and continued ringing the bells till she roused all the farm servants at Myrká.

    That same night, after Gudrún had got shelter at Myrká and was in bed, the deacon came again from his grave and endeavoured to drag her away, so that no one could sleep for the noise of their struggle.

    The was repeated every night for a fortnight, and Gudrún could never be left alone for a single instant, lest the goblin deacon should get the better of her. From time to time, also, a neighbouring priest came and sat on the edge of the bed, reading the Psalms of David to protect her against this ghostly persecution.

    But nothing availed, till they sent for a man from the north country, skilled in witchcraft, who dug up a large stone from the field, and placed it in the middle of the guest room at Myrká. When the deacon rose that night from his grave and came into the house to torment Gudrún, this man seized him, and by uttering potent spells over him, forced him beneath the stone, and exorcised the passionate demon that possessed him, so that there he lies in peace to this day.

    Source: Jón Arnason, Icelandic Legends, translated by George E. J. Powell and Eiríkur Magnússon (London: Richard Bentley, 1864), pp. 173-177.

    The Father of Eighteen Elves - Iceland

    Once, at a certain farm, long ago, it happened that all of the household were out one day, making hay while the sun shone, except the farmer's wife and her only child, a boy of four years, both of whom had stayed at home. The boy was a strong, handsome, little fellow, who could already speak almost as well as his elders, and was looked upon by his parents with both great pride and hope for the future. His mother had plenty of other work to do besides watching him, so she was obliged to leave him alone for a short period, while she went down to the brook to wash out the milk pails. Thus she left him, playing in the doorway to the cottage, and she came back again as soon as she had placed the milk pails out to dry. As soon as she spoke to the child, it began to cry in a weird and unusual manner, which amazed the mother a great deal, as her son had always been so gentle and smooth tempered. When she tried to get the child speak to her as it normally would, it only yelled all the more, and so this went on for a long while, always crying and never being soothed, until at last the mother fell to despair at the odd change in her boy, who now it seemed had lost his senses. Full of grief, she went to ask advice from a wise and skilful woman of the area, and told to her all that had happened. The wise-woman asked her all manner of questions: How long ago had this change in the child's manner begun? What did his mother think to be the cause of it all? and so on. The mother gave the woman the best answers she could, although she was at a loss. eventually the wise woman said: "Think you not, friend, that this child you now have is a changeling and not your own son at all? Without any doubt it was put in your cottage doorway in the place of your own son, while you were away washing the milk pails."

    "I do not know," replied the mother, "but please give me your counsel as to how I may find this out." So now the wise woman said: "I will tell you how it should be done. Place this child where he may see something that he has never seen before, and let him think himself to be alone. As soon as he thinks that no one to be near him, then he will speak. But you must listen carefully, for if this child says something which reveals him to be a changeling, then you must at once beat him and show no mercy." And that was the wise woman's counsel to the mother, who, with many thanks for this advice, went away home.

    When she got back to her house, she set down a cauldron in the middle of the hearth, and took a number of staves, bound them end to end, and fastened them to a porridge spoon. This strange device she stuck down into the cauldron in such a manner that the new handle she made for it reached right up into the chimney and out of the top. As soon as all was ready, she fetched forth the child, placed him on the floor of the kitchen, left him there and then went out, taking care, however, to leave the door a little open, in order that she could thus hear and see all which went on within. When she had gone out of the room, the child began to walk around and around the cauldron, and to look at it most carefully. After a while of puzzlement at the cauldron and its strange spoon he declared aloud: "As those who can see my beard can tell, I have lived a long while, and am the father of eighteen elves, but never in all my long life have I seen so lengthy a spoon put in so little a pot."

    On hearing this declaration the mother did not hesitate. She ran into the room and grabbed a bundle of wood from the fire store and began flogging the changeling with it. He kicked and he wailed, he thrashed and he screamed but still she would not stop the beating. As the mother continued to beat the changeling , the door of the house opened. In came a weird woman who bore in her arms a bonny young boy. The stranger looked about her and said, "How different we folk are from you! I love and nurture your son while all you can do is beat and harm by husband!"

    Saying these words, she gave back to the farmer's wife her own son, and taking the changeling by the hand, disappeared with him. But the little boy grew up to manhood, and fulfilled all the hope and promise of his youth.

    Source: Jón Arnason, Icelandic Legends, translated by George E. J. Powell and Eiríkur Magnússon (London: R. Bentley, 1864). The original translation has been revised here by Shaun D. L. Brassfield-Thorburnpe

    Holda and the Gift of Flax - Germany

    There was once a peasant who daily left his wife and children in the valley to take his sheep up the mountain to pasture; and as he watched his flock grazing on the mountain-side, he often had opportunity to use his cross bow and bring down a chamois, whose flesh would furnish his larder with food for many a day. While pursuing a fine animal one day he saw it disappear behind a boulder, and when he came to the spot, he was amazed to see a doorway in the neighbouring glacier, for in the excitement of the pursuit he had climbed higher and higher, until he was now on top of the mountain, where glittered the everlasting snow. The shepherd boldly passed through the open door and soon found himself in a wonderful jewelled cave hung with stalactites, in the centre of which stood a beautiful woman clad in slivery robes, and attended by a host of lovely maidens crowned with Alpine roses. In his surprise, the shepherd sank to his knees, and as in a dream heard the queenly central figure bid him choose anything he saw to carry away with him. Although dazzled by the glow of the precious stones around him, the shepherd's eyes constantly reverted to a little nosegay of blue flowers which the gracious apparition held in her hand, and he now timidly proffered a request that it might become his. Smiling with pleasure, Holda, for it was she, gave it to him, telling him he had chosen wisely and would live as long as the flowers did not droop and fade. Then, giving the shepherd a measure of seed which she told him to sow in his field, the goddess bade him begone; and as the thunder pealed and the earth shook, the poor man found himself out upon the mountain-side once more, and slowly wended his way home to his wife, to whom he told his adventure and showed the lovely blue flowers and the measure of seed. The woman reproached her husband bitterly for not having brought some of the precious stones which he so glowingly described, instead of the blossoms and seed; nevertheless the man proceeded to sow the latter, and found to his surprise that the measure supplied seed enough for several acres. Soon the little green shoots began to appear, and one moonlight night, while the peasant was gazing upon them, as was his wont, for he felt a curious attraction to the field which he had sown, and often lingered there wondering what kind of grain would be produced, he saw a misty form hover above the field, with hands outstretched as if in blessing. At last the field blossomed, and countless little blue flowers opened their calyxes to the golden sun. When the flowers had withered and the seed was ripe, Holda came once more to teach the peasant and wife how to harvest the flax--for such it was--and from it to spin, weave, and bleach linen. As the people of the neighbourhood willingly purchased both linen and flax-seed, the peasant and his wife soon grew very rich indeed, and while he ploughed, sowed, and harvested, she spun, wove, and bleached the linen. The man lived to a good old age, and saw his grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow up around him. All this time his carefully treasured bouquet had remained fresh as when he first brought it home, but one day he saw that during the night the flowers had drooped and were dying. Knowing what this portended, and that he too must die, the peasant climbed the mountain once more to the glacier, and found again the doorway for which he had often vainly searched. He entered the icy portal, and was never seen or heard of again, for, according to the legend, the goddess took him under her care, and bade him live in her cave, where his every wish was gratified.

    Source: A German tale quoted here from "Myths of the Norsemen" by H.A. Guerber.

    Notes: Holda is a continental European goddess figure who appears in many forms. Her name probably should be understood as "The Hidden One". She shares many attributes with the Scandinavian goddesses, notably Frigg and Freya but also Hel (whose name may be etymologically related. Holda is probably also the same deity found in the Frau Holle tales.

    The Night Raven - Germany

    Through the night sky the Night Raven can be heard crying out with its "Kaw, Kaw." The Night Raven is much larger than any ordinary raven, even as big as an aged hen. It is also called the eternal wagon-puller. It is said that in his part of the Heavens he desired to be travelling and wandering forever. Thus he will be driving for all eternity, seated in the middle on the horse of Heaven's Wagon. The four great stars to the rear are great wheels. The three stars at the front, forming a crooked line, are three horses. The little star above the middle one of these is the Night Raven, the eternal puller of the wagon. He steers the three horses, and because the wagon always travels in a circle, they are not in a straight line, but in a crooked one, for they are always making a turn.

    Before midnight, they say, he drives outward, and the wagon-tongue bends upward; but after midnight he drives it homeward, and then it bends down.

    Source: A. Kuhn and W. Schwartz, Norddeutsche Sagen, Märchen und Gebräuche (Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus, 1848), pp. 199-200. This version retold by Shaun Brassfield-Thorburnpe.

    Notes: The constellation described in this legend is better known as the Plough or Big Dipper; Ursa Major (the Great Bear). Jacob Grimm (in his Deutsche Mythologie), states that Ursa Major was also called "Odin's Wagon" in ancient northern Europe, Odin's well known links to the Raven is perhaps support for this theory through this tale.

    Prilling and Pralling Is Dead - Germany

    The servant of Landholder Gireck (whose residence in Plau was on Elden Street where Master Mason Büttner's house now stands) was once hauling a load of manure to a field abutting Gall Mountain. He had just unloaded the manure and was about to put the sideboards back onto the wagon when he heard his name being called from the mountain, together with the words, "When you get home say that Prilling and Pralling is dead." Back at home, he had scarcely related this experience and repeated the words, when they heard groaning and crying coming from the house's cellar. They investigated, but found nothing but a pewter mug, of a kind that had never before been seen in Plau. The master of the house kept the mug, and when he later moved to Hamburg he took it with him. About seventy years ago someone from Plau saw it there.

    Source: Karl Bartsch, Sagen, Märchen und Gebräuche aus Meklenburg (Vienna, 1879), v. 1, pp. 42-43.
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    Mally Dixon - England

    Stories of fairies appearing in the shape of cats are common in the North of England. Mr. Longstaffe relates that a farmer of Staindrop, in Durham, was one night crossing a bridge, when a cat jumped out, stood before him, and looking him full in the face, said:

    Johnny Reed! Johnny Reed!
    Tell Madam Momfort
    That Mally Dixon's dead.

    The farmer returned home, and in mickle wonder recited this awfu' stanza to his wife, when up started their black cat, saying, "Is she?" and disappeared for ever. It was supposed she was a fairy in disguise, who thus went to attend a sister's funeral, for in the North fairies do die, and green shady spots are pointed out by the country folks as the cemeteries of the tiny people.

    Source: James Halliwell-Phillipps, Popular Rhymes and Nursery Tales (London: John Russell Smith, 1849), p. 51.

    The King o' the Cats - England

    One winter's evening the sexton's wife was sitting by the fireside with her big black cat, Old Tom, on the other side, both half asleep and waiting for the master to come home. They waited and they waited, but still he didn't come, till at last he came rushing in, calling out, "Who's Tommy Tildrum?" in such a wild way that both his wife and his cat stared at him to know what was the matter.

    "Why, what's the matter?" said his wife. "And why do you want to know who Tommy Tildrum is?"

    "Oh, I've had such an adventure. I was digging away at old Mr. Fordyce's grave when I suppose I must have dropped asleep, and only woke up by hearing a cat's meow."

    "Meow!" said Old Tom in answer.

    "Yes, just like that! So I looked over the edge of the grave, and what do you think I saw?"

    "Now, how can I tell?" said the sexton's wife.

    "Why, nine black cats all like our friend Tom here, all with a white spot on their chestesses. And what do you think they were carrying? Why, a small coffin covered with a black velvet pall, and on the pall was a small coronet all of gold, and at every third step they took they cried all together, 'Meow --'"

    "Meow!" said Old Tom again.

    "Yes, just like that!" said the sexton. "And as they came nearer and nearer to me I could see them more distinctly, because their eyes shone out with a sort of green light. Well, they all came towards me, eight of them carrying the coffin and the biggest cat of all walking in front for all the world like -- but look at our Tom, how he's looking at me. You'd think he knew all I was saying."

    "Go on, go on," said his wife. "Never mind Old Tom."

    "Well, as I was a-saying, they came towards me slowly and solemnly, and at every third step crying all together, 'Meow --'"

    "Meow!" said Old Tom again.

    "Yes, just like that, till they came and stood right opposite Mr. Fordyce's grave, where I was, when they all stood still and looked straight at me. I did feel queer, that I did! But look at Old Tom. He's looking at me just like they did."

    "Go on, go on," said his wife. "Never mind Old Tom."

    "Where was I? Oh, they all stood still looking at me, when the one that wasn't carrying the coffin came forward and, staring straight at me, said to me -- yes, I tell 'ee, said to me -- with a squeaky voice, 'Tell Tom Tildrum that Tim Toldrum's dead,' and that's why I asked you if you knew who Tom Tildrum was, for how can I tell Tom Tildrum Tim Toldrum's dead if I don't know who Tom Tildrum is?"

    "Look at Old Tom! Look at Old Tom!" screamed his wife.

    And well he might look, for Tom was swelling, and Tom was staring, and at last Tom shrieked out, "What -- old Tim dead! Then I'm the King o' the Cats!" and rushed up the chimney and was never more seen.

    Source: Joseph Jacobs, More English Fairy Tales (London: David Nutt, 1894), pp. 156-158.

    The Stone Table of the Saxon Kings- Cornwall

    At a short distance from Sennen church, and near the end of a cottage, is a block of granite, nearly eight feet long, and about three feet high. This rock is known as the Table-mên, or Table-main, which appears to signify the stone-table. At Bosavern, in St. Just, is a somewhat similar flat stone; and the same story attaches to each. It is to the effect that some Saxon Kings used the stone as a dining table. The number has been variously stated; some traditions fixing on three kings, others on seven. Hals is far more explicit; for, as he says, on the authority of the chronicle of Samuel Daniell; they were -- Ethelbert, 5th king of Kent; Cissa, 2d king of the South Saxons; Kingills, 6th king of the West Saxons; Sebert, 3d king of the East Saxons; Ethelfred, 7th king of the Northumbers; Penda, 5th king of the Mercians; Sigebert, 5th king of the East Angles, -- all who flourished about the year 600. At a point where the four parishes of Zennor, Morvah, Gulval, and Madron meet, is a flat stone with a cross cut on it. The Saxon kings are also said to have dined on this. The only tradition which is known amongst the peasantry of Sennen is, that Prince Arthur and the Kings who aided him against the Danes, in the great battle fought near Vellan-Drucher, dined on the Table-mên, after which they defeated the Danes.

    Source: Robert Hunt, Popular Romances of the West of England; or, The Drolls, Traditions, and Superstitions of Old Cornwall (London: John Camden Hotten, 1871), pp. 180.

    The Rollright Stones - England

    The "Druidical" Stones at Rollright, Oxfordshire, are said to have been originally a general and his army who were transformed into stones by a magician. The tradition runs that there was a prophecy or oracle which told the general,--

    If Long Compton thou canst see,
    King of England thou shalt be.

    He was within a few yard of the spot whence that town could be observed, when his progress was stopped by the magician's transformation,--

    Sink down man, and rise up stone!
    King of England thou shalt be none.

    The general was transformed into a large stone which stands on a spot from which Long Compton is not visible, but on ascending a slight rise close to it, the town is revealed to view. Roger Gale, writing in 1719, says that whoever dared to contradict this story was regarded "as a most audacious freethinker." It is said that no man could ever count these stones, and that a baker once attempted it by placing a penny loaf on each of them, but somehow or other he failed in counting his own bread.A similar tale is related of Stonehenge.

    Source: James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps, Popular Rhymes and Nursery Tales (London: John Russell Smith, 1849), pp. 193-194.

    John Barleycorn - England

    There were three men came from the west
    Their fortune for to try,
    And these three men they did agree
    John Barleycorn should die.
    Fol the dol the diddi ay,
    Fol the dol the diddi aygeewo

    They ploughed him down a furrow deep
    The drags went over his head;
    They vowed and swore and did declare
    John Barleycorn was dead.
    Fol the dol the diddi ay,
    Fol the dol the diddi aygeewo

    And there he lay for a full fortnight
    Till the dews from Heaven did fall,
    When Barleycorn sprung up again
    And that surprised them all.
    Fol the dol the diddi ay,
    Fol the dol the diddi aygeewo

    And there he remained till midsummer day
    And looked so pale and wan,
    And then his beard began to grow
    And he soon became a man.
    Fol the dol the diddi ay,
    Fol the dol the diddi aygeewo

    They sent men with scythes so sharp,
    To cut him off at knee,
    And then poor John Barleycorn
    They served him barbarously.
    Fol the dol the diddi ay,
    Fol the dol the diddi aygeewo

    O Barleycorn is the choicest grain
    That ever was sown on land;
    It will do more than anything
    By the turning of your hand.
    Fol the dol the diddi ay,
    Fol the dol the diddi aygeewo

    Source: This version was sung by John Stafford, aged 58, at Bishop's Sutton, Somerset, 27 August 1906. The earliest known copy of this song is in the form of a black-letter broadside printed in the reign of James II. The singer (of this version) told Cecil Sharp that he heard the song from some street-singers as they passed through his village when he was a child.

    Bull, Tup, Cock and Steg - England

    A bull, a tup [1], a cock, and a steg [2] set out together to seek their fortune. When it got to night, they came to a house, and asked for a night's lodging, but the folks said no. However, at last they were let come into the kitchen. The bull said he would lie on the floor, the tup said he would lie by his side, the cock would perch on the rannel bank, and the steg would stand at t' back of the door. At midnight, when all was quiet, two men, meaning to rob the house, were heard parleying outside which should go in, and which watch outside. One went in, the bull got up and knocked him about, the tup did the same, and the cock said, "Fetch him here, I'll pick out his eyen." So he says, "I'd best be out of this." As he went to the door, the steg took him by the nose with its neb, and beat him with its wings. The other said when he got out, "What have you done?" - "Done!" says he, "The devil knocked me about; when he'd done, one of his imps set on. A thin wi' glowering eyen said, 'Fetch him here,' etc. and when I got to the door, a blacksmith took me by the snout with his tongs, and flapped me by the lugs with his leather apron."

    Source: Folk-Lore, vol. 20 (1909), pp. 75-76. Collected in Gainford, County Durham, by Alice Ecleston, circa 1893.

    Notes: [1] A Ram. [2] A Gander (Male Goose).

    Give Me My Bone - England

    Once upon a time there was a teeny-tiny woman lived in a teeny-tiny house in a teeny-tiny village.

    Now, one day this teeny-tiny woman put on her teeny-tiny bonnet, and went out of her teeny-tiny house to take a teeny-tiny walk. And when this teeny-tiny woman had gone a teeny-tiny way she came to a teeny-tiny gate. So the teeny-tiny woman opened the teeny-tiny gate, and went into a teeny-tiny churchyard. And when this teeny-tiny woman had got into the teeny-tiny churchyard, she saw a teeny-tiny bone on a teeny-tiny grave, and the teeny-tiny woman said to her teeny-tiny self, "This teeny-tiny bone will make me some teeny-tiny soup for my teeny-tiny supper."

    So the teeny-tiny woman put the teeny-tiny bone into her teeny-tiny pocket, and went home to her teeny-tiny house.

    Now when the teeny-tiny woman got home to her teeny-tiny house she was a teeny-tiny bit tired. So she went up her teeny-tiny stairs to her teeny-tiny bed, and put the teeny-tiny bone into a teeny-tiny cupboard. And when this teeny-tiny woman had been to sleep a teeny-tiny time, she was awakened by a teeny-tiny voice from the teeny-tiny cupboard, which said,

    "Give me my bone!"

    And this teeny-tiny woman was a teeny-tiny frightened, so she hid her teeny-tiny head under the teeny-tiny clothes and went to sleep again. And when she had been to sleep again a teeny-tiny time, the teeny-tiny voice again cried out from the teeny-tiny cupboard a teeny-tiny louder,

    "Give me my bone!"

    This made the teeny-tiny woman a teeny-tiny more frightened, so he hid her teeny-tiny head a teeny-tiny further under the teeny-tiny clothes. And when the teeny-tiny woman had been to sleep again a teeny-tiny time, the teeny-tiny voice from the teeny-tiny cupboard said again a teeny-tiny louder,

    "Give me my bone!"

    And this teeny-tiny woman was a teeny-tiny bit more frightened, but she put her teeny-tiny head out of the teeny-tiny clothes, and said in her loudest teeny-tiny voice, "TAKE IT!"

    Source: Joseph Jacobs, English Fairy Tales ( London: David Nutt, 1898), no. 12, pp. 57-58. Jacobs' source: J. O. Halliwell, Nursery Rhymes and Nursery Tales (London, 1843), p. 148.

    The Piskie Riders - Cornwall

    I was on a visit when a boy at a farmhouse situated near Fowey river. Well do I remember the farmer with much sorrow telling us one morning at breakfast, that "the piskie people had been riding Tom again;" and this he regarded as certainly leading to the destruction of a fine young horse. I was taken to the stable to see the horse. There could be no doubt that the animal was much distressed, and refused to eat his food. The mane was said to be knotted into fairy stirrups; and Mr -- told me that he had no doubt at least twenty small people had sat upon the horse's neck. He even assured me that one of his men had seen them urging the horse to his utmost speed round and round one of his fields.

    Source : Hunt, Robert, editor (1807-1887). Popular Romances of the West of England: Or the Drolls, Traditions, and Superstitions of Old Cornwall. 2nd Ed. 1871. London: John Camden, page 87.

    The Sons of the North Wind - Western Isles (Ireland / Scotland)

    The North Wind had three sons. These sons of the North Wind were called White Feet, and White Wings, and White Hands. When White Feet, White Wings and White Hands first came into our world from the unseen realms, they were so beautiful that many mortals died from beholding them, while others dared not to look, but fled away affrighted into woods or far off places. So when these three sons of the Great Chieftain saw that they were too shining for the eyes of the Earth-bound, they returned beyond the gates of the Sunset and took counsel with the Ollathair (All Father).

    When, through the gates of the Dawn, they came again into this world, they were no longer visible to men nor, through all the long grey reaches of the years, has any since been seen of mortal eyes. Yet how are they known, these sons of the North Wind? They were known of old, and they are known still, only by the white feet of one treading the waves of the sea; and by the white rustle and shine of a host of tiny plumes as another unfolds great wings above hills and valleys, woodlands and garths, and the homes of men; and by the white silence of a dream that the third lays upon unstill waters, and the windless boughs of trees, upon the silent tarn, upon the bracken by the unfalling hill stream hanging like a scarf among the rock and rowan. We know them now only by the shine of their passing and we call them the Polar Wind, Snow and Ice yet fairer are their ancient names, known since the dawning of the day, of White Feet, White Wings, White Hands.

    Source: A tale told around the peat fires until the first quarter of this century in the Western Isles, recorded by William Sharp. This version modified slightly but retaining the names used for the mythic characters.

    Notes: Ollathair (All Father) is directly equivalent to the Norse "Alfathir" and "Alfodhur" both meaning "All-Father". These are terms used to describe Odin but also to refer to an amorphous concept of a creative intelligence behind all things. Compare this tale to "The Founding of Norway" in the Orkneyinga Saga which lists a genealogy of snow, ice and wind beings of a very similar nature (see "Tales from the Northern Myths", Volume One, edited by Shaun D. L. Brassfield-Thorburnpe, published by Stav Marketing & Publishing).

    Origin of The Slugan Stone - Scotland

    The Norwegians once made a sudden descent from their ships on the lower end of Craignish. The inhabitants, taken by surprise, fled in terror to the upper end of the district, and halted not until they reached the Slugan (gorge) of Gleann-Domhuinn, or the Deep Glen. There, however, they rallied under a brave young man, who threw himself at their head, and slew, either with a spear or an arrow, the leader of the invaders. This inspired the Craignish men with such courage that they soon drove back their disheartened enemies across Barbreck river. The latter, in retreating, carried off the body of their fallen leader, and buried it afterwards on a place on Barbreck farm, which is still called Dùnan-Amhlaidh, or Olav's Mound. The Craignish men also raised a stone at Slugan to mark the spot where Olav fell.

    Source: Lord Archibald Campbell, Waifs and Strays of Celtic Tradition, Argyllshire Series, vol. 1 (London: David Nutt, 1889), pp. 11-12. Campbell's title for this piece is "The Battle between the Craignish People and the Lochluinnich Norwegians at Slugan."

    The Fairies' Hill - Scotland

    There is a green hill above Kintraw, known as the Fairies' Hill, of which the following story is told.

    Many years ago, the wife of the farmer at Kintraw fell ill and died, leaving two or three young children. The Sunday after the funeral the farmer and his servants went to church, leaving the children at home in charge of the eldest, a girl of about ten years of age. On the farmer's return the children told him their mother had been to see them, and had combed their hair and dressed them. As they still persisted in their statement after being remonstrated with, they were punished for telling what was not true.

    The following Sunday the same thing occurred again. The father now told the children, if their mother came again, they were in inquire of her why she came. Next Sunday, when she reappeared, the eldest child put her father's question to her, when the mother told them she had been carried off by the "Good People" (Daione Sìth), and could only get away for an hour or two on Sundays, and should her coffin be opened it would be found to contain only a withered leaf.The farmer, much perplexed, went to the minister for advice, who scoffed at the idea of any supernatural connection with the children's story, ridiculed the existence of "Good People," and would not allow the coffin to be opened. The matter was therefore allowed to rest. But, some little time after, the minister, who had gone to Lochgilphead for the day, was found lying dead near the Fairies' Hill, a victim, many people thought, to the indignation of the Fairy world he had laughed at.

    Source: Lord Archibald Campbell, Waifs and Strays of Celtic Tradition, Argyllshire Series, vol. 1 (London: David Nutt, 1889), p. 71-72. Campbell's source: Mrs. Annie Thorburnpe née Miss MacDougall of Lunga, Ardbecknish, Lochow.

    The Fair Folk - Scotland

    "The fair folk" were most covetous of new-born children and their mothers. Till the mothers were "sained" and churched, and the children were baptized, the most strict watch and ward had to be kept over them to keep them from being stolen. Every seven years they had to pay "the teind to hell," and to save them from paying this tribute with one of themselves they were ever on the alert to get hold of human infants.

    There came a wind oot o' the north,
    A sharp wind and a snell;
    And a dead sleep came over me,
    And frae my horse I fell;
    The Queen of Fairies she was there,
    And took me to hersel.
    And never would I tire, Janet,
    In fairyland to dwell,
    But aye, at every seven years
    They pay the teind to hell;
    And though the Queen macks much o' me
    I fear 'twill be mysel.

    Sometimes they succeeded in carrying off an unbaptized infant, and for it they left one of their own. The one left by them soon began to "dwine," and to fret and cry night and day. At times the child has been saved from them as they were carrying it through the dog-hole. A fisherman had a fine thriving baby. One day what looked like a beggar woman entered the house. She went to the cradle in which the baby was lying, and handled it under pretence of admiring it. From that day the child did nothing but fret and cry and waste away. This had gone on for some months, when one day a beggar man entered asking alms. As he was getting his alms his eye lighted upon the infant in the cradle. After looking on it for some time he said, "That's nae a bairn; that's an image; the bairn's been stoun." He immediately set to work to bring back the child. He heaped up a large fire on the hearth, and ordered a black hen to be brought to him. When the fire was blazing at its full strength, he took the hen and held her over the fire as near it as possible, so as not to kill her. The bird struggled for a little, then escaped from the man's grasp, and flew out by the "lum." The child was restored, and throve every day afterwards.Another. A strong healthy boy in the parish of Tyrie began to "dwine." The real baby had been stolen. A wise woman gave the means of bringing him back. His clothes were to be taken to a south-running well, washed, laid out to dry beside the well, and most carefully watched. This was done for some time, but no one came to take them away. The next thing to be done was to take the child himself and lay him between two furrows in a cornfield. This was carried out, and the child throve daily afterwards. All this was annoying to the "fair folk," and rather than submit to such annoyance they restored the child, and took back their own one. One day a fisherwoman with her baby was left a-bed alone, when in came a little man dressed in green. He proceeded at once to lay hold of the baby. The woman knew at once who the little man was and what he intended to do. She uttered the prayer, "God be atween you an me." Out rushed the fairy in a moment, and the woman and her baby were left without further molestation.

    Source: Walter Gregor, Notes on the Folk-Lore of the North-East of Scotland, (London: Folk-Lore Society, 1881), p. 60-62.
    Lík börn leika best.

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    The Two Dragons - Wales

    During the fifth century, Vortigern, King of the Celtic Britons was being hard pressed by the invading Anglo-Saxons, and so he decided to build a stronghold in Snowdonia. He chose to build the hill-fort on a domed shaped mound near the settlement of Beddgelert, and set his stone masons to work. The masons began building quickly and with good heart, yet when the next sunrise came they discovered that all their building materials had vanished mysteriously.

    The same thing occurred the morning following, and then yet again the morning after this; on each of these occasions, all the materials had vanished overnight. Furious and powerless at the lack of his fortress' progress, Vortigern consulted all his magicians and sorcerers. These told the King that he would be successful in building the fort only if he sprinkled the foundations with blood stemming from a boy born without a father.

    One such "Child-of-Wonder" - born from a human mother and an Otherworldly father - was a lad known as Myrddin - he lived close by. Myrddin was duly brought before Vortigern, and there he was made ready for the sacrifice.

    Myrddin was, however, Merlin the wizard - He who possessed a great number of magical powers and he who had the gift of vision. He told the king that the foundations of his fortress were being undermined by two dragons who lay in fitful slumber in an under-worldly lake beneath the mound.

    Vortigern's own wizards advised him to ignore Myrddin's words and carry out the sacrifice upon him as they had planned. Yet Vortigern was uncertain of the wisdom of this.... He eventually decided to pay heed to the boy, and had his men dig down deep beneath the foundations of the fortress.

    As Myrddin had foretold, beneath the foundations of the fortress they discovered a large underground lake. Vortigern gave orders for it to be drained dry and the two sleeping dragons were found - one white and one red.

    These two dragons awoke and began to fight brutally. The battle was long and filled with blood, fire and terror, for these beasts were well matched, and yet finally the red dragon was victorious, and then the white dragon turned and fled from the battle-ground.

    Myrddin explained all this to Vortigern; that the white dragon represented the Anglo-Saxons, and the red dragon represented the Welsh - who, in the fullness of time, would once again conquer and reclaim their lands. It is said that this is how the Red Dragon became the symbol of Wales. Vortigern's fortress was completed without further delay. Myrddin revealed his true identity to the King, explaining he was Myrddin and that he was also known as Emrys. As thanks to Myrddin, Vortigern named his newly built fort after him - Dinas Emrys.

    Source : Based upon Welsh legend and folktale. This reversion freely retold by Shaun Brassfield-Thorburnpe.

    The Changeling Twins of Corwrion - Wales

    Once on a time, in the fourteenth century, the wife of a man at Corwrion had twins, and she complained one day to a witch, who lived close by, at Tydyn y Barcud, that the children were not getting on, but that they were always crying day and night.

    "Are you sure that they are your children?" asked the witch, adding that it did not seem to her that they were like hers.

    "I have my doubts also," said the mother.

    "I wonder if somebody has exchanged children with you," said the witch.

    "I do not know," said the mother. "But why do you not seek to know?" asked the other.

    "But how am I to go about it?" said the mother.

    The witch replied, "Go and do something rather strange before their eyes and watch what they will say to one another."

    "Well, I do not know what I should do," said the mother.

    "Well," said the other, "take an eggshell, and proceed to brew beer in it in a chamber aside, and come here to tell me what the children will say about it." She went home and did as the witch had directed her, when the two children lifted their heads out of the cradle to find what she was doing--to watch and to listen. Then one observed to the other,

    "I remember seeing an oak having an acorn," to which the other replied,

    "And I remember seeing a hen having an egg"; and one of the two added,

    "But I do not remember before seeing anybody brew beer in the shell of a hen's egg."

    The mother then went to the witch and told her what the twins had said one to the other; and she directed her to go to a small wooden bridge not far off, with one of the strange children under each arm, and there to drop them from the bridge into the river beneath. The mother went back home again and did as she had been directed. When she reached home this time, she found to her astonishment that her own children had been brought back.

    Source: John Rhys, Celtic Folklore: Welsh and Manx (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1901), vol. 1, pp. 62-63.

    A Legend of the Banshee - Ireland

    The Reverend Charles Bunworth was rector of Buttevant, in the county of Cork, about the middle of the last century. lie was a man of unaffected piety, and of sound learning; pure in heart, and benevolent in intention. By the rich he was respected, and by the poor beloved; nor did a difference of creed prevent their looking up to ." the minister "(so was Mr. Bunworth called by them) in matters of difficulty and in seasons of distress, confident of receiving from him the advice and assistance that a father would afford to his children. He was the friend and' the benefactor of the surrounding country - to him, from the neighbouring town of Newmarket, came both Curran and Yelverton for advice and instruction, previous to their entrance at Dublin College. Young, indigent and inexperienced, these afterwards eminent men received from him, in addition to the advice they sought, pecuniary aid; and the brilliant career which was theirs, justified the discrimination of the giver.

    But what extended the fame of Mr. Bunworth far beyond the limits of the parishes adjacent to his own, was his performance on the Irish harp, and his hospitable reception and entertainment of the poor harpers who travelled from house to house about the country. Grateful to their patron, these itinerant minstrels sang his praises to the tingling accompaniment of their harps, invoking in return for his bounty abundant blessings on his white head, and celebrating in their rude verses the blooming charms of his daughters, Elizabeth and Mary. It was all these poor fellows could do; but who can doubt that their gratitude was sincere, when, at the time of Mr. Bunworth's death, no less than fifteen harps were deposited on the loft of his granary, bequeathed to him by the last members of a race which has now ceased to exist, Trifling, no doubt, in intrinsic value were these relics, yet there is something in gifts of the heart that merits preservation; and it is to be regretted that, when he died, these harps were broken up one after the other, and used as fire-wood by an ignorant follower of the family, who, on their remove to Cork for a temporary change of scene; was left in charge of the house.

    The circumstances attending the death of Mr. Bunworth may be doubted by some; but there are still living credible witnesses who declare their authenticity, and who can be produced to attest most, if not all of the following particulars.

    About a week previous to his dissolution, and early in the evening, a noise was heard at the hall-door resembling the shearing of sheep; but at the time no particular attention was paid to it. It was nearly eleven o'clock the same night, when Kavanagh, the herdsman, returned from Mallow, whither he had been sent in the afternoon for some medicine, and was observed by Miss Bunworth, to whom he delivered the parcel, to be much agitated. At this time, it must be observed, her father was by no means considered in danger.

    "What is the matter, Kavanagh?" asked Miss Bunworth: but the poor fellow, with a bewildered look, only uttered, "The master, Miss - the master - he is going from us;" and, overcome with real grief, he burst into a flood of tears.

    Miss Bunworth, who was a woman of strong nerve, enquired if any thing he bad learned in Mallow induced him to suppose that her' father was worse.

    " No, Miss," said Kavanagh; "it was not in Mallow -"

    "Kavanagh," said Miss Bunworth, with that stateliness of manner for which she is said to have been remarkable, "I fear you have been drinking, which, I must say, I did not expect at such a time as the present, when it was your duty to have kept yourself sober ; - I thought you might have been trusted: - what should we have done if you had broken the medicine. bottle, or lost it? for the doctor said it was of the greatest consequence that your master should take the medicine to-night. But I will speak to you in the morning, when you are in a fitter state to under-stand what I say."

    Kavanagh looked up with a stupidity of aspect which did not serve to remove the impression of his being drunk, as his eyes appeared heavy and dull after the flood of tears - but his voice was not that of an intoxicated person.

    Miss," said he," as I hope to receive mercy hereafter, neither bit nor sup has passed my lips since I left this house: but the master ----"

    "Speak softly," said Miss Bunworth; "he sleeps, and is going on as well as we could expect."

    Praise be to God for that, any way," replied Kavanagh; " but oh! Miss, he is going from us surely - we will lose him-the master - we will lose him, we will lose him!" and he wrung his hands together.

    "What is it you mean, Kavanagh?" asked Miss Bunworth.

    "Is it mean?" said Kavanagh: "the Banshee has come for him, Miss; and 'tis not I alone who have heard her."

    " 'Tis an idle superstition," said Miss Bunworth.

    "May be so," replied Kavanagh, as if the words idle superstition only sounded upon his ear without reaching his mind - "May be so," he continued; "but as I came through the glen of Ballybeg, she was along with me keening, and screeching, and clapping her hands, by my side, every step of the way, with her long white hair failing about her shoulders, and I could hear her repeat the master's name every now and then, as plain as ever I heard it. When I came to the old abbey, she parted from me there, and turned into the pigeon-field next the berrin ground, and folding her cloak about her, down she sat under the tree that was struck by the lightning, and began keening so bitterly, that it went through one's heart to hear it."

    " Kavanagh," said Miss Bunworth, who had, however, listened attentively to this remarkable relation, " my father is, I believe, better; and I hope will himself soon be up and able to convince you that all this is but your own fancy; nevertheless, I charge you not to mention what you have told me, for there is no occasion to frighten your fellow servants with the story."

    Mr. Bunworth gradually declined; but nothing particular occurred until the night previous to his death: that night both his daughters, exhausted with continued attendance and watching, were prevailed upon to seek some repose; and an elderly lady, a near relative and friend of the family, remained by the bedside of their father. The old gentleman then lay in the parlour, where he had been in the morning removed at his own request, fancying the change would afford him relief; and the head of his bed was placed close to the window. In a room adjoining sat some male friends, and, as usual on like occasions of illness, in the kitchen many of the followers of the family had assembled.

    The night was serene and moonlight-the sick man slept - and nothing broke the stillness of their melancholy watch, when the little party in the room adjoining the parlour, the door of which stood open, was suddenly roused by a sound. at the window near the bed: a rose-tree grew out-side the window, so close as to touch the glass; this was forced aside with some noise, and a low moaning was heard, accompanied by clapping. of hands, as if of a female in deep affliction. It seemed as if the sound proceeded from a person holding her mouth close to the window. The lady who sat by the bedside of Mr. Bunworth went into the adjoining room, and in the tone of alarm, enquired of the gentlemen there, if they had heard the Banshee? Sceptical of super natural appearances, two of them rose hastily and went out to discover the cause of these sounds, which they also had distinctly heard. They walked all round the house, examining every spot of ground, particularly near the window from the voice had proceeded; the bed of earth beneath, in which the rose tree was planted, had been recently dug, and the print of a footstep - if the tree had been forced aside by mortal hand - would have inevitably remained; but they could perceive no such impression; and an unbroken stillness reigned without. Hoping to dispel the mystery, they continued their search anxiously along the road, from the straightness of which and the' lightness of the night, 'they were enabled to see some distance around them; but all was silent and deserted, and they returned surprised and disappointed. How much more then were 'they astonished at learning that the whole time of their absence, those who remained within the house had heard the moaning and clapping of hands even louder and more distinct than before they had gone out; and no sooner was the door of the room closed on them, than they again heard the same mournful sounds! Every succeeding ,hour the sick man became worse, and as the first glimpse of the morning appeared, Mr. Bunworth expired.

    Source: Thomas Crofton Croker, "Fairy Legends and Traditions", Chapter XII, 1825

    John Connors and the Fairies - Ireland

    There was a man named John Connors, who lived near Killarney, and was the father of seven small children, all daughters and no sons. Connors fell into such rage and anger at having so many daughters, without any sons, that when the seventh daughter was born he would not come from the field to see the mother or the child.

    When the time came for christening he wouldn't go for sponsors, and didn't care whether the wife lived or died. A couple of years after that a son was born to him, and some of the women ran to the field and told John Connors that he was the father of a fine boy. Connors was so delighted that he caught the spade he had with him and broke it on the ditch. He hurried home then and sent for bread and meat, with provisions of all kinds to supply the house.

    "There are no people in the parish," said he to the wife, "fit co stand sponsors for this boy, and when night comes I'll ride over to the next parish and find sponsors there."

    When night came he bridled and saddled his horse, mounted, and rode away toward the neighbouring parish to invite a friend and his wife to be godfather and godmother to his son. The village to which he was going was Beaufort, south of Killarney. There was a public-house on the road. Connors stepped in and treated the bystanders, delayed there a while, and then went his way. When he had gone a couple of miles he met a stranger riding on a white horse, a good-looking gentlemen wearing red knee-breeches, swallow-tailed coat, and a Caroline hat (a tall hat) .

    The stranger saluted John Connors, and John returned the salute. The stranger asked where was he going at such an hour.

    "I'm going;' said Connors, "to Beaufort to find sponsors for my young son."

    "Oh, you foolish man," said the stranger; "you left the road a mile behind you. Turn back and take the left hand."

    John Connors turned back as directed, but never came to a cross road. He was riding about half an hour when he met the same gentleman, who asked: "Are you the man I met a while ago going to Beaufort?"

    "I am."

    "Why, you fool, you passed the road a mile or more behind. Turn back and take the right hand road. What trouble is on you that you cannot see a road when you are passing it?"

    Connors turned and rode on for an hour or so, but found no side road. The same stranger met him for the third time, and asked him the same question, and told him he must turn back. "But the night is so far gone; ' said he, "that you'd better not be waking people. My house is near by. Stay with me till morning. You can go for the sponsors to-morrow."

    John Connors thanked the stranger and said he would go with him. The stranger took him to a fine castle then, and told him to dismount and come in.

    "Your horse will be taken care of;' said he, "I have servants enough." John Connors rode a splendid white horse, and the like of him wasn’t in the country round. The gentleman had a good supper brought to Connors. After supper he showed him a bed and said, "Take off your clothes and sleep soundly till morning."

    When Connors was asleep the stranger took the clothes, formed a corpse just like John Connors, put the clothes on it, tied the body to the horse, and leading the beast outside, turned its head towards home. He kept John Connors asleep in bed for three weeks.

    The horse went towards home and reached the village next morning. The people saw the horse with the dead body on its back, and all thought it was the body of John Connors. Everybody began to cry and lament for their neighbour. He was taken off the horse, stripped, washed, laid out on the table. There was a great wake that night, everybody mourning and lamenting over him, for wasn't he a good man and the father of a large family? The priest was sent for to celebrate mass and attend the funeral, which he did. There was a large funeral.

    Three weeks later John Connors was roused from his sleep by the gentleman, who came to him and said:

    "It is high time for you to be waking. Your son is christened. The wife, thinking you would never come, had the child baptized, and the priest found sponsors. Your horse stole away from here and went home."

    "Sure then I am not long sleeping?"

    "Indeed, then, you are: it is three whole days and nights that you are in that bed."

    John Connors sat up and looked around for his clothes, but if he did he could not see a stitch of them. "Where are my clothes?" asked he. "I know nothing of your clothes, my man, and the sooner you go out o' this the better."

    Poor John was astonished. "God help me, how am I to go home without my clothes? If I had a shirt itself, it wouldn't be so bad; but to go without a rag at all on me!"

    "Don't be talking," said the man; "take a sheet and be off with yourself. I have no time to lose on the like of you."

    John grew in dread of the man, and taking the sheet, went out. When well away from the place he turned to look at the castle and its owner, but if he did there was nothing before him but fields and ditches.

    The time as it happened was Sunday morning, and Connors saw at some distance down the road people on their way to mass. He hurried to the fields for fear of being seen by somebody. He kept the fields and walked close to the ditches till he reached the side of a hill, and went along by that, keeping well out of sight. As he was nearing his own village at the side of the mountain there happened to be three or four little boys looking for stray sheep. Seeing Connors, they knew him as the dead man buried three weeks before. They screamed and ran away home, some of them falling with fright. When they came to the village they cried that they had seen John Connors, and he with a sheet on him.

    Now, it is the custom in Ireland when a person dies to sprinkle holy water on the clothes of the deceased and then give them to poor people or to friends for God's sake. It is thought that by giving the clothes in this way the former owner has them to use in the other world. The person who wears the clothes must wear them three times to mass one Sunday after another and sprinkle them each time with holy water. After that they may be worn as the person likes.

    When the women of the village heard the story of the boys some of them went to the widow and said:

    "'Tis your fault that your husband's ghost is roaming around in nakedness. You didn't give away his clothes."

    "I did, indeed," said the wife. "I did my part, but it must be that the man I gave them to didn't wear them to mass, and that is why my poor husband is naked in the other world."

    Now she went straight to the relative and neighbour who got the clothes. As she entered the man was sitting down to breakfast.

    "Bad luck to you, you heathen!" said she. "I did not think you the man to leave my poor John naked in the other world. You neither went to mass in the clothes I gave you nor sprinkled holy water on them."

    "I did, indeed. This is the third Sunday since John died, and I went to mass this morning for the third time. Sure I'd be a heathen to keep a relative naked in the other world. It wasn’t your husband that the boys saw at all."

    She went home then, satisfied that everything had been done as it should be.

    An uncle of John Connors lived in the same village. He was a rich farmer and kept a servant girl and a servant boy. The turf bog was not far away, and all the turf at the house being burned, the servant girl was told to go down to the reek and bring home a creel of turf. She went to the reek and was filling her creel, when she happened to look towards the far end of the reek, and there she saw a man sticking his head out from behind the turf, and he with a sheet on him. She looked a second time and saw John Connors. The girl screamed, threw down the creel, and ran away, falling every few steps from terror. It was to the reek that Connors had gone, to wait there in hiding till dark. After that he could go to his own house without any one seeing him.

    The servant girl fell senseless across the farmer's threshold, and when she recovered she said: "John Connors is below in the bog behind the reek of turf, and nothing but a sheet on him."

    The farmer and the servant boy laughed at her and said: "This is the way with you always when there's work to do."

    The boy started off to bring the turf himself, but as he was coming near the reek John Connors thrust his head out, and the boy ran home screeching worse than the girl. Nobody would go near the creek now, and the report went out that John Connors was below in the bog minding the turf. Early that evening John Connors' wife made her children go on their knees and offer up the rosary for the repose of their father's soul. After the rosary they went to bed in a room together, but were not long in it when there was a rap at the door. The poor woman asked who was outside. John Connors answered that it was himself.

    "May the Almighty God and His Blessed Mother give rest to your soul!" cried the wife, and the children crossed themselves and covered their heads with the bedclothes. They were in dread he'd come in through the keyhole; they knew a ghost could do that if it wished.

    John went to the window of two panes of glass and was tapping at that. The poor woman looked out, and there she saw her husband's face. She began to pray again for the repose of his soul, but he called out:

    "Bad luck to you, won't you open the door to me or throw out some clothes? I am perishing from cold."

    This only convinced the woman more surely. John didn't like to break the door, and as it was strong, it wouldn't be easy for him to break it, so he left the house and went to his uncle's. When he came to the door all the family were on their knees repeating the rosary for the soul of John Connors. He knocked, and the servant girl rose up to see who was outside. She unbolted and unlatched the door, opened it a bit, but seeing Connors, she came near cutting his nose off, she shut it that quickly in his face. She bolted the door then and began to scream: "John Connors' ghost is haunting me! Not another day or night will I stay in the house if I live to see morning!"

    All the family fastened themselves in in a room and threw themselves into bed, forgetting to undress or to finish their prayers. John Connors began to kick the door, but nobody would open it; then he tapped at the window and begged the uncle to let him in or put out some clothes to him, but the uncle and children were out of their wits with fear.

    The doctor's house was the next one, and Connors thought to himself, "I might as well go to the doctor and tell all to him; tell him that the village is gone mad." So he made his way to the doctor's, but the servant boy there roared and screeched from terror when he saw him, ran to his master, and said, "John Connors' ghost is below at the door, and not a thing but a sheet on him."

    "You were always a fool," said the doctor. "There is never a host in this world."

    "God knows, then, the ghost of John Connors is at the door," said the boy.

    To convince the boy, the master raised the upper window. He looked out and saw the ghost sure enough. Down went the window with a slap. "Don't open the door!" cried the doctor. "He is below; there is some mystery in this."

    Since the doctor wouldn't let him in any more than the others, John Connors was cursing and swearing terribly.

    "God be good to us," said the doctor. "His soul must be damned, for if his soul was in purgatory it is not cursing and swearing he'd be, but praying. Surely, 'tis damned he is, and the Lord have mercy on the people of this village; but I won't stay another day in it; I'll move to the town to-morrow morning."

    Now John left the doctor's house and went to the priest, thinking that he could make all clear to the priest, for everybody else had gone mad. He knocked at the priest's door and the housekeeper opened it. She screamed and ran away, but left the door open behind her. As she was running towards the stairs she fell, and the priest, hearing the fall, hurried out to see what the matter was.

    "Oh, Father," cried the housekeeper, "John Connors' ghost is below in the kitchen, and he with only a sheet on him!"

    "Not true," said the priest. "There is never a person seen after parting with this world."

    The words were barely out of his mouth when the ghost was there before him.

    "In the name of God," said the priest, "are you dead or alive? You must be dead, for I said mass in your house, and you a corpse on the table, and I was at your funeral."

    "How can you be foolish like the people of the village? I'm alive. Who would kill me?"

    "God, who kills everybody, and but for your being dead, how was I to be asked to your funeral?"

    "'Tis all a mistake," said John. "If it's dead I was it isn't here I'd be talking to you to-night."

    "If you are alive, where are your clothes?"

    "I don't know where they are or how they went from me, but I haven't them, sure enough."

    "Go into the kitchen," said the priest. "I'll bring you clothes, and then you must tell me what happened to you."

    When John had the clothes on he told the priest the day the child was born he went to Beaufort for sponsors, and, being late, he met a gentleman, who sent him back and forth on the road and then took him to his house. "I went to bed," said John, "and slept till he waked me. My clothes were gone from me then, and I had nothing to wear but an old sheet. More than this I don't know: but everybody runs from me, and my wife won't let me into the house." "Oh, then, it's Daniel O'Donohue, King of Lochlein, that played the trick on you," said the priest. "Why didn't you get sponsors at home in this parish for your son as you did for your daughters? For the remainder of your life show no partiality to son or daughter among your children. It would be a just punishment if more trouble came to you. You were not content with the will of God, though it is the duty of every man to take what God gives him. Three weeks ago your supposed body was buried and all thought you dead through your own pride and wilfulness."

    "That is why my wife wouldn't let me in. Now, your Reverence, come with me and convince my wife, or she will not open the door." The priest and John Connors went to the house and knocked, but the answer they got was a prayer for the repose of John Connors' soul. The priest went to the window then and called out to open the door. Mrs. Connors opened the door, and seeing her husband behind the priest she screamed and fell: a little girl that was with her at the door dropped speechless on the floor. When the woman recovered, the priest began to persuade her that her husband was living, but she wouldn't believe that he was alive till she took hold of his hand: then she felt of his face and hair and was convinced.

    When the priest had explained everything he went away home. No matter how large his family was in after years, John Connors never went from home to find sponsors.

    From: A Treasury of Irish Folklore, ed. Padraic Colum, 1967, Crown Publishers

    The Merrow - Ireland

    The Merrow, or if you write it in the Irish, Moruadh or Murrúghach, from muir, sea, and oigh, a maid, is not uncommon, they say, on the wilder coasts. The fishermen do not like to see them, for it always means coming gales. The male Merrows (if you can use such a phrase -- I have never heard the masculine of Merrow) have green teeth, green hair, pig's eyes, and red noses; duck-like scale between their fingers. Sometimes they prefer, small blame to them, good-looking fishermen to their sea lovers. Near Bantry in the last century, there is said to have been a woman covered all over with scales like a fish, who was descended from such a marriage. Sometimes they come out of the sea, and wander about the shore in the shape of little hornless cows. They have, when in their own shape, a red cap, called a cohullen druith, usually covered with feathers. If this is stolen, they cannot again go down under the waves. Red is the color of magic in every country, and has been so from the very earliest times. The caps of fairies and magicians are well-nigh always red.

    Source: W. B. Yeats, Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry (1888).

    The Cat of the Carman's Stage - Ireland

    A carman was leaving Bunclody one morning for Dublin, when what should he see but a neighbor's cat galloping along the side of the road, and crying out every moment, "Tell Moll Browne, Tom Dunne is dead. Tell Moll Browne, Tom Dunne is dead."

    At last he got tired of this ditty, and took up a stone and flung it at the cat, bidding himself, and Tom Browne, and Moll Dunne, to go to Halifax, and not be botherin' him.

    When he got to Luke Byrne's in Francis Street, where all the Wicklow and Wexford carmen used to stop, he was taking a pot of beer in the taproom, and began to tell the quare thing that happened on the road. There was a comfortable-looking gray cat sitting by the fire, and the moment he mentioned what the Bunclody cat was saying, she cried out, "That's my husband!" That's my husband!"

    She made only one leap out through the door, and no one ever saw her at Luke Byrne's again.

    Source: Patrick Kennedy, Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celts (London: Macmillan and Co., 1866), pp. 157-158.

    The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry - Orkney

    The silkie be a creature strange
    He rises from the sea to change
    Into a man, a weird one he,
    When home it is in Skule Skerrie.

    When he be man, he takes a wife,
    When he be beast, he takes her life.
    Ladies, beware of him who be -
    A silkie come from Skule Skerrie.

    His love they willingly accept,
    But after they have loved and slept,
    Who is the monster that they see?
    'Tis "Silkie" come from Skule Skerrie.

    A maiden from the Orkney Isles,
    A target for his charm, his smiles,
    Eager for love, no fool was she,
    She knew the secret of Skule Skerrie.

    And so, while Silkie kissed the lass,
    She rubbed his neck with Orkney grass,
    This had the magic power, you see -
    To slay the beast from Skule Skerrie.

    Source: Ballad written or recorded by Francis J. Child; Child Ballad #113.
    Notes:This ballad originated in the Orkney Islands and there are many versions found in Orkney, Shetland and beyond. A "silkie" or "selkie" is a seal-like supernatural being, much like a form of mermaid or merman. When in water they take the form of seals, when on land they shed their seal-skins and take on human shape. Another version of this song tells how the Selkie is made vulnerable by a girl who hides his seal-skin and is thus able to slay him.

    The Stone of Odin - Orkney

    A young man had seduced a girl under promise of marriage, and she proving with child, was deserted by him: The young man was called before session; the elders were particularly severe. Being asked by the minister the cause of so much rigor, they answered, "You do not know what a bad man this is; he has broke the promise of Odin."

    Being further asked what they meant by the promise of Odin, they put him in mind of the stone at Stenhouse, with the round hole in it; and added, that it was customary, when promises were made, for the contracting parties to join hands through this hole, and the promises so made were called the promises of Odin.

    It was said that a child passed through the hole when young would never shake with palsy in old age. Up to the time of its destruction, it was customary to leave some offering on visiting the stone, such as a piece of bread, or cheese, or a rag, or even a stone. The Odin stone, long the favourite trysting-place in summer twilights of Orkney lovers, was demolished in 1814 by a sacrilegious farmer, who used its material to assist him in the erection of a cowhouse. This misguided man was a Ferry-Louper (the name formerly given to strangers from the south), and his wanton destruction of the consecrated stone stirred so strongly the resentment of the peasantry in the district that various unsuccessful attempts were made to burn his house and holdings about his ears.

    Source: County Folk-Lore, vol. 3: Examples of Printed Folk-Lore Concerning the Orkney & Shetland Islands, collected by G. F. Black and edited by Northcote W. Thomas (London: Folk-Lore Society, 1903), p. 2. Black's sources: Principal Gordon of the Scots College at Paris in Archæologia Scotica, vol. 1, p. 263. Capt. F. W. L. Thomas in Archæologia, , vol. 34, p. 101. Daniel Gorrie, Summers and Winters in the Orkneys, 2nd ed. (London, 1869), p. 143.

    Notes: Orkney preserves many legends and folktales connected to the Odin Stone, which remained important in the lore, customs and practises of Orcadian tradition for nearly 1000 years after the "official" end of the Pagan Period in the Orkney Isles. In Orkney, Odin - or as he was also known locally, "Wodden" - is remembered as, amongst other things, a god of weddings and oaths.
    Lík börn leika best.

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