Site Map
Icelandish Tales
Section › 7 Set Search Previous Next

Reservations Contents  

  1. Hans
  2. Litill, Tritill, the Birds and the Peasant Lad

Hans

1. Hans starts on his travels

Once on a time, many, many years ago, there was an old man and his wife who lived in a little cottage beside a big wood. They had three sons, called Kurt, Conrad, and Hans.

The father was very proud of his two elder boys, who were great, tall fellows, but he never troubled about Hans, the youngest son, who, poor boy, often fared rather badly, as he only got whatever his brothers did not care to keep. He was never allowed to join in their games, or the trials of skill that the father trained his elder boys in. Instead he had to stop at home, doing housework and helping his mother in the kitchen. She was the only one who showed him any love or kindness.

Thus poor Hans was often very sad and lonely. To while away the time and have some kind of companionship, he got a kitten from a neighbour and taught it all kinds of tricks. As the animal grew older it became so attached to Hans that it followed him about wherever he went.

Matters went on in this way till all three brothers were grown up. Kurt and Conrad gave themselves great airs, for, being tall and robust and well skilled in all games of strength, they laid down the law whenever they appeared on the village green, and bragged so loudly that most people were afraid to contradict them, more especially as their father backed them up in everything. He thought they could do no wrong, whereas Hans was always wrong and of no use at all, he thought, and that it could have been better if he had been a girl, always pinned to his mother's apron- string.

And thus ignored by his father and set aside by his brothers, only his mother stood up for Hans. She loved him a lot, and he in return was devoted to her.

One day Kurt and Conrad came home from the village, where they had come off victors in every trial of strength on the green. They were so proud of this success that they begged their father to let them start on their travels, and go and visit the king whose kingdom lay on the opposite side of the great arm of the sea close to their hut.

At first the father did not like the idea of parting with his sons; but when he looked at them and saw what great and strong fellows they were, he felt convinced that they would win riches and renown; so he agreed to let them go, fully convinced they would return both famous and wealthy.

Not long after this, the father heard in the village that a big ship lay in the offing. He told his wife she must get new shoes for Kurt and Conrad, as well as money for the journey. For he meant them to go to the great kingdom across the water, where they would be sure to win both fame and riches.

The old woman did her best to obey her husband's behests. She took the great hanks of flax she had spun during the winter, and having sold these in the village, she bought new shoes for Kurt and Conrad with some of the money, keeping the rest for their journey.

But when Hans saw all these preparations going on, he had no rest or peace, and a great longing came over him to be allowed to go with his brothers.

Plucking up his courage, he went to his father and begged and entreated to be allowed to accompany Kurt and Conrad.

At first the old man was risen to anger at what he considered Hans' impertinence, and angrily refused. But when he came to think over it, he decided that he would rather not have him at home alone when the others were away. So he told him he might go, but only on condition that he did not join his brothers. He must keep quite apart from them, so that they need not be ashamed before strangers that such a small, useless fellow was their brother.

Although this was not a very gracious permission, Hans was only too pleased to get leave of any sort. He hastened to his mother and begged her to try and fit him out also, like his brothers.

Kurt and Conrad, hearing that Hans had got permission to go too, hastened their own preparations and started at once, as they did not want him to go with them; but he was so anxious to get away and helped his mother so effectually that he was ready almost as soon as they were.

When he came to bid her farewell, she gave him a small purse with her savings in it, and then handed him her iron oven crutch, which was about as large as a walkingstick, and with a cross -piece at one one.

"Take this also, Hans," she said; "you will find it very useful, for you can use it either as a walking stick or a weapon of defence if you are in danger. And you will never lose your way, so long as you have it in your possession."

Hans thanked her warmly, bade his father good-bye, and with another loving farewell to his mother, went forth on his travels, his cat sitting gravely on his shoulder.

He hurried along as quickly as he could, hoping he would yet be in time to overtake his brothers, but when he got down to the shore there was no sign either of them or the ship, which had evidently sailed some time before.

Unwilling to lose any chance, Hans kept along the shore for some time, thinking that perhaps the vessel had gone into some of the fjords that surrounded the coast. But as he saw no sign of a sail, he at last left the beach as the sun was setting, and took a path leading up towards the hills.

His cat, who had sat on his shoulder all this time, now jumped to the ground, purring and arching his back as he trotted beside Hans. Suddenly, a winged creature came flying rapidly towards them. Hans at once saw that it was a dragon, so he took a firm grasp of his iron crutch, waited till the creature was within reach, then, throwing it, hit him so cleverly that he fell to the ground. And the quite large cat made a spring and luckily put an end to the flying monster.

When Hans ran up, he saw that the dragon held something white between its talons. Stooping down, he saw it was a little girl. She cried most piteously. Hans tenderly lifted the little thing in his arms, and tried his best to quiet her. But it was not until the big cat came up purring and rubbing itself against the wee creature, that she ceased her sobbing and was comforted.

Hans was now somewhat at a loss as to what he had best do. Night was coming on; there was no house in sight, and no food at hand. But just as he was driven to his wits' ends, he saw a little old man running towards him, puffing and panting. As soon as he came up to Hans, he thanked him warmly for having rescued his child from the dragon.

He was a quaint-looking little man, almost a dwarf, but when he took the child in his arms and began to soothe and quiet it, his face was so kind and gentle, that Hans, who had expected to pass the night out-of-doors, gladly accepted his offer to go home with him and stay the night.

They walked on a long way, pussy always trotting by her young master's side, until at length they came to a big stone or rock.

Here the dwarf paused, and, knocking three times, the stone opened. Then the dwarf bade Hans enter, and, giving three taps, the stone again closed.

When Hans looked round, he was surprised to find himself in a fine large room. It was fitted up with every comfort. Great couches, spread with soft rugs, ran along two sides; in one corner was the hearth, on which a bright fire was burning; and on the other side was a table with some chairs beside it, and covered with various papers and quaint instruments.

The old man put the child into a little cot, and after he and Hans had partaken of some food, he invited the latter to rest.

Hans, nothing unwilling, threw himself on one of the couches, with his cat beside him, and, thoroughly tired out with all the excitement of his departure and the long distance he had walked, fell asleep almost as soon as his head rested on the pillow. But even in his sleep he heard the dwarf working at his papers during the greater part of the night.

Next morning, after they had breakfasted and Hans was ready to start forth on his travels, the dwarf again thanked him for his timely rescue.

"I can never be grateful enough to you for saving my child," he continued. "And now I am going to give you three things which I hope will be useful to you, though nothing can ever cancel my debt to you."

"Indeed you owe me but small thanks," answered Hans, laughing; "it was really my cat that saved your child by killing the dragon before I came up to him."

But though Hans declared he wanted no payment, the dwarf would take no denial.

"You see this small stone," he said; "it has the power of making whoever holds it in his hand invisible. This sword," he continued, drawing forth a tiny but exquisitely damascened sword, "is both sharp and strong, and though small enough to carry in your pocket, you have but to express the wish when you need to use it, and it will at once get its full size and strength. And here," he added, "is my third gift. It is, as you see, but a tiny little ship, like a child's toy, so small that you can easily carry it in your pocket too. And yet, whenever you desire it will become as large as you may need it, either to go on a river or across the sea. And further, it can sail, no matter whether there is any wind or not."

Hans protested in vain that he had in no way earned such valuable gifts. The dwarf insisted; so that Hans felt compelled to take the precious treasures, and thanked the dwarf most warmly for his great kindness. He then bade him farewell, kissed the pretty child, who clung round his neck, took up his iron crutch, shouldered his cat, and left.

2. His wonderful adventures and how he returned good for evil

When Hans got down to the shore again, he drew forth the little ship from his pocket, put it in the water, and said, "Ship, ship, grow larger."

At once the tiny boat expanded, and behold, a beautiful vessel lay there at anchor. Hans got on board, and then, having said where he wished to go, the vessel sailed merrily along towards the kingdom on the opposite side of the big sea.

When they were halfway across, a violent thunderstorm came on; but though he noticed that the other vessels near him were tossed about by the great waves, his ship sailed straight on towards its destination, and never lay to or swerved aside till it was safely anchored in its destined port.

As soon as Hans landed, he said, "Ship, ship, grow smaller!" and at once the great vessel grew smaller and smaller, until it was like a tiny little model which he could easily put into his pocket.

Making sure that he had both his other treasures safely stowed away, Hans, with his faithful cat mounted on his shoulder, made his way inland. There he came to a small wood, and here, sitting down beneath a fine, big oak tree, near which ran a bright sparkling stream, he decided to remain for a short time, studying the people and their habits, before he went on to the king's palace.

Thanks to his faithful cat, he never lacked food, for puss went out night and morning, always returning with a rabbit or a bird for her master's dinner and supper.

Meanwhile, Kurt and Conrad on their arrival had gone straight to the palace, and had asked the king's permission to remain the winter with him. Although he did not really require their services, the king gladly consented, seeing what fine strong fellows they were, So they joined the royal household and were soon known as the merriest among the party, often boasting of their great feats of strength and the valiant deeds they had done.

After some weeks Hans too arrived at the palace. At first he kept somewhat in the background, where no one noticed him, but from where he was able to observe everything that went on.

Now, the king had no son, but an only daughter named Gerda. She was both beautiful and wise. The king, who was getting old, was anxious to see her happily married; but, although he had received many offers for her from neighbouring princes and other strangers who had heard of the princess's beauty and wit, she had refused them all, for Gerda was difficult to please.

At length one day, just at winter set in and when all the foreign princes and courtiers gathered in the big hall of the palace, the king made an announcement. He said he had quite made up his mind to give his daughter and half of his kingdom to whoever would bring him the three most precious treasures in his kingdom by Christmas Eve,.

The treasures were: A chessboard and men made of pure gold and silver. A gold-handled sword set with precious stones in a golden scabbard, and with an unbreakable blade, and which always killed your enemy. And a wonderful bird with golden plumage, which, when it sang, could be heard in every part of the kingdom, yet its wondrous melodies were so sweet and soft, that they were not too loud even when quite near.

These marvellous treasures, said the king, had once belonged to his ancestors. But during a great war with the giants many years ago, they had been carried off, and were now a terrible ogress had them. She lived on a rocky and almost inaccessible island, and always kept these treasures in a cave on a shelf above her head, and they could only be taken away while the giantess was asleep.

The courtiers did not pay much attention to the king's words. They had heard them before, and they also knew that all those who had ventured on this quest, had either never been heard of again, or, if they returned, were maimed both in body and mind.

Some of the foreign princes, however, started off, hoping they might succeed. But when days elapsed and they did not return, Kurt and Conrad thought they would like to try. Knowing how big and strong they were, the task did not seem impossible to them, and they were eager to make the venture.

The eldest brother, Kurt, came first before the king, and said that if he could have a ship and crew, he would gladly start in search of the treasures. The king at once agreed, a vessel was fitted out, and Kurt sailed away. After many days he reached the island. They did not try to land until it was dusk, when Kurt hoped the giantess might be asleep.

Then, making his way cautiously to the cave where she lived, he peeped in, and there, sure enough, lay the great ogress. She was fast asleep on her bed.

Creeping cautiously along the floor, Kurt looked up for the shelf, and there he saw the three golden treasures.

He hardly knew which to take first, so he decided to begin with the most difficult one. Cautiously he stretched forth his hand and laid hold of the bird, which sat on its perch with its head tucked under its wing. But, unfortunately he grasped it too roughly. At once the bird began to screech so loudly that the whole cave shook and trembled.

In a moment the giantess sprang from her bed, caught hold of Kurt, threw him down on the ground, and tied his hands and feet firmly with ropes. "Ha! ha!" she laughed. "Here is another one! What fools they all are, to think they could outwit me! But this one will do nicely for my Christmas dinner when I have fed him up a little."

And with these words, and despite his loud cries and protests, she trundled him into a small cave at the back. "And you need not fear that I shall starve you," she grinned maliciously, "for I want you to get nice and fat; at present you are so thin, you are not worth eating."

So saying, she ran out of the cave and hurried down to the shore, hoping to catch some of the crew, and so fill her larder still further. But no sooner did the men see the monster running down to the shore, than they rowed back to the ship with all their might, and, lifting the anchor, set sail at once, and were soon out of sight.

When the men returned home and described the awful ogress who had raced down to the shore to catch them, the king feared there was but little hope that Kurt would ever be heard of again. But after a few days Conrad began to think that if he himself had gone, he would have managed more cleverly than Kurt, so he asked the king if he would fit out a ship for him and let him try his luck.

The king, anxious to recover his treasures, at once agreed; and full of hope, feeling quite sure his skill and cleverness would not fail him, Conrad started on his journey.

But, alas! he was no more lucky than his elder brother. When he got to the cave, he also found the giantess asleep, and, after considering which of the three treasures he should take first, he decided for the sword.

"The bird may make a noise if it sees me," he thought, "whereas if I have the sword, should the giantess awake, I will kill her, and then secure all three treasures."

So he watched for a few minutes to make quite sure that both the giantess and the bird were asleep, then stealing cautiously on tiptoe across the floor of the cave, he reached up to the shelf and stretched his hand out to take the sword. But, alas! in his eagerness he only grasped the handle of the weapon, and with a loud crash the scabbard fell down.

The bird began to scream, and in an instant the giantess sprang from her bed and had Conrad down on the floor, where she at once tied him up with ropes, as she had his brother.

"Ha, ha!" she croaked. "Here is another one! Oh, these fools, these fools! But if they will only come on fast enough, I need not stint myself, for I shall have a well-stocked larder by Christmas-time!"

And before he knew what was to happen to him, Conrad found himself inside the small cave beside his brother Kurt.

"Don't be afraid that I shall starve you," laughed the ogress; "you shall have plenty of food, and you must eat all you can and get fat as quickly as possible, and then I shall release you; "and she grinned and laughed so loudly that the whole cave shook and trembled as if there had been an earthquake.

Soon after the second vessel had returned to the court and the men gave the same account of what had occurred as those in the first vessel, Hans suddenly disappeared. He had become such a great favourite at court, that everyone was very sorry when he thus suddenly vanished.

But he too was determined to try his luck and see if he could carry off the treasures, and so win the beautiful Princess Gerda, who had been most kind to him during his stay at her father's court.

So one evening, just as the sun was setting, he walked quietly down to the shore. Puss was sitting on his shoulder as usual. He placed his little ship in the water and pronounced the magic words, and came to the giantess's island about the middle of the day.

Having landed, Hans took his stone out of his pocket, and at once becoming invisible. Then he started off for the ogress's cave.

Looking in, he saw it was empty. But although he was invisible, he thought it better to hide behind a projecting bit of rock, in case she might knock up against him.

As evening closed in, the giantess returned. But no sooner had she entered the cave, than she sniffed about in all directions

"Phew! it smells of humans here!" she muttered. Not seeing anyone, however, she concluded it must be the two men she was fattening up in the inner cave. So after a little time, she lay down on her bed. For some time she could not sleep, and kept on muttering, "Phew! It is very strange that I should smell those humans so strongly tonight! I could have sworn there was a fresh human here! "

At last, after tossing about restlessly, she dropped off asleep.

Hans crept forth softly, but the fire on the hearth had died so low, he could not well see his way, and stumbled over a small stone. In an instant the golden bird raised its head. But just as it was going to give a shrill scream, Hans's big cat pounced on it and silenced it.

Then the giantess started up, and, jumping out of bed, began feeling all round the walls, swearing angrily. Hans knew that he must kill her, for, even though he was invisible, if she caught hold of him she would certainly kill him. He therefore drew his special sword out of his pocket and wished it to grow bigger. Then, when the giantess came near him, and stretched out her huge arms to throw him down, Hans, with one blow of his sword, cut off her head. It rolled away into a corner.

Hans then blew up the fire, and began searching round the cave. In addition to the king's three treasures, he found several great chests filled with gold and precious stones. Then he noticed that there was a smaller cave at the back, and, lighting a pine knot, he entered and found his brothers. He at once loosened their bands, and they were both so grateful to be freed from the terrible fate in store for them that they ever after treated him as true brothers should.

They all three then set to work and carried the treasures from the cave to the ship, and when everything had been taken on board they quickly returned to the king's country, where they arrived on Christmas Eve, greatly to the astonishment of the whole court, who had quite given them up as lost.

But greater still was the surprise of everyone when Hans presented the king with the three treasures which had been so long lost, and were now once again restored to the kingdom.

The king was so delighted at having at last got back the long-lost treasures that he told Hans he should always look on him as a dear son, and that he should certainly marry his daughter.

So Hans was dressed in royal robes, and very shortly after he married the fair Princess Gerda, who had long secretly admired him. The wedding was held with all possible magnificence. No expense was spared, and gifts were given to all the poor in the land.

The king then divided his kingdom in half, putting Hans in charge of one. Then Hans sent for his father and mother, and gave them a good house and enough money to live in comfort for the rest of their days. And the two elder brothers were also provided for.

Hans and Gerda reigned long and happily. Puss always had a place of honour beside his beloved master, and lived long enough to see Hans's children and even grandchildren.

OPP

Litill, Tritill, the Birds and the Peasant Lad

There once reigned a king and a queen. The king had an only daughter, called Enid, who was greatly beloved by both her father and mother. They spared no expense, and she had the best masters and governesses, and a number of servants to wait on her; but even though she was so carefully watched and looked after, she suddenly disappeared. The head-governess said she had left her in her room only for a few minutes practising her harp with two of her maidens in attendance, and when she came back she found both the girls fast asleep, and the princess gone. Inquiries were made of everyone, but nothing could be heard of the princess. No one had seen her; she had vanished in the most mysterious way.

The king, in despair, sent out messengers in all directions, and spent a great part of his treasure searching for her; but all in vain. Then, at last, he vowed that he would give the princess in marriage to whoever should be fortunate enough to find her, and also give him the half of his kingdom.

But although many of the knights and nobles about the court, eager to secure so great a prize, went off in search of her, they one and all returned empty-handed.

Now, not far from the castle there lived a poor old man and his wife. They had three sons, Osmond, Tostig, and Harald. The two eldest boys were greatly loved by their parents; but his father and mother disliked Harald, the youngest and handsomest. And both his elder brothers ill-treated him and made him do all the work, while they went out shooting and fishing.

When the boys were grown up, Osmond came to his parents, and said he would like to start off and see the world and try to win fame and riches for himself. His father and mother were quite willing he should do so, and providing him with a new pair of boots and a large bag of food. Then he started off on his journey.

After he had gone a long, long way, he arrived at a little hillock. Here he sat down to rest, and unpacked his bag of provisions. Just as he was beginning to eat, a tiny little man, dressed in grey, came up to him, begging for a morsel of food. Osmond angrily ordered him away, threatening to beat him if he did not go quickly.

After he had rested, Osmond went on again a long way, till he came to another hillock. Here he again sat down to rest, and began to eat. But he had hardly commenced than a still smaller and shabbier little man, dressed in green, came up to him and asked him for a morsel of food. Osmond spoke angrily to him, and sent him away with a volley of abuse.

He then went on again a long, long way, until he reached a large open glade in the wood. Here he sat down on the soft, mossy grass at the foot of a big beech tree, and thought he would eat another morsel. But no sooner had he opened his bag and taken out the food, than a whole flock of birds flew down beside him. He angrily chased them away, and then, having rested himself, went on his way, till he came to a big cave.

Looking in, and seeing no one, only a lot of cattle, he thought he would go in and wait till dawn came.

Just as the sun was setting, an enormously big giantess walked in. Osmond was greatly startled, but took courage and went up to her, and asked whether he might stay the night there.

The giantess said yes, on condition that in the morning he would do the work she would ask of him. This he promised he would do; so she allowed him to remain the night, she herself retiring into an inner cave.

The next morning the giantess told him that he must clean out the cave and put down fresh bedding for the cattle, and that he must have it all finished before the evening, or else she would take his life. With these words she went away.

Osmond took up a prong he saw standing in a corner, but no sooner did he begin to turn up the straw than the prong stuck fast in the bedding. In vain he pushed and pulled and tried to drag it out, the prong remained firmly fixed; and when in the evening the giantess came home and found that the cave had not been cleaned out, she took hold of Osmond and hung him up to a nail in the cave.

Meanwhile Tostig, the second son, thought he, too, would like to go out into the world to seek his fortune, for he felt sure his brother by this time must be quite a rich man. So he told his parents that he did not care to remain at home now his elder brother was away, and with only that stupid Harald at home. After gained their consent, he too started off, provided with a pair of new boots and a big bag of provisions.

But he was not more fortunate than Osmond had been. He flouted the little men while he rested on the hillocks, he chased and killed some of the birds who came flocking round him for crumbs; and when he reached the cave, he also received leave from the giantess to remain the night, on condition that he cleaned out the cave next morning.

When he went and took up the prong to throw out the old bedding, it stuck fast in the straw, and no efforts of his could move it. So the giantess coming home, and finding that he had failed to accomplish his task, took him and hanged him beside his brother.

Now there was only the youngest son left. But although he was the only one at home, his parents did not love him any better for it. The poor lad often felt that he reminded them of their lost sons and that they regretted not having sent him away in their place. Therefore he decided to go away.

"I do not suppose I shall win riches and fame. All I hope is that I may be able to earn enough to support myself and no longer be a burden to you."

Then his parents told him he might go. But instead of nice strong new boots they only gave him an old pair of his brother's, and his sack contained nothing but some hard, dry crusts.

But Harald started off with a light heart. As it chanced he took the same road his brothers had done. He came to the first hillock. "I think my brothers must have rested here, if they felt as tired as I do," he said, "so I will do the same." And seating himself on the small hill, he began to eat one of his dry crusts, when, looking up, he saw a little old man in grey standing beside him.

"Will you share your crust with me? I am very hungry, and have had no food today," he said.

Harald pitied the old man, who looked so feeble and tired. He begged him to sit down beside him and share his meal. When they had done, the old man got up, and, after thanking him, said, "My name is Tritill. Although I am old and feeble, if ever you are in need of help, call me, and I will come to you." So saying, he went round the back of the small hill and disappeared.

Harald then continued his journey until he came to the second hillock.

"I feel sure my brothers must have rested here," he said. "It is a long way from the last hillock. I, too, will rest here awhile." And he sat down, and opening his bag, took out another crust. Hardly had he done so when a tiny, shabby, little old man, dressed in green, came up to him and asked for a morsel of food. Harald very good-naturedly asked him to sit down beside him, and shared his crust with him. When they had finished eating, the little green man got up, and, after thanking Harald, said, "Call me, if ever you think I can do you a service. My name is Litill."

And he, too, went away, and was soon out of sight.

Harald then continued his journey until he came to the large open glade in the wood.

"I am sure my brothers must have rested here," he thought. "I will do the same." And he sat down and took out another crust. No sooner had he done so than a great flock of birds came down. They circled round and round him, and seemed so hungry and fought so eagerly over every crumb he threw them, that Harald's heart was filled with pity. "Poor little things!" he said; "they need it more than I do." And he broke up the remaining crusts and threw the crumbs among them.

When they had eaten up every crumb, the biggest bird alighted gently on Harald's shoulder and whistled softly, "If ever you think we can do you a service, call us. We shall hear you wherever we are, for we are your birds." And before he had recovered from his astonishment, they had all flown away and were out of sight.

Harald then continued his journey, till he, too, came to the big cave. Looking in, he saw it was full of cattle, and hanging from a beam in one corner he saw the bodies of his two brothers.

Startled at the sight, Harald's first impulse was to go away; but he thought he must first bury his brothers. So he took down the bodies, and seeing a spade near the entrance, he speedily dug a grave and buried them in the sand outside the cave. Just as he had finished, the giantess arrived.

Harald, who was very tired, asked her if he might stay the night there.

"You may do so, if you will promise to do what I tell you in the morning," answered the giantess.

This Harald agreed to, and he slept that night in the cave.

Next morning, the giantess, who had slept in an inner cave, told him that he would have to clean out the cave, and put down clean bedding for the oxen.

"But remember, if your work is not finished when I come home, I shall hang you as I did the two you buried in the sand; "and so saying she went away.

Harald took up the prong standing in the corner and began his work. But no sooner had he pushed the prong into the bedding and tried to lift it than it stuck fast to the ground. In vain he used all his strength, the prong remained firmly fixed. In his despair he called out: "Oh, Tritill, come and help me!"

No sooner had the words passed his lips than he saw Tritill standing beside him, asking what he could do for him. Harald showed him the difficulty he was in.

Then Tritill called out: "Prick prong and shovel spade!" and at once the prong pricked up the bedding and the spade shovelled it away, till in a very short time the cave was all cleaned out and fresh straw put down. Harald thanked him warmly for his great help, and Tritill went away.

When the giantess came home in the evening and saw that the work was done, she said to Harald.

"Oh, man, man! You have not done this by yourself! But I will let it pass!" and she retired into the inner cave.

The next morning the giantess told Harald that she had some fresh work for him to do. He was to carry her own bedding outside the cave, take out all the feathers, spread them out in the sun to air, and then put them back again.

"But remember, if when I come back in the evening there is a single feather missing, I shall hang you as I did your brothers!" And with these words she went away.

Harald carried out the great featherbed and the big pillows; and as the sun was shining warm and bright, and there was not a breath of wind, he ripped open the seams and spread out the feathers in the sun.

No sooner had he done so than a strong wind arose, and in one moment all the feathers were whirled away, not a single one remaining.

In despair Harald called out: "Tritill, Litill, and all my birds, come and help me if you can!" And almost before the words had passed his lips, Tritill, Litill, and the whole flight of birds came bringing the feathers with them; and while Tritill and Litill helped Harald to fill the bed and the pillows, and sew them up again, the birds flew round picking up all the stray feathers, so that none were missing. But out of each pillow they took one feather, and, tying them together, told Harald that when the giantess missed them and threatened to kill him, he was to tickle her nose with the feathers.

Then Tritill, Litill, and the birds all disappeared.

When the giantess came home in the evening, she went up to her bed, and threw herself down on it so heavily that the whole cave shook. Then she began carefully feeling all over the bed, and when she came to the pillows she cried out

"Aha, man! I have caught you there is a feather missing in each pillow! Now I shall hang you like your brothers! "

But as she took hold of him, Harold quickly pulled the two feathers out of his pocket and tickled her nose with them.

At once the giantess fell back on her bed looking terribly white and frightened; but Harald laughingly gave her back her feathers, telling her he did not want to keep them.

"Ah, man, man!" said the giantess, "I know you did not do this alone; but I will let it pass this time!"

So this third night too Harald passed in the cave, and in the morning the giantess said to him

"I have some fresh work for you today. You must kill one of my oxen. Then you must scrape and clean the skin to make a leather bag; cut up the animal in joints ready for cooking; clean all the entrails, and make spoons out of its horns. All must be finished before I return this evening. I have fifty oxen, as you see. It is one of these I want killed. But I shall not tell you which one I have fixed on; that you must find out for yourself. If all is done as I wish when I return, you can leave in the morning and go wherever you like. And as a reward you may also choose three things from among my treasures. But if everything is not finished or if you kill the wrong animal, then it will cost you your life, and I shall hang you as I did to your brothers." And so saying the giantess departed.

Harald was sorely puzzled. How could he possibly decide which of the animals the giantess wished killed? Then he remembered his friends. "Tritill, Litill, come once again to my aid," he cried.

Hardly had the words passed his lips than he saw them both coming towards him, leading a huge ox between them. They at once set to work and killed the ox, and while Harald cleaned the entrails and cut up the joints, Tritill scraped the skin and prepared it for making the bag. And Litill began fashioning the spoons out of the horns. In this way the work sped along quickly and merrily, and all was ready before the sun sank to rest.

Harald now told his friends what the giantess had promised him if he should have finished his task before she returned.

"Can you advise me what to ask for?" he said.

They told him he should first ask for that which was over her bed, then for the chest that stood beside her bed, and lastly for that which was behind the wall of her bed.

Harald thanked them warmly for all they had done for him, and said he would do as they had told him, and then the little men disappeared.

When the giantess came home in the evening and found that Harald had finished all the tasks she had set him, she exclaimed, "Ah, man, man! You never did all this alone; but you have conquered, so I must let it pass." So saying she retired to rest.

Next morning the giantess called Harald into the inner cave and told him he might choose the reward she had promised him, and that then he might go where he liked.

"Then," said Harald, "if I may have whatever I like, I choose, first, that which is above your bed; then the chest beside your bed; and, lastly, that which is behind the wall of your bed."

"Ah, man, man!" cried the giantess. "You have not chosen these things by yourself; but I cannot refuse you; you are too strong for me, and you have conquered, and I must give you the reward you claim."

So saying, she mounted some steps above her bed cut into the rock, and, opening a secret door, she led forth a beautiful maiden. This was none other than the fair Princess Enid, who had disappeared so mysteriously some time ago.

"Take her back to her father, and he will reward you as you deserve," said the giantess as she placed the princess's hand in that of Harald.

She then opened the lid of the chest beside her bed. The chest was filled with gold, pearls, and precious stones. And then moving aside the bed, she touched a secret spring, and the wall sliding back, they saw the blue sea, and anchored close to the cave lay a beautiful ship completely fitted out, her sails all set, and her pennant flying, and possessing the power of sailing wherever its owner wished, without aid of either captain or crew.

When the giantess had handed him over these gifts, she told Harald that he would from now on be one of the happiest and luckiest of men.

Harald then carried the chest containing the gold and precious stones on board ship. And then, after arranging some soft cushions for Princess Enid in the stern of the vessel, they quickly departed and reached her father's country.

The delight of the king and queen on recovering their long-lost daughter can be more easily imagined than described. They never tired of hearing of the wonderful adventures Harald had gone through, and the king ordered a great feast in honour of the rescuer of his child, which ended with the wedding of Enid and Harald.

The king then made Harald his prime minister; and so well and so wisely did he rule the country that on the king's death he was chosen to succeed him, and he and Queen Enid lived long and happily together, seeing their children and grandchildren growing up around them.

Contents


Icelandic folk tales, legends of Iceland, Literature  

Icelandic folk tales, legends of Iceland, To top Section Set Next

Icelandic folk tales from Iceland USER'S GUIDE: [Link]
© 2007–2017, Tormod Kinnes. [Email]  ᴥ  Disclaimer: [Link]