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Notes to Norwegian Folktales ❧ 2
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This page continues the previous one, and, like it, serves these ends:

  1. It gives the type numbers of certain Norwegian folktales. Folk tales are classified and given type numbers, which eases comparisons and understanding.
  2. Explanations of and comments on fairy tales can shed light on motivs in them or "threads of action(s)" running through tales. It may be compared to seeing a stem inside all the foliage of a tree - in grasping that "stem" or "thread" we can gain a firmer hold of the tale, through getting to some surface essentials in it.
  3. The notes are also surveys or briefings of what tales are about.

There is a unified, international system at the back of the notes that follow. For the following content capsules some of the books in the references at bottom were used, and the tales are much as they were translated by Sir George Webbe Dasent. mainly. They are merely slightly modernised by me.

Recently Hans-Jörg Uther has revised the international classification system of fairy tales, and introduced ATU numbers (from Aarne, Thomson, Uther). They are to replace the former AT numbers. However, most of the tales in this collection have unchanged numbers. That is, their ATU numbers are like the AT numbers.


The Fox as Herdsman - AT 37*

A woman hired a fox to be her herdsman, but he ate up all of her goats, sheep, and cows. When she went out to see how things were, he ate the cream in her churn. Angrily she threw the last bit of cream at the fleeing fox, and the fox has a white tip on his tail from it.

"Don't trust strangers too easily" is one moral in the background of it.

[The tale]

The Cat on the Dovrefjell - AT 1161

A band of trolls ascended on a house where a bear trainer had stopped for the night with his bear. Catching only a glimpse of the sleeping animal, the trolls thought it was a cat, but once the bear was awakened and proved to be ferocious, the trolls fled in a great hurry. Later the trolls asked the owner of the house about his cat. "She had seven kittens," said the man. The trolls never came near his house again.

It pays to be well bred -

[The tale]

Well Done and Ill Paid - AT 154

A bear threatened to destroy a farmer's flock if he didn't give him a horse to eat, but a fox offered to help the man in return for a fat sheep (or goat). So when the bear came for the horse, the fox made a noise like a hunter. To save himself, the bear pretended to be a log and let the man tie him onto his sledge. The man quickly killed the now helpless bear with his axe. The fox came for his promised reward, and the peasant gave him a large sack. But when the fox opened it, two fierce dogs jumped out and attacked the fox, and he had to run for his life.

Maybe a fox learnt a major lesson of not trusting humans that day.

[The tale]

The Husband Who Was to Mind the House - AT 1408

A man was not satisfied with how his wife did the household chores and switched places with her only to fail and do everything wrong: He let the beer run out, let the cow graze on the roof, and so on, on and on.

Underestimating the partner's work skills and knowhow is at bottom of the miseries portrayed in this one.

[The tale]

The Cock and Hen that Went to Dovrefjell - AT 20C

- so that the world would not come to an end:

Henny-Penny dreamed that unless she got to the Dovrefell the world would come to an end. Cocky-Locky, Ducky-Lucky and Goosy-Poosey joined company with her. An adventure with Foxy-Cocksy - where a large animal eats many small ones - the duck and the goose are dead, but Cocky-Locky and Henny-Penny made it to the Dovrefell, and the world did not come to an end.

This theme, that animals flee in fear of the end of the world, is also the essence of an old Celtic tale, and historically interesting: The friend of Alexander the Great, Ptolemy Soter, relates that he asked Celtic envoys what they feared the most, and they answered,

"We fear no man; only one thing, that the sky should fall on us."

Also compare AT type 2033.

Big animals may harm and eat small animals, and therefore have to be tackled with caution and smartness.

[The tale]

The Lad and the Devil (Old Nick) - AT 1158

A boy tricked the devil into a worm-eaten nut. A smith couldn't crack it until he used his largest sledge-hammer. The devil then rushed out with a violent bang.

The tale is about not being overly afraid, among other things.

[The tale]

The Cock and Hen A-nutting - AT 2021

A cock and a hen were gathering nuts. The hen got a nut-shell in her throat and was about to die. The cock asked in vain all he met for help. Finally he got help and the hen was saved through a chain of actions and reactions.

The tale may stimulate the ability of sorting things, including the main elements of a plot (what's happening).

[The tale]

The Ashlad Who Had an Eating Match with the Troll - AT 1088

A contest in eating: A boy got engaged in an eating match with a troll, and tricked him by pretending that when he put food into a bag he had hidden under his shirt, he was putting food straightway into his stomach. The ogre thus believed the boy was the greater eater. When the boy next cut open the bag to get more room, the ogre imitated him and got killed by his own hand.

Not the gourmand but the gourmet is the better eater, after all. Yet, too much gourmet becomes gourmand - The real issue must be: All who take pleasure in eating and drinking, may have to grow up into a gourmet rather than a gourmand without being overly pressed into it.

[The tale]

The Master-Smith - AT 753

The master smith (Christ and the smith): Christ took off a horse's foot in order to shoe him, and rejuvenated an old woman in the smith's forge. A master smith tried to do the same, but nothing went well . . . (Cf. AT 330)

The smith outwits the devil: A blacksmith maked a contract with the devil so that in return for becoming a master smith he was to belong to the devil after a certain time. The Lord/St. Peter visited the smith and worked miracles that the smith couldn't copy. When he next was then given three wishes, he wanted things that helped him to dominate the devil. The devil became afraid of him, and finally refused him hell. The smith tried his luck in heaven, but how it went seems quite uncertain.

[Type 330 tales contain one or more episodes summarised under types 330*330D]

Don't try to accomplish very important things over your head, and hold your fort.

[The tale]

Why the Sea is Salt - AT 565

The magic mill: A poor man entered hell with a piece of meat, and received in return a magic mill that ground everything and made him rich. Another man (his greedy brother or neighbour) borrowed the mill, but didn't learn how to stop it, and had to pay the owner to do so.

A ship-captain bought it next, and took it aboard ship, where he commanded it to grind salt. He couldn't stop it either, and it sank the ship and keeps on grinding.

And that is why the sea is salt, people in Trondheim say, but not all of them.

What is the fairy tale about? A wish to rescue oneself in a dire strait leads to a piece of "advanced technology" of a sort, we may say. But advanced things need corresponding knowledge to go along with it, or things will get out of control - as in this case. But putting one's hopes in advanced things is not bad in itself, it "only" requires competence in using them too. Besides, lots of knowledge is hard-won and hard-earned.

[The tale]

Katie Woodencloak - AT 510AB

Kari Trestakk (Cinderella): A stepdaughter who was forced to do hard and menial work, suffered greatly, or a princess who fled from her father who wanted to marry her, became a maid-servant in a king's court. Here she was provided for in secret by a supernatural being (her dead mother, an animal, etc.).

She was seen by the prince in beautiful clothing in her chamber/in church. She left behind her various objects in the church, but didn't betray her identity.

But then she lost a fine shoe and was recognized by the shoe test, or the prince got sight of the fine clothing under the rags she was wearing. Then he married her.

Preben Ramløv writes that the earliest version of the tale is from China, where mandarins used severe strappings to hinder the feet of girls of growing large. As a result, many ladies of high circles were too crippled to walk.

[The tale]

Soria Moria Castle (The man on a quest for his lost wife) - AT 400

The hero is carried to a foreign land or castle. There he finds a bewitched princess (or three), whom he rescues and marries. When he wants to go home on a visit, she gives him a wishing ring and forbids him to do certain things. He disobeys the prohibitions and loses her. He then sets out in search of her, and finds her finally in a distant troll castle by means of supernatural helpers (old women, the north wind, etc.) and remedies (seven-mile boots). The princess, who is about to be married to an ogre, recognizes him and is reunited with her true bridegroom.

To brag of the beauty of one's wife, is not good.

[The tale]

The Giant without a Heart in His Body - AT 302

The ogre's (devil's) heart in the egg: A boy helped some disputing animals to divide a meal in a fair manner, and was rewarded with the ability to transform himself into their shapes. Using this gift, the boy found a bewitched princess in a mountain, and she tricked the ogre there into revealing his life-secret (where his heart was, how he could be killed etc.). The boy found the hiding-place by means of his supernatural powers/animal helpers, and killed the ogre in the prescribed manner.

The boy who had won the girl thus, took her back home, and they were married.

The giant whose heart was in an egg was a bully. And bullies give tyrant problems too.

[The tale]


Norwegian folktales, Norway fairy tales, Asbjørnsen and Moe folktale and fairy tales notes, literature

Asbjørnsen, Peter Christen. Fairy Tales from the Far North.. Tr. Hans Lien Brækstad. New York: A. L. Burt, 1897. ⍽▢⍽ Forty tales.

Asbjørnsen, Peter, og Jørgen Moe. Samlede eventyr, bd 1-3. Oslo: Kunstnerutgaven, Gyldendal, 1965.

Ashliman, D. A Guide to Folktales in the English Language. New York: Greenwood, 1987.

Bø, Olav, et al, eds. Norske eventyr (Norwegian Fairy Tales). Oslo: Det Norske Samlaget, 1982.

Dasent, George Webbe, tr. Asbjørnsen, Peter Christen and Jørgen Engebretsen Moe. East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon. Philadelphia: David McKay, 1921. ⍽▢⍽Fifty-nine tales of a total of about one hundred and thirty in all by Asbjørnsen and Moe. Dasent's Tales from the Fjeld contains fifty-two more.

Dasent, George Webbe, tr. Tales from the Fjeld: A Second Series of Popular Tales, from the Norse of P. Chr. Asbjørnsen. London: Chapman and Hall, 1874. ⍽▢⍽ Fifty-two more Norwegian tales.

Gade, Helen and John, trs. Norwegian Fairy Tales: From the Collection of Asbjörnsen and Moe. New York: London: Humphrey Milford, 1924. ⍽▢⍽ Thirty-three tales.

Hodne, Ørnulf: The Types of the Norwegian Folktale. Bergen: Universitetsforlaget, 1984.

Stroebe, Clara, ed. The Norwegian Fairy Book. Tr. Frederick Herman Martens. New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1922. ⍽▢⍽ Thirty-seven tales.

Uther, Hans-Jörg. The Types of International Folktales: A Classification and Bibliography Based on the System of Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson. Vols 1-3. FF Communications No. 284-86, Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 2004.

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© 1996–2018, Tormod Kinnes. [Email]

User's guide  ᴥ  Disclaimer
© 1996–2018, Tormod Kinnes. [Email]