Site Map
Norwegian Folktales
Section › 1   Set    Search  Previous Next

Reservations   Contents    

The Cormorants of Udrost

Bright, among the skerries of the Western sea, an island rides on the wave.
Yet if mortal ship by chance should drift too near the enchanted shore, a curtain of dark mist enshrouds the isle.
If so, no human eye can see its brightness, and no human foot may leave its print on the golden fields.
It's but in fancy he who lives ashore may picture, from the sweet longings of his dreams, that fairy jewel out there called Udrost.

Setting the scene

Silhouette of cormorant

When the fishermen in the north of Norway come to land, they often find straw stuck between the rudder and the stern-post, or grain in the stomach of the fish. It is then said that they have sailed over Udrost, or some of the other fairylands that so many legends are told of in the north.

These fairylands are only seen by pious people or by those who are gifted with second sight. When such people are in danger of their lives at sea, the fairylands appear where at other times no land is found. The supernatural people who live there have farms and keep cattle, own ships and fish, like some folks, but the sun shines on greener pastures and richer cornfields than elsewhere in the north. Fortunate is he who has landed on or even seen one of these sunny isles - "he is a made man," say the people in the north.

An old ballad, in the style of Peter Dass, gives a full description of an island somewhere off Helgeland, a fairy island with rich fisheries and abounding with game of all sorts.

And in the middle of the Vestfjord a large flat land with rich cornfields also appears, but it only rises high enough above the surface of the water to leave the ears of the corn dry.

And then, outside the island Rost, off the southern point of the Lofoten islands, a similar fairyland with green hills and golden barley fields is spoken of at times. It is called Udrost. The farmer on Udrost owns his fishing-smack just like any other farmer in the north; sometimes the fishermen see it under full sail, steering right down on them, but just as they expect to be run down, it disappears.

Riff-raff start

On Vaero, not far from Rost, lived once a poor fisherman, whose name was Isaac. All he possessed was a boat and a couple of goats, which his wife managed to keep alive on fish offal and the few stray wisps of grass to be found on the neighbouring cliffs; but he had a whole cottage full of hungry children. Even so Isaac seemed always to be satisfied with the lot Providence had ordained for him. His only complaint was that he could never be left in peace by his neighbour, who was a well-to-do man who fancied that he ought to have everything better than such riff-raff as Isaac. He wanted, therefore, to get rid of Isaac that he might have the harbour in front of Isaac's cottage.

Sailing out to sea

One day when Isaac was fishing a good many miles out at sea, a thick, dark fog came upon him, and before long a tremendous gale broke loose and raged with such a fury that he had to throw all the fish overboard to lighten the boat and save his life that way.

Still it was not easy to keep the boat afloat; but he knew how to handle his little craft, and how to steer her among the heavy seas, which every moment threatened to swamp her. When he had been sailing at this rate for five or six hours, he thought he ought soon to see land somewhere. But hour after hour passed and the storm and the thick fog got worse and worse. Then it dawned on him that he must be steering right out to sea, or that the wind had shifted.

He soon became convinced that he must have guessed right, for he sailed and sailed, but saw no sign of land. All of a sudden he heard a terrible screech ahead and he thought it must be the bogie singing his dirge. He prayed for his wife and children, for he knew now that his last hour had come. While he thus sat and prayed he caught sight of something black. As he came nearer he saw it was only three cormorants sitting on a piece of drift-wood. The next moment he had sailed past them. The time wore on and he began to feel so thirsty and so hungry and so tired that he did not know what to do.

What was hidden from normal sight

He was sitting half asleep, with the tiller in his hand, when all at once the boat grated against the beach and ran aground. Isaac was not long in getting his eyes open. The sun was breaking through the fog and shone on a lovely country; the hills and the cliffs were green right to the top. There were meadows and cornfields on the slopes, and a scent of flowers and grass such as he had never before experienced.

Isaac said to himself. "I'm safe now; this must be Udrost."

Straight before him was a field of barley, with ears so large and full that he had never seen their like, and a narrow path led through this field to a green turf-roofed hut at its far side. On the roof of the hut was a white, grazing goat with gilt horns; its udder was as large as the largest cow's. Outside the hut sat a little old man on a wooden stool, smoking a fine pipe. He was dressed in blue, and had a full long beard which reached down to his waist.

The Udrost welcome

"Welcome to Udrost, Isaac!" said the old man.

"Thank you!" answered Isaac. "You know me, then?"

"Maybe I do," said the man. "You want to stop here tonight, I suppose?"

"Well, if I might I should like nothing better," said Isaac.

"It's rather awkward with those sons of mine," said the old man; "they don't like the smell of Christians. Haven't you met them?"

"No, I have met nothing but three cormorants sitting on a bit of drift-wood screeching."

"They are my sons, you see," said the old man, as he knocked the ashes out of his pipe. "You'd better go inside in the meantime. I suppose you're both hungry and thirsty?"

"Thanks for your offer, my friend," said Isaac.

When the man opened the door, Isaac found it was such a fine and grand place he was quite taken aback. He had never seen anything like it before. The table was covered with the most splendid dishes - sea perch and sour cream, venison and cod-liver stew with treacle and cheese, heaps of cakes, brandy, beer and mead - in fact, everything that was good.

Isaac ate and drank as much as he was able, but still his plate never became empty, and although he drank a good deal, his glass was always full. The old man did not eat much, and he did not speak much either.

Just as they were sitting, they heard a screech and a great noise outside. The old man went out, and soon came back with his three sons. Isaac felt just a little queer when they came in, but the old man must have been telling them to behave themselves, for they were kind and pleasant enough.

When Isaac was going to leave the table, they said he must follow their custom and sit down and drink with them. He had done very well, he said, but he would join them if they wished and they drank glass after glass of brandy, and now and then took a pull at the beer and the mead. They became good friends and got on very well together. Isaac must go fishing a trip or two with them, they said, so that he could have something to take home with him when he went away.

The three sons and their father help him

The first trip they made was in a terrible gale. One of the sons was steering, the other held the sheet, and the third son was midships, while Isaac bailed out the water with a big scoop till the sweat ran down his back in big drops. They sailed as if they were stark mad; they never took in a reef in the sail, and when the seas filled the boat, they sailed her up on the back of a wave till she stood nearly on end and the water rushed out over her stern as out of a spout.

Shortly the storm abated, and they started to fish. The fish were so thickly packed that the lead could not reach the bottom and the young men from Udrost hauled in one fish after another. Isaac had plenty of bites too, but he had brought his own fishing tackle with him, and every time he got a fish as far as the gunwale it got off; he did not catch as much as the tail of one.

When the boat was full, they sailed home to Udrost. The sons cut up the fish and cleaned them and hung them up across some poles to dry, but Isaac could only complain of his bad fortune to the old man, who promised him better luck next time and gave him a couple of fish-hooks.

The next time they went out fishing Isaac caught as many fish as the others, and when they came ashore and hung up their catch, he had three long poles full for his share.

Isaac sails homeward

Isaac soon began to feel homesick. When he was leaving the old man made him a present of a new eight-oared boat, filled with bags of flour, canvas and other useful things, and Isaac thanked him a lot. The old man told him to come back again by the time the fishing smacks were about to start for their yearly trips to Bergen; he was going himself with a cargo, and Isaac could go with him and sell his fish. Isaac would be pleased to do that, and asked what course he was to steer when he sailed for Udrost again.

"Straight after the cormorants, when they fly to sea," said the old man. "That's your right course, and a safe journey to you!"

Isaac sailed away from the shore and wanted to wave goodbye to his friends. But when he turned round to give his friends a farewell wave, he could not see Udrost; he saw only the open sea far and near.

The second visit, for he behaved like a gentleman

When the time came for the smacks to sail for Bergen, Isaac arrived again at Udrost. The man had a very big boat, it was enough to make himself heard in many ways. Isaac's share of the cargo was stowed forward in the smack; he took the fish down off the poles himself, but he could not make out how it came to pass that as soon as he took the fish off the poles, they were full of new fish again; and when they sailed, there was just as much fish as when he came.

From Bergen
Bryggen (the Pier), Bergen, part of the Unesco World Heritage.

When he came to Bergen, he sold his fish and got so much money that he bought a new smack, with cargo and everything that was wanted for a good outfit, just as the old man had advised him to do. Late in the evening, when he was getting ready to sail, the old man came on board to him and asked him not to forget those who had been his neighbours when he was lost at sea, and then he foretold good luck for Isaac with his smack.

"Everything on board is sound and good, and you may be sure that all aloft will stand," said he, meaning that there would always be one on board whom nobody could see, who at a pinch would put his back to the mast and steady it.

From there on

ISAAC was always quite successful after that time. He knew well where his great new luck came from . . . Every Christmas Eve there was such a glare of light from the smack that it could be seen afar off, and you could hear the sound of fiddles and music and laughter and merriment - and there was every indication that dancing was going on in the cabin, for that's what the story says, or what?



The Giant's Mountain

Howdy ABOVE Vaage parsonage rises a hill or small mountain crowned with tall and majestic pine trees. It's called the giant's mountain by the people around there. It's very steep and full of deep dark crevices.

If you stand on the bridge over the rushing river below it somewhere and call your imagination to your assistance, the rocks seem to form a large double gateway in one of the weather-beaten sides, and at the top it looks exactly like a gothic arch. Old, white-stemmed birch trees stand as pillars at its sides, right below where the arch begins.

Now, this archway is hardly an ordinary door or gate, but an entrance to a giant's castle; it's the gateway called the "giant's gate". In the old days, if anyone wanted to borrow anything from the giant, or to speak with him on other business, it was customary to throw a stone at the gate and say: "Open, giant!"

One day a travelling fairy tale collector made an old farmer show him the way to the giant's gate. They knocked on it twice, but none opened it. Can you believe that? The visitor wondered if the giant would not receive them due to his old age. Or maybe the many stones thrown at his gate had troubled the giant too much. It was too hard to tell.

"One of the last who saw him," said the farmer, "was John Blessom, the parson's neighbour. But maybe he wished he never had seen him," he added.

"This John Blessom was once down in Copenhagen about a lawsuit - for if anyone wished for "fair play" in such matters, they had to travel down there. Fair play is a jewel.

Well, John was down there on Christmas Eve, and had finished his business with the grand folks and was ready to start for home. He walked along the streets in a gloomy mood, for he was longing to be at home up in the far north, and knew there was no way of getting home till long after Christmas.

Suddenly a person, who by his dress appeared to be a farmer from his own parish up in Norway, passed him in a great hurry. It was a big, tall man, with large shiny buttons as big as silver dollars on his white jacket. John thought he knew him, but the other walked past him so quickly that he did not get a good sight of his face.

"You are in a great hurry," John called after him.

"Yes, I have to make haste," answered the stranger; "I have to be back home at Vaage tonight!"

"I wish I could get there as well," said John.

"Well, you can stand behind on my sledge," said the other, "for I have a horse who does the mile in twelve strides."

John thanked him for the offer, went with him to the stable and off they started. John was only barely able to stick on to the sledge, for away they went like the wind through the air. He could neither see earth nor sky.

Norwegian folktales illustration

At one place they stopped to rest. John could not tell where it was, but just as they were starting again he saw a skull on a pole.

When they had travelled some distance further, John began to feel cold.

"Ugh! I forgot one of my mittens where we rested," he said; "my fingers are freezing!"

"You have to stand it, John Blessom," said the stranger, "it isn't far to Vaage now. Where we rested was half-way."

The stranger stopped just before they came to the bridge over the rushing river to put John down.

"You are not far from home, now," said he. "Now, promise me not to look behind you if you hear any rumble or see any light around you."

John did and thanked him for the lift.

The stranger travelled on over the bridge, and John walked up the hillside to his farm. Then all of a sudden he heard a rumble in the giant's mountain, and the road in front of him was suddenly lighted up - he could have seen to pick up a needle. He forgot his promise and turned his head to check. It was a very natural reaction. And what did he find?

The gate in the mountain was wide open and there came a light from it as from many thousand candles. Right in the middle of the gate he saw the giant himself - it was the stranger he had been driving with.

John couldn't shake it off, no matter how he strove and struggled that night. He also overdid his shaking. From then on, John Blessom's head was tilted a lot, and it had to remain that way as long as he lived," said the old farmer.



East of the Sun and West of the Moon

A classic folk tale that reflects the myth of Eros and Psyche in the Norwegian, rustic fashion, has been slightly modified for the sake of artist souls (we all are) -

Handling young beauty like a "bear-lair" and non-haughty artist could be the first natural-looking need hinted at

There was once a poor tenant who had many children, but very little food or clothes to give them. They were all pretty children, but the prettiest was the youngest daughter. She was so lovely that it was almost too much to handle.

The girl didn't want the artist-looking one - she preferred a dandy


Then one Thursday evening, late in the autumn, there was terrible weather. It was dreadfully dark out of doors, it rained and blew till the wall creaked. They were all sitting by the hearth and kept busy with something or other. All at once someone knocked three times on the window-pane. The man went to see what was the matter outside. There he found a looming white bear.

"Good evening!" said the white bear.

"Good evening!" said the man.

"Will you give me your youngest daughter? If so, I'll make you as rich as you are poor now," said the bear. He could do that.

The man thought it would be nice to get that rich, but he had to speak with his daughter first. So he went in and told her that a looming white bear was outside and promised that he would make them rich if he could only have her.

She said "No," and wouldn't agree to any such arrangement. Then the man went out and arranged with the white bear that the bear should come back next Thursday evening for an answer.

In the next few days the others talked her round. They told her of all the riches they would get if she said yes to wedding a bear, and how delightful her new home would be. At last she gave in to their entreaties and began washing and mending her few rags and made herself look as well as she could. Then she was at last ready for the journey, for her baggage was not much to speak of.

Next Thursday evening the white bear came to fetch her. She got up on his back with her bundle, and off they went.

When they had gone some distance the white bear said:

"Are you afraid?"

Well, no, she wasn't afraid.

"Just hold tight to my coat and there will be no danger," said the bear.

In the surprisingly rich artist's lair

And soshe rode far, far away. They came at last to a big mountain. The white bear knocked at it. A gate was opened, and they came into a castle where there were a great many rooms all lit up and gleaming with silver and gold. There was also a great hall, where a table stood ready laid. In fact, all was so grand and splendid that you wouldn't believe it unless you saw it.

The white bear gave her a silver bell. She was to ring the bell whenever she wanted anything, and her wishes would be attended to at once.

When she had eaten, it was getting late in the evening and she was very sleepy after the journey. So she thought she would like to go to bed. She rang the bell and scarcely had she touched it before she was in a room where she found the most beautiful bed anyone could wish for. She saw silken pillows and curtains and gold fringes on it too. Everything else in the room was made of gold and silver, silver and gold.

The nightly encounters: She slept with him and came to like it

But when she had gone to bed and put out the light, she heard someone coming into the room and sitting down in the big armchair beside the bed. It was the white bear, who at night could throw off his bear shape. She could hear by his snoring as he sat in the chair that he was now in the shape of a man. But she never saw him, for he always came after she had put out the light, and in the morning before the day dawned he was gone.

For a while everything went on happily. But then she began to be silent and sorrowful, for she went about all day alone, and longed to be at home with her parents and sisters and brothers again.

Longing for mom while living with an unrecognised artist is hardly unnatural

When the white bear asked what ailed her, she said she was so lonely there, she walked about all alone, and longed for her home and her parents and brothers and sisters: that was the reason she was sad.

"But you may visit them, if you like," said the white bear, "if you'll only promise me one thing: Never talk alone with your mother, but only when there are others in the room. She'll take you by the hand and try to lead you into a room to speak with you all by yourself; but you must not do this by any means, or you'll make us both unhappy, and bring misfortune on us."

One Sunday the white bear came and told her that they were now going to see her parents. Away they went. She was sitting on his back. They travelled far and long, and at last they came to a grand white farmhouse, where her sisters and brothers were running about. Everything was so pretty that it was a pleasure to see it.

The artist made the in-laws affluent in his way

"Your parents are living here," said the bear; "but mind you don't forget what I've said, or you'll make us both unhappy."

No, she wouldn't forget it.

When he had delivered her at the door, the bear turned round and went away. There was such a joy when she came into the home of her parents that there was no end to it. They said they didn't know how to thank her fully for what she had done for them. They had everything they wanted, and everybody asked after her and wanted to know how she was getting on, and where she was living.

She said that she was very comfortable and had everything she wished for; but otherwise they didn't get much out of her.

But one day after dinner it happened exactly as the white bear had said; her mother wanted to speak with her alone in her chamber. But the daughter recalled what the bear had told her, and wouldn't go with her.

"What we've got to talk about, we can do at some other time," she said.

Hazardous plots (Life Scripts) can be handed over from mom to daughter and make living faulty

But somehow or other her mother talked her round at last, and so she had to tell her everything. She told her how a man came into her room every night as soon as she had put out the light, and how she never saw him, for he was always gone before the day dawned. She was sorrowful at this, for she thought she would like to see him, and in the daytime she walked about there alone and felt lonely and sad.

"Dear me!" said her mother, "it may be a troll for all we know! But I'll tell you how you can get a sight of him. Here's a piece of a candle. Take with you home in your bosom. When he is asleep, light that candle, but never drop any of the tallow on him."

Well, she took the candle and hid it in her bosom, and in the evening the white bear came and fetched her.

When they had gone some distance of the way the bear asked her if everything hadn't happened as he had said. Yes, she couldn't deny that.

"Well, if you've listened to your mother's advice you'll make us both unhappy, and all will be over between us," said the bear.

No, she hadn't! she faked.

The real state of affairs is revealed - the artist is seen as the good one, after all

When they got home and she had gone to bed, the same thing occurred as before. Someone came into the room and sat in the armchair by her bedside. But deep in the night when she heard that he was asleep, she got up and struck a light, lit the candle and let the light rest on him. She then saw that he was the loveliest prince anyone could wish to see. At once she fell deeply in love with him and thought that if she couldn't kiss him there and then she wouldn't be able to live.

So she did, but at the same time she accidentally dropped three hot drops of tallow on him and he woke up.

If an artist feels offended, he may recoil immediately, and once and for all

An artist could need to retire from much to get his way or remain aloof of gold-hungry folks

"What have you done?" he said, "now you've made us both unhappy for ever, for if you had only held out one year I should have been saved. You see, I have a stepmother who has bewitched me, and I am now a white bear by day and a man by night. But now all is over between us, and I must leave you and go back to where she lives in a castle which lies east of the sun and west of the moon. In this castle there is a gold-hungry princess with a nose two yards long. Now I have to marry that one."

She wept and cried, but there was no help for it; he had to go and leave her. So she asked him if she might not go with him.

No, that couldn't be done!

"But if you'll tell me the way, I'll try and find you," she said. "I suppose I may have leave to do that!"

Yes, she could do that, he said, but there was no road to that place; it lay east of the sun and west of the moon, and she could never find her way there.

Hunting high and low for the disappeared mate, and getting advice from three old hags in so doing

Unless desperate, maybe young women won't take advice from old and run-down women, but still they could love to lay hands on the golden utensils and valuables of old ones.

Next morning when she woke up, both the prince and the castle were gone. She lay in a little green clearing deep in a dark thick forest. By her side lay the same bundle of old rags that she had brought with her from home. When she had rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and wept till she was tired, she set out on her way and walked for many, many days. Then she came to a big mountain at last.

Close to it an old woman sat and played with a golden apple. She asked the woman if she knew the way to the prince who lived with his stepmother in a castle that lay east of the sun and west of the moon, and who was going to marry a gold-hungry princess with a nose two yards long.

"How do you know him?" asked the old woman, "maybe it was you who should have had him?"

Yes, it was she.

"Ah indeed! So it was you?" said the woman. "Well, all I know is that he lives in the castle which lies east of the sun and west of the moon and you shouldn't come late or never to that place all by yourself. However, let me lend you my own horse. On him you can ride to my neighbour. She's an old friend of mine, and maybe she can tell you more. When you've got there, give my horse a blow with your whip under the left ear and ask him to go home again. And now, you'd better take this golden apple with you."

The girl got up on the horse and rode a long, long time. A last she came to a mountain. An old woman was sitting there with a golden carding-comb.

She asked the old woman if she knew the way to the castle which lay east of the sun and west of the moon.

She answered like the first old woman, that she didn't know anything about it, but it was sure to be east of the sun and west of the moon, "and you shouldn't come early or late to that place all by yourself, but let me lend you my horse as far as my neighbour. Maybe she can tell you. When you've got there, give my horse a blow under the left ear and ask him to go home again."

And the old woman gave her the golden carding-comb, which might come in useful, she said.

The young girl got up on the horse and rode for a long, long weary time. Then at last she came to another large mountain. An old woman was sitting there and spinning on a golden spinning-wheel. She asked the old woman if she knew the way to the prince, and where the castle was that lay east of the sun and west of the moon. And so came the same question:

"Maybe it's you who should have had the prince?"

Yes, it was.

But the old woman knew the way no better than the other two. It was east of the sun and west of the moon - she knew that - "and you shouldn't come early or late to that place all by yourself," she said, "but I'll lend you my horse, and then I think you'd better ride to the East Wind and ask him. Maybe he knows those parts and can blow you there.

When you've got to the East Wind, just touch the horse under the ear and he'll go home again."

And so she gave her the golden spinning-wheel.

"You could find a use for it," said the old woman.

Trying to get help from four strong winds

If you need winds as helpers, you have to get much handy, all in all, and not too disoriented.

The girl rode on many days for a long weary time before she got to the East Wind. But after a long time she caught up with him and asked him if he could tell her the way to the prince who lived east of the sun and west of the moon.

Yes, he had heard tell of that prince, said the East Wind, and of the castle too, but he didn't know the way there, for he had never blown so far. "But if you like I'll go with you to my brother, the West Wind. Maybe he knows it, for he's much stronger. If you get up on my back I'll carry you to him."

Away they went at a great speed.

She did so. Away they went at a great speed. When they got to the West Wind, they went into him, and the East Wind told him that she was the one who should have had the prince who lived in the castle which lay east of the sun and west of the moon. She was now on her way to find him again. Therefore he had gone with her to hear if the West Wind knew where that castle was.

"No, I've never blown so far," said the West Wind, "but if you like I'll go with you to the South Wind, for he's much stronger than any of us, and he has been far and wide; maybe he can tell you. You'd better sit up on my back and I'll carry you to him."

She got on his back, and off they started for the South Wind. They weren't long on the way. When they got there, the West Wind asked his brother if he could tell him the way to the castle which lay east of the sun and west of the moon. His companion was the one who should have had the prince who lived there.

"I say," said the South Wind, "is she the one? Well, I've been to many a nook and corner in my time, but as far as that I've never blown. But I can go with you to my brother, the North Wind: he's the oldest and strongest of us four. If he doesn't know where it is, you wont' be able to find anyone who can tell you. Just get up on my back and I'll carry you to him."

She sat up on his back. Away they went at such a rate that the way didn't seem to be very long.

When they got to where the North Wind lived, cold gusts were felt a long way off.

"What do you want?" he asked, and didn't seem cosy and friendly in any way at all. It made them shiver all over.

"Oh, don't be harsh with your own brother," said the South Wind, "I have with me the one who should have had the prince who lives in that castle which lies east of the sun and west of the moon. She wants to ask you if you've ever been there and if you can tell her the way. She cares about him and is desperate to find him again."

"Well, I know where it is," said the North Wind; "I once blew an aspen leaf there, but I got so tired that I wasn't able to blow for many days after." He paused before adding, "All right then, if you really want to get there and are not afraid to come with me, I'll take you on my back and try if I can blow you that far."

She was willing; she had to get there if it were possible, one way or another, and she wasn't a bit afraid, she was aching to get her bear-man back.

"Very well!" said the North Wind, "Stop here tonight then, for we need a whole day before us and maybe more if we are to reach it."

Early next morning the North Wind called her, and then he puffed himself out and made himself so big and strong that he was terrible to look at. Away they went, high up through the air at a fearful speed. It seemed there were going to the end of the world. There was such a hurricane on land that trees and houses were blown down. When they came out on the big sea, ships were wrecked by the hundred.

Ever onwards they swept, so far, far, that no one would believe how far they went, and still farther and farther out to sea, till in the end the North Wind got so exhausted that he was scarcely able to give another blow. He was sinking and going down more and more. At last they were so low that the tops of the billows touched their heels.

"Are you far too afraid?" said the North Wind.

"Not altogether," she said.

On the other side - trying to find a not too severe way out together, once again

By now they were not very far from the shore on the other side of the sea either. The North Wind had just enough strength left to reach that shore. He put her off just under the windows of the castle which lay east of the sun and west of the moon. But he was then so tired and worn out that he had to rest for many days before he could start on his way home again.

Next morning she sat down under the castle windows, and began playing with the golden apple. The first person she saw was the gold-eating princess with the long nose, the one the prince was going to marry.

"What do you want for that golden apple?" the gold-hungry princess asked, and opened the casement.

"It's not for sale, not at all for money," said the girl.

"If it isn't for sale for money, what do you want for it then?" said the gold-hungry princess; "I'll give you what you ask!"

"Well, if tonight I may sit in the armchair by the bedside of the prince who lives here, you can have it," said the girl who came with the North Wind.

Yes, she might do that, there would be no difficulty about that.

So the gold-hungry princess got the apple of gold, but when the girl came up into the prince's bedroom in the evening, he was fast asleep. No matter how hard she called him and shook him and now and then cried and wept, she couldn't wake him up so that she could talk with him. Next morning, as soon as the day dawned, the gold-hungry princess with the long nose came and turned her out of the room.

Later in the day the girl sat down under the castle windows and began carding with her golden carding-comb, and then the same thing happened again. The gold-hungry princess asked her what she wanted for the carding-comb, and was told that it wasn't for sale for gold or money. But if the girl could be allowed to sit in the armchair by the prince's bedside that night, the gold-hungry princess should have the carding-comb.

But when the girl came up into the bedroom she found her prince fast asleep again. For all she cried and shook him, for all she wept, he slept so soundly that she couldn't get life into him. When the day dawned, in came the gold-hungry princess with the long nose and turned her out of the room again.

As the day wore on, the girl sat down under the castle windows and began spinning on the spinning-wheel. The gold-hungry princess with the long nose came around and wanted to have it. She opened the casement and asked the girl what she wanted for it. The girl told her as she had done twice before that it wasn't for sale either for gold or money. However, if she might sit in the armchair by the gold-hungry princess bedside that night the gold-hungry princess should have it. Yes, she was allowed that.

Those helping hands - some help because they're nice, others to gain benefits

Now, there also were some rare people in that castle. They had been carried off and put under arrest in the room next to the prince's. They had heard that some woman had been in his room and wept and cried and called his name two nights on row, and thought the prince should know. So they told him about his strangely deep sleep and the other things that happened in the night.

In the evening, when the gold-hungry princess came and brought him his drink, he looked as if he drank it, but he threw it over his shoulder, for he felt sure she had put a sleeping draught in it. That was the case.

So when the girl came into his room that night she found the prince wide awake, and then she told him how she had come there.

"You've come just in time," said the prince, "for tomorrow I was to be married to the gold-hungry princess. But I won't have that long nose, and - mama mia - you're the one who can save me.

I'll say I want to see what my bride can do, to check if she's fit to be my wife. Then I'll ask her to wash the shirt with the three tallow stains on it. She'll try, for she doesn't know that it was you who dropped the tallow on the shirt and that it may only be washed clean by the one that did it, not by clever trolls in this place. Next I'll say that I won't have anybody else for a bride except the one who can wash the shirt clean, and I know you can do that."

The two of them felt glad and happy about this arrangement, and went on talking all night about the joyful time in store for them.

Be good at washing, lassie, or . . . (a camouflaged socialization demand)

Next day, when the wedding was to take place, the prince said: "I think I must see first what my bride can do!"

"Yes, quite so," said the stepmother.

"I've got a very fine shirt that I want to use for my wedding shirt. But there are three tallow stains on it. I want the stains washed out; and I've made a vow that I won't take any other woman for a wife than the one who can do that. If she fails, she isn't worth having, at least today," said the prince.

"Well, that's easy enough," said the stepmother and agreed to this trial.

So the gold-hungry princess with the long nose set to washing the best she could, but the more she washed the bigger grew the stains.

"Why, you can't wash," said her mother; "let me try!" But no sooner did she take the shirt than it got still worse, and the more she washed and rubbed, the bigger and blacker the stains grew.

All the other trolls tried their hands at washing, but the longer they worked at it the dirtier the shirt grew. Finally it looked as if it had been up the chimney.

"So, you're not worth having, anyone you!" said the prince; "but there's a poor girl under the window just outside here. think she can wash much better than any of you. Come in, my girl!" he shouted out to her.

The girl came in.

"Can you wash this shirt clean?" asked the prince.

"Well, I'll try," she said.

No sooner had she taken the shirt and dipped it in the water, than it was as white as the driven snow, if not whiter.

"Look at that! This one must be my bride," said the prince.

Getting away from the place of gold-hungry big ones should help, but does it?

At this exposure the old mother in the castle flew into such a rage that she fell down the stairs and got lame. And the gold-hungry princess hated him so much that she took to eating herself fat. The gold-eaters there didn't know what they should do.

The prince and his bride then set free the people who had been carried off and wrongly imprisoned in that place. Then the couple moved away from the castle which lay east of the sun and west of the moon, for they saw they had the better life in waiting in quite another place.




Norwegian folktales, fairy tales of Norway, Asbjørnsen and Moe tales, folk tales of the North, To top    Section     Set    Next

Norwegian folktales, fairy tales of Norway, Asbjørnsen and Moe tales, folk tales of the North. User's Guide   ᴥ    Disclaimer 
© 1996–2018, Tormod Kinnes [Email]