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Black woodpecker
Black woodpecker

When our Lord walked the earth, he and St. Peter came to a cookhouse. A woman who baked for others was sitting there. Her name was Gjertrud.

"Oh, may I get a flatbread," said our Lord Jesus, for he had walked a long way without tasting food.

Well, Gjertrud made a little doughy mass and rolled it out, but the more she rolled it out the more it grew, and when she had baked it, the piece had become so large that she did not have the heart to give it away.

Then she took a smaller doughy mass and rolled it out, but the more she rolled it out, the more it grew, and when she had baked it, the piece was even bigger than the first one. No, she could not afford to give him that one either.

Then she took a tiny doughy mass and rolled it out; but the more she rolled it the more it grew, and when she had baked that piece it was so huge that she never had baked so large a piece earlier. So it became impossible to give away that lefse too.

Then our Lord said:

"Since you begrudged me the bread,
You shall seek your food between bark and wood,
And not drink until rainfall!"

At that very moment Gjertrud was transformed to a bird that flew up through the chimney. It had to look for its food between the bark and the wood and drink rainwater. It was the woodpecker, as we also call it.


  • Cookhouse: Separate building on farm, used for baking, brewing, washing.
  • Flatbread: Very thin, crisp, unleavened bread.
  • Lefse: Thin pancake from a from rolled dough served buttered and folded.



Bear and Fox

Head of a fox for a Norwegian folktale
What was the young's name?
The big bear and the clever fox had once bought a firkin of butter together; they were to have it at Christmas-tide, and hid it till then under a thick spruce bush.
      After that they went a little way off and lay down on a sunny bank to sleep. So when they had lain a while the fox got up, shook himself, and bawled out "yes."

Then he ran off straight to the firkin and ate a good third part of it. But when he came back, and the bear asked him where he had been since he was so fat about the paunch, he said,

"Don't you believe then that I was bidden to a childbed feast."

"So, so," said the bear. "What was the young's name?"

"Just-begun," said the fox.

So they lay down to sleep again. In a little while up jumped the fox again, bawled out "yes," and ran off to the firkin.

This time, too, he ate a good lump. When he came back, and the bear asked him again where he had been, he said, "Oh wasn't I bidden to a naming childbed party again, don't you think."

"And pray what was the young's name this time?" asked the bear.

"Half-eaten," said the fox.

The bear thought that a very queer name, but he hadn't wondered long over it before he began to yawn and gape, and fell asleep. Well, he hadn't lain long before the fox jumped up as he had done twice before, bawled out "yes," and ran off to the firkin, which this time he cleared right out. When he got back he had been bidden to childbed feast again, and when the bear wanted to know the young's name he answered, "Licked-to-the-bottom."

After that they lay down again, and slept a long time; but then they were to go to the firkin to look at the butter, and when they found it eaten up, the bear threw the blame on the fox, and the fox on the bear; and each said the one had been at the firkin while the other slept.

"Well, well," said Reynard, "we'll soon find out which of us has eaten the butter. We'll just lay down in the sunshine, and he whose cheeks and chaps are greasiest when we wake, he is the thief."

Yes, that trial the big bear felt ready to stand, as he knew in his heart he had never so much as tasted the butter.

Then Reynard stole off to the firkin for a morsel of butter that stuck there in a crack. Then he crept back to the bear who now lay without a care, sleeping in the sun, and greased his chaps and cheeks with it. Then he, too, lay down to sleep as if nothing had happened.

So when they both woke, the sun had melted the butter, and the bear's whiskers were all greasy. So it was the bear after all who had eaten the butter, and no one else.



The Fox as Herdsman

Once on a time there was a woman who went out to hire a herdsman, and she met a bear.

"Where away, Goody?" said Bruin.

"Oh, I'm going out to hire a herdsman," answered the woman.
      "Why not have me for a herdsman?" said Bruin.

"Well, why not?" said the woman. "If you only knew how to call the flock; just let me hear."

"OW, OW!" growled the bear.

"No, no! I won't have you," said the woman, as soon as she heard him say that, and off she went on her way.

So, when she had gone a bit farther, she met a wolf.

"Where away, Goody?" asked the wolf.

"Oh," said she, "I'm going out to hire a herdsman."

"Why not have me for a herdsman?" said the wolf.

"Well, why not? If you can only call the flock; let me hear," said she.

"Uh, uh!" said the wolf.

"No, no!" said the woman; "you'll never do for me."

Well, after she had gone a while longer, she met a fox.

"Where away, Goody?" asked the fox.

"Oh, I'm just going out to hire a herdsman," said the woman.

"Why not have me for your herdsman?" asked the fox.

"Why herd?"

"Well, why not?" said she; "if you only knew how to call the flock; let me hear."

"DIL-DAL-HOLOM," sung out the fox, in such a fine clear voice.

"Yes; I'll have you for my herdsman," said the woman; and so she set the fox to herd her flock.

The first day the fox was herdsman he ate up all the woman's goats; the next day he made an end of all her sheep; and the third day he ate up all her kine. So, when he came home at even, the woman asked what he had done with all her flocks?

"Oh!" said the fox, "their skulls are in the stream, and their bodies in the holt."

Now, the Goody stood and churned when the fox said this, but she thought she might as well step out and see after her flock; and while she was away the fox crept into the churn and ate up the cream. So when the Goody came back and saw that, she fell into such a rage, that she snatched up the little morsel of the cream that was left, and threw it at the fox as he ran off, so that he got a dab of it on the end of his tail, and that's why the fox has a white tip to his brush.



The Cat on the Dovrefjell


Once on a time there was a man up in Finnmark who had caught a great white bear, which he was going to take to the king of Denmark. Now, it so fell out that he came to the Dovre mountain plateau just about Christmas Eve, and there he turned into a cottage where a man lived, whose name was Halvor, and asked the man if he could get house-room there for his bear and himself.

"Heaven never help me, if what I say isn't true!" said the man; "but we can't give any one house-room just now, for every Christmas Eve such a pack of trolls come down on us that we are forced to flit, and haven't so much as a house over our own heads, to say nothing of lending one to any one else."

"Oh!" said the man, "if that's all, you can very well lend me your house; my bear can lie under the stove over there, and I can sleep in the side-room."

Well, he begged so hard, that at last he got leave to stay there; so the people of the house flitted out, and before they went everything was got ready for the trolls; the tables were laid, and there was rice porridge, and fish boiled in lye, and sausages, and all else that was good, just as for any other grand feast.

So, when everything was ready, down came the trolls. Some were great, and some were small; some had long tails, and some had no tails at all; some, too, had long, long noses; and they ate and drank, and tasted everything. Just then one of the little trolls caught sight of the white bear, who lay under the stove; so he took a piece of sausage and stuck it on a fork, and went and poked it up against the bear's nose, screaming out:

"Pussy, will you have some sausage?"

Then the white bear rose up and growled, and hunted the whole pack of them out of doors, both great and small.

Next year Halvor was out in the wood on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, cutting wood before the holidays, for he thought the trolls would come again; and just as he was hard at work, he heard a voice in the wood calling out:

"Halvor! Halvor!"

"Well," said Halvor, "here I am."

"Have you got your big cat with you still?"

"Yes, that I have," said Halvor; "she's lying at home under the stove, and what's more, she has now got seven kittens, far bigger and fiercer than she is herself."

"Oh, then, we'll never come to see you again," bawled out the troll away in the wood, and he kept his word; for since that time the trolls have never eaten their Christmas brose with Halvor on the Dovrefjell.




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