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NORWEGIAN FOLKTALES. Bear

Once a man had to drive his sledge to the wood for fuel. A bear met him.

"Give me your horse," said the bear, "or I'll strike all your sheep dead by summer."

"Oh! heaven help me then," said the man; "there's not a stick of firewood in the house; you must let me drive home a load of fuel, or else we shall be frozen to death. I'll bring the horse to you tomorrow morning."

Yes; on those terms he might drive the wood home, that was a bargain. But Bruin added that if the man didn't come back, he should lose all his sheep by summer.

The man got the wood on the sledge and rattled homewards, but he wasn't over pleased at the bargain. Just then a fox met him.

"Why, what's the matter?" said the fox; "why are you so down in the mouth?"

The man said: "I met a bear up in the wood over there and had to give my word to him to bring Dobbin back tomorrow at this very hour, for if he didn't get him, he would tear all my sheep to death by summer, he said."

"Stuff, nothing worse than that," said the fox; "if you'll give me your fattest wether, I'll soon set you free; see if I don't."

Yes; the man gave his word, and swore he would keep it too.

"Well, tomorrow when you come with Dobbin for the bear," said the fox, "I'll make a clatter up in that heap of stones over there, and so when the bear asks what that noise is, you must say it is Peter the Marksman, the best shot in the world; and after that you must help yourself."

Next day the man set off, and when he met the bear, something began to make a clatter up in the heap of stones.

"Hist! What's that?" said the bear.

"Oh! that could be Peter the Marksman," said the man; "the best shot in the world."

"Have you seen any bears about here, Eric?" a voice shouted out in the wood.

"Say No!" said the bear.

"No, I haven't seen any," said Eric.

"What's that then that stands alongside your sledge?" bawled out the voice in the wood.

"Say it's an old fir-stump," said the bear.

"Oh, it's an old fir-stump," said the man.

"In our country we take such fir-stumps and roll them on our sledges," bawled out the voice. "If you cannot do it yourself, I'll come and help you."

"Say you can help yourself, and roll me up on the sledge," said the bear.

"No, thank you, I can help myself well enough," said the man, and rolled the bear on to the sledge.

"Such fir-stumps we always bind fast on our sledges in our part of the world," bawled out the voice. "Shall I come and help you?"

"Say you can help yourself, and bind me fast. Do," said the bear.

"No, thanks, I can help myself well enough," said the man, and set to binding Bruin fast with all the ropes he had, so that at last the bear couldn't stir a paw.

"Such fir-stumps we always drive our axes into in our part of the world," bawled out the voice; "for then we guide them better going down the steep pitches."

"Pretend to drive your axe into me; do now," said the bear.

Then the man took up his axe, and at one blow split the bear's skull, so that Bruin lay dead in a trice, and so the man and the fox were great friends and on the best terms. But when they came near the farm, the fox said:

"I have no mind to go right home with you, for I cannot say I like your farm workers. So I'll just wait here, and you can bring the wether to me, but mind and pick out one that is nice and fat."

Yes, the man would be sure to do that, and thanked the fox much for his help. So when he had put up Dobbin, he went across to the sheep-stall.

"Where away, now?" asked his old wife.

"Oh!" said the man, "I'm only going to the sheep-stall to fetch a fat wether for that cunning fox who set our Dobbin free. I gave him my word I would."

"Wether, indeed," said the old dame; "not one shall that thief of a fox get. Haven't we got Dobbin safe, and the bear into the bargain? As for the fox, I'm sure he has stolen more of our geese than the wether is worth; and even if he hasn't stolen them, he will. No, no; take a couple of your swiftest hounds in a sack and slip them loose after him. Then, perhaps, we shall be rid of this robbing Reynard."

Well, the man thought that was good advice; so he took two fleet red hounds, put them into a sack and set off with them.

"Have you brought the wether?" said the fox.

"Yes, come and take it," said the man as he untied the sack and let slip the hounds.

"HUF!" said the fox, and gave a great spring. "What the old saw says is true, 'Well done is often ill paid.' And now I see the truth of another saying too, 'The worst foes are those of one's own house.' " That was what the fox said as he ran off with the red foxy hounds at his heels.

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The Husband Who Was to Mind the House

Once on a time there was a man, so surly and cross, he never thought his wife did anything right in the house. So one evening, in hay-making time, he came home, scolding and swearing and showing his teeth and making a dust.

"Dear love, don't be so angry; there's a good man," said his goody; "tomorrow let's change our work. I'll go out with the mowers and mow, and you shall mind the house at home."

Yes, the husband thought that would do very well. He was quite willing, he said.

So, early next morning, his goody took a scythe over her neck, and went out into the hay-field with the mowers and began to mow; but the man was to mind the house, and do the work at home.

First of all he wanted to churn the butter; but when he had churned a while, he got thirsty, and went down to the cellar to tap a barrel of ale. So, just when he had knocked in the bung, and was putting the tap into the cask, he heard overhead the pig come into the kitchen. Then off he ran up the cellar steps, with the tap in his hand, as fast as he could, to look after the pig, lest it should upset the churn; but when he got up, and saw the pig had already knocked the churn over, and stood there, routing and grunting amongst the cream which was running all over the floor, he got so wild with rage that he quite forgot the ale-barrel, and ran at the pig, as hard as he could. He caught it, too, just as it ran out of doors, and gave it such a kick that piggy lay for dead on the spot. Then all at once he remembered he had the tap in his hand; but when he got down to the cellar, every drop of ale had run out of the cask.

Then he went into the dairy and found enough cream left to fill the churn again, and so he began to churn, for butter they must have at dinner. When he had churned a bit, he remembered that their milking cow was still shut up in the byre, and hadn't had a bit to eat or a drop to drink all the morning, though the sun was high. Then all at once he thought 'twas too far to take her down to the meadow, so he'd just get her up on the house-top – for the house, you must know, was thatched with sods, and a fine crop of grass was growing there. Now their house lay close up against a steep down, and he thought if he laid a plank across to the thatch at the back he'd easily get the cow up.

But still he couldn't leave the churn, for there was his little babe crawling about on the floor, and "if I leave it," he thought, "the child is safe to upset it." So he took the churn on his back, and went out with it; but then he thought, he'd better first water the cow before he turned her out on the thatch; so he took up a bucket to draw water out of the well; but, as he stooped down at the well's brink, all the cream ran out of the churn over his shoulders, and so down into the well.

Now it was near dinner-time, and he hadn't even got the butter yet; so he thought he'd best boil the porridge, and filled the pot with water, and hung it over the fire. When he had done that, he thought the cow might perhaps fall off the thatch and break her legs or her neck. So he got up on the house to tie her up. One end of the rope he made fast to the cow's neck, and the other he slipped down the chimney and tied round his own thigh; and he had to make haste, for the water now began to boil in the pot, and he had still to grind the oatmeal.

So he began to grind away; but while he was hard at it, down fell the cow off the house top after all, and as she fell, she dragged the man up the chimney by the rope. There he stuck fast; and as for the cow, she hung, half-way down the wall, swinging between heaven and earth, for she could neither get down nor up.

And now the goody had waited seven lengths and seven breadths for her husband to come and call them home to dinner; but never a call they had. At last she thought she'd waited long enough, and went home. But when she got there and saw the cow hanging in such an ugly place, she ran up and cut the rope in two with her scythe. But as she did this, down came her husband out of the chimney; and so when his old dame came inside the kitchen, there she found him standing on his head in the porridge-pot.

Log building with a sod roof, Norwegian folk museum in Oslo. Detail
Norwegian sod-roofed log building.
NORWEGIAN FOLKTALES. Snohetta to the east
Snøhetta of the Dovre Mountain plateau is 2286 m above sea level, and one of the highest mountains in Norway.

Once on a time there was a hen that had flown up, and perched on an oak-tree for the night. When the night came, she dreamed that unless she got to the Dovrefjell, the world would come to an end. So that very minute, she jumped down, and set out on her way. When she had walked a bit she met a cock.

"Good day, Cocky-Locky," said the hen.

"Good day, Henny-Penny," said the cock; "where away so early?"

"Oh, I'm going to the Dovrefjell, that the world may not come to an end," said the hen.

"Who told you that, Henny-Penny?" asked the cock.

"I sat in the oak and dreamt it last night," said the hen.

Hen
"I sat in the oak and dreamt," said the hen.

"I'll go with you," said the cock.

Well, they walked on a good bit, and then they met a duck.

"Good day, Ducky-Lucky," said the cock.

"Good day, Cocky-Locky," said the duck; "where away so early?"

"Oh, I'm going to the Dovrefjell, that the world may not come to an end," said the cock.

"Who told you that, Cocky-Locky?"

"Henny-Penny," said the cock.

"Who told you that, Henny-Penny?" asked the duck.

"I sat in the oak and dreamt it last night," said the hen.

"I'll go with you", said the duck.

So they went off together, and after a bit they met a goose.

"Good day, Goosey-Poosey," said the duck.

"Good day, Ducky-Lucky," said the goose; "where away so early?"

"I'm going to the Dovrefjell, that the world may not come to an end," said the duck.

"Who told you that, Ducky-Lucky?" asked the goose.

"Cocky-Locky."

"Who told you that, Cocky-Locky?"

"Henny-Penny."

"How do you know that, Henny-Penny?" said the goose.

"I sat in the oak and dreamt it last night Goosey-Poosey," said the hen.

"I'll go with you," said the goose.

Now when they had all walked along for a bit, a fox met them.

"Good day, Foxy-Cocksy," said the goose.

"Good day, Goosey-Poosey."

"Where away, Foxy-Cocksy?"

"Where away yourself, Goosey-Poosey?"

"I'm going to the Dovrefjell, that the world may not come to an end," said the goose.

"Who told you that, Goosey-Poosey?" asked the fox.

"Ducky-Lucky."

"Who told you that, Ducky-Lucky?"

"Cocky-Locky."

"Who told you that, Cocky-Locky?"

"Henny-Penny."

"How do you know that, Henny-Penny?"

"I sat in the oak and dreamt last night, that if we don't get to the Dovrefjell, the world will come to an end," said the hen.

"Stuff and nonsense," said the fox; "the world won't come to an end if you don't go there. No; come home with me to my earth. That's far better. For it's warm and jolly there."

Well, they went home with the fox to his earth, and when they got in, the fox laid on lots of fuel, so that they all got very sleepy.

The duck and the goose settled themselves down in a corner, but the cock and hen flew up on a post. So when the goose and duck were well asleep, the fox took the goose and laid him on the embers, and roasted him. The hen smelt the strong roast-meat, and sprang up to a higher peg, and said, half asleep,

"Faugh, what a nasty smell!
What a nasty smell!"

"Oh, stuff," said the fox; "it's only the smoke driven down the chimney; go to sleep again, and hold your tongue."

So the hen went off to sleep again.

Now the fox had hardly got the goose well down his throat, before he did the very same with the duck. He took and laid him on the embers, and roasted him for a dainty bit.

Then the hen woke up again, and sprang up to a higher peg still.

"Faugh, what a nasty smell!
What a nasty smell!"

she said again, and then she got her eyes open, and came to see how the fox had eaten both the goose and the duck; so she flew up to the highest peg of all, and perched there, and peeped up through the chimney.

"Nay, nay; just see what a lovely lot of geese flying yonder," she said to the fox.

Out ran Reynard to fetch a fat roast. But while he was gone, the hen woke up the cock, and told him how it had gone with Goosey-Poosey and Ducky-Lucky; and so Cocky-Locky and Henny-Penny flew out through the chimney, and if they hadn't got to the Dovrefjell, it surely would have been all over with the world.

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