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The Skipper and Old Nick

Once on a time there was a skipper who was so wonderfully lucky in everything he undertook. There was no one who got such freights, and no one who earned so much money, for it rolled in on him on all sides. And there was no one who was good to make such voyages as he, for wherever he sailed he had fair winds. Yes, it was even said that when he turned around his cap, the wind turned with it to suit his wish.

Thus he sailed for many years, both in the timber trade and to China, and he had earned money like grass. But once he was coming home across the North Sea with every sail set, as though he had stolen both ship and lading; but he who wanted to lay hold on him went faster still. It was Old Nick, for with him he had made a bargain, as one may well fancy, and that very day the time was up, and he might look any moment that Old Nick would come and fetch him.

Well, the skipper came up on deck out of the cabin and looked at the weather; then he called for the carpenter and some others of the crew, and said they must go down into the hold and bore two holes in the ship's bottom, and when they had done that they were to lift the pumps out of their beds and drive them down tight into the holes they had made, so that the sea might rise high up into the pumps.

The crew wondered at all this, and thought it a funny bit of work, but they did as the skipper ordered; they bored holes in the ship's bottom and drove the pumps in so tight that never a drop of water could come to the cargo, but up in the pump itself the North Sea stood seven feet high.

They had only just thrown the chips overboard after their piece of work when Old Nick came on board in a gust of wind and caught the skipper by the throat.


"Stop, old boy!" said the skipper; "there's no need to be in such a hurry," and as he said that he began to defend himself and by the help of a marling-spike to loose the claws which Old Nick had stuck into him.

"Haven't you made a bargain that you would always keep the ship dry and tight?" asked the skipper. "Well, you're a pretty fellow; look down the pumps; there's the water standing seven feet high in the pipe. Pump, devil, pump! And pump the ship dry, and then you may take me and have me as soon and as long as you choose."

Old Nick was not so clever that he was not taken in. He pumped and strove, and the sweat ran down his back like a brook so that you might have turned a mill at the end of his backbone. But he only pumped out of the North Sea and into the North Sea again. At last he got tired of that work, and when he could not pump a stroke more, he set off in a sad temper home to his grandmother to take a rest. As for the skipper, he let him stay a skipper as long as he chose, and if he isn't dead, he is still perhaps sailing the seas at his own sweet will, and letting the wind blow according to how he turns his cap.



Per Gynt

In the olden days there lived in Kvam a hunter, whose name was Per Gynt, and who was always roaming about in the mountains after bears and elks, for in those days there were more forests on the mountains than there are now, and consequently plenty of wild beasts. One evening late in the autumn, long after the cattle had left the mountains, Per set out on one of his usual expeditions. All the dairy-maids had also gone away, except the three girls at the Vala dairy. When Per came up towards Hovring, where he intended to stay for the night in a deserted dairy, it was so dark that he could scarcely see an arm's length before him. The dogs began barking violently, and it was altogether very dismal and unpleasant. All of a sudden he ran against something, and when he put his hand out, he felt it was cold and slippery and very big. As he didn't think he had gone off the road, he had no idea of what this something could be, but unpleasant it was at any rate.

"Who is it?" asked Per, for he could now feel it was moving.

"Oh, it's Humpy," was the answer.

Per was no wiser for this, but walked on one side for some distance, thinking that so he would be able to pass the mysterious presence. But he ran against something again, and when he put his hand out he felt it was very big, cold, and slippery.

"Who is it?" asked Per Gynt.

"Oh, it's Humpy," was the answer again.

"Well, you'll have to let me pass, whether you are Humpy or not," said Per, for he guessed now that he was walking round in a ring, and that the monster had circled itself round the dairy. Just then the monster shifted itself a little, and Per got past and soon found the house. When he came inside he found it was no lighter in there than outside. He was feeling his way about along the wall to put his gun away and hang his bag up, but while he was groping about in this way, he felt again something cold, big, and slippery.

"Who is it?" shouted Per.

"Oh, it's the big Humpy," was the answer. Wherever he put his hands out or tried to get past he ran against the monster.

"It's not very pleasant to be here, I am sure," thought Per, "since this Humpy is both outside and inside, but I'll try if I can't shunt this intruder out of my way."

So he took his gun and went outside, feeling his way carefully, till he found what he thought was the head of the monster, which he felt sure was a monster troll.

"What are you, and who are you?" asked Per.

"Oh, I am the big Humpy from Atndale," said the troll. Per did not lose a moment, but fired three shots right into the troll's head.

"Fire another," said the troll. But Per knew better; if he had fired another shot, the bullet would have rebounded against himself.

Both Per and the dogs then started to drag the troll out of the house so that they might come inside and make themselves comfortable. While he was so employed he heard jeers and laughter in the hills round about.

"Per dragged a bit, but the doggies dragged more," said a voice.

Next morning he went out stalking. When he came in between the hills, he saw a lassie who was calling some sheep up a hill-side. But when he came up to the place, she was gone and the sheep too, and he saw nothing but a pack of bears.

"Well, I never saw bears in a pack before," said Per to himself. When he went nearer, they had all disappeared, except one.

"Look after your pig,
For Per Gynt is out
With his gun so big,"

shouted a voice over in the hill.

"Ah, he can't hurt my pig; he hasn't washed himself today," said another voice in the hill. Per washed his hands with some water he had with him. He fired, and shot the bear. Then he heard more jeers and laughter in the hill.

''You should have looked after your pig!" cried a voice.

"I forgot he carried water with him," answered another.

Per skinned the bear and buried the carcass. On his way home he met a fox.

"Look at my lamb! How fat it is," said a voice in a hill.

"Look at Per, he is lifting that gun of his," said another voice, just as Per put his gun up and shot the fox. He skinned the fox also, and took the skin with him. When he came to the dairy, he put both the head of the fox and the bear on the wall outside the house, with their jaws wide open. So he lighted a fire and put a pot on to boil some soup, but the chimney smoked so terribly that he could scarcely keep his eyes open, and had therefore to open a small window. Some time after a troll came and poked his nose in; the nose was so long that it reached across the room to the fireplace.

"Here is a proper nose, if you like," said the troll.

"And here is proper soup! You never tasted the like;" and with that he poured the boiling soup over the troll's nose. The troll ran away wailing and crying, but in all the hills around they were jeering and laughing, and the voices shouted:

"Nosey stew! Nosey stew! "

It was now quiet for some time. Shortly Per heard a great noise and bustle outside the house. He looked out, and saw a big carriage drawn by bears. They were carting away the big monster into the mountain. Suddenly a bucket of water was thrown down the chimney; the fire was put out, and Per sat all in the dark. Then a laughing and chuckling began in all corners of the room, and a voice said:

"Now Per is no better off than the girls at Vala."

So Per made the fire again, shut up the dairy, and set off for the Vala dairy, taking the dogs with him. When he had gone some distance he saw such a glare of light in the direction of the dairy that it seemed to him the house must be on fire. Just then he came across some wolves. Some of these he shot, and some his dogs killed.

But when he came to the dairy it was all dark there. There was no sign of any fire. There were three strangers in the room amusing themselves with the dairy-maids, and one outside the door. They were four hill-trolls, and their names were Gust, Tron, Tjostol, and Rolf. Gust was standing outside keeping watch, while the others were inside courting the girls. Per fired at Gust, but missed him. But the troll ran away frightened, and when Per came inside he found the trolls flirting with the girls more desperately than ever. Two of them were terribly frightened and were saying their prayers, but the third, who was called Crazy Kari, wasn't a bit afraid. They might come there for all she cared; she would like to see what sort of fellows they were. But when the trolls found that Per was in the room they began whining, and told Rolf to get a light. And then the dogs rushed at Tjostol and knocked him over on his back into the burning embers of the fire, so the sparks flew about him.

"Did you see any of my snakes about, Per?" asked Tron. That was what he called the wolves.

"I'll send you the same way as the snakes," said Per, and fired a shot at him, and then he killed Tjostol with the butt-end of his rifle. Rolf had fled through the chimney.

When he had cleared all the trolls out, the girls packed up their things, and Per accompanied them home. They dared not stay any longer up on the hills.

The Cat on the Dovre-Mountain (Legend version)

Shortly before Christmas, Per set out again on another expedition. He had heard of a farm on Dovrefell which was invaded by such a number of trolls every Christmas-eve that the people on the farm had to move out, and get shelter at some of their neighbours. He was anxious to go there, for he had a great fancy to come across the trolls again. He dressed himself in some old ragged clothes, and took a tame white bear, which he had, with him, as well as an awl, some pitch, and twine. When he came to the farm he went in and asked for lodgings.

"God help us!" said the farmer; "we can't give you any lodgings. We have to clear out of the house ourselves soon and look for lodgings, for every Christmas-eve we have the trolls here."

But Per thought he should be able to clear the trolls out, he had done such a thing before, and then he got leave to stay, and a pig's skin into the bargain. The bear lay down behind the fireplace, and Per took out his awl, and pitch, and twine, and began making a big, big shoe, which it took the whole pig's skin to make. He put a strong rope in for laces, that he might pull the shoe tightly together, and, finally, he armed himself with a couple of handspikes.

Shortly he heard the trolls coming. They had a fiddler with them, and some began dancing, while others fell to eating the Christmas fare on the table. Some ate fried bacon, and some fried frogs and toads, and other nasty things which they had brought with them. During this some of the trolls found the shoe Per had made. They thought it must belong to a very big foot. They all wanted to try it on at once, so they put a foot each into it; but Per made haste and tightened the rope, took one of the handspikes and fastened the rope round it, and got them at last securely tied up in the shoe.

Just then the bear put his nose out from behind the fireplace where he was lying, and smelt they were frying something.

"Will you have a sausage, pussy?" said one of the trolls, and threw a hot frog right into the bear's jaw.

"Scratch them, pussy!" said Per

The bear got so angry that he rushed at the trolls and scratched them all over, while Per took the other handspike and hammered away at them as if he wanted to beat their brains out. The trolls had to clear out at last, but Per stayed and enjoyed himself with all the Christmas fare the whole week. After that the trolls were not heard of there for many years.

Some years afterwards, about Christmas-time, the farmer was out in the forest cutting wood for the holidays, when a troll came up to him and shouted

"Have you got that big pussy of yours, yet?"

"Oh, yes, she is at home behind the fireplace," said the farmer; "and she has got seven kittens all bigger and larger than herself."

"We'll never come to you any more, then," said the troll."




The Cat on the Dovrefjell - Fairy Tale Version

Once on a time there was a man up in Finnmark who had caught a great white bear and was going to take it to the king of Denmark. It so happened that he came to the Dovre-Mountain just about Christmas Eve. He went to a cottage where a man named Halvor lived, and asked him for lodging for his white bear and himself.

"Heavens help me!" said the man, "but we can't give anyone lodging just now, for every Christmas Eve the house is so full of trolls that we are forced to move out for the season, without any house to dwell in ourselves.

"Oh, you may well let me use your house anyhow" said the man. "My bear can sleep under the stove here, and I can sleep in the side-room."

He kept on begging until at last he was allowed to stay. The people of the house moved out, but made everything ready for the trolls before they left. The tables were laid, and there was cream porridge and fish boiled in lye and sausages and everything else that was good, just as for any other grand feast."

When everything was ready, the trolls came. Some were great, and some were small; some had long tails, and some had no tails at all. Some, too, had long, long noses. They ate and drank and tasted everything.

Then one of the little trolls saw the white bear who lay under the stove. He took a piece of sausage, stuck it on a fork 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, both great and small.

Next year Halvor was out in the wood, on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, cutting wood for the holidays, for he thought the trolls would come again. As he was chopping,work, he heard a voice shouting from the woods, "Halvor! Halvor!"

"Yes?" said Halvor.

"Have you got your cat with you still?"

"Yes," said Halvor, "she's lying at home under the stove, and she has got seven kittens, bigger and fiercer than she is herself."

"Oh, then, we'll never come to your place again," shouted the troll in the woods, and since that time the trolls have never eaten their Yule porridge with Halvor on the Dovrefell.




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