In days past a coal burner named Nils lived on a point that juts out into the northwest corner of a certain lake. His little garden patch was left to a farm hand to care for, while he himself lived always in the forest, chopping coal-wood during the summer and burning it in the winter. But no matter how hard he toiled, he did not make substantial money.
One day he was constructing a stack of wood for burning by a lake, when a strange woman came to him from the other side of the lake and asked him if he needed help in his work.
"Yes, it would be good to have some assistance," answered Nils. The woman began to carry logs and wood much faster than Nils could draw with his horse. By noon the material was on the ground for a new stack. When evening came she asked Nils what he thought of her day's work, and if she might come again next day.
The coal burner could not well say no, so she returned the following day, and daily after that. When the stack was burned, she assisted him with the drawing, and never before had Nils had so much nor so good coal as that time.
Thus the woman remained with him in the forest three years. She became the mother of three children, but this did not bother the coal burner, for she took care of them so he had no trouble from them.
When the fourth year came, she began to be more presuming, and demanded that he take her home with him and living with him as his wife there. Nils said he would think the matter over. He took a long walk and reflected whether he had not made a misstep, and if it might not be a troll woman who had so willingly lent him her company and help.
Involved in these and similar thoughts, he forgot an agreement he had made with the forest woman when she first entered his service, that he would always strike three times with an axe against an old pine tree near the coal kiln when he came up to it. On he went, and suddenly he saw is stack in bright flames, and around it stood the mother and her three children drawing the coal. They drew and slacked so that fire, smoke and sparks filled the air high toward the sky. But instead of using pine branches or the slackening, they had bushy tails to beat the fire with after dipping them in the snow.
Nils knew nothing better to do than to creep back to the pine he had forgotten, and strike it three times with his axe. Then he went forward to the stack where everything was as he was used to see it. The stack burned steadily and well, and the woman went about her duties as usual.
When the woman saw Nils again, she again said how much she wanted to go home with him and become his wife.
"The matter shall be settled now," said Nils and left them there for a little while. He went to the east shores of a lake, where there lived a wise old man, and explained his dilemma. The old man advised him to go home and hitch his horse to the coal cart, but harness it so that no loops were in the reins or harness. Then he should ride over the ice on the back of the horse; turn at the coal-kiln without pausing; shout to the troll woman and children to get into the cart; and drive briskly to the ice again.
The coal burner followed the instructions. He harnessed his horse and saw to it carefully that there was no loop on the reins or harness, rode over the ice, up into the woods to the kiln and called to the woman and her children to jump in, at the same time heading for the ice and putting his horse to the best possible speed.
When he reached the middle of the lake, a large pack of wolves came running toward him from the wilderness. He let slip the harness from the shafts, so that the cart and its contents were left standing on the slippery ice, and rode as fast as the horse could carry him straight to the other shore.
When the troll saw the wolves, she began to call and beg. "Come back! come back!" she shrieked. "Do it for your youngest daughter, Peewee, at least!"
But Nils hurried on toward the shore. Then he heard her troll relatives calling one to the other, "Brother, sister, and cousin wild, catch hold of the loops and pull!"
"He has no loop," came a reply from the brother.
"Catch him on the northern plain, then."
"He does not ride in that direction," said the sister.
And Nils did not go that way, but over fields, stones and roads straight to his home. He had barely arrived when the cousin fired a shot that tore away the corner of the stable and killed his horse on the spot.
Nils, himself fell ill shortly after, and was confined to bed for many weeks. When he recovered his health he sold his cabin in the forest and cultivated the few acres around his cottage till the end of his days.
Many years ago there was a watchman up in the Goinge regions. He was a wild fellow, who, one evening, while drinking with his neighbours, more tipsy and more talkative as the hour grew late, boasted loudly of his marksmanship, and offered to wager that, with his trusty gun, he could give them such an exhibition of skill as they had never before seen.
"There goes, as I speak," said he, "a roe on Halland's Mountains."
His companions laughed at him, not believing that he could know what was transpiring at a distance of several miles, which was the least that lay between them and the spot indicated.
"I will wager you that I need go no farther than the door to shoot him for you," persevered the watchman in defiant tones.
"Nonsense!" said the others.
"Come, will you wager something worth the while? Say two cans of ale."
"Done! Two cans of ale, it shall be." And the company betook themselves to the yard in front of the hut.
It was a frosty autumn evening. The wind chased the clouds over the sky, and the half moon cast fitful reflections through the breaks over the neighbourhood. In a few minutes a something was seen moving rapidly along the edge of a thicket on the farther side of a little glade. The watchman threw his gun carelessly to his shoulder and fired. A derisive laugh was echo to the report. They thought no mortal could shoot a deer in flight in such uncertain light and at such a distance.
The watchman, certain of his game, hastened across the glade, followed by his companions. To them the event meant at least two cans of ale.
It would not be easy to picture the surprise of the doubters, when, on arriving at the thicket, they discovered, lying on the ground, bathed in foam and his tongue hanging from his mouth, a magnificent stag, pierced through the heart by the deadly bullet, his life blood fast colouring his bed of autumn leaves a brighter hue.
What unseen power has brought this poor animal from Halland's Mountains in a bare half hour? Such were the thoughts of the watchman's companions as they retired in silence to the hut.
The watchman received his two cans of ale, but no one seemed inclined to join him in disposing of them. They now understood with what sort of a man they were having to do. It was evident to them that the watchman was in league with the Evil One himself, and they henceforth guarded themselves carefully against companionship with him after dark.
At a little distance from Gurk Mountain lies a hill where, formerly, lived a giant named Stompe Pilt. It happened one day, that a goatherd came that way, driving his goats before him, up the hill.
"Who comes there?" demanded the giant, rushing out of the hill, with a large flint stone in his fist, when he discovered the goatherd.
"It is I, if you will know," responded the herder, continuing his way up the hill with his flock.
"If you come up here I will squeeze you into fragments as I do this stone," shrieked the giant, and crushed the stone between his fingers into fine sand
"Then I will squeeze water out of you as I do out of this stone," answered the herder, taking a new-made cheese from his bag and squeezing it so that the whey ran between his fingers to the ground.
"Are you not afraid?" asked the giant.
"Not of you," answered the herder.
"Then let us fight," continued Stompe Pilt.
"All right," responded the goatherd. "But let us first taunt each other so that we will become right angry, for taunting will beget anger and anger will give us cause to fight."
"Very well, and I will begin," said the giant.
"Go ahead, and I will follow you," said the herder.
"You shall become a crooked nose hobgoblin," cried the giant.
"You shall become a flying devil," retorted the herder, and from his bow shot a sharp arrow into the body of the giant.
"What is that?" inquired the giant, endeavouring to pull the arrow from his flesh.
"That is a taunt," answered the herder.
"Why has it feathers?" asked the giant.
"In order that it may fly straight and rapidly," answered the herder.
"Why does it stick so fast?" asked the giant.
"Because it has taken root in your body," was the answer.
"Have you got more of such?" inquired the giant.
"There you have another," said the herder, and shot another arrow into the giant's body.
"Aj! aj!" shrieked Stompe Pilt; "are you not angry enough to fight?"
"No, I have not yet taunted you enough," answered the herder, setting an arrow to his bowstring.
"Drive your goats where you will. I can't endure your taunting, much less your blows, " shrieked Stompe Pilt, and sprang into the hill again.
Thus the herder was saved.