Site Map
Swedish Folktales
Section › 2   Set    Search  Previous Next

Reservations   Contents    

  1. The Magpie
  2. The Poor Devil
  3. Old Hop-Giant

The Magpie

A Finn in the forests of Säfsen, having for a long time suffered ill luck with his flock, determined to find a remedy for the evil he was enduring. "Let it cost what it would," he thought, and decided to consult a Lapp who was well versed in the arts of the trolls.

The Finn set out for the home of his to-be-deliverer, and after a long and fatiguing journey through the wilderness, he came at last to a Lapp hut which he quakingly entered, and here found a man busied with a fire on the floor.

The Lapp already knew the purpose of the visit, and very much flattered by it, greeted his guest kindly and said, "Good morning, Juga, my boy, are you here? - I can give you news from home. Everything goes well there. I was there yesterday."

The Finn was terribly frightened at the discovery that he was recognized, but now more when he heard that the Lapp had made the same journey forth and back in one day, that had cost him so many days of wandering.

With assurance of friendship, the Lapp quieted his fears, and continued: "I had a little matter to attend to yesterday at your home, and sat on the housetop when your wife went over the garden, but I saw she did not know me, for she threatened me with the house key."'

The Finn now made known his errand, and received for answer that his animals were even now doing as well as he could wish. The presents brought by the Finn greatly strengthened their pleasant relations, and the Lapp agreed willingly to initiate him into the mysteries of witchcraft.

When the Finn reached home, he told of the incidents of his journey to his wife, even to the Lapp's account of his visit to their home, and the threats with the house key.

"Yes, I remember now," she said, "that a magpie sat on the roof the same day that the animals seemed to revive, but I believed it to be an unlucky bird, therefore tried to frighten it away with the key."

The Finn and his wife now understood that it was their friend who had transformed himself thus in order to do them a service, and from that time held these creatures in great honour.


The Poor Devil

Once on a time there was a peasant, who led his cow to pasture in the spring, and prayed God to have her in his care.

The evil one was sitting in a bush, heard him, and said to himself: ''When things turn out well, they thank God for it; but if anything goes wrong, then I am always to blame!"

A few days later the cow strayed into a swamp. And when the peasant came and saw her he said, "Look at that! The devil has had his finger in the pie again!"

"Just what I might have expected," thought the devil in his bush. Then the peasant went off to fetch people to help drag the cow out. But in the meantime the devil slipped from his bush and helped out the cow, for he thought:

"Now he will have something to thank me for, too."

But when the peasant came back and saw the cow on dry land, he said, "Thank God, she's out again!"


Old Hop-Giant

Once on a time there were two neighbours: one of them rich and the other poor. They owned a great meadow in common, and were supposed to mow together and then divide the hay.

But the rich neighbour wanted the meadow for himself alone, and told the poor one that he would drive him out of house and home if he did not come to an agreement with him that whichever one of them mowed the largest stretch of the meadowland in a single day, should receive the entire meadow.

Now the rich neighbour got together as many mowers as he could; but the poor one could not hire a single man. At last he despaired altogether and wept, because he did not know how he could manage to get so much as a bit of hay for the cow.

Then it was that a large man stepped up to him and said, "Do not grieve so. I can tell you what you ought to do. When the mowing begins, just call out 'Old Hop-Giant!' three times in succession, and you'll not be at a loss, as you shall see for yourself." And with that he disappeared. The poor man's heart grew less heavy, and he stopped worrying so desperately.

One fine day his rich neighbour came along with twenty farmhands, and they mowed down one swath after another. The poor neighbour did not take the trouble to begin, for he called out, "Old Hop-Giant!"

But no one came, and the mowers all laughed at him and mocked him, thinking he had gone out of his mind. Then he called again, "Old Hop-Giant!"

And, just as before, there was no hop giant to be seen. And the mowers could scarcely swing their scythes; for they were laughing fit to split.

And then he cried for the third time, "Old Hop-Giant!" And there appeared a fellow of truly horrible size, with a scythe as large as a ship's mast.

And now the merriment of the rich peasant's mowers came to an end. For when the giant began to mow and fling about his scythe, they were frightened at the strength he put into his work. And before they knew it he had mown half the meadow.

Then the rich neighbour fell into a rage, rushed up and gave the giant a good kick. But that did not help him, for his foot stuck to the giant. The giant scarcely felt the kick and the attached man any more than a fleabite, and kept right on working.

Then the rich neighbour gave the giant a kick with his other foot; but this foot too stuck fast, and there he hung like a tick. Old Hop-Giant mowed the whole meadow, and then flew up into the air. The rich man had to go along hanging to him like a hawser. Thus the poor neighbour was left sole master of the place.



Swedish folktales, fairy tales and legends of Sweden, Swedish tales retold, To top    Section     Set    Next

Swedish folktales, fairy tales and legends of Sweden, Swedish tales retold. User's Guide   ᴥ    Disclaimer 
© 2007–2018, Tormod Kinnes [Email]