Popular Tales from the Norse
Sir George Webbe Dasent

Part 2 out of 10

good things, until they come at last to make an idol out of their
hopes and prayers, and to immortalize the very 'Wish' itself.

Again, of all beliefs, that in which man has, at all times of his
history, been most prone to set faith, is that of a golden age of
peace and plenty, which had passed away, but which might be expected
to return. Such a period was looked for when Augustus closed the
temple of Janus, and peace, though perhaps not plenty, reigned over
what the proud Roman called the habitable world. Such a period the
early Christian expected when the Saviour was born, in the reign of
that very Augustus; and such a period some, whose thoughts are more
set on earth than heaven, have hoped for ever since, with a hope
which, though deferred for eighteen centuries, has not made their
hearts sick. Such a period of peace and plenty, such a golden time,
the Norseman could tell of in his mythic Frodi's reign, when gold or
_Frodi's meal_, as it was called, was so plentiful that golden
armlets lay untouched from year's end to year's end on the king's
highway, and the fields bore crops unsown. Here, in England, the
Anglo-Saxon Bede [Hist., ii, 16.] knew how to tell the same story of
Edwin, the Northumbrian King, and when Alfred came to be mythic, the
same legend was passed on from Edwin to the West Saxon monarch. The
remembrance of 'the bountiful Frodi' echoed in the songs of German
poets long after the story which made him so bountiful had been
forgotten; but the Norse Skalds could tell not only the story of
Frodi's wealth and bounty, but also of his downfall and ruin. In
Frodi's house were two maidens of that old giant race, Fenja and
Menja. These daughters of the giant he had bought as slaves, and he
made them grind his quern or hand-mill, Grotti, out of which he used
to grind peace and gold. Even in that golden age one sees there were
slaves, and Frodi, however bountiful to his thanes and people, was a
hard task-master to his giant hand-maidens. He kept them to the mill,
nor gave them longer rest than the cuckoo's note lasted, or they
could sing a song. But that quern was such that it ground anything
that the grinder chose, though until then it had ground nothing but
gold and peace. So the maidens ground and ground, and one sang their
piteous tale in a strain worthy of Aeschylus as the other worked--
they prayed for rest and pity, but Frodi was deaf. Then they turned
in giant mood, and ground no longer peace and plenty, but fire and
war. Then the quern went fast and furious, and that very night came
Mysing the Sea-rover, and slew Frodi and all his men, and carried off
the quern; and so Frodi's peace ended. The maidens the sea-rover took
with him, and when he got on the high seas he bade them grind salt.
So they ground; and at midnight they asked if he had not salt enough,
but he bade them still grind on. So they ground till the ship was
full and sank, Mysing, maids, and mill, and all, and that's why the
sea is salt [nor. _Ed. Skaldsk._, ch. 43.]. Perhaps of all the
tales in this volume, none could be selected as better proving the
toughness of a traditional belief than No. ii, which tells 'Why the
Sea is Salt'.

The notion of the Arch-enemy of God and man, of a fallen angel, to
whom power was permitted at certain times for an all-wise purpose by
the Great Ruler of the universe, was as foreign to the heathendom of
our ancestors as his name was outlandish and strange to their tongue.
This notion Christianity brought with it from the East; and though it
is a plant which has struck deep roots, grown distorted and awry, and
borne a bitter crop of superstition, it required all the authority of
the Church to prepare the soil at first for its reception. To the
notion of good necessarily follows that of evil. The Eastern mind,
with its Ormuzd and Ahriman, is full of such dualism, and from that
hour, when a more than mortal eye saw Satan falling like lightning
from heaven [St Luke, x, 18.], the kingdom of darkness, the abode of
Satan and his bad spirits, was established in direct opposition to
the kingdom of the Saviour and his angels. The North had its own
notion on this point. Its mythology was not without its own dark
powers; but though they too were ejected and dispossessed, they,
according to that mythology, had rights of their own. To them
belonged all the universe that had not been seized and reclaimed by
the younger race of Odin and Aesir; and though this upstart dynasty,
as the Frost Giants in Promethean phrase would have called it, well
knew that Hel, one of this giant progeny, was fated to do them all
mischief, and to outlive them, they took her and made her queen of
Niflheim, and mistress over nine worlds. There, in a bitterly cold
place, she received the souls of all who died of sickness or old age;
care was her bed, hunger her dish, starvation her knife. Her walls
were high and strong, and her bolts and bars huge; 'Half blue was her
skin, and half the colour of human flesh. A goddess easy to know, and
in all things very stern and grim.' [Snor. _Edda,_ ch. 34, Engl.

But though severe, she was not an evil spirit. She only received
those who died as no Norseman wished to die. For those who fell on
the gory battle-field, or sank beneath the waves, Valhalla was
prepared, and endless mirth and bliss with Odin. Those went to Hel,
who were rather unfortunate than wicked, who died before they could
be killed. But when Christianity came in and ejected Odin and his
crew of false divinities, declaring them to be lying gods and demons,
then Hel fell with the rest; but fulfilling her fate, outlived them.
From a person she became a place, and all the Northern nations, from
the Goth to the Norseman, agreed in believing Hell to be the abode of
the devil and his wicked spirits, the place prepared from the
beginning for the everlasting torments of the damned. One curious
fact connected with this explanation of Hell's origin will not escape
the reader's attention. The Christian notion of Hell is that of a
place of heat, for in the East, whence Christianity came, heat is
often an intolerable torment, and cold, on the other hand, everything
that is pleasant and delightful. But to the dweller in the North,
heat brings with it sensations of joy and comfort, and life without
fire has a dreary outlook; so their Hel ruled in a cold region over
those who were cowards by implication, while the mead-cup went round,
and huge logs blazed and crackled in Valhalla, for the brave and
beautiful who had dared to die on the field of battle. But under
Christianity the extremes of heat and cold have met, and Hel, the
cold uncomfortable goddess, is now our Hell, where flames and fire
abound, and where the devils abide in everlasting flame.

Still, popular tradition is tough, and even after centuries of
Christian teaching, the Norse peasant, in his popular tales, can
still tell of Hell as a place where fire-wood is wanted at Christmas,
and over which a certain air of comfort breathes, though, as in the
goddess Hel's halls, meat is scarce. The following passage from 'Why
the Sea is Salt', No. ii, will sufficiently prove this:

'Well, here is the flitch', said the rich brother, 'and now go
straight to Hell.'

'What I have given my word to do, I must stick to' said the other;
so he took the flitch and set off. He walked the whole day, and at
dusk he came to a place where he saw a very bright light.

'Maybe this is the place' said the man to himself. So he turned
aside, and the first thing he saw was an old, old man, with a long
white beard, who stood in an outhouse, hewing wood for the
Christmas fire.

'Good even,' said the man with the flitch.

'The same to you; whither are you going so late?' said the man.

'Oh! I'm going to Hell, if I only knew the right way,' answered the
poor man.

'Well, you're not far wrong, for this is Hell,' said the old man;
'When you get inside they will be all for buying your flitch, for
meat is scarce in Hell; but mind you don't sell it unless you get
the hand-quern which stands behind the door for it. When you come
out, I'll teach you how to handle the quern, for it's good to grind
almost anything.'

This, too, is the proper place to explain the conclusion of that
intensely heathen tale, 'the Master-Smith', No. xvi. We have already
seen how the Saviour and St Peter supply, in its beginning, the place
of Odin and some other heathen god. But when the Smith sets out with
the feeling that he has done a silly thing in quarrelling with the
Devil, having already lost his hope of heaven, this tale assumes a
still more heathen shape. According to the old notion, those who were
not Odin's guests went either to Thor's house, who had all the
thralls, or to Freyja, who even claimed a third part of the slain on
every battle-field with Odin, or to Hel, the cold comfortless goddess
already mentioned, who was still no tormentor, though she ruled over
nine worlds, and though her walls were high, and her bolts and bars
huge; traits which come out in 'the Master-Smith', No. xvi, when the
Devil, who here assumes Hel's place, orders the watch to go back and
lock up _all the nine locks on the gates of Hell_--a lock for
each of the goddesses _nine_ worlds--and to put a padlock on
besides. In the twilight between heathendom and Christianity, in that
half Christian half heathen consciousness, which this tale reveals,
heaven is the preferable abode, as Valhalla was of yore, but rather
than be without a house to one's head after death, Hell was not to be
despised; though, having behaved ill to the ruler of one, and
actually quarrelled with the master of the other, the Smith was
naturally anxious on the matter. This notion of different abodes in
another world, not necessarily places of torment, comes out too in
'Not a Pin to choose between them', No. xxiv, where Peter, the second
husband of the silly Goody, goes about begging from house to house in

For the rest, whenever the Devil appears in these tales, it is not at
all as the Arch-enemy, as the subtle spirit of the Christian's faith,
but rather as one of the old Giants, supernatural and hostile indeed
to man, but simple and easily deceived by a cunning reprobate, whose
superior intelligence he learns to dread, for whom he feels himself
no match, and whom, finally, he will receive in Hell at no price. We
shall have to notice some other characteristics of this race of
giants a little further on, but certainly no greater proof can be
given of the small hold which the Christian Devil has taken of the
Norse mind, than the heathen aspect under which he constantly
appears, and the ludicrous way in which he is always outwitted.

We have seen how our Lord and the saints succeeded to Odin and his
children in the stories which told of their wanderings on earth, to
warn the wicked, or to help the good; we have seen how the kindliness
and helpfulness of the ancient goddesses fell like a royal mantle
round the form of the Virgin Mary. We have seen, too, on the other
hand, how the procession of the Almighty God degenerated into the
infernal midnight hunt. We have now to see what became of the rest of
the power of the goddesses, of all that might which was not absorbed
into the glory of the blessed Virgin. We shall not have far to seek.
No reader of early medieval chronicles and sermons, can fail to have
been struck with many passages which ascribe majesty and power to
beings of woman's sex. Now it is a heathen goddess as _Diana_;
now some half-historical character as _Bertha_; now a mythical
being as _Holda_; now _Herodias_; now _Satia_; now _Domina Abundia_,
or _Dame Habonde_ [16].

A very short investigation will serve to identify the two ancient
goddesses Frigga and Freyja with all these leaders of a midnight
host. Just as Odin was banished from day to darkness, so the two
great heathen goddesses, fused into one 'uncanny' shape, were
supposed to ride the air at night. Medieval chroniclers, writing in
bastard Latin, and following the example of classical authors, when
they had to find a name for this demon-goddess, chose, of course,
_Diana_ the heathen huntress, the moon-goddess, and the ruler of
the night. In the same way, when they threw Odin's name into a Latin
shape, he, the god of wit and will, as well as power and victory,
became Mercury. As for Herodias--not the mother, but the daughter who
danced--she must have made a deep impression on the mind of the early
Middle Age, for she was supposed to have been cursed after the
beheading of John the Baptist, and to have gone on dancing for ever.
When heathendom fell, she became confounded with the ancient
Goddesses, and thus we find her, sometimes among the crew of the
Wild Huntsman, sometimes, as we see in the passages below, in
company with, or in the place of _Diana, Holda, Satia_, and
_Abundia_, at the head of a bevy of women, who met at certain
places to celebrate unholy rites and mysteries. As for _Holda,
Satia_, and _Abundia_, 'the kind', 'the satisfying', and 'the
abundant', they are plainly names of good rather than evil powers;
they are ancient epithets drawn from the bounty of the 'Good Lady',
and attest the feeling of respect which still clung to them in the
popular mind. As was the case whenever Christianity was brought in,
the country folk, always averse to change, as compared with the more
lively and intelligent dwellers in towns, still remained more or less
heathen, [17] and to this day they preserve unconsciously many
superstitions which can be traced up in lineal descent to their old
belief. In many ways does the old divinity peep out under the new
superstition--the long train, the midnight feast, 'the good lady' who
presides, the bounty and abundance which her votaries fancied would
follow in her footsteps, all belong to the ancient Goddess. Most
curious of all is the way in which all these traditions from
different countries insist on the third part of the earth, the third
child born, the third soul as belonging to the 'good lady', who leads
the revel; for this right of a third, or even of a half, was one
which Freyja possessed. 'But Freyja is most famous of the Asynjor.
She has that bower in heaven hight Folkvangr, and 'whithersoever she
rideth to the battle, there hath she one half of the slain; but Odin
the other half.' Again 'when she fares abroad, she drives two cats
and sits in a car, and she lends an easy ear to the prayers of men.'
[Snorro's _Edda_, Dasent's Translation, pp. 29 (Stockholm

We have got then the ancient goddesses identified as evil influences,
and as the leader of a midnight band of women, who practised secret
and unholy rites. This leads us at once to witchcraft. In all ages
and in all races this belief in sorcery has existed. Men and women
practised it alike, but in all times female sorcerers have
predominated. [18] This was natural enough. In those days women were
priestesses; they collected drugs and simples; women alone knew the
virtues of plants. Those soft hands spun linen, made lint, and bound
wounds. Women in the earliest times with which we are acquainted with
our forefathers, alone knew how to read and write, they only could
carve the mystic runes, they only could chant the charms so potent to
allay the wounded warrior's smart and pain. The men were busy out of
doors with ploughing, hunting, barter, and war. In such an age the
sex which possessed by natural right book-learning, physic,
soothsaying, and incantation, even when they used these mysteries for
good purposes, were but a step from sin. The same soft white hand
that bound the wound and scraped the lint; the same gentle voice that
sung the mystic rune, that helped the child-bearing woman, or drew
the arrow-head from the dying champion's breast; the same bright eye
that gazed up to heaven in ecstacy through the sacred grove and read
the will of the Gods when the mystic tablets and rune-carved lots
were cast--all these, if the will were bad, if the soothsayer passed
into the false prophetess, the leech into a poisoner, and the
priestess into a witch, were as potent and terrible for ill as they
had once been powerful for good. In all the Indo-European tribes,
therefore, women, and especially old women, have practised witchcraft
from the earliest times, and Christianity found them wherever it
advanced. But Christianity, as it placed mankind upon a higher
platform of civilization, increased the evil which it found, and when
it expelled the ancient goddesses, and confounded them as demons with
Diana and Herodias, it added them and their votaries to the old class
of malevolent sorcerers. There was but one step, but a simple act of
the will, between the Norn and the hag, even before Christianity came
in. As soon as it came, down went Goddess, Valkyrie, Norn, priestess,
and soothsayer, into that unholy deep where the heathen hags and
witches had their being; and, as Christianity gathered strength,
developed its dogmas, and worked out its faith; fancy, tradition,
leechcraft, poverty, and idleness, produced that unhappy class, the
medieval witch, the persecution of which is one of the darkest pages
in religious history.

It is curious indeed to trace the belief in witches through the
Middle Age, and to mark how it increases in intensity and absurdity.
At first, as we have seen in the passages quoted, the superstition
seemed comparatively harmless, and though the witches themselves may
have believed in their unholy power, there were not wanting divines
who took a common-sense view of the matter, and put the absurdity of
their pretensions to a practical proof. Such was that good parish
priest who asked, when an old woman of his flock insisted that she
had been in his house with the company of 'the Good Lady', and had
seen him naked and covered him up, 'How, then, did you get in when
all the doors were locked?' 'We can get in,' she said, 'even if the
doors are locked.' Then the priest took her into the chancel of the
church, locked the door, and gave her a sound thrashing with the
pastoral staff, calling out 'Out with you, lady witch.' But as she
could not, he sent her home, saying 'See now how foolish you are to
believe in such empty dreams'. [19]

But as the Church increased in strength, as heresies arose, and
consequent persecution, then the secret meetings of these sectarians,
as we should now call them, were identified by the hierarchy with the
rites of sorcery and magic, and with the relics of the worship of the
old gods. By the time, too, that the hierarchy was established, that
belief in the fallen angel, the Arch-Fiend, the Devil, originally so
foreign to the nations of the West, had become thoroughly ingrafted
on the popular mind, and a new element of wickedness and superstition
was introduced at those unholy festivals. About the middle of the
thirteenth century, we find the mania for persecuting heretics
invading the tribes of Teutonic race from France and Italy, backed by
all the power of the Pope. Like jealousy, persecution too often makes
the meat it feeds on, and many silly, if not harmless, superstitions
were rapidly put under the ban of the Church. Now the 'Good Lady' and
her train begin to recede, they only fill up the background while the
Prince of Darkness steps, dark and terrible, in front, and soon draws
after him the following of the ancient goddess. Now we hear stories
of demoniac possession; now the witches adore a demon of the other
sex. With the male element, and its harsher, sterner nature, the
sinfulness of these unholy assemblies is infinitely increased; folly
becomes guilt, and guilt crime. [20]

From the middle of the fourteenth to the middle of the seventeenth
century the history of Europe teems with processes against witches
and sorcerers. Before the Reformation it reached its height, in the
Catholic world, with the famous bull of Innocent the Eighth in 1484,
the infamous _Malleus Maleficarum_, the first of the long list
of witch-finding books, and the zeal with which the State lent all
the terrors of the law to assist the ecclesiastical inquisitors.
Before the tribunals of those inquisitors, in the fifteenth century,
innumerable victims were arraigned on the double charge of heresy and
sorcery--for the crimes ran in couples, both being children and sworn
servants of the Devil. Would that the historian could say that with
the era of the Reformation these abominations ceased. The Roman
Hierarchy, with her bulls and inquisitors, had sown a bitter crop,
which both she and the Protestant Churches were destined to reap; but
in no part of the world were the labourers more eager and willing,
when the fields were 'black' to harvest, than in those very reformed
communities which had just shaken off the yoke of Rome, and which had
sprung in many cases from the very heretics whom she had persecuted
and burnt, accusing them at the same time, of the most malignant
sorceries. [21]

Their excuse is, that no one is before his age. The intense
personality given to the Devil in the Middle Age had possessed the
whole mind of Europe. We must take them as we find them, with their
bright fancy, their earnest faith, their stern fanaticism, their
revolting superstition, just as when we look upon a picture we know
that those brilliant hues and tones, that spirit which informs the
whole, could never be, were it not for the vulgar earths and oil out
of which the glorious work of art is mixed and made. Strangely
monotonous are all the witch trials of which Europe has so many to
show. At first the accused denies, then under torture she confesses,
then relapses and denies; tortured again she confesses again,
amplifies her story, and accuses others. When given to the stake, she
not seldom asserts all her confessions to be false, which is ascribed
to the power which the fiend still has over her. Then she is burnt
and her ashes given to the winds. Those who wish to read one
unexampled, perhaps for barbarity and superstition, and more curious
than the rest from the prominence given in it to a man, may find it
in the trial of Dr. Fian, the Scotch wizard, "which doctor was
register to the Devil, that sundry times preached at North Baricke
(North Berwick, in East Lothian) Kirke, to a number of notorious
witches." [22] But we advise no one to venture on a perusal of this
tract who is not prepared to meet with the most unutterable
accusations and crimes, the most cruel tortures, and the most absurd
confessions, followed as usual by the stoutest denial of all that had
been confessed; when torture had done her worst on poor human nature,
and the soul re-asserted at the last her supremacy over the body.
[23] One characteristic of all these witch trials, is the fact, that
in spite of their unholy connection and intrigues with the Evil One,
no witch ever attained to wealth and station by the aid of the Prince
of Darkness. The pleasure to do ill, is all the pleasure they feel.
This fact alone might have opened the eyes of their persecutors, for
if the Devil had the worldly power which they represented him to
have, he might at least have raised some of his votaries to temporal
rank, and to the pomps and the vanities of this world. An old German
proverb expresses this notorious fact, by saying, that 'every seven
years, a witch is three halfpence richer'; and so with all the unholy
means of Hell at their command, they dragged out their lives, along
with their black cats, in poverty and wretchedness. To this fate at
last, came the worshippers of the great goddess Freyja, whom our
forefathers adored as the goddess of love and plenty; and whose car
was drawn by those animals which popular superstition has ever since
assigned to the 'old witch' of our English villages.

The North was not free, any more than the rest of the Protestant
world, from this direful superstition, which ran over Europe like a
pestilence in the sixteenth century. In Sweden especially, the
witches and their midnight ridings to _Blokulla_, the black
hill, gave occasion to processes as absurd and abominable as the
trial of Dr. Fian and the witch-findings of Hopkins. In Denmark, the
sorceresses were supposed to meet at Tromsoe high up in Finmark, or
even on Heckla in Iceland. The Norse witches met at a Blokolle of
their own, or on the Dovrefell, or at other places in Norway or
Finmark. As might be expected, we find many traces of witchcraft in
these Tales, but it may be doubted whether these may not be referred
rather to the old heathen belief in such arts still lingering in the
popular mind than to the processes of the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries, which were far more a craze and mania of the educated
classes acting under a mistaken religious fanaticism against popular
superstitions than a movement arising from the mass of the community.
Still, in 'the Mastermaid', No. xi, the witch of a sister-in-law, who
had rolled the apple over to the Prince, and so charmed him, was torn
to pieces between twenty-four horses. The old queen in 'The Lassie
and her Godmother', No. xxvii, tries to persuade her son to have the
young queen burnt alive for a wicked witch, who was dumb, and had
eaten her own babes. In 'East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon', No.
iv, it is a wicked stepmother who has bewitched the prince. In 'Bushy
Bride', No. xlv, the ugly bride charms the king to sleep, and is at
last thrown, with her wicked mother, into a pit full of snakes. In
the 'Twelve Wild Ducks', No. viii, the wicked stepmother persuades
the king that Snow-white and Rosy-red is a witch, and almost
persuades him to burn her alive. In 'Tatterhood', No. xlvii, a whole
troop of witches come to keep their revels on Christmas eve in the
Queen's Palace, and snap off the young Princess's head. It is hard,
indeed, in tales where Trolls play so great a part, to keep witch and
Troll separate; but the above instances will show that the belief in
the one, as distinct from the other, exists in the popular
superstitions of the North.

The frequent transformation of men into beasts, in these tales, is
another striking feature. This power the gods of the Norseman
possessed in common with those of all other mythologies. Europa and
her Bull, Leda and her Swan, will occur at once to the reader's mind;
and to come to closer resemblances, just as Athene appears in the
Odyssey as an eagle or a swallow perched on the roof of the hall
[Od., iii, 372; and xxii, 239], so Odin flies off as a falcon, and
Loki takes the form of a horse or bird. This was only part of that
omnipotence which all gods enjoy. But the belief that men, under
certain conditions, could also take the shape of animals, is
primaeval, and the traditions of every race can tell of such
transformations. Herodotus had heard how the Neurians, a Slavonic
race, passed for wizards amongst the Scythians and the Greeks settled
round the Black Sea, because each of them, once in the year, became a
wolf for a few days, and then returned to his natural shape. Pliny,
Pomponius Mela, and St. Augustin, in his great treatise, _De
Civitate Dei_, tell the same story, and Virgil, in his Eclogues,
has sung the same belief [24]. The Latins called such a man, a
_turnskin--versipellis_, an expression which exactly agrees with
the Icelandic expression for the same thing, and which is probably
the true original of our _turncoat_. In Petronius the superstition
appears in its full shape, and is worth repeating. At the banquet of
Trimalchion, Nicoros gives the following account of the turn-skins
of Nero's time:

It happened that my master was gone to Capua to dispose of some
second-hand goods. I took the opportunity and persuaded our guest
to walk with me to the fifth milestone. He was a valiant soldier,
and a sort of grim water-drinking Pluto. About cock-crow, when the
moon was shining as bright as mid-day, we came among the monuments.
My friend began addressing himself to the stars, but I was rather
in a mood to sing or to count them; and when I turned to look at
him, lo! he had already stripped himself and laid down his clothes
near him. My heart was in my nostrils, and I stood like a dead man;
but he '_circumminxit vestimenta_', and on a sudden became a
wolf. Do not think I jest; I would not lie for any man's estate.
But to return to what I was saying. When he became a wolf, he began
howling, and fled into the woods. At first I hardly knew where I
was, and afterwards, when I went to take up his clothes, they were
turned into stone. Who then died with fear but I? Yet I drew my
sword, and went cutting the air right and left, till I reached the
villa of my sweetheart. I entered the court-yard. I almost breathed
my last, the sweat ran down my neck, my eyes were dim, and I
thought I should never recover myself. My Melissa wondered why I
was out so late, and said to me: 'Had you come sooner you might at
least have helped us, for a wolf has entered the farm, and worried
all our cattle; but he had not the best of the joke, for all he
escaped, for our slave ran a lance through his neck.' When I heard
this, I could not doubt how it was, and, as it was clear daylight,
ran home as fast as a robbed innkeeper. When I came to the spot
where the clothes had been turned into stone, I could find nothing
except blood. But when I got home, I found my friend the soldier in
bed, bleeding at the neck like an ox, and a doctor dressing his
wound. I then knew he was a turn-skin, nor would I ever have broke
bread with him again; No, not if you had killed me. [25]

A man who had such a gift or greed was also called lycanthropus,
a man-wolf or wolf-man, which term the Anglo-Saxons translated
literally in Canute's Laws _verevulf_, and the early English
_werewolf_. In old French he was _loupgarou_, which means the
same thing; except that _garou_ means man-wolf in itself without
the antecedent _loup_, so that, as Madden observes, the whole
word is one of those reduplications of which we have an example
in _lukewarm_. In Brittany he was _bleizgarou_ and _denvleiz_,
formed respectively from _bleiz_, wolf, and _den_, man; _garou_ is
merely a distorted form of _wer_ or _vere_, man and _loup_. In
later French the word became _waroul_, whence the Scotch _wrout_,
_wurl_, and _worlin_. [26]

It was not likely that a belief so widely spread should not have
extended itself to the North; and the grave assertions of Olaus
Magnus in the sixteenth century, in his Treatise _De Gentibus
Septentrionalibus_, show how common the belief in were-wolves was
in Sweden so late as the time of Gustavus Vasa. In mythical times
the _Volsunga Saga_ [_Fornald Sog_, i, 130, 131.] expressly
states of Sigmund and Sinfjoetli that they became were-wolves--which,
we may remark, were Odin's sacred beasts--just in the same way as
Brynhildr and the Valkyries, or corse-choosers, who followed the god
of battles to the field, and chose the dead for Valhalla when the
fight was done, became swan-maidens, and took the shape of swans. In
either case, the wolf's skin or the swan's feathery covering was
assumed and laid aside at pleasure, though the _Voelundr Quidr_,
in the _Edda_, and the stories of 'The Fair Melusina', and other
medieval swan-maidens, show that any one who seized that shape while
thus laid aside, had power over its wearer. In later times, when this
old heroic belief degenerated into the notion of sorcery, it was
supposed that a girdle of wolfskin thrown over the body, or even a
slap on the face with a wolfskin glove, would transform the person
upon whom the sorcerer practised into the shape of a ravening wolf,
which fled at once to the woods, where he remained in that shape for
a period which varied in popular belief for nine days, three, seven,
or nine years. While in this state he was especially ravenous after
young children, whom he carried off as the were-wolf carried off
William in the old romance, though all were-wolves did not treat
their prey with the same tenderness as that were-wolf treated

But the favourite beast for Norse transformations in historic times,
if we may judge from the evidence afforded by the Sagas, was the
bear, the king of all their beasts, whose strength and sagacity made
him an object of great respect [See Landnama in many places.
_Egil's Sag., Hrolf Krak. Sag._].

This old belief, then, might be expected to be found in these Norse
Tales, and accordingly we find men transformed in them into various
beasts. Of old these transformations, as we have already stated, were
active, if we may use the expression, as well as passive. A man who
possessed the gift, frequently assumed the shape of a beast at his
own will and pleasure, like the soldier in Petronius. Even now in
Norway, it is matter of popular belief that Finns and Lapps, who from
time immemorial have passed for the most skilful witches and wizards
in the world, can at will assume the shape of bears; and it is a
common thing to say of one of those beasts, when he gets unusually
savage and daring, 'that can be no Christian bear'. On such a bear,
in the parish of Ofoeden, after he had worried to death more than
sixty horses and six men, it is said that a girdle of bearskin, the
infallible mark of a man thus transformed, was found when he was at
last tracked and slain. The tale called 'Farmer Weathersky', No. xli
in this collection, shows that the belief of these spontaneous
transformations still exists in popular tradition, where it is easy
to see that Farmer Weathersky is only one of the ancient gods
degraded into a demon's shape. His sudden departure through the air,
horse, sledge, and lad, and all, and his answer 'I'm at home, alike
north, and south, and east, and west'; his name itself, and his
distant abode, surrounded with the corpses of the slain, sufficiently
betray the divinity in disguise. His transformation, too, into a hawk
answers exactly to that of Odin when he flew away from the Frost
Giant in the shape of that bird. But in these tales such
transformations are for the most part passive; they occur not at the
will of the person transformed, but through sorcery practised on them
by some one else. Thus the White Bear in the beautiful story of 'East
o' the Sun and West o' the Moon', No. iv, is a Prince transformed by
his stepmother, just as it is the stepmother who plays the same part
in the romance of William and the Were-wolf. So the horse in 'the
Widow's Son', No. xliv, is a Prince over whom a king has cast that
shape. [27] So also in 'Lord Peter', No. xlii, which is the full
story of what we have only hitherto known in part as 'Puss in Boots',
the cat is a princess bewitched by the Troll who had robbed her of
her lands; so also in 'The Seven Foals', No. xliii, and 'The Twelve
Wild Ducks', No. viii, the Foals and the Ducks are Princes over whom
that fate has come by the power of a witch or a Troll, to whom an
unwary promise had been given. Thoroughly mythic is the trait in 'The
Twelve Wild Ducks', where the youngest brother reappears with a wild
duck's wing instead of his left arm, because his sister had no time
to finish that portion of the shirt, upon the completion of which his
retransformation depended.

But we should ill understand the spirit of the Norsemen, if we
supposed that these transformations into beasts were all that the
national heart has to tell of beasts and their doings, or that, when
they appear, they do so merely as men-beasts, without any power or
virtue of their own. From the earliest times, side by side with those
productions of the human mind which speak of the dealings of men with
men, there has grown up a stock of traditions about animals and their
relations with one another, which forms a true Beast Epic, and is
full of the liveliest traits of nature. Here, too, it was reserved
for Grimm to restore these traditions to their true place in the
history of the human mind, and show that the poetry which treats of
them is neither satirical nor didactic, though it may contain touches
of both these artificial kinds of composition, but, on the contrary,
purely and intensely natural. It is Epic, in short, springing out of
that deep love of nature and close observation of the habits of
animals which is only possible in an early and simple stage of
society. It used to be the fashion, when these Beast traditions were
noticed, to point to Aesop as their original, but Grimm has
sufficiently proved [Reinhart Fuchs, Introduction] that what we see
in Aesop is only the remains of a great world-old cycle of such
traditions which had already, in Aesop's day, been subjected by the
Greek mind to that critical process which a late state of society
brings to bear on popular traditions; that they were then already
worn and washed out and moralized. He had also shown how the same
process went on till in Phaedrus nothing but the dry bones of the
traditions, with a drier moral, are served up to the reader; and he
has done justice on La Fontaine, who wrote with all the wanton
licentiousness of his day, and frittered away the whole nature of his
fables by the frivolity of his allusions to the artificial society of
his time. Nor has he spared Lessing, who, though he saw through the
poverty of Phaedrus as compared with Aesop, and was alive to the
weakness of La Fontaine, still wandered about in the classical mist
which hung heavy over the learning of the eighteenth century, and saw
in the Greek form the perfection of all fable, when in Aesop it
really appears in a state of degeneracy and decay. Here too, as in so
many other things, we have a proof that the world is older than we
think it. The Beast-Fables in the _Pantcha Tantra_ and the
_Hitopadesa_, the Indian parallels to Aesop, reveal, in the
connection in which they occur, and in the moral use to which they
are put, a state of society long past that simple early time in which
such fictions arise. They must have sprung up in the East in the very
dawn of time; and thence travelling in all directions, we find them
after many centuries in various shapes, which admit of no mistake as
to their first origin, at the very ends of the earth, in countries as
opposite as the Poles to each other; in New Zealand and Norway, in
Central Africa and Servia, in the West Indies and in Mongolia; all
separated by immense tracts of land or sea from their common centre.
To the earnest inquirer, to one who believes that many dark things
may yet be solved, it is very satisfactory to see that even Grimm, in
his _Reynard the Fox_, is at a loss to understand why the North,
properly so called, had none of the traditions which the Middle Age
moulded into that famous Beast-Epic. But since then the North, as the
Great Master himself confesses in his later works, has amply avenged
herself for the slight thus cast upon her by mistake. In the year
1834, when Grimm thus expressed his surprise on this point, the North
had no such traditions to show in books indeed, but she kept them
stored up in her heart in an abundance with which no other land
perhaps can vie. This book at least shows how natural it seems to the
Norse mind now, and how much more natural of course it seemed in
earlier times, when sense went for as much and reflection for so
little, that beasts should talk; and how truly and faithfully it has
listened and looked for the accents and character of each. The Bear
is still the King of Beasts, in which character he appears in 'True
and Untrue', No. i, but here, as in Germany, he is no match for the
Fox in wit. Thus Reynard plays him a trick which condemns him for
ever to a stumpy tail in No. xxiii. He cheats him out of his share of
a firkin of butter in No. lvii. He is preferred as Herdsman, in No.
x, before either Bear or Wolf, by the old wife who wants some one to
tend her flock. Yet all the while he professes immense respect for
the Bear, and calls him 'Lord', even when in the very act of
outwitting him. In the tale called 'Well Done and Ill Paid', No.
xxxviii, the crafty fox puts a finish to his misbehaviour to his
'Lord Bruin', by handing him over, bound hand and foot, to the
peasant, and by causing his death outright. Here, too, we have an
example, which we shall see repeated in the case of the giants, that
strength and stature are not always wise, and that wit and wisdom
never fail to carry the day against mere brute force. Another tale,
however, restores the bear to his true place as the king of beasts,
endowed not only with strength, but with something divine and
terrible about him which the Trolls cannot withstand. This is 'The
Cat on the Dovrefell', No. xii. In connection with which, it should
be remembered that the same tradition existed in the thirteenth
century in Germany,[Grimm, _Irisch. Elfenm._, 114-9, and _D.
M._, 447.] that the bear is called familiarly grandfather in the
North, and that the Lapps reckon him rather as akin to men than
beasts; that they say he has the strength of ten and the wit of
twelve men. If they slay him, they formally beg his pardon, as do
also the Ostjaks, a tribe akin to the Lapps, and bring him to their
huts with great formalities and mystic songs. To the Wolf, whose
nickname is 'Graylegs', [28] these tales are more complimentary. He
is not the spiteful, stupid, greedy Isengrim of Germany and France.
Not that Isengrim, of whom old English fables of the thirteenth
century tell us that he became a monk, but when the brethren wished
to teach him his letters that he might learn the paternoster, all
they could get out of him was _lamb, lamb_; nor could they ever
get him to look to the cross, for his eyes, with his thoughts, 'were
ever to the woodward'. [Douce, _Illust. to Shakspeare_, ii, 33,
344, quoted in _Reinhart Fuchs_, ccxxi.] He appears, on the
contrary, in 'The Giant who had no Heart in his body', No. ix, as a
kindly grateful beast, who repays tenfold out of the hidden store of
his supernatural sagacity the gift of the old jade, which Boots had
made over to him.

The horse was a sacred animal among the Teutonic tribes from the
first moment of their appearance in history, and Tacitus
[_Germania_, 9, 10.] has related, how in the shade of those
woods and groves which served them for temples, white horses were fed
at the public cost, whose backs no mortal man crossed, whose
neighings and snortings were carefully watched as auguries and omens,
and who were thought to be conscious of divine mysteries. In Persia,
too, the classical reader will remember how the neighing of a horse
decided the choice for the crown. Here, in England, at any rate, we
have only to think of Hengist and Horsa, the twin-heroes of the
Anglo-Saxon migration, as the legend ran--heroes whose name meant
'horse'--and of the vale of the White Horse in Berks., where the
sacred form still gleams along the down, to be reminded of the
sacredness of the horse to our forefathers. The Eddas are filled with
the names of famous horses, and the Sagas contain many stories of
good steeds, in whom their owners trusted and believed as sacred to
this or that particular god. Such a horse is Dapplegrim in No. xl, of
these tales, who saves his master out of all his perils, and brings
him to all fortune, and is another example of that mysterious
connection with the higher powers which animals in all ages have been
supposed to possess.

Such a friend, too, to the helpless lassie is the Dun Bull in 'Katie
Woodencloak', No. 1, out of whose ear comes the 'Wishing Cloth',
which serves up the choicest dishes. The story is probably imperfect,
as we should expect to see him again in human shape after his head
was cut off, and his skin flayed; but, after being the chief
character up to that point, he remains from that time forth in the
background, and we only see him darkly in the man who comes out of
the face of the rock and supplies the lassie's wants when she knocks
on it. Dun, or blue, or mouse-colour, is the favourite colour for
fairy kine. Thus the cow which Guy of Warwick killed was _dun_.
The _Huldror_ in Norway have large flocks of blue kine. In
Scotland runs the story of the mouse-coloured Elfin Bull. In Iceland
the colour of such kine is _apalgrar_, dapple grey. This animal
has been an object of adoration and respect from the earliest times,
and we need only remind our readers of the sanctity of cows and bulls
among the Indians and Egyptians, of 'the Golden Calf' in the Bible;
of Io and her wanderings from land to land; and, though last, not
least, of Audhumla, the Mythic Cow in the Edda, who had so large a
part in the creation of the first Giant in human forms. [Snorro's
_Edda_, ch. vi, English translation.]

The dog, to which, with all his sagacity and faithfulness something
unclean and impure clings, as Grimm well observes, plays no very
prominent part in these Tales. [29] We find him, however, in 'Not a
Pin to choose between them', No. xxiv, where his sagacity fails to
detect his mistress; and, as 'the foe of his own house', the half-
bred foxy hound, who chases away the cunning Fox in 'Well Done and
Ill Paid', No. xxxviii. Still he, too, in popular superstition, is
gifted with a sense of the supernatural; he howls when death impends,
and in 'Buttercup', No. xviii, it is Goldtooth, their dog, who warns
Buttercup and his mother of the approach of the old hag. In 'Bushy
Bride', No. xlv, he appears only as the lassie's lap-dog, is thrown
away as one of her sacrifices, and at last goes to the wedding in her
coach; yet in that tale he has something weird about him, and he is
sent out by his mistress three times to see if the dawn is coming.

In one Tale, No. xxxvii, the Goat appears in full force, and dashes
out the brains of the Troll, who lived under the bridge over the
burn. In another, 'Tatterhood', No. xlviii, he helps the lassie in
her onslaught on the witches. He, too, was sacred to Thor in the old
mythology, and drew his thundering car. Here something of the divine
nature of his former lord, who was the great foe of all Trolls, seems
to have been passed on in popular tradition to the animal who had
seen so many adventures with the great God who swayed the thunder.
This feud between the Goat and the Trolls comes out curiously in 'The
Old Dame and her Hen', No. iii, where a goat falls down the trapdoor
to the Troll's house, 'Who sent for you, I should like to know, you
long-bearded beast' said the Man o' the Hill, who was in an awful
rage; and with that he whipped up the Goat, wrung his head off, and
threw him down into the cellar. Still he belonged to one of the
heathen gods, and so in later Middle-Age superstition he is assigned
to the Devil, who even takes his shape when he presides at the
Witches' Sabbath.

Nor in this list must the little birds be forgotten which taught the
man's daughter, in the tale of 'The Two Stepsisters', No. xvii, how
to act in her trials. So, too, in 'Katie Woodencloak', No. l, the
little bird tells the Prince, 'who understood the song of birds very
well,' that blood is gushing out of the golden shoe. The belief that
some persons had the gift of understanding what the birds said, is
primaeval. We pay homage to it in our proverbial expression, 'a
little bird told me'. Popular traditions and rhymes protect their
nests, as in the case of the wren, the robin, and the swallow.
Occasionally this gift seems to have been acquired by eating or
tasting the flesh of a snake or dragon, as Sigurd, in the Volsung
tale, first became aware of Regin's designs against his life, when he
accidentally tasted the heart-blood of Fafnir, whom he had slain in
dragon shape, and then all at once the swallow's song, perched above
him, became as intelligible as human speech.

We now come to a class of beings which plays a large part, and always
for ill, in these Tales. These are the Giants or Trolls. In modern
Norse tradition there is little difference between the names, but
originally Troll was a more general expression for a supernatural
being than Giant, [30] which was rather confined to a race more dull
than wicked. In the Giants we have the wantonness of boundless bodily
strength and size, which, trusting entirely to these qualities, falls
at last by its own weight. At first, it is true that proverbial
wisdom, all the stores of traditional lore, all that could be learnt
by what may be called rule of thumb, was ascribed to them. One
sympathises too with them, and almost pities them as the
representatives of a simple primitive race, whose day is past and
gone, but who still possessed something of the innocence and virtue
of ancient times, together with a stock of old experience, which,
however useful it might be as an example to others, was quite useless
to help themselves. They are the old Tories of mythology, as opposed
to the Aesir, the advanced liberals. They can look back and say what
has been, but to look forward to say what will be and shall be, and
to mould the future, is beyond their ken. True as gold to the
traditional and received, and worthless as dross for the new and
progressive. Such a nature, when unprovoked, is easy and simple; but
rouse it, and its exuberant strength rises in a paroxysm of rage,
though its clumsy awkward blows, guided by mere cunning, fail to
strike the slight and lissom foe who waits for and eludes the stroke,
until his reason gives him the mastery over sheer brute force which
has wearied itself out by its own exertions.[31]

This race, and that of the upstart Aesir, though almost always at
feud, still had their intervals of common intercourse, and even
social enjoyment. Marriages take place between them, visits are paid,
feasts are given, ale is breached, and mirth is fast and furious.
Thor was the worst foe the giants ever had, and yet he met them
sometimes on good terms. They were destined to meet once for all on
that awful day, 'the twilight of the gods', but till then, they
entertained for each other some sense of mutual respect.

The Trolls, on the other hand, with whom mankind had more to do, were
supposed to be less easy tempered, and more systematically malignant,
than the Giants, and with the term were bound up notions of sorcery
and unholy power. But mythology is a woof of many colours, in which
the hues are shot and blended, so that the various races of
supernatural beings are shaded off, and fade away almost
imperceptibly into each other; and thus, even in heathen times, it
must have been hard to say exactly where the Giant ended and the
Troll began. But when Christianity came in, and heathendom fell; when
the godlike race of the Aesir became evil demons instead of good
genial powers, then all the objects of the old popular belief,
whether Aesir, Giants, or Trolls, were mingled together in one
superstition, as 'no canny'. They were all Trolls, all malignant; and
thus it is that, in these tales, the traditions about Odin and his
underlings, about the Frost Giants, and about sorcerers and wizards,
are confused and garbled; and all supernatural agency that plots
man's ill is the work of Trolls, whether the agent be the arch enemy
himself, or giant, or witch, or wizard.

In tales such as 'The Old Dame and her Hen', No. iii, 'The Giant who
had no Heart in his Body', No. ix, 'Shortshanks', No. xx, 'Boots and
the Troll', No. xxxii, 'Boots who ate a match with the Troll', No. v,
the easy temper of the old Frost Giants predominates, and we almost
pity them as we read. In another, 'The Big Bird Dan', No. lv, we have
a Troll Prince, who appears as a generous benefactor to the young
Prince, and lends him a sword by help of which he slays the King of
the Trolls, just as we sometimes find in the Edda friendly meetings
between the Aesir and this or the Frost Giant. In 'Tatterhood', No.
xlviii, the Trolls are very near akin to the witches of the Middle
Age. In other tales, as 'The Mastermaid', No. xi, 'The Blue Belt',
No. xxii, 'Farmer Weathersky', No. xli, a sort of settled malignity
against man appears as the direct working and result of a bad and
evil spirit. In 'Buttercup', No. xviii, and 'The Cat on the
Dovrefell', we have the Troll proper,--the supernatural dwellers of
the woods and hills, who go to church, and eat men, and porridge, and
sausages indifferently, not from malignity, but because they know no
better, because it is their nature, and because they have always done
so. In one point they all agree--in their place of abode. The wild
pine forest that clothes the spurs of the fells, but more than all,
the interior recesses of the rocky fell itself, is where the Trolls
live. Thither they carry off the children of men, and to them belongs
all the untold riches of the mineral world. There, in caves and
clefts in the steep face of the rock, sits the Troll, as the
representative of the old giants, among heaps of gold and silver and
precious things. They stride off into the dark forest by day, whither
no rays of the sun can pierce; they return home at nightfall, feast
themselves full, and snore out the night. One thing was fatal to
them--the sight of the sun. If they looked him full in the face, his
glory was too great for them, and they burst, as in 'Lord Peter', No.
xlii, and in 'The Old Dame and her Hen', No. iii. This, too, is a
deeply mythic trait. The old religion of the North was a bright and
lively faith; it lived in the light of joy and gladness; its gods
were the 'blithe powers'; opposed to them were the dark powers of
mist and gloom, who could not bear the glorious face of the Sun, of
Baldr's beaming visage, or the bright flash of Thor's levin bolt.

In one aspect, the whole race of Giants and Trolls stands out in
strong historical light. There can be little doubt that, in their
continued existence amongst the woods, and rocks, and hills, we have
a memory of the gradual suppression and extinction of some hostile
race, who gradually retired into the natural fastnesses of the land,
and speedily became mythic. Nor, if we bear in mind their natural
position, and remember how constantly the infamy of sorcery has clung
to the Finns and Lapps, shall we have far to go to seek this ancient
race, even at the present day. Between this outcast nomad race, which
wandered from forest to forest, and from fell to fell, without a
fixed place of abode, and the old natural powers and Frost Giants,
the minds of the race which adored Odin and the Aesir soon engendered
a monstrous man-eating cross-breed of supernatural beings, who fled
from contact with the intruders as soon as the first great struggle
was over, abhorred the light of day, and looked upon agriculture and
tillage as a dangerous innovation which destroyed their hunting
fields, and was destined finally to root them out from off the face
of the earth. This fact appears in countless stories all over the
globe, for man is true to himself in all climes, and the savage in
Africa or across the Rocky Mountains, dreads tillage and detests the
plough as much as any Lapp or Samoyed. 'See what pretty playthings,
mother!' cries the Giants' daughter as she unties her apron, and
shows her a plough, and horses, and peasants. 'Back with them this
instant', cries the mother in wrath, 'and put them down as carefully
as you can, for these playthings can do our race great harm, and when
these come we must budge.' 'What sort of an earthworm is this?' said
one Giant to another, when they met a man as they walked. 'These are
the earthworms that will one day eat us up, brother,' answered the
other; and soon both Giants left that part of Germany. Nor does this
trait appear less strongly in these Norse Tales. The Giants or Trolls
can neither brew nor wash properly, as we see in Shortshanks, No. xx,
where the Ogre has to get Shortshanks to brew his ale for him; and in
'East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon', No. iv, where none of the
Trolls are able to wash out the spot of tallow. So also in the 'Two
Step-sisters', No. xvii, the old witch is forced to get human maids
to do her household-work; and, lastly, the best example of all, in
'Lord Peter', No. xlii, where agriculture is plainly a secret of
mankind, which the Giants were eager to learn, but which was a branch
of knowledge beyond their power to attain.

'Stop a bit', said the Cat, 'and I'll tell you how the farmer sets
to work to get in his winter rye.'

And so she told him such a long story about the winter rye.

'First of all, you see, he ploughs the field, and then he dungs it,
and then he ploughs it again, and then he harrows it,' and so she
went on till the sun rose.

Before we leave these gigantic natural powers, let us linger a moment
to point out how heartily the Winds are sketched in these Tales as
four brothers; of whom, of course, the North wind is the oldest, and
strongest, and roughest. But though rough in form and tongue, he is a
genial, kind-hearted fellow after all. He carries the lassie to the
castle, 'East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon', whither none of his
brothers had strength to blow. All he asks is that she won't be
afraid, and then he takes a good rest, and puffs himself up with as
much breath as ever he can hold, begins to blow a storm, and off they
go. So, too, in 'The Lad who went to the North Wind', No. xxxiv,
though he can't restore the meal he carried off, he gives the lad
three things which make his fortune, and amply repay him. He, too,
like the Grecian Boreas, is divine, and lineally descended from
Hraesvelgr, that great giant in the Edda, who sits 'at the end of the
world in eagle's shape, and when he flaps his wings, all the winds
come that blow upon men.'

Enough surely has now been said to shew that the old religion and
mythology of the Norseman still lives disguised in these popular
tales. Besides this internal evidence, we find here and there, in the
written literature of earlier days, hints that the same stories were
even then current, and current then as now, among the lower classes.
Thus, in _King Sverri's Saga_ we read: 'And so it was just like
what is said to have happened in old stories of what the king's
children suffered from their stepmother's ill-will.' And again, in
_Olof Tryggvason's Saga_ by the monk Odd: 'And better is it to
hear such things with mirth than stepmother's stories which shepherds
tell, where no one can tell whether anything is true, and where the
king is always made the least in their narrative.' But, in truth, no
such positive evidence is needed. Any one who has read the Volsung
tale as we have given it, will be at no loss to see where the 'little
birds' who speak to the Prince and the lassie, in these tales, come
from; nor when they read in the 'Big Bird Dan', No. lv, about 'the
naked sword' which the Princess lays by her side every night, will
they fail to recognize Sigurd's sword _Gram_, which he laid
between himself and Brynhildr when he rode through the flame and won
her for Gunnar. These mythical deep-rooted groves, throwing out fresh
shoots from age to age in the popular literature of the race, are far
more convincing proofs of the early existence of these traditions
than any mere external evidence'. [32]


We have now only to consider the men and women of these Tales, and
then our task is done. It will be sooner done, because they may be
left to speak for themselves, and must stand or fall by their own
words and actions. The tales of all races have a character and manner
of their own. Among the Hindoos the straight stem of the story is
overhung with a network of imagery which reminds one of the parasitic
growth of a tropical forest. Among the Arabs the tale is more
elegant, pointed with a moral, and adorned with tropes and episodes.
Among the Italians it is bright, light, dazzling, and swift. Among
the French we have passed from the woods, and fields, and hills, to
my lady's _boudoir_--rose-pink is the prevailing colour, and the
air is loaded with patchouli and _mille fleurs_. We miss the
song of birds, the modest odour of wild-flowers, and the balmy
fragrance of the pine forest. The Swedes are more stiff, and their
style is more like that of a chronicle than a tale. The Germans are
simple, hearty, and rather comic than humorous; and M. Moe [33] has
well said, that as we read them it is as if we sat and listened to
some elderly woman of the middle class, who recites them with a
clear, full, deep voice. In Scotland the few that have been collected
by Mr Robert Chambers [_Popular Rhymes of Scotland_ (Ed. 1847).]
are as good in tone and keeping as anything of the kind in the whole
range of such popular collections. [34] The wonderful likeness which
is shown between such tales as the 'Red Bull of Norway' in Mr
Chambers' collection, and Katie Woodencloak in these Norse Tales, is
to be accounted for by no theory of the importation of this or that
particular tale in later times from Norway, but by the fact that the
Lowland Scots, among whom these tales were told, were lineal
descendants of Norsemen, who had either seized the country in the
Viking times, or had been driven into it across the Border after the
Norman Conquest.

These Norse Tales we may characterize as bold, out-spoken, and
humorous, in the true sense of humour. In the midst of every
difficulty and danger arises that old Norse feeling of making the
best of everything, and keeping a good face to the foe. The language
and tone are perhaps rather lower than in some other collections, but
it must be remembered that these are the tales of 'hempen homespuns',
of Norse yeomen, of _Norske Bonder_, who call a spade a spade,
and who burn tallow, not wax; and yet in no collection of tales is
the general tone so chaste, are the great principles of morality
better worked out, and right and wrong kept so steadily in sight. The
general view of human nature is good and kindly. The happiness of
married life was never more prettily told than in 'Gudbrand on the
Hillside', No. xxi, where the tenderness of the wife for her husband
weighs down all other considerations; and we all agree with M. Moe
that it would be well if there were many wives like Gudbrand's. The
balance too, is very evenly kept between the sexes; for if any wife
should point with indignation at such a tale as 'Not a Pin to choose
between them', No. xxiv, where wives suffer; she will be amply
avenged when she reads 'The Husband who was to mind the House', No.
xxxix, where the husband has decidedly the worst of the bargain, and
is punished as he deserves.

Of particular characters, one occurs repeatedly. This is that which
we have ventured, for want of a better word, to call 'Boots', from
that widely-spread tradition in English families, that the youngest
brother is bound to do all the hard work his brothers set him, and
which has also dignified him with the term here used. In Norse he
is called '_Askefis_', or '_Espen Askefjis_'. By M. Moe he is
called '_Askepot_',[35] a word which the Danes got from Germany,
and which the readers of Grimm's Tales will see at once is own
brother to _Aschenpuettel_. The meaning of the word is 'one who
pokes about the ashes and blows up the fire'; one who does dirty work
in short; and in Norway, according to M. Moe, the term is almost
universally applied to the youngest son of the family. He is
Cinderella's brother in fact; and just as she had all the dirty work
put upon her by her sisters, he meets with the same fate from his
brothers. He is generally the youngest of three, whose names are
often Peter and Paul, as in No. xlii, and who despise, cry down, and
mock him. But he has in him that deep strength of character and
natural power upon which the good powers always smile. He is the man
whom Heaven helps, because he can help himself; and so, after his
brothers try and fail, he alone can watch in the barn, and tame the
steed, and ride up the glass hill, and gain the Princess and half the
kingdom. The Norse 'Boots' shares these qualities in common with the
'Pinkel' of the Swedes, and the _Dummling_ of the Germans, as
well as with our 'Jack the Giant Killer', but he starts lower than
these--he starts from the dust-bin and the coal-hole. There he sits
idle whilst all work; there he lies with that deep irony of conscious
power, which knows its time must one day come, and meantime can
afford to wait. When that time comes, he girds himself to the feat,
amidst the scoffs and scorn of his flesh and blood; but even then,
after he has done some great deed, he conceals it, returns to his
ashes, and again sits idly by the kitchen-fire, dirty, lazy, and
despised, until the time for final recognition comes, and then his
dirt and rags fall off--he stands out in all the majesty of his royal
robes, and is acknowledged once for all, a king. In this way does the
consciousness of a nation, and the mirror of its thought, reflect the
image and personification of a great moral truth, that modesty,
endurance, and ability will sooner or later reap their reward,
however much they maybe degraded, scoffed at, and despised by the
proud, the worthless, and the overbearing [36]

As a general rule, the women are less strongly marked than the men;
for these tales, as is well said, are uttered 'with a manly
mouth';[Moe, _Introd. Norsk. Event._] and none of the female
characters, except perhaps 'The Mastermaid', and 'Tatterhood', can
compare in strength with 'The Master-Smith', 'The Master-Thief,'
'Shortshanks' or 'Boots'. Still the true womanly type comes out in
full play in such tales as 'The Two Step-Sisters', No. xvii; 'East o'
the Sun and West o' the Moon', No. iv; 'Bushy Bride', No. xlv, and
'The Twelve Wild Ducks', No. viii. In all these the lassie is bright,
and good, and helpful; she forgets herself in her eagerness to help
others. When she goes down the well after the unequal match against
her step-sister in spinning bristles against flax; she steps tenderly
over the hedge, milks the cow, shears the sheep, relieves the boughs
of the apple-tree--all out of the natural goodness of her heart. When
she is sent to fetch water from the well, she washes and brushes, and
even kisses, the loathsome head; she believes what her enemies say,
even to her own wrong and injury; she sacrifices all that she holds
most dear, and at last even herself, because she is made to believe
that it is her brother's wish. And so on her, too, the good powers
smile. She can understand and profit by what the little birds say;
she knows how to choose the right casket. And at last, after many
trials, all at once the scene changes, and she receives a glorious
reward, while the wicked stepmother and her ugly daughter meet with a
just fate. Nor is another female character less tenderly drawn in
Hacon Grizzlebeard, No. vi, where we see the proud, haughty princess
subdued and tamed by natural affection into a faithful, loving wife.
We sympathise with her more than with the 'Patient Grizzel' of the
poets, who is in reality too good, for her story has no relief; while
in Hacon Grizzlebeard we begin by being angry at the princess's
pride; we are glad at the retribution which overtakes her, but we are
gradually melted at her sufferings and hardships when she gives up
all for the Beggar and follows him; we burst into tears with her when
she exclaims 'Oh! the Beggar, and the babe, and the cabin!'--and we
rejoice with her when the Prince says 'Here is the Beggar, and there
is the babe, and so let the cabin burn away.'

Nor is it unprofitable here to remark how the professions fare when
they appear in these tales. The Church cannot be said to be treated
with respect, for 'Father Lawrence' is ludicrously deceived and
scurvily treated by the Master-Thief, No. xxxv; nor does the priest
come off any better in Goosey Grizzel, No. xxxiii, where he is thrown
by the Farmer into the wet moss. Indeed, it seems as if the popular
mind were determined to revenge itself when left to itself, for the
superstition of Rome on the one hand, and the severity of strict
Lutheranism on the other. It has little to say of either of them, but
when it does speak, its accents are not those of reverence and love.
The Law, too, as represented by those awful personages the Constable,
the Attorney, and the Sheriff in 'The Mastermaid', No. xi, is held up
to ridicule, and treated with anything but tenderness. But there is
one profession for which a good word is said, a single word, but
enough to show the feeling of the people. In the 'Twelve Wild Ducks'
No. viii, the king is 'as soft and kind' to Snow-white and Rosy-red
'as a doctor'--a doctor, alas! not of laws, but of medicine; and thus
this profession, so often despised, but in reality the noblest, has
homage paid to it in that single sentence, which neither the Church
with all its dignity, nor the Law with all its cunning, have been
able to extort from the popular mind. Yet even this profession has a
hard word uttered against it in 'Katie Woodencloak', No. l, where the
doctor takes a great fee from the wicked queen to say she will never
be well unless she has some of the Dun Bull's flesh to eat.

And now it is time to bring this introduction to an end, lest it
should play the Wolf's part to Odin, and swallow up the Tales
themselves. Enough has been said, at least, to prove that even
nursery tales may have a science of their own, and to show how the
old Nornir and divine spinners can revenge themselves if their old
wives' tales are insulted and attacked. The inquiry itself might be
almost indefinitely prolonged, for this is a journey where each turn
of the road brings out a new point of view, and the longer we linger
on our path, the longer we find something fresh to see. Popular
mythology is a virgin mine, and its ore, so far from being exhausted
or worked out, has here, in England at least, been scarcely touched.
It may, indeed, be dreaded lest the time for collecting such English
traditions is not past and gone; whether the steam-engine and
printing-press have not played their great work of enlightenment too
well; and whether the popular tales, of which, no doubt, the land was
once full, have not faded away before those great inventions, as the
race of Giants waned before the might of Odin and the Aesir. Still
the example of this very Norway, which at one time was thought, even
by her own sons, to have few tales of her own, and now has been found
to have them so fresh and full, may serve as a warning not to abandon
a search, which, indeed, can scarcely be said to have been ever
begun; and to suggest a doubt whether the ill success which may have
attended this or that particular attempt, may not have been from the
fault rather of the seekers after traditions, than from the want of
the traditions themselves. In point of fact, it is a matter of the
utmost difficulty to gather such tales in any country, as those who
have collected them most successfully will be the first to confess.
It is hard to make old and feeble women, who generally are the
depositaries of these national treasures, believe that the inquirer
can have any real interest in the matter. They fear that the question
is only put to turn them into ridicule; for the popular mind is a
sensitive plant; it becomes coy, and closes its leaves at the first
rude touch; and when once shut, it is hard to make these aged lips
reveal the secrets of the memory. There they remain, however, forming
part of an under-current of tradition, of which the educated classes,
through whose minds flows the bright upper-current of faith, are apt
to forget the very existence. Things out of sight, and therefore out
of mind. Now and then a wave of chance tosses them to the surface
from those hidden depths, and all Her Majesty's inspectors of schools
are shocked at the wild shapes which still haunt the minds of the
great mass of the community. It cannot be said that the English are
not a superstitious people. Here we have gone on for more than a
hundred years proclaiming our opinion that the belief in witches, and
wizards, and ghosts, and fetches, was extinct throughout the land.
Ministers of all denominations have preached them down, and
philosophers convinced all the world of the absurdity of such vain
superstitions; and yet it has been reserved for another learned
profession, the Law, to produce in one trial at the Staffordshire
assizes, a year or two ago, such a host of witnesses, who firmly
believed in witchcraft, and swore to their belief in spectre dogs and
wizards, as to show that, in the Midland counties at least, such
traditions are anything but extinct. If so much of the bad has been
spared by steam, by natural philosophy, and by the Church, let us
hope that some of the good may still linger along with it, and that
an English Grimm may yet arise who may carry out what Mr. Chambers
has so well begun in Scotland, and discover in the mouth of an Anglo-
Saxon Gammer Grethel, some, at least, of those popular tales which
England once had in common with all the Aryan race.

For these Norse Tales one may say that nothing can equal the
tenderness and skill with which MM. Asbjoernsen and Moe have collected
them. Some of that tenderness and beauty may, it is hoped, be found
in this English translation; but to those who have never been in the
country where they are current, and who are not familiar with that
hearty simple people, no words can tell the freshness and truth of
the originals. It is not that the idioms of the two languages are
different, for they are more nearly allied, both in vocabulary and
construction, than any other two tongues, but it is the face of
nature herself, and the character of the race that looks up to her,
that fail to the mind's eye. The West Coast of Scotland is something
like that nature in a general way, except that it is infinitely
smaller and less grand; but that constant, bright blue sky, those
deeply-indented, sinuous, gleaming friths, those headstrong rivers
and headlong falls, those steep hillsides, those long ridges of
fells, those peaks and needles rising sharp above them, those hanging
glaciers and wreaths of everlasting snow, those towering endless pine
forests, relieved by slender stems of silver birch, those green spots
in the midst of the forest, those winding dales and upland lakes,
those various shapes of birds and beasts, the mighty crashing elk,
the fleet reindeer, the fearless bear, the nimble lynx, the shy wolf,
those eagles and swans, and seabirds, those many tones and notes of
Nature's voice making distant music through the twilight summer
night, those brilliant, flashing, northern lights when days grow
short, those dazzling, blinding storms of autumn snow, that cheerful
winter frost and cold, that joy of sledging over the smooth ice, when
the sharp-shod horse careers at full speed with the light sledge, or
rushes down the steep pitches over the crackling snow through the
green spruce wood--all these form a Nature of their own. These
particular features belong in their fulness and combination to no
other land. When in the midst of all this natural scenery, we find an
honest manly race, not the race of the towns and cities, but of the
dales and fells, free and unsubdued, holding its own in a country
where there are neither lords nor ladies, but simple men and women.
Brave men and fair women, who cling to the traditions of their
forefathers, and whose memory reflects as from the faithful mirror of
their native steel the whole history and progress of their race--when
all these natural features, and such a manly race meet; then we have
the stuff out of which these tales are made, the living rocks out of
which these sharp-cut national forms are hewn. Then, too, our task of
introducing them is over, we may lay aside our pen, and leave the
reader and the tales to themselves.



Once on a time there were two brothers; one was called True, and the
other Untrue. True was always upright and good towards all, but
Untrue was bad and full of lies, so that no one could believe what he
said. Their mother was a widow, and hadn't much to live on; so when
her sons had grown up, she was forced to send them away, that they
might earn their bread in the world. Each got a little scrip with
some food in it, and then they went their way.

Now, when they had walked till evening, they sat down on a windfall
in the wood, and took out their scraps, for they were hungry after
walking the whole day, and thought a morsel of food would be sweet

'If you're of my mind', said Untrue, 'I think we had better eat out
of your scrip, so long as there is anything in it, and after that we
can take to mine.'

Yes! True was well pleased with this, so they fell to eating, but
Untrue got all the best bits, and stuffed himself with them, while
True got only the burnt crusts and scraps.

Next morning they broke their fast off True's food, and they dined
off it too, and then there was nothing left in his scrip. So when
they had walked till late at night, and were ready to eats again,
True wanted to eat out of his brother's scrip, but Untrue said 'No',
the food was his, and he had only enough for himself.

'Nay! but you know you ate out of my scrip so long as there was
anything in it', said True.

'All very fine, I daresay', answered Untrue; 'but if you are such a
fool as to let others eat up your food before your face, you must
make the best of it; for now all you have to do is to sit here and

'Very well!' said True, 'you're Untrue by name and untrue by nature;
so you have been, and so you will be all your life long.'

Now when Untrue heard this, he flew into a rage, and rushed at his
brother, and plucked out both his eyes. 'Now, try if you can see
whether folk are untrue or not, you blind buzzard!' and so saying, he
ran away and left him.

Poor True! there he went walking along and feeling his way through
the thick wood. Blind and alone, he scarce knew which way to turn,
when all at once he caught hold of the trunk of a great bushy lime-
tree, so he thought he would climb up into it, and sit there till the
night was over for fear of the wild beasts.

'When the birds begin to sing', he said to himself, 'then I shall
know it is day, and I can try to grope my way farther on.' So he
climbed up into the lime-tree. After he had sat there a little time,
he heard how some one came and began to make a stir and clatter
under the tree, and soon after others came; and when they began to
greet one another, he found out it was Bruin the bear, and Greylegs
the wolf, and Slyboots the fox, and Longears the hare who had come
to keep St. John's eve under the tree. So they began to eat and drink,
and be merry; and when they had done eating, they fell to gossipping
together. At last the Fox said:

'Shan't we, each of us, tell a little story while we sit here?' Well!
the others had nothing against that. It would be good fun, they said,
and the Bear began; for you may fancy he was king of the company.

'The king of England', said Bruin, 'has such bad eyesight, he can
scarce see a yard before him; but if he only came to this lime-tree
in the morning, while the dew is still on the leaves, and took and
rubbed his eyes with the dew, he would get back his sight as good as

'Very true!' said Greylegs. 'The king of England has a deaf and dumb
daughter too; but if he only knew what I know, he would soon cure
her. Last year she went to the communion. She let a crumb of the
bread fall out of her mouth, and a great toad came and swallowed it
down; but if they only dug up the chancel floor, they would find the
toad sitting right under the altar rails, with the bread still
sticking in his throat. If they were to cut the toad open and take
and give the bread to the princess, she would be like other folk
again as to her speech and hearing.'

'That's all very well', said the Fox; 'but if the king of England
knew what I know, he would not be so badly off for water in his
palace; for under the great stone, in his palace-yard, is a spring of
the clearest water one could wish for, if he only knew to dig for it

'Ah!' said the Hare in a small voice; 'the king of England has the
finest orchard in the whole land, but it does not bear so much as a
crab, for there lies a heavy gold chain in three turns round the
orchard. If he got that dug up, there would not be a garden like it
for bearing in all his kingdom.'

'Very true, I dare say', said the Fox; 'but now it's getting very
late, and we may as well go home.'

So they all went away together.

After they were gone, True fell asleep as he sat up in the tree; but
when the birds began to sing at dawn, he woke up, and took the dew
from the leaves, and rubbed his eyes with it, and so got his sight
back as good as it was before Untrue plucked his eyes out.

Then he went straight to the king of England's palace, and begged for
work, and got it on the spot. So one day the king came out into the
palace-yard, and when he had walked about a bit, he wanted to drink
out of his pump; for you must know the day was hot, and the king very
thirsty; but when they poured him out a glass, it was so muddy, and
nasty, and foul, that the king got quite vexed.

'I don't think there's ever a man in my whole kingdom who has such
bad water in his yard as I, and yet I bring it in pipes from far,
over hill and dale', cried out the king. 'Like enough, your Majesty',
said True; 'but if you would let me have some men to help me to dig
up this great stone which lies here in the middle of your yard, you
would soon see good water, and plenty of it.'

Well! the king was willing enough; and they had scarcely got the
stone well out, and dug under it a while, before a jet of water
sprang out high up into the air, as clear and full as if it came out
of a conduit, and clearer water was not to be found in all England.

A little while after the king was out in his palace-yard again, and
there came a great hawk flying after his chicken, and all the king's
men began to clap their hands and bawl out, 'There he flies!' 'There
he flies!' The king caught up his gun and tried to shoot the hawk,
but he couldn't see so far, so he fell into great grief.

'Would to Heaven', he said, 'there was any one who could tell me a
cure for my eyes; for I think I shall soon go quite blind!'

'I can tell you one soon enough', said True; and then he told the
king what he had done to cure his own eyes, and the king set off that
very afternoon to the lime-tree, as you may fancy, and his eyes were
quite cured as soon as he rubbed them with the dew which was on the
leaves in the morning. From that time forth there was no one whom the
king held so dear as True, and he had to be with him wherever he
went, both at home and abroad.

So one day, as they were walking together in the orchard, the king
said, 'I can't tell how it is _that_ I can't! there isn't a, man in
England who spends so much on his orchard as I, and yet I can't get
one of the trees to bear so much as a crab.'

'Well! well!' said True; 'if I may have what lies three times twisted
round your orchard, and men to dig it up, your orchard will bear well

Yes! the king was quite willing, so True got men and began to dig,
and at last he dug up the whole gold chain. Now True was a rich man;
far richer indeed than the king himself, but still the king was well
pleased, for his orchard bore so that the boughs of the trees hung
down to the ground, and such sweet apples and pears nobody had ever

Another day too the king and True were walking about, and talking
together, when the princess passed them, and the king was quite
downcast when he saw her.

'Isn't it a pity, now, that so lovely a princess as mine should want
speech and hearing', he said to True.

'Ay, but there is a cure for that', said True.

When the king heard that, he was so glad that he promised him the
princess to wife, and half his kingdom into the bargain, if he could
get her right again. So True took a few men, and went into the
church, and dug up the toad which sat under the altar-rails. Then he
cut open the toad, and took out the bread and gave it to the king's
daughter; and from that hour she got back her speech, and could talk
like other people.

Now True was to have the princess, and they got ready for the bridal
feast, and such a feast had never been seen before; it was the talk
of the whole land. Just as they were in the midst of dancing the
bridal-dance in came a beggar lad, and begged for a morsel of food,
and he was so ragged and wretched that every one crossed themselves
when they looked at him; but True knew him at once, and saw that it
was Untrue, his brother.

'Do you know me again?' said True.

'Oh! where should such a one as I ever have seen so great a lord',
said Untrue.

'Still you _have_ seen me before', said True. 'It was I whose eyes
you plucked out a year ago this very day. Untrue by name, and untrue
by nature; so I said before, and so I say now; but you are still my
brother, and so you shall have some food. After that, you may go to
the lime-tree where I sat last year; if you hear anything that can do
you good, you will be lucky.'

So Untrue did not wait to be told twice. 'If True has got so much
good by sitting in the lime-tree, that in one year he has come to be
king over half England, what good may not I get', he thought. So he
set off and climbed up into the lime-tree. He had not sat there long,
before all the beasts came as before, and ate and drank, and kept St.
John's eve under the tree. When they had left off eating, the Fox
wished that they should begin to tell stories, and Untrue got ready
to listen with all his might, till his ears were almost fit to fall
off. But Bruin the bear was surly, and growled and said:

'Some one has been chattering about what we said last year, and so
now we will hold our tongues about what we know'; and with that the
beasts bade one another 'Good-night', and parted, and Untrue was just
as wise as he was before, and the reason was, that his name was
Untrue, and his nature untrue too.


Once on a time, but it was a long, long time ago, there were two
brothers, one rich and one poor. Now, one Christmas eve, the poor one
hadn't so much as a crumb in the house, either of meat or bread, so
he went to his brother to ask him for something to keep Christmas
with, in God's name. It was not the first time his brother had been
forced to help him, and you may fancy he wasn't very glad to see his
face, but he said:

'If you will do what I ask you to do, I'll give you a whole flitch of

So the poor brother said he would do anything, and was full of

'Well, here is the flitch', said the rich brother, 'and now go
straight to Hell.'

'What I have given my word to do, I must stick to', said the other;
so he took the flitch and set off. He walked the whole day, and at
dusk he came to a place where he saw a very bright light.

'Maybe this is the place', said the man to himself. So he turned
aside, and the first thing he saw was an old, old man, with a long
white beard, who stood in an outhouse, hewing wood for the Christmas

'Good even', said the man with the flitch.

'The same to you; whither are you going so late?' said the man.

'Oh! I'm going to Hell, if I only knew the right way', answered the
poor man.

'Well, you're not far wrong, for this is Hell', said the old man;
'when you get inside they will be all for buying your flitch, for
meat is scarce in Hell; but mind, you don't sell it unless you get
the hand-quern which stands behind the door for it. When you come
out, I'll teach you how to handle the quern, for it's good to grind
almost anything.'

So the man with the flitch thanked the other for his good advice, and
gave a great knock at the Devil's door.

When he got in, everything went just as the old man had said. All the
devils, great and small, came swarming up to him like ants round an
anthill, and each tried to outbid the other for the flitch.

'Well!' said the man, 'by rights my old dame and I ought to have this
flitch for our Christmas dinner; but since you have all set your
hearts on it, I suppose I must give it up to you; but if I sell it at
all, I'll have for it that quern behind the door yonder.'

At first the Devil wouldn't hear of such a bargain, and chaffered and
haggled with the man; but he stuck to what he said, and at last the
Devil had to part with his quern. When the man got out into the yard,
he asked the old woodcutter how he was to handle the quern; and after
he had learned how to use it, he thanked the old man and went off
home as fast as he could, but still the clock had struck twelve on
Christmas eve before he reached his own door.

'Wherever in the world have you been?' said his old dame, 'here have
I sat hour after hour waiting and watching, without so much as two
sticks to lay together under the Christmas brose.'

'Oh!' said the man, 'I couldn't get back before, for I had to go a
long way first for one thing, and then for another; but now you shall
see what you shall see.'

So he put the quern on the table, and bade it first of all grind
lights, then a table-cloth, then meat, then ale, and so on till they
had got everything that was nice for Christmas fare. He had only to
speak the word, and the quern ground out what he wanted. The old dame
stood by blessing her stars, and kept on asking where he had got this
wonderful quern, but he wouldn't tell her.

'It's all one where I got it from; you see the quern is a good one,
and the mill-stream never freezes, that's enough.'

So he ground meat and drink and dainties enough to last out till
Twelfth Day, and on the third day he asked all his friends and kin to
his house, and gave a great feast. Now, when his rich brother saw all
that was on the table, and all that was behind in the larder, he grew
quite spiteful and wild, for he couldn't bear that his brother should
have anything.

''Twas only on Christmas eve', he said to the rest, 'he was in such
straits, that he came and asked for a morsel of food in God's name,
and now he gives a feast as if he were count or king'; and he turned
to his brother and said:

'But whence, in Hell's name, have you got all this wealth?'

'From behind the door', answered the owner of the quern, for he
didn't care to let the cat out of the bag. But later on the evening,
when he had got a drop too much, he could keep his secret no longer,
and brought out the quern and said:

'There, you see what has gotten me all this wealth'; and so he made
the quern grind all kind of things. When his brother saw it, he set
his heart on having the quern, and, after a deal of coaxing, he got
it; but he had to pay three hundred dollars for it, and his brother
bargained to keep it till hay-harvest, for he thought, if I keep it
till then, I can make it grind meat and drink that will last for
years. So you may fancy the quern didn't grow rusty for want of work,
and when hay-harvest came, the rich brother got it, but the other
took care not to teach him how to handle it.

It was evening when the rich brother got the quern home, and next
morning he told his wife to go out into the hay-field and toss, while
the mowers cut the grass, and he would stay at home and get the
dinner ready. So, when dinner-time drew near, he put the quern on the
kitchen table and said:

'Grind herrings and broth, and grind them good and fast.'

So the quern began to grind herrings and broth; first of all, all the
dishes full, then all the tubs full, and so on till the kitchen floor
was quite covered. Then the man twisted and twirled at the quern to
get it to stop, but for all his twisting and fingering the quern went
on grinding, and in a little while the broth rose so high that the
man was like to drown. So he threw open the kitchen door and ran into
the parlour, but it wasn't long before the quern had ground the
parlour full too, and it was only at the risk of his life that the
man could get hold of the latch of the house door through the stream
of broth. When he got the door open, he ran out and set off down the
road, with the stream of herrings and broth at his heels, roaring
like a waterfall over the whole farm. Now, his old dame, who was in
the field tossing hay, thought it a long time to dinner, and at last
she said:

'Well! though the master doesn't call us home, we may as well go.
Maybe he finds it hard work to boil the broth, and will be glad of my

The men were willing enough, so they sauntered homewards; but just as
they had got a little way up the hill, what should they meet but
herrings, and broth, and bread, all running and dashing, and
splashing together in a stream, and the master himself running before
them for his life, and as he passed them he bawled out:

'Would to heaven each of you had a hundred throats! but take care
you're not drowned in the broth.'

Away he went, as though the Evil One were at his heels, to his
brother's house, and begged him for God's sake to take back the quern
that instant; for, said he:

'If it grinds only one hour more, the whole parish will be swallowed
up by herrings and broth.'

But his brother wouldn't hear of taking it back till the other paid
him down three hundred dollars more.

So the poor brother got both the money and the quern, and it wasn't
long before he set up a farm-house far finer than the one in which
his brother lived, and with the quern he ground so much gold that he
covered it with plates of gold; and as the farm lay by the sea-side,
the golden house gleamed and glistened far away over the sea. All who
sailed by put ashore to see the rich man in the golden house, and to
see the wonderful quern, the fame of which spread far and wide, till
there was nobody who hadn't heard tell of it.

So one day there came a skipper who wanted to see the quern; and the
first thing he asked was if it could grind salt.

'Grind salt!' said the owner; 'I should just think it could. It can
grind anything.'

When the skipper heard that, he said he must have the quern, cost
what it would; for if he only had it, he thought he should be rid of
his long voyages across stormy seas for a lading of salt. Well, at
first the man wouldn't hear of parting with the quern; but the
skipper begged and prayed so hard, that at last he let him have it,
but he had to pay many, many thousand dollars for it. Now, when the
skipper had got the quern on his back, he soon made off with it, for
he was afraid lest the man should change his mind; so he had no time
to ask how to handle the quern, but got on board his ship as fast as
he could, and set sail. When he had sailed a good way off, he brought
the quern on deck and said:

'Grind salt, and grind both good and fast.'

Well, the quern began to grind salt so that it poured out like water;
and when the skipper had got the ship full, he wished to stop the
quern, but whichever way he turned it, and however much he tried, it
was no good; the quern kept grinding on, and the heap of salt grew
higher and higher, and at last down sank the ship.

There lies the quern at the bottom of the sea, and grinds away at
this very day, and that's why the sea is salt.


Once on a time there was an old widow who lived far away from the
rest of the world, up under a hillside, with her three daughters. She
was so poor that she had no stock but one single hen, which she
prized as the apple of her eye; in short, it was always cackling at
her heels, and she was always running to look after it. Well! one
day, all at once, the hen was missing. The old wife went out, and
round and round the cottage, looking and calling for her hen, but it
was gone, and there was no getting it back.

So the woman said to her eldest daughter, 'You must just go out and
see if you can find our hen, for have it back we must, even if we
have to fetch it out of the hill.'

Well! the daughter was ready enough to go, so she set off and walked
up and down, and looked and called, but no hen could she find. But
all at once, just as she was about to give up the hunt, she heard
some one calling out in a cleft in the rock:

Your hen trips inside the hill!
Your hen trips inside the hill!

So she went into the cleft to see what it was, but she had scarce set
her foot inside the cleft, before she fell through a trap-door, deep,
deep down, into a vault under ground. When she got to the bottom she
went through many rooms, each finer than the other; but in the
innermost room of all, a great ugly man of the hill-folk came up to
her and asked, 'Will you be my sweetheart?'

'No! I will not', she said. She wouldn't have him at any price! not
she; all she wanted was to get above ground again as fast as ever she
could, and to look after her hen which was lost. Then the Man o' the
Hill got so angry that he took her up and wrung her head off, and
threw both head and trunk down into the cellar.

While this was going on, her mother sat at home waiting and waiting,
but no daughter came. So after she had waited a bit longer, and
neither heard nor saw anything of her daughter, she said to her
midmost daughter, that she must go out and see after her sister, and
she added:

'You can just give our hen a call at the same time.'

Well! the second sister had to get off, and the very same thing
befell her; she went about looking and calling, and all at once she
too heard a voice away in the cleft of the rock saying:

Your hen trips inside the hill!
Your hen trips inside the hill!

She thought this strange, and went to see what it could be; and so
she too fell through the trap-door, deep, deep down, into the vault.
There she went from room to room, and in the innermost one the Man o'
the Hill came to her and asked if she would be his sweetheart? No!
that she wouldn't; all she wanted was to get above ground again, and
hunt for her hen which was lost. So the Man o' the Hill got angry,
and took her up and wrung her head off, and threw both head and trunk
down into the cellar.

Now, when the old dame had sat and waited seven lengths and seven
breadths for her second daughter, and could neither see nor hear
anything of her, she said to the youngest:

'Now, you really must set off and see after your sisters. 'Twas silly
to lose the hen, but 'twill be sillier still if we lose both your
sisters; and you can give the hen a call at the same time'--for the
old dame's heart was still set on her hen.

Yes! the youngest was ready enough to go; so she walked up and down,
Wanting for her sisters and calling the hen, but she could neither
see nor hear anything of them. So at last she too came up to the
cleft in the rock, and heard how something said:

Your hen trips inside the hill!
Your hen trips inside the hill!

She thought this strange, so she too went to see what it was, and
fell through the trap-door too, deep, deep down, into a vault. When
she reached the bottom she went from one room to another, each
grander than the other; but she wasn't at all afraid, and took good
time to look about her. So, as she was peeping into this and that,
she cast her eye on the trap-door into the cellar, and looked down
it, and what should she see there but her sisters, who lay dead. She
had scarce time to slam to the trap-door before the Man o' the Hill
came to her and asked:

'Will you be my sweetheart?'

'With all my heart', answered the girl, for she saw very well how it
had gone with her sisters. So, when the Man o' the Hill heard that,
he got her the finest clothes in the world; she had only to ask for
them, or for anything else she had a mind to, and she got what she
wanted, so glad was the Man o' the Hill that any one would be his

But when she had been there a little while, she was one day even more
doleful and downcast than was her wont. So the Man o' the Hill asked
her what was the matter, and why she was in such dumps.

'Ah!' said the girl, 'it's because I can't get home to my mother.
She's hard pinched, I know, for meat and drink, and has no one with

'Well!' said the Man o' the Hill, 'I can't let you go to see her; but
just stuff some meat and drink into a sack, and I'll carry it to

Yes! she would do so, she said, with many thanks; but at the bottom
of the sack she stuffed a lot of gold and silver, and afterwards she
laid a little food on the top of the gold and silver. Then she told
the ogre the sack was ready, but he must be sure not to look into it.
So he gave his word he wouldn't, and set off. Now, as the Man o' the
Hill walked off, she peeped out after him through a chink in the
trap-door; but when he had gone a bit on the way, he said:

'This sack is so heavy, I'll just see what there is inside it.'

And so he was about to untie the mouth of the sack, but the girl
called out to him:

I see what you're at!
I see what you're at!

'The deuce you do!' said the Man o' the Hill; 'then you must have
plaguy sharp eyes in your head, that's all!'

So he threw the sack over his shoulder, and dared not try to look
into it again. When he reached the widow's cottage, he threw the sack
in through the cottage door, and said:

'Here you have meat and drink from your daughter; she doesn't want
for anything.'

So, when the girl had been in the hill a good bit longer, one day a
billy-goat fell down the trap-door.

'Who sent for you, I should like to know? you long-bearded beast!'
said the Man o' the Hill, who was in an awful rage, and with that he
whipped up the goat, and wrung his head off, and threw him down into
the cellar.

'Oh!' said the girl, 'why did you do that? I might have had the goat
to play with down here.'

'Well!' said the Man o' the Hill, 'you needn't be so down in the
mouth about it, I should think, for I can soon put life into the
billy-goat again.'

So saying, he took a flask which hung up against the wall, put the
billy-goat's head on his body again, and smeared it with some
ointment out of the flask, and he was as well and as lively as ever

'Ho! ho!' said the girl to herself; 'that flask is worth something--
that it is.'

So when she had been some time longer in the hill, she watched for a
day when the Man o' the Hill was away, took her eldest sister, and
putting her head on her shoulders, smeared her with some of the
ointment out of the flask, just as she had seen the Man o' the Hill
do with the billy-goat, and in a trice her sister came to life again.
Then the girl stuffed her into a sack, laid a little food over her,
and as soon as the Man o' the Hill came home, she said to him:

'Dear friend! Now do go home to my mother with a morsel of food
again; poor thing! she's both hungry and thirsty, I'll be bound; and
besides that, she's all alone in the world. But you must mind and not
look into the sack.'

Well! he said he would carry the sack; and he said, too, that he
would not look into it; but when he had gone a little way, he thought
the sack got awfully heavy; and when he had gone a bit farther he
said to himself:

'Come what will, I must see what's inside this sack, for however
sharp her eyes may be, she can't see me all this way off'

But just as he was about to untie the sack, the girl who sat inside
the sack called out:

I see what you're at!
I see what you're at!

'The deuce you do!' said the ogre; 'then you must have plaguey sharp
eyes'; for he thought all the while it was the girl inside the hill
who was speaking. So he didn't care so much as to peep into the sack
again, but carried it straight to her mother as fast as he could, and
when he got to the cottage door he threw it in through the door, and
bawled out:

'Here you have meat and drink from your daughter; she wants for

Now, when the girl had been in the hill a while longer, she did the
very same thing with her other sister. She put her head on her
shoulders, smeared her with ointment out of the flask, brought her to
life, and stuffed her into the sack; but this time she crammed in
also as much gold and silver as the sack would hold, and over all
laid a very little food.

'Dear friend', she said to the Man o' the Hill, 'you really must run
home to my mother with a little food again; and mind you don't look
into the sack.'

Yes! the Man o' the Hill was ready enough to do as she wished, and he
gave his word too that he wouldn't look into the sack; but when he
had gone a bit of the way he began to think the sack got awfully
heavy, and when he had gone a bit further, he could scarce stagger
along under it, so he set it down, and was just about to untie the
string and look into it, when the girl inside the sack bawled out:

I see what you're at!
I see what you're at!

'The deuce you do', said the Man o' the Hill, 'then you must have
plaguey sharp eyes of your own.'

Well, he dared not try to look into the sack, but made all the haste
he could, and carried the sack straight to the girl's mother. When he
got to the cottage door he threw the sack in through the door, and
roared out:

'Here you have food from your daughter; she wants for nothing.'

So when the girl had been there a good while longer, the Man o' the
Hill made up his mind to go out for the day; then the girl shammed to
be sick and sorry, and pouted and fretted.

'It's no use your coming home before twelve o'clock at night', she
said, 'for I shan't be able to have supper ready before--I'm so sick
and poorly.'

But when the Man o' the Hill was well out of the house, she stuffed
some of her clothes with straw, and stuck up this lass of straw in
the corner by the chimney, with a besom in her hand, so that it
looked just as if she herself were standing there. After that she
stole off home, and got a sharp-shooter to stay in the cottage with
her mother.

So when the clock struck twelve, or just about it, home came the Man
o' the Hill, and the first thing he said to the straw-girl was, 'Give
me something to eat.'

But she answered him never a word.

'Give me something to eat, I say!' called out the Man o' the Hill,
'for I am almost starved.'

No! she hadn't a word to throw at him.

'Give me something to eat!' roared out the ogre the third time.' I
think you'd better open your ears and hear what I say, or else I'll
wake you up, that I will!'

No! the girl stood just as still as ever; so he flew into a rage, and
gave her such a slap in the face, that the straw flew all about the
room; but when he saw that, he knew he had been tricked, and began to
hunt everywhere; and at last, when he came to the cellar, and found
both the girl's sisters missing, he soon saw how the cat jumped, and
ran off to the cottage, saying, 'I'll soon pay her off!'

But when he reached the cottage, the sharp-shooter fired off his
piece, and then the Man o' the Hill dared not go into the house, for
he thought it was thunder. So he set off home again as fast as he
could lay legs to the ground; but what do you think, just as he got
to the trap-door, the sun rose and the Man o' the Hill burst.

Oh! if one only knew where the trap-door was, I'll be bound there's a
whole heap of gold and silver down there still!


Once on a time there was a poor husbandman who had so many children
that he hadn't much of either food or clothing to give them. Pretty
children they all were, but the prettiest was the youngest daughter,
who was so lovely there was no end to her loveliness.

So one day, 'twas on a Thursday evening late at the fall of the year,
the weather was so wild and rough outside, and it was so cruelly
dark, and rain fell and wind blew, till the walls of the cottage
shook again. There they all sat round the fire busy with this thing
and that. But just then, all at once something gave three taps on the
window-pane. Then the father went out to see what was the matter;
and, when he got out of doors, what should he see but a great big
White Bear.

'Good evening to you!' said the White Bear.

'The same to you', said the man.

'Will you give me your youngest daughter? If you will, I'll make you
as rich as you are now poor', said the Bear.

Well, the man would not be at all sorry to be so rich; but still he
thought he must have a bit of a talk with his daughter first; so he
went in and told them how there was a great White Bear waiting
outside, who had given his word to make them so rich if he could only
have the youngest daughter.

The lassie said 'No!' outright. Nothing could get her to say anything
else; so the man went out and settled it with the White Bear, that he
should come again the next Thursday evening and get an answer.
Meantime he talked his daughter over, and kept on telling her of all
the riches they would get, and how well off she would be herself; and
so at last she thought better of it, and washed and mended her rags,
made herself as smart as she could, and was ready to start. I can't
say her packing gave her much trouble.

Next Thursday evening came the White Bear to fetch her, and she got
upon his back with her bundle, and off they went. So, when they had
gone a bit of the way, the White Bear said:

'Are you afraid?'

'No! she wasn't.'

'Well! mind and hold tight by my shaggy coat, and then there's
nothing to fear', said the Bear.

So she rode a long, long way, till they came to a great steep hill.
There, on the face of it, the White Bear gave a knock, and a door
opened, and they came into a castle, where there were many rooms all
lit up; rooms gleaming with silver and gold; and there too was a
table ready laid, and it was all as grand as grand could be. Then the
White Bear gave her a silver bell; and when she wanted anything, she
was only to ring it, and she would get it at once.

Well, after she had eaten and drunk, and evening wore on, she got
sleepy after her journey, and thought she would like to go to bed, so
she rang the bell; and she had scarce taken hold of it before she
came into a chamber, where there was a bed made, as fair and white as
any one would wish to sleep in, with silken pillows and curtains, and
gold fringe. All that was in the room was gold or silver; but when
she had gone to bed, and put out the light, a man came and laid
himself alongside her. That was the White Bear, who threw off his
beast shape at night; but she never saw him, for he always came after
she had put out the light, and before the day dawned he was up and
off again. So things went on happily for a while, but at last she
began to get silent and sorrowful; for there she went about all day
alone, and she longed to go home to see her father and mother and
brothers and sisters. So one day, when the White Bear asked what it
was that she lacked, she said it was so dull and lonely there, and
how she longed to go home to see her father and mother, and brothers
and sisters, and that was why she was so sad and sorrowful, because
she couldn't get to them.

'Well, well!' said the Bear, 'perhaps there's a cure for all this;
but you must promise me one thing, not to talk alone with your
mother, but only when the rest are by to hear; for she'll take you by
the hand and try to lead you into a room alone to talk; but you must
mind and not do that, else you'll bring bad luck on both of us.'

So one Sunday the White Bear came and said now they could set off to
see her father and mother. Well, off they started, she sitting on his
back; and they went far and long. At last they came to a grand house,
and there her brothers and sisters were running about out of doors at
play, and everything was so pretty, 'twas a joy to see.

'This is where your father and mother live now', said the White Bear;
'but don't forget what I told you, else you'll make us both unlucky.'

'No! bless her, she'd not forget'; and when she had reached the
house, the White Bear turned right about and left her.

Then when she went in to see her father and mother, there was such
joy, there was no end to it. None of them thought they could thank
her enough for all she had done for them. Now, they had everything
they wished, as good as good could be, and they all wanted to know
how she got on where she lived.

Well, she said, it was very good to live where she did; she had all
she wished. What she said beside I don't know; but I don't think any
of them had the right end of the stick, or that they got much out of
her. But so in the afternoon, after they had done dinner, all
happened as the White Bear had said. Her mother wanted to talk with
her alone in her bed-room; but she minded what the White Bear had
said, and wouldn't go upstairs.


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