There was once a man in Finmark named Halvor, who had a great white bear, and this great white bear knew many tricks. One day the man thought to himself, “This bear is very wonderful. I will take it as a present to the King of Denmark, and perhaps he will give me in return a whole bag of money.” So he set out along the road to Denmark, leading the bear behind him.
He journeyed on and journeyed on, and after a while he came to a deep, dark forest. There was no house in sight, and as it was almost night Halvor began to be afraid he would have to sleep on the ground, with only the trees overhead for a shelter.
Presently, however, he heard the sound of a woodcutter’s axe. He followed the sound, and soon he came to an opening in the forest. There, sure enough, was a man hard at work cutting down trees. “And wherever there’s a man,” thought Halvor to himself, “there must be a house for him to live in.”
“Good day,” said Halvor.
“Good day!” answered the man, staring with all his eyes at the great white bear.
“Will you give us shelter for the night, my bear and me?” asked Halvor. “And will you give us a bit of food too? I will pay you well if you will.”
“Gladly would I give you both food and shelter,” answered the man, “but to-night, of all nights in the year, no one may stop in my home except at the risk of his life.”
“How is that?” asked Halvor; and he was very much surprised.
“Why, it is this way. This is the eve of St John, and on every St John’s Eve all the trolls in the forest come to my house. I am obliged to spread a feast for them, and there they stay all night, eating and drinking. If they found anyone in the house at that time, they would surely tear him to pieces. Even I and my wife dare not stay. We are obliged to spend the night in the forest.”
“This is a strange business,” said Halvor. “Nevertheless, I have a mind to stop there and see what these same trolls look like. As to their hurting me, as long as I have my bear with me there is nothing in the world that I am afraid of.”
The woodcutter was alarmed at these words. “No, no; do not risk it, I beg of you!” he cried. “Do you spend the night with us out under the trees, and to-morrow we can safely return to our home.”
But Halvor would not listen to this. He was determined to sleep in a house that night, and, moreover, he had a great curiosity to see what trolls looked like.
“Very well,” said the woodcutter at last, “since you are determined to risk your life, do you follow yonder path, and it will soon bring you to my house.”
Halvor thanked him and went on his way, and it was not long before he and his bear reached the woodcutter’s home. He opened the door and went in, and when he saw the feast the woodcutter had spread for the trolls his mouth fairly watered to taste of it. There were sausages and ale and fish and cakes and rice porridge and all sorts of good things. He tasted a bit here and there and gave his bear some, and then he sat down to wait for the coming of the trolls. As for the bear, he lay down beside his master and went to sleep.
They had not been there long when a great noise arose in the forest outside. It was a sound of moaning and groaning and whistling and shrieking. So loud and terrible it grew that Halvor was frightened in spite of himself. The cold crept up and down his back and the hair rose on his head. The sound came nearer and nearer, and by the time it reached the door Halvor was so frightened that he could bear it no longer. He jumped up and ran to the stove. Quickly he opened the oven door and hid himself inside, pulling the door to behind him. The great white bear paid no attention, however, but only snored in his sleep.
Scarcely was Halvor inside the oven when the door of the house was burst open and all the trolls of the forest came pouring into the room.
There were big trolls and little trolls, fat trolls and thin. Some had long tails and some had short tails and some had no tails at all. Some had two eyes and some had three, and some had only one set in the middle of the forehead. One there was, and the others called him Long Nose, who had a nose as long and as thin as a poker.
The trolls banged the door behind them, and then they gathered round the table where the feast was spread.
“What is this?” cried the biggest troll in a terrible voice (and Halvor’s heart trembled within him). “Some one has been here before us. The food has been tasted and ale has been spilled.”
At once Long Nose began snuffing about. “Whoever has been here is here still,” he cried. “Let us find him and tear him to pieces.”
“Here is his pussy-cat, anyway,” cried the smallest troll of all, pointing to the white bear. “Oh, what a pretty cat it is! Pussy! Pussy! Pussy!” And the little troll put a piece of sausage on a fork and stuck it against the white bear’s nose.
At that the great white bear gave a roar and rose to its feet. It gave the troll a blow with its paw that sent him spinning across the room. He of the long nose had it almost broken off, and the big troll’s ears rang with the box he got. This way and that the trolls were knocked and beaten by the bear, until at last they tore the door open and fled away into the forest, howling.
When they had all gone Halvor crawled out and closed the door, and then he and the white bear sat down and feasted to their hearts’ content. After that the two of them lay down and slept quietly for the rest of the night.
In the morning the woodcutter and his family stole back to the house and peeped in at the window. What was their surprise to see Halvor and his bear sitting there and eating their breakfasts as though nothing in the world had happened to them.
“How is this?” cried the woodcutter. “Did the trolls not come?”
“Oh, yes, they came,” answered Halvor, “but we drove them away, and I do not think they will trouble you again.” He then told the woodcutter all that had happened in the night. “After the beating they received, they will be in no hurry to visit you again,” he said.
The woodcutter was filled with joy and gratitude when he heard this. He and his wife entreated Halvor to stay there in the forest and make his home with them, but this he refused to do. He was on his way to Denmark to sell his bear to the King, and to Denmark he would go. So off he set, after saying good-bye, and the good wishes of the woodcutter and his wife went with him.
Now the very next year, on St John’s Eve, the woodcutter was out in the forest cutting wood, when a great ugly troll stuck his head out of a tree near by.
“Woodcutter! Woodcutter!” he cried.
“Well,” said the woodcutter, “what is it?”
“Tell me, have you that great white cat with you still?”
“Yes, I have; and, moreover, now she has five kittens, and each one of them is larger and stronger than she is.”
“Is that so?” cried the troll, in a great fright. “Then good-bye, woodcutter, for we will never come to your house again.”
Then he drew in his head and the tree closed together, and that was the last the woodcutter heard or saw of the trolls. After that he and his family lived undisturbed and unafraid.
As for Halvor, he had already reached Denmark, and the King had been so pleased with the bear that he paid a whole bag of money for it, just as Halvor had hoped, and with that bag of money Halvor set up in trade so successfully that he became one of the richest men in Denmark.
NORSE SHORT STORY FOR CHILDREN BY KATHERINE PYLE
Header illustration by Shiphil.
LET’S CHAT ABOUT THE STORIES ~ IDEAS FOR TALKING WITH KIDS
Independent Thinking, Self-Confidence, Over-Confidence
1. Halvor is told that he should not stay in the same house as the trolls but decides to do it anyway. Why does he decide to do this?
2. What are the benefits of listening to the advice of others?
3. What happens if your heart tells you something different? In what circumstances do you think it would be good to listen to your heart over the advice of others?
1. The trolls are scared away by the bear and don’t come back. What are some things that you think bullies might be scared of in general?