They're big, they're ugly, they show no mercy. You'll love them.
Who has never seen a troll during a nocturnal walk in the dark forest? A tousled head appearing from behind a large crag, or a gleaming troll eye shining between heavy tree trunks. In no other Scandinavian countries are trolls such an established part of the culture and the narrative tradition as in Norway. Few Norwegian illustrators or painters have managed to capture these strange creatures and the enchanted atmosphere of Norwegian nature on paper an canvas as successfully as Theodor Kittelsen. Kittelsen's art and artistic use of the medium of drawing, with black and white extremities and scales of gray in between, are in a class of their own in Norwegian art. Theodor Kittelsen was fascinated by this shadowy world populated by supernatural siren beings and spirits. Walking in the forests and fields, he could see them everywhere: in the mists over the marches, in the twilight surrounding fallen pine trunks and in the dripping fir trees on rainy days.
The excerpts from fairytales contained in this book are mainly what are known as fantastic or magical tales, which are the most common type of Norwegian folktale. These stories usually deal with trolls, witches and people with supernatural powers.
But we're warning you. For 100 years these pictures and stories have been scaring Norwegians, who have learned that no matter how big and ugly a troll might be, it will always find room under your bed.
Askeladden's eating contest with the troll (from the book)
After Askeladden had been chopping wood for a little while, the troll came up to him and said: "If you're chopping down my forest, I'll kill you!"
The boy was quick of the mark. He ran off into the forest to fetch the cheese his mother had put in his bag of provisions, which he squeezed until the whey ran out. "If you don't keep quiet", he shouted to the troll, "I'll squeeze you the way I'm squeezing the water out of this white stone!"
Oh, please spare me, "said the troll, " and I'll help you chop wood".
So on that condition the boy spared him, and the troll was good at chopping, so that the day they managed to fell and chop dozens of trees.
As the evening approached, the troll said, "Now you can come home with me, for my home is nearer than yours."
So the boy accompanied him, and they came to the troll's home, the troll intended to make up the fire, while the boy went to fetch water for making porridge. But the two iron pails standing there were so heavy that he could not even lift them.
So the boy said, "It's not worth taking these thimbles. I'll go and fetch the whole well!"
No, my friend, " replied the troll, "I can't do without my well. You make up the fire, and I'll go and fetch the water."
When he returned with the water, they brewed up a goodly amount of porridge.
It's all the same for me," said the boy, "but if you like, we can have an eating contest."
"Oh yes!," replied the troll, who believed he would easily win.
So they sat down to eat, but the boy surreptitiously picked up his leather bag and tied it in front of him, then he poured more porridge into the bag than he ate himself. When the bag was full, he took out his pocket knife and cut a slit in the bag. The troll watched him, but said nothing.
After they had been eating for a good while longer, the troll put down his spoon. "Well, I can't manage any more," he said.
You must eat more!" answered the boy, "I'm not even half full yet. If you do as I did, and cut a hole in your stomach, then you can eat as much as you like".
"But isn't that terribly painful?" asked the troll.
"Oh noting to speak of," the boy replied.
So the troll did as the boy said and, as you can imagine, he killed himself. But the boy took all the silver and gold in the mountain and returned home. And after that, he was always able to pay off his debts.
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