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The goblins in Norrlandic folklore

Vittra Vets

Ethnologist Johan Nordlander (1853-1934) retells Norrlandic tales of the white man, the vitra, in the third part of the series Mythical legends from Norrland.

The giants are now a matter of legend, and no one believes the great works that are told about them. In the plot again, especially as a bear, many believe; but of the existence of the giants many are assured. As for the name itself, in Ångermanland it has the form of an undefined sing. viter, i best. vitra, which latter is also used in a collective sense. Hence they are also called the underjorska. In the interior of Jemland are mentioned the peasant, although the other name also seems to occur there. In Burman I find a note to this effect: "Vitars are believed to be so called, because their wives are said to have white dresses on their heads; otherwise they are considered as one with the peasants." The common people have much to say about the origin of the goblins. Our Saviour was once out walking. He came to a cottage where many children were sleeping. Most of them stayed on the golf course, but out of fear some hurried to hide on the brick wall. This our Saviour perceived, and said that the visible should remain visible, and the invisible again invisible. From these latter come the goblins. To this legend, which we have recorded in Ångermanland, we find a counterpart in Thiele, Danmarks Folkesagn, 11: 175. While a woman was washing her children at a fountain, Our Lord came there. The woman then rinsed for him some children, who were not yet washed. To Our Lord's question, Whether all were present, the woman answered untruthfully Yes, whereupon he said that those who were hidden would be hidden from men. Then the unclean children disappeared, and hid themselves in the mountains; and from them come the underworld.

From Vilhelmina in the county of Vesterbotten, I have the opportunity to give the following explanation, which is of interest as a variant to the common view in Germany of greed as the cause of the origin of the corresponding being. Originally the goblins were angels and therefore also omniscient. They saw and knew what was hidden from man. They also knew of the abundant gold in the interior of the mountains, and from this knowledge arose the desire to appropriate the treasures. But for this sinful desire God rejected them and cast them out of heaven. Long were they kept in bondage, but on the thirtieth day they reached the earth. And some fell into seas and lakes, and others from the high pit into the earth and into the mountains. The former became sea-monkeys, the latter weasels. A variation of this is found in Thiele, 11:175, stating that this tale is also common in Ireland and Scotland.

In growth, according to Burman, the giants are small, "but have livestock of unusual size." Their dress is different in different places and on different occasions. For Jemtland Burman mentions that they have "long, dark grey jackets or trailing coats"; and for Ångermanland I have noted that their clothes resemble those of men, and are of home-woven, often striped and rosy cloth. The dwellings of the goblins are underground and in the mountains. However, they are not very far underground. One witch, who was in childbed, suffered from the fact that a woman called Mary, who lived above her, was sitting and watching. To her was cried out: "Go to sleep, Ma, go to sleep!" (Kristensen). We have a counterpart to this in the following story. An old man in eastern Ångermanland was once engaged in digging, using a hoe to cultivate the land into a field. A wise man came to him and begged him to stop his work, because the wise man's wife was in childbed and suffered from the earthquakes, which arose from the man's work. The farmer made the weaver willing, and when he returned after some time to continue the work, he found on the spot a splendid silver chain, which he took as a reward for his good fortune.

For Germany Wolf mentions p. 311, that die Zwerge, which correspond to our goats, often have their abode under stables and therefore suffer from impurity from there. This also applies to Norrland. From Herjeådalen I communicate derom the following tale. A farmer had constant bad luck with his horses in the stable. One Christmas Eve a stranger came to his farm and invited the farmer to join him for a feast. The latter did so, and was taken to a room gleaming with gold and silver, where a table was laid with the most fastidious dishes. But as it was, urine began to drip through the ceiling onto the table. Now you see, said the landlord, what your horses do; but if you will move, it shall be your happiness and my benefit. The farmer was not slow to move the stable, and then he was lucky with his horses.

The giants are generally invisible; but when they will, they can reveal themselves to men. There are, it is said, as many goblins on earth as there are men, though we are not perceptive enough to see them. Therefore we also harm them in all sorts of ways. We do not pour hot water on them, nor do we trample them cleanly. For this reason they call us blind men and must be on their guard lest they be wronged by us. In our speech we also reveal that we do not see them, although they are present and both see and hear us. On this we announce after Mark the following saying.

Once upon a time, as often happens, a young man was about to be married, and he went and invited to a wedding. He was from the village of Bodacke in Medelpad. At that time they had no printed letters, which they sent around, but he and his father-in-law would stay around and bid properly, as it has been the practice in the past.

They had been to many, but when they came to a man, he asked who the bridegroom would be invited many to his day of honour. - "Well," said he, "I invite all,

that the knife can touch
and stages can bring";

and surely he must have enough guests!

But the feast day had come, and the feast people had come in droves, so that no one was missing. Then they saw a boat on the Indal River near the village of Sillre. It was as big as a boat and full of people. And they were glad of the punishment of sin, and rejoiced and were glad also. They waved their hats and shouted, "To Bodack's wedding, to Bodack's wedding, to all

that the knife can touch
and stages can bring.

The wedding party was probably not a little surprised at this; and they could not possibly understand what it would be like, since all who were invited and had not sent back an invitation had already come. At last both the boat and the people disappeared, and they almost thought that the people had drowned. But it was not long before they saw what the people were. After a while they sat down to dinner, but then it seemed as if they never wanted to be fed: the food would not do at all. The food they had prepared in the wedding-garden was eaten, and so were all the wedding-food bags; yet they were scarcely satisfied. And in those days it was customary for them to eat heartily at the feast. But then there were some who knew that the invisible ones had been there. The bridegroom remembered also what he had said; and then it was as plain as day that the underworld also had come, for they too can move the knife and spoon.

There are also other similar tales; we cite only one, even this after Mark's. It was at a feast. Two gray-haired uncles sat there in lively conversation and busy poker-playing. One then took up his snuff-box and offered the other a prize. At this a third old man, standing near, said, "Shall I not have some?" - "Yes," replied the first, "not you alone, but all who have noses," - and at that moment the snuff ran out without any one being able to see who took the rich prizes. But it was evident that even the wise men had availed themselves of his invitation.

In the circumstance that the weasels with us are as a rule invisible and only exceptionally manifest themselves, there seems to be a difference with the view of the Germans. With them they are visible, so long as they do not put on a hat or wrap themselves in a cloak, Nebelkappe (Grimm p. 431). Even in Germany "they come uninvited to festive teams, wrapped in their Nebelkappe they sit down to table, and the food disappears, without one knowing how. Guests and brides often leave the table with hungry stomachs" (Wolf p. 317). Here we have a standing expression for hiding; in Norrland we have a technical term for the opposite, to be able to see the goblins. Those who possess this faculty are called syyn, i.e. seeing.

Once upon a time there was a player who surpassed all others and was known far and wide. Perhaps he had learned from his own neck, but the story does not tell. In any case, he would play at weddings near and far. One Sunday he sat on the cottage balcony and played to himself. Then an unknown man came and asked him to play at a feast. He had no objection, for which the stranger appointed the time, when he should come to a certain place and haunt the gambler. At the appointed time the fiddler came to the appointed place, and while he waited, he played a few tunes on his fiddle. But when he was seated, he found himself in a great cottage, where everything shone like gold and silver, and a numerous crowd was dancing with joy, and the vulture entered the dance without his being able to see them. A wall separated him from the dancers. It was a merry band, however, and it was grateful to play, when they danced so diligently. After a while the man who had played the fiddler came in to him and washed himself, whereupon he went out again. The fiddler had been much out in the country, and was a kindly man. Quickly he crept to the washstand, and brushed a little of the quarts of water round his left eye. Now he saw among what people he had come; but he was resourceful, and pretended nothing. He played and they danced, and that from the heart's desire. At last he grew weary and began to wish for home. The best he could do was to be at home on the roof of his cottage. This was good enough, but what delighted him even more was a bag lying beside him, containing all kinds of silver money.

At the market that followed, our gambler met the bountiful wizard. Like a well-bred man he now thanked for the last and for the rich reward. But at this the witch became suspicious and asked: how do you see me? - The gambler now understood that he had done unwisely, and would not answer. Water, however, was obstinate, and threatened to take his life if he did not tell the truth. When nothing else would do, the gambler had to tell how it was that he had anointed himself with the water, and then escaped, but with the loss of his left eye, which the water had torn out of him. - Then he was never sighted.

Children also become blind by the priest misreading or misreading any word at baptism. Sunday children and those born on a holiday are also said to see the underworld. A boy in Ragunda (Jemtland) could see the invisible ones with his left eye, but he was careless enough to mention this to some of the youngsters. Then a goat came and touched the boy's eye with his finger, with the result that the boy became blind. But it was no worse than a wise man could cure him.

The settlers were described as carrying on a herd behaviour, it is said by Burman, and not often noticed, while the villagers are in the booths; supposedly scraping some iron from the cattle traps and doing harm, if one did not by moving from the herds at regular time leave them free rooms. There is a certain correspondence between the manner of the population in tending their cows and that of the herdsmen, for reasons which are easily understood. Just as the common people move to the forests with their cows in the summer, and in some places are in one pasture in early summer, but in another in late summer, so the herdsmen also change their place of residence from time to time. To move to the stalls is called in the language of the by mail and the act itself penance, and these expressions are also applied to the migrations of the goblins. As man has names for his cows, so the goats have names for theirs. Partly the names are also the same, but often the goats' are "more beautiful". Just as the men attract their cows by "boiling", yodelling, so the goats "boil", though more beautiful than the men, so that the shepherdess wants to learn their lures. There are still people who affirm that they have heard the goats "boil". A now more remote peasant woman in the village of Klofsta, Multrå parish, could also imitate their sounds.

In their penances and other wanderings the goblins can only travel straight ahead, so that if any obstacle lies in their way, it is impossible for them to proceed. To turn off the road and make a hook is quite impossible for them. If they do meet with an obstacle, it must be removed by good or, if that is not possible, by evil. It is often the case that hunters or labourers, who have spent the night in the woods by fires, have happened to light them in the very path of the goblins. They have then been kindly requested to move the place of encampment, and if they have done so they have often received some reward. Some hunters, under such circumstances, were urged by a washerwoman to change their lying-place, with the promise that they would be justified in doing so. They did as she wished, and the next day they were able to shoot so many birds that it was only with difficulty that they could carry the catch home with them.

As mentioned, the shepherds take possession of the pastures, as soon as the people in the usual time have moved away from them. A farmer, who did not want to believe this, would make sure of it and hid himself to that end in the hut on the mountain pasture under an upturned cauldron. Soon the herd came in and prepared to eat. A shepherdess then asked if they all had spoons; "yes," replied another, "all except the one lying under the kettle." The man then found himself convinced, and removed himself as best he could (Herjeådalen).

It was in the shepherds' huts, which belong to Nordanåker village in Årsunda parish in Gestrikland. They had moved out of the stalls with the cattle, but a girl stayed behind to weave the end of a loom, which she had set up. She had no one with her but the dog. After a few days he came running home, squealing and showing his anxiety in all sorts of ways. At first it was not noticed, but eventually the master began to suspect trouble. The people of the house decided to go to the shepherds to see if anything was wrong with the girl. When they arrived, they looked through the doorway and saw the maid sitting at the table in full bridal attire, with a large wedding party behind her. They hastened to throw the knife over the girl, whereupon all disappeared with great haste, and only the maid remained in her dress. The steward was not seen when they came, but now he was inside, and all was in order. The bride kept her precious robe.1 - This saying is universal. According to a version from Jemtland, the girl stepped on a fist, which she tied around the neck of the dog, and asked her fathers to come to her aid.

Even during the people's stay in the mountain pastures, weasels appear. In Berga fäbodar in the said parish in Gestrikland, a sorceress once came in and asked the maid, whose name was Märta: "Märgyta, Märgyta, have you seen my pippone?" In these huts "many strange events" have taken place*). Finally, from this region we cite the following variant of the tale of a lackey who proposed to a cowgirl, recorded in T. V. Y. p. 141. Such a girl was exposed to a bull, belonging to the trolls, who stubbornly wanted to hold on to the girl's cattle. When nothing else helped, she asked the wizard for advice on how to free him. The old man asked her to give the cow "velvet root" and tie "tifvelbast" around her neck. Then the bull would escape. The girl did as she had been taught and with the intended effect. Then the old man began to act as suitor to the girl, and he was stubborn as no other. Then she used the same means against him as against the bull, and when he came in the next day, she mocked him accordingly. Then the wizard cried out:

Tifvel bark and velvet root!

Tvi vale mäg, qui lär däg bot! 2

The cows of the goblins are depicted as large, beautiful and well-born. They also give milk in abundance. Nor do the goats seek cows of the kind that man has. A farmer's wife was unlucky with one of her cows in such a way that her calves were constantly dying after her. One day a cow-woman came to her in the barn and offered to give the old woman a calf from a cow in exchange for a calf from this cow. The farmer would take his calf backwards through the manure hole and bury him in the manure pile. The cow-calf would enter the barn through the same window in the same way. The shepherdess, however, kept for herself the first calf of the cow which the farmer's wife had thus exchanged for her. All was done by agreement; and the old woman had never had a better cow than the one she had thus exchanged for herself.

Closely corresponding to each other are the two common sayings in Scandinavia and Germany about women who are asked to redeem wives. Of such tales we cite only the following, which was told us by an old woman in Multrå (Ångermanland).

It was sifted sand, and a midwife, who had some land, was also engaged in the mowing. One day she stayed in when her people went out, to make a mess of things. And there came to her a man that looked very sad. He could not utter a word, but only writhed and groaned. The husbandman asked what he wanted, and was told that his wife was in need of a child, for which he wanted to ask the husbandman for help. She was unwilling, but the man was insistent. He said, "My house is just west of here," and the woman, not knowing it, found herself in the dwelling of the man. The wise man told her to avoid eating anything that might be offered her. It looked very fine in the dwelling, and a sweet odour spread there towards the guest. Without saying anything, however, the old woman thought to herself: it is not so nice as it seems, - "No, no," replied a voice from within, "no one can believe how bad it is." When the midwife was delivered, the old man asked the midwife to go out into the front room, and gave her a bundle of shavings for her trouble. In a flash she was home again, and then showed her workmen what a miserable payment she had received for her trouble. She threw the shavings from her on the golf-bed and let them lie. Before she went to bed at night, she swept the floor and threw the rubbish on the fire. But the next morning she found a heap of runny silver in the hearth.

My wise man was fully convinced of the truth of the story and said that a granddaughter of this midwife had been married to the adjunct Hedin in Sollefteå, then pastor of Resele. From the silver thus obtained a pitcher had been made, and the said priest had himself invited the old lady, who was then a girl, to drink from the pitcher, and thereby related the whole story in the presence of the provost and all the children of the reading (the children of the communion).

In Wolf, p. 315, it is mentioned how a wife was paid for such help with shavings, which were found to be pure gold the next morning. At such ceremonies the sick woman pleads with the husbandman to warn her of the food which the husbandman offers her, or to inform her how she should choose among the things which the husband wishes to give her, etc. Kristensen has given many examples of this, and we could considerably increase their number. The same features are found in the following legend taken from Burgens:

"A maid had come into a mountain and was there for a few days, inside of which were only old and late people. There was a woman who had been there for 20 years or more, and she was cradling a bunch of children in a cradle made of iron, and she was watching them:

lullaby -3 lulla labbe leerfoot.

She would never let the maid eat of the food of therns, and for all that she forbade her to eat the sausage of therns, then they also often wanted to force her to eat. She did not consider the bread of the wheat to be as dangerous as the barley."

According to popular belief, goblins have the ability to take on a human's port, so that a deceptive resemblance can occur. A poisoned man was fishing far away in the woods. As the catch was plentiful, he found himself lingering longer than he had originally expected. His wife at home understood that the food he had brought with him would also begin to run out, and so she went to him with more food. For some reason, however, she did not put this idea into practice. One evening the fisherman had cooked himself some fish for supper, and was about to begin his meal, when a woman, like his wife, came to him in the shepherd's hut, and said, "Boy, you have been away so long, I must bring you some food." She put the food on the table and went to the stove, where a good fire was blazing; but sadly she avoided turning her back on him. Yet he warned that a tail was sticking out from under her clothes. Then he knew what kind of woman he was dealing with. He set fire to her clothes with a blaze, and with a rush the woman went up the chimney, taking half the roof with her; and all she brought, she cried:

Burnt wife, burnt wife!

In Bölet, a village in Ragunda, there was a farmer named Johannes. He was a great trapper and stayed in the forests from Michaelmas until late autumn. One evening he came home from hunting to his cottage and prepared to go to bed. He had already eaten and lit his pipe and gone up to the lafven, when an old man entered the "störöse" (hut). When the stranger saw that John was on the lafrén, he intended to go there and had already climbed on the first "step" (a block in the wall on which one climbs to get up), but John was not the one who was afraid. He kicked the man with one foot, so that he fell backwards into the fire burning in the middle of the golf course and hit the stones. Now there was a terrible crying and wailing from the man's relatives, who carried him up the chimney, wailing: Grandpa's dying, grandpa's dying! At the kick the giant bit John on the big toe, but he immediately stood up and stuck his toe in the ashes, thus preventing all dangerous consequences of the bite.

From Burdus' aforementioned collections we have the following tale: "A Bärghkäring came to a farmer in Nätra (a parish in northern Ångermanland) out of the sundeth [,] where he got on the boil and lifted up his clothes and was spread, and bade him come (and asked his name, he called himself siälf), And then the lion smote all her boiling under her clothes, and she saw her cow and her head:] siälf burned mägh, At last her husband's voice was heard [,] saying[:] siälf brende-,: siälf haf:;:[!]" Here is a curious recollection of the story of Ulysses at Polyphemus, which is told in the ninth song of the Odyssey. When O. came to him, and several of his companions had been eaten, O. bores out the eye of the mighty giant. The latter then rages in pain, and the neighbouring Cyclops come to him, asking what has happened to him. O. had deceived him, however, in that he said his name was None (nang sgoiy ovoga), to which P. replies: None, O friends, murder me with cunning, but not with wealth. Deceived by this answer, let the Cyclops leave O. alone, so that he might depart unharmed. - Of the great prevalence of this tale, Kr. Nyrop, Sagnet om Odysseus og Polyphem4, a complete account and records from Lapland, Norway and Sweden as well as other country related varieties. When in Norway an underground woman, under somewhat similar conditions, had a pot of boiling tar poured over her, she cried out: "Faer, faer, Sjol has burned me!" - "A, if you've done it yourself, you can have it yourself", it replied over in the mountain. - In Herjeådalen I have recorded the same story, but when the woman there cried out, "I myself struck me, I myself burned me", this is probably due to a misunderstanding and should be, "I myself struck me, I myself burned me".

Sin food the goblins, at least in part, are believed to have retreated from the humans. When women at baking sprinkle flour from a cake on the apron, the front of the shirt, or generally on the stomach, the goblins are said to receive the bread. The widows were once heard to wail and cry as if from hunger, but they were soon silenced by a voice saying, "Hush, children, mamma will be home soon, and then you shall have the belly-bread!" In Ångermanland it has been the general rule never to give children food "inside the stove", i.e., if the mother is on one side of the stove and the children on the other, to hand them the food between the stove itself and the stove post, which supports the smoke trap. The reason given is that children become thieves when they are fed in this way. According to Marks, it had been customary never to hand anything, whatever it might be, within the pole, for then one gives to the invisible. Similarly, the goats get the milk, etc., that you scoop with a shovel and beat from the side instead of turning the shovel towards you (Ångermanland).

From Möre Jonsson mentions that the trolls can take the power of the food themselves, if they also leave the outer object behind. Probably such a notion is the basis for several superstitious measures, which in Norrland are taken with regard to the life-supplies. So, for example, Hulphers mentions that "Christmas buns is kept in the thighs, till the sowing is done"; and I have heard, that such a bun is kept there, till the grain is measured. A woman said she kept buns in the thighs from Christmas to Easter, to keep the grain fresher, a view which, however, does not seem to be the original. In Gestrikland it was said to be good to put tor-kilen in the food stall, because the food would then be dry. garlic the goblins are endangered, and foresters (hunters) are said to have exchanged bears for goblins (Jemtland, Ångermanland). This, however, does not agree with what Wolf says p. 320. If onions are thrown into the milk intended for the goats, they flee from fear of the onions. That the belief in such a deterrent property of the onion has also been found in Norrland, is shown by the following statement in J. O. Hagström, Jemtlands ekonomiska beskrifning, p. 153, where it says: Newborn children are covered with garlic, on which no crowded, it is sorcery, may do them harm, before they are baptized.

For frog one generally has great horror. Nobody wants to kill a frog, said one old lady. To dare to touch one and hold it in your hand shows great courage. If you are walking barefoot and happen to step on one, you express your horror by screaming. I have seen women on the plains who have injured frogs with lions, throw them away, and let some man carry the frog away and strike a piece. All this is due to the fact that here, as in Germany, Wolf p. 315, weasels are believed to hide themselves in the form of frogs. A "wise" man once met in his path a frog, which was unusually thick and large. Wise as he was, he made a long detour for her. Some time afterwards a wise man came to him and told him that the frog was his wife, who was then at sea, but the man's politeness would not be in vain (Marks).

Worse was one who injured a frog. The children of the village were one day in the stalls. While they were out playing, they noticed a large frog. A boy was about to show his courage. He impaled a sturgeon and stuck it through the frog into the ground, so that it remained seated. In a fortnight the boy was allowed to return to the shepherd's hut, and he had to make sure that the frog was alive. It was found to be alive, but it looked at him with a hideous look, and in a short time the lad died. - A reliable old person informed me that he had seen a man carry in his waistcoat pocket the bones of a frog wrapped in a paper, for what purpose he did not know. - A common vice among boys is that married frogs. A live frog is placed on one end of a board, the middle of which rests on a support, and with the axe-hammer, or the like, a strong blow is struck on the other, so that the frog flies high in the air. The same game is mentioned from Fryksdalen in Vermland5 and are called there married toes (frogs).

An old maid was wandering through a deserted forest, and when evening came, she took refuge in some mountain huts. She was tired and lay down in a bed filled with hay. She had scarcely fallen asleep, however, when she was awakened by a terrible noise.

A great company of goblins had come in, and they danced and drank wine out of silver and gold goblets. There was no lack of them: the whole table was filled with them. With joy and vulture they trod the dance, but now and then they came to the maid and whispered in her ear: "Sof Well, my sweet doll, tomorrow you'll marry the red-bearded old man." But the sun rose, and they fled headlong. The maid then took her knife and threw it over a large silver cup. This the goblins could not take with them, since steel had now passed over him. The cup has long been used as a communion cup in a nearby church (Vilhelmina).6.

As the wicked seek after wives of men, so they also lust after the children of men. Late children, who have not yet been baptized, have been - and in part still are - the object of much superstition, in order to prevent the goblins from taking the child lying in the cradle, and unobservantly putting one of their own in its place. If the fire in the stove is extinguished, or the child is put to sleep, it is believed that such a substitution may take place. One is safe from such misfortune if one places in the cradle a hymn-book, or generally a "book of divine words," a practice which has been witnessed by persons still living. A tailor's or wool scissors or other steel has the same effect. Caution seems to be especially necessary in going to church to baptize children. The manufacturer Lundal in Fors has told me the following about this: when my wife was going to church with a child to be baptized, the affair was delayed by the child's grandmother me (superstition, superstitious acts), which must necessarily be executed, that the child may henceforth be preserved for evil, and among other things not be cast away. First, the child was wrapped in an untarnished resin skin, which reached to the arms, whereupon a silver lace was placed under each foot and one on the breast. On leaving the hut a flare was carried in the left hand (all "tempos" in this and similar cases must necessarily be executed with the left hand), which flare was thrown away some distance from the building. Another child's affair to the church was thus conducted: a silver verse was sewn into the winding, then a leaf from a book of divine words, a birch twig, and a piece of steel from an axe-edge were placed therein. - In spite of all precautions, however, it happens that the underground prey. The child, which they are believed to have put in the place of the deceased, is called disposal or byting. Such a one is recognised by its large head, but its otherwise dwarfed growth; the eyes are also large, and the voice is strange.

In the parish of Lits in Jemtland, a people had a kind and beautiful child. But soon it became fussy and grumpy; and they only wished that they could get rid of it7. Only the head wax, the legs enjoyed it nothing at all. They sought wise men far and wide, they drugged it and anointed it with rice-butter and tried everything possible; but nothing worked. Then they began to think that the child was not well, and wondered if they had not gotten a prey thing. But how they were to get their child back they could not figure out for themselves: they must go to a wise man, and there were plenty of them in those days. When they came to him, they told him how it was that the child had long been so incomprehensibly good: it slept all day long, and they had scarcely heard the end of it; but then it became grumpy and fussy, so that they had no peace day or night. The wise man saw by all means that it was indeed a prey thing, and he told them what they should do to recover their child. They would make a great feast, and invite many strangers; but when the guests were welcome, the cook would empty seven hen's eggs, then fill them with water, and put them into the fire on the stove, just as if she were cooking food in them. The parents did as the whisperer said, offered very strange and cooked in seven eggshells. But the child, who had the big head, saw this, began to laugh, and said: I have lived so long that I have seen the Lits forest burn three times, but never have I seen anyone offer so much strangeness and cook in such small vessels. - Now it was heard what manner of creature it was that lay in the cradle. As the wise man had said, they hanged the prey well, and threw him headlong into the snowdrift. The underground took him back, and immediately the right child was in the cradle.

In Germany, our exchanges are matched by Alternating obstacles. Even in German sagas they appear as aged individuals of the underground (die Unterirdiscben). There, too, they reveal their origin at the sight of some strange occurrence. Wolf tells us, p. 304, that a byting ate up all the food for the housewife as soon as she left the stove, whereupon he laid himself in the cradle. She noticed this, and one day cooked old shoe-soles (Schuhsolen), which she placed on the table, and then hid behind the door to watch the child. Immediately it sprang out of the cradle, but at the sight of the remarkable creation the ties of its tongue were loosened and the prey uttered:

biin dock as old as Böhma Gold
un hew still ken Schosalen äten.

Then the mother ran up and hit the boy. The latter fled, but no sooner was he out of the door, than the wife's little son lay in his cradle.

Even more related legends exist. Grimm tells, that when in Hesse a byting saw water boiling in eggshells on the fire, he exclaimed: "nun bin so alt wie der Westerwald lind habe dock nicht in Eierschalen kochen selien." Similar answers are found in Danish, Welsh, Scottish and Breton tales. Grimm also says: "One of the most significant similarities that I know of takes place in the way in which one gets rid of the prey.


  1. Report to the Kungl. Vitteritterhets Historie och Antiqvitets Akademien about a trip I made in the summer of 1882 to Gestrikland.
  2. From said story.
  3. One unclear word; the son?
  4. In the Nordic Journal of Philology. New series, vol. 5, h. 3.
  5. J. Magnusson, Supplement to A. Noreen's Dictionary of the French Language, Sv. landsm. II: 2 p. 32.
  6. The story is told to me by the seminarian O. P. Pettersson. Cf. the water Tittile-Ture mentioned in T. V. V. The song of water is to be found in 11. Dybeck's manuscript collection in the Kungl. Vitterhetsakademien the following variant from Södermanland:

    Today I will grind my malt,
    Tomorrow will be my wedding.
    Do not know virgin in cage,
    that my name is villereture

  7. That is, it would die.

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