Popular Tales From the Norse
The Blue Belt - Cont'd
He had just milked a drop in the pail.
But the Troll, as he lay in bed, swore it was all a lie. He was sure the lad was not the man to milk lions.
When the lad heard that, he forced the Troll to get out of bed, threw open the door, and all the lions rose up and seized the Troll, and at last the lad had to make them leave their hold.
That night the Troll began to talk to the old dame again. "I'm sure I can't tell how to put this lad out of the way--he is so awfully strong; can't you think of some way?"
"No," said the old dame; "if you can't tell, I'm sure I can't."
"Well," said the Troll, "I have two brothers in a castle; they are twelve times as strong as I am, and that's why I was turned out and had to put up with this farm. They hold that castle, and round it there is an orchard with apples in it, and whoever eats those apples sleeps for three days and three nights. If we could only get the lad to go for the fruit, he wouldn't be able to keep from tasting the apples, and as soon as ever he fell asleep my brothers would tear him in pieces."
The old dame said she would sham sick, and say she could never be herself again unless she tasted those apples; for she had set her heart on them.
All this the lad lay and listened to.
When the morning came the old dame was so poorly that she couldn't utter a word but groans and sighs. She was sure she should never be well again, unless she had some of those apples that grew in the orchard near the castle where the man's brothers lived; only she had no one to send for them.
Oh! the lad was ready to go that instant; but the eleven lions went with him. So when he came to the orchard, he climbed up into the apple-tree and ate as many p. 163 apples as he could, and he had scarce got down before he fell into a deep sleep; but the lions all lay round him in a ring. The third day came the Troll's brothers, but they did not come in man's shape. They came snorting like man-eating steeds, and wondered who it was that dared to be there, and said they would tear him to pieces so small that there should not be a bit of him left. But up rose the lions and tore the Trolls into small pieces, so that the place looked as if a dungheap had been tossed about it; and when they had finished the Trolls they lay down again. The lad did not wake till late in the afternoon, and when he got on his knees and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, he began to wonder what had been going on, when he saw the marks of hoofs. But when he went towards the castle, a maiden looked out of a window who had seen all that had happened, and she said,--
"You may thank your stars you weren't in that tussle, else you must have lost your life."
"What! I lose my life! No fear of that, I think," said the lad.
So she begged him to come in, that she might talk with him, for she hadn't seen a Christian soul ever since she came there. But when she opened the door the lions wanted to go in too, but she got so frightened that she began to scream, and so the lad let them lie outside. Then the two talked and talked, and the lad asked how it came that she, who was so lovely, could put up with those ugly Trolls. She never wished it, she said; 'twas quite against her will. They had seized her by force, and she was the King of Arabia's daughter. So they talked on, and at last she asked him what he would do; whether she should go back home, p. 164 or whether he would have her to wife. Of course he would have her, and she shouldn't go home.
After that they went round the castle, and at last they came to a great hall, where the Trolls' two great swords hung high up on the wall.
"I wonder if you are man enough to wield one of these," said the Princess.
"Who?--I?" said the lad. " 'Twould be a pretty thing if I couldn't wield one of these."
With that he put two or three chairs one atop of the other, jumped up, and touched the biggest sword with his finger tips, tossed it up in the air, and caught it again by the hilt; leapt down, and at the same time dealt such a blow with it on the floor, that the whole hall shook. After he had thus got down he thrust the sword under his arm and carried it about with him.
So when they had lived a little while in the castle, the Princess thought she ought to go home to her parents, and let them know what had become of her; so they loaded a ship, and she set sail from the castle.
After she had gone, and the lad had wandered about a little, he called to mind that he had been sent on an errand thither, and had come to fetch something for his mother's health; and though he said to himself,--
"After all, the old dame was not so bad but she's all right by this time,"-- still he thought he ought to go and just see how she was. So he went and found both the man and his mother quite fresh and hearty.
"What wretches you are to live in this beggarly hut," said the lad. "Come with me up to my castle, and you shall see what a fine fellow I am."
Well! they were both ready to go, and on the way his mother talked to him, and asked, "How it was he had got so strong?"
"If you must know, it came of that blue belt which lay on the hill-side that time when you and I were out begging," said the lad.
"Have you got it still?" asked she.
"Yes,"--he had. It was tied round his waist.
"Might she see it?"
"Yes, she might;" and with that he pulled open his waistcoat and shirt to show it her.
Then she seized it with both hands, tore it off, and twisted it round her fist.
"Now," she cried, "what shall I do with such a wretch as you? I'll just give you one blow, and dash your brains out!"
"Far too good a death for such a scamp," said the Troll. "No! let's first burn out his eyes, and then turn him adrift in a little boat."
So they burned out his eyes and turned him adrift, in spite of his prayers and tears; but, as the boat drifted, the lions swam after, and at last they laid hold of it and dragged it ashore on an island, and placed the lad under a fir-tree. They caught game for him, and they plucked the birds and made him a bed of down; but he was forced to eat his meat raw, and he was blind. At last, one day the biggest lion was chasing a hare which was blind, for it ran straight over stock and stone, and the end was, it ran right up against a fir-stump and tumbled head over heels across the field right into a spring; but lo! when it came out of the spring it saw its way quite plain, and so saved its life.
"So, so!" thought the lion, and went and dragged the lad to the spring, and dipped him over head and ears in it. So, when he had got his sight again, he went down to the shore and made signs to the lions that they should all lie close together like a raft; then he stood upon their backs while they swam with him to the mainland. When he had reached the shore he went up into a birchen copse, and made the lions lie quiet. Then he stole up to the castle, like a thief, to see if he couldn't lay hands on his belt; and when he got to the door, he peeped through the keyhole, and there he saw his belt hanging up over a door in the kitchen. So he crept softly in across the floor, for there was no one there; but as soon as he got hold of the belt, he began to kick and stamp about as though he were mad. Just then his mother came rushing out,--
"Dear heart, my darling little boy! do give me the belt again," she said.
"Thank you kindly," said he. "Now you shall have the doom you passed on me," and he fulfilled it on the spot. When the old Troll heard that, he came in and begged and prayed so prettily that he might not be smitten to death.
"Well, you may live," said the lad, "but you shall undergo the same punishment you gave me;" and so he burned out the Troll's eyes, and turned him adrift on the sea in a little boat, but he had no lions to follow him.
Now the lad was all alone, and he went about longing and longing for the Princess; at last he could bear it no longer; he must set out to seek her, his heart was so bent on having her. So he loaded four ships and set sail for Arabia. For some time they had fair wind and fine weather, p. 167 but after that they lay wind-bound under a rocky island. So the sailors went ashore and strolled about to spend the time, and there they found a huge egg, almost as big as a little house. So they began to knock it about with large stones, but, after all, they couldn't crack the shell. Then the lad came up with his sword to see what all the noise was about, and when he saw the egg, he thought it a trifle to crack it; so he gave it one blow and the egg split, and out came a chicken as big as an elephant.
"Now we have done wrong," said the lad; "this can cost us all our lives" and then he asked his sailors if they were men enough to sail to Arabia in four-and-twenty hours, if they got a fine breeze. Yes, they were good to do that, they said, so they set sail with a fine breeze, and got to Arabia in three-and-twenty hours. As soon as they landed, the lad ordered all the sailors to go and bury themselves up to the eyes in a sandhill, so that they could barely see the ships. The lad and the captains climbed a high crag and sate down under a fir. In a little while came a great bird flying with an island in its claws, and let it fall down on the fleet, and sank every ship. After it had done that, it flew up to the sandhill and flapped its wings, so that the wind nearly took off the heads of the sailors, and it flew past the fir with such force that it turned the lad right about, but he was ready with his sword, and gave the bird one blow and brought it down dead.
After that he went to the town, where every one was glad because the king had got his daughter back; but now the king had hidden her away somewhere himself, and promised her hand as a reward to any one who could find her, and this though she was betrothed before. Now as the lad p. 168 went along he met a man who had white bear-skins for sale, so he bought one of the hides and put it on; and one of the captains was to take an iron chain and lead him about, and so he went into the town and began to play pranks. At last the news came to the king's ears that there never had been such fun in the town before, for here was a white bear that danced and cut capers just as it was bid. So a messenger came to say the bear must come to the castle at once, for the king wanted to see its tricks. So when it got to the castle every one was afraid, for such a beast they had never seen before; but the captain said there was no danger unless they laughed at it. They mustn't do that, else it would tear them to pieces. When the king heard that, he warned all the court not to laugh. But while the fun was going on, in came one of the king's maids, and began to laugh and make game of the bear, and the bear flew at her and tore her, so that there was scarce a rag of her left. Then all the court began to bewail, and the captain most of all.
"Stuff and nonsense," said the king; "she's only a maid, besides it's more my affair than yours."
When the show was over, it was late at night. "It's no good your going away when it's so late," said the king. "The bear had best sleep here."
"Perhaps it might sleep in the ingle by the kitchen fire," said the captain.
"Nay," said the king, "it shall sleep up here, and it shall have pillows and cushions to sleep on." So a whole heap of pillows and cushions was brought, and the captain had a bed in a side-room.
But at midnight the king came with a lamp in his hand p. 169 and a big bunch of keys, and carried off the white bear. He passed along gallery after gallery, through doors and rooms, up-stairs and down-stairs, till at last he came to a pier which ran out into the sea. Then the king began to pull and haul at posts and pins, this one up and that one down, till at last a little house floated up to the water's edge. There he kept his daughter, for she was so dear to him that he had hid her, so that no one could find her out. He left the white bear outside while he went in and told her how it had danced and played its pranks. She said she was afraid, and dared not look at it; but he talked her over, saying there was no danger, if she only wouldn't laugh. So they brought the bear in, and locked the door, and it danced and played its tricks; but just when the fun was at its height the Princess's maid began to laugh. Then the lad flew at her and tore her to bits, and the Princess began to cry and sob.
"Stuff and nonsense," cried the king; "all this fuss about a maid! I'll get you just as good a one again. But now I think the bear had best stay here till morning, for I don't care to have to go and lead it along all those galleries and stairs at this time of night!"
"Well," said the Princess, "if it sleeps here I'm sure I won't."
But just then the bear curled himself up and lay down by the stove; and it was settled at last that the Princess should sleep there too, with a light burning. But as soon as the king was well gone, the white bear came and begged her to undo his collar. The Princess was so scared she almost swooned away; but she felt about till she found the collar, and she had scarce undone it before the bear p. 170 pulled his head off. Then she knew him again, and was so glad, there was no end to her joy, and she wanted to tell her father at once that her deliverer was come. But the lad would not hear of it; he would earn her once more, he said. So in the morning, when they heard the king rattling at the posts outside, the lad drew on the hide, and lay down by the stove.
"Well, has it lain still?" the king asked.
"I should think so," said the Princess; "it hasn't so much as turned or stretched itself once."
When they got up to the castle again, the captain took the bear and led it away, and then the lad threw off the hide, and went to a tailor and ordered clothes fit for a prince; and when they were fitted on he went to the king, and said he wanted to find the Princess.
"You're not the first who has wished the same thing," said the king, "but they have all lost their lives; for if any one who tries can't find her in four-and-twenty hours his life is forfeited."
Yes; the lad knew all that. Still he wished to try, and if he couldn't find her, 'twas his look-out. Now in the castle there was a band that played sweet tunes, and there were fair maids to dance with, and so the lad danced away. When twelve hours were gone, the king said,--
"I pity you with all my heart. You're so poor a hand at seeking; you will surely lose your life."
"Stuff!" said the lad; "while there's life there's hope. So long as there's breath in the body there's no fear; we have lots of time;" and so he went on dancing till there was only one hour left.
Then he said he would begin to search.
"It's no use now," said the king; "time's up."
"Light your lamp; out with your big bunch of keys," said the lad, "and follow me whither I wish to go. There is still a whole hour left."
So the lad went the same way which the king had led him the night before, and he bade the king unlock door after door till they came down to the pier which ran out into the sea.
"It's all no use, I tell you," said the king; "time's up, and this will only lead you right out into the sea."
"Still five minutes more," said the lad, as he pulled and pushed at the posts and pins, and the house floated up.
"Now the time is up," bawled the king; "come hither, headsman, and take off his head."
"Nay, nay!" said the lad; "stop a bit, there are still three minutes. Out with the key, and let me get into this house."
But there stood the king and fumbled with his keys, to draw out the time. At last he said he hadn't any key.
"Well, if you haven't, I have," said the lad, as he gave the door such a kick that it flew to splinters inwards on the floor.
At the door the Princess met him, and told her father this was her deliverer, on whom her heart was set. So she had him; and this was how the beggar boy came to marry the king's daughter of Arabia.