The Northern Way

Popular Tales From the Norse

p. 396

Soria Moria Castle

Once on a time there was a poor couple who had a son whose name was Halvor. Ever since he was a little boy he would turn his hand to nothing, but just sat there and groped about in the ashes. His father and mother often put him out to learn this trade or that, but Halvor could stay nowhere; for, when he had been there a day or two, he ran away from his master, and never stopped till he was sitting again in the ingle, poking about in the cinders.

Well, one day a skipper came and asked Halvor if he hadn't a mind to be with him, and go to sea, and see strange lands. Yes, Halvor would like that very much; so he wasn't long in getting himself ready. How long they sailed I'm sure I can't tell; but the end of it was, they fell into a great storm, and when it was blown over, and it got still again, they couldn't tell where they were; for they had been driven away to a strange coast, which none of them knew anything about. Well, as there was just no wind at all, they stayed lying wind-bound there, and Halvor asked the skipper's leave to go on shore and look about him; he would sooner go, he said, than lie there and sleep.

"Do you think now you're fit to show yourself before folk," said the skipper, "why, you've no clothes than those rags you stand in?"

But Halvor stuck to his own, and so at last he got leave but he was to be sure and come back as soon as ever it

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began to blow. So off he went and found a lovely land; wherever he came there were fine large flat corn-fields and rich meads, but, he couldn't catch a glimpse of a living soul. Well, it began to blow, but Halvor thought he hadn't seen enough yet, and he wanted to walk a little farther, just to see if he couldn't meet any folk. So after a while he came to a broad high road, so smooth and even, you might easily roll an egg along it. Halvor followed this, and when evening drew on he saw a great castle ever so far off, from which the sunbeams shone. So as he had now walked the whole day and hadn't taken a bit to eat with him, he was as hungry as a hunter, but still the nearer he came to the castle, the more afraid he got.

In the castle kitchen a great fire was blazing, and Halvor went into it, but such a kitchen he had never seen in all his born days. It was so grand and fine; there were vessels of silver and vessels of gold, but still never a living-soul. So when Halvor had stood there a while and no one came out, he went and opened a door, and there inside sat a Princess who span upon a spinning-wheel.

"Nay, nay, now!" she called out, "dare Christian folk come hither? But now you'd best be off about your business, if you don't want the Troll to gobble you up; for here lives a Troll with three heads."

"All one to me," said the lad, "I'd be just as glad to hear he had four heads beside; I'd like to see what kind of fellow he is. As for going, I won't go at all. I've done no harm; but meat you must get me, for I'm almost starved to death."

When Halvor had eaten his fill, the Princess told him to try if he could brandish the sword that hung against the p. 398 wall; no, he couldn't brandish it, he couldn't even lift it up.

"Oh!" said the Princess, "now you must go and take a pull of that flask that hangs by its side; that's what the Troll does every time he goes out to use the sword."

So Halvor took a pull, and in the twinkling of an eye he could brandish the sword like nothing; and now he thought it high time the Troll came; and lo! just then up came the Troll puffing and blowing. Halvor jumped behind the door.

"Hutetu," said the Troll, as he put his head in at the door, "what a smell of Christian man's blood!"

"Ay," said Halvor, "you'll soon know that to your cost," and with that be hewed off all his heads.

Now the Princess was so glad that she was free, she both danced and sang, but then all at once she called her sisters to mind, and so she said,--

"Would my sisters were free too!"

"Where are they?" asked Halvor.

Well, she told him all about it; one was taken away by a Troll to his castle, which lay fifty miles off, and the other by another Troll to his castle, which was fifty miles farther still.

"But now," she said, "you must first help me to get this ugly carcase out of the house."

Yes, Halvor was so strong he swept everything away, and made it all clean and tidy in no time. So they had a good and happy time of it, and next morning he set off at peep of gray dawn; he could take no rest by the way, but ran and walked the whole day. When he first saw the castle he got a little afraid; it was far grander than the p. 399 first, but here too there wasn't a living soul to be seen. So Halvor went into the kitchen, and didn't stop there either, but went straight farther on into the house.

"Nay, nay," called out the Princess, "dare Christian folk come hither? I don't know I'm sure how long it is since I came here, but in all that time I haven't seen a Christian man. 'Twere best you saw how to get away as fast as you came; for here lives a Troll who has six heads."

"I shan't go," said Halvor, "if he had six heads besides."

"He'll take you up and swallow you down alive," said the Princess.

But it was no good, Halvor wouldn't go; he wasn't at all afraid of the Troll, but meat and drink he must have, for he was half starved after his long journey. Well, he got as much of that as he wished, but then the Princess wanted him to be off again.

"No," said Halvor, "I won't go, I've done no harm, and I've nothing to be afraid about."

"He won't stay to ask that," said the Princess, "for he'll take you without law or leave; but as you won't go, just try if you can brandish that sword yonder, which the Troll wields in war."

He couldn't brandish it, and then the Princess said he must take a pull at the flask which hung by its side, and when he had done that he could brandish it.

Just then back came the Troll, and he was both stout and big, so that he had to go sideways to get through the door. When the Troll got his first head in he called out,--

"Hutetu, what a smell of Christian man's blood!"

But that very moment Halvor hewed off his first head, p. 400 and so on all the rest as they popped in. The Princess was overjoyed, but just then she came to think of her sisters, and wished out loud they were free. Halvor thought that might easily be done, and wanted to be off at once, but first he had to help the Princess to get the Troll's carcase out of the way, and so he could only set out next morning.

It was a long way to the castle, and he had to walk fast and run hard to reach it in time; but about nightfall he saw the castle, which was far finer and grander than either of the others. This time he wasn't the least afraid, but walked straight through the kitchen, and into the castle. There sat a Princess who was so pretty, there was no end to her loveliness. She, too, like the others, told him there hadn't been Christian folk there ever since she came thither, and bade him go away again, else the Troll would swallow him alive, and do you know, she said, he has nine heads.

"Ay, ay," said Halvor, "if he had nine other heads, and nine other heads still, I won't go away," and so he stood fast before the stove. The Princess kept on begging him so prettily to go away, lest the Troll should gobble him up, but Halvor said,--

"Let him come as soon as he likes."

So she gave him the Troll's sword, and bade him take a pull at the flask, that he might be able to brandish and wield it.

Just then back came the Troll puffing and blowing and tearing along. He was far stouter and bigger than the other two, and he too had to go on one side to get through the door. So when he got his first head in, he said as the others had said,--

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"Hutetu, what a smell of Christian man's blood!"

That very moment Halvor hewed off the first head and then all the rest; but the last was the toughest of them all, and it was the hardest bit of work Halvor had to do to get it hewn off, although he knew very well he had strength enough to do it.

So all the Princesses came together to that castle, which was called Soria Moria Castle, and they were glad and happy as they had never been in all their lives before, and they all were fond of Halvor and Halvor of them, and he might choose the one he liked best for his bride; but the youngest was fondest of him of all the three.

But there, after a while, Halvor went about, and was so strange and dull and silent. Then the Princesses asked him what he lacked, and if he didn't like to live with them any longer? Yes, he did, for they had enough and to spare, and he was well off in every way, but still somehow or other he did so long to go home, for his father and mother were alive, and them he had such a great wish to see.

Well, they thought that might be done easily enough.

"You shall go thither and come back hither, safe and unscathed, if you will only follow our advice," said the Princesses.

Yes, he'd be sure to mind all they said. So they dressed him up till he was as grand as a king's son, and then they set a ring on his finger, and that was such a ring, he could wish himself thither and hither with it; but they told him to be sure not to take it off, and not to name their names, for there would be an end of all his bravery, and then he'd never see them more.

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"If I only stood at home I'd be glad," said Halvor; and it was done as he had wished. Then stood Halvor at his father's cottage door before he knew a word about it. Now it was about dusk at even, and so, when they saw such a grand stately lord walk in, the old couple got so afraid they began to bow and scrape. Then Halvor asked if he couldn't stay there, and have a lodging there that night; No; that he couldn't.

"We can't do it at all," they said, "for we haven't this thing or that thing which such a lord is used to have; 'twere best your lordship went up to the farm, no long way off, for you can see the chimneys, and there they have lots of everything."

Halvor wouldn't hear of it--he wanted to stop; but the old couple stuck to their own, that he had better go to the farmer's; there he would get both meat and drink; as for them, they hadn't even a chair to offer him to sit down on.

"No," said Halvor, "I won't go up there till to-morrow early, but let me just stay here to-night; worst come to the worst, I can sit in the chimney corner."

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