Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Strange Kind of Christmas Tale

I first came across the story of "The Cat on the Dovrefjell" in a collection of Christmas stories, where it was titled "The Christmas Cat." It's an old Danish tale, with trolls and bears, and no Santa or reindeer. Enjoy!

There once was a man who caught a great white bear. How he caught it I don't know, but he was well pleased with himself.

"I'll  take this to the King of Denmark," he said. "What a fine gift he will think it, and I will have it there just in time for Christmas too."

As it happened he found himself at the Dovre-Mountain just about Christmas Eve. But a snowstorm blew up and made travel difficult.

"We will not get to the King after all, with this storm," he thought.

The man, with his bear on a lead behind him, could barely see where he was going, but suddenly there was a lighted cottage in front of him.  He struggled through the snow to the house, where a man named Halvor and his family lived.

"Please," he begged when Halvor opened the door, "do you have a place where I can get out of this storm, somewhere warm for my bear and me? I promise you my bear will be no trouble. He's quite tame, and worn out from traveling in this storm."

"I wish I could!" said Halvor, "but we can't take in anyone right now. You see,every Christmas Eve the  trolls come and we have to leave and find some other place to spend the night. They are terrible, those trolls! They eat all our food, drink all our drink. We were just getting ready to leave."

  "Let me stay," said the man. "We are too exhausted to go further. My bear can sleep in that corner by the stove, and I will sleep here on this rug."

 "Very well," said Halvor. "But the trolls won't like it. We have to leave everything just so for them so that they will not be angry and destroy our house. Try to stay out of their way or I don't know what might happen to you. We are going to my father's house until the trolls are gone. We have left food on the table for the trolls, so do not touch it, please!" He looked so worried that the man promised he would not touch a thing, though his stomach was growling with hunger.

After Halvor and his family left, the man curled up in a corner on a rug, and the bear took another corner.

It was not long before the door opened, and in came trolls of every kind. There were tall ones and small ones, fat ones and skinny ones, trolls with tails and trolls with none,

By John Bauer, 1882-1918
trolls with very large, long noses and trolls with funny little ears. They rushed to the table and began gobbling everything in sight.

 "What is that?" asked one of the smaller trolls. He walked over to where the bear was sleeping and squinted. "I think it's a cat!" he shouted. He put a piece of meat on a fork and poked the bear's nose with it.

"Here, Kitty! Have some sausage!" He poked harder and harder. "Kitty kitty!" Suddenly the great white bear rose up onto his hind legs and growled. His roar shook the tiny house, and the troll fell over backwards trying to get away.

"Run! Run! It's the biggest, meanest kitty I've ever seen! Run for your lives!"

The trolls rushed out the door with the bear close behind them. The bear chased the trolls far into the woods, then returned to Halvor's house, curled up by the fire and went to sleep. After laughing until he could hardly stand, the man ate and drank his fill, then he too went to sleep. The next morning when Halvor and his family returned he told them what had happened, and they all had a good laugh. The man continued on his journey to see the King, who was well pleased with the gift of the white bear.

 A year later Havlor was out cutting wood on Christmas Eve when he heard a voice calling his name.
"Halvor! Halvor?"

  "Yes. I am right here. Who are you and what do you want?"

  "Do you still have that big white cat you had last Christmas Eve?"

  I not only have her, "said Halvor,"but she has had seven kittens and they are all BIGGER and MEANER than she is!"

  "Well then, we trolls will never come to your house again!"

And ever since that Christmas Eve, the trolls never bothered Halvor and his family again.
Trolls and their mischief play a large role in stories from Europe and other countries. To learn more about trolls, check out Sacred Text's article on the topic. MythEncyclopedia has a short piece about trolls with links to other sites. This site offers more extensive research with a good bibliography at the end so you can read more about these strange creatures. And of course, Wikipedia offers a lot of information on the topic. 

The image above of the bear chasing the trolls out of the house is from the book, Popular Tales from the Norse, by George Webbe Dasent, published in 1904. You can read his text of this story and others in the book at Sacred Text.

Just make sure you don't make a troll angry while you're reading!

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Mac n' Janet said...

What a great story.

annie said...

That's a great one!

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