fairy tale from Asbjørnsen and Moe
's Norwegian Folk Tales, collected in 1841-1844. The original title of this tale is "Jutulen og Johannes Blessom", and it was found at Project Runeberg
and translated to (retold in) English
Note: Jutul is another Norse word for troll or jotun.
Above the priest's farm in Vågå, there is a hill or small mountain, covered in fir trees and with gorges and steep cliffs. It is called the Jutul Mountain. By nature's whim, a gate can be seen in one of the sleek sides of this top. If you stand on the bridge over the river Finna or on the fields on the other side, and see this gate over the leaves of the birches and let your imagination run a bit, it forms a double gate, united at the top in a pointed Gothic arch. Old, white birches stand like pillars on both sides; but their tall tops can not reach the beginning of the arch, and if the gate was a church length longer, Våge church would be stand right under the arch, with roof and spire.
This isn't a normal door or gate. It is the entrance to the jutul's palace. It is called "The Jutul Gate", a monstrous portal that the largest troll with fifteen heads can walk through without crouching. When someone in the old days, when there was more contact between humans and trolls, wanted to borrow something from the jutul, or speak with him in other business, it was common to throw a rock at the gate and say: "Open up, jutul!"
A few years ago, I arrived one evening to the priest's farm for a visit. The family was at the seter1; there was no one home apart from an old man, who led me to the Jutul Gate when I asked him to. We knocked, but no one opened. I did not find it strange that the jutul didn't want to see us, or that he rarely grants audience now that he is so old; judging from the many traces of rock-throwing in the gate, he has been run down with visitors.
"One of the last to see him," my guide told me, "was Johannes from Blessom, our neighbor farm. But he wished he'd never seen'm," he added.
"This Johannes Blessom was down in København to see justice, because there were no courts in this country in those days2; and if you wanted justice, there was nothing to do but to travel there. Blessom had, and his son as well, for he had things to do as well. Then came Christmas Eve. Johannes had talked to the important men and was finished with his business, and he was walking the streets. Suddenly, a man from Vågå came past, wearing a white jacket with buttons like silver coins. It was a large man. Johannes thought he should recognise him, but he was walking too fast.
"You walk fast," said Johannes.
"Yes, I have to hurry," said the man, "I am going to Vågå tonight."
"Oh, I wish I could get there, too," said Johannes.
"You can get a ride with me," said the man, "I have a horse that does twelve steps per mile3."
They went, and Blessom had enough trying to hold on, it went through weather and wind, and he could see neither heaven nor earth.
Somewhere, they stopped to rest. He couldn't understand where it was, because they set off again quickly, but he thought he saw a dead man's head on a stake there. When they had travelled another while, he started freezing.
"Darn, I lost one of my mittens where we were resting; now my hand is cold," he said.
"You'll have to endure," said the man, "it's not far to Vågå now, and where we rested was at the half way mark."
Before they reached Finna Bridge, the man stopped and let Johannes off.
"You haven't got far home from here," he said, "and now you have to promise that you won't look back if you hear noises or see light."
Johannes promised and thanked him for the ride. The man drove on over the bridge, and Johannes started walking up the hill to Blessom farm. But suddenly he heard a loud noise from the Jutul Mountain and the road ahead of him was lit so much that he thought he would be able to find a needle in the snow. He forgot what he had promised and turned his head to se what it was. The Jutul Gate was wide open, and it shone from it like many thousand candles. In the opening he saw the jutul; it was the man he got a ride from. But from that day Johannes' neck was crooked, and it stayed that way for the rest of his life."
1: A seter is a Norwegian mountain farm, typically populated only in summer.
2: Norway was in union with Denmark and administered from Copenhagen.
3: A Norwegian mile: 10 km.
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