Norwegian fairy tale recorded by Asbjørnsen and Moe. The tale ("Skipperen og Gamle-Erik") appears in their collection "Norske folkeeventyr" (1841-1844). I found it at Project Runeberg and translated it to English for E2. Enjoy!

Note: Old Eric ("Gamle-Erik") is a silly, Norwegian name for the Devil.


There was once a skipper who was so unbelievably lucky with everything he did. No one else managed to get such freights, no one else made so much money, they just flowed towards him; and certainly no one managed to sail like him; wherever he went, the wind was with him, they said that if he turned his hat, the wind would turn with it.

So he sailed for many years with lumber as well as to China, and he made money as if it was grass. But then one time he travelled home across the North Sea as fast as he could, as if he had stolen both ship and cargo. But the one who wanted to catch him, travelled even faster. That was Old Eric himself; because as you might know, the skipper had made a deal with him, and the time was up on this day; he could expect him any minute now.

Yes, the skipper came up on deck and looked up; then he called for the lumberer and a couple of others, and asked them to go down below deck and chop two holes in the bottom of the hull, and when they had done that, they were to fit the pumps into the hole, so the pump stock would fill from the sea.

The people wondered why and thought this was strange work; but they did what the skipper asked of them; they chopped two holes in the bottom of the hull and pushed the pumps through so tightly that not a drop of water came inside, but the North Sea was seven feet high inside the pump.

They had hardly cleaned up before Old Eric appeared in a gust of wind and caught the skipper by the collar. "Stop, father, there's no hurry," said the skipper, trying to squirm out of the claws that were holding him. "Don't we have a contract to keep my ship dry?" said the skipper. "You're no good. Look at the pumps! The water stands seven feet up. Pump, you devil, and get the water out, then you can take me!" he said.

Old Eric wasn't wise enough not to be fooled. He worked hard, the sweat flowing down his back like a river; but he pumped up from the North Sea and out into the North Sea. After a long while, this work tired him out, and enraged, he went home to his great grandmother to rest. The skipper remained skipper for as long as he wanted, and if he's not dead, he's probably still sailing wherever he wants, turning the wind as he turns his hat.


Another fairy tale, please!

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