Monday, December 21, 2015

The Yule Bear

As usual, getting ready for Yule has knocked me for a loop, so I haven't been writing anything much, except cards and letters and last minute projects. But as the Solstice approaches, I share with you a traditional Norwegian folk tale for the holidays--may you have frith and plenty all during the Twelves, and may you have a prosperous and productive new year.

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The Yule Bear

Once upon a time there was a man up in Finnmark who had caught a large white bear. He decided he would take it to the King of Denmark as a gift, so he set out for that country. When he reached the Dovrefjell, it happened to be Christmas Eve. He came upon a cottage and decided to stop and ask for lodging for the night.

The man who owned the house, Halvor, told him they couldn't possibly take any guests that night because every Christmas Eve a large band of trolls took over their house, and even the family was forced to move out.

"Oh," the man said, "if that's all, you might as well let me stay in your house. My bear can sleep by the stove and I'll sleep in the pantry." The man begged and begged and finally got leave to stay the night. When it got dark, the people of the household moved out, just as Halvor had said, but before they left, they got everything ready for the trolls. They set the table with the cream porridge and fish and sausages and everything else needed for a proper Yule feast.

After everything was ready and the people had gone, the trolls arrived--some large, some small, some with long tails, some with none, and some with very long noses. They sat down at the table, and they ate and ate and drank and drank, until they had tasted everything there.

Then one of the younger trolls happened to notice the white bear lying beneath the stove. He put a piece of sausage on a fork and went over and poked the bear's nose with it, shouting, "Here, kitty, kitty, do you want a sausage?!"  The bear, whose nose was burnt by the hot sausage, did not like this at all. He got up from beneath the stove and rumbled and growled, and then he chased all the trolls, large and small, around and around the room, until he finally chased them out of the house altogether.

The next year Halvor, the householder, was outside on Christmas Eve chopping wood for the feast, because he was once more expecting a pack of trolls to arrive. While he worked, a voice shouted out of the woods, "Halvor! Halvor!"

"Yes?" answered Halvor.

"Do you still have that big white pussycat of yours?"

"Why, yes," said Halvor. "She's at home now lying under the stove, nursing her seven kittens, who are all even bigger and fiercer than their mother."

"Then we'll never come to your house again!!" shouted the troll in the woods, and since that Yule, no trolls have ever again eaten their porridge at the house of Halvor on the Dovrefjell.