Far to the North, where the winter storms from the Arctic Ocean lash the unsheltered
coasts, lies a long and narrow country. In our time the country is covered with snow
and ice only during the winter, but long, long ago a heavy, thousand year old glacier
towered over the country. As the climate slowly changed and the glacier receded
northwards, people who lived south of the glacier followed it. They took the country
for their own and called it Norway. The people were called Norwegians. They saw that
the country was very beautiful and thought that they were the first inhabitants, but
it was not long before they discovered that the country was already occupied by a lot
of strange creatures who lived in most peculiar places.
In the mountains, of which there were many, lived the trolls. The chief of them all
was Dovregubben. Some of the trolls were extremely large, while others could be really
small, and they were all very old. They were only to be seen at night, or at dusk,
because such creatures of course did not tolerate the light of day. If they did not
get into the mountains before the sun shone they cracked or turned to stone. The
trolls were like people, but had only four fingers on each hand and four toes on each
foot. Otherwise they all had long noses (troll wives often used their noses to stir
the cooking pot when they made soup or porridge), they were shaggy and roughhaired,
and every one of them had a tail which resembled a cow's rump.
Even though they were frightening, they were often good-natured and gullible, and
sometimes smart farm boys could fool them. Among their many supernatural. abilities
was that they could re-shape themselves. Sometimes the troll girls became unbelievably
beautiful young women. They were called wood nymphs, and they lured many a hunter and
unsuspecting farmer's son with them into the mountains. Therefore it was better to try
and see them from behind, because they could not hide the cow's rump. Sometimes, too,
the trolls spellbound and took beautiful alpine farm girls and dairymaids into the
mountains, and not many of them got out again.
The troll children, of course, got up to the most unbelievable tricks, and the troll
husbands could get extremely angry. It was therefore best to keep in with the trollls
and the subterranean people. One tried to avoid irritating them, because they could
wreak revenge by bringing disease and death to the livestock. On the other hand, if
one had a good relationship with them, the livestock could yield much milk and get fat
and sleek. That was why a well-filled bowl of porridge was put into the barn for them
every Christmas Eve, and the porridge was always eaten up.
Then, as now, some people say they can glimpse the trolls when walking in the forest
and fields, so it is prudent to be extra careful when one walks in nature, especially
when it starts to get dark. You never know what is out there or what you may meet.
Remember that the trolls can see you!