Norwegian Fairy Book, The | Annotated Tale

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Master Girl, The

ONCE upon a time there was a king who had several sons; I do not just know how many there were, but the youngest was not content at home, and insisted on going out into the world to seek his fortune. And in the end the king had to give him permission to do so. After he had wandered for a few days, he came to a giant's castle, and took service with the giant. In the morning the giant wanted to go off to herd his goats, and when he started he told the king's son he was to clean the stable in the meantime. "And when you are through with that, you need do nothing more for to-day, for you might as well know that you have come to a kind master," said he. "But you must do what you are told to do conscientiously and, besides, you must not go into any of the rooms that lie behind the one in which you slept last night, else your life will pay the forfeit."

              "He surely is a kind master," said the king's son to himself, walked up and down the room, and whistled and sang; for, thought he, there would be plenty of time to clean the stable. "But it would be nice to take a look at the other room, there surely must be something in it that he is alarmed about, since I am not so much as to take a look," thought he, and went into the first room. There hung a kettle, and it was boiling, but the king's son could find no fire beneath it. "What can there be in it?" thought he, and dipped in a lock of his hair, and at once the hair grew just like copper. "That's a fine soup, and whoever tastes it will burn his mouth," said the youth, and went into the next room. There hung another kettle that bubbled and boiled; but there was no fire beneath it, either. "I must try this one, too," said the king's son, and again he dipped in a lock of his hair and it grew just like silver. "We have no such expensive soup at home," said the king's son, "but the main thing is, how does it taste?" and with that he went into the third room. And there hung still another kettle, a-boiling just like those in the two other rooms, and the king's son wanted to try this one, too. He dipped in a lock of his hair, and it came out like pure gold, and fairly shimmered.

              Then the king's son said: "Better and better! But if he cooks gold here, I wonder what he cooks inside, there?" And he wanted to see, so he went into the fourth room. Here there was no kettle to be seen; but a maiden sat on a bench who must have been a king's daughter; yet whatever she might be, the king's son had never seen any one so beautiful in all his days. "Now in heaven's name, what are you doing here?" asked the maiden. "I hired myself out here yesterday," said the king's son. "May God be your aid, for it is a fine service you have chosen!" said she. "O, the master is very friendly," said the king's son. "He has given me no hard work to do to-day. When I have cleaned out the stable, I need do nothing more." "Yes, but how are you going to manage it?" she went on. "If you do as the others have done, then for every shovelful you pitch out, ten fresh shovelfuls will fly in. But I'll tell you how to go about it. You must turn around the shovel, and work with the handle, then everything will fly out by itself."

              This he would do, said the king's son; and he sat there with her all day long, for they had soon agreed that they would marry, he and the king's daughter, and in this way his first day in the giant's service did not weary him at all. When evening came on, she told him that now he must clean out the stable before the giant came, and when he got there he thought he would try out her advice, and began to use the shovel as he had seen his father's grooms use it. And sure enough, he had to stop quickly, for after he had worked a little while, he hardly had room in which to stand. Then he did as the king's daughter had told him, turned the shovel around and used the handle. And in a wink the stable was as clean as though it had been scrubbed. When he had finished he went to the room that the giant had assigned him, and walked up and down, whistling and singing. Then the giant came home with his goats. "Have you cleaned out the stable?" he asked. "Yes, indeed, master, it is spick and span," said the king's son. "I'll have to see that," said the giant, and went into the stable; but it was just as the king's son had said. "You surely have been talking to the Master Girl, for you could not have done that alone," said the giant. "Master Girl? What is a Master Girl?" said the king's son, and pretended to be very stupid. "I'd like to see her, too." "You will see her in plenty of time," said the giant.

              The next morning the giant went off again with his goats. And he told the king's son he was to fetch his horse from the pasture, and when he had done this, he might rest: "For you have come to a kind master," said he. "But if you enter one of the rooms which I forbade you entering yesterday, I will tear off your head," he said, and went away with his herd. "Indeed, you are a kind master," said the king's son, "but in spite of it I'd like to have another little talk with the Master Girl, for she is just as much mine as yours," and with that he went in to her. She asked him what work he had to do that day. "O, it is not so bad to-day," said the king's son. "I am only to fetch his horse from the pasture." "And how are you going to manage that?" asked the Master Girl. "Surely it is no great feat to fetch a horse from pasture," said the king's son, "and I have ridden swift horses before." "Yet it is not an easy matter to ride this horse home," said the Master Girl, "but I will tell you how to set about it: When you see the horse, he will come running up, breathing fire and flame, just as though he were a burning pine-torch. Then you must take the bit that is hanging here on the door, and throw it into his mouth, for then he will grow so tame that you can do what you will with him." He would take good note of it, said the king's son, and he sat there with the Master Girl the whole day long, and they chatted and talked about this and that, but mainly about how delightful it would be, and what a pleasant time they could have, if they could only marry and get away from the giant. And the king's son would have forgotten the pasture and the horse altogether, had not the Master Girl reminded him of them toward evening. He took the bit that hung in the corner, hurried out to the pasture, and the horse at once ran up, breathing fire and flame; but he seized the moment when he came running up to him with his jaws wide open, and threw the bit into his mouth. Then he stood still, as gentle as a young lamb, and he had no trouble bringing him to the stable. Then he went to his room again, and began to whistle and sing. In the evening the giant came home with his goats. "Did you fetch the horse?" he asked. "Yes, master," said the king's son. "It would make a fine saddle-horse, but I just took it straight to the stable." "I'll have to see that," said the giant, and went into the stable. But there stood the horse, just as the king's son had said. "You surely must have spoken to my Master Girl, for you could not have done that alone," said the giant. "Yesterday the master chattered about the Master Girl, and to-day he is talking about her again. I wish master would show me the creature, for I surely would like to see her," said the king's son, and pretended to be very simple and stupid. "You will get to see her in plenty of time," said the giant.

              On the third morning the giant went off again with his goats. "To-day you must go to the devil, and fetch me his tribute," said he to the king's son. "When you have done that, you may rest for the remainder of the time, for you have come to a kind master, and you might as well know it," and with that he went off. "You may be a kind master," said the king's son; "yet you hand over some pretty mean jobs to me in spite of it, but I think I'll look after your Master Girl a bit. You claim that she belongs to you, but perhaps, in spite of it, she may tell me what to do," and with that he went in to her. And when the Master Girl asked him what the giant had given him to do that day, he told her he must go to the devil and fetch a tribute. "But how will you go about it?" asked the Master Girl. "You will have to tell me that," said the king's son, "for I have never been to the devil's place, and even though I knew the way there, I still would not know how much to ask for." "I will tell you what you must do," said the Master Girl. "You must go to the rock behind the pasture, and take the club that is lying there, and strike the rock with it. Then one will come out whose eyes flash fire, and you must tell him your business. And if he asks how much you want, you must tell him as much as you can carry." He would take good note of it, said the king's son, and he sat there with the Master Girl all day long until evening, and he might be sitting there yet, if the Master Girl had not reminded him that he must still go to the devil about the tribute before the giant came home. So he set out, and did exactly as the Master Girl had told him: he went to the rock, took the club and beat against it. Then one came out from whose eyes and nose the sparks flew. "What do you want?" he asked. "The giant has sent me to fetch his tribute," said the king's son. "How much do you want?" the other again inquired. "I never ask for more than I can carry," was the reply of the king's son. "It is lucky for you that you did not ask for a whole ton at once," said the one on the hill. "But come in with me, and wait a while." This the king's son did, and saw a great deal of gold and silver lying in the hill like dead rock in an ore-pile. Then as much as he could carry was packed up, and with it he went his way. When the giant came home in the evening with his goats, the king's son was running about the room, whistling and singing as on the two preceding evenings. "Did you go to the devil for the tribute?" asked the giant. "Yes, indeed, master," said the king's son. "Where did you put it?" asked the giant again. "I stood the sack of gold outside on the bench," was the reply. "I must see that at once," said the giant, and went over to the bench. But the sack was really standing there, and it was so full that the gold and silver rolled right out when the giant loosened the string. "You surely must have spoken to my Master Girl," said the giant. "If that is the case I will tear your head off." "With your Master Girl?" said the king's son. "Yesterday master talked about that Master Girl, and to-day he is talking about her again, and the day before yesterday he talked about her, too! I only wish that I might get the chance to see her sometime!" said he. "Well, just wait until to-morrow," said the giant, "and then I will lead you to her myself," he said. "A thousand thanks, master," said the king's son, "but I think you are only joking!" The following day the giant took him to the Master Girl.

              "Now you must slaughter him, and cook him in the big kettle, you know which one I mean. And when the soup is ready, you can call me," said the giant, and he lay down on the bench to sleep, and at once began to snore so that the hills shook. Then the Master Girl took a knife, and cut the youth's little finger, and let three drops of blood fall on the bench. Then she took all the old rags, and old shoes and other rubbish she could find, and threw them all into the kettle. And then she took a chest of gold-dust, and a lick-stone, and a bottle of water that hung over the door, and a golden apple, and two golden hens, and left the giant's castle together with the king's son as quickly as possible. After a time they came to the sea, and they sailed across; though where they got the ship I do not exactly know.

              Now when the giant had been sleeping quite a while, he began to stretch himself on his bench. "Is dinner ready yet?" he asked. "Just begun!" said the first drop of blood on the bench. Then the giant turned around, went to sleep again, and went on sleeping for quite some time. Then he again turned around a little. "Is dinner not ready yet?" he said, but did not open his eyes--nor had he done so the first time--for he was still half asleep. "It is half ready!" called out the second drop of blood, and then the giant thought it was the Master Girl. He turned around on the bench and took another nap. After he had slept a couple of hours longer, he once more began to move about and stretch: "Is dinner still not ready?" said he. "Ready!" answered the third drop of blood. The giant sat up and rubbed his eyes. But he could not see who had called him, and so he called out to the Master Girl. But no one answered him. "O, I suppose she has gone out for a little," thought the giant, and he dipped his spoon in the kettle to try the dinner; but there was nothing but leather soles and rags and like rubbish cooked together, and he did not know whether it were mush or porridge. When he noticed this he began to see a light, and realize how matters had come to pass, and he grew so angry that he hardly knew what to do, and made after the king's son and the Master Girl in flying haste. In a short time he came to the sea, and could not cross. "But I know how to help myself," said he. "I will fetch my sea-sucker." So the sea-sucker came, and lay down and took two or three swallows, and thus lowered the water so that the giant could see the king's son and the Master Girl out on the ship. "Now you must throw the lick-stone overboard," said the Master Girl, and the king's son did so. It turned into a tremendous large rock square across the sea, and the giant could not get over, and the sea-sucker could drink up no more of the sea. "I know quite well what I must do," said the giant. "I must now fetch my hill-borer." So the hill-borer came, and bored a hole through the rock, so the sea-sucker could get through and keep on sucking. But no sooner were they thus far than the Master Girl told the king's son to pour a drop or so of the bottle overboard, and the sea grew so full that they had landed before the sea-sucker could so much as take a single swallow.

              Now they wanted to go home to the father of the king's son; but he would not hear of the Master Girl's going afoot, since he did not think this fitting for either of them. "Wait here a little while, until I fetch the seven horses that stand in my father's stable," said the king's son. "It is not far, and I will soon be back; for I will not have my bride come marching home afoot." "No, do not do so, for when you get home to the castle you will forget me, I know that positively," said the Master Girl. "How could I forget you?" said the king's son. "We have passed through so many hardships together, and we love each other so dearly," said he. He wanted to fetch the coach and seven horses at all costs, and she was to wait by the seashore. So at last the Master Girl had to give in.

              "But when you get there, you must not take time to greet a single person. You must at once go to the stable, harness the horses, and drive back as swiftly as you can. They will all come to meet you, but you must act as though you did not see them, and must not take a single bite to eat. If you do not do that, you will make both of us unhappy," said she. And he promised to do as she had said.

              But when he got home to the castle, one of his brothers was just getting married, and the bride and all the guests were already there. They all crowded around him and asked him this, and asked him that, and wanted to lead him in. But he acted as though he saw none of them, led out the horses, and began to put them to the coach. And since they could by no manner of means induce him to come into the castle, they came out with food and drink, and offered him the best of all that had been prepared for the wedding feast.

              But the king's son would taste nothing, and only made haste in order to get away. Yet, finally, the bride's sister rolled an apple over to him across the court-yard: "And if you will touch nothing else, then at least you might take a bite of the apple, for you must be hungry and thirsty after your long journey," said she, and he took the apple and bit into it. But no sooner did he have the bit of apple in his mouth than he had forgotten the Master Girl, and that he was to fetch her. "I think I must be going mad! What am I doing with the horses and the coach?" he said, and he led back the horses into the stable, and went back to the castle, and wanted to marry the bride's sister, the one who had thrown him the apple.

              In the meantime the Master Girl sat by the seashore, and waited and waited; but no king's son came. Then she went on, and after she had gone a while, she came to a little hut that lay all by itself in the forest, near the king's castle. She went in and asked whether she might not stay there. Now the little hut belonged to an old woman, and she was an arrant and evil witch; at first she did not want to take in the Master Girl at all; but at last she agreed to do so for love of money. But the whole hut was as dark and dirty as a pig-sty; therefore the Master Girl said she would clean up a bit, so that things would look as they did in other, decent people's houses. The old woman would have none of it, and was very disagreeable and angry; but the Master Girl paid no attention to her. She took the chest of gold dust, and threw a handful into the fire, so that a ray of gold shone over the whole hut, and it was gilded outside and in. But when the gold flamed up, the old woman was so terribly frightened that she ran out as though the evil one were after her, and from pure rage she forgot to duck at the threshold, and ran her head against the door-post. And that was the end of her.

              The following morning the bailiff came by. He was much surprised to see the little golden hut, glittering and sparkling there in the forest, and was still more surprised at the girl within the hut. He fell in love with her at once, and asked her whether she would not become the bailiff's lady. "Yes, but have you plenty of money?" said the Master Girl. Yes, he had quite a little, said the bailiff. Then he went home to fetch his money, and came back again at evening dragging along an enormous sack of it, which he stood on a bench before the door. The Master Girl said that, seeing he had so much money, she would accept him. And then she asked him to rake the fire, which she said she had forgotten to do. But as soon as he had the poker in his hand, the Master Girl cried: "May God grant that you hold the poker, and the poker hold you, and that sparks and ashes fly around you until morning!" And there the bailiff stood the whole night through, and sparks and ashes flew about him, nor were the sparks the less hot for all his complaining and begging. And when morning came, and he could let go the poker, he did not stay long; but ran off as though the evil one were at his heels. And those who saw him stared and laughed, for he ran like a madman, and looked as though he had been thrashed and tanned. And all would have liked to have known where he had come from, but he said not a word, for he was ashamed.

              On the following day the clerk passed by the Master Girl's little house. He saw it glistening and shining in the woods, and went in to find out who lived there. When he saw the beautiful girl he fell even more deeply in love with her than the bailiff had, and lost no time in suing for her hand. The Master Girl asked him, as she had asked the bailiff, whether he had plenty of money. Money he had to spare, answered the clerk, and ran right home to fetch it. By evening he was back again with a great sack--it must have been as much again as the bailiff had brought--and stood it on the bench. And so she promised to take him. Then she asked him to shut the house-door, which she said she had forgotten to do. But when he had the door-knob in his hand, she cried: "May God grant that you hold the door-knob and that the door-knob hold you, and that you move back and forth with it all night long until morning!" And the clerk had to dance the whole night through, such a waltz as he had never tripped before, and he had no wish to repeat the experience. Sometimes he was ahead, and sometimes the door was, and so they went back and forth all night, from wall to post and post to wall, and he was nearly bruised to death. First he cursed, then he wailed and pleaded; but the door paid no attention to him, and flung open and shut until it dawned. When it at last released him, he hurried away as quickly as though he had stolen something, forgot his sackful of money, and his wish to marry, and was glad that the door did not come threshing along after him. All grinned and stared at the clerk, for he ran like a madman, and looked worse than if a ram had been butting him all night long.

              On the third day the magistrate came by, and also saw the little golden house in the forest. And he, too, went in to see who lived in it. And when he saw the Master Girl, he fell so deeply in love with her that he sued for her hand as soon as he bade her good-day. But she told him just what she had told the others, that if he had plenty of money she would take him. He had money enough, said the magistrate, and he went straight home to fetch it. When he came back in the evening, he had a much bigger sack of money with him than the clerk had had, and he stood it on the bench. Then the Master Girl said she would take him. But first she asked him to go fetch the calf, which she had forgotten to bring to the stable. And when he had the calf by the tail she cried: "May God grant that you hold the calf's tail, and the calf's tail hold you, and that you fly about the world together until morning!" And with that the race began, over stick and stone, over hill and dale, and the more the magistrate cursed and yelled, the more madly the calf ran away. When it dawned there was hardly a whole bone in the magistrate's body, and he was so happy to be able to let go the calf's tail that he forgot his bag of money, and the whole occurrence. It is true that he went home more slowly than the bailiff and the clerk; but the slower he went the more time the people had to stare and grin at him, so ragged and badly beaten did he appear after his dance with the calf.

              On the following day there was to be a wedding at the castle, and not only was the older prince to marry, but the one who had stayed with the giant as well, and he was to get the other bride's sister.

              But when they entered the coach and were about to drive to church, one of the axles broke. They took another, and then a third, but all of them broke, no matter what kind of wood they used. It took a great deal of time, and they did not move from the spot, and got all out of sorts. Then the bailiff said, for he had also been invited to the wedding at the castle, that a maiden lived out in the forest, and "if they could only get the loan of her poker, it would be sure to hold." So they sent to the little house in the forest, and asked most politely whether the maiden would not loan them the poker of which the bailiff had spoken. And they got it, too, and then they had an axle that would not break.

              But when they wanted to drive on, the bottom of the coach broke. They made a new bottom as well as they were able, but no matter how they put it together, nor what kind of wood they used, it kept on breaking again as soon as they had left the court-yard. And they were worse off than they had been with the axle. Then the clerk said--for if the bailiff was one of the company, you may be sure they had not forgotten to invite the clerk--"Out in the forest lives a maiden, and if you will get the loan of her house-door, I am sure it would not break." So they sent to the little house in the forest, and asked most politely whether the maiden would not loan them the golden house-door, of which the clerk had told them. And they got it, too, and were about to drive on, when suddenly the horses could not draw the coach. There were six, so they put to eight, and then ten and twelve, but though they put as many as they liked to the coach and helped along with the whip, still the coach would not budge. The day was already far advanced, and they simply had to get to church, and actually began to despair. But then the magistrate said that out in the golden house in the forest lived a maiden, "and if one could only get the loan of her calf, it would be sure to pull the coach, and though it were as heavy as a bowlder." They did not think it quite the thing to drive to church with a calf; but still there was nothing to do but to send to the maiden, and to ask her most politely, with a kind greeting from the king, if she would loan them the calf of which the magistrate had spoken. Nor did the Master Girl refuse them this time. And then, when they had put the calf to the coach, it moved from the spot quickly enough. It flew over stick and stone, hill and dale, so that the people inside could hardly catch their breath. First it was on the ground, and next it was in the air, and when they reached the church, it spun around it like a top, and they had the greatest difficulty in getting out and into the church. And going home they went still faster, and were nearly out of their wits by the time they reached the castle.

              When they sat down to the table the king's son--the same who had been at the giant's--said it would be no more than right to invite the maiden, too, who had lent them the poker, and the door and the calf: "for if we had not had these things, we should not have moved from the spot." This seemed right to the king, so he sent five of his most distinguished courtiers to the little golden house. They were to carry the king's kindest greetings, and ask that the maiden come up to the castle and take dinner with them. "A kind greeting to the king, and if he is too good to come to me, then I am too good to go to him," said the Master Girl. So the king had to go to her himself, and then she went along with him at once, and the king saw very well that she was more than she appeared to be, and gave her a place at the head of the table, next to the young bridegroom. After they had been at dinner for a while, the Master Girl produced the rooster and the hen and the golden apple--they were the three things she had taken along from the giant's castle--and placed them on the table before her. At once the rooster and the hen began to fight for the golden apple. "Why, just see how the two fight for the golden apple!" said the king's son. "Yes, that is how we had to fight the time we wanted to get out of the rock!" said the Master Girl. And then the king's son recognized her, and was very happy. The witch who had rolled the apple over to him was duly punished, and then the wedding really began, and the bailiff, and the clerk and the magistrate held out to the very end, for all that their wings had been so thoroughly singed.


"The Master Girl" (Asbjörnsen and Moe, N.F.E., p. 222. No. 46) is fitted out with a great wealth of interesting incident. The dream motive of not being able to get away is most delightfully woven into the context of the story, and the sea-sucker, whom the giant fetches to stop the flight of the lovers, is a unique creation of fancy.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Master Girl, The
Tale Author/Editor: Stroebe, Klara
Book Title: Norwegian Fairy Book, The
Book Author/Editor: Stroebe, Klara
Publisher: Frederick A. Stokes Company
Publication City: New York
Year of Publication: 1922
Country of Origin: Norway
Classification: ATU 313: The Magic Flight

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