(a Norwegian tale)
Once upon a time in a village in the snowy Norwegian mountains, there lived a tailor and his family. Every year during the holiday season, the trolls moved into their house. They were so difficult that the family had to move away and the trolls took over.
Each year, hoping this would be the last, the family prepared their house for the invasion of the trolls. They set their big table with sweets and sausages, fish and fruit, cakes and cream and porridge. They left behind great jugs of wine and beer.
But every year the same thing happened. The trolls were greedy and heartless creatures. Some of them were big and tall, with legs as long as tree trunks. Some were tiny with long, twisty tails. Some had no tails at all but had instead big, bulbous noses. Some had eyes like black marbles that rolled in the sockets. Some were cruel and monstrously fat. Some were small and shrunken. But they had one thing in common: They loved to eat and drink. And they could never get enough!
Every year after the trolls had eaten everything on the table, and after they had drunk up every last drop in the jugs, they began to search the house for more. They turned over the furniture and tore apart the pillows and quilts. They ripped up the tailor’s material and spilled his pins. They unspooled his threads. They climbed the curtains and tossed books and trinkets. In their search for more, every year they destroyed the house.
One day not long before Christmas an animal trainer was passing through town, and he stopped and knocked upon the tailor’s door. When the tailor answered, the trainer said, “Please, sir, would you be kind enough to offer my pet and me a place to stay?”
“Ah,” the tailor sighed, “it’s fine for you to stay the night, but tomorrow we leave. The trolls will be coming. Every holiday season they take over our house.”
“I don’t mind trolls,” the trainer said. “We’re so cold, my pet and I, we’d just like to be warm.” And with that an enormous white bear stepped from behind the trainer.
When the tailor saw the bear, he stepped back in fear; he had never been so near such a big bear. The animal trainer said quickly, “Please, don’t worry, he’s very well trained.” And that big white bear bowed hello to the tailor.
Outside the snow was falling in sheets, and the wind was roaring, and the sky was forbidding. The tailor’s heart went out to the trainer and his bear. “Please, both of you, come in for the night,” he said.
“So we shall!” the trainer said, and in he walked, the bear right behind. They curled up beside the woodstove and there they happily warmed their faces and their feet. They were happy to have a roof over their heads.
The very next morning the tailor, his wife and their children packed their bags. “We’re leaving,” they said to the trainer. “The trolls will be here any moment now. You’ll want to be going, too.”
The animal trainer shook his head. “Perhaps we could stay?” He had no desire to leave the warmth of the woodstove, and neither did his big white bear.
“But the trolls …” the tailor cautioned.
The trainer waved away the tailor’s concerns. “I’m a trainer, remember? We’ll be just fine. Perhaps I’ll even train the trolls.”
The tailor laughed at the thought, but he left the trainer and his bear behind, and a few hours later the trolls came.
They roared into the house and quickly gobbled up the sweets and the sausages, the porridge and the cream. They downed the jugs of wine and beer. Then suddenly one of the tiny trolls spotted two big eyes staring out from under the stove. Curious, he picked up a sausage and walked toward the stove. “Here kitty, kitty,” he said, holding out that sausage.
At that the bear emerged from beneath the stove, stood upon his hind legs and let out a tremendous roar.
At that sound, the trolls turned and saw the monster — bigger than the biggest troll, with longer claws and sharper teeth and rounder eyes. They shrieked and dropped their plates and cups and bowls.
“Watch out!” cried the grandfather troll. And one after the other, they raced out the door.
When the holidays were done, the tailor and his family returned home, but when he opened the door, the tailor could not believe his eyes. The house was in perfect order. On the table stood sweets and sausages, porridge and cream, jugs of wine and beer. It was as if nothing had been disturbed. Even the trainer and his bear were gone.
A few weeks later, the tailor was walking through the woods when suddenly he heard a voice calling from behind a grove of pines. “Tailor!” the voice cried. “Is that you?”
The tailor recognized the voice of the grandfather troll. “It is,” he answered, and his heart sank, for he had hoped those trolls were long gone.
“Do you still have that big cat of yours?” asked the grandfather troll.
That’s when the tailor understood. He held back a smile. “I do,” he said. “She’s still lying under the stove.”
“And will she be there next holiday season?” asked the troll.
“Indeed she will,” the tailor said. “And soon she’ll be having kittens, so there will be many more cats there.”
“You shan’t be seeing us again, then!” the troll cried. Then there was silence.
And sure enough, the trolls never again appeared in the Norwegian mountains.