An illustration of a three-headed troll looking for its lost eye.

The Lads Who Met
The Trolls In The Hedale Wood 


Once upon a time in the olden days there lived a poor old couple, tenants on a small farm up in Vaage in the Gudbrandsdale. They had many children, and two of the sons, who might be about half grown up, had always to tramp about the parish begging. They knew therefore all the roads and by-roads, and they knew also the short cut to Hedale.

They were one day going there, but as they had heard that some falconers had built themselves a hut at Mœla, they thought they would just look in there at the same time and see the birds and how they were caught, so they took the short cut over the Longmoors. But it was so late in the autumn, that the dairymaids had gone away from the dairies on the mountains and they could find neither shelter nor food anywhere. They had therefore to make their way for Hedale, but it was only a slight path, so when the night set in they lost the track, and to make matters worse they could not find the birdcatchers’ hut either. Before they knew where they were, they were right in the thick of Bjölstad wood. They knew they should not be able to get out of the wood that night, so they commenced cutting boughs off the pine trees, made a fire and built a hut of the branches, for they had a hatchet with them. So they gathered heather and moss to make a bed of. Shortly after they had lain down, they heard something which sniffed and snuffed very loudly through the nose. The boys put their ears to the ground and listened attentively to hear whether it were wild beasts or a troll. Just then the sniffing became louder and some one shouted,
“I smell Christian blood about here!”

And they heard somebody walking so heavily that the ground shook under their feet. They knew it was the trolls who were about. “Lord help us! what shall we do?” said the youngest lad to his brother.

“Oh, you had better stand under the fir tree, where you are, and be ready to take our bags and make off, when you see them coming; I will look after the hatchet,” said the elder brother.

Just then they saw the trolls approaching; they were so big and tall that their heads reached as high as the tops of the fir trees, but they had only one eye amongst the three of them, and this they used in turn. They had a hole in their foreheads, in which they put it and shifted it about with their hands. He who had the eye went first; the others followed behind and kept hold of the first.

“Run away now,” said the elder of the lads, “but don’t run too far, before you see what happens. Since they have got their eye so high up, they can’t see me very well, when I tackle them from behind.”

Well, the younger brother ran off and the trolls after him. In the meantime, the elder brother got behind them and gave the last troll a cut with the hatchet in the ankle. The troll gave a horrible shriek, which frightened and gave the first troll such a start that the eye fell out of his forehead. But the lad was not slow in picking it up. The eye was larger than two pint basins put together, and it was so bright, that although the night was pitch dark, he could see as clearly as by daylight, when he looked through it.

When the trolls found that he had taken their eye from them and that he had wounded one of them, they began to threaten him with every kind of evil in existence, if he did not return them the eye at once.

“I am not afraid of trolls or threats either,” said the lad, “now I have got three eyes all to myself and you three haven’t got any.”

“If we don’t get our eye back this minute, we’ll turn you into stocks and stones,” screeched the trolls.

But the lad thought there was no hurry; he wasn’t afraid of witchcraft or their bragging words. If they didn’t leave him alone, he would cut away at them all three till they had to crawl along the ground like snakes.

When the trolls heard this they became frightened, and began to use more polite words. They begged him very nicely to give them their eye back again and he should have both silver and gold and everything he wished for. Well, the lad thought that was very fair, but he wanted all the gold and silver first; and so he said, if one of them would go home and fetch as much gold and silver as he and his brother could fill their bags with and give them two good cross-bows of steel in the bargain, they should have their eye again, but untii they did this he would keep it.

The trolls screamed and wailed, and said that none of them could go home when they hadn’t any eye to see with, but one of them began to bawl out for their old woman, for they also had a gudewife among the three of them. After a while somebody up in the mountains a good way off to the north answered. So the trolls said that she must come with two steel cross-bows and two buckets full of gold and silver, and before very long she was there, I can tell you. When she heard what had happened, she also commenced to threaten them with witchcraft. But the trolls were afraid, and asked her to beware of the little wasp. She had better mind or he might take her eye as well. So she threw down the buckets with the gold and the silver and the cross-bows to them and made off towards the mountains with the trolls But since that time no one has heard that the trolls have been walking in the Hedale wood sniffing for Christian blood.

Author: P.C Asbjørnsen
Norwegian version here