Page:The Folk-Lore Journal Volume 7 1889.djvu/160

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my life." When this was made known to the king, he dismissed the condemned men with presents, and pnt the chief minister and his son to death.

In the Icelandic variant from Symington's Pen and Pencil Sketches of Faroe and Iceland,[1] a peasant who has many sheep gives the wool to his wife to spin during the winter, but she is lazy, and neglects her work. An old witch comes begging, and in return for alms bargains to make the wool into cloth by the first day of summer, the wife agreeing to tell the witch's name in three guesses in lieu of any payment. As the summer nears, the wife becomes ill with anxiety about fulfilling her contract, and confesses the cause to her husband. Soon after this he loses his way in the mountains, and, overhearing a voice in the hollow of a cliff, peeps in, sees an old woman spinning, and hears her introduce her name, Gilitrutt, into her snatches of song. When he goes home he says nothing to his wife till the day that the witch is to bring back the cloth. On her arrival the wife gives two wrong guesses, but at the third guess suggests Gilitrutt, whereupon the witch falls down thunderstruck, and presently disappears to be nevermore seen.

The intimate correspondences, both in outline and detail, between certain of the foregoing variants which are found widely apart, as e. g., the Magyar and the Scotch, tempt us to speculation concerning the origin and transmission of the tale. But one can only repeat the alternative theories which have been framed to explain the general question of folktale origin and diffusion, and it is pretty well agreed that this, with the profoundly interesting question of race movements, contacts, and mixtures, which lies at the back of it, cannot be dealt with until our materials are more complete, and subjected to the scientific treatment to which reference was made at the outset. This, however, does not hinder brief allusion to some possible germs of the "Rumpelstiltskin" story which may be detected in archaic legend.

In Northern Saga king Olaf desired to build a church greater than

  1. Pp. 240-244.