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Popular Tales from the Norse

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For other English-language translations of this work, see Norwegian Folktales.
Popular Tales from the Norse  (1912) 
by George Webbe Dasent








D.C.L., ETC.


With a Memoir by





All rights reserved



THE first edition of these Tales being exhausted, and a demand having arisen for a second, the Translator has thought it right to add thirteen tales, which complete the translation of MM. Asbjörnsen and Moe's Collection, and to strengthen the Introduction by working in some new matter, and by working out some points which were only slightly sketched in the first edition.

The favour with which the book was welcomed makes it almost a duty to say a word here on the many kind and able notices which have been written upon it. Duties are not always pleasant, but the fulfilment of this at least gives no pain; because, without one exception, every criticism which the Translator has seen has shewn him that his prayer for "gentle" readers has been fully heard. It will be forgiven him, he hopes, when he says that he has not seen good ground to change or even to modify any of the opinions as to the origin and diffusion of popular tales put forth in the first edition. Much indeed has been said by others for those views; what has been urged against them, with all kindness and good humour, in one or two cases, has not availed at all to weigh down mature convictions deliberately expressed after the studies of years, backed as they are by the researches and support of those who have given their lives to this branch of knowledge.

And now, before the Translator takes leave of his readers for the second time, he will follow the lead of the good godmother in one of these Tales, and forbid all good children to read the two which stand last in the book. There is this difference between him and the godmother. She found her foster-daughter out as soon as she came back. He will never know it, if any bad child has broken his behest. Still he hopes that all good children who read this book will bear in mind that there is just as much sin in breaking a commandment even though it be not found out, and so he bids them good-bye, and feels sure that no good child will dare to look into those two rooms. If, after this warning, they peep in, they may perhaps see something which will shock them.

"Why then print them at all?" some grown reader asks. Because this volume is meant for you as well as for children, and if you have gone ever so little into the world with open eyes, you must have seen, yes, every day, things much more shocking. Because there is nothing immoral in their spirit. Because they are intrinsically valuable, as illustrating manners and traditions, and so could not well be left out. Because they complete the number of the Norse originals, and leave none untranslated. And last, though not least, because the Translator hates family versions of anything, "Family Bibles," "Family Shakespeares." Those who, with so large a choice of beauty before them, would pick out and gloat over this or that coarseness or freedom of expression, are like those who, in reading the Bible, should always turn to Leviticus, or those whose Shakespeare would open of itself at Pericles Prince of Tyre. Such readers the Translator does not wish to have.

Broad Sanctuary,
March 12, 1859.



THESE translations from the Norske Folkeeventyr, collected with such freshness and faithfulness by MM. Asbjörnsen and Moe, have been made at various times and at long intervals during the last fifteen years; a fact which is mentioned only to account for any variations in style or tone—of which, however, the Translator is unconscious—that a critical eye may detect in this volume. One of them, The Master Thief, has already appeared in Blackwood's Magazine for November 1851, from the columns of which periodical it is now reprinted, by the kind permission of the Proprietors.

The Translator is sorry that he has not been able to comply with the suggestion of some friends upon whose good-will he sets all store, who wished him to change and soften some features in these Tales, which they thought likely to shock English feeling. He has, however, felt it to be out of his power to meet their wishes, for the merit of an undertaking of this kind rests entirely on its faithfulness and truth; and the man who, in such a work, wilfully changes or softens, is as guilty as he "who puts bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter."

Of this guilt, at least, the Translator feels himself free; and, perhaps, if any, who may be inclined to be offended at first, will take the trouble to read the Introduction which precedes and explains the Tales, they may find, not only that the softening process would have spoilt these popular traditions for all except the most childish readers, but that the things which shocked them at the first blush are, after all, not so very shocking.

For the rest, it ill becomes him to speak of the way in which his work has been done: but if the reader will only bear in mind that this, too, is an enchanted garden, in which whoever dares to pluck a flower, does it at the peril of his head; and if he will then read the book in a merciful and tender spirit, he will prove himself what the Translator most longs to find, "a gentle reader," and both will part on the best terms.

Broad Sanctuary,
Dec. 12, 1858.



Memoir of the Author xvii


Origin xliii
Diffusion lvii
Norse Mythology lxxxi
Norse Popular Tales cviii
Conclusion clxi


True and Untrue 1
Why the Sea is Salt 8
The Old Dame and her Hen 14
East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon 22
Boots who ate a Match with the Troll 36
Hacon Grizzlebeard 39
Boots who made the Princess say, "That's a Story" 48
The Twelve Wild Ducks 51
The Giant who had no Heart in his Body 59
The Fox as Herdsman 69
The Mastermaid 71
The Cat on the Dovrefell 90
Princess on the Glass Hill 92
How One Went out to Woo 104
The Cock and Hen 105
The Master-Smith 105
The Two Step-Sisters 113
Buttercup 124
Taming the Shrew 129
Shortshanks 131
Gudbrand on the Hill-side 149
The Blue Belt 155
Why the Bear is Stumpy-Tailed 172
Not a Pin to Choose between Them 173
One's own Children are always Prettiest 180
The Three Princesses of Whiteland 181
The Lassie and her Godmother 188
The Three Aunts 193
The Cock the Cuckoo and the Blackcock 198
Rich Peter the Pedlar 199
Gertrude's Bird 213
Boots and the Troll 215
Goosey Grizzel 221
The Lad who went to the North Wind 228
The Master Thief 232
The Best Wish 252
The Three Billy-Goats Gruff 264
Well Done and Ill Paid 266
The Husband who was to Mind the House 269
Dapplegrim 272
Farmer Weathersky 285
Lord Peter 295
The Seven Foals 302
The Widow's Son 311
Bushy Bride 322
Boots and his Brothers 330
Big Peter and Little Peter 336
Tatterhood 345
The Cock and Hen that went to the Dovrefell 353
Katie Woodencloak 357
Thumbikin 372
Doll i' the Grass 374
The Lad and the Deil 377
The Cock and Hen a-Nutting 378
The Big Bird Dan 382
Soria Moria Castle 396
Bruin and Reynard 409
Tom Totherhouse 411
Little Annie the Goose-Girl 414
Introduction to Appendix 419
Note to Introduction to Appendix 422


Why the Jack-Spaniard's Waist is Small 425
Ananzi and the Lion 425
Ananzi and Quanqua 429
The Ear of Corn and the Twelve Men 430
The King and the Ant's Tree 432
The Little Child and the Pumpkin Tree 433
The Brother and his Sisters 434
The Girl and the Fish 437
The Lion the Goat and the Baboon 438
Ananzi and Baboon 439
The Man and the Doukana Tree 440
Nancy Fairy 441
The Dancing Gang 443

 This work is a translation and has a separate copyright status to the applicable copyright protections of the original content.


This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

Public domainPublic domainfalsefalse


This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

Public domainPublic domainfalsefalse