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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Butterball

The story of the boy who was fooled by the troll, but it in the end has the final say is a common and popular folk tale across Europe and much of Asia. In Norway, it was first printed in 1844, in a variation recorded in Hallingdal by writer and scholar Peter Christen Asbjørnsen, then by the name of Smørbukk. In 1935, the boy even got his own candy named after him, a caramel loved and known by Norwegians by heart.
 
This is by far one of the most peculiar and (somewhat) twisted fairytales I have ever encountered, and I am absolutely smitten by this bizarre little boy. I trust I will not remain the only one.

Once upon a time, there was an old woman who was baking. She had a little boy, he was so fat, always craving for something to eat, and therefore she called him Butterball. They also had a dog they called Gold Tooth. All at once, the dog started to bark.
"Run out, Butterball of mine," said the woman, "and see who Gold Tooth is barking at".
So the boy ran out, came back and said: "Oh, heaven help me, a big, old trollhag is coming, with her head under her arm and a sack on her back."
"Run under the breadboard and hide," said his mother.
Shortly thereafter, came the hag.
"Good day!" she said.
"God bless!" said Butterball's mother.
"Is not Butterball at home today?" asked the hag.
"No, he's in the woods with his father, hunting grouse," replied the mother.
"What a pity!" said the hag; "I have such a nice little silver knife I wanted to give him."
"Beep, beep, here I am!" said Butterball under the breadboard, and came forward.
"I'm so old and my back is stiff," said the troll. "You'll have to pop down into the sack and fetch it yourself."
"Is not Butterball at home today?" Illustration by Theodor Kittelsen
When Butterball was well on his way down the sack, the troll threw the sack on her back and were out the door. But when they were a bit on the way, the hag grew tired and asked: "How far off is it to sleep?"
"A half-furlong," said Butterball.
And so the troll put the sack down by the road, went off through the woods by herself and lay down to sleep. Meanwhile, Butterball took his silver knife, ripped a hole in the bag and popped out. To cover his tracks, he put large pine root in the sack, and ran home to his mother. When the hag got home and saw what in the bag, she was terribly angry.
The day after, the old woman sat and baked once more. Again, the dog started to bark. "Run out, Butterball of mine," said the woman, "and see who Gold Tooth is barking at".
So the boy ran out, came back and said: "Oh, no, oh no, it’s the awful troll again, with her head under her arm and a sack on her back."
"Run under the breadboard and hide," said his mother.
Shortly thereafter, came the hag.
"Good day!" she said. “Is not Butterball at home today?"
"No, he's in the woods with his father, hunting grouse," replied the mother.
"What a pity!" said the hag; "I have such a nice little silver fork I wanted to give him."
"Beep, beep, here I am!" said Butterball under the breadboard, and came forward.
"I'm so old and my back is stiff," said the troll. "You'll have to pop down into the sack and fetch it yourself."
When Butterball was well on his way down the sack, the troll threw the sack on her back and were out the door. But when they were a bit on the way, the hag grew tired and asked: "How far off is it to sleep?"
"Half a mile," said Butterball.
And so the troll put the sack down by the road, went off through the woods by herself and lay down to sleep. Meanwhile, Butterball took his silver knife, ripped a hole in the bag and popped out. To cover his tracks, he put large rock in the sack, and ran home to his mother.
When the hag got home, she made a fire in the hearth, hung up a huge boiler and was going to stew Butterball. But when she took the bag and thought she'd drop Butterball in the cauldron, the stone fell out and punched a hole in the bottom of the pan, so the water ran out and put out the fire. The troll got terribly angry and said, "I don’t care how heavy he makes himself, I'll trick him nonetheless."
The third time went just as the others; once more, the dog started to bark, and the boy’s mother said: “Run out, Butterball of mine," said the woman, "and see who Gold Tooth is barking at".
So the boy ran out, came back and said: "Oh dear! It’s the awful troll again, with her head under her arm and a sack on her back."
"Run under the breadboard and hide," said his mother.
Shortly thereafter, came the hag.
"Good day!" she said. “Is not Butterball at home today?"
"No, he's in the woods with his father, hunting grouse," replied the mother.
"What a pity!" said the hag; "I have such a nice little silver spoon I wanted to give him."
"Beep, beep, here I am!" said Butterball under the breadboard, and came forward.
"I'm so old and my back is stiff," said the troll. "You'll have to pop down into the sack and fetch it yourself."
"Oh, dear, it’s the awful troll again!" Illustration by Theodor Kittelsen
When Butterball was well on his way down the sack, the troll threw the sack on her back and were out the door. This time however, she did risk to nap during the journey, but went straight home with Butterball in the sack. When they arrived, it was a Sunday, so the troll said to her daughter:
"Now you take Butterball, slaughter him, and boil some nice stew on his flesh till I come back, because now I'm going to church and invite some friends over for a feast."
When the troll had gone however, the daughter was not exactly sure of how to go about it. "I'll show you how to," said Butterball; "Lay your head on the stool, and you’ll see."
And so she did, the poor thing, and Butterball took the ax and chopped off her head, as if she was a chicken. Then he put her head in the bed and the carcass in the pan, and cooked broth at the trollhag’s daughter. When he had done that, he crawled up over the door, taking with him the pine root and the rock, put one over the door and the other on the chimney pipe.
When the troll returned with her friends and saw her daughters’ head nicely tucked in under the sheets, they thought she was asleep, and sat down to taste the stew.
"Tastes good, Butterball broth!" said the hag.
"Tastes good, daughter broth!" said Butterball, but they did not hear him.
Then the mountain troll took the spoon, and was going to have a taste.
"Tastes good, Butterball broth!" he said.
"Tastes good, daughter broth!" said Butterball on the chimney pipe.
Then they wondered who it was that spoke, and wanted to go out to have a closer look. But when they came to the doorway, Butterball threw the pine root and the rock in their heads, and killed them. Then he took all the gold and silver that was in the house; now he was rich, a Butterball indeed; and then he went home to his mother.

Source:
  • Asbjørnsen & Moe. Eventyr. J.M. Stenersens Forlag, Oslo 2012.

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