3. The Hunter's Cat
“The Valar bless us!” said Halvor. “I would gladly do as you ask, but I cannot. You see, I was captured by trolls seven years ago, and they spared my life only on condition that I prepare them a great feast every Yule, and let them use my house as they like for that night. Were I to take in a lodger, not only would my own life be forfeit, but the trolls would surely tear him apart.”
“Oh?”, replied the hunter. “Well, if that is all, then I can very well stay here. My bear can sleep under the stove, and I myself in the storeroom. If the trolls find me, they will take me for a common rover, not an invited guest”
The peasant was reluctant, but the hunter begged so prettily that at last the peasant consented, although warning his guest that he could not be accountable for what happened. Halvor and his family built up a great fire in the fireplace, and set the table, lading it with cream porridge, fish, sausages, and all manner of good things. They then slunk away quietly but quickly, lest they should encounter a troll come early.
No sooner had the family left then the trolls came in. They ate and drank like the gluttons that they were, and tasted everything. Then one saw the bear under the stove.
Now, trolls are neither seen nor heard of in these days of the blessed king Elfstone. Thus, it must be said that they are ugly and cruel…but also very stupid. So it was upon spotting the bear the troll stuck a sausage on a fork and jammed it up against the bear’s nose, burning it, and saying, “Here, kitty, will you have a sausage?” The bear, angered at having the hot grease smeared on its nose, growled and rose up, and chased the trolls out of the cottage. Then it had sausage – not one, but all that remained – and went back to sleep in its warm place under the stove.
The next year, Halvor was out in the forest – not the Great Forest, which is the realm of the Elvenking, and which Men enter only when in such distress that it means nothing to them if they live or die – but a little bosk near his cottage, gathering wood for the fire that evening, for it was Yule. A deep, harsh voice called out to him, “Halvor! Halvor!” He froze in fear, for he knew it was a troll calling his name. But he was surprised by its next words: “Do you still have that big white cat?”
“Yes”, replied Halvor, thinking quickly, “and she now has seven kittens, each bigger and fiercer than the last”.
“Then we shall never spend Yule in your cottage again!” said the voice, sounding horrified. And to be sure, no troll has been seen in Doverfield from that day to this.
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