Tovik Tomte And The Trolls
Continued from the last issue
One time Skimpa had stolen the best bull from the farm. Father was very angry, to be sure; so he slipped into Troll Hill after Skimpa, just in time to see Jompa raise an axe above the poor the poor beast's head. Father did not lose a moment: he leapt upon the bull's broad back, pricked it with a pin and hung on tightly as the bull reared up, knocking over the two evil trolls and rushing through the open door with Father on its back.'
The tomtes chortled with delight; two laughed so hard they fell backwards off their logs, feet kicking in the air.
And you, Grandad,' continued Tovik, 'have you been inside Troll Hill?'
'Many times,' he said. 'But I've never taken anything save what was already stolen. Once I barely escaped alive; and when I did get home I was so black no one recognized me. That's because their sooty chimney was the only way out.'
The young tomte listened with shining eyes. How he'd love to fetch some present from the trolls to give to Adelgunda, the farmer's daughter; she was to be married soon. And she was so kind to everyone that Tovik wished to reward her.
The tomtes sat and listened to old Tarfa's tales for a long time, until at last they all felt sleepy. One by one they left for their own barns, and Grandad fell asleep on an old mitten in his corner, while Torgus and Tovik lay down upon a rabbit skin between two sugar bins.
But the young tomte could not get to sleep. All the time he thought of how he might bring Adelgunda a gift from the troll treasure trove. Surely there would be no harm in that. A last, he sat up, put on his tasselled cap and wooden clogs, picked up his wooden stick and set out for hulta Wood.
The night was dark and frosty. Not a single star looked down; not a single twinkling light came from the village windows. Everyone was sleeping in the quiet of Christmas night; and only now and then did Tovik catch the bark of foxes as they hunted through the night. But he was not afraid of the dark, nor of foxes.
He could not walk fast since his tiny legs took five steps for every one of human folk. All the same, an hour later he was at the foot of black troll Hill. Not a glimmer of light could be seen from any hillside nook or cranny. Yet from deep inside he caught a tinkling, clinking sound, as if someone was counting gold and silver coins.
Tovik began to climb the hill. It was slow painful work, and sometimes he slipped backwards, but he kept climbing slowly up from rock to rock, tuft to tuft, bush to bush, until he was halfway up the hill.
An owl hooted somewhere close at hand, but Tovik was not afraid. He made up his mind to climb and climb until he found the door. Finally, bruised and breathless, he spotted a faint light blinking through a slim crack in the rocks. Poking his stick into the crevice, he turned it slowly and a copper door opened up. Squeezing through, he found himself in an enormous cavern with walls and ceiling of rough-hewn stone. On the floors were scattered the bones of countless cattle, and rusty swords and spears hung upong the wall. He walked on quickly.
After a time he came to a second door, this one of silver. It opened as easily as the first and Tovik passed into another hall, with piles of silver coins stacked against the wall. There was a fortune there to buy a homestead or maybe three or four. Just them he heard a jingle-jangle from behind another door.
He crept up to a gleaming door of gold and slowly pushed it open. There in the largest of the halls stood an open chest in the centre of the floor; and beside it stood two terrible giant trolls. Pearls and golden coins, sparkling gems and bracelets tumbled through their hairy paws. So busy were they counting the treasure in their chest that they neither saw nor heard the tomte boy.
On the far side of the hall Tovik spied a fountain of bubbling water that bobbed up, then down into the earth below. An old wooden troll shoe, tied to the wall with string, was trailing in the water no doubt the troll pair's ladle.
Tovik crept up as quietly as he could dodging behind each rock as he approached the chest. He could not see inside it even when he stood on tiptoe. Just as he was getting close, however, the two trolls sneezed, both together.
So strong was the sneezy gust of wind that it caught up the little tomte and whisked him through the air like a wisp of hay. And he landed head first in the chest.
He thought that would be the end of him. But those stupid trolls were too busy counting up their fortune even to notice. While they were counting, Tovik went to climb down a shining necklace dangling from the chest. But his luck was out.
Just then the church bells to chime, announcing Christmas Day. Jompa and Skimpa at once stuck their fingers in their ears,
Banged shut the chest and locked the cavern doors.
Tovik was trapped inside the chest.
He would have to stay there, with no change of escape until next Christmas Eve. he would starve to death long before that. But he was a clever lad, with more sense than the slow-witted trolls. He put his mouth to the keyhole of the chest and began to make mouse-like noises, 'Squeak, squeak, squeak'.
'There's mouse in our chest', the troll ogress cried.
'Let it stay until hunger kills it; it won't eat our gold,' the old troll said.
'But it might nibble a hole in the chest,' Skimpa grumbled.
'Yes, my dear, you could be right,' old Jompa sighed.
So they opened up the chest again. Imagine their surpirse to see the little tomte sitting amidst their golden coins.
'My, what a funny-looking mouse!' Jompa exclaimed.
'I'm not a mouse, I'm Tovik Torgusson, the youngest tomte at the farm,' the boy spoke up fearlessly.
The trolls laughed and laughed until their bellies shook.
'Ha, ha, ha ! He, he, he! Ho, ho, ho!'
'He'll make fine stuffing for the Christmas turkey', guffawed Jompa Troll. 'Prepare the frying pan, Skimpa lass.'
'You can't eat me, I'm still dirty from my journey', piped up Tovik.
'Hold your tongue,' the big troll warned. 'We'll wash you clean then before we gobble you up.' So he held the boy on the edge of the fountain, splashing water over him.
'That won't do at all,' Tovik spluttered. 'You need a scrubbing brush and soap; I'm full of grit and grime.'
'What at fussy little imp,' grumbled Jompa. But he let go of Tovik and went to fetch some soap and a scrubbing brush.
In a flash, the little tomte, still clutching a glittering necklace, hopeed into the wooden shoe, took out his knife and cut the string that tied it to the wall. And off they went.
The wooden shoe swiftly sailed out of sight of the trolls, swirling down into a dark and eerie tunnel. Jompa and Skimpa howled loud enough to burst your eardrums; but they could not catch the tomte now.
The fast-flowing stream carried the wooden shoe down through the underground water course and out, eventually, into light of day, close by the farm. As it bumped into the shore, Tovik quickly hopped out and made his way back to the barn.
He was scolded severely by his father, but he now had a stirring tale to tell his own children and grandchildren in the centuries to come. And how happy and surprised was Adelgunda to find the gleaming necklace on her pillow.
She never knew from where it came.
(Based on a Swedish folk tale)
(R) thedailystar.net 2008