Once upon a time there was a king who had a remarkably beautiful daughter. The king had declared that the person who could build a ship which would sail both on land and water would receive the princess and the throne as a reward.
Also in this kingdom there lived a farmer whose three sons were willing to solve this task. The eldest son was the first to try. One day he left together with some carpenters and lumberjacks to work in the forest. There he met an old woman who asked him for a piece of tobacco. The boy replied curtly that he hardly had enough for himself, so he couldn't give her any. Then the old woman asked him what all of these men were doing in the forest. "I think we'll be making pigtroughs today," the boy replied. "Pigtroughs! OK, you'll be making pigtroughs," the old woman laughed eagerly. The boy and the other men continued on into the forest and started to work, and everything they made seemed to become pigtroughs. When the boy had worked for three days he had had enough of it, and returned home.
His younger brother was the next to try. He also met the old woman and he didn't share his tobacco with her either, so everything he and the others made turned out to be pigtroughs too.
The youngest brother wanted to try next, but no one would let him go after the bad experiences of the older bothers. In the end, his father allowed him to go, but sent three men with him to look after him. When they reached the forest, he told these men, "promise that you will sit here and don't chop a piece of wood before I'm back."
He wandered around in the forest for eight days, marking the trees he wanted. Just as he was ready to return to the other men, he met the old woman. She looked at him and asked, "Do you have any tobacco to share with me?" "Of course I have," the boy replied and gave her a big piece of tobacco. His generosity made the old woman happy and she asked him what he was doing in the forest. He explained to her that he was planning to build a ship able to sail on sea, on land, and over mountains and valleys. The old woman promised to help him, but also told him to tell his men that they could leave for home because he wouldn't be building a ship. The boy did as she asked, and returned shortly. The old woman asked for another piece of tobacco, and he gave her an even bigger piece. "Now you rest, and I'll build the ship," the old woman said.
The boy slept for a while and when he awoke the frame of the ship was finished and the old woman was standing on the deck. She said, "I only wanted another piece of tobacco." The boy gave her the rest of the tobacco he had, and shortly thereafter he fell back to sleep. When he awoke the old woman was standing at the ship's rail. The ship was built! "Come aboard and have a look," she said.
The ship was so enormous that by the end of the first day, he was only halfway up the rope ladder. In the evening of the second day he finally reached the deck. He was astonished. Everything inside the ship shined like it was made of gold. He walked back and forth, but he couldn't find the old woman anywhere. He went into the cabin and was even more amazed. There were tables, couches, mirrors and all kinds of luxuries in the storerooms. The tables were covered with tablecloths and trays with a great variety of food.
He ate some in a hurry before going up to the bridge to try to get the ship to sail. Eager to get going, the boy raised all the sails, but the ship didn't move an inch. He could not understand this. The ship had been built for him, but he wasn't able to sail it. Suddenly he noticed something shining brightly in front of him. Grabbing for it, he found it was the ship's wheel. The ship started moving. He soon discovered that the more he moved the wheel, the quicker the ship ran. After running like this for thirty miles an hour for five days, the ship reached a lake. The boy took his hands off the wheel and the ship kept sailing. He went into the cabin to get some food and when he'd finished a delicious meal he lit his pipe and took a walk on deck.
Suddenly he was aware of a big black bird sitting on a beam facing his head northwards and walked up to the bird. It was not scared at all and it just ignored him and kept facing northwards. The bird said, "Let the Gullfaks sail. Turn the wheel northwards and I'll help you find the way." The boy followed the bird's advice and the ship regained its speed. They sailed like this for a fortnight. On the fifteenth day the bird told him to get the anchor ready. The boy did as it said, while the bird sat on the wheel, steering the ship. "How may meters of chain do I need," the boy asked. "Ninety-seven, but don't let the anchor down before I tell you to," the bird replied. When the command came, he dropped anchor, and all at once they were in the harbor of London.
Soon people crowded the docks to have a glimpse of this remarkable ship. All agreed that they'd never seen a ship like this before. The boy went ashore to gather a crew for his ship, and that's how I, the storyteller, and twenty-nine strong men were hired for the ship.
The bird also went ashore to have a look. Many rumors were circulating in the city. When the bird came back on board, he told the boy that to go ashore the next day to save a princess. The boy asked the bird, "How am I supposed to save a princess. I'm not able to save anybody the way I look." "We'll find a way then. Go ashore and buy a set of nice clothes. By tomorrow morning, you have to be ready and set to go," the bird replied.
In the morning, he put on his new clothes and the sword which he found laid out at his side when he awoke. Going ashore, he noticed that the city was strangely dark and quiet. Along the way he met a royal servant and he asked him why everything was so dark and quiet. He told the boy that an evil lion was terrorizing the city and had threatened to destroy it if he didn't get the last princess in the country. All the princesses in the entire country had already been given to the lion, including the two oldest daughters of the king. Now the lion demanded the king's youngest daughter, and the whole kingdom was beside themselves with grief. In front of the castle gate the boy came upon a black wagon. The princess was sitting in the wagon, and he asked her if he could ride with her. "Yes, but I'm afraid it's my last ride ever. That terrible lion has taken away both of my older sisters and now it is my turn," she replied.
The wagon drew up by a huge garden surrounded by an gated iron fence, which the lion had adopted as his domain. The boy wanted to follow the girl inside, but the girl refused. "You can be sure he will take you too." The boy was so persistent, that she eventually let him go along. As the huge gate was standing open, they simply entered. It was not long until the great lion approached them and let out a terrible roar. The princess was terrified, but the boy kept calm. Suddenly the bird swooped down, attacking the lion relentlessly until it had pecked picked out the lion's eyes. They bird then told the boy, "Take your sword and chop off its head." The boy did as he was told, and the princess was free.
Back at the king's castle, everybody was grieving over the loss of the princess. On their return, all rejoiced and thanked the boy for his brave deed. The king was so astonished at the return of his last daughter, that he was in shock and was not able to speak. When he had calmed down, he told the boy, "My dearest daughter, the princess, and half the kingdom are yours." He then asked the boy what his name was. They boy replied, "I am called the Red Knight, and it's my ship lying in the harbor. Keep the half of the kingdom you promised me, but let me have the princess as my wife. Thereafter, we'll set sail and try to find her missing sisters." A grand wedding was held, and the next fortnight was filled with great drinking, eating and celebrations.
When the time came for their departure, the king bade them farewell. The bird told the boy to take the wheel, and the boy sailed the ship for some time as the bird directed. At the bird's bidding, he took the spyglass and climbed the mast to look for an island. After a while, he caught a glimpse of an island far away. The bird then commanded the boy to prepare the anchor and, on the bird's command, he dropped anchor. The next day the boy and the princess lowered the rowboat they had bought in England and they both rowed ashore. The bird told the boy, "On this island there's a man whom the trolls have bespelled. I'll sit close by and listen while you speak to him."
Searching the island, he came across a big old man with a long white beard. The man was astonished to see the boy and asked, "How did you get here and what do you want? The trolls have put a spell on me and many others. I was cursed to this island to make sure that no Christians would approach here." Once he had heard the boy's story, he said, "Over there on the mountainside, there's a dark hole. Once you enter the hole, you will find a stairway leading to an underground cellar. There you will find the two princesses from England who are being held captive."
The bird signalled the boy to leave and they rowed back to the ship. The bird told the boy and the crew to lower down the big case which had been stowed below decks. They had to gather every man on board to pull, it was so heavy. The bird flew off just then, and soon there came a hard pull on the ropes. The boy and his crew pulled and pulled, and suddenly they pulled up both of the princesses and the bird! With the three princesses reunited, a big celebration was held to celebrate.
The next morning they prepared to leave, but as they tried to weigh anchor, it would not come up. The bird told them why, "The trolls are holding it back, so as we pull it in, they'll come up with it. Take your sword and kill them as they surface." The boy did as he was told, and dispatched such a number of them, that the sea was full of them as far as you could see. Finally the anchor was up, and they set sail.
The boy manned the wheel while the bird stood lookout. Soon the wind came up and the Gullfaks was sailing at full speed. The boy noticed that the bird seemed uneasy, and asked him what the problem was. "The three biggest trolls did not come up with the anchor, and are still after us. They will come to attach us, one each day, and the last day will be the worst."
As the evening approached the first day, they noticed a troll following them. They put on full sail, and outran the troll. The next evening they noticed a huge terrible troll approaching them, the size of half the moon. It approached with such speed that soon it was right abreast of the ship. It was monstrous and ugly. It had nine heads and many eyes. The bird told the boy, "Draw your sword and chop off its heads." The boy did so and the danger passed.
On the third day, the last troll attacked. It was as big as the moon itself and had sixteen heads and six times as many eyes. The boy took his sword and tried to hack off the troll's heads, but the sword did not harm the troll at all. Everybody was astonished. Then the bird attacked the troll as it had fought the lion and picked out all of its eyes. At last they were rid of it, and the last troll sank to the bottom of the sea. There was great rejoicing, since at last they were through with the terrible trolls.
The bird told the boy to sail back to his home country. "We'll be there tomorrow night, and when we drop anchor, you must chop off my head." The Red Knight didn't want to do this, since the bird had done so much for him, but finally he made the hard decision to do it anyway.
The next evening, they arrived home and dropped anchor. The Red Knight took his sword and did as the bird had requested. Suddenly the dead bird was transformed into a handsome prince, who turned out to be the prince of England, the brother of the three princesses. His said his name was Roland, and told a story of how the trolls had put a spell on him when he was a little child.
A party was held which lasted four days. Afterwards, it
was agreed that the boy (the Red Knight) would have his choice of the prettiest
princess, while Roland would get the ship. Then Roland went to the king
of the boy's home country and told him he had a ship that could sail over
sea, land and mountains, and received the reward which was a princess and
half the kingdom. The king's son Halv received one of Roland's sisters.
So three royal weddings were held at once, a celebration bigger than anybody
had ever seen before. The cannons of the castle were fired round after
round, and the sound rolled across the land like thunder. The gunsmoke
hung in the valley air in a layer so heavy that it could carry a man, and
it was on this gunsmoke that I rode here to tell you this story.
This page powered by last updated on 24 July 2019. Copyright © 1997-2019 Karl A. Petersen.