The Cat on the Dovrefell

An engraving of The Cat on the Dovrefell from Tales from the Norse by George W. Dasent.

I don’t know why, but I’ve always had a fondness for troll stories, ever since I was a kid. So, when I was thinking about what Christmas tales to feature, I couldn’t pass up the Norwegian fairy tale, “The Cat on the Doverfjell,” first collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe in East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon.

A man was bringing a white bear to give to the king of Denmark, and he came to the mountain Dovre on Christmas Eve and asked a man called Halvor for shelter for the night. Halvor told him that he couldn’t provide a room, as every Christmas Eve trolls came to the house and made such havoc that the household had to flee them. The man begged to stay anyway, stating his bear could sleep under the stove while the man slept in one of the side rooms. Halvor finally agreed.

The household prepared everything for the trolls, laying out a feast, and then abandoned the house for the night, leaving only the man and his bear. The trolls came, eating the feast the people had left behind, and one began to bait the bear, poking at it, yelling “Pussy, will you have some sausage.” It rose up, growled, and drove them all out of the house.

The next year, while Halvor was out cutting wood on Christmas Eve, a troll asked if he still had that cat. Halvor assured him that he did, that she was at home lying under the stove, and she had had seven kittens, bigger and fiercer than herself. The trolls never again came to his cottage for Christmas Eve.

I’m sure Halvor and his family’s Christmases were much more pleasant from then on, all thanks to the help of a passing stranger. You can read the story for yourself several places on-line, including SurLaLune Fairy Tales.

This is actually one of the stories in Favorite Tales of Monsters and Trolls by George Jonson, illustrated by John O’Brien, a book I’ve praised before. The stories are told in a delightful way and the illustrations are just amazing. Honestly, if you’ve got a kid, you should pick this one up, it’s just that good. You’ll only be able to find it used, but I know Amazon has some copies available.

The story has also been more recently retold by Jan Bree in Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve? I haven’t read it, but from the reviews it sounds like one I wished I had had when Amber was little. A good one to read in December, while munching on sugar cookies.

What’s your favorite Christmas fairy tale?

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.