There was once a man who had three sons. When he died, the two eldest decided to go into the world to try their luck; but they wouldn't take the younger with them at any price. They said to him, “You're no good for anything but sitting around and poking in the ashes or blowing on the coals!” "Well, I'll just have to go by myself," said Askeladden (the Ash Lad.) "Then I won't be at odds with my company, either!"
The two set out, and after traveling for some days, they came to a great forest. There they sat down to rest and eat some of the food they had brought with them, for they were both tired and hungry. As they sat there, an old Hag came up through a tuft of grass and begged for a little food. She was so old and feeble that her mouth twitched and her head quivered, and she had to support herself on a staff. She hadn't had a crumb of bread in her mouth in a hundred years, she said; but the boys only laughed and went on eating, and said that as long as she'd kept body and soul together for so long, it was likely she'd be able to hold out without eating up their crumbs. Besides, they had little to share and nothing to spare. When they had eaten their fill and rested they set out again, and at last they came to the king's manor there they were given jobs as serving men.
A short while after they had left home, Askeladden gathered together the crumbs his brothers had cast aside, and put them in his little knapsack. He also took the old musket which had no bolt, for he thought it would come in handy on the way, then he set out. When he had walked for some days, he too came to the thick forest which his brothers had traveled, and when he was tired and hungry, he sat down under a tree to rest and have a little to eat. As he took up his knapsack he caught sight of a picture hanging on a tree, and on it was painted a young maiden, or princess, who was so lovely that he could not take his eyes off her. He forgot both food and knapsack, he took down the picture, and sat staring intently at it. All of a sudden the old Hag came up through the tuft of grass, her mouth twitching and her head quivering, and supporting herself on a staff, she begged him for a little food, for she hadn't had a crumb of bread in her mouth in a hundred years, she said.
"Then it's time you had a little, "Old Mother," said the boy, and he gave her some bread crumbs. The old hag said that no one had called her "Mother" in a hundred years, and she was certainly going to do him a favor in return. She gave him a ball of gray wool, which he only had to roll along in front of him and he would come to any place he wanted to. But he mustn't bother with the picture, she said, it would only get him into trouble. Askeladden thought this was all very well, but he couldn't leave the painting behind, so he took it under his arm, and rolled the ball of yarn ahead of him. It wasn't long before he came to the king's manor where his brothers were serving. There he too begged for a serving job. They replied that they had no work for him, as they had recently taken on two serving boys, but he begged so hard that at last he was allowed to help the stable master, and to groom the horses. This Akeladden was most willing to do, for he was fond of horses, and as he was both quick and clever he soon learned to tend and take care of them, and it wasn't long before everyone in the king's manor grew fond of him.
Every moment he could spare he would look at the picture of the beautiful maiden that he had hung in a corner of the hayloft. His brothers were idle and lazy so they were often soundly beaten, and when they saw that Askeladden was getting along better than they were, they grew jealous of him. They told the stable master that Askeladden was an idol worshipper and that he prayed to a picture and not to Our Lord. Even though the stable master thought well of the boy, it wasn't long before he told the king. The king however only snapped at him. These days he was always downcast and sorrowful, for his daughters had been carried off by a Troll. They drilled it into the king's ears for so long, that at last he wanted to find out what the boy was up to. When he came to the hayloft and set eyes on the picture, he saw it was a painting of his youngest daughter. When Askeladdens brothers heard that, they were ready with a story at once and said to the stable master, "If only our brother were willing, he's said he could get the king back his daughter!" You may be sure that it wasn't long before the stable master went to the king and told him that, and when the king heard this, he shouted for Askeladden and said, "Your brothers say you can get my daughter back, and now you shall do so!” Askeladden replied that he never knew it was the king's daughter before the king had said so himself, and if he could free her and bring her back, he would certainly do his best.
The boy took out a ball of gray wool and threw it down on the road. It rolled ahead, and he went after it until he came to the old hag who had given it to him. He asked her what he should do. She said he was to take his old musket, and three hundred crates full of spikes and horseshoe nails, and three hundred barrels of barley, and three hundred barrels of goats, and three hundred butchered pigs, and three hundred ox carcasses, and roll the ball along the road until he met a raven and a Troll child. Then he would get there all right, for those two were of her kin. Well, the boy did as she said; he looked in at the king's manor, and took his old musket, and asked the king for spikes, and beef, and pork, and horses and men and carts to transport them. The king thought it was asking a lot, but as long as he could get his daughter back, he would give him whatever he needed, even if it were half the kingdom.
When the boy was ready and all his supplies loaded up, he rolled the ball along the road again. He hadn't gone many days before he came to a high mountain. There in a fir tree sat a raven. Askeladden walked until he stood directly beneath it, and pretended to take aim with his musket. "Nay, don't shoot! Don't shoot me and I'll help you!" shrieked the raven. “Since you're so anxious about your life, I may as well spare you," said Askeladden. So he threw the musket aside, and the raven flew down and said," Up on this mountain is a Troll child who has gotten lost and can't find his way down again. I'll help you up so you can take the youngster home, and get yourself a reward, which should come in very handy. When you get there, the Troll will offer you all the finest things he has, but you must pay no attention to that. You must take nothing but the little gray donkey which is standing behind the stable door".
Then the raven took the boy on his back and flew up onto the mountain with him, and put him down in the right place. After a while, he heard the Troll child whimpering and carrying on because he couldn't find his way down again. The boy talked kindly to him, and they soon they were on the best of terms, and Askeladden promised to help the Troll child down from the mountain. He was going to take him home to the Troll Manor, so that he wouldn't get lost on the way. Then they went to the raven, and he took them both on his back and carried them straight to the Mountain Troll. When the Troll laid eyes on his child again, he was so glad that he quite forgot himself, and told the boy to come in with him and take whatever he wanted. The troll showed him and all sorts of rare and costly things, but the boy said he would rather have a horse. “Yes, you should have a horse,” said the Troll, and so out to the stable they went. It was full of the finest horses. They shone like the sun and the moon, but the boy felt they were all too big for him. So he peeped behind the stable door, and caught sight of the little donkey standing there. "That's the one I want!" he said. "That's more my size. If I fall off, I'm not far from the ground." The Troll was not happy to lose the donkey, but as long as he'd given his promise he had to stand by it. So the boy got the donkey with saddle and bridle and all, and then he hurried on his way.
They journeyed through forest and field, over mountain and broad moors. When they had traveled farther than far, the donkey asked if the boy could see anything. “No, I see nothing but a high mountain which looks purple in the distance." "Well, we're going through that mountain," said the donkey. "Am I to believe that?" said the boy. When they came to the mountain, a unicorn came charging towards them as though it wanted to eat them alive. "Now I think I'm almost afraid," said the boy. "Oh, not at all," said the donkey. "Unload a couple of score of ox carcasses, and ask it to bore a hole and break a road through the mountain."
The boy did so. When the unicorn had eaten its fill, they promised it a couple of score of butchered pigs if it would go ahead and bore a hole through the mountain so that they could get through. When the unicorn heard that, it bored a hole and broke through the mountain, so fast that it was all they could do to keep up with it. And when it had finished, they threw it a couple of score of pig carcasses. When they had come safely through this, they journeyed a long way through many a land, and then they journeyed through forest and field, over mountain and wild moors again. "Do you see anything now?" asked the donkey. "Now I see nothing but sky and Wild Mountains," said the boy. So they journeyed far, and farther than far and when they came higher up, the mountains became more level and flatter, so they could see farther around them on every side. "Do you see anything now?" asked the donkey. "Yes, I see something a long, long way off," said the boy. "It's sparkling and twinkling like a tiny star." "It's certainly not so little, though," said the donkey. When they had journeyed far, and farther than far, it asked, "Do you see anything now?" "Yes, now I see something a long way off. It's shining like a moon," said the boy. "That's no moon," said the donkey. "That's the silver castle we're going to," it said. "Now, when we get there, we shall find three dragons lying on guard by the gate. They haven't been awake for a hundred years, so the moss has grown over their eyes." "I think I'll almost be afraid of them," said the boy. "Oh, not at all!" said the donkey. "You must wake up the youngest and toss down its gullet a couple of score of ox carcasses and butchered pigs. Then I dare say it'll talk to the other two, and you'll be allowed to enter the castle."
They journeyed far, and farther than far, before they arrived at the castle. It was both large and splendid, and everything they saw was made of silver. Outside the gate lay the dragons blocking the way so that no one could get in. It had been quiet and peaceful, and they hadn't been disturbed with much during their watch. They were so overgrown with moss that no one could see what they were made of, and alongside them a small forest had started growing between the mounds of moss. The boy woke the smallest of them, and it started rubbing its eyes and picking off the moss. When at last the dragon saw a boy standing there, it came towards him with its jaws open wide, but the boy was ready, and tossed ox carcasses and threw pigs down its gullet, until it had eaten its fill and had become a little more reasonable to talk to. The boy asked it to wake up the others, and tell them to move aside so that he could enter the castle. The dragon said it dared not and would not do so, to begin with; they hadn't been awake or tasted food for a hundred years. It was afraid they would thrash about in a daze, and eat both living and dead. Askeladden said he would leave behind a hundred ox carcasses and a hundred pigs, and go away for a bit. Then they could eat their fill, and collect their wits by the time they came back again. Well, the dragon agreed to this, and so they did just that. But before the dragons were properly awake and had got the moss off their eyes, they flew around and thrashed about, and snapped at everything. It was all the youngest dragon could do to keep out of harm's way until they had got wind of the meat. Then they gobbled oxen and pig carcasses whole, and ate their fill. After that they were pretty tame and good-natured, and they let the boy walk past them into the castle. Inside everything was so splendid that he could hardly believe the beauty he saw everywhere, but it was empty of people, he went from room to room, and opened all the doors, but he saw no one. At last he peeped in through the door of a chamber he had not seen before, and inside sat a princess spinning, and she was so pleased and happy when she caught sight of him.
part 2..........Click here