Once upon a time there was a couple who had a son, and his name was Halvor. Much like Askeladden, from the time he was a small boy he would never do much of anything, and he spent hours just raking in the ashes. His parents sent him away to many different trades, but Halvor never stuck to anything. After only a few days he would run away from the trade, return home and sit down at the hearth poking in the ashes as before.
Now it happened one day that a skipper came and asked Halvor if he would like to come with him and go to sea, and see foreign lands. Halvor decided that he would like that, and it didn’t take him long to get ready to leave. No one knows how long they sailed, but after a while a terrible storm struck the ship. When the storm had abated and the sea was calm again, they didn't know where they were, they had been driven up along a coast unknown to them all.
Halvor asked the Skipper if he might go ashore and look around, for he would rather walk than lie and sleep. "Do you think you can show yourself to people?" asked the Skipper. "Why, you have no other clothes than the rags on your back." Halvor insisted and at last he was allowed to go; but he was to come back as soon as the wind returned and they could set sail again. Halvor went ashore, and it was a lovely land; everywhere he went there were Great Plains, with fields and meadows, but not a living soul did he see. Then the wind started blowing, but Halvor thought he had not seen enough yet. He wanted to walk a little longer to see if he could find some people.
After a while he came to a wide road which was so level that one could have rolled an egg on it. On this road Halvor trudged along, and towards evening he saw a great castle in the distance, its windows ablaze with light. He had been walking the whole day and he was now quite hungry, but the closer he came to the castle the more frightened he became. Inside the castle a fire was burning on the hearth, and Halvor went into the kitchen which was finer than any kitchen he had ever seen before. The dishes were of both gold and silver, but he did not see a living soul anywhere. After he had stood a while, and no one came, he went over and opened the door, and there sat a princess spinning. "Oh dear me!" she cried. "What Christian soul dares come in here?" You have better go again lest the Troll eat you up; for a Troll with three heads lives here!" "I don't mind if he has four more, I'd like to see that fellow," said the boy. I won't leave because I have done no wrong. Just please give me something to eat, because I am frightfully hungry."
When Halvor had eaten his fill, the princess told him to try to swing the big sword that hung on the wall. He tried but he couldn't swing it nor could he even lift it once. "Well," said the princess "then you must take a swallow from that bottle hanging beside it, for that is what the Trolls does when he is going out to use the sword." Halvor took a swallow, and right away he could swing the sword, as though it were nothing. Now, he thought, it didn't matter when the Troll appeared. All at once the Troll came bursting in and Halvor was behind the door. "Ugh! Ugh! I smell Christian blood!” Said the Troll, and stuck his head inside the door. "Yes, and you'll soon know why," said Halvor and chopped off all the heads. The princess was so happy, now that she had been saved, that she danced and sang, but then she came to think of her sisters, and so she said; "Oh, if only my sisters were saved too!" "Where are they?" asked Halvor. Well, she told him; one of them had been taken away by a Troll to a castle six leagues away, and the other was held by a Troll in a castle nine leagues beyond that one. "But first you must help me get rid of this body," she said. Well, Halvor was so strong; he had the place straightened up and cleaned in no time. Afterwards he ate, and slept, and the next morning he started off at dawn.
He knew no peace, and he ran and walked the whole day. When he caught sight of a castle, he became a little frightened again, for it was much finer than the first. There was not a person to be seen here either; so Halvor went right into the kitchen and not stopping there he went straight inside. "Does any Christian dare come here?" cried the princess. "I don't know how long I have been here, but in all that time I have never seen a Christian soul. You must leave at once, for a Troll with six heads lives here!"
"I wouldn't go,” said Halvor, "even if he had six more!" "He will take and gobble you alive," said the princess. Halvor still would not leave, for he was not afraid of the Troll. He said he would like some food and drink, for he was hungry after the journey. He got as much as he wanted, but once again the princess begged him to leave. "No" said Halvor. "I'm not going for I have done no wrong, and haven't anything to be afraid of." "He won't ask about that," said the princess, "for he will seize you without law or right. But since you won't go, try to swing the sword which the Troll uses to fight with." He could not swing the sword, but then the princess told him to take a drink from the bottle, which hung, beside it, and when he had done that he could swing it.
All at once the Troll came, and he was so huge and burly that he had to go sideways to get in through the door. When he had got his first head in he shouted, "Ugh! Ugh! I smell the smell Christian blood!" Right away Halvor chopped off the first head, and then all the others. The princess was so happy that she didn't know which leg to stand on, but then she remembered her sister, and said that she wished she could be saved too. Halvor thought it could he managed somehow, and he wanted to be on his way at once. First he helped the princess remove the body of the Troll, and the next morning he set out on his way.
It was far to the castle, and he walked and ran to get there in time, but late in the evening he saw it in the distance and it was even finer that the other two. This time he was not a bit frightened, but went through the kitchen and straight in. There sat a princess who was lovelier than any he had even seen before. Like her sisters, she told him that there had not been a Christian soul in the place as long as she had been there, and she warned him to leave at once if he wanted to save his life. The Troll would eat him alive and he had nine heads, she said. "Even if he had nine more, in addition to those nine, and still nine more, I'm not going," said Halvor. The princess bade him so pitiably to go, but Halvor insisted on staying and said, “Let him come whenever he wants to!" Then she gave him the Trolls sword, and told him to take a drink from the bottle so he could swing it. Just then the Troll came rushing in and he was even bigger and bulkier than the other two, and he had to crawl sideways to come through the door. "Ugh! Ugh! Here I smell the blood of a Christian man!" roared the Troll. At the same moment, Halvor cut off the first head, and then all the others; but the last one was the toughest of them all, and it was the hardest job Halvor ever had but he finally cut it off as well.
Now all the princesses came together at the castle, and they were happier than they had ever been in all their lives. They were fond of Halvor, and he was fond of them, and he could have the one he liked best. Yet of all three, the youngest was fondest of him.
As the day went on, Halvor began to be moody and restless, so the princesses asked what he was brooding over, and if he did not like to be with them. He had replied that he liked being there with him. They had enough to live on, and he was well off in every way, but he was longing for his home and he wanted to see his parents again. The princesses told him it could easily be arranged. "You may go and you can come back here again. No harm shall come to you either way if only you do as we now tell you." Halvor promised to do as they told him, so they dressed him like the finest prince, and put a magic ring on his finger, that with it he could wish himself both there and back again.
They warned him not to lose it and not to mention their names, for then it would be the end all their happiness, and he would never see them again. "If only I were home and home were here," said Halvor, and just as he wished it came true. He was standing outside his parents' cottage before he knew it. It was at twilight and when his parents saw this elegant stranger entering they were quite bewildered, and they started to bow and curtsy. Halvor asked if he could spend the night there. "Oh, that would be impossible," they said. "We have nothing to offer a fine fellow like you. But go to the big farmhouse, it's not far; you can see the chimney stack from here. There they have everything." Halvor did not want to do that; he would rather stay with them, but they insisted he go up to the farm. There he could get both food and drink, while they had not even a chair to offer him. "No," said Halvor. "I won't go up there before early tomorrow morning. Let me stay here tonight. Then I can sit by the hearth." The old people could not refuse him, so Halvor sat by the hearth and started raking in the ashes, just as he had done when he lived at home. They talked about many things, and finally Halvor asked if they had ever had any children. Yes, they had a son, and his name was Halvor, but they didn't know what had become to him, or whether he was alive or dead. "Couldn't it be me then?" asked Halvor. "Oh to be sure!" said the old woman getting up. "Halvor was so lazy, he would never do anything, and his clothes were always in rags and tatters so he could never have become a fine fellow like you, Sir."
Go to part 2 here