"Dumme menn og troll til kjerringer" is a traditional Norwegian fairy tale, collected by Asbjørnsen and Moe in the early 1840s. The original, Norwegian text was found at Project Runeberg and translated to English by me for E2. Enjoy!


There were once two wives who were arguing, like wives sometimes do; and when they didn't have anything else to argue about, they started quarreling about their husbands, about who was the stupidest of the two. The longer they argued, the angrier they turned; in the end they nearly came to blows. One said, there wasn't a thing she couldn't make her husband believe, if only she said it was true, because he was as easy as a troll to fool; and the other claimed that no matter how wrong it was, she could make her husband do it, when she said he should; because he couldn't find needle nor yarn.

"Well, let us see who can fool them the most, then we will see who is the stupidest," they said, and they agreed on this.

Then when the husband came home from the forest, one of the wives said: "God help you! It's very bad, I think you must be really ill."

"I'm only short of food and water," said the man.

"God help me how true!" yelled the wife; "it turns worse by the minute, you look like a dead body. You have to go to bed! Oh, I hope this won't last!"

She kept on until she made her husband believe he was close to death, and made him lie down, fold his hands and close his eyes, and then she stretched him out and put him in a coffin; but to prevent him from suffocating, she had made some holes that he could breath and see through.

The other wife, took a couple of cards and started carding, but she had no wool on them. The man came in and saw this fool's play.

"There's little help in a spinning wheel without a wheel, but only a stupid wife has no wool on the cards," said the man.

"No wool?" said the wife; "sure I have wool; but you can't see it, because it is of the finest kind," she said.

When she was done carding, she took the spinning wheel out and started spinning.

"No, now you've lost it," said the man; you sit there whirling and shaming your spinning wheel when you don't have anything on it."

"Nothing on it?" said the wife; "the thread is so fine that it takes other eyes to see it," she said.

When she was done spinning, she sat down by the loom and started weaving. Then she took the cloth out of the loom, stamped and cut it, and sewed clothes for her husband, and when they were done, she hung them up in the loft. Her husband couldn't see the cloth or the clothes, but he had started believing that it was so fine that he couldn't see it, and he said: "Oh well, okay, if it's so fine, it's so fine."

But then one day the wife told him: "Today you have to go to a funeral, the man in the North farm goes into the ground today; so you should put on your new clothes." Yes, he would go to the funeral, and she helped him put his clothes on, because they were so fine that he could tear them if he put them on himself.

When he arrived at the wake, they had already drunk a lot there; the grief wasn't larger when they saw him in his new church clothes, I believe. But when they walked towards the cemetery and the dead man peeped through his hole, he burst into a loud laugh: "I have to laugh," he said; "isn't Ola from the South farm stark naked in my funeral!"

When the procession heard, they weren't slow at getting the lid off the coffin, and the guy with the new church clothes asked why the man in the coffin was laughing; it would be more appropriate to cry at your funeral. "Crying digs no one up from the grave," said the other. But as they got to talk, it turned out that it was their wives that had plotted against them. Then the men went home and did the wisest thing they had ever done, and if you want to know what it was, you have to ask the birch tree.

More fairy tales, please!

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