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"Kjerringa mot strømmen" is a Norwegian fairy tale, collected by Asbjørnsen and Moe. It was published as part of Norwegian folk tales in 1841 to 1844. The original, Norwegian text was found at Project Runeberg and translated to (retold in) English by me for E2. Enjoy!


There was once a man who had a wife, and she was so stubborn and difficult that it was hard to be with her; the man, he didn't know what to do with her; whatever he wanted, she would want the opposite. Then a Sunday late summer they went out to see how the cereal was growing.

When they got to a field on the other side of the river, the man said: "Yes, it is ripe; tomorrow we can start cutting."

"Yes, tomorrow we can start shearing," said the woman.

"What, start shearing? Are we not even allowed to cut?" said the man.

No, the woman thought they should shear.

"Nothing is worse than knowing little," said the man; "but you must have lost the little wits you had now. Have you ever seen someone shear the field?" he said.

"Don't know much, and don't want to know much," said the woman, "but I know for certain that the field should be sheared and not cut," she said. There was no two ways about it, they were going to shear.

So they walked along arguing, until they came to the bridge over the river, right next to a deep pool.

"There's an old saying," said the man, "that good tools do good work; but I believe it will be a strange harvest if we use shears," he said. "Are we absolutely not allowed to cut the field then?"

"No, no - shear, shear, shear!" yelled the woman, jumping up and shearing with her fingers towards the man's nose. But in her temper she wasn't careful enough, and she tripped on a pole on the bridge and fell into the river.

"Old habits die hard," the man thought, "but we'll see if I won't be right for once."

He waded out into the pool and got hold of her scalp, so she barely got her head above water. "Are we cutting the field, then?" he said.

"Shear, shear, shear!" yelled the woman.

"I'll teach you shearing," thought the man and pushed her under. But it didn't help, they were going to shear, she said when he brought her back up. "I have to believe the woman is crazy," said the man to himself. "Many people are crazy and don't know it, many have wits but can't reach it; but I'll try again anyway," he said. But he hadn't got her head under, before she put her hand up above the water, and started shearing with her fingers. Now the man got really mad and held her under a long time. Suddenly, the hand disappeared under the surface, and the woman became so heavy that he had to let go.

"If you want to pull me into the pool with you as well, you can just stay there, you troll," said the man. And the wife stayed.

But after a while, he thought it was bad that she should lie there and not be buried in Christian soil, so he went down the river searching and dragging for her. But however he searched and however he dragged, he didn't find her. He gathered the people on the farm and others from the neighborhood, and they all started digging and dragging down the whole river; but as much as they searched, no woman was found.

"No," said the man, "this is useless. This woman was a woman of her own," he said. "While she was alive, she did everything backwards, and she probably isn't different now; we should start looking up the river and above the waterfall; maybe she has floated upwards."

Yes, they went upwards and searched and dragged above the waterfall. And correct, the woman was lying there. That was a woman against the flow.

More fairy tales, please!

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