Neighbors under the Ground

[Collected in Fron, Gudbrandsal (eastern Norway), about 1900, by Edvard Grimstad]

At Standar Seter there was supposed to have been a whole cluster of houses belonging to the huldre-folk. They were quiet and peaceful folk and were not afraid of having dealings with Christians. The farmers could see them and now and then they talked with them too. It was almost as if everyone up there belonged together.

One day a huldre woman came to one of the dairymaids and asked if she could borrow a little bread. The farmer happened to be at the seter on that particular day, and the dairymaid asked him if she could lend some of the bread.

“Just let them have anything they ask for,” said the farmer. “I don’t like to be on bad terms with them.”

It often happened to one of the dairymaids that her goats got out during the night, so she had to go out and put them back in again. This happened not just once but time and time again. The dairymaid could not understand it, for she took extra pains to lock the door in the evening.

But one day a huldre woman came to her and said, “You’d better stop keeping the goats inside, for the pen is standing in such a spot that our food is being spoiled!” Then they had to move the goatpen to another place, just to be able to keep their goats in peace.

One of the farmers, who had a seter there, went up to it shortly before the seter time had begun. When he came up there, he saw a newly built, re-painted house which had not been there before. Out in the enclosure was a horse he thought he recognized. He did not give it much thought but went in the house to pay his respects to the new people who had come. He said it was nice that they had settled down at the seter so they would be neighbors.

Two women dressed in red were inside, and one of them said, “Oh, we’ve been neighbors for twenty years!”

Then the man understood what kind of people he had come to. They offered him a little milk to drink, but he dared not accept it and only went out again. Then he went over to the horse, which started neighing when he came up to it, and he saw that it was his own horse which had disappeared the year before.

Then the man no longer felt quite at ease up at the seter but hurried home as fast as he could, now that he had seen that the ones living up there were not completely honest. Not that it made much difference. Folks like that are certainly to be found down in the parish too—the kind that help themselves to things without even saying thanks.

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