Once there was a couple of rich folks who had twelve sons. When the youngest was grown up he wanted to go out into the world and seek his fortune. Mum and dad thought he was very well off at home and welcomed him to stay with them; but he felt restless all along, so they had to give him leave. He came to a king’s castle after he had walked a long way. He asked for a place there and got it.
The daughter of the king had been carried off into the mountains by a troll. The king had no other children, so he and his people were full of sorrow and affliction for it. The king had promised his daughter and half his kingdom to anyone who could set her free, but there was none who could do it, although a great number had tried.
Now, when the lad had been there for a year or so, he wanted to visit his parents; but when he got there his dad and mum were dead, and his brothers had divided everything their parents owned between themselves. There seemed to be nothing left for him.
“What? Will I receive nothing at all of my inheritance?” the lad asked.
“Who could know that you were still alive – you who have been off so long?” answered the brothers. “But there are twelve mares on the hills. We haven’t yet divided among us, and if you’d like to have them for your share, feel free to take them.”
Pleased with this new turn the young man thanked them. At once he set off to the hill where the twelve mares were at pasture. When he got up there and found them, each mare had her foal, and by the side of one of them was a big dapple-grey foal so sleek that its lustre shone a long way.
Next year, when he came home from the castle to look after his mares and the foal, it was as fat as it could be. The coat shone with great lustre. It was so big that he had the greatest difficulty in getting on its back.
“No,” said the colt, “I have to stay here one more year. Each of the mares has got another foal: kill these foals well. Then I can suck all mares one more year, and you’ll see how big and handsome I’ll be next time we meet.”
The lad did it, and when he went up on the hill next year to look after his colt and the mares, each of the mares had her foal again. But his dappled colt was so big that when he wanted to feel its neck to see how fat it was, he couldn’t reach up to it. And sunlight glanced off its coat.
Said the colt again: “I have to remain steady for another year. Just kill the twelve little foals this year too, so that I can suck the mares one more year. Then come and look at me when summer comes.”
The young man did it, and then went home. When he returned next year to look after the dappled colt and the mares, he was quite appalled. His dappled horse looked big, plump and overgrown, yet its coat shone and glistened. It had to lie down on all fours before he could mount it and inspect its back. Even then it was hard to do for the lad.
“Dapplegrim!” said the lad. “that will be your name.”
“Please, procure me the best shoes for my horse, and the brightest saddle and bridle that can be found,” said the lad to them. “You can have my twelve mares just as they are standing out on the hill in return, and also the twelve foals they have this time.” The brothers were quite willing to do this.
The lad at once asked if he could have a place in the
His horse was to have sweet hay and oats, and as much of them as the horse chose to have. All the other riders were to take their horses out of the stable that Dapplegrim might stand alone and really have plenty. But it didn’t last long. Others quickly became furiously envious, and contrived to tell the king that the lad had said he could rescue the king’s daughter from the troll that had taken her.
The king hastily summoned the lad and told him that if he succeeded, the old promise was standing: in that case he could have the daughter and half the kingdom. That promise should be faithfully and honourably kept. If he failed, on the other hand, he was to be put to death one way or the other. The quick-witted lad at once saw there was nothing to be done – he agreed to make the attempt.
He went down into the stable to get the counsel he yearned for.
The ardent lad did this, and none refused to do as asked. He got both the iron, the steel and the smiths, and Dapplegrim was shod so strongly and well that when the lad went out of the king’s castle a cloud of dust rose up behind him.
Later he came to the mountain that the king’s daughter had been carried into. It was hard to ascend the precipitous walls of rock in front of it, but he had to, even though huge rocks stood right up on end. Some were as steep as a house side and as smooth as a sheet of glass.
The third time Dapplegrim said: “Let’s show what we can do,” and went at it once more till the stones sprang up sky high. This time they got all the way. Quite near the mountain peak the lad saw a king’s daughter in a large mountain cleft. She was sitting there with a crown of gold on her head while spinning. He rode into the cleft at full gallop and grabbed her well. Then out again before the troll even had time to stand up. The king’s daughter was free.
The king seemed glad to get his daughter back again, but somehow or other the people about the court had so worked on him that he was angry with the lad for it. “Thanks to you for setting my daughter free,” he said when the lad came into the castle with her and nodded good-bye to the lad.
“That was no part of our bargain,” answered the lad. “But I’ll see what else I can do to make her mine.”
He went down to Dapplegrim again and told him what the king desired. Dapplegrim thought that it might be very easy to make the sun shine into the king’s castle. Dapplegrim got new and twice as heavy shoes, and they were good ones too. The lad seated himself on him and rode off to the hill. For each hop that Dapplegrim made when he came there, down went the hill fifteen ells into the earth. After a while there was no hill left to see.
When the lad came down again to the king’s castle he asked the king whether the sun wasn’t shining into the castle. Other people in the castle had again stirred up the king, and due to this he said the lad also had to get her as good a horse to ride to the wedding as he had – that was Dapplegrim. The lad said it seemed that he had really earned the king’s daughter without all those additions outside the deal, but the king got severely stubborn and stuck to his last words too. If the lad was unable to get such a horse for her, he was to lose his life, the king said.
The lad went down to the stable and told Dapplegrim how things were. The king had now insisted that he should get the king’s daughter as good a bridal horse as that which the bridegroom had. “Could that be?”
“well, yes, there’s one to match me,” said Dapplegrim. “But it won’t be easy to get him, for he is underground right now. Go and ask the king for twelve barrels of rye. We’re also to carry with us twelve slaughtered oxen. Also, set with twelve hundred spikes in each of the twelve ox-hides. We must have a barrel of tar with twelve tons of tar in it as well. All these things must be done as I say down to the smallest detail.”
The king thought it would be disgraceful to refuse his daughter’s saviour these new items when he was asked, so the lad got all of them. There were no problems with that. Later he mounted Dapplegrim and rode off towards the mountain plateau up north. One day Dapplegrim asked him: “Tell me, do you hear anything?”
“Yes, a quite dreadful whistling can be heard. Should I grow alarmed?” said the lad.
The lad did it. Now all the wild cuckoos came in such numbers that they darkened the sun, flew down and began to scratch and pick at the corn and rye, and at last they began to fight among themselves over the morsels.
They rode onwards again, and then Dapplegrim neighed.
“Do you hear a full-grown colt neighing quite plainly? he said.
“Yes; I heard, but it’s far away from us.”
So they travelled on. Then Dapplegrim neighed again.
“Do you hear a full- grown horse this time?”
“Yes,” answered the lad.
“And you’ll hear it again,” said Dapplegrim; “and then you’ll hear what a voice it is.”
So they travelled further. Then Dapplegrim neighed for the third time. At once there was such a neighing on the other side of the heath that the lad thought that hills and rocks would be rent in pieces.
“Now he is here!” said Dapplegrim. “Outfit, please.”
Just as the lad had flung all the hides with the spikes over Dapplegrim, the tar over the field, and had got safely up into a spruce fir nearby, a horse came with flame spouting from his nostrils. The tar caught fire in a moment. Dapplegrim and the horse began to fight till the stones leapt up to the sky. They bit, they bent, they fought with all their legs. Sometimes the lad looked at them. and sometimes he looked at the burning tar. At length the other horse had to yield. When the lad saw that, he wasn’t long in getting down from the tree and flinging the bridle over the horse’s head, and then he became so tame that he might have been led by a thin string.
This horse was dappled too, and none around could distinguish him from Dapplegrim. The lad seated himself on the dappled horse he had captured, and rode home again to the king’s castle. Dapplegrim ran loose by his side. When he got there, the king was standing outside in the courtyard.
The king went and looked at both the dappled horses; he looked behind too, but there wasn’t a hair’s difference.
“No,” said the king; “I can’t say which is which at last. Now let us decide if you’re also fated to have her. Your bride-to-be is to hide herself twice. Then you’ll do the same. Find her each time, and never let her find you, then these things are fated, and you’ll have the king’s daughter.”
The king’s daughter was to hide herself first. She changed herself into a golden duck, and lay swimming in a lake outside the castle. The lad went down into the stable and asked Dapplegrim what to do.
The second she laid herself on the table among four loaves; and she was so like the other loaves that no one could see any difference –
“Here’s what to do: Sharpen a rather large bread-knife and pretend that you’re going to cut straight through the third of the four loaves which are lying on the kitchen table – count them from right to left – Then you’ll find her,” said Dapplegrim.
Now it was his turn to go and hide himself; it wasn’t easy to find him. He turned himself into a horse-fly and hid himself in Dapplegrim’s left nostril. The king’s daughter went poking about and searching everywhere, high and low, and wanted to go into Dapplegrim’s stall too, but he began to bite and kick about so that she was afraid to go there.
“well,” said she, “I’m unable to find you, show yourself, please.”
Dapplegrim told him what to do next. He turned himself into a lump of earth, and stuck himself between the hoof and the shoe on Dapplegrim’s left forefoot. This time the great horse allowed her to go into the stable. She peered about high and low, but not under his hoofs. He stood on his legs for that, and she couldn’t find the lad.
“Now you can see she was to be mine,” he said to the king.