Troll Fell

Adventures, gold and troublesome trolls...

Troll Fell, written by Katherine Langrish


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When young Peer Ulfsson's father dies, his life changes forever. Claimed by his mean-spirited uncles, the Grimssons, he is treated like a slave at their ramshackle mill on the slopes of dark and mysterious Troll Fell.

Surrounded by dangers, including the lubbers – disgusting creatures who inhabit the pit under the outhouse, and sinister Granny Greenteeth who lives in the millpond – it’s a good thing Peer has his faithful dog Loki and his new friend Hilde to help keep his spirits up. Then he discovers what his greedy uncles are plotting with the trolls.  The Grimssons will do anything for gold – but they haven't counted on Peer and Hilde's courage and determination.

'The troll seized Peer’s arm. It rushed him over to a dark crack in the floor. Hot air rose from it, and the strangest smells. As Peer teetered on the edge, the troll pushed him. With a cry he shot into the darkness, whipping down a natural slide, and was spat out into a lower cavern filled with a red mist of steams and smokes…'


 "A strange sound crept into Peer’s sleep. He dreamed of a hoarse little voice, panting and muttering to itself, ‘Up we go! Here we are!’ There was a scrabbling like rats in the rafters, and a smell of porridge. Peer rolled over.

            ‘Up we go,’ muttered the hoarse little voice again, and then more loudly, ‘Move over, you great fat hen. Budge, I say!’ This was followed by a squawk. One of the hens fell off the rafter and minced indignantly away to find another perch. Peer screwed up his eyes and tried to focus. He could see nothing but black shapes and shadows.

            ‘Aaah!’ A long sigh from overhead set his hair on end. The smell of porridge was quite strong. There came a sound of lapping or slurping..."

 An illustration of a Nis

The Scandinavian Nisses are my personal favourites among house spirits. The painting above is by the 18th century Danish painter Nicolai Abraham Abildgaard, and I was once contacted by a New York auction house who asked me to confirm that the subject is indeed a Nisse.  Though he isn't quite as I imagined the Nis in 'Troll Fell' you can see he wears a red cap and is sitting by the fireside with his broom, eating groute, or buckwheat porridge. However the women of the household are clearly startled and uneasy in his presence.

Where the painting is now I do not know, but hope the lucky owner will not object to my sharing the image, considering I lent a hand in identifying the subject. 

I first met Nisses in Thomas Keightley’s 1828 compendium ‘The Fairy Mythology’, and was charmed by their mischief, vanity, naïvety, their occasional bursts of temper and their essential goodwill.  Here is a typical story from Denmark:

There lived a man at Thrysting, in Jutland, who had a Nis in his barn. This Nis used to attend to the cattle, and at night he would steal fodder for them from the neighbours.

            One time, the farm boy went along with the Nis to Fugleriis to steal corn. The Nis took as much as he thought he could well carry, but the boy was more covetous, and said, ‘Oh, take more; sure we can rest now and then?’ ‘Rest!’ said the Nis; ‘rest! and what is rest?’ ‘Do what I tell you,’ replied the boy; ‘take more, and we shall find rest when we get out of this.’ The Nis then took more, and they went away with it. But when they were come to the lands of Thrysting, the Nis grew tired, and then the boy said to him, ‘Here now is rest,’ and they both sat down on the side of a little hill. ‘If I had known,’ said the Nis as they were sitting there, ‘if I had known that rest was so good, I’d have carried off all that was in the barn.’

[from ‘Scandinavian Folklore’, William Craigie, 1896]


Troll Fell is a joy – a marvellous, magical adventure

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