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The Farmer and the Troll
by [?]

There was once a man who owned a little farm, as fine and fruitful as you would care to see. He had always tended it himself, too, driving his own plow in the spring, and taking his two-wheeled cart to market in the fall with a load of apples, potatoes, and carrots.

All of a sudden, though, things began to go badly with the farmer. His milk curdled in the dairy and his horse kicked the traces on market day, spilling the load and laming herself into the bargain. The eggs were addled, and weeds choked and overran his garden, faster than he could pull them out.

“A troll is at the bottom of this,” said the farmer’s wife, and to prove it she led him to the dairy. There, on the white floor, were the prints in mud of tiny, tiny hob-nailed shoes. The same foot prints could be seen in the barn near the horse’s stall, and that night the farmer saw a bright little light skipping about in the dusky garden. Of course he knew what that was, the one shining eye of a troll. So that was the cause of all his trouble. A troll had come to live on his farm.

Ordinarily a troll who selects a quiet place like a farm for his home is a peacefully inclined little man. He wants nothing but a bowl of porridge set out for him on the cellar steps once in a while, and a chance to creep in the house and curl up in a chimney corner of a cold evening, winking and blinking at the fire with his one eye. When a troll gets into mischief about a place, it is a sure sign that something has been done to displease him. So the farmer set out to try to find what he had done to vex the little man.

But look as high and as low as he could, he could find nothing, until one fine day in the spring he was plowing a nice little hill to plant a patch of potatoes. Suddenly his horse kicked the plow over, and the farmer heard a grumbling, growling little voice coming up through the earth.

“There you go again,” said the voice, “tearing up my roof just as you did a year ago in the spring. Don’t you know that this is my hill, and that I live down here under it?” It was the troll that spoke.

Well, the farmer was much put out to know that he had plowed up the roof of the troll’s house and he did not know what to do about it, for it was his hill, also, and a fine, sunny slope for raising a crop. At last, though, he thought of a plan and he called down through the hill to the troll.

“Well, now, little master, I am sorry indeed to have disturbed you so and I am ready to make any recompense that I can. What do you say to this? I will plow, sow, and reap the hill each year, doing every bit of the work myself, mind you, and we will have the crops, turn and turn about. One year you shall have everything that grows above the ground and I will take only what grows below the ground; the next year you shall have what lies below, while my share will be what grows above. That is a fair bargain, is it not?”

“Very good,” said the troll. “I am perfectly well satisfied. And this year I would like whatever grows above the ground.”

The farmer chuckled to himself. That satisfied him, too, for he was planting potatoes. But when they had sprouted and grown, up through the hill came the troll with a little scythe over his shoulder and cut all the potato tops, taking them home with him. A fine harvest he thought he had gathered.

The next season it was the troll’s turn to have what grew below ground, so the farmer sowed the hill with corn. When the corn was ripe the troll did not appear at all. He was down under the hill busily cutting the roots of the corn, well content with this share of the harvest. So the farmer was crafty in his planting. The next season it was carrots, and the next, beans. The troll gathered his carrot tops and his bean roots, and laid them away carefully for the winter.

Which goes to show how easily you can satisfy a troll, but what a poor farmer he is.