The hint of this ballad is found in Arndt’s Miirchen, Berlin, 1816. The ballad appeared first in St. Nicholas, whose young readers were advised, while smiling at the absurd superstition, to remember that bad companionship and evil habits, desires, and passions are more to be dreaded now than the Elves and Trolls who frightened the children of past ages.
THE pleasant isle of Rugen looks the Baltic water o’er,
To the silver-sanded beaches of the Pomeranian shore;
And in the town of Rambin a little boy and maid
Plucked the meadow-flowers together and in the sea-surf played.
Alike were they in beauty if not in their degree
He was the Amptman’s first-born, the miller’s
child was she.
Now of old the isle of Rugen was full of Dwarfs
The brown-faced little Earth-men, the people without
And for every man and woman in Rugen’s island
Walking in air and sunshine, a Troll was
It chanced the little maiden, one morning, strolled
Among the haunted Nine Hills, where the elves
and goblins play.
That day, in barley-fields below, the harvesters had
Of evil voices in the air, and heard the small horns
She came not back; the search for her in field and
wood was vain
They cried her east, they cried her west, but she
came not again.
“She’s down among the Brown Dwarfs,” said the
dream-wives wise and old,
And prayers were made, and masses said, and
Rambin’s church bell tolled.
Five years her father mourned her; and then John
“I will find my little playmate, be she alive or
He watched among the Nine Hills, he heard the
Brown Dwarfs sing,
And saw them dance by moonlight merrily in a
And when their gay-robed leader tossed up his cap
Young Deitrich caught it as it fell, and thrust it
on his head.
The Troll came crouching at his feet and wept for
lack of it.
“Oh, give me back my magic cap, for your great
“Nay,” Deitrich said; “the Dwarf who throws his
charmed cap away,
Must serve its finder at his will, and for his folly
“You stole my pretty Lisbeth, and hid her in the
And you shall ope the door of glass and let me
lead her forth.”
“She will not come; she’s one of us; she’s
mine!” the Brown Dwarf said;
The day is set, the cake is baked, to-morrow we
“The fell fiend fetch thee!” Deitrich cried, “and
keep thy foul tongue still.
Quick! open, to thy evil world, the glass door of
The Dwarf obeyed; and youth and Troll down, the
long stair-way passed,
And saw in dim and sunless light a country strange
Weird, rich, and wonderful, he saw the elfin
Its palaces of precious stones, its streets of golden
He came unto a banquet-hall with tables richly
Where a young maiden served to him the red wine
and the bread.
How fair she seemed among the Trolls so ugly and
Yet pale and very sorrowful, like one who never
Her low, sweet voice, her gold-brown hair, her tender
blue eyes seemed
Like something he had seen elsewhere or some.
thing he had dreamed.
He looked; he clasped her in his arms; he knew
the long-lost one;
“O Lisbeth! See thy playmate–I am the
She leaned her fair head on his breast, and through
her sobs she spoke
“Oh, take me from this evil place, and from the
“And let me tread the grass-green fields and smell the flowers again,
And feel the soft wind on my cheek and hear the dropping rain!
“And oh, to hear the singing bird, the rustling of the tree,
The lowing cows, the bleat of sheep, the voices of the sea;
“And oh, upon my father’s knee to sit beside the door,
And hear the bell of vespers ring in Rambin church once more!”
He kissed her cheek, he kissed her lips; the Brown Dwarf groaned to see,
And tore his tangled hair and ground his long teeth angrily.
But Deitrich said: “For five long years this tender Christian maid
Has served you in your evil world and well must she be paid!
“Haste!–hither bring me precious gems, the richest in your store;
Then when we pass the gate of glass, you’ll take your cap once more.”
No choice was left the baffled Troll, and, murmuring, he obeyed,
And filled the pockets of the youth and apron of the maid.
They left the dreadful under-land and passed the gate of glass;
They felt the sunshine’s warm caress, they trod the soft, green grass.
And when, beneath, they saw the Dwarf stretch up to them his brown
And crooked claw-like fingers, they tossed his red cap down.
Oh, never shone so bright a sun, was never sky so blue,
As hand in hand they homeward walked the pleasant meadows through!
And never sang the birds so sweet in Rambin’s woods before,
And never washed the waves so soft along the Baltic shore;
And when beneath his door-yard trees the father met his child,
The bells rung out their merriest peal, the folks with joy ran wild.