The Girl and The North Wind

The traditional tale retold

High up in the mountains of Norway a girl lived with her mother. The girl’s name was Kari and one day her mother asked her to fetch the flour to bake loaves and biscuits. Kari seized the biggest bowl in the kitchen and ran willingly to the barn. She filled the bowl right to the top and hurried back across the yard when- whish-whoosh!- the North Wind swaggered around the corner and scattered all the flour away with one great puff.

Kari went back to the barn, re-filled the bowl, and hastened across the yard when- whish-whoosh!- up rushed the North Wind again and blew away all the flour. Yet again Kari went to the barn. She scooped up all the flour that was left, which wasn’t even enough to reach halfway up the bowl, and hugged it to her as she bolted across the yard. But- whish-whoosh!- around the corner bowled the North Wind and puffed away the flour.

“It’ll be gruel for the whole winter now,” scolded Kari’s mother. “There’ll be no bread and definitely no biscuits till next year.”

“No bread? No biscuits?” gasped Kari. “Well, I’m going to get the flour back!” And before her mother could draw breath she ran out of the door.

All that day Kari crunched and trudged through the snow until at last she reached the place where the North Wind lived.

“North Wind! Come out here! I want to talk to you! Now!” shouted Kari and she thumped on the door as loudly as she could.

After a few minutes the North Wind opened the door, scratching himself and yawning. “What’s all this banging and bawling? How can I have a decent kip with all this commotion?”

“You stole our flour!” exclaimed Kari. “You breezed up to our house- ehn, too, treh- three times today and blew away all our flour and now we won’t have any bread all winter and we’ll probably starve to death and it’ll be All Your Fault!”

The North Wind’s face puckered and wrinkled. “I do apologise,” he said in a big blustery voice. “Sometimes I get completely carried away with blowing. I meant no harm, but it’s impossible for me to get your flour back now.” He stared at the girl for a moment. Then he added, “I can’t give you your flour back, but I can give you something else.”

He disappeared inside and returned holding a cloth. “This cloth is magic. All you have to do is say, “Cloth, cloth, spread yourself and set out scrumptious scram,” and you will have all the food and drink you can imagine.”

Kari thanked the North Wind, pocketed the cloth, and set off homewards. It was getting dark, but Kari came to an Inn on the road and decided to stay the night there. She knocked on the door and it swung open at once. Out hobbled a troll crone whose warty nose was so long she had tucked it into her waistband to avoid tripping.

“Goo kuelh,” rasped the crone in a haggy voice.

“Goo kuelh, Good evening,” faltered Kari. “I was wondering, please may I have a bed for the night?”

“How will you pay for it?” growled the troll crone.

“I am afraid I have no money. But I can feed you and your guests.”

“How?”

Kari took out the cloth, gave it a shake, holding it at both ends, and said, “Cloth, cloth, spread yourself and set out scrumptious scram!”

At once the cloth was groaning with food- soups and souffles, roasts and stews, steaks and sausages, pies and flans, fruits and vegetables, trifles and puddings, and every kind of drink.

When all the guests at the Inn had filled their boots, Kari rolled up her cloth and went to bed. But at dead of night, when everyone was in the land of nod, the troll crone came creeping up the stairs with a cloth identical to Kari’s. She sneaked into her room and swapped her cloth for hers.

Next morning, Kari woke up, snatched the cloth and sprinted all the way home. “Mama! Mama! Look what the North Wind gave me,” she shouted excitedly. She babbled out the magic words and shook the cloth. Nothing! She tried again- and again- and again, twisting the cloth this way and that, but nothing worked.

“The North Wind has tricked me!” said Kari furiously and she marched off to the North Wind’s house before her mother could say No.

“North Wind! Come outside! I want to talk to you!” bawled Kari at the door. After a while, the North Wind emerged, rubbing his eyes sleepily.

“You again?” he yawned. “Why are you back so soon?”

“You know very well why I’m back!” yelled Kari, almost in tears. “The cloth you gave me was useless! It only worked once and what good is that?”

“Just the once? Something is wrong,” said the North Wind. “But let’s not quarrel. I’ll give you something else.” Soon enough he came back with an old goat.

“This goat is magic. All you have to do is say, “Goat! Splosh! Crip, crap, dosh!” and it will make all the money you need.”

“Will it work more than once?” asked Kari suspiciously.

“Forever,” promised the North Wind.

So Kari took the goat and set off homewards. It was getting dark so she decided to return to the Inn for the night. She knocked on the door and the troll crone swung it open at once. Broth dripped from her huge conk because she’d been using it to stir her soup-pot.

“Goo kuelh, Good evening, I was wondering if I could have a bed for tonight?” said Kari.

“How are you going to pay?” rattled the crone.

Kari turned to the old goat and said, “Goat! Splosh! Crip, crap, dosh!” Immediately, out of its backside, dropped a jackpot of gold coins. Kari paid the crone, used another sovreign for food and drink, and then went to bed. In the middle of the night, the troll crone once more came crawling up the stairs, this time with her own goat, which she switched for Kari’s.

When Kari got home next day, she tried to show her mother just what the goat could do. But whatever came out of this old goat’s rear end certainly wasn’t gold!

Kari stomped back to the North Wind, more livid than ever. The North Wind just scratched at his flowing silvery mane, tossed it, and said, ”Something is wrong. I’ll give you one last thing, but you’d better use it wisely.” Off he went and back he came with a stick. “This stick is magic. All you have to do is say “Stick, stick, lay on!” and it will thrash anyone you want. When you want it to stop, just say “Stick, stick, lay off!” and it will come straight back to you.”

Kari thanked the North Wind and went straight to the Inn.

“Goo kuelh,” cawed the troll crone.

“May I have a bed for the night?”

“How do you plan to pay?” growled the crone, leering at the stick. Kari found some spare coins in her apron and went straight to bed.

In the dark small hours, the crone came creeping up the stairs again. She was certain the stick was magic. Slowly she sneaked into the room. Just as she was about to swap her stick for Kari’s, up Kari jumped and bellowed, “Stick, stick, lay on!”

The stick whizzed from the pillow and began to give the troll crone such a hiding that she danced from one foot to the other all over the room, howling and hooting and hollering, until at last she screeched, “Make it stop! Make it stop!”

“Not until you give me back my cloth and my ram,” shouted Kari.

“I will, I will!” shrieked the troll crone.

“Stick, stick, lay off,” ordered Kari and at once the stick flew- whish-whoosh- into her hand. But she kept a firm grip of it as she marched behind the troll crone to fetch her cloth and her ram.

The next morning, Kari ran home with her treasures, and with them she and her Mother had all the food and money and protection they needed for the rest of their long and extremely happy lives.

Snipp, snapp, snute
Her er eventyret ute!

Snip, snap, snut,
My gob’s now shut!

FROM BEASTS AND BEAUTIES (DUFFY/SUPPLE/STILL; FABER 2004, ISBN 0-571-22669-8)

© copyright Carol Ann Duffy