Charcoal Nils and the Troll-Woman
In the old days there lived on a headland that juts out into the northwestern corner of Lake Rasval, in the neighborhood of the Linde mining-district, a charcoal-burner named Nils, generally known as Charcoal Nils. He let a farm-hand attend to his little plot of land, and he himself made his home in the forest, where he chopped wood in the summer and burned it to charcoal in the winter. Yet no matter how hard he struggled, his work was unblessed with reward, and no one ever spoke of him save as poor Charcoal Nils.
One day, when he was on the opposite shore of the lake, near the gloomy Harsberg, a strange woman came up to him, and asked whether he needed some one to help him with his charcoal burning.
"Yes, indeed," said he, "help would be welcome." So she began to gather blocks of wood and tree-trunks, more than Charcoal Nils could have dragged together with his horse, and by noon there was enough wood for a new kiln. When evening came, she asked the charcoal-burner whether he were satisfied with the day's work she had done, and if she were to come back the next day.
That suited the charcoal-burner perfectly, and she came back the next day and all the following ones. And when the kiln had been burned out she helped Nils clear it, and never before had he had such a quantity of charcoal, nor charcoal of so fine a quality.
So she became his wife and lived with him in the wood for three years. They had three children, yet this worried Nils but little, seeing that she looked after them, and they gave him no trouble.
But when the fourth year came, she grew more exacting, and insisted on going back to his home with him, and living with him there. Nils wished to hear nothing about this; yet since she was so useful to him in his charcoal-burning, he did not betray his feelings, and said he would think it over.
It happened one Sunday that he went to church—where he had not been for many years, and what he heard there brought up thoughts he had not known since the innocent days of his childhood.