Up at a place in Vaage, in Gudbrandsdale, there lived once on a time in the days of old a poor couple. They had many children, and two of the sons who were about half grown up had to be always roaming about the country begging. So it was that they were well known with all the highways and by-ways, and they also knew the short cut into Hedale.
It happened once that they wanted to get thither, but at the same time they heard that some falconers had built themselves a hut at Mæla, and so they wished to kill two birds with one stone, and see the birds, and how they are taken, and so they took the cut across Longmoss. But you must know it was far on towards autumn, and so the milkmaids had all gone home from the shielings, and they could neither get shelter nor food. Then they had to keep straight on for Hedale, but the path was a mere track, and when night fell they lost it; and, worse still, they could not find the falconers' hut either, and before they knew where they were, they found themselves in the very depths of the forest. As soon as they saw they could not get on, they began to break boughs, lit a fire, and built themselves a bower of branches, for they had a hand-axe with them; and, after that, they plucked heather and moss and made themselves a bed. So a little while after they had lain down, they heard something which sniffed and snuffed so with its nose; then the boys pricked up their ears and listened sharp to hear whether it were wild beasts or wood trolls, and just then something snuffed up the air louder than ever, and said--
'There's a smell of Christian blood here!'
At the same time they heard such a heavy foot-fall that the earth shook under it, and then they knew well enough the trolls must be about.
'Heaven help us! what shall we do?' said the younger boy to his brother.
'Oh! you must stand as you are under the fir, and be ready to take our bags and run away when you see them coming; as for me, I will take the hand-axe,' said the other.
All at once they saw the trolls coming at them like mad, and they were so tall and stout, their heads were just as high as the fir-tops; but it was a good thing they had only one eye between them all three, and that they used turn and turn about. They had a hole in their foreheads into which they put it, and turned and twisted it with their hands. The one that went first, he must have it to see his way, and the others went behind and took hold of the first.
'Take up the traps,' said the elder of the boys, 'but don't run away too far, but see how things go; as they carry their eye so high aloft they'll find it hard to see me when I get behind them.'
Yes! the brother ran before and the trolls after him, meanwhile the elder got behind them and chopped the hindmost troll with his axe on the ankle, so that the troll gave an awful shriek, and the foremost troll got so afraid he was all of a shake and dropped the eye. But the boy was not slow to snap it up. It was bigger than two quart pots put together, and so clear and bright, that though it was pitch dark, everything was as clear as day as soon as he looked through it.
When the trolls saw he had taken their eye and done one of them harm, they began to threaten him with all the evil in the world if he didn't give back the eye at once.
'I don't care a farthing for trolls and threats,' said the boy, 'now I've got three eyes to myself and you three have got none, and besides two of you have to carry the third.'
If we don't get our eye back this minute, you shall be both turned to stocks and stones,' screeched the trolls.
But the boy thought things needn't go so fast; he was not afraid for witchcraft or hard words. If they didn't leave him in peace he'd chop them all three, so that they would have to creep and crawl along the earth like cripples and crabs.
When the trolls heard that, they got still more afraid and began to use soft words. They begged so prettily that he would give them their eye back, and then he should have both gold and silver and all that he wished to ask. Yes! that seemed all very fine to the lad, but he must have the gold and silver first, and so he said, if one of them would go home and fetch as much gold and silver as would fill his and his brother's bags, and give them two good cross-bows beside, they might have their eye, but he should keep it until they did what he said.
The trolls were very put out, and said none of them could go when he hadn't his eye to see with, but all at once one of them began to bawl out for their goody, for you must know they had a goody between them all three as well as an eye. After a while an answer came from a knoll a long way off to the north. So the trolls said she must come with two steel cross-bows and two buckets full of gold and silver, and then it was not long, you may fancy, before she was there. And when she heard what had happened, she too began to threaten them with witchcraft. But the trolls got so afraid, and begged her beware of the little wasp, for she couldn't be sure he would not take away her eye too. So she threw them the cross-bows and the buckets and the gold and the silver, and strode off to the knoll with the trolls; and since that time no one has ever heard that the trolls have walked in Hedale wood snuffing after Christian blood.