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The witch in the stone boat.

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Before long others began to notice this as well as the king. In the court there were two young fellows, one of eighteen years old, the other of nineteen, who were very fond of playing chess and often sat long inside playing at it. Their room was next the queen's, and often during the day they heard the queen talking. One day they paid more attention than usual when they heard her talk, and put their ears close to a crack in the wall between the rooms, and heard the queen say quite plainly: 'When I yawn a little, then I am a nice little maiden: when I yawn halfway, then I am half a troll; and when I yawn fully then I am a troll altogether." As she said this she yawned tremendously, and in a moment had put on the appearance of a fearfully ugly troll.

Then there came up through the floor of the room a three-headed giant with a trough full of meat, who saluted her as his sister and set down the trough before her. She began to eat out of it and never stopped till she had finished it. The young fellows saw all this going on, but did not hear the two of them say anything to each other. They were astonished, though, at how greedily the queen devoured the meat and how much she ate of it, and were no longer surprised that she took so little when she sat at table with the king. As soon as she had finished it the giant disappeared with the trough by the same way as he had come, and the queen returned to her human shape. Now we must go back to the king's son after he had been put in charge of the nurse.

One evening. after she had lit a candle and was holding the child, several planks sprang up in the floor of the room, and out at the opening came a beautiful woman dressed in white, with an iron belt round her waist, to which was fastened an iron chain that went down into the ground. The woman came up to the nurse, took the child from her, and pressed it to her breast; then she gave it back to the nurse and returned by the same way as she had come, and the floor closed over her again. Although the woman had not spoken a single word to her, the nurse was very much frightened, but told no one about it. Next evening the same thing happened again, just as before, but as the woman was going away she said in a sad tone, "Two are gone and one only is left," and then disappeared as before.


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