every Fortress must have a Journal . . .

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Two White Bull-Calves and the Dragon

"Old Man Oscarsson lived here 170 years ago. Very close to here where we sit. He lived in a great stone house which has since been torn down and used for its stone. He was as rich as Croesus, as rich as the very troll. He could have bought half of Västragötaland and hardly noticed the expense."

"But he was very, very miserly. He was so stingy that his house servants said that they could see a quarter moon shining through the slices of cheese he sliced and gave out at the table. He would argue and harangue for hours without pause over a purchase worth 25 öre - about the value at the time of a loaf of coarse bread. Even the Smålänningar - renowned for their own great cheapness - would accuse the most extreme among themselves of being 'like Oscarsson on a bad day'."

"He worried constantly about his riches. His worst fear was that his wealth would fall into 'the wrong hands' , as he put it, after his death. He had no heirs, no known relatives. Who would end up with his estate? The thought tormented him. "

"One Sunday, when the serving folk and the tenants had gone to church, Old Man Oscarsson hitched up two great gray plow horses to a heavy cart that was used for hauling stone. He filled the cart with his treasure, with plate, heavy boxes of gold coins, ingots of the finest silver, bags of jewels and set precious stones by the hundreds. He drove the cart out on to the heath at Kråk, toward the line of the woods at Knekteskogen."

"There, near the woods, the stream called Kråkån forms a deep pool. Perhaps you know it. The pool is said to be over 100 meters deep. Oscarsson backed up the cart to the steep edge of the pool, unhitched the horses and levered the cart over the side with a long iron rod. The cart rolled down the edge of the pool, into the water, and sank out of sight."

"Oscarsson returned home and went up to his chamber. When the house servants came home they found him in his bed, stone-cold dead."

"Oh yes, people soon realized what Oscarsson had done. And where. Any night of the year, at the darkest hour - even in the summer when it never darkens completely - a shimmering blue flame would burn over the pool in Kråkån, just at the spot where the treasure lay. The blue flame showed that a Dragon had taken the treasure as his own and guarded it at the bottom of the pool. When the flame shimmered and leapt people would say 'the Dragon is cleaning house down there'."

"Many men tried to haul up the treasure. They would come with the strongest teams of oxen or horses. They would hitch up the heaviest tackle to massive steel hooks on coarse naval rope. They would lower down the hooks till they latched on to the cart and then man and beast would pull with all their life force."

"And it didn't work. At best they could haul the cart up a meter or so before the weight would drag them back, their hooves and boots tearing up the soil."

"There was a young farmer named Börje who lived at Vanäs. He was a good farmer, with a a fine cottage, a beautiful wife and two daughters. He knew of the treasure and wanted it. One day, on the way back from the market at Mölltorp, he stopped to talk to his neighbor, Old Yngve. Old Yngve knew exactly what was on Börje's mind:"

"No castrated ox or plow horse can do what you want. Listen carefully, because I will not have the chance to explain to you again. You must have two bull-calves that are new born and entirely white. They must be twin brothers and can't have a single black hair in their coats. You must raise them by hand for three full years. They must eat nothing but their own mother's unskimmed, whole milk. Nothing else. The milk must be pure, fresh and unskimmed. After three years, no less, you can hitch them and haul up the treasure from the bottom of Kråkån. The Dragon will allow it. Do you understand?"

"Yngve had a milkcow that was pure white and a stud bull that was jet black. He led that bull to his cow and he mounted her straight away. In the spring two calves were born, purest white, both males. Börje called them Left and Right. People came from as far away as Vara, just to see them. How was it possible, see the father there in his pen? He was a black as the darkest November night.. But there were the calves, like their mother, the color of the sun. It was most wonderful."

"Börje gave his serving girl, Eva, the responsibility of milking the mother cow and bringing her milk in two pails to Left and Right three times a day. Eva was a very responsible girl, fastidious and prudent in every way and she did this chore with special care. One morning when she was carrying the full pails when she saw a viper in her path. She was so startled that she dropped one of the pails and half the milk in it splashed out on the ground. Suddenly, her judgment, usually good, failed her. She took the half pail of milk and filled it with well water, to conceal the accident. She fed the calves, giving the watered milk to Left, and never said a word about what had happened."

"The three years went by quickly. Börje's daughters were the most beautiful girls in the whole parish and Left and Right had grown to become the most powerful young bulls anyone had every seen."

"One night in May Börje hitched them to a sturdy wagon and loaded his tackle. When they arrived at Kråkan there were 15 or 20 young men there to watch and to help if asked. Börje rigged the tackle and lowered the grappling hooks down into the pool. When they were made fast he stroked Left and Right on their muzzles and spoke to them kindly."

"Then they began to pull. No one had ever seen such power in a team. They pulled the cart at least 50 meters up off the bottom, the ropes straining with the enormous weight. But then, just as victory seemed near, Left seemed to lose his footing and went down on his left knee. The whole rig groaned and heaved, and the mighty load sank back to the bottom, dragging man and beast along."

"Three times they pulled. The second two times the young men - all of them - grabbed the ropes and pulled as though their lives were at stake. It didn't help. The second time they managed about 40 meters before Left went down on his knee and they were dragged back, straining and cursing, through the dirt. The third time they managed only about ten meters. It was plain they could not win the prize."

"As the treasure sank back down to its resting place for the third and final time every one present heard a deep booming voice calling out over the birch trees that lined the pool:"

"Ha! Unskimmed milk! Unskimmed milk! You have failed for the want of unskimmed milk!"

1 comment:

Photography said...

Hi Youssef, How are you?, that snakes picture, did you shoot it, they looks dangerous