Was Paul Bunyan Born in Norway?

Egil and Lilly Nestande, Norway

Up to now it has been believed that Paul Bunyan was of Swedish descent.  However, some old documents found hidden in the National Library in Oslo, indicate that Paul probably had his childhood in Norway. Among these papers there is a tale of a poor couple living on a small farm in Vaagaa in Gundbrandsdal valley. They had many children, and two of the sons, who were half-grown, always had to wander about the countryside begging.  So they were familiar with all the roads and trails, and they also knew the short cut to Heidal, the neighbouring valley.

One day they wanted to go there to visit some falconers who had built a hut at the river Maela. They wanted to see the birds and how the men caught them, so they took the trail over the Longmoss.  But it was already late in the fall, the dairymaids had gone home from the summer pastures, and there was nowhere the boys could find shelter, nor food either.  The trail was only an overgrown cow path, and when darkness came they lost the path, nor did they find the falconers' hut either.  Before they knew it, they were right in the midst of the thickest part of the Heidal forest.  When they realized that they couldn't find their way out, they started cutting branches, made up a fire, and built themselves a shelter of pine branches, for they had a hatchet with them.  And they gathered heather and moss, of which they made a bed.

A while after they had lain down, they heard something snuffing and snorting very hard.  The boys were all ears, and listened well to hear whether it might be an animal or a Forest Troll which they heard.  But it then started snorting even harder and said, "I smell the smell of Christian blood here!"

Then they heard it tread so heavily that the earth shook under it, and they could tell that the Trolls were out.

"God help us!  What'll we do now?" said the younger boy Peter to his brother Paul.

"Oh, you'll just have to stay under the fir tree where you're standing, and be ready to take the bags and run for your life when you see them coming!  I'll take the hatchet," said Paul.

Just then they saw the Trolls come rushing, and they were so big and tall that their heads were level with the tops of the fir trees.  But they had only on eye among the three of them, and they took turns using it.  Each had a hole in his forehead to put it in, and guided it with his hands.  The one who went ahead had to have it, and the others went behind him and held onto him.

"Take to your heels!" said Paul.  "But don't run too far before you see how it goes.  Since they have the eye so high up, it'll be hard for them to see me when I come behind them."

Well, Peter ran ahead, with the Trolls at his heels.  In the meantime, Paul went behind them and chopped the hindmost Troll in the ankle, so that he let out a horrible shriek.  Then the first Troll became so frightened that he jumped, and dropped the eye, and Paul wasn't slow in grabbing it up.  It was bigger that two pot lids put together, and it was so clear, that even though it was pitch black, the night became so light as day when he looked through it.

When the Trolls discovered that Paul had taken the eye from them, and that he had wounded one of them, they started threatening him with all the evil there was, if he didn't give them back the eye that very minute.

"I'm not afraid of Trolls or threats," said Paul.  "Now I have three eyes to myself, and you don't have any.  And still two of you have to carry the third."

"If we don't get our eye back this very minute, you'll be turned into sticks and stones!" shrieked the Trolls.

But Paul felt there wasn't any hurry; he was afraid neither of boasting nor magic, he said.  If they didn't leave him alone, he would chop at all three of them so they would have to crawl along the hill like creeping, crawling worms.

When the Trolls heard this, they became frightened and started to sing another tune.  They pleaded quite nicely that, if he gave them back the eye, he would get both gold and silver, and everything he wanted.  Well, Paul thought that was all very fine, but he wanted the gold and silver first.  So he said that if one of them would go home and fetch so much gold and silver the he and Peter could fill their bags, and give them both two good steel bows besides, they should get the eye.  But until then he would keep it.

The Trolls carried on and said that none of them could walk as long as he didn't have an eye to see with.  But then one of them started yelling for the old woman, for they ha one old woman among the three of them.  After a while there was an answer in a mountain far to the north. So the Trolls said that she was to come with two steel bows, and two pails full of gold and silver, and it wasn't long before she was there.  When she saw what had happened, she started threatening with magic.  But the Trolls became still more frightened and bade her be careful of that little wasp.  She couldn't be certain that he wouldn't take her eye too.  So she flung the buckets, and the gold and silver, and the bows at them, and strode home to the mountains with the Trolls.  And since then, no one has ever heard that the Trolls have been about in the Heidal Woods sniffing after Christian blood.

After the boys came home with their bags full of gold and silver, poverty was never to be mentioned at the small farm.  But rumours about all the gold and silver soon spread out, and folk nicknamed the small farm Blankenborg - "The shining castle", a name it still bears to this day.

Some years later, when Paul had grown to a tall and sturdy young man, the whole family left the small farm and went to America to seek their fortune there.  There are no proof records of where the family settled in America, but it is said that Paul, because of his extraordinary strength and skill in wielding an axe, earned him much fame as a logger.