“The Ash lad and the Hungry Troll”

Once there lived a woodcutter who had three sons. The eldest two lads were big and strong, but the third boy was different.
His name was Ash lad, and he loved to sit in front of the hearth and read and dream. The elder boys often teased him.

“What good is reading?” they would ask.
When the woodcutter grew old and his debts began to mount, he called his two eldest sons to his side.

“I’m too old for this work,” he said, “you’ll have to chop wood to pay our debts.”

The two sons went into the forest.
Just as they prepared to chop down a tree, a hideous troll called out, “Chop my wood and I’ll kill you.”

Terrified, the sons ran home. “The troll will kill us if we chop his wood,” they told their father.

Now the father was distraught. “Who will help me pay our debts? We’re doomed!” he lamented.
But Ash lad said, “I’ll chop the wood.”

The others laughed, but Ash lad did not care. He had read about trolls, and so he packed a big round cheese in his knapsack, and then tucked it inside his shirt. Then he walked into the woods.

Just as Ash lad raised his axe, a voice thundered, “Chop my wood and I’ll kill you!”

Ash lad did not run. He turned, reached into his bag, and pulled out the big round cheese.
“What’s that?” asked the troll.
Ash lad smiled. “A big rock,” he said, and then he squeezed the cheese until water dripped out of it.
The troll was stunned. “You squeezed water out of that rock!” he exclaimed.
“I did,” Ash lad said, “and I’ll do the same to you unless you help me chop this wood and carry it home.”
“Very well,” said the troll.

The two worked until it was almost sunset.
The troll did not want to lose his wood, so he said, “Let’s go to my place and eat before we take this wood to your home.”

“Good idea,” Ash lad said.

Here Ash Lad saw all the gold and silver the troll had stolen. He hatched a plan, and challenged the troll to an eating contest.

“How much would you eat?” asked the troll.
Ash lad grinned. “More than you, I’m sure,” he said.
The troll howled with laughter. “No man can eat as much as I.”

“We’ll see,” said Ash lad, and the two sat down. Ash lad began to spoon up stew, and whenever the troll wasn’t looking, he slipped a spoonful into the knapsack hidden beneath his shirt.

This went on until the troll was full. “You’re not full?” asked the troll, staring in wonder at this little man.
“I’m getting there,” Ash lad said, “so I think I’ll make more room.” Ash lad took his knife and made a slit in his shirt, into the hidden bag.
“Doesn’t that hurt?” the troll asked.
“A little,” answered Ash lad, “But it gives me more room,” and he resumed eating. “Why don’t you try it?” he asked the troll.
So the troll lifted up his knife and did just what Ash lad had done, and he died.
Ash Lad took all the gold and silver he could find so his father could easily pay off his debts.

He always knew that his reading and learning would pay off!

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