The boy that travelled to the northern wind and demanded the flour back
The Norwegian fairytale is translated into English, and at the end we will dissect it and explore the patterns.
There was once an old wife who had a son; she was squalid and frail, and then her boy, her son, would go to the storehouse for her after flour to the porridge for dinner. But, as he stepped out again on the stairs, the northern wind came rushing, taking the flour from him and blew away. The boy went to the storehouse for more, but as he stepped out onto the stairs, the northern wind came again, took the flour from him; and so it went the third time also. This made the boy angry, and he thought it was unreasonable for the northern wind to act this way, and then he thought he might look him up and demand the flour back.
Yes, he started the journey; but the travel was long. He walked and walked. Finally, he came to the northern wind.
«Good day», said the boy, and thanks for last time”.
«Good day, said the northern wind – the voice was very deep – and thank you for last time”.
«Oh", said the boy, «I wanted to ask of you to return the flour you stole from me on the steps of our storehouse; because little have we, and when you take away the little we have, we will starve”.
«I do not have any flour”, said the northern wind; “but since you are here, I will give you a tablecloth that will get you everything you want, only by saying: “Tablecloth, fold out and set the table with all the best of dishes”.
The boy was very satisfied with that. But, the journey back was so long that he could not reach home in one day, so he went to a guesthouse on the way. When the people there were about to eat supper, he placed the tablecloth on a table in a corner and said: “Tablecloth, fold out and set the table with all the best of dishes!” Immediately the tablecloth did it, and everybody thought this was a wonderful thing, but no one liked it more than the housewife of the guesthouse. It would not be much work with frying, cooking, fetching, and setting with that tablecloth, she thought. So, when everybody was sleeping that night, she took the tablecloth and placed a similar looking as the one the boy had received from the northern wind, a tablecloth that did not even give the smallest piece of food.
When the boy woke up, he took the tablecloth and continued the journey home to the mother.
«Now, he said, «I have visited the northern wind, and he was a decent man, because he gave me this tablecloth, and when I tell it: “Tablecloth, fold out and set the table with all the best of dishes!” then, I get everything I desire”.
«Sure», said the mother, «but I do not believe it before I see it”.
The boy hurried and sat forward a table, placed the tablecloth on it, and said: “Tablecloth, , fold out and set the table with all the best of dishes!” But the tablecloth did not even come up with a dry crumble of bread.
«There is no other solution than me travelling to the northern wind again”, said the boy, and started his journey. After a long travel he reached the place the northern wind lived.
«Good evening», said the boy.
«Good evening», said the northern wind.
«I want justice for the flour you took from me”, said the boy; “because the tablecloth you gave me was useless”.
«I do not have any flour”, said the northern wind; “but over there you have a goat that make gold, only by you saying, make money!”
The boy did not have anything against that; but it was such a long way home, he could not reach back the same day, so he stayed over at the guesthouse again. Before he made any arrangements, he tried the goat, because he wanted to check if it was true what the northern wind have said. It was, and when the housefather of the guesthouse saw it, he thought it was a very nice goat, and just when the boy had fell asleep, he switched it with another goat.
The next morning the boy went on back home, and when he met the mother, he said: “The northern wind is a kind man after all; now he gave me a goat that makes gold coins, just by me saying, make money!”
«Sure», said the mother, that is only talk, and I do not believe it before I see it”.
«My goat, make money!» said the boy; but it was for sure not money the goat was making.
Then, he had to take the journey to the northern wind again, and said that the goat was useless, and that he wanted justice for the flour.
«Well, now I have nothing else to give you”, said the northern wind, “other than the old staff that stand over there in the corner; but if you say: “My staff, strike!” it will strike until you say: “My staff, stand still!”
Since the way back was long, the boy stayed the night at the guesthouse this night as well; but since he could not figure out what had happened with the tablecloth and the goat, he immediately lay down and snored on the bench, pretending that he was asleep. The housefather of the guesthouse thought that this staff would be something special, so he found another similar staff to switch, when he heard the boy was snoring. But, when he was about to switch the staff, the boy shouted: “My staff, strike!” The staff hit the man of the guesthouse over and over, so he went over tables and benches and screamed “stop, make it stop! It will kill me: I will give back both the tablecloth and the goat!” When the boy thought that the man of the guesthouse have had enough, he said: “My staff, stand still!” and took the tablecloth in his pocket, the staff in his hand, tied a rope to the horns of the goat, and went home with it all.
That was justice for the flour!
Well, that was the version of the fairy tale, at the time Asbjørnsen & Moe wrote it down. So, what is this story about? What is all this symbolism? Let us dissect the different components, and later accumulate them together in a process and a pattern;
The mother in the house
She would be the typical sorceress.
The northern wind
This metaphor is always related to death. The boy dies when he goes to visit the northern wind. In other fairytales this metaphor could also be the western wind.
The northern wind steals the white flour from the boy, and the boy goes to get his life back (the life force, his ability to live), the same way Þórr does it, to get back his hammer (life force) in Þrymskviða.
Occurs three times, of course – since the number three is a sacred number. Everything good is three. There are three cycles in nature, three stages of a pregnancy, 3X3=9 – the highest figure of Óðinn (the spirit, your accumulated ancestors), and the number of solar months before a re-birth.
The northern wind (death, or Hél if you will) gives the boy a tablecloth with magic abilities. The abilities of getting all kinds of food on the table. Well, we have to see this with a pagan perspective, as always – because the tablecloth giving food relates to the first cycle of the three – the earliest and youngest stage; when you are actually able to eat in the state outside the womb. So, there is no wonder that the tablecloth was stolen by the mother of the guesthouse, the place the boy needs to rest his “three nights”.
This is the avatar of Hél/Valhöll/the womb. Here, the boy rests, but also looses and wins all his abilities to use in life.
The goat giving gold coins
The second time the boy visits the northern wind, he receives a goat that gives him gold coins. The goat is a cloven animal, related to adrenaline, to Pan, to Lóki and to Þórr. It is “the horned one”, related to both the childbirth itself, but also the second state of the three; the pagan initiation process at the age of reasoning (around seven), because there are three such phases: seven, fourteen and twenty one years of age. There are seven years in between the phases – another pagan sacred number. The gold coins are “eternal metal”, they reflect the sun and gold is in fairytales and myths the metaphor for ancestral memory, the blood memory – accumulated and re-born with the accelerator – the goat, the horned one.
The third time the boy visits the northern wind, he gives the boy a staff that can beat and defend on command. The boy avenges the thief at the guesthouse and overcomes the “master” of his resting place (the womb). Such magic staffs we recognize several other places in fairytales and myths as well. One obvious example is in the myth in Skáldskaparmál, when Þórr visits Geirröðr. Þórr receives a staff during the third phase, wich he uses to break the backs of two Ettin women (Jǫtnar), before he slays Geirröðr (“spear of fire/blood” (placenta and umbilical cord)) and breaks the pillar (axis mundi), descends and gets re-born.
Well, the same happens with the boy that went to the northern wind three times. He gets re-born, with the physical abilities to eat all the thinkable dishes with his accumulated ancestors and blood memory in him – represented by the tied gold giving goat – the pagan symbol of the re-birth itself.
The third phase
As explained earlier, there are three phases – not only in stages of a pregnancy, but also in early life; up to age seven, fourteen and twenty one. These rituals are more explained in the book Our Traditions – in a pagan, mythological and cultural perspective, but in essence the third and the last phase would be adulthood. When for example the boy becomes a real adult, a warrior, a defender of family and tribe – a better version of himself, a “God-maker”, a ruler of his own destiny.
Well, what else would you now call the boy travelling to the northern wind?