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Type: Close Encounter, Trolls
Location: Washington Island, Wisconsin
Washington Island Trolls
Source: From the book "Ghosts of Door County" by Geri Rider. Pages 161-166.
THE LITTLE PEOPLE
Young Anna was a happy but quiet child. She had few
toys as was the case for most small children in the 1850's when the
essentials of food, shelter and safety, not the entertainment of their
children, occupied the minds and sapped the energy of parents.
The early Icelandic settlers of Washington Island faced many hardships.
Their perilous ship voyage was over but few belongings made the journey
with them. They were forced to rely on their own resourcefulness and
the land itself for food and shelter. The isolation of the island made
this even more true.
That first spring and summer Anna's father and two older brothers
cleared the timber on a small rise not far from what is now known as
Jackson Harbor. They trimmed the biggest logs and notched them to erect
the tiny cabin that was home that first winter. A sleeping loft for the
young ones was reached by climbing the crude ladder propped against the
Anna's mormor, her mother's mother, lived with them. While Anna's
mother was busy doing wash, tending the small garden, or caring for
baby Hans, Anna played at her Grandmother's feet.
With the steady thrum of her spinning wheel for accompaniment,
Grandmother sang folk songs and told the tales handed down from
generation to generation. Tales of life in an inhospitable climate,
legends of the huldrefolk, little people similar to the leprechauns of
Ireland, who hid in the meadows around her native village, and stories
of Anna's mother's childhood were often repeated to the delight of the
With strict warnings to stay away from the swamp to the west, Anna was
permitted to play in the meadows and woods that surrounded their tiny
cabin. She seemed to have a natural affinity for the woods and wildlife
and thoroughly enjoyed her quiet life.
During the summer, it was Anna's job to gather the wild berries that
grew abundantly on the island. It was a chore that she enjoyed since it
allowed her to play in the woods.
It was with a light heart that Anna skipped down the dusty dirt path on
her way to the west meadow to pick the last of the summer's
raspberries. Mama had promised to make tebrod, Anna's favorite sweet
bread filled with fruit, if Anna brought her a pail of berries. Bright
August sunshine glinted off Anna's blond braids as she hurried along
softly humming her favorite song.
When she returned several hours later, Anna was still happily humming
but the bucket she set on the plank table was barely half full.
Now Anna's mother, as is the way with many mothers, took one look at a
half full bucket that she very well knew should have been brimming over
the top with bright red berries and immediately suspected that her
daughter had done more playing than berry picking.
She questioned Anna in a sharper tone than might have been the case had
she not had an unusually trying day herself, "And so, child, why is
your bucket so empty? Did you fall asleep in the shade of the big tree
So happy that she was unaware of her mother's anger Anna blithely
answered, "Oh, no, Mama. I wanted the tebrod very badly so I wouldn't
fall asleep, but they came and said they were so very hungry and would
I leave the berries for them." Her blue eyes danced with barely
"Who said that?" her mother questioned sharply. "Who feels that they
have more need of food than we do, that we should not have it and they
"Why the huldrefolk, of course. I saw them, Mama. I saw the hidden
people. They're just like they are in Mormor's stories, but much
nicer." Anna excitedly continued, "They had tiny clothes, and little
shoes, and funny hats. We talked and they even let me dance with them
when I said that they might have the berries. They taught me a new song
it goes like this." She sang a haunting melody.
Unfortunately for Anna, her mother did not share her excitement, nor did she believe in the existence of the hidden people.
Young Anna received a severe scolding about her irresponsibility and
laziness with a tart reprimand about inventing tales and letting her
imagination run away with her thrown in for good measure.
Her mother left the cabin to tend to the evening chores and a tearful
Anna sank to the floor beside her Grandmother's rocker. The old chair
creaked to a stop as Anna's head sank to the apron-covered lap for
"I did see them, Mormor. I really did. I didn't make it up!" The old
lady dried the child's eyes with the corner of her apron and smoothed
the damp tendrils of blond hair back away from the tear-stained face
with her arthritic fingers.
"I know, child. I know that you were telling the truth."
Lost in her own reflections, the old woman continued in a voice cracked
with age, "I'd forgotten that song. So many years. Back home, back when
I was a child just your age, my grandmother used to sing it to me.
She'd sing the song and then tell me of the time that she, like you,
found the huldrefolk and spent the day with them, and how they danced
and taught her the words and melody to that special song."
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