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W-File: cewashingtonisland.html

Type: Close Encounter, Trolls
Date: 1850's
Location: Washington Island, Wisconsin

Washington Island Trolls

Source: From the book "Ghosts of Door County" by Geri Rider. Pages 161-166.

Chapter XXI


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 fireplace wall.

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 young Anna.

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 again?"

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 suppressed excitement.

"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 should?"

"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 comfort.

"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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