The traditional version of the folktale I retold in my picture book Master Maid is extremely long, and I had to leave out much of it to fit it into a picture book. The final cut came when the editor asked me to “take out another page”—a manuscript page, that is, or about 10% of the text. The following piece shows the getaway scene as it was before the cut. (But I did add it back for the story and script versions on my Web site.)—Aaron
The next morning, the troll brought Leif to Master Maid. “Cut him up and throw him in the stew,” he told her. “And wake me when he’s done.” Then he lay down on a bench and started snoring.
Master Maid took a butcher knife down from the wall.
“You wouldn’t!” said Leif.
“Don’t be silly!” said the girl.
She pricked the tip of her little finger and squeezed three drops of blood onto a three-legged stool. Then she put some old rags and shoe soles in the stewpot, along with the kitchen garbage, and a couple of dead rats, and some dung for good measure.
Then she gathered a wooden comb, a lump of salt, and a flask of water.
“Quick!” she said. “We must flee while we can!”
“Are you sure we need to rush?” said Leif.
But Master Maid pushed him out the door and over to the stable. They saddled two mares and rode away at full gallop.
Meanwhile, the troll was stirring from his sleep. “Is he ready?” the troll called, not opening his eyes.
“Tough as leather!” the first drop of blood answered in Master Maid’s voice. So the troll went back to sleep.
A little later, the troll woke again and called, “Is he cooked?”
“Still chewy,” said the second drop of blood. The troll went to sleep again.
At last, the troll woke and called, “Isn’t he done yet?”
“Tender and juicy!” said the third drop of blood.
Still half asleep, the troll stumbled over to the pot. He scooped up some stew in a wooden ladle, and took a big mouthful. It was barely in his mouth when he sprayed it across the room.
“That little witch!” he shouted. Then his eyes grew wide. “She must have run off with the boy!”
The troll raced to the stable and saddled his stallion. Then he rode after them like a whirlwind, with the stallion breathing fire as he went.
In the background note to Master Maid, I mentioned further adventures of Leif and Master Maid in the original folktale. Some of these I originally tried to include, but I finally had to accept that they made the story too long for a picture book. Here, though, is the piece I took out.
This starts right after Leif and Master Maid land on the far shore, finally escaping the troll. To make sense of it, you must know that Master Maid took a couple more things from the troll’s house when they left: a small chest of gold, and two doves in a cage. Also, you’ll notice that Leif is now “the prince.” I changed that after I made the cut, because this is the only place he has to be one.
Now, their troubles should have ended there. But if no one made trouble for the prince, he was bound to make it for himself.
“Wait right here,” he told Master Maid. “My father’s mansion is just a short walk away, but I won’t have my beloved arriving on foot. I’ll get the horses and carriage and come back for you.”
“Oh, don’t go alone!” said Master Maid. “If you do, you are sure to forget me!”
“Now, how could I ever do that?” said the prince. And as much as Master Maid entreated, he would have it no way but his own.
Finally she said, “Your stubbornness will cost us dearly. But at least listen to what I say now. At your father’s house, you must talk to no one. Go straight to the stable, get the carriage, and come right back. And whatever you do, make sure that you eat not a thing.”
“If it will make you happy,” said the prince, and off he went.
Now, the king was being paid a royal visit by a foreign queen and her daughter, and every day a great feast was held at the mansion. When the prince was spotted walking up to the house, everyone came out and crowded round him.
“What news?” cried some.
“Come eat!” called others.
The prince gave them not a word or a look. He went straight to the stable and hitched up the carriage. He was all set to ride, when the queen’s lovely daughter showed at the stable door.
“If you won’t come inside,” said the princess, “at least ease your hunger with this.” And she tossed him an apple.
The prince caught it and took a bite. But the girl’s mother had bewitched the apple, and the prince forgot all about Master Maid.
“Now, where was I going with the carriage?” he muttered. “I must be losing my mind!”
So he unhitched the horses, and the princess took him back to the mansion, leading him by the hand. And before the day was done, the prince had proposed to her, and the wedding date set for that very Sunday.
Meanwhile, Master Maid waited by the shore till she was sure the prince wasn’t coming. Then off she went, too, with the small chest of gold and the two doves from the house of the troll.
Soon she came to a cottage, dingy and deserted. Master Maid went in and started a fire in the fireplace. Then she opened the chest she had brought, and threw into the fire a handful of gold.
The gold melted and flowed from the fireplace and spread itself all over, till it covered the cottage, inside and out.
“That should draw some notice,” said Master Maid to herself. “I’ll soon be sitting by the prince’s side, then we’ll see if his memory won’t serve him.”
By next day, word of the golden cottage and the beautiful maiden had reached the prince’s father.
“We must have her at the feast!” the king said, and he sent a kitchen boy to ask her.
But when the boy walked over and told her, “The king invites you to the mansion,” Master Maid replied, “I won’t go till the king comes for me himself.”
The next day, the king again wanted to invite Master Maid, and he sent his steward.
The steward rode over and said, “The king would like you at the feast.” But her answer again was, “I won’t go till the king comes for me himself.”
The next day was the one before the wedding, and the King was bent on having Master Maid at the mansion.
“I won’t mind going myself,” he said, and he rode in his carriage to the golden cottage.
Master Maid came out carrying a pie she had baked, and her dress was now covered with gold. If the king had ever seen a maiden more splendid, he was sure he couldn’t remember. And on their ride back, he was dazzled even more by Master Maid’s clever talk.
“She must be the noblest of young ladies,” he thought. So when they reached the banquet hall, he led her to the very head of the table, and sat her right by the prince.
Master Maid laid down her pie and said, “Would the bridegroom honor me by cutting this himself?”
The prince took a knife and began to slice, when out from the pie burst Master Maid’s two doves. Together they flew swiftly, round and round the room.
“Look how they fly!” said the prince. “As if someone chased them!”
“So we also flew,” said Master Maid, “when we were chased by the troll.”
With these words, the spell was broken. The prince remembered everything, and you can imagine how happy he was.
The princess and the queen were sent home, and on the wedding day, it was Master Maid who stood beside the prince. But when the minister asked Master Maid if she’d love, honor, and obey, the prince told him, “Never mind that! It’s best if I obey her.”
And he did—which is why they lived happily ever after.