A Story from Denmark
Retold by Cathy S. Mosley
In the forest of Gronveld, out on the west coast of the Isle of Mon, stories were once whispered about how it was unwise to walk at night for who would want to meet the Green Huntsman? The whispers told of how he rode with his head under his left arm, a spear in his right hand, and with his great, cruel hounds running ahead of his monstrous horse.
At harvest time the farmers laid out a sheaf of oats for his horse so that their fields of grain would not be trampled.
And you would think that to stay inside was to be safe…..
Just as the farmer, Harold, thought as he sat at his meal one wintry night; until a knock at his door brought him to his feet.
Colder than the night wind did poor Harold’s blood flow when he looked up….. and up ….. at the Green Huntsman. For even the head was held higher than Harold stood. He stared up at this spirit being whose flesh, hair, and clothes were of varying hues of green .
“Hold my Hounds!” ordered the Huntsman, and thrust the leash of several massive, ebony hounds into the terrified farmer’s grasp. Both Hounds and man watched the Huntsman swing to the saddle and ride away.
Two hours or more poor Harold stood trembling in his doorway. He stared at the preternatural canines, but shrank when they turned their great heads to gaze at him with blood-red eyes.
Finally the ground shook with the pounding of horse’s hoofs, and the great Hunter returned to the farmyard. The giant stuck his spear out of the way and lifted up a mass of greenish seaweed the hair of the mermaid that was slung across his saddle.
“Seven years I have hunted her,” the Giant roared in triumph, “And tonight I speared her clear!!”
He swung from the saddle and pointed his head at Harold. “Bring me drink!!” he bellowed.
Harold, poor man, was shaking from hair end to toe tip, and barely managed to step near enough to give back the leash; then he fled to the house and filled his biggest mug with mead.
One gulp and the drink was gone.
The Huntsman dropped a gold coin into Harold’s hand, but no sooner had metal touched flesh when the coin burned a hole straight through the man’s hand.
Amidst the farmer’s howls the giant laughed, and said, “Now you’ve a fine story to tell about how you shook hands with the Green Huntsman. But….” he pressed a now empty leash into Harold’s good hand “…let it not be said I drank without paying!!”
When the Green Huntsman was gone, Harold took the weathered leash and locked it away. And for the years he kept that piece of leather he prospered beyond his dreams. But he always thought the leash a foul thing and finally threw it away.
From that hour on Harold became poorer than he ever had thought he could be.
I have been a storyteller for nearly fifteen years, and have spent all of my life in Springfield, Illinois, a landscape of flat cornfields and Abraham Lincoln. And maybe its in reaction to both that I began to seek any of the tales of more mysterious (at least to a far younger “me”), and mountainous, nations.
The more I have been involved in working with stories the more my fascination has grown in regards to the tales of the Wild Hunt and nature personified by various spirits.
I was particularly intrigued with “The Green Huntsman,” since it combines the motifs of the Hunt and the Green Man. I also find that it embodies the energy of nature in that the Green Huntsman is both tricky and helpful.
My research in various nature stories, particularly stories of fox shifters, led me to NILAS (Nature in Legend and Story) where I began work with “Stories for the Seasons.” The “Stories for the Seasons” website was conceived to be a resource for storytellers and educators of stories, books, and links. Since we were then a small organization, I have done the main part of the writing. I came to realize that while many fine adaptations of stories are available, I wanted to take the tales as near to the root stock as I could. And while I can’t return to the original tellers, I do try to seek out the earliest written versions and to work from these. Even when I am not writing on NILAS “Stories” I find this philosophy still influencing my writing, as it did with this retelling of “The Green Huntsman.”
Scandinavian Folktales, by Jacqueline Simpson. London: Penguin Books, Ltd.. 1988
About the Contributor
Cathy Mosley is a storyteller living in Springfield, Illinois. She is the editor for the feature “Stories for the Seasons,” www2.h-net.msu.edu/~nilas/seasons