Whirl Away


Ysätters-Kajsa was a wind-troll, that people used to believe in, in the Swedish province of Närke. She was probably the only one of her kind in Scandinavia.

The Swedish writer Selma Lagerlöf immortalised Ysätters-Kajsa in her famous novel The Wonderful Adventures of Nils (1906-1907).

She wrote that in Närke, in the old days, there was something that existed nowhere else and it was a troll named Ysätters-Kajsa. She had been named Kajsa because wind-trolls used to be called by that name, and her cognomen Ysätter came from the swamp Ysätter in Asker parish, where she was born. She appeared to live in Asker parish, but she played jokes on people all over Närke.

She was not a dark and gloomy troll, but a happy and playful one. What she liked most, was a real gale, and as soon as there was enough wind, she left her home to have a dance on the Närke flatland. Närke is essentially nothing but a flatland, surrounded by woody hills. It is only in the north-eastern corner where we find Hjälmaren that there is an aperture.

When the wind, one morning had summoned its forces on the Baltic Sea and rushed into the hinterland, it rushes without being stopped across the hills of Södermanland into Närke. But, in Närke, it collides with the ridge of Kilsbergen, which turns it southwards, where it collides with Tiveden, which directs it eastwards, where it collides with Tylöskog. Then it rushes northwards where it collides with Käglan, and it turns the wind westwards again towards Kilsbergen, and so on. It turns round and round until it is nothing but a whirlwind on the plain.

It was in those days, when whirlwinds rushed over the plain that Ysätters-Kajsa had most fun. Then she stood in the centre of the whirlwind had had a very good time. Her long hair whirled among the clouds, her skirt dragged in the ground like a duststorm and the whole plain was under her like a dance floor.

In the mornings, Ysätters-Kajsa used to sit up on a high Scots Pine on the top of a high cliff and look out on the plain. If it were winter and the snow allowed easy driving in sleighs, she saw many people travelling on the plain. Then she would start a real storm and create snow drifts so so high that people could hardly come home to the evening. If it were summer and good weather for loading the dry hay on the fields, she would wait until the first carts had been fully loaded and then she would come rushing with a few rains which would put an end to the working day.

It is true that she rarely thought of anything else but creating annoyance. The colliers in Kilsbergen hardly dared sleep because as soon as she saw an unguarded charcoal kiln, she came sneaking and puffed so that it would start burning with high flames. If the ore transporters were going late from Laxå and Svartå, Ysätters-Kajsa caused such dark fogs that both people and horses went astray and drove into marshes and swamps.

If the vicar's wife in Glanshammar had prepared for afternoon coffee in her garden a Sunday in the summer and there was a breeze that lifted the table cloth and threw around both cups and plates, then everyone knew who was to blame. If the hat blew away from the mayor in Örebro, so that he had to run after it over the town square, if the people of the island of Vinön hit a shoal in lake Hjälmaren with their small cargo boats laden with vegetables, if laundry blew away and was heaped with dust, if the smoke one evening was blown into the houses, then it was an easy guess as to who was out having a good time.

In spite of the fact that Ysätters-Kajsa loved causing any kind of annoyance, she was not bad to the bone. People noticed that she was hardest on people who were quarrelsome, mean and wicked, but honest folks and small poor children, she often took into her care. Old people say that once when the church of Asker was burning, Ysätters-Kajsa came blowing and settled among fire and smoke on the roof of the church putting down the fire.

In many cases, the people of Närke were quite tired of the wind-troll, but she on the other hand, never got tired of causing trouble for them. When she was sitting on the top of a cloud, watching Närke, which lay under her with its affluence and wealth of prominent homesteads on the plain, and rich mines and ironworks in the hills, with its turpid Svartån River, and the shallow plain lakes that were so rich in fish, with its good old borough of Örebro that sprawled around the serious old castle with the sturdy towers, then she must have thought: "here people would be much too well off, if it were not for me, who shake them up and keep them happy". And then she would laugh widely and tauntingly like a magpie, and whirl away, dancing and whirling from one corner of the plain to another. When the farmer saw her run with her trail of dust over the plain, he could not help smiling, because however teasing and naughty she could be, she had a good temper. It was also just as refreshing for the farmers to deal with the troll, as it was for the plain to be whipped by the storm.

Lagerlöf finishes her presentation of the troll by saying: Nowadays, people claim that Ysätters-Kajsa is dead and gone, like all other trolls, but such things are almost impossible to believe. It is just as if someone would say that the air would be still on the plains and the wind would no more dance over it with whistling and roars and fresh air and downpours.

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