In the old days, anyone who wanted to become outstanding at playing the fiddle, had to get the fossegrim to teach them, or else the playing would not be very good, and they would only become lousy fiddlers.
The fossegrim was a water creature who dwelled under a waterfall, preferably by a mill, and there he sometimes played tricks on the millers, and sometimes he would play so beautiful that people would become completely enchanted when they heard his song. Sometimes he would play lively songs, but other times he played his fiddle with such a weeping sound that those who heard it had to cry. He also had the manner that he could change with the mood he was in. If he was upset, he would come out of the water as such a horrid creation that people would get absolutely terrified.
There was a man who went to the mill one evening, and at that mill no one should be around or let the mill run after the dark, because the fossegrim would get angry when they disturbed his night’s rest. The man was warned of this, but he did not care, his only thought was to get his flour finished. When the night came, he heard big seeps in the water, and then there came some big spouts against the wall. After a while the door was thrown open, and the man saw a big skull that filled the entire doorway and the cheeks fell close to the door frames. His eyes were as big as table plates, and his mouth was pitch black. The troll stood there for a while, looked around and gaped and budged his skull. Then it said: “But there was a skull, man.” The man got so terrified that he did not know what to do with himself, and he would have tried to get out, but the door was held shut, so he had to stand there the whole night. Sometimes the mill would shake back and forth like a sieve, and sometimes the millstone got held still, and in between full fists of flour blew straight in his eyes. At the break of day he was finally released and were about to leap up a hill, but in the same instance he got one of his flour bags right on his neck, so he plunged down on the road. He got back on his feet again and started running. Then he heard the fossegrim shouting: “Unscathed you are this time, but if you come back more often, then maybe you will have a bone broken, that can remind you that you annoyed me.”
This is how the fossegrim behaved when he was enraged, but he acted differently when he was treated like he wanted. He was very fond of cured meat, and when they threw him some, he would soon appear on a stone out in the river with his fiddle, and played as long as the piece of meat was big and good for. If someone wanted to learn to play from him, they had to bring a piece of mutton, and throw it over to the waterfall. After a while the man would appear, shooting like an arrow up on a rock with his fiddle. His hair was long and thick and so yellow that it looked like gold. His nose and mouth was suitable and well made, and his eyes shone and were as bright as dwarf stones. His hands were small and white, and his fingers went so fast that one could not see them when he was playing. First he would string the fiddle and then he would play it, sometimes so loud that it would echo, and sometimes low and nice, and so he would continue until the person who had thrown the meat piece had learned. Afterwards he dived back in the water and disappeared. If he got a puny piece, then the person who gave it to him would not become much of a fiddler, but if the piece was big and fat, he would become better, and if someone were so generous to throw him a grand goat leg, they would become an exceptional fiddler.
Once there was a miser who wanted to learn how to play, but he did not grant a meat limb for the fossegrim. He wanted to go to the waterfall without one, but others advised against it, because they knew the fossegrim would not teach anyone without a reward. So the man went to look at his meat, but all limbs he thought to be too big, and none of them he could do without. Finally he took a bone where the meat was well carved off; this will have to do, he thought. He threw the bone into the water and waited a long while before he saw any waterman. Eventually he came, but not happy and jaunty, he looked cranky and diminished. Even so he started to string his fiddle, but there was no playing. The boy got somber and said: “It was playing I wanted to learn.” But the fossegrim answered:
“I’ll teach you stringing
But nothing more
For you gave me a bone
With meat so poor”
Translated from: Norsk Folkedikting III, Segner
Fossegrim | Kvelertak | 2010 (Self-titled)