KLAS AND THE KING OF WINTER

A HALFLING FOLK-TALE

 
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Introduction. Another halfling folk tale is lovingly reproduced here for the enjoyment of others by the fireside. This is one of the few tales which incorporates more than one of the enigmatic folk heroes known as Blessedvales, and as such may seem confusing to the uninitiated. Klas the Bear is a legendary blacksmith of Heldmondsshire folklore, and Mian Longfellow may be more familiar to human readers as Feygin Greenfoot. The following story is often told during the later months of the year, just as the winter snows begin to set in, and begins with a traditional call and response.
 

ou all know the story of great Klas? Klas the strong? Klas Whitebear, strong as a dwarf, with a great white beard and a voice to shake the leaves from whole forests if he put his mind to it?

Audience: Yes!

Well mayhaps then, you know of Mian? Clever Mian, of the bright eyes and the sharp wit? Mian Longfellow, the young gaffer who tricked a magic bag and a graven's ransom in gold from a terrible dragon?
Audience: Of course!

I wager then, that you know the story of Klas and the terrible wolves! How he tricked the wolves to find the great Bear of Winter?

Audience: Get on with it already!

Then of course, you know the story of how one winter, the Bear did not go to sleep?

Audience: No!

Sit down, all and we shall hear of how Klas Whitebeard and Mian Longfellow bested the King of Winter and kept him from freezing the whole world.

Long ago, in the days of your grandgaffer's grandgaffer's grandgaffer's grandgaffer's grandgaffer there was a terrible winter, that lasted for a year. A hard and terrible winter that would not end. But all that had passed by the time this story had started.

This winter started off like any, the harvest had been taken in, tatters and neeps and caroots all tucked away, mithatoes crushed up into preserves, and the last of the redberries long since gone into jams and jellies. The ponies and pigs and all the animals taken into barns as they should be, and the shire was peaceful.

One quiet afternoon, it came that Mian Longfellow, cleverly and quietly slipped back into the shire, as he was wont to do in the colder months, bringing stories from far off lands in return for a night's stay and a meal while the snow kept the forests bleak and barren and the magic of his cloak would not hide him. Or perhaps to hide up in a hayloft somewhere and slip away when no one was looking for him. For you and I both know that Mian was a great trickster and player of pranks, which is a quick way to get oneself into a fair bit of trouble if one isn't terribly careful.

And it so happened, that that very selfsame afternoon, the snows began to fall, for the King of Winter had begun to settle in for his deep slumber for the cold months. And the snows fell. And fell. And fell. The chill winds blew from the cave of the great, white Bear of Winter, and froze the branches of the trees and the ground itself so hard that it chipped shovels.

No mere snows were these, but great white blizzards, the likes of which had not been seen for many years. The gaffers brought themselves together at Klas's forge, and thumbed their pipes and wondered what they should do. The gaffers argued over whether this was the coldest winter that they remembered, and just as it seemed they would come to a conclusion, or even simply begin to get on with it, one of them would say something that would set the others right off! And so the arguing never stopped, for as we all know a gaffer will argue right through the day, only stopping for a bite to eat every once in a while.

But Klas was not fooled, he saw clever Mian sneaking around the outside of the forge, and while the gaffers continued to argue he crept outside, and grabbed Mian by his ankles and hung him upside down, Mian protesting the whole while.

"There won't be anything to come of a gaggle of greybearded gaffers talking Klas! Half of them haven't seen over the next hill since their children were young enough to be hearing babetales."

And Klas knew that Mian was right, for the gaffers had been talking since breakfast, and it was quite nearing the time for supper. He had only seen Mian creeping around since tea, which didn't bode well at all for trying to get something useful out of the old greyfeet. And so Klas said to Mian

"'Tis not an ordinary winter, Mian, but a wolf winter, I fear something should have to be done about it." Klas was calm of course, for losing one's head in the face of an empty belly does no good at all and leaves on with an empty head besides!

"I have been out in the woods, and the snows are deeper there still, where here they may only reach as high as your nose. The woods are filled with snow so deep that if you could stand on them you could pluck a nest clean out of the highest branches of the tree." But neither Klas nor even quick footed Mian could stand on the snow, which would swallow even the quickest, thinnest kuatu, and vexed the lightest of tareps.

And so Mian and Klas sat long in thought, pondering how they might cross the snows. For only one creature could bring such a winter forth. The Great Bear, who ruled the Winter. His cave was high, high in the hills beyond the woods, and if they could not cross the snow to reach it there would be no spring, nor summer, nor harvest. The whole world would be swallowed in another winter, without end this time.

They sat, and thumbed at their pipes, until Mian and Klas both looked to the bellows of the forge. It was brilliant. The fire of a torch would not last long enough, with the vicious wind out and about, but if they could carry the fire from Klas' forge, which was hot enough to keep even the bitterest of cold from touching him.

Quickly, the two set about building their absurd contraption, salvaging a ruined bellows, an old bucket and all sorts of mathoms. They tried to use the bellows to melt their way through the snow, but it still was not hot enough. But Mian had travelled and adventured in lands far from the shire, where clever men know the secret to not simply eating fire, but breathing it like a dragon. Mian had taken this secret with him in his travels for it was a very clever trick. He have the secret to Klas, and with the bellows and the coals from the forge, they had a clever engine which could spit fire.

Klas and Mian, brave as they were, melted a tunnel through the snow, high up towards the mountains where the King of Winter slept in his cave. Or so they thought. For when they arrived there, they found the King of Winter in a rage, bellowing through the mountains.

The great bear was taller than the tallest man, and bigger than a house. Not even Klas could hope to face such a beast unaided, and twenty men would not be able to slow the King of Winter if they tried.

"We cannot hope to calm such a beast, it would find me a poor snack and use you for a toothpick."

Mian though was clever, as you and I know, and whispered to Klas, "There is one thing that could frighten such a terrible bear, but I will need to borrow your voice, Klas."

Mian gathered some sticks, and lashed them to to his cloak. He climbed high into a tree and with the contraption, spouted a great gout of flame.

From behind him, Klas shouted, his voice booming "Great bear!"

The King of Winter was shocked by this intrusion but again Klas shouted "GREAT BEAR! Why do you not sleep?"

The bear growled back at Klas "All fear my snows, who are you to challenge me? in the deep winter no beast or man dares!"

Again Mian spouted flame from his perch in the tree, and Klas shouted "I DO NOT FEAR YOUR FEEBLE SNOWS BEAR! I COULD ROAST YOU IN YOUR CAVE AND MAKE YOU INTO SUPPER!" And the King of Winter quailed, and Klas continued "I am the dragon of the North! I have grown tired of your winter, little bear. If you do not want to be my meal, you will go back into your cave. And if you should forget your bounds again, I WILL RETURN."

Mian's clever hands spouted a massive gout of flame towards the King of Winter, just singeing the tips of his fur. The great bear fled into his cave, for fear of the terrible "dragon" and never menaced the world with an endless winter again.

It took an entire month for all the extra snow to melt, and when it did, the meltwater swelled the Vandrina so much, that the river burst its banks south and west of Holm, and swallowed all but a little hill, until the land was wet. And every year since, when the snows melt from Injera's warmth, the plains west of Holm flood.

Klas returned to his forge, and threw the contraption into it, making it burn as hot as dragon's fire, for clever things like that can be dangerous and are better left to foolish people who don't know not to mess with them. Like wizards or gnomes.

Mian left not long after the snows melted, which way he went none can agree on. Some say he travelled west towards the setting sun along the Lyseroad, others claim to have seen Mian walking out into the Holmsteadings, others say he went and climbed the highest mountain.

And one story... well that is a story for another time I think...

Audience: Tell us! Tell us!

Perhaps another day, I do think it is time for everyone to be getting to bed.

 


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 Date of last edit 21st Turning Star 1672 a.S.

Folk tale written by Valan Nonesuch View Profile