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The tale of “Barnsängsbråten”[1]

”You know the place on the Bäck farm that is called Barnsängsbråten. It got that name during the times of mother Annicka.

It was summertime. Mother Annicka was on the doorstep squinting at the sun. She was big and fine-looking, standing with the firewood basket on her arm. Everybody else was out and mother Annicka was going to cook dinner. She was standing listening to “helingers”[2] birch-bark horn. Funny, how hard he was blowing that horn. Was there a wolf around in mid-day? Mother Annicka had let Johannes go alone with the cows today, because they needed Kersti at home raking on the meadow. As she was standing there she heard Johannes sings:

“Little Kersti, little Kari is crying.”

Immediately there was a reply from the meadow ;

“I can’t go
I’m not allowed to
I have to rake on the meadow.

But take off your shoe
And milk the cow
And give the little one to drink”

What’s going on here, mother Annicka thought. “I have to find out”. She went for the fire-wood and started cooking on the stove. When she came out again she heard Johannes sings:

 “The wind is blowing and the wind is going
The little one sleeps in the cradle”

Mother Annicka went up to the “bråte” where the cows were grazing. There was Johannes, gazing up a birch tree. When he saw mother Annicka he hurried over to the cows. He jumped when mother Annicka ordered him to stop.

“What funny business are you having over at that birch-tree?” she asked. “Well, we use to sit up there when it’s raining, the boy replied. He was a big, strong 17-year-old boy. Because of the wolves they needed to have fully grown people to watch the cows.

“Then I think I’m going to have a look up there myself” said mother Annicka.

“Oh no, please don’t, you might fall down”.

“Well, in that case you’d better go up there yourself and bring down what’s up there” said mother Annicka.

The boy hesitated, but a look from mother Annicka made him climb up the tree. And down he came again with a new-born baby wrapped in on of Kersti’s skirts. Annicka took the baby without a word and went back home. Dinner had to be ready when the people came back from today’s labour. Nothing was to be wasted, that was the ways of mother Annicka. There would be time later to call the guilty ones to account.

She put the baby in the big bed with curtains and when the people came back, dinner was on the table. After the meal she told Kersti to stay inside and help with the piece of dough mother Annicka had prepared in the morning.

“I put the trough in the bed for the dough to rise better. You may bring it out here.”

Kersti went over to the bed and almost fainted when she saw the baby. Kersti was 16 years old. She told mother Annicka the baby had been born on the “bråte” and that she and Johannes had set up the place in the birch-tree, where the baby had slept at night. Mother Annicka took care of the child, who was a girl and was named Maja.

Maja was the one who married Anders and lived in Stenkas. Kersti and Johannes married a couple of years later, when mother Annicka had taught her to take care of a house.”

[1] Bråte, a space in the woods where trees have been chopped away. Barnsängsbråten could be translated as “The bråte of childbirth”
Old and dialectal for someone who watches the cattle away from the farm (translator ‘s guess)