There was once a wealthy farmer who owned a vast forest. The trees from this forest were cut down and sold for firewood and for building fine houses and sailing ships.
Now this farmer had three sons. The elder two were strong strapping lads, but the youngest, called Boots, was not so strong. He was not in the least interested in fighting, which his elder brothers enjoyed more than anything else.
The older brothers despised Boots. They said that he was good for nothing but playing around in the ashes of the fire. There was some truth in this, as the boy loved drawing pictures in the soot.
One day, disaster struck. A huge and dangerous troll came down from the mountains and made his home in a cave in the forest belonging to the farmer. The farmer’s men would not go near the forest, for fear of becoming a meal for the ugly brute.
No trees were cut. No wood was sold. Soon the farmer and his family had to borrow money to keep them alive and it wasn’t long before they were up to their ears in debt.
The farmer realized that, in spite of the danger from the troll, he simply had to sell some wood. So he said to his eldest son,
“Take a few men with you and go to the edge of the forest to cut some trees, for we must sell some wood if we are to eat.”
The eldest son set off with his men; as they approached the edge of the forest, their knees began to tremble. No sooner had they made camp, and taken the first axe to the first tree, when the fierce troll roared out of the forest. In his mighty fist, he seized one of the men and vanished into the trees.
Terrified, the men took to their heels and did not stop until they were back at the farm. At the front of the group, fleeing faster than a hunted deer was the eldest son.
The farmer was very angry with his eldest son, and banished him and the men from his land. A little while later, he went to his second son and told him,
“Now, my son, if you succeed where your brother failed, you will inherit all that I own.”
The second son gathered the rest of his father’s men, and set off with them; and as they approached the edge of the wood, their knees began to tremble.
No sooner had they made camp, and taken the first axe to the first tree, when the fierce troll roared out of the forest, seized two of the men in one great, hairy arm, beat his chest and vanished back into the trees.
Instantly, the remaining men took to their heels and did not stop running until they were back at the farm. At the front of the group, running faster than a speeding hare was the second son.
Again the farmer was very angry and, fearing that all was lost, banished his second son and all his men from his land. After all, he could no longer afford to pay any of them! Only his youngest son, Boots, was left.
Boots said to his father,
“I’ll go and deal with the troll and get your forest back for you!” The father laughed bitterly at his son.
“What makes you think you can succeed when both your brothers failed? You’re not as strong as either of them and in any case, I have no men left to send with you.”
Boots explained simply,
“I don’t need to be strong. I don’t need men. I just need my wits and a little cheese.”
So his father gave him a chunk of fresh, juicy cheese and allowed him to go, not without a pang of sorrow. For he thought this would be the last time he ever saw his youngest son.
Now as Boots cautiously approached the forest, the troll came roaring out, beating his chest. He was fearsome and ghastly green, with beady eyes. Boots stood his ground, looking straight at the troll until the troll stopped his display. Boots then asked the troll for some food. The troll shouted,
“Food? You’re asking ME for food? It’s me who wants my dinner, and you’re IT!”
Boots pulled out his chunk of cheese and said to the troll,
“Do you see this stone? I’ll squeeze until its very juices seep out and then you’ll give me some food or I’ll squeeze you until YOUR juices seep out.” At that he squeezed and squeezed the cheese until whey dripped out. The alarmed troll gave him some food (which he had in his pouch) and then offered to help Boots with the woodcutting; for he wanted this new threat out of the way as soon as possible.
Boots returned to the farm to tell his father that he had cut some wood. The father was astonished and grateful, and begged Boots to cut some more wood the following day.
As Boots approached the forest, the troll appeared again. This time he did not roar or beat his chest, but instead asked Boots whether he would like to come home with him. Boots knew that this was a trick and that the troll really wished to find a way to kill him and eat him, but he went all the same.
When they arrived outside the troll’s cave, the troll said they should prepare some porridge. He went to build up the fire and told Boots to fetch the water.
Boots looked around for buckets, and was aghast to see they were as big as barrels. He realized he could never carry such huge buckets. Instead, he declared in a loud voice that the buckets were too small, and he would just go and fetch the spring.
Anxious at the prospect of all that water in his home, the troll hurriedly exchanged jobs with him.
When the porridge was made, Boots boasted to the troll,
“As I’m so strong I need lots of food to fill me up. I bet I can eat much more of this porridge than you can!” The troll looked down at the small figure at his table and laughed.
“We’ll see about that, we shall,” he said and began eating.
Boots spooned more into the pocket of his apron than into his stomach and when the apron was full, he cut a hole in it.
At length the troll said he could eat no more.
"How," asked the disgruntled troll, "did you manage that?" Boots said it was simple. He cut a hole in his stomach and out came the excess food. He then showed the troll the hole he had cut in the apron.
Boots suggested that the troll cut a hole in his stomach too, then he could eat as much as he liked as well.
“It doesn't hurt much!” he explained.
The troll thought this a wonderful idea, so he did just that. He gave out a dreadful groan as he realized he had been tricked. He desperately wanted to kill Boots… but quickly died from his wound.
Boots went into the troll’s cave, and there, amid the bones of eaten people and animals, lay mounds of gold and silver. The boy took some of the gold and silver and returned to the farm. The overjoyed farmer was able to pay off all his debts and, hiring more men, he was able to go back to chopping wood.
Boots took over the family’s lands, which were much richer than before, thanks to his cunning and quick thinking which had defeated the troll and won his treasure.