This is an illustration of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, Act II, Scene 3, where near dusk, high in the remote moors, Peer encounters three milkmaids who have finally given up on men completely and have gone up in to the mountains, calling out for trolls to come take them away. Peer is called upon to satisfy the women himself. This piece is a breadcrumb of a cautionary tale: finding one’s own Gyntian Self, avoiding the existential obligations one has to one’s own spiritual, teleological Self, rejecting the consummation of absolute love, and becoming the living dead— becoming No-one.
(Low, treeless heights, close under the mountain moorlands; peaks in the distance. The shadows are long; it is late in the day. PEER GYNT comes running at full speed, and stops short on the hillside.)
The parish is all at my heels in a pack!
Every man of them armed or with gun or with club.
Foremost I hear the old Hegstad-churl howling. –
Now it’s noised far and wide that Peer Gynt is abroad!
It is different, this, from a bout with a smith!
This is life! Every limb grows as strong as a bear’s.
(Strikes out with his arms and leaps in the air.)
To crush, overturn, stem the rush of the foss! To strike! Wrench the fir-tree right up by the root! This is life! This both hardens and lifts one high! To hell then with all of the savourless lies!
THREE SAETER GIRLS
(rush across the hillside, screaming and singing.)
Trond of the Valfjeld! Bard and Kare! Troll-pack! To-night would you sleep in our arms?
To whom are you calling?
To the trolls! to the trolls!
Trond, come with kindness!
Bard, come with force!
The cots in the saeter are all standing empty!
Force is kindness!
And kindness is force!
If lads are awanting, one plays with the trolls!
Why, where are the lads, then?
(with a horse-laugh.) They cannot come hither!
Mine called me his sweetheart and called me his darling.
Now he has married a grey-headed widow.
Mine met a gipsy-wench north on the upland.
Now they are tramping the country together.
Mine put an end to our bastard brat.
Now his head’s grinning aloft on a stake.
Trond of the Valfjeld! Bard and Kare!
Troll-pack! To-night would you sleep in our arms?
(stands, with a sudden leap, in the midst of them.) I’m a three-headed troll, and the boy for three girls!
Are you such a lad, eh?
You shall judge for yourselves!
To the hut! To the hut!
We have mead!
Let it flow!
No cot shall stand empty this Saturday night!
(kissing him.) He sparkles and glisters like white-heated iron.
(doing likewise.) Like a baby’s eyes from the blackest tarn.
(dancing in the midst of them.) Heavy of heart and wanton of mind.
The eyes full of laughter, the throat of tears!
(making mocking gestures towards the mountain-tops, screaming and singing.)
Trond of the Valfjeld! Bard and Kare! Troll-pack!-To-night will you sleep in our arms?
(They dance away over the heights, with PEER GYNT in their midst.)