Who did we meet at Trollhätta? It is a strange story, and we will
We landed at the first sluice, and stood as it were in a garden laid
out in the English style. The broad walks are covered with gravel, and
rise in short terraces between the sunlit greensward: it is charming,
delightful here, but by no means imposing. If one desires to be
excited in this manner, one must go a little higher up to the older
sluices, which deep and narrow have burst through the hard rock. It
looks magnificent, and the water in its dark bed far below is lashed
into foam. Up here one overlooks both elv and valley; the bank of the
river on the other side, rises in green undulating hills, grouped with
leafy trees and red-painted wooden houses, which are bounded by rocks
and pine forests. Steam-boats and sailing vessels ascend through the
sluices; the water itself is the attendant spirit that must bear them
up above the rock, and from the forest itself it buzzes, roars and
rattles. The din of Trollhätta Falls mingles with the noise from the
saw-mills and smithies.
"In three hours we shall be through the sluices," said the Captain:
"in that time you will see the Falls. We shall meet again at the inn
We went from the path through the forest: a whole flock of bare-headed
boys surrounded us. They would all be our guides; the one screamed
longer than the other, and every one gave his contradictory
explanation, how high the water stood, and how high it did not stand,
or could stand. There was also a great difference of opinion amongst
We soon stopped on a ling-covered rock, a dizzying terrace. Before us,
but far below, was the roaring water, the Hell Fall, and over this
again, fall after fall, the rich, rapid, rushing elv--the outlet of
the largest lake in Sweden. What a sight! what a foaming and roaring,
above--below! It is like the waves of the sea, but of effervescing
champagne--of boiling milk. The water rushes round two rocky islands
at the top so that the spray rises like meadow dew. Below, the water
is more compressed, then hurries down again, shoots forward and
returns in circles like smooth water, and then rolls darting its long
sea-like fall into the Hell Fall. What a tempest rages in the
deep--what a sight! Words cannot express it!
Nor could our screaming little guides. They stood mute; and when they
again began with their explanations and stories, they did not come
far, for an old gentleman whom none of us had noticed (but he was now
amongst us), made himself heard above the noise, with his singularly
sounding voice. He knew all the particulars about the place, and about
former days, as if they had been of yesterday.
"Here, on the rocky holms," said he, "it was that the warriors in the
heathen times, as they are called, decided their disputes. The warrior
Stärkodder dwelt in this district, and liked the pretty girl Ogn right
well; but she was fonder of Hergrimmer, and therefore he was
challenged by Stärkodder to combat here by the falls, and met his
death; but Ogn sprung towards them, took her bridegroom's bloody
sword, and thrust it into her own heart. Thus Stärkodder did not gain
her. Then there passed a hundred years, and again a hundred years: the
forests were then thick and closely grown; wolves and bears prowled
here summer and winter; the place was infested with malignant robbers,
whose hiding-place no one could find. It was yonder, by the fall
before Top Island, on the Norwegian side--there was their cave: now it
has fallen in! The cliff there overhangs it!"
"Yes, the Tailor's Cliff!" shouted all the boys. "It fell in the year
"Fell!" said the old man, as if in astonishment that any one but
himself could know it. "Everything will fall once, and the tailor
directly." The robbers had placed him upon the cliff and demanded that
if he would be liberated from them, his ransom should be that he
should sew a suit of clothes up there; and he tried it; but at the
first stitch, as he drew the thread out, he became giddy and fell down
into the gushing water, and thus the rock got the name of 'The
Tailor's Cliff.' One day the robbers caught a young girl, and she
betrayed them, for she kindled a fire in the cavern. The smoke was
seen, the caverns discovered, and the robbers imprisoned and executed.
That outside there is called 'The Thieves' Fall,' and down there under
the water is another cave, the elv rushes in there and returns
boiling; one can see it well up here, one hears it too, but it can be
heard better under the bergman's loft.
And we went on and on, along the Fall, towards Top Island,
continuously on smooth paths covered with saw-dust, to Polham's
Sluice. A cleft had been made in the rock for the first intended
sluice-work, which was not finished, but whereby art has created the
most imposing of all Trollhätta's Falls; the hurrying water falling
here perpendicularly into the black deep. The side of the rock is here
placed in connection with Top Island by means of a light iron bridge,
which appears as if thrown over the abyss. We venture on to the
rocking bridge over the streaming, whirling water, and then stand on
the little cliff island, between firs and pines, that shoot forth from
the crevices. Before us darts a sea of waves, which are broken by the
rebound against the stone block where we stand, bathing us with the
fine spray. The torrent flows on each side, as if shot out from a
gigantic cannon, fall after fall: we look out over them all, and are
filled with the harmonic sound, which since time began, has ever been
"No one can ever get to the island there," said one of our party,
pointing to the large island above the topmost fall.
"I however know one!" said the old man, and nodded with a peculiar
"Yes, my grandfather could!" said one of the boys, "scarcely any one
besides has crossed during a hundred years. The cross that is set up
over there was placed there by my grandfather. It had been a severe
winter, the whole of Lake Venern was frozen; the ice dammed up the
outlet, and for many hours there was a dry bottom. Grandfather has
told about it: he went over with two others, placed the cross up, and
returned. But then there was such a thundering and cracking noise,
just as if it were cannons. The ice broke up and the elv came over the
fields and forest. It is true, every word I say!"
One of the travellers cited Tegner:
"Vildt Göta stortade från Fjallen,
Hemsk Trollet från sat Toppfall röt!
Men Snillet kom och sprängt stod Hallen,
Med Skeppen i sitt sköt!"
"Poor mountain sprite," he continued, "thy power and glory recede! Man
flies over thee--thou mayst go and learn of him."
The garrulous old man made a grimace, and muttered something to
himself--but we were just by the bridge before the inn. The steam-boat
glided through the opened way, every one hastened to get on board, and
it directly shot away above the Fall, just as if no Fall existed.
"And that can be done!" said the old man. He knew nothing at all about
steam-boats, had never before that day seen such a thing, and
accordingly he was sometimes up and sometimes down, and stood by the
machinery and stared at the whole construction, as if he were counting
all the pins and screws. The course of the canal appeared to him to be
something quite new; the plan of it and the guide-books were quite
foreign objects to him: he turned them and turned them--for read I do
not think he could. But he knew all the particulars about the
country--that is to say, from olden times.
I heard that he did not sleep at all the whole night. He studied the
passage of the steam-boat; and when we in the morning ascended the
sluice terraces from Lake Venern, higher and higher from lake to lake,
away over the high-plain--higher, continually higher--he was in such
activity that it appeared as if it could not be greater--and then we
The Swedish author Tjörnerös relates of himself, that when a child he
once asked what it was that ticked in the clock, and they answered him
that it was one named "_Bloodless_." What brought the child's pulse to
beat with feverish throbs and the hair on his head to rise, also
exercised its power in Motala, over the old man from Trollhätta.
We now went through the great manufactory in Motala. What ticks in the
clock, beats here with strong strokes of the hammer. It is
_Bloodless_, who drank life from human thought and thereby got limbs
of metals, stone and wood; it is _Bloodless_, who by human thought
gained strength, which man himself does not physically possess.
_Bloodless_ reigns in Motala, and through the large foundries and
factories he extends his hard limbs, whose joints and parts consist of
wheel within wheel, chains, bars, and thick iron wires. Enter, and see
how the glowing iron masses are formed into long bars. _Bloodless_
spins the glowing bar! see how the shears cut into the heavy metal
plates; they cut as quietly and as softly as if the plates were paper.
Here where he hammers, the sparks fly from the anvil. See how he
breaks the thick iron bars; he breaks them into lengths; it is as if
it were a stick of sealing-wax that is broken. The long iron bars
rattle before your feet; iron plates are planed into shavings; before
you rolls the large wheel, and above your head runs living wire--long
heavy wire! There is a hammering and buzzing, and if you look around
in the large open yard, amongst great up-turned copper boilers, for
steam-boats and locomotives, _Bloodless_ also here stretches out one
of his fathom-long fingers, and hauls away. Everything is living; man
alone stands and is silenced by--_stop!_
The perspiration oozes out of one's fingers'-ends: one turns and
turns, bows, and knows not one's self, from pure respect for the human
thought which here has iron limbs. And yet the large iron hammer goes
on continually with its heavy strokes: it is as if it said: "Banco,
Banco! many thousand dollars; Banco, pure gain! Banco! Banco!"--Hear
it, as I heard it; see, as I saw!
The old gentleman from Trollhätta walked up and down in full
contemplation; bent and swung himself about; crept on his knees, and
stuck his head into corners and between the machines, for he would
know everything so exactly; he would see the screw in the propelling
vessels, understand their mechanism and effect under water--and the
water itself poured like hail-drops down his forehead. He fell
unconscious, backwards into my arms, or else he would have been drawn
into the machinery, and been crushed: he looked at me, and pressed my
"And all this goes on naturally," said he; "simply and comprehensibly.
Ships go against the wind, and against the stream, sail higher than
forests and mountains. The water must raise, steam must drive them!"
"Yes," said I.
"Yes," said he, and again _yes_, with a sigh which I did not then
understand; but, months after, I understood it, and I will at once
make a spring to that time, and we are again at Trollhätta.
I came here in the autumn, on my return home; stayed some days in this
mighty piece of nature, where busy human life forces its way more and
more in, and, by degrees, transforms the picturesque to the useful
manufactory. Trollhätta must do her work; saw beams, drive mills,
hammer and break to pieces: one building grows up by the side of the
other, and in half a century hence here will be a city. But that was
not the story.
I came, as I have said, here again in the autumn. I found the same
rushing and roaring, the same din, the same rising and sinking in the
sluices, the same chattering boys who conducted fresh travellers to
the Hell Fall, to the iron-bridge island, and to the inn. I sat here,
and turned over the leaves of books, collected here through a series
of years, in which travellers have inscribed their names, feelings and
thoughts at Trollhätta--almost always the same astonishment, expressed
in different languages, though generally in Latin: _veni, vidi,
One has written: "I have seen nature's master-piece pervade that of
art;" another cannot say what he saw, and what he saw he cannot say. A
mine owner and manufacturer, full of the doctrine of utility, has
written: "Seen with the greatest pleasure this useful work for us in
Värmeland, Trollhätta." The wife of a dean from Scania expresses
herself thus. She has kept to the family, and only signed in the
remembrance book, as to the effect of her feelings at Trollhätta. "God
grant my brother-in-law fortune, for he has understanding!" Some few
have added witticisms to the others' feelings; yet as a pearl on this
heap of writing shines Tegner's poem, written by himself in the book
on the 28th of June, 1804:
"Gotha kom i dans från Seves fjallar, &c."
I looked up from the book and who should stand before me, just about
to depart again, but the old man from Trollhätta! Whilst I had
wandered about, right up to the shores of Siljan, he had continually
made voyages on the canal; seen the sluices and manufactories, studied
steam in all its possible powers of service, and spoke about a
projected railway in Sweden, between the Hjalmar and Venern. He had,
however, never yet seen a railway, and I described to him these
extended roads, which sometimes rise like ramparts, sometimes like
towering bridges, and at times like halls of miles in length, cut
through rocks. I also spoke of America and England.
"One takes breakfast in London, and the same day one drinks tea in
"That I can do!" said the man, and in as cool a tone as if no one but
himself could do it, "I can also," said I; "and I have done it."
"And who are you, then?" he asked.
"A common traveller," I replied; "a traveller who pays for his
conveyance. And who are you?"
The man sighed.
"You do not know me: my time is past; my power is nothing! _Bloodless_
is stronger than I!" and he was gone.
I then understood who he was. Well, in what humour must a poor
mountain sprite be, who only comes up every hundred years to see how
things go forward here on the earth!
It was the mountain sprite and no other, for in our time every
intelligent person is considerably wiser; and I looked with a sort of
proud feeling on the present generation, on the gushing, rushing,
whirling wheel, the heavy blows of the hammer, the shears that cut so
softly through the metal plates, the thick iron bars that were broken
like sticks of sealing-wax, and the music to which the heart's
pulsations vibrate: "Banco, Banco, a hundred thousand Banco!" and all
by steam--by mind and spirit.
It was evening. I stood on the heights of Trollhätta's old sluices,
and saw the ships with outspread sails glide away through the meadows
like spectres, large and white. The sluice gates were opened with a
ponderous and crashing sound, like that related of the copper gates of
the secret council in Germany. The evening was so still that
Trollhätta's Fall was as audible in the deep stillness, as if it were
a chorus from a hundred water-mills--ever one and the same tone. In
one, however, there sounded a mightier crash that seemed to pass sheer
through the earth; and yet with all this the endless silence of nature
was felt. Suddenly a large bird flew out from the trees, far in the
forest, down towards the Falls. Was it the mountain sprite?--We will
imagine so, for it is the most interesting fancy.