Long, long ago, when Stockholm was still a village, the people had built a big wall to protect themselves from the outside. You see Stockholm wasn’t as safe as it is today. Packs of lions, tigers and wolves roamed the countryside. And just outside the wall, there lived four one-eyed giants. The giant of the North, the giant of the South, the giant of the East and the giant of the West. These giants were brothers and of all of them, the giant of the North was the largest and the strongest and the most scary. He lived on a hill overlooking the village and watched and waited for his opportunity to attack.
Now, the people of the village couldn’t remain behind locked gates all the time. Merchants sometimes had to leave in order to trade with other towns. Builders had to leave in order to reinforce the walls and bridges from the outside. And shepherds and herdsmen had to pass through the gates in order to exercise and feed their sheep and cattle. But leaving the village was a treachorous endeavour – often people fell into the grasps of a patrolling giant and were gulped up whole.
The giant of the North didn’t care too much for people. He thought they tasted gristly and bony. His favourite food was lions. Not only were they fat and tasty but he liked the way their manes tickled his throat as he swallowed them. But lions were rare, so he had to satisfy his great hunger with sheep. Whenever the shepherds left the village, he pounced and ate as many as he could before they ran back to safety behind the wall.
The King of the village was worried about this and he announced a competition for the villagers to come up with the best idea for beating the giant of the North. Various suggestions were made but, when they tried them, none seemed to work. There were no more ideas and the King became more and more desparate.
Now, the King had a wife, Drottning Matilda. Drottning Matilda was a clever woman and she thought she might have the solution. She went to the King and asked for an audience with him.
‘How can we solve this terrible problem?’ said the King ‘the sheep are disappearing and the people are cold and starving’
‘It’s easy,’ said Drottning Matilda, ‘if he wants lions, let’s give him lions’.
The next day they set about their plan.
Anybody capable of sowing was instructed to sow sacks together and attach bushes of golden hay to one edge of the sacking. They were also told to add a long rope with a frayed knot at the other end. Then, they gathered together some sheep and draped the sacking over the top of them. The golden hay hung down to disguise the sheep’s face and the frayed rope hung from their rear ends like a long tail. Along the main street of the village, the villagers fastened two of the sheep at various intervals and they placed heavy stones under their wool. The villagers then ran to their homes and locked themselves in behind bolted doors and windows and the church bells started to ring. This was the gatekeeper’s signal to open the Northern gate. And then the villagers waited.
Up on his hill, the giant of the North was busy eating a cow when he saw the gates open, and stay open. ‘At last!’ he thought, ‘Here’s my chance!’ and he thundered down the hill and across the footbridge.
As he approached the gates, he saw that the village seemed abandoned. It was quiet and still. And then he couldn’t believe his eyes! Just inside the gates he saw two lions tied to the side of the street. As fast as he could, he pounced upon them and gobbled them up. Looking further along the road, he saw two more lions tethered by the road side and devoured the animals in two quick bites. Then incredibly he saw two more lions further along the road and ate them up as fast as he could.
And so it went on.
Slowly, the giant of the North ate himself to the end of the road and to the final two sheep disguised as lions. But he was starting to feel a bit odd. Strangely, he felt heavy, as though he’d eaten stones! But that wasn’t possible, he’d eaten lions – not stones! He looked over at the final two lions, which were tied atop a wooden platform, and the giant, mad with gluttony, moved heavily towards them. Finally his big heavy feet reached the wooden platform and his increased weight made the wooden planks bend and groan.
And then suddenly, they snapped! And the giant fell. He feel deep and far into the river rapids below. Struggling to keep his head above the water, the weight of the stones he had eaten pulled him under until eventually he could no longer struggle and was flushed lifelessly downstream and into the sea.
The people of the village rejoiced! The giant is dead!
The King, overjoyed, decided to rename the street after his wife – Drottninggatan and he commanded the village sculptor to make and place statues of lions all along the road to commemorate her cleverness.
The street is still there today, and so are the statues. And if you follow the road to the end, you’ll even see the rapids where the giant perished.
So that’s how the people of Stockholm defeated the giant of the North. But what about the giants of the East, West and South?
Well, that’s another story all together.