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Master Maid

A Tale of Norway

Book illustration

Retold by Aaron Shepard
Illustrated by Pauline Ellison

Leif is a likeable fellow, but he never wants to listen to anyone, and he always has to do things his own way. So when his father warns him not to go work for the troll, that’s just what he does!

The troll seems nice enough, but the jobs he gives Leif are trickier than they seem. Leif can only succeed with the advice of a beautiful and mysterious maiden he discovers in the troll’s kitchen. But will he be wise enough to take her advice? And what will they do when the troll figures out he’s been fooled?

A lively Norwegian folktale that goes to show that women know best!

Picture book • Ages 4 & up

Aaron Shepard is the award-winning author of The Baker’s Dozen, The Sea King’s Daughter, The Monkey King, and many more children’s books, while his Web site is known internationally as a prime resource for folktales, storytelling, and reader’s theater. Once a professional storyteller, Aaron specializes in lively retellings of folktales and other traditional literature, which have won him honors from the American Library Association, the New York Public Library, the Bank Street College of Education, the National Council for the Social Studies, and the American Folklore Society.

Pauline Ellison is an award-winning artist, designer, and illustrator from the UK. Among her many works are the book covers of the 1975 Bantam Books paperback edition of Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea Trilogy.


Hardcover ~ 1997

Other Editions

French—La Servante et l'Ogre, Métagram, 2005

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Book cover


“An engaging but little-known Norwegian folktale, expertly told and nicely illustrated. . . . Shepard’s concise story line and evocative language make this an ideal choice for telling or reading aloud.”—Denise Anton Wright, School Library Journal, June 1997

“It’s the details that make [this story] interesting.”—Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 1997

“It’s always a pleasure when Aaron Shepard has a new book published, and his latest is no exception. The boy, the troll, the beautiful girl, and the impossible tasks will be familiar to many storytellers; what is new is the way Aaron makes this story sparkle.”—Katy Rydell, Stories, Summer 1997

“Aaron Shepard has done it again. And after reading his latest, I’d say Master Maid is his best yet.”—Kate Frankel, Storyline, Fall 1997

“This enchanting fairy tale is a clever and lively story that makes a mark for gender equity. Aaron and Pauline have done a great job bringing this charming story to life.”—Kip Nead, Growing Up, Nov. 1997

Sample Text

Hear This Sample Text (1:44 minutes)

When the troll had gone, Leif said to himself, “Not look through the house? Why, that’s just what I want to do!”

So Leif went through all the rooms till he came to the kitchen. And there stirring a big iron pot was the loveliest maiden he had ever seen.

“Good Lord!” cried the girl. “What are you doing here?”

“I’ve just got a job with the troll,” said Leif.

“Then heaven help you get out of it!” said the girl. “Weren’t you warned about working here?”

“I was,” said Leif, “but I’m glad I came anyway, else I never would have met you!”

Well, the girl liked that answer, so they sat down to chat. They talked and talked and talked some more, and before the day was done, he held her hand in his.

Then the girl asked, “What did the troll tell you to do today?”

“Something easy,” said Leif. “I’ve only to clear the dung from the stable.”

“Easy to say!” said the girl. “But if you use the pitchfork the ordinary way, ten forkfuls will fly in for every one you throw out! Now, here’s what you must do. Turn the pitchfork around and shovel with the handle. Then the dung will fly out by itself.”

Leif went out to the stable and took up the pitchfork. But he said to himself, “That can’t be true, what she told me,” and he shoveled the ordinary way. Within moments, he was up to his neck in dung.

“I guess her way wouldn’t hurt to try,” he said. So he turned the pitchfork around and shoveled with the handle. In no time at all, the dung was all out, and the stable looked like he had scrubbed it.

As Leif started back to the house, the troll came up with the goats.

“Is the stable clean?” asked the troll.

“Tight and tidy!” said Leif, and he showed it to him.

“You never figured this out for yourself!” the troll said. “Have you been talking to my Master Maid?”

“Master Maid?” said Leif. “Now, what sort of thing might that be, sir?”

“You’ll find out soon enough,” said the troll.

Sample text copyright © 1997 Aaron Shepard. Top illustration courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin USA. Illustration copyright © 1997 by Pauline Ellison.

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