There was a peddler who went by selling rattraps. He believed that the whole world is a rattrap and the riches are baits (food kept inside a rattrap to lure rats) and people are rats. He hated all the rich people because they were merciless to him.
One evening he knocked at the door of a house and the owner, an old man, welcomed him happily. The old man was once a crofter and had no family. He earned his living by selling his cow’s milk. The peddler and the crofter spent that night like friends but in the morning the peddler stole the crofter’s investments – thirty kronors – and left.
On the way he decided to take the road through the forest to avoid police and lost his way in the confusing forest. He fell down and thought his end had come. He realized he too was in a rattrap. While lying down, the peddler heard the sounds from an iron mill. He got up with all his strength and walked to that direction. He reached an iron mill and took shelter near the fire inside the mill and soon fell asleep.
While the peddler was sleeping, the owner of the mill, the iron-master, happened to reach there. The Iron-master came close to him and noticed his face. He misunderstood him to be his lost army friend Nils Olof, a captain. The Iron-master woke him up and asked him to come home with him. Though this misunderstanding would have helped the peddler to get some money, he refused to go with the Iron-master out of fear and suspicion. The Iron-master gave up and went home and sent his daughter Edla to persuade the peddler. Edla Willmansson came to the iron-mill and with her innocent, loving words and manner, took the peddler home.
Next morning the peddler was washed, shaved and dressed up and was brought to the presence of the Iron-master. To the Iron-master’s horror, he noticed that the peddler was not his friend and he realized his mistake. He asked the peddler to get out of his home. Surprisingly, Edla Willmansson was a good person. She felt sympathy for the peddler and requested her father to allow him stay for Christmas that day. The Iron-master unwillingly complied to his daughter and the peddler was allowed to stay for Christmas. The whole day and night he ate and slept. He was never before so much happy, so much at peace, so much fed. He felt important. He distinguished between the dirty life of a peddler and the decent life of a respected captain. He wished to be a decent, respected man.
Next morning the Iron-master and Edla went to the church, leaving the peddler at home with the servants. In the church they heard a bad news from the crofter that a peddler selling rattraps had stolen his hard earned 30 kronor. Father and daughter immediately returned from the church and reached home fearing that the peddler would have robbed their house.
They reached home and saw that the peddler had gone. They were given no shock. They were greatly surprised to see that the peddler had not taken anything from their home and that he had left a rattrap as a gift for Edla and the money he had stolen from the crofter and a letter revealing his change.
The peddler was a man who dragged his cheerless existence, dreaming the ill fate of the rich people whom he perceived as rats getting ready to be trapped in the world of traps. He carried with him this wish and imagined the rich people who refused him a night’s stay at their homes getting trapped or getting into troubles. A vagabond as he was, he never knew that there were good people among the rich lots. He considered them all equally evil, heartless and brutal to all the poor people. He could never think of a change of his work or attitude.
Even though he hated the rich people for their brutality and insensitivity, the peddler himself was heartless with the people who helped him some time. The old crofter’s experience substantiates this. By stealing the thirty hard earned Krona of the old man, he behaved as mercilessly as the others used to behave with him.In spite of these ill feelings, the peddler had some positive traits as well. He was taught to say good bye while leaving the crofter even though he was sure to steal his money after some time.
It is curious to hear him thanking Edla Wilmansson when she offered him a fur coat of her father. But the most striking aspect of his personality is his change. He was not as stubborn and hard-hearted as he appeared to be while walking with the crofter’s money with a cheer of self esteem. With some people to love him, care for him and to respect him as Captain, the peddler tasted the life of a respected and loved man. This nasty fellow that the world considered him, made the biggest of his decisions to change his ways and to become a respected and loved man. Last, but not the least, another aspect of the peddler is his self reliance. Even though he knew that he could be employed by the Iron Master through the extended sympathy of Edla, the peddler was greatly determined to seek his own fortune, far away from the countryside. Thus, the peddler was a lot of goodness overgrown and entangled by weeds of ill will.
Questions & Answers
- Why did the peddler resort to petty thievery?
The rattrap peddler lived mostly by selling rattraps that he himself made. At times, when his business did not go well, he had to resort to petty thievery for survival.
- What was the new line of thought the peddler once came across?
The peddler was once thinking about the rattraps. Suddenly he realized that the whole world is a rattrap. The riches and luxuries and comforts are the baits. Like rats, people allow themselves to be tempted by these baits and get caught and end up their life struggling to get out.
- How is the peddler’s philosophy practical and true in the modern world?
The peddler found that the whole world with its riches and comforts alluring people is a rattrap. This is a practical philosophy even today. The modern world is full of alluring (attracting) things, people, places and opportunities everywhere. Humans have an unquenched thirst for all these. Instinctively, they desire to achieve them but turn out to be trapped at the end. Addictions are the best examples.
- Why was the peddler happy to think of the world as a rattrap?
The peddler was a struggling man and was therefore glad to see others getting into troubles. Moreover, most people he met were heartless and showed him no generosity. He wanted them to get into troubles in life so that they could understand the sufferings of the poor and he could be happy to see them in troubles.
- Why was the peddler welcomed by the crofter? How did this amaze the peddler?
The crofter was old, lonely and was in need of someone to talk to. This amazed the peddler because it was not quite usual that anyone welcomed him so warmly and fed him so lovingly and behaved with him so friendly.
- ‘The old man was just as generous with his confidences (secrets) as with his porridge (food) and tobacco.’ explain.
The way the peddler was welcomed by the crofter was unusual. The crofter generously served him food and let him stay with him for a night. Besides, he went to the extent of sharing his secrets with the peddler and showed him his great treasure of an amount of thirty Kronors, a pretty big amount.
- What was the extraordinary ‘bossy’ of the crofter?
The crofter was once able to support himself. But now he has become old and could not do labour as before. He is now supported and taken care of by his cow whom he considers as his boss.
- What made the crofter show the peddler his money pouch?
When the crofter told the peddler that he had thirty Kronors in possession, the latter seemed to have disbelieved this. To prove himself true the crofter showed him the entire amount of thirty Kronors.
- Why did the peddler return to the crofter’s house after half an hour?
Even though the peddler had been generously treated by the crofter, the former was tempted to steal his thirty Kronors and therefore he returned to the crofter’s house when he was away.
- What made the peddler take the woodland road to his destination?
After stealing the crofter’s money, the peddler began to feel insecure going the main road where he could be easily arrested by the police. To avoid any risk he took the woodland road.
- Having taken the crofter’s money as bait, the peddler got trapped into a rattrap. What is the irony in this?
The peddler believed his own philosophy that the whole world is a rattrap and the attractions here are baits attracting people into its deadly doors. But by taking the crofter’s money, the peddler had forgotten his philosophy and took the bait and allowed himself to be caught.
- How did the hammer strokes rekindle the lost spirit in the peddler? Or how did the sounds from the iron mill encourage the peddler?
Having wandered through the confusing forest and fallen down on the earth, the peddler thought that his end had approached. But as his ears lay close to the earth, the peddler heard the regular thumping of hammer strokes and guessed that was from an iron mill. He dragged himself to the direction of the sounds hoping to get himself warmed from the chilling cold and dripping water and find a way out of the forest.
- Why did the Ironmaster invite the peddler to his home?
The Ironmaster, the owner of the iron mill, was once in the army. He had a close regimental friend there. His name was Nils Olof von Stahle. After his retirement what the Ironmaster last heard of von Stahle was that he too had retired from the force. The peddler had the similar looks of von Stahle and the Ironmaster took him for his lost friend therefore wanted him to come to him home.
- Why did the peddler refuse to go with the Ironmaster?
Initially the peddler was glad to be acknowledged as the Ironmaster’s friend, the captain, with a hope that he could get some money from this confused gentleman. But when the Ironmaster asked him to come home to his manor house, the peddler refused, suspecting some crazy intentions behind the Ironmaster’s invitation.
- Why did the peddler agree to go with Edla?
Edla Willmansson was the Ironmaster’s daughter. She was not pretty or attractive yet was compassionate. When she came and asked the peddler to come home, he agreed and went with her because she seemed friendly and that boosted up the peddler’s confidence. Besides, probably he didn’t want to be disturbed again.
- Why did Edla intercede/request for the peddler?
Edla Willmansson, the Ironmaster’s daughter, had a soft corner for the peddler. She was sympathetic to him because she was so to all the poor and suffering people. She had understood the essential value of human beings, too. She interceded for the peddler because she had wished his presence with her family as a Christmas friend, not as his father’s old regimental friend. She had believed in the true Christian values such as charity and benevolence, which are in fact the spirit of Christmas.
- How did the peddler celebrate his Christmas at the manor house?
It was the first Christmas the peddler ever celebrated in his whole life so peacefully. The whole day and throughout the Christmas night he was sleeping that was interrupted only by the calls to eat at intervals.
- What was Edla’s Christmas gift for the peddler?
Edla Wilmansson didn’t give anything apparently to the peddler. She informed him that her father’s fur coat that had been given to him was not to be returned. She told him that he would be welcome to the manor house on every Christmas to spend a peaceful Christmas. But the real Christmas gift that Edla gave the peddler was the great transformation that made him a new man.
- Why did Edla sit dejected when she returned from the church?
Edla and her father had left the peddler home while they went to church for Christmas celebrations. But in the church the crofter whose money the peddler had stolen earlier told everyone how and by whom he had been robbed by a man who sold rattraps. Realizing that the same man was at her home and that it was she who wanted him home and that he would have stolen everything, Edla felt dejected.
- How did the peddler dare to consider himself as a captain? How far is that apt?
A captain is far refined than a peddler. When the peddler began to think and behave different from his usual tramp way, he felt a need for change in his life. Moreover, the newly awakened man in the peddler could command the old man in him to change, as a captain commands.
- Do you think that the peddler had really changed?
Yes, the peddler changed his old way of life after staying with Edla and her father on a Christmas. He did not take anything from Edla’s house even though he was able to. Besides, he returned the 30 Kronors that he had stolen from the old crofter. Moreover, he calls himself ‘captain’ in the letter for Edla. From all these, we can conclude that the peddler had changed.
- How were the ironmaster and his daughter different in their outlook?
The ironmaster invited the peddler home for celebrating Christmas with his daughter and him because he thought the peddler was his old friend and that they had none to celebrate Christmas with. The ironmaster was business minded and it was not the genuine compassion that made him treat the peddler. But Edla was just the opposite. She was a fountain of true love for others. She had the same compassion and love for the peddler even after knowing that the man was not her father’s regimental friend.
- Attempt a character sketch of the peddler in the story, ‘the rattrap.’
The peddler was a man who dragged his cheerless existence, dreaming the ill fate of the rich people whom he perceived as rats getting ready to be trapped in the world of traps. He carried with him this wish and imagined the rich people who refused him a night’s stay at their homes getting trapped or getting into troubles. A vagabond as he was, he never knew that there were good people among the rich lots. He considered them all equally evil, heartless and brutal to all the poor people. He could never think of a change of his work or attitude. Even though he hated the rich people for their brutality and insensitivity, the peddler himself was heartless with the people who helped him some time. The old crofter’s experience substantiates this. By stealing the thirty hard earned Kronors of the old man, he behaved as mercilessly as the others used to behave with him.in spite of these ill feelings, the peddler had some positive traits as well. He was taught to say good bye while leaving the crofter even though he was sure to steal his money after some time. It is curious to hear him thanking Edla Wilmansson when she offered him a fur coat of her father. But the most striking aspect of his personality is his change. He was not as stubborn and hard hearted as he appeared to be while walking with the crofter’s money with a cheer of self-esteem. With some people to love him, care for him and to respect him as captain, the peddler tasted the life of a respected and loved man. This nasty fellow as the world considered him, made the biggest of his decisions to change his ways and to become a respected and loved man. Last, but not the least, another aspect of the peddler is his self-reliance. Even though he knew that he could be employed by the iron master through the extended sympathy of Edla, the peddler was greatly determined to seek his own fortune, far away from the countryside. Thus, the peddler was a lot of goodness overgrown and entangled by weeds of ill will.