The Rattrap by Selma Lagerlof

The rattrap seller plods the city dressed in rags looking hungry and feeling very tired. The business is not very profitable. As he walks around, he is amused to think that the world itself is a rattrap, with baits awaiting  all.

One evening he knocked on the  door of a house when he was tired and hungry. As opposed to his expectation, he was  welcomed warmly and was treated kindly by the owner.

The old man shared food and tobacco with him. They even  played cards. Perhaps the old man was very lonely and was happy to have some company.The old crofter told the rattrap seller that he was  comfortable thanks to his cow. In fact the last month he  had received 30 kronors in return for the milk he sold. Then as if to prove his point, the old man  took 3 ten-kronor bills and held it up in front of the visitor’s eyes  before stuffing it back into the pouch that hung on the window frame.

The next day, the men parted ways with a good bye. The rattrap seller however, came back to walk away with the 3  ten kronor notes.

After he stole the money, the vagabond  realized that he had lost the courage to walk on the public highway. He walked into the woods and soon got confused. He  had been fooled by a bait and had been caught.

As he walked further, in the darkness of the December evening, he approached the Ramsjo Ironworks.  He walked in and stood by the furnace. The black smiths continued to work  ignoring his presence  but  he felt comforted by the heat inside and  he fell asleep quickly.

 Sometime later, the master of Ramsjo Ironworks entered and walked up to the vagabond, pulled his blanket away and exclaimed,”But of course, its you, Nils  Olof”! The rattrap seller had never seen the man before and thought vaguely that the owner had mistaken him for someone else.  But he kept quiet. He was tired and was hopeful that the old man might throw him some money.
To his surprise the owner invited the peddler to his mansion.The poor man protested and stayed back with the blacksmiths.
A little later the master’s daughter appeared. She introduced herself as Elda Wilmanson and requested him to join them at the manor. The poor peddler could not refuse her kind invitation. He went along. Soon he was all clean and  ready to join the family for breakfast.
The iron master who waited for his friend Captain Von Sthol was not amused when he saw the peddler. He looked at the vagabond angrily, accusing him of hiding his true identity.
The poor man stuttered. He said it was not his fault at all. He tried to explain to the master that the world was a big rattrap and that the master himself could be caught in it one day.
When her father firmly asked the vagabond to leave, the girl chipped in.  She shut the door saying that the  poor man was not going to be turned away on a Christmas eve.  Her father agreed reluctantly on her insistence. At the table, the man ate quietly and the rest of the  day he slept  except for waking up to have some food.
On the day of Christmas, the father and the girl went to attend Christmas service. When they returned the girl was told that  the rattrap peddler had  left a small  little package for her.
Inside the package was a rattrap with three crumpled ten kronor notes in it. A note in it read that the man was deeply touched by the way Miss Wilmanson treated him. He did not want her to be embarrassed by the presence of a thief on such a day and asked her to  return the 3 ten kronors to the old man from whom he had stolen it. He said that he had been elevated to the position of a captain from that of a rat in the rattrap by her kindness.
The story ‘The Rattrap Seller’ by Selma Lagerlof is a beautiful portrayal of the power of honest love and respect for another human being. It is indeed true that  love and understanding can transform the hardest of criminals.
The title assumes significance as the writer uses it  to drive home the fact that individuals are merely victims of their circumstances and that all it requires to bring about a change in another person is some love and caring.
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