The Rattrap

Introduction :The story “The Rattrap’ has been written by a Swedish writer called Selma Lagerlof. It is full of interesting incidents and dialogues. The story gives a psychological insight into human nature. The world around us is rampant with traps and dungeons waiting for our one slip. The author points out how greed for material things is trapping human beings. The short story upholds the belief that the inherent goodness of a human being can be awakened by love and understanding. It brings to the focus the notion that the universe is a rattrap. Riches, joys, shelter and food are all lucrative bait traps.

However, how much deep the trap may be, the intrinsic goodness of the human being will redeem itself from the darkness of the trap. The story in the discussion is based around a powerful rattrap metaphor. The rattrap peddler calls the world a big rattrap. Material benefits such as wealth and joy, shelter and food, heat and clothes are temptations that lead to mistakes. The peddler is tempted by the thirty kronors of the old crofter. He steals the money and is now trembling in fear of being captured and running through a deep, dark forest that is the extension of a rattrap. He finds a shelter in the ironmaster’s home. In the assistance of another deceit, he finds a refuge in the ironmaster’s home. All his innate evil, however, is exorcised by the holy presence of Edla, the daughter of the ironmaster. Instead of judging him on his follies, the lady will see the good heart of the peddler through his inner goodness and his divine presence. He’s soon to understand his mistake and wants to make a swift adjustment to that. Thus, trust in humanity and eternal compassion transform people once and for all.

Outline of the Story

The rattrap seller is a homeless wanderer who stays for a night in the cottage of the old crofter. The old crofter entertains him as a guest and trusted friend. However, in the morning, the peddler comes back, smashes the windowpane, and steals the crofter’s money. Now, to avoid the public highway he goes through the woods and gets lost. Here, he thinks that the whole world was a rattrap and he himself was trapped, the bait, in this case, was the money he had stolen from the crofter’s house.

It was wintertime, and he was tired, in the dark wood, there could be danger lurking around. As he sat down, he heard the thumping sound of the hammer from an iron mill. He gathered all his strength and proceeded in the direction of the sound It was the Rams-jo Iron mill.

Due to darkness, and a lot of noise of the cracking of coal in the fire, the peddler entered unnoticed. Everyone was busy in his work When the peddler got haughty permission to lie near the fire, he immediately lay down and went off to sleep. It was Christmas eve, and the iron mill owner was on one of his surprise rounds, to see how the work was going on he discovers the presence of the peddler, and in the dim light of the furnace mistakes him for an oldfriend of his.

• He invites him to his home for Christmas. But the peddler does not agree.

• The master had more faith in his daughter’s powers of persuasion.

• In no time, Edla, the iron master’s daughter arrived in a carriage and the peddler was swayed by her kind friendly and charming way. He agrees to go with her.

Edla notices the man was afraid and not comfortable, as though he had escaped from jail. He was given a fur coat to cover himself. Not feeling easy in his heart, he went off to sleep. Next morning, when he came down for breakfast his true identity was revealed in broad daylight. The ironmaster was not happy and wanted to take the matter with the sheriff.

At this peddler said he was not willing to come and had not cheated them in any way. He also told about the world being a rattrap and all of us get trapped sooner or later.

Edla had sensed the truth already and she wanted to give him a day of peace that Christmas so that he could enjoy at least one day in their company. She fed him, and the peddler did nothing but eat and sleep. She treated him with respect and kindness.

Next morning, when they were away for Christmas service, the peddler got up and left At the church everyone was talking about the theft at the crofter’s house by a tramp peddler.

•Edla, after learning about the theft became sad. Her father was wondering about the things that would be stolen by the time they reached home.

•On reaching home they were told that the peddler had already left. He had not taken anything with him. But, a small pack was left behind for Edla as a Christmas present.

On opening the package, Edla gave a cry of joy. There was a small rattrap with three ten kronors in it. He wanted the money to be returned to its rightful owner. He thanked Edla for treating him so nicely.

The Rattrap|Main Characters

1. The Paddler

The Paddler is the protagonist and central character of the story. He is an unnamed man who lives as a tramp wandering the countryside and selling rattraps. As he does not make enough money from this to survive, the rattrap paddler also engages in petty thievery and begging.

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2. Edla Willmansson

Edla is the daughter of the ironmaster. He is described as ‘not at all pretty, but modest and quite shy’. She is exceptionally kind. She convinces the peddler to come to her house and then convinces her father to let the peddler stay for Christmas Eve. She is the most positive figure in the story, and her compassion and generosity are the reasons for the peddler’s transformation.

3. Ironmaster

Ironmaster is Edla Willmansson’s father and the man who owns Ramsjo Ironworks. He is a very prominent ironmaster. He stops by at his forge every day and night to watch the work, and inspect the quality of his products. In his younger days, he was in the military, so he mistakes the peddler for his ‘old regimental comrade’ Captain von Stahle.

4. The Crofter

This is an old man who lets the peddler spend the night at his house. as the old man is lonely, he is glad to have a company and provides the paddler with food, tobacco and conversation. He is a very kind, and generous old man, but paddler repays his generosity by stealing thirty kronors from him.

Summary of The Rattrap

The story begins like a fairy tale. The central character is a bagger and a petty thief who goes about selling rattraps of wire to make a small living. He finds it difficult to make both ends meet. It makes him same reflect about his own condition and the world at large. He realises that the whole world is nothing but a big rattrap. It offers rich and varied baits to people who bite on them and get trapped in the rattrap. The storyline unfolds gradually with the various baits being offered to a bagger. The old man that the tramp meets is generous with his hospitality but the bet of three ten-kronor bills is enough to tempt him. Next at the ramsjo ironworks, while seeking shelter for the night, the tramp bites the bet offered to him by the owner, the ironmaster, of mistaken identity. Edla, the ironmaster’s daughter, offers yet another bait of full-hearted generosity, comfortable living and a magically peaceful Christmas for the tramp. Finally, the bitter truth dawns on the hosts. Edla is downcast when she learns that the paddler is a thief. The tramp changes heart after experiencing her kindness. He returns the stolen money and writes a letter to her, thanking her for helping him escape the rattrap. He attains nobility of spirit and ‘becomes’ Captain Von Stahle. The story ends with the victory of human goodness.

Theme of The Rattrap

The chapter ‘The Rattrap’ covers the theme of the basic human need for companionship and shows the negative effects of loneliness. The stopry stresses on the fact that most human beings are prone to fall into the trap of material benefits. The author targets the materialistic approach of the people. The worldly riches have disillusioned them, and they are running after the temporary things.

Answer the following question:-

1. What made the peddler finally change his wages?
Answer: He had no friend to steer him on the right path. Though the crofter was hospitable to him and even the ironmaster had almost offered him help, they failed to leave any impact on him. It was Edla who, through her genuine care and understanding, was finally able to change the peddler for the better.

2. Why was the peddler surprised when he knocked at the door of the cottage?
Answer: The peddler was surprised when he knocked on the door of the cottage because instead of the sour faces which ordinarily met him, the owner, who was an old man without wife or child, was happy to get someone to talk to in his loneliness.

3. Who was the owner of Ramsjo iron mill? Why did he visit the mill at night?

The owner of the Ramsjo iron mills was an ex-army man and an ambitious and prominent ironmaster. He was very particular about the quality of his products and visited the mills even at night to make sure that good iron was shipped out from his Mills.

4. Why did the peddler keep to the woods after leaving the crofter’s cottage? How did he feel?
Answer: After stealing the money from the crofter’s, the peddler was cautious to avoid the public highway, least he be identified and caught. He got into the woods but finally realised that it was a big and confusing forest. The end of the forest was nowhere in sight and he felt lost.

5. Why did Edla invite the peddler to say with her family?
Answer: Edla Willmansson invited the peddler into her home, in spite of being fully aware of the fact that he was not an old friend of her father nor an ex-army Captain. It was out of compassion and pity that she felt for the dismal condition of the peddler that she asked him to spend Christmas with her family.

6. Why did the peddler think that the world was a rattrap?
Answer: The world had never been kind to the peddler. So, he got unusual joy to think ill of the world. His pastime was to think of people he knew who had let themselves be caught in the dangerous snare of the world, and of others who were still circling around the bait.

7. What did the gift of the rattrap signify?
The gift of the rattrap clearly signifies the positive change in the peddler. 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. Edla was happy to know he had realised his mistake and made amends.

8. What did Edla notice about the stranger?
Answer: She noticed that the man was afraid. She realised that either the man had stolen something or he had escaped from jail. In order to make a further guess, she asked him to leave as he liked.

9. Why was the peddler amused at the idea of the world being a rattrap?
Answer: The peddler was never treated kindly by the world, which was why he was amused by the idea of the world as being similar to a rattrap. He nurtured hard feelings towards it by comparing it to a giant rattrap. Was this answer helpful?

10. What hospitality did the peddler receive from the crofter?

Answer: The old crofter served the peddler hot porridge for supper and gave him tobacco for his pipe. He entertained his guest by playing cards with him. He also informed him about his prosperous past life and how his cow supported him in his old age now.

11. Why was Edla happy to see the gift left by the peddler?
Answer: The package left by the peddler as a Christmas gift for Edla Willmanson comprised a small rattrap with three wrinkled ten kronor notes in it, which the peddler had robbed from the crofter. It also contained a brief letter for Edla explaining the peddler’s conduct.

12. Why did the ironmaster speak kindly to the peddler and invite him home?
Answer: The ironmaster has mistaken the peddler for an old regimental comrade and invited him home. The peddler declined the invitation because he was carrying the money he had stolen from the crofter. He knew that if the ironmaster discovered his identity, he would handle him over to the police. Therefore, for him, going to the manor house was like walking into a lion’s den.

13. How did the ironmaster react on seeing the stranger lying close to the furnace
Ans. When the ironmaster saw a stranger in rags lying close to the furnace, he went near him and removed his slouch hat to get a better view of his face. Due to dim light in the forge and the peddler’s dirty appearance, he mistook him to be Nils Olof, an old acquaintance of his regiment. He was delighted to see him and invited him home for Christmas.

14. Why did the stranger not tell the ironmaster that he was not Nils Olof?
Answer: The stranger did not tell the ironmaster that he was not Nils Olof because he thought that if the gentleman believed that he was an old friend or acquaintance of his, then he might take pity on him and help him with some money.

15. Why was the crofter so talkative and friendly with the peddler? (Delhi 2012)
Answer: The old crofter was lonely and leading a dreary existence as he had no wife or children. He was happy to get someone to talk to and share his thoughts with, even though it was at the ramp. So he welcomed the peddler who was quite a patient listener and extended his hospitality to him.

16. How was the peddler received by the old crofter?
Answer: When the peddler knocked on the door of the cottage he was received by the old crofter who invited him inside, served the peddler hot porridge for supper and also gave tobacco for his pipe. He played cards with the stranger and told him the story of his prosperous past life and how his cow supported him in his old age now. The peddler had never been treated kindly by the world. He always received cold treatment wherever he went. He was pleasantly surprised when the crofter greeted him with warmth and hospitality. Generally, he always met ‘sour faces’ when he knocked for shelter and food and was usually turned away.

Short Answer Questions

Q.1. “Edla sat and hung her head even more dejectedly than usual.” Which two reasons forced her to behave in that manner?

[CBSE (F) 2010]

Ans. Edla was sad and upset as she had heard that a crofter of ironworks had been robbed. This led her to think that the peddler to whom she gave shelter was responsible for this misdeed. Her father also added to her doubts by saying that he had heard the peddler was a thief.

Q.2. Why was the peddler surprised when he knocked on the door of the cottage?

[CBSE (AI) 2011]

Ans. The peddler was surprised as he was not only welcomed at the night time but was also provided food and shelter. He was treated like a guest and not as a beggar. The crofter was a lonely man, he also needed company.

Q.3. What made the peddler finally change his ways?

[CBSE (AI) 2011]

Ans. The peddler changed his way of living because of the love and hospitality shown by Edla, daughter of the ironmaster. He lived a pathetic life but when he was respected and cared, he changed his way of life. He began to live with dignity and respect.

Q.4. Why did the peddler keep to the woods after leaving the crofter’s cottage? How did he feel?

[CBSE (AI) 2011]

Ans. The peddler kept to the woods after leaving the crofter’s cottage because he wanted to avoid police. He was afraid as he had stolen the crofter’s money. If he took to the road he might be caught or seen by policemen or the crofter.

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Q.5. Who was the owner of Ramsjo iron mills? Why did he visit the mills at night?

[CBSE (AI) 2012]

Ans. The owner of that mill was a very prominent ironmaster. His greatest ambition was to ship out good iron to the market. He insisted on quality and kept a watch on the work round the clock. He came to the forge on one of his nightly rounds of inspection.

Q.6. How did the ironmaster react on seeing the stranger lying close to the furnace?

[CBSE (AI) 2012, 2013]

Ans. The ironmaster adjusted his hat to see the stranger very carefully. He seemed to him as one of his acquaintances. He offered to take him home.

Q.7. Why didn’t the stranger tell the ironmaster that he was not Nils Olof?

[CBSE (AI) 2012]


How did the peddler react when he saw that the ironmaster had recognised him as Nils Olof, an old regimental comrade?

[CBSE (AI) 2008]

Ans. The peddler was mistaken by the ironmaster to be an old acquaintance from the regiment. He assumed that the ironmaster would hand him a few kronors and therefore made no attempts to deny the reference being made. He replies by saying that things had gone downhill for him. However, when the ironmaster said that he should not have resigned and suggested that “Nils Olof ”, accompany him to the manor, he flatly refused to do so, for fear of being recognised.

Q.8. Why did Edla invite the peddler to stay with her family?

[CBSE (F) 2013]

Ans. Edla was a kind and compassionate young lady. It was Christmas and she wanted the peddler to be a guest for the occasion and share all the goodies that were prepared for Christmas. She had also sensed his fear but she wanted him to spend some time in her house without any fear and relax in comfortable security.

Q.9. Why did the peddler think that the world was a rattrap?

[CBSE (AI) 2009]

Ans. The peddler was a very poor man. He earned his living by selling rattraps made out of material bought by begging. Suddenly he realised that the whole world was a rattrap. The riches and luxuries and comforts are the baits. Like rats, people allow themselves to be tempted by these baits. Once caught, everything is lost and even struggles would not let anyone escape.

Q.10. What did the gift of the rat trap signify?

[CBSE Sample Paper 2016]

Ans. In the story ‘The Rattrap’ the peddler leaves a small rat trap with thirty kronors and a note for Edla. He confesses his mistake and asks Edla to return the money to the crofter. He admits that he got caught in his own rattrap. He also thanks her for treating him as a real captain and for giving him another chance. Life is one big rat trap, one gets trapped by own deeds. The gift of the rattrap signified that the peddler was releasing himself from the trap he had very nearly got into. It was an expression of gratitude to Edla, for enabling him to get out if it became of her behaviour towards him. It is important that everyone gets a second chance to improve oneself, and Edla had given him his chance.

Q.11. Why was the peddler amused at the idea of the world being a rattrap?

[CBSE Delhi 2016]

Ans. The peddler believed that the world with all its riches and joys, food and shelter appears as a rattrap to tempt people. He was amused to think of many other people he knew, who were already caught in the trap, and some others who were circling around the bait.

Q.12. What hospitality did the peddler receive from the crofter?

[CBSE Delhi 2016]

Ans. The peddler was surprised as he was not only welcomed at the night time but was also provided food and shelter. He was treated like a guest and not as a beggar. The crofter was a lonely man, he also needed company.

Q.13. What do we learn about the crofter’s nature from the story, ‘The Rattrap’?

[CBSE (AI) 2016]

Ans. The crofter was lonely and trusting. He was hospitable and gullible. Without any doubt on the peddler, he invites the peddler inside his house at night and shares not only his food but also the whereabouts of his hard-earned money. He was friendly and talkative. He felt proud of his cow that gave him enough milk to support him and talks a lot about it.

Q.14. Why did the Crofter show the thirty kroner to the peddler?

[CBSE (AI) 2016]

Ans. The crofter felt proud of the cow that gave him enough milk to support him. So he told the peddler that he had got thirty kronors from the creamery as the payment of previous month’s supply. However, he felt that the peddler did not believe him. Thus, he showed the money to convince him.

Q.15. Why did the ironmaster speak kindly to the peddler and invite him home?

[CBSE (AI) 2016]

Ans. The ironmaster mistook the peddler to be “Nils Olof ”, his old regimental comrade. He goes on to tell him that he would not have allowed him to resign if he had been in service. As if to make amends for what had happened, the ironmaster tells the peddler to accompany him to the manor, so that he can be received honourably like an old regimental comrade.

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