‘The Stump-Grubber’ by Torgny Lindgren

The Stump-Grubber by Torgny Lindgren, 1983

The magic trick:

Balancing a feeling of fate with reminders that there is a right way to do things in order to exert control

We’re off to Sweden this week.

This story’s man vs. nature conflict feels fated to end poorly from the first page. Certainly, the man’s goal of removing the massive stump from his property feels hopelessly ambitious. So it’s interesting that throughout the story we get passages that explain how the stump-grubber works. They function almost as a how-to. They indicate that there is a right way to do this, a very controllable set of instructions. A tension results then in the story between the sense of fate and the sense of taking control of your own life.

And that’s quite a trick on Lindgren’s part.

The selection:

It is an implement.

I tell you this so that you may understand that it is not a human being nor a monster, neither is it only wood, and bits of iron and cable and hook.

Three large sturdy legs made of wooden posts and on top the pulley, and then the cog-wheels, it is the cog-wheels and the pulley that do all the work, and on its side a winch of iron, and you put the cable round what is to be lifted, a stone or a stump, and you fasten the cable with the hook, and then you wind the winch round, and for each turn you make with the winch you lift the stone or the stump a fraction of an inch, your strength is multiplied a thousandfold. With a stump-grubber a poor weak creature can raise slaughtered horses and stones that are fast in the ground.

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