The Rattrap by Selma Lagerlöf – Important Questions

The Rattrap is written by a Swedish writer Selma Lagerlöf whose stories have been translated into many languages. A universal theme runs through all of them – a belief that the essential goodness in a human being can be awakened through understanding and love. The story is told somewhat in the manner if a fairy tale.

Important Questions with Answers

Q. Where did the peddler get the idea of the world being a rattrap?

The peddler was a rattrap seller. He was naturally thinking of his rattraps when suddenly he was struck by an idea that the whole world was nothing but a big rattrap.

Q. Why was he amused by this idea?

The world had never been kind to him. He always thought ill of it. So, he was amused by the idea of the world being a big rattrap. It gave him an unwanted joy.

Q. Did the peddler expect the kind of hospitality that he received from the crofter?

No the peddler did not expect such kind hospitality that he received from the crofter.

Q. Why was the crofter so talkative and friendly with the peddler?

The crofter was so talkative and friendly with the peddler because he lived there all alone and thus welcomed the peddler in a very friendly manner.

Q. Why did he show the thirty kroner to the peddler?

The crofter was a credulous man. He was generous with his confidence. So, he showed thirty kronor to the peddler. He did not have doubt that he was a thief.

Q. Did the peddler respect the confidence reposed in him by the crofter?

No, the peddler did not respect the confidence which the crofter had shown him. He showed him 30 kronor and the peddler stole them.

Q. What made the peddler think that he had indeed fallen into a rattrap?

The peddler stole 30 Kronor from the crofter’s cottage and walked along. He thought himself smart. He avoided the public highway and turn into the wood. It was a big and confusing forest which he had got into. He tried to walk in a definite direction. But he was failed. He realised that he was walking around in the same part of the forest. The whole forest seemed to him a big prison.

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

Iron master mistook the peddler for his old acquaintance with whom he had been in the regiment. So, he spoke to him in kindly manner and invited him to his house to celebrate Christmas eve.

Q. Why did the peddler decline the invitation?

The peddler had stolen thirty kronor. If he accepted the invitation to manor house it would be like throwing himself into the lion’s den. So, he declined the invitation.

Q. What made the peddler accept Edla Willmansson’s invitation?

Edla Willmansson introduced herself to the peddler. She said that she came to know that he wanted to sleep here in the forge tonight. Then she asked permission to come and bring him home to them. She also added that he would be allowed to leave them just as freely as he come. She requested him to stay with them over Christmas Eve.

Q. What doubts did Edla have about the peddler?

Edla had some doubts about the peddler. She thought, “Either he has stolen something or else he has escaped from jail.

Q. When did the ironmaster realise his mistake?

The ironmaster realised his mistake when he saw the peddler standing in broad daylight washed and shaved. At that time it was impossible to mistake him for an old acquaintance.

Q. What did the peddler say in his defense when it was clear that he was not the person the ironmaster had thought he was?

The paddler said that it was not his fault. He also said that he never pretended to be anything but a poor trader. He pleaded and begged to be allowed to stay in the forge. He then said that he had not done any harm and at worst he would put on his rags again and go away. All this the peddler said in his defence when it was clear that he was not the person the iron master had thought he was.

Q. Why did Edla still entertain the peddler even after she knew the truth about him?

Edla still entertained the peddler even after she knew the truth about him because she thought that it was not appropriate to chase away a human being when they have asked to come there, and to whom they have promised Christmas cheer.

Q. Why was Edla happy to see the gift left by the peddler?

Edla was happy to see that gift left by the peddler because she found small rattrap, and in it lay three wrinkled ten Kroner notes. The peddler has praised her for reforming him.

Q. Why did the peddler sign himself as Captain Von Stahle?

The peddler signed himself as captain Von stahle because it was because of the ironmaster’s daughter he could reform himself. She addressed him as a captain. He would have been caught in this world’s rattrap if he had not been raised to captain. In that way he got power to cheer himself and that’s why signed as “Captain Van Stahle”, infact he was captain Von Stahle.

Q. How does the peddler interpret the acts of kindness and hospitality shown by the crofter, the ironmaster and his daughter?

The peddler seems to have interpreted the kind acts of hospitality of the three persons in different ways. The crofter was the first of the three who showed kindness and hospitality. He gave him food, played cards with him and shared his confidences. Inspite of the great generosity shown by the crofter, the peddler does not seem to think very high of him. Perhaps he considered him only a simpleton. He is in the beginning very happy after stealing his kronors and considers himself smart. Even at the end of the story, he thinks him a fool who tempts poor vagabonds because he keeps his money hanging by the window frame.

Ironmaster’s hospitality he had refused, he never believed him. He knew well that he was behaving with such kindless only because of a mistaken identity.

It was the act-of kindness and hospitality shown by the ironmaster’s daughter which the peddler greatly appreciates. It was her compassionate behaviour which persuaded him to accept the invitation which he had earlier refused. Later on when his identity is revealed, the ironmaster asks him to leave at once. But the girl intercedes on the peddler’s behalf. More than her father, the peddler is surprised. He interprets her idea as crazy. Her kind behaviour throughout his stay stirs his conscience. He interprets that she Was treating him as a real Captain. It is this interpretation which compels him to change himself completely.

Q. What are the instances in the story that show that the character of the ironmaster is different from that of his daughter in many ways?

There are several instances in the story to show that the character of the ironmaster is different from that of his daughter. The first of these is when they invite the peddler home. The iron master thought it was his old acquaintance Nils Olof. So he invites him home but his words show his arrogance. He points out the Captain’s mistake and says that it happened only because he, the ironmaster, was not in service at that time. Thus he thinks that the man has been refusing because he is too poor to ennter his manor house. He returns unsuccessful.

His daughter is, however, full of compassion. She can see that the man is terribly afraid and needs an assurance that he will be allowed to leave as freely as he has come. When she gives her word about it, he readily goes with her. Thus while the ironman is proud. The daughter is compassionate.

The second instance is when the identity of the man is revealed. The ironmaster is angry, thinks that he has been cheated and even wants him jailed. The daughter is still compassionate and remembers her word. She persuades her father to let him live to enjoy the Christmas eve.

The third and the last instance which reveals their character is when the man has left and the ironmaster and his daughter know that he is a thief. The ironmaster cannot hide his feelings. He is worried about his silver spoons, the young girl is only more dejected than usual.

Q. The story has many instances of unexpected reactions from the characters to others’ behaviour. Pick out instances of these surprises.

The first surprising reaction is of the crofter. The peddler never expected the hospitality given to him. He expected as usual a sour face. But the crofter gave him food and tobacco and played cards with him. The peddler was most surprised at the crofters unexpected reaction to his expression of being incredulous. The crofter’s showing the money was most unexpected. It was not only the peddler’s fate to come across unexpected reactions. But other characters have also their share.

The iron master does not understand why his supposed friend is insistent on living in the forge. When his daughter comes to persuade the peddler, the peddler’s reaction of fear was very unexpected to her. The peddler was not surprised when he was asked to leave by the ironmaster but her daughter’s behaviour on that occasion surprised him a great deal. He calls it a ‘crazy idea.’

Last but not least, the peddler’s reaction to the young girl’s kindness was also most unexpected. No one could think that the thief would leave the house not only without taking anything away but on the contrary leaving a decent present for the young lady. The girl was rightly and of course, pleasantly surprised.

Q. What made the peddler finally change his ways?

It was the young girl’s kindness and compassion which made the peddler finally change his ways. Unlike her father, the ironmaster, she had doubts of his being a Captain from the very beginning. However, when it is revealed to everyone that he is just a poor peddler, the ironmaster is ready to throw him out of his house. The yoiung girl, however, is compassionate. She persuades her father to let him live there to enjoy the Christmas eve. The peddler himself is much surprised and wonders “What could the crazy idea be ?”

Then, all through the day she looks after him as an honoured guest. After taking his share of Christmas fish and porridge, he wished good night to everyone. At this time the young girl told him to keep the suit he was wearing as a Christmas present and to visit them again next Christmas if he so felt. The peddler had then only stared at the young girl with boundless amazement.

In his letter, he makes it clear that it was due to these kind acts of her that he had decided to behave in an honourable manner.

Q. How does the metaphor of the rattrap serve to highlight the human predicament?

The metaphor of the rattrap serves to highlight the human predicament very well indeed. The world offers riches and joys, shelter and food, heat and clothing exactly as the rattrap offers cheese and pork. The rats are trapped when they are tempted by these bits of cheese and pork. In the same way, as soon as anyone lets himself be tampted, by any of the baits offered by the world, the world closes in on him and then everything comes to an end.

This has been illustrated in the story by the example of the rattrap seller. As soon as he was tempted the thirty kronors of the crofter, his life became difficult. He had to leave the road for the fear of being arrested. When the ironmaster’s daughter lifted his cap from his eyes, he trembled out of fear as if he had stolen something or had run from the jail. So the metaphor of the rattrap is quite apt.

Q. The peddler comes out as a person with a great sense of humour. How does this serve in lightening the seriousness of the theme of the story and also endear him to us?

The peddler comes out as a person with a great sense of humour. There is no doubt that this serves in lightening the seriousness of the theme of the story and also endear him to us. The first instance of it is just in the beginning when he enjoys his dreary ploddings thinking of the world as a rattrap. It of course pleased his heart that the world which was denied to him was after all not worth having as it was nothing but a rattrap. After stealing the crofter’s money, he left the public highway and lost his way in the forest. Though heart-broken, his sense of humour is alive as he thinks of himself as the one who has been trapped like a rat. The forest seemed to him like an impenetrable prison from which he could never escape.

The peddler provides humour again when he jumps up abruptly and quite frightened. It happens when the ironmaster’s daughter lifts up his hat from his eyes. He shows a good sense of humour when the ironmaster threatens to report his case to the sheriff. Instead of being frightened, he strikes the table with his fist. Then he gives his views about the world being a rattrap. The ironmaster laughs and idea of the sheriff is dropped. His letter to the ironmaster’s daughter again reveals his sense of humour. He calls himself captain Von Stahle who, but for lady’s kindness, would have remained a rat caught in this wordl’s rattrap.

There is no doubt that this sense of humour helps to endear him to us.

Q. In what sense was the world a big rattrap, according to the peddler?

The peddler was a vagabond, who went around selling rattraps. One day, as he was simply thinking about his own rattraps, he was struck by the idea that whole world was nothing but a big rattrap. It existed only to set baits for people. It offered riches and joys, shelter and food, heat and clothing in the same manner as the rattrap offered cheese and pork. As soon as someone let himself be tempted to touch the bait, it closed on him and then everything came
to an end.

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

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. Why did peddler derive pleasure from his idea of the world as a rattrap?

The peddler derived pleasure from his idea of the world as a rattrap because the world had never accepted him. People had never been kind to the poor peddler. He got amused with the idea because he himself had never led a good life and envied others who led a better life than him.

Q. Why did the peddler knock on the cottage by the roadside? How was he treated by the owner of the cottage?

The peddler knocked at the cottage by the roadside to seek shelter for the night. The owner of the cottage, a Crofter, treated him kindly, offered him shelter in his cottage, gave him food and also played cards with him and put him up for the night.

Q. What hospitality did the peddler receive from the Crofter? Or Why was the peddler suprised when he knocked on the door of the cottage?

Wherever the peddler we, he was met with hostile looks and people chased him away. When he knocked at the crofter’s cottage, he was welcomed in and treated like a guest, not like an unwelcome visitor or a beggar. The peddler was surprised to be treated with such hospitality.

Q. Why did the crofter show the thirty kronorto the peddler?

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

The peddler realised that he must not walk on the public highway with the stolen money in his pocket. He went into the woods. He kept walking on without coming to the end of the wood. Then he realised that he had fallen in the rattrap. He had let himself befooled by a bait and had been caught in.

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

The owner of the Ramsjo iron mills was an ambitious and prominent ironmaster. He was very particular about the quantitiy of iron he produced. As he wanted to bring out the best iron in the market so, he came to the iron mills at night for inspection.

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

The ironmaster walked closely up to the peddler. In the uncertain reflection from the furnace, he mistook the peddler for his old regimental comrade, Nils Olof who had, perhaps, fallen on evil days. He was delighted to see him and invited him home for Christmas.

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

When the ironmaster thought the stranger to be Nils Olof, the stranger did not tell the truth that he was not with the hope of setting couple of kronor more. His greed made him keep the truth.

Q. What conclusion did the ironmaster reach when he heard that the crofter had been robbed by the peddler?

When the ironmaster heard that the crofter had been robbed by the peddler, he concluded that the peddler must have stolen their silver spoons and other valuables, and must have gone away from the manor house.

Q. Why did Edla plead with her father not to send the vagabond away?

Edla had always thought the peddler to be a poor homeless tramp. When his true identity was revealed, she felt sorry for him and his miserable condition, and pleaded on his behalf.

Q. What was the content of the letter written by the peddler to Edla?

The contents of the letter written by the Peddler to Edla were that, as he had been treated as if he was a captain, he wanted to be nice to them in return. Thus he requested the crofter’s money (left with the note) to be returned to him. He wrote that he had left the rattrap as a Christmas present to her, as she had inspired him to reform himself.

Q. What were the contents of the package left by the peddler as a Christmas gift for Edla Willmansson?

The package left by the peddler as a Christmas gift for Edla Willmansson contained a rattrap, thirty kronor in crumpled notes (robbed from the crofter) and a letter for her explaining his conduct and his gratitude to Miss Willmansson for treating him like a captain.

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

The crofter was lonely and trusting. He was hospitable and gullible. Without any doubt on the peddler, he invited the peddler inside his house at night and shared 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. How does the peddler respond to the hospitality shown to him by the crofter?

The peddler was ungrateful for the hospitality shown by the crofter. The crofter did welcome him to his house when he had asked for the shelter. He took good care of him. He immediately put the porridge pot on the fire and gave him supper; then he carved off such a big slice from his tobacco roll and gave it to him. Finally he got out an old pack of cards and played with him until bedtime. Not only this, the old man was just as generous with his confidence as with his porridge and tobacco. He told him at once that in his days of prosperity his host had been a crofter at Ramsjo Ironworks and had worked on the land. And now he had thirty kronor, which he had earned selling the milk of his cow. But the peddler betrayed the crofter’s trust. After they both had left in the morning, the peddler came back to the crofter’s house, broke the open window and stole the thirty kronor which he had earned selling the milk of his cow.

Q. Why did the crofter repose confidence in the peddler? How did the peddler betray that and with what consequences?

The crofter reposed confidence in the peddler because he was lonely, living alone and earning a living with his cow. He wanted someone with whom he could share his feelings, even trusting him to the extent of showing the peddler where he had kept his money. The peddler betrayed this trust by robbing the money and running away. However, when the peddler went through the forest instead of the road to avoid detection, he got lost and returned to the same place again and again. Ultimately the peddler realised that he was like a rat caught in a rattrap and that the whole world was a rattrap. The bait he had fallen for was the crofter’s money and he could not escape with it. Thus, the consequence of falling for the bait was that he was trapped with no way out.

Q. How did the seller of rattraps realise that he himself was caught up in a rattrap after he left the crofter’s cottage? Or How did the peddler feel after robbing the crofter? What course did he adopt and how did he react to the new situation? What does his reaction reveal? Or The peddler believed that the whole world is a rattrap. How did he himself get caught in the same?

Despite the crofter treating the peddler with hospitality, the peddler robbed him and was quite pleased with his smartness. However, the fear of getting caught haunted him. So, he avoided the public highway and turned into the woods. It was a big and confusing forest, and due to the approaching darkness, the peddler lost his way. He got exhausted moving around the same, place, and was filled with despair. He began to feel that the forest was like a big rattrap and the thirty kronor he had stolen were like a bait set to tempt him. He felt helpless like a rat who had no way out of the trap in which he had fallen. His reaction reveals that he was feeling guilty for having stolen the crofter’s money. His heart was filled with remorse and self-loathing for his act of weakness.

Q. Why did the ironmaster invite the peddler to his home? Why did the latter decline it?

In the dim light of the forge, the ironmaster mistook the peddler, due to his unkempt appearance and shabby clothes, to be his old colleague in the regiment who had fallen on bad days. He wanted to help his ‘old colleague’. He invited him to his residence, so that he might be helped.

The peddler did not like to be received as an old acquaintance. He had stolen the crofter’s money and was conscious of it. He was scared of being caught with the stolen money in his pocket. So he thought that to go up to his house would be like throwing himself voluntarily into the lion’s den. So the peddler declined the invitation.

Q. Describe the peddler’s interaction with the ironmaster’s daughter. To what extent was he influenced by her?

The peddler met the ironmaster’s daughter for the first time at the forge. She had come to request him to come over their house as her father had mistaken him to be an old acquaintance, a captain. She was able to convince him and took him home. At home alsi when her father realised that they had made a mistake and he was not the captain, the daughter was very polite and kept him at home as it was Christmas.

The rattrap seller was greatly influenced by the ironmaster’s daughter. In fact, it was because of her that he turned a new leaf and returned the money that he had stolen from an old man. It was the kind nature of the girl that changed him.

Q. The peddler declined the invitation of the ironmaster but accepted the one from Edla. Why?

As the peddler had recently stolen the crofter’s money, he felt that the police would be on the lookout for him. If he accepted the ironmaster’s invitation to stay for a night at his home, he would probably have been found out as an imposter by the ironmaster, who had mistaken him to be his former colleague in the dim light of the furnace. Then he would have been arrested. So he declined the ironmaster’s invitation. However, he accepted Edla’s invitation as she spoke kindly to him. She realised that he was afraid. Therefore, she assured him that no harm would come to him and he was at liberty to leave whenever he wanted. The compassionate manner of the ironmaster’s daughter won the confidence of the r eddler who agreed to go to her home.

Q. Edla proved to be much more persuasive than her father while dealing with the peddler. Comment.

Edla was more persuasive than the ironmaster because of her gentle compassionate behaviour towards the peddler and the kind manner in which she spoke. This convinced the peddler to change his mind and accept her invitation to spend one evening with them. Although she had her misgivings about the peddler, she was happy to help a poor homeless man who had earlier been chased away by all. She wanted him to spend a day in peace and partake of the festivities of Christmas. She had been kind and friendly to him, sympathizing with his condition and making him part of their family for a day. This act of kindness made the peddler change his ways and he left them with a Christmas present for Edla and also returned the money he had stolen from the crofter.

Q ‘The Rattrap’ highlights the impact of compassion and understanding on the hidden goodness in human beings. Substantiate with evidence from the story.

The Rattrap’ highlights the impact of compassion and understanding on the hidden goodness in human beings. It was the kindness and compassion of the ironmaster’s daughter that changed the peddler. He also understood the value of being good and kind and thus returned the money he had stolen from the crofter’s house. This clearly shows that compassion and understanding brings out the hidden goodness in human beings.

Q. The story ‘The Rattrap’ is both entertaining and philosophical. Do you agree with this statement. Why / Why not?

The story is, indeed, both entertaining and philosophical. The fast-paced narrative in the third person, generous use of dialogue by the author and different characters belonging to different mindsets and locations, make the story quite entertaining. There is also an element of suspense that the author manages to keep up to the end. There is also an underlying touch of irony. There is also an element of philosophy in the story. The peddler’s theory at the world being a rattrap is true. The world offers us so many temptations that we are sure to fall into its trap some. day. While some people fall into this trap never to come out of it again, the fortunate ones like the peddler manage to break free from the circle of temptations with the help of kind and compassionate people like Edla, and discover their latent goodness.

Q. The story also focuses on human loneliness and the need to bond with others. Describe.

The theme of human loneliness and need to have someone to share one’s joys and sorrow run throughout the story. To begin with, the reader’s attention is drawn to the peddler who is lonely, and in his loneliness he makes rattraps and is left to his own meditation. When he knocks at the cottage, the crofter welcomes him, and entertains him. It is because the crofter is lonely. He wants someone to talk to. He finds peddler a good companion and tells him a lot about himself and his cow, though the peddler is a complete stranger to him. Then we find that the ironmaster and his daughter are also lonely. They live in a big house and have nobody else for company. So, they insist that the peddler spend the Christmas Eve with them.

Q. How does the story, ‘The Rattrap’ show the redemptive power of love and compassion?

Love, compassion and understanding can transform a person. They bring out basic human goodness in man. Life appeared to be sad and monotonous to the peddler. The world had never been very kind to hum. But Edla’s love and understanding brought the best in him. He was a transformed character now. The old crofter treated the peddler well. he gave him shelter and good food. But the peddler violated the trust of the host and stole his money. Even he was not much impressed by the invitation of the ironmaster. Miss Edla possessed all that is good in human nature. She was gentle, caring and full of human kindness. She persuaded the beddler to come to the manor house. She interceded for the peddler when her father threatened to call the sheriff. She insisted on keeping the guest. Love, compassion and understanding left their marks on the peddle. He raised himself to a gentleman. He left 30 kronors to their rightful owner. He even left a letter and a Christmas gift for Edla.

Q. Describe how the story, ‘The Rattrap’ shows that basic human goodness can be brought out by understanding and love.

‘The Rattrap’ is a story of a peddler who used to earn his living by selling small rattraps. One day he met a crofter, who showed him kindness and sympathy, welcoming him in the warmth of his home. During conversation, he revealed that he had thirty kronor. The peddler stole his money and ran away.

Later, he was given a place to stay by a young girl against her father’s wish. She showered affection on the peddler and convinced her father to let him stay with them for Christmas. The peddler was highly touched by her behaviour and before leaving the house, returned the stolen thirty kronor and a small rattrap as a gift. This shows that the peddler was not a bad man at heart, but was only bound by his poor and unfortunate circumstances, which forced him to steal things. But the love, trust and understanding shown by Edla brought out his basic human goodness.

Q. Human beings are social animals. They need bond with others. The feeling of loneliness is a negative feeling which must be fought. Justify with reference to the chapter, ‘The Rattrap’.

Man is a social animal. He can not live alone. In every field of life he needs the help of someone or the other. But there are a few people who do not live to socialize with other. They stay away from their fellow- beings. They shirk the company of their friends and became a recluse. They are overpowered by negative feelings. This is a wrong notion of spending one’s life as the life of the peddler. He is lonely and thinks that the world is like a rattrap. He is always left to this meditation till he meets the crofter, ironmaster and his daughter. The meeting with all these people teach him the need of human bonds. They insist him to stay with them and spend some time. They provide him the basic necessities of life. Thus, he was made to realise that no one can live alone in this world. The feeling of love and human-bonding is above all other feelings. One must have someone to share one’s joys and sorrows. It gives him contentment, peace and shear happiness. It is well said that sharing a sorrow halves it whereas sharing a joy doubles it.

Q. There is a saying ‘Kindness pays, rudeness never’. In the story, ‘The Rattrap’ Edla’s attitude towards men and matters is different from her father’s attitude. How are the values of concern and compassion brought out in the story, ‘The Rattrap’?

‘The Rattrap’ is a story of a peddler who used to earn his living by selling small rattraps of wire. As his business was not profitable, he resorted to petty thievery. Nobody treated him with kindness or respect. The first act of compassion was shown by the crofter who took the poor peddler in. But the peddler stole his money and ran away.

Later, he was given a place to stay by the noble ironmaster and his daughter. Though she was suspicious of him, they promised him Christmas cheer. When his truth was discovered, Edla argued with her father for the peddler. She not only requested her father to let the peddler stay for Christmas, but also treated him like a real captain. The peddler was highly touched by this act of concern and compassion and before leaving the house, left the money he had stolen, besides a rattrap as a present for Edla and a letter explaining his behaviour. This shows that goodness is latent in the human heart and can be brought out by love, care, and understanding.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *