“The Rattrap” English class 12 NCERT Summary and Question answers

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“The Rattrap” is a story that revolves around a man who sells rattrap, he’s often referred as peddler, vagabond in the story. He has a very gloomy attitude towards the world .The peddler has not always been like this and was a fine man before. However, due to misfortune, he now resorts to selling rattraps, begging and even stealing to survive. Moreover, he also views the world as a big rat trap. He believes that much similar to the cheese we put for mice, the world offers us materialistic things to lure us. So, when we fall for these things, it traps us and takes everything away from us. His such ill thoughts about the world gave him pleasure as the world had, of course, never been very kind to him.

 In this story, a young generous woman, Edla Williamsons takes in the rattrap seller by his kindness .Thus, the generosity and kindness she shows changes his pessimistic take on life. This story teaches us about the essential human goodness we all must possess.

The story starts with a rattrap peddler whose appearance is very ugly and dirty. He is dressed in rags and is very frail and looks so pale and starved. He has no home and sometimes even begs and do small thieveries to survive in the world. He leads a lonely life with no one to care about him.

 One day, he was struck by an idea that the whole world was nothing but a big rattrap. It set baits for people by offering riches and joys, shelter and food, heat and clothing exactly as the rattrap offered cheese and pork to the rats. As soon as anyone let himself be tempted to touch the bait, the rattrap closed in on him, and then everything came to an end.

One dark cold evening he was walking slowly with heavy steps when he saw a little gray cottage by the roadside. He knocked at the door to ask shelter for the night. The owner was an old crofter. He had no wife or child. He was happy to get someone to talk to in his loneliness. He served him porridge for supper and gave him tobacco for his pipe. They play cards and start talking. The peddler learns that the crofter got thirty kronor for selling his cow which he keeps in a pouch on the window frame. The peddler leaves the next day but after seeing the crofter leave his cottage, he comes back to steal the pouch of money.

He felt pleased with his smartness. Then he realised that he dared not continue on the public highway. So, he took to the woods. He got into a big and confusing forest. He kept on walking without coming to the end of the forest. He realised that he had only been walking around in the same part of the forest. He thought that he had let himself be fooled by a bait and had been trapped. It was late in December. Darkness increased the danger as also his gloom and despair. He sank down on the ground as he was quite tired. Then suddenly, he heard the sound of hammer strokes. He summoned all his strength, got up and staggered in the direction of the sound. He reached a forge where the master smith and his helper sat near the furnace waiting for the pig iron to be ready to put on the anvil. The blacksmith did not notice that a man had opened the gate and entered the forge until the stranger stood close up to the furnace.

The blacksmiths glanced only casually and indifferently at the intruder with a long beard, dirty, ragged and with a bunch of rattraps dangling on his chest. The peddler asked for permission to stay. The master blacksmith nodded a haughty consent without saying a word. Just then the ironmaster who owned the Ramsjo iron mill came into the forge on one of his nightly rounds of inspection. The ironmaster saw that a person in dirty torn clothes had moved so close to the furnace that steam was rising from his wet rags. He walked close up to him, looked him over very carefully. Then he tore off his hat, which had a wide flexible brim, to get a better view of his face. He called him ‘Nils Olof and wondered how he looked.

The ironmaster mistakes him to be his old friend from army. He invites him over for Christmas but he refuses. After that, the ironmaster’s daughter, Edla visits him and insists him to stay with them. The daughter of ironmaster successfully persuaded the peddler by saying that he’s free to leave whenever he wants to but just stay with them for Christmas Eve. In between, he feels sorry for stealing the crofter’s money that why on earth he did that. Edla and her father help the peddler get a makeover and dress him in nice clothes and shave his beard off. After this, the ironmaster realizes he has made a mistake; the peddler was not his comrade.

Thus, the ironmaster thinks he is a fraud and decides to turn him in. However, Edla insists on letting him stay and celebrate Christmas with them. Her father agrees, and they celebrate Christmas together. Next day, the ironmaster and Edla learn that the peddler was a thief through the church about the incident at the old crofter’s. They head home in a hurry thinking he must have stolen all the silver. However, to their surprise, the peddler did not steal a thing. Instead, he left a gift for Edla which was a tiny rattrap. There was also a note thanking her for her kindness which saved him from the rattrap he got caught in. Most importantly, he also left the crofter’s money asking to return it to him.

To sum up, The Rattrap story suggests that we can change the world through kindness and compassion; and also that the materialistic things never bring true joy, only love and respect does.

The Rattrap – Imp Question and answers

Q1- How does the peddler interpret the acts of kindness and hospitality shown by the crofter, the ironmaster and his daughter?

The peddler had been living a despicable life of poverty, despair and frustration. The peddler was a rattrap seller. He was leading a life of misery. He was homeless and didn’t have enough money to survive. So, he had to depend upon begging and thievery.

He felt that the riches and luxuries of life were baits to entice people into a vicious cycle of struggles, from which there was no escape.

He was once offered shelter by an old crofter. He wanted company and showed kindness towards the peddler by sharing his porridge and tobacco. In return, the peddler betrayed him and stole his money.

The ironmaster mistook him as his old companion Captain Von Stahle that’s why he showed his kindness to him and invited him to his house for Christmas Eve. The peddler knew that the ironmaster was making a mistake by thinking him to be his old friend but here also he did not clarify him thinking that the ironmaster may give him some money out of pity.

Neither the crofter’s hospitality nor the ironmaster’s invitation to his house brought any change in him. It was kind nature of Elda willmansson changed the peddler and he not only thanked her by gifting a rattrap for being so kind and caring but also enclosed a letter thanking her for her kindness. He also confessed to stealing money from the crofter and left the money to be restored to the owner. This way, he redeemed himself from his dishonest ways and emerged as an altogether transformed person. In this transformation process he signed the letter under the name of captain, the name by which Edla addressed him.

Q2- 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?

The character of both ironmaster and his daughter were quiet different from each other. The iron master was a proud man. When he saw the peddler, he mistook him as an old regimental comrade. So, he tried to help him out. When he realized that he had Been mistaken, he called the peddler to be dishonest and also warned him of calling the sheriff. He was also worried about his silver spoons when he comes to know that peddler was a thief. On the other hand, the ironmaster’s daughter was a kind lady, who really wanted to help the peddler. She treated him with respect even after knowing his true identity and it was her kind nature which changed the peddler and made him a good person.

Q3- The story has many instances of unexpected reactions from the characters to others’ behaviour. Pick out instances of these surprises?

The story has many instances of unexpected reactions from the characters to others’ behaviour. For example, One evening when the peddler knocked at the door of a little hut, he was not disappointed by the owner rather he welcomed him and tried to be a good host . He offered him food and played cards with him. In another instance when the peddler went inside a forge to seek shelter, there he was invited by the iron master to his house as he mistook him as one of his old regimental comrade. But when the iron master realized that he had invited some unknown person to his house, he asked him to leave. At his time, he was allowed to stay by his daughter Elda out of kindness.

Q4- What made the peddler finally change his ways?

Edla willmansson’s kindness reformed the peddler. Her kindness, compassion and generosity killed the thief in him. He gifted her a rattrap. Also, he returned the three ten kronor notes that he had stolen from the crofter’s house. He requested her to return the money to the old crofter. He wrote a letter to her, thanking her for treating him well just like she would have treated a real captain.

Q5- How does the metaphor of the rattrap serve to highlight the human predicament?

The world tempts the human beings by various good things such as the luxuries and joys, food and shelter, clothing and warmth, etc. They are just like the bait which is planted to trap someone in the rattrap of the world. In the story the peddler was attracted to the three ten kronors of the crofter, which he stole from him. Later on, he found himself trapped in the forest as he planned to hide himself by walking through the woods. When he got trapped, he thought That this was a punishment for his sin of getting lured by the money.

Q6- The peddler comes out as a person with a subtle sense of humour. How does this serve in Lightening the seriousness of the theme of the story and also endear him to us?

We can see the peddler’s sense of humour when he compares the world with a rattrap. Whenever he gets caught due to his own knitted stories, he tries to prove his innocence by believing that he has fallen into the trap of this world which actually is like a rattrap. This lightens the seriousness of the story and makes the reader sympathize with him.


1. The Peddler/ Vagabond

The protagonist and central character of the story is an unnamed man. His clothes are very dirty and rugged. He’s a vagabond, who wanders around the

Countryside and selling rattraps, which he makes out of wire in his spare time. The business of selling rattrap is that much profitable that’s why for the survival, he’s engaged in petty thievery and begging. His bitter experience from the world made him pessimistic about the life. His thought of world being a rattrap gives him joy. He even steals money from the crofter after the old man offers him his hospitality. Indeed, it seems that the peddler’s only pleasure in life comes from thinking of the world as one large, cruel rattrap, and ruminating on other people he knows who have been ensnared. After experiencing true kindness from Elda Willmansson, however, the peddler seems to change his mindset. He returns the stolen money and declares that he wants to “be nice,” having been freed from the “rattrap” of life by Edla’s compassion and generosity. The peddler’s transformation shows Lagerlöf’s idea of the latent potential for goodness in all human beings.

2. Edla Willmansson

Edla Willmansson, daughter of the iron master, is the modest, kind, considerate kind of a girl. When the peddler decline the invitation by the ironmaster, he send his daughter to persuade him. Edla successfully brings the peddler home which shows her persuasion powers. She feels sorry for peddler hard time. She assures the captain ( the peddler) that he will be allowed to leave just as freely as he comes. Her manners, attitude and openness create confidence in the peddler. He accompanies her because she has better insight of human understanding. After knowing the true identity of the peddler, her father asks the peddler to go away, she feels it was unethical to send a guest away like that because he had been promised Christmas cheer.

She is able to awaken goodness in the peddler’s heart by showing understanding and love. He was able to rise to the level of ‘Captain’ leaving his temptations aside just because he did not want to let her as well as himself down.

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