CBSE Class 12 English - The Rattrap

About the story: The story is set amidst the mines of Sweden, rich in iron ore, which figure large in the history and legends of that country. The story is told somewhat in the manner of a fairy tale.

About the Author: Selma Lagerlof was a Swedish writer and her stories have been translated into many languages. Their universal theme that runs through all her stories is the belief that the essential goodness in a human being can be awakened through understanding and love.


  • Rattrap Seller or the Peddler or Captain Von Stahle
  • A Crofter (old man)
  • Helpers in the mill- blacksmiths
  • Iron mill owner
  • Edla Willmansson- daughter of the iron mill owner


“The Rattrap” is an appropriate title as it is the story of a rattrap peddler. The word Rattrap throws light on the human dilemma with respect to the functioning of the world and society. Just like a rat is fooled by the bait that and it gets trapped similarly even human beings also tend to fall into the trap of material benefits provided by the world. The story revolves around the incident of a man getting trapped due to his greed. Hence, the title is an apt one. Also, it is worth noticing and remarkable how the story ends with the note of "hope".

The Theme of Story:

The remarkable theme of the story is that man is inherently good by nature and it is the material benefits or the society and the environment he lives in makes him bad. Since the story ends on a positive note of hope, we infer that human goodness and kindness can bring about the change in the attitude of any person trapped.


Peddler or The Rattrap or Captain Von Stahle:

  1. The peddler was a poor vagabond.
  2. He sold rattraps to earn his living or keep his body and soul together.
  3. He also resorted to thievery when required.
  4. He was struck with a dark realization that the world is itself a  rattrap and all men and women are just like rats that are vulnerable to be trapped to various types of baits.
  5. He was inherently not a bad person. He had some goodness in him that was irked by Edla, the iron master’s elder daughter.
  6. In the end, he transformed himself and returned the stolen money to the crofter through Edla loving caring and devoted family man

Edla Willmannsson:

  1. She was the oldest daughter of the Ironmaster
  2. She was not at all pretty but seemed modest and quite shy. by heart
  3. Kind-hearted
  4. Compassionate
  5. Smart enough to understand rightly from the peddler’s eyes that he might have escaped from jail or stolen something.
  6. By being a good host she actually elevated peddler’s nature to that of a Captain.
  7. She was a great human being.

A Crofter:

  1. He was lonely and had nobody to talk to.
  2. He was happy to see the peddler and gave him shelter. This gesture made the peddler feel welcomed and comfortable because he was used to seeing sour and unwelcomed faces ordinarily.
  3. He was generous.
  4. He had been a crofter at Ramsjo Ironworks.
  5. Trusted the stranger easily with his confidences.                                    

Tom An Ironmaster (Ironworks owner):

  1. The Ironmaster was the owner of the large iron factory Ramsjo Ironwork.
  2. His greatest ambition was to ship out good iron in the market.
  3. Hard-working and conscious of his duties as he used to go to the forge for nightly inspections.
  4. He mistakes the rattrap seller as his old acquaintance and his basic instinct was to help him irrespective of his condition, which shows that just like his daughter even he was kind-hearted and helpful. He took him to his own house and cared for him.


Through the story ‘The Rattrap’ the author underlines the belief that essential goodness in human beings can be aroused through sympathy, understanding, and love. The story revolves around a man who used to sell rattraps, steals and even begs to make his ends meet. While walking he was struck with a sudden realization that the whole world is a rattrap and it offers riches as bait.

Just like a rat is tempted to touch and take the bait away even people are tempted to touch the bait provided y the world and as soon as they get closer it traps them bringing everything at the end. One dark evening the rattrap peddler sought shelter in an old crofter’s roadside cottage.

The old man was kind-hearted and generous and gave him food, tobacco and even played a card game with him. The old man told him about his earnings and also told him where he kept them. The next morning the peddler stole away the old man’s earnings that were thirty kroner. He escaped into a big confusing forest and got lost.

He got tired and just when he was about to conclude that his end is near he heard the thumping voices from the Ramsjo ironworks and he went inside to seek shelter for the night. The owner soon came and noticed him and mistaken him for an old acquaintance of his named Nils Olof.

He invited the peddler to stay with him for the Christmas Eve as even he and his daughter were unhappy spendings the eve all alone. Though the peddler was reluctant when the owner of the mill sent his daughter Edla Willmansson to persuade him he could not say no. The peddler realizes that by stealing thirty kronor from the old man and accepting the invitation for Christmas Eve he has knowingly thrown himself into the lion’s den. When the peddler came to the dining table all well-groomed and dressed not as a tramp but as a gentleman the ironmaster or the owner realizes that he had mistaken him and he threatened to call the sheriff.

Though his daughter pleaded that the peddler should not be bothered and he deserves at least one day at peace. The ironmaster although reluctantly agreed to his daughter’s request and the peddler was given food and place to sleep and was not disturbed except for food. Next morning the ironmaster and his daughter learn at the church about the man who stole thirty kronor from the old man and escaped into the woods and they realize its none other than their guest and they rush home only to find that the man was gone.

But he did not steal anything instead he left a packet for Edla as her Christmas present, she opens the packet and finds a rattrap, three wrinkled ten-Kroner notes and also a letter with a request to return the Kroners to the crofter.