‘The Rattrap’ by Selma Lagerlof Chapter Notes Class 12 English

‘The Rattrap’ by Selma Lagerlof Chapter Notes Class 12 English: This article provides here students with notes based on the Class 12 English lesson ‘The Rattrap’ from the book ‘Flamingo’. Notes contains items like a summary, character sketches among other ones.

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About the author & the story ‘The Rattrap’

“The Rattrap” is a short story written by Selma Lagerlof, a renowned Swedish author born on November 20, 1858, and who passed away on March 16, 1940. Lagerlof was the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1909. Her works often carry universal themes centered around the belief that the inherent goodness in individuals can be brought to the forefront through understanding and love.

The story is set against the backdrop of the mines of Sweden, which were historically significant for their rich deposits of iron ore. Lagerlof weaves a tale that bears resemblance to a fairy tale, employing elements of fantasy and imagination to convey deeper truths about human nature.

In “The Rattrap,” Lagerlof explores the transformative power of empathy and compassion. The central idea is that even those who may appear rough or deceitful on the surface can harbor goodness within them, waiting to be awakened by kindness and understanding.

The title, “The Rattrap,” serves as a metaphor for the traps and challenges that life presents to individuals. The story unfolds as a journey of self-discovery for the protagonist, who finds unexpected kindness and warmth in the midst of a world that seems harsh and unforgiving.

Lagerlof’s storytelling often combines elements of folklore and fairy tales with a deep understanding of human psychology. Through her work, she invites readers to reflect on the potential for positive change and redemption in every individual, regardless of their outward circumstances.

“The Rattrap” is just one example of Lagerlof’s ability to craft narratives that resonate with readers on both a personal and universal level, exploring themes of empathy, redemption, and the transformative power of love and understanding.

Summary of ‘The Rattrap’

Once upon a time, there was a man who eked out a meager living by crafting small rattraps from wire. Despite his efforts, the business wasn’t lucrative, and he resorted to begging and petty thievery to survive. The man’s appearance reflected his hardships – ragged clothes, sunken cheeks, and hunger-stricken eyes.

The Rattrap Seller’s Reflections:
The man, wandering the roads alone with his thoughts, saw the world through a unique lens. He envisioned the entire world, with its lands, seas, cities, and villages, as a colossal rattrap. According to him, the world existed solely to set baits for people, offering riches and joys like the rattrap enticed with cheese and pork. Once someone succumbed to temptation, the trap closed, leading to the end of everything.

Loneliness and Revelations:
The man, having faced life’s unkindness, found solace in considering the world a malevolent rattrap. It became his pastime to reflect on people he knew ensnared by life’s snares. One day, he sought shelter at a little gray cottage, where an old man welcomed him warmly. They shared porridge, tobacco, and a game of cards, revealing the old man’s past prosperity as a crofter at Ramsjo Ironworks.

Theft and Escape:
The next morning, the rattrap peddler and the crofter parted ways. Later, the peddler returned to the cottage, smashed a window pane, stole the old man’s savings, and vanished into the forest. However, the forest proved to be a maze, and he realized he had fallen into the same trap he had philosophized about – a metaphorical rattrap.

Discovering Ramsjo Ironworks:
Lost in the forest, the peddler heard hammer strokes from an iron mill. Following the sound, he stumbled upon Ramsjo Ironworks, a once-thriving industrial complex that now stood abandoned.

Christmas Eve at the Forge:
On a dark evening before Christmas, the master blacksmith and his helper toiled in the forge. The peddler, seeking refuge, entered and was initially unnoticed. The ironmaster, a wealthy and ambitious man, inspected him closely, mistaking him for an old acquaintance, Captain von Stahle.

Unveiling the Truth:
The peddler’s true identity emerged, and the ironmaster, realizing the mistake, intended to send him away. However, the ironmaster’s daughter, Edla Willmansson, intervened, inviting the peddler to stay for Christmas. Despite the ironmaster’s skepticism, the peddler accepted the invitation.

Christmas at Ramsjo:
The peddler, now well-groomed in the ironmaster’s attire, spent Christmas Eve at Ramsjo. He caused no trouble, spending most of the time sleeping. Edla, compassionate towards him, insisted that he keep the clothes as a Christmas present.

Unexpected Departure:
On Christmas morning, the ironmaster learned of a robbery committed by a man selling rattraps. Suspecting the peddler, he regretted allowing him into the house. However, upon returning home, they discovered the peddler had left a small package as a Christmas present.

The Rattrap’s Message:
Edla opened the package to find a small rattrap containing three ten-kronor notes and a letter. The letter, signed by “Captain von Stahle,” thanked her for her kindness and explained that the rattrap was a Christmas present from a rat raised to captaincy, symbolizing redemption.

The story unfolds as a poignant exploration of human loneliness, compassion, and unexpected redemption. The peddler, initially viewed as a mere vagabond, transforms into a character capable of appreciating kindness and reciprocating it in an unusual, yet touching manner.

Themes of the story ‘The Rattrap’

“The Rattrap” explores several themes, offering readers insights into the complexities of human experiences. Some prominent themes include:

  1. Human Loneliness:
    • The story delves into the theme of loneliness, depicting how individuals, like the rattrap peddler, can feel isolated and disconnected from society. Loneliness is portrayed as a pervasive force that shapes one’s perspective on life.
  2. Philosophical Interpretation:
    • Lagerlöf uses the metaphor of the rattrap to provide a philosophical interpretation of life. The idea that the world is a rattrap, enticing individuals with baits, reflects a cynical view of human existence and the traps people unwittingly fall into.
  3. Acts of Kindness:
    • Acts of kindness, particularly those shown by the crofter and Edla Willmansson, play a crucial role. The story explores how unexpected kindness can have a transformative impact on an individual, challenging preconceived notions and societal judgments.
  4. Redemption and Gratitude:
    • Redemption is a significant theme, symbolized by the peddler’s transformation and the Christmas gift he leaves for Edla. The act of expressing gratitude and repaying kindness becomes a form of personal redemption for the peddler.
  5. Societal Judgments:
    • The story addresses the consequences of societal judgments and the tendency to stereotype individuals based on appearances. The peddler’s experiences highlight the impact of these judgments and the potential for individuals to break free from such expectations.
  6. Humor in Adversity:
    • A subtle sense of humor is woven into the narrative, particularly through the peddler’s character. Even in adverse circumstances, humor serves as a coping mechanism and adds a lighter touch to the story, making it more accessible and engaging.

These themes contribute to the rich tapestry of “The Rattrap,” inviting readers to reflect on the complexities of human interactions, the transformative power of kindness, and the potential for redemption even in the face of adversity.

Chracter Sketeches

These character sketches highlight the diverse personalities in the story, each contributing to the narrative’s exploration of kindness, redemption, and the potential for change in the face of adversity.

The Rattrap Peddler:

  • Physical Appearance: The peddler is described as a ragged and destitute man. His clothes are in tatters, his cheeks sunken, and hunger is evident in his eyes.
  • Occupation: He makes a meager living by selling small rattraps crafted from wire. His financial struggles lead him to begging and petty thievery.
  • Personality: Despite his hardships, he exhibits a subtle sense of humor. He engages in philosophical reflections, viewing the world as a rattrap. His transformation throughout the story reveals layers of resilience, gratitude, and a capacity for change.

Edla Willmansson:

  • Physical Appearance: Edla is described as modest and shy, with heavy eyes. Her appearance contrasts with societal expectations, emphasizing her kind and compassionate nature.
  • Personality: Edla is characterized by her compassion and empathy. She challenges societal judgments by extending kindness to the peddler. Her actions demonstrate a willingness to see beyond appearances and offer second chances.

The Crofter (Old Man):

  • Background: A former crofter at Ramsjo Ironworks, the old man now relies on his cow for support. Despite his modest means, he shares his meager belongings and engages in a friendly game of cards with the peddler.
  • Generosity: The crofter’s generosity stands out as he provides shelter, food, and companionship to the peddler. His character reflects a sense of loneliness that is alleviated by the company of the stranger.


  • Position: The owner of Ramsjo Ironworks, the ironmaster is a prominent figure in the story.
  • Attitude: Initially portrayed as haughty and indifferent, the ironmaster’s attitude softens when he mistakenly identifies the peddler as an old acquaintance. He represents societal judgments and later displays a degree of understanding.

A few critical pieces from “The Rattrap”

Here are a few critical pieces from “The Rattrap,” along with explanations:

  1. Metaphor of the Rattrap:
    • Critical Piece: The metaphor of the rattrap serves as a central theme in the story. The peddler reflects on the world, likening it to a rattrap that entices people with baits. This metaphor captures the cyclical nature of life, where individuals are lured by the promise of riches and joys, only to find themselves ensnared.
    • Explanation: The metaphor suggests a cynical view of the world, emphasizing the traps and snares that people unknowingly fall into. It serves as a commentary on human desires, societal expectations, and the consequences of pursuing material gains without considering the potential pitfalls.
  2. Acts of Kindness and Redemption:
    • Critical Piece: The acts of kindness shown by Edla Willmansson and the crofter play a pivotal role in the narrative. These gestures, coupled with the peddler’s redemption, highlight the transformative power of compassion.
    • Explanation: Through these acts, the story explores the capacity for change within individuals. Edla’s decision to extend kindness challenges societal judgments, offering the peddler a chance at redemption. This critical piece underscores the theme of human connection and the potential for positive change, even in the face of adversity.
  3. The Ironmaster’s Recognition:
    • Critical Piece: The ironmaster’s recognition of the peddler as an old acquaintance, Captain von Stahle, introduces an element of irony and misunderstanding.
    • Explanation: This recognition sets the stage for the ironmaster’s initial hospitality, highlighting the theme of societal judgments based on appearances. The subsequent revelation that the peddler is not Captain von Stahle adds complexity to the narrative, questioning the assumptions people make about each other.
  4. The Christmas Eve Gift:
    • Critical Piece: The peddler leaves a Christmas gift for Edla, consisting of a small rattrap containing money and a letter.
    • Explanation: This gesture symbolizes the peddler’s gratitude and redemption. The rattrap, now transformed into a gift, represents the peddler’s acknowledgment of Edla’s kindness. The accompanying letter reinforces the theme of human connection and highlights the potential for positive change, emphasizing the impact of unexpected acts of generosity.

These critical pieces contribute to the depth and complexity of the story, offering readers insights into the characters’ motivations, societal dynamics, and the overarching themes of the narrative.

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