Norse Mythology Audiobook

Norse Mythology Audiobook


THE WONDERFUL PLOUGH. There was once a farmer who was master of
one of the little black dwarfs that are the blacksmiths and armourers, and
he got him in a very curious way. On the road leading to this farmer’s ground
there stood a stone cross, and every morning as he went to his
work he used to stop and kneel down before this cross, and pray for
some minutes. On one of these occasions he noticed on the
cross a pretty, bright insect, of such a brilliant hue that he could
not recollect having ever before seen the like in an insect. He wondered greatly at this, but
still he did not disturb it. The insect did not remain long quiet, but
ran without ceasing backwards and forwards upon the cross, as if it was
in pain and wanted to get away. Next morning the farmer again saw the very
same insect, and again it was running to and fro in the same state of uneasiness. The farmer began now
to have some suspicions about it, and thought to himself– “Would this now be one of the little black
enchanters? It runs about
just like one that has an evil conscience, as one that would, but
cannot, get away.” A variety of thoughts and conjectures passed
through his mind, and he remembered what he had often heard from his
father and other old people, that when any of the underground people chance
to touch anything holy they are held fast and cannot quit the spot,
and so they are extremely careful to avoid all such things. “But,” thought he, “you may even be something
else, and I should, perhaps, be committing a sin in taking the
little insect away.” So he let it stay where it was. When, however, he twice again found it in
the same place, and still running about with the same signs of uneasiness,
he said– “No, it is not all right with it, so now,
in the name of God.” He made a grasp at the insect, which resisted
and clung fast to the stone; but he held it tight, and tore it away
by main force, and lo! then he found he had, by the top of the head,
a little ugly black chap, about six inches long, screeching and kicking
at a furious rate. The farmer was greatly astounded at this sudden
transformation. Still he
held his prize fast, and kept calling to him, while he administered to
him a few smart slaps– “Be quiet, be quiet, my little man! If crying was to do the business, we
might look for heroes in swaddling-clothes. We’ll just take you with us
a bit, and see what you are good for.” The little fellow trembled and shook in every
limb, and then began to whimper most piteously, and begged of the
farmer to let him go. “No, my lad,” replied the farmer, “I will
not let you go till you tell me who you are, and how you came here, and
what trade you know that enables you to earn your bread in the world.” At this the little man grinned and shook his
head, but said not a word in reply, only begging and praying the more
to get loose. The farmer
thought he must now entreat him if he would coax any information out of
him. But it was all to no purpose. He then adopted the contrary method,
and whipped and slashed him, but just to as little effect. The little
black thing remained as dumb as the grave, for this species is the most
malicious and obstinate of all the underground folk. The farmer now got angry, and said– “Do but be quiet, my child. I should be a fool to put myself into a
passion with such a little brat. Never fear, I shall soon make you tame
enough.” So saying, he ran home with him, and clapped
him into a black sooty iron pot, and put the iron lid upon it, and laid
on the top of the lid a great heavy stone. Then he set the pot in a dark, cold room,
and as he was going out, said to him– “Stay there, now, and freeze till you are
black! I’ll engage that at
last you will answer me civilly.” Twice a week the farmer went regularly into
the room and asked his little black captive if he would answer him
now, but the little one still obstinately persisted in his silence. The farmer had, without
success, pursued this course for six weeks, at the end of which time his
prisoner at last gave up. One day, as the farmer was opening the room
door, of his own accord he asked him to come and take him out of his
dirty, gloomy dungeon, promising that he would now cheerfully do all
that was wanted of him. The farmer first ordered him to tell him his
history. The black one
replied– “My dear friend, you know it just as well
as I do, or else you never would have had me here. You see I happened by chance to come too near
the cross, a thing we little people may not do, and then I was held
fast, and obliged instantly to let my body become visible. In order that
people might not recognise me, I turned myself into an insect. But you
found me out. When we get fastened to holy or consecrated
things we can never get away from them unless a man takes
us off. That, however, does
not happen without plague and annoyance to us; though, indeed, to say
the truth, the staying fastened there is not over pleasant. So I
struggled against you too, for we have a natural aversion to let
ourselves be taken in a man’s hand.” “Ho, ho! is that the tune with you?” cried the farmer. “You have a
natural aversion have you? Believe me, my sooty friend, I have just the
same for you, and so you shall be away without a moment’s delay, and we
will lose no time in making our bargain with each other. But you must
first make me some present.” “What you will you have only to ask,” said
the little one, “silver and gold, and precious stones, and costly furniture–all
shall be thine in less than an instant.” “Silver and gold, and precious stones, and
all such glittering fine things, will I none,” said the farmer. “They have turned the heart and
broken the neck of many a one before now, and few are they whose lives
they make happy. I know that you are handy smiths, and have
many a strange thing with you that other smiths know
nothing about. So, come
now, swear to me that you will make me an iron plough, such that the
smallest foal may be able to draw it without being tired, and then run
off with you as fast as your legs will carry you.” So the black swore,
and then the farmer cried out– “Now, in the name of God. There you are at liberty,” and the little
one vanished like lightning. Next morning, before the sun was up, there
stood in the farmer’s yard a new iron plough, and he yoked his dog, Water,
to it; and though it was of the size of an ordinary plough, Water drew
it with ease through the heaviest clayland, and it tore up prodigious
furrows. The farmer used
this plough for many years, and the smallest foal or the leanest little
horse could draw it through the ground, to the amazement of every one
who beheld it, without turning a single hair. This plough made a rich man of the farmer,
for it cost him no horse-flesh, and he led a cheerful and contented
life by means of it. Hereby we may see that moderation holds out
the longest, and that it is not good to covet too much. HOW A LAD STOLE THE GIANT’S TREASURE. Once upon a time there lived a peasant who
had three sons. The two elder
ones used to go with him to the field and to the forest, and helped him
in his work, but the youngest remained at home with his mother, to help
her in the house. His brothers despised him for doing this,
and whenever they had a chance they used him badly. At length the father and mother died, and
the sons divided the property among them. As might have been looked for, the elder brothers
took all that was of any value for themselves, leaving
nothing to the youngest but an old cracked kneading-trough, which
neither of them thought worth the having. “The old trough,” said one of the brothers,
“will do very well for our young brother, for he is always baking and
scrubbing.” The boy thought this, as was only natural,
a poor thing to inherit, but he could do nothing, and he now recognised
that it would be no use his remaining at home, so he wished his brothers
good-bye, and went off to seek his fortune. On coming to the side of a lake he made his
trough water-tight with oakum, and converted it into
a little boat. Then he
found two sticks, and using these as oars rowed away. When he had crossed the water, he saw a large
palace, and entering it, he asked to speak with the king. The king questioned him respecting his
family and the purpose of his visit. “I,” said the boy, “am the son of a poor peasant,
and all I have in the world is an old kneading-trough. I have come here to seek work.” The king laughed when he heard this. “Indeed,” said he, “you have not inherited
much, but fortune works many a change.” He took the lad to be one of his servants,
and he became a favourite for his courage and honesty. Now the king who owned this palace had an
only daughter, who was so beautiful and so clever that she was talked
of all through the kingdom, and many came from the east and from the west
to ask her hand in marriage. The princess, however, rejected them all,
saying that none should have her for his wife unless he brought
her for a wedding-present four valuable things belonging to a giant
who lived on the other side of the lake. These four treasures were a gold sword, three
gold hens, a gold lantern, and a gold harp. Many king’s sons and many good warriors tried
to win these treasures, but none of them came back, for the giant
caught them all and eat them. The king was very sorrowful, for he feared
that at this rate his daughter would never get a husband, and so
he would not have a son-in-law to whom to leave his kingdom. The boy when he heard of this thought that
it might be well worth his while to try to win the king’s beautiful daughter. So he went to the
king one day, and told him what he meant to do. When the king heard him,
he got angry, and said– “Do you think that you, who are only a servant,
can do what great warriors have failed in?” The boy, however, was not to be dissuaded,
and begged him so to let him go that at last the king grew calmer and gave
him his permission. “But,”
said he, “you will lose your life, and I shall be sorry to miss you.” With that they parted. The boy went down to the shore of the lake,
and, having found his trough, he looked it over very closely. Then he got into it and rowed
across the lake, and coming to the giant’s dwelling he hid himself, and
stayed the night there. Very early in the morning, before it was light,
the giant went to his barn, and began to thrash, making such a noise
that the mountains all around echoed again. When the boy heard this he collected some
stones and put them in his pouch. Then he climbed up on to the roof of the barn
and made a little hole so that he could look in. Now the giant had by
his side his golden sword, which had the strange property that it
clanked whenever the giant was angry. While the giant was busy thrashing
at full speed, the boy threw a little stone which hit the sword, and
caused it to clank. “Why do you clank?” said the giant. “I am not angry.” He went on thrashing, but the next moment
the sword clanked again. Once
more the giant pursued his work, and the sword clanked a third time. Then the giant got so angry that he undid
the belt, and threw the sword out of the barn door. “Lie there,” said he, “till I have done my
thrashing.” The lad waited no longer, but slipping down
from the roof seized on the sword, ran to his boat, and rowed across the
water. On reaching the
other side he hid his treasure, and was full of glee at the success of
his adventure. The next day he filled his pouch with corn,
put a bundle of bast-twine in his boat, and once more set off to the
giant’s dwelling. He lay
hiding for a time, and then he saw the giant’s three golden hens walking
about on the shore, and spreading their feathers, which sparkled
beautifully in the bright sunshine. He was soon near them, and began to
softly lead them on, scattering corn for them out of his pouch. While
they were picking the boy gradually led them to the water, till at last
he got them into his little boat. Then he jumped in himself, secured the
fowl with his twine, pushed out from the shore, and rowed as quickly as
he could to the other side of the water. The third day he put some lumps of salt into
his pouch, and again rowed across the lake. As night came on he noticed how the smoke
rose from the giant’s dwelling, and concluded that the
giant’s wife was busy getting ready his food. He crept up on to the roof, and, looking down
through the hole by which the smoke escaped, saw a large caldron boiling
on the fire. Then he took the lumps of salt out of his
pouch, and threw them one by one into the pot. Having done this, he crept down from the
roof, and waited to see what would follow. Soon after the giant’s wife took the caldron
off the fire, poured out the porridge into a bowl, and put it on the
table. The giant was hungry,
and he fell to at once, but scarcely had he tasted the porridge when he
found it too salt. He got very angry, and started from his seat. The old
woman made what excuse she could, and said that the porridge must be
good; but the giant declared he would eat no more of the stuff, and told
her to taste it for herself. She did so, and pulled a terrible face, for
she had never in her life tasted such abominable stuff. There was nothing for it but she must make
some new porridge. So she
seized a can, took the gold lantern down from the wall, and went as fast
as she could to the well to draw some water. She put the lantern down by
the side of the well, and was stooping down to get the water, when the
boy ran to her, and, laying hold of her by the feet, threw her head over
heels into the well. He seized hold of the golden lantern, ran
away as fast as he could to his boat, and rowed across
the water in safety. The giant sat for a long time wondering why
his wife was away so long. At last he went to look for her, but nothing
could he see of her. Then
he heard a splashing in the well, and finding she was in the water, he,
with a lot of work, got her out. “Where is my gold lantern?” was the first
thing he asked, as the old woman came round a little. “I don’t know,” answered she. “Somebody came, caught me by the feet, and
threw me into the well.” The giant was very angry at this. “Three of my treasures,” said he, “have gone,
and I have now only my golden harp left. But, whoever the thief may be, he shall not
have that; I will keep that safe under twelve locks.” While these things occurred at the giant’s
dwelling, the boy sat on the other side of the water, rejoicing that he
had got on so well. The most difficult task, however, had yet
to be done, and for a long time he thought over how he could get the
golden harp. At length he
determined to row over to the giant’s place and see if fortune would
favour him. No sooner said than done. He rowed over and went to a hiding-place. The
giant had, however, been on the watch, and had seen him. So he rushed
forward in a terrible rage and seized the boy, saying– “So I have caught you at last, you young rascal. You it was who stole my
sword, my three gold hens, and my gold lantern.” The boy was terribly afraid, for he thought
his last hour was come. “Spare my life, father,” said he humbly, “and
I will never come here again.” “No,” replied the giant, “I will do the same
with you as with the others. No one slips alive out of my hands.” He then shut the boy up in a sty, and fed
him with nuts and sweet milk, so as to get him nice and fat preparatory
to killing and eating him. The lad was a prisoner, but he ate and drank
and made himself as easy as he could. After some time the giant wanted to find out
if he were fat enough to be killed. So he went to the sty, made a little hole
in the wall, and told the boy to put his finger through
it. The lad knew what
he wanted; so instead of putting out his finger he poked out a little
peeled alder twig. The giant cut the twig, and the red sap ran
out. Then
he thought the boy must be yet very lean since his flesh was so hard, so
he caused a greater supply of milk and nuts to be given to him. Some time after, the giant again visited the
sty, and ordered the boy to put his finger through the hole in the wall. The lad now poked out a
cabbage-stalk, and the giant, having cut it with his knife, concluded
that the lad must be fat enough, his flesh seemed so soft. The next morning the giant said to his wife– “The boy seems to be fat enough now, mother;
take him then to-day, and bake him in the oven, while I go and ask our
kinsfolk to the feast.” The old woman promised to do what her husband
told her. So, having
heated the oven, she dragged out the boy to bake him. “Sit on the shovel,” said she. The boy did so, but when the old woman raised
the shovel the boy always fell off. So they went on many times. At last the giantess got angry,
and scolded the boy for being so awkward; the lad excused himself,
saying that he did not know the way to sit on the shovel. “Look at me,” said the woman, “I will show
you.” So she sat herself down on the shovel, bending
her back and drawing up her knees. No sooner was she seated than the boy, seizing
hold of the handle, pushed her into the oven and slammed
the door to. Then he took
the woman’s fur cloak, stuffed it out with straw, and laid it on the
bed. Seizing the giant’s bunch of keys, he opened
the twelve locks, snatched up the golden harp, and ran down
to his boat, which he had hidden among the flags on the shore. The giant soon afterwards came home. “Where can my wife be?” said he. “No doubt she has lain down to sleep a
bit. Ah! I thought so.” The old woman, however, slept a long while,
and the giant could not wake her, though he was now expecting his friends
to arrive. “Wake up, mother,” cried he, but no one replied. He called again, but
there was no response. He got angry, and, going to the bed, he gave
the fur cloak a good shake. Then he found that it was not his wife, but
only a bundle of straw put in her clothes. At this the giant grew
alarmed, and he ran off to look after his golden harp. He found his keys
gone, the twelve locks undone, and the harp missing. He went to the oven
and opened the door to see how the meat for the feast was going on. Behold! there sat his wife, baked, and grinning
at him. Then the giant was almost mad with grief and
rage, and he rushed out to seek the lad who had done him all this mischief. He came down to the
edge of the water and found him sitting in his boat, playing on the
harp. The music came over the water, and the gold
strings shone wonderfully in the sunshine. The giant jumped into the water after the
boy; but finding that it was too deep, he laid himself down, and began
to drink the water in order to make the lake shallower. He drank with
all his might, and by this means set up a current which drew the boat
nearer and nearer to the shore. Just when he was going to lay hold of it
he burst, for he had drunk too much; and there was an end of him. The giant lay dead on the shore, and the boy
moved away across the lake, full of joy and happiness. When he came to land, he combed his golden
hair, put on fine clothes, fastened the giant’s gold sword by his side,
and, taking the gold harp in one hand and the gold lantern in the other,
he led the gold fowl after him, and went to the king, who was sitting in
the great hall of the palace surrounded by his courtiers. When the king
saw the boy he was heartily glad. The lad went to the king’s beautiful
daughter, saluted her courteously, and laid the giant’s treasures before
her. Then there was great joy in the palace, that
the princess had after all got the giant’s treasures and so bold
and handsome a bridegroom. The
wedding was celebrated soon after with very much splendour and
rejoicing; and when the king died the lad succeeded him, ruling over all
the land both long and happily. I know no more respecting them. TALES OF CATS. The house of Katholm (Cat-isle) near Grenaac,
in Jutland, got its name from the following circumstance. There was a man in Jutland who had made a
good deal of money by improper means. When he died he left his property equally
among his three sons. The youngest, when he got his share, thought
to himself– “What comes with sin goes with sorrow,” and
he resolved to submit his money to the water-ordeal, thinking that the
ill-got money would sink to the bottom, and what was honestly acquired
swim on the top. He
accordingly cast all his money into the water, and only one solitary
farthing swam. With this he bought a cat, and he went to
sea and visited foreign parts. At length he chanced to come to a place where
the people were sadly plagued by an enormous number of
rats and mice, and as his cat had had kittens by this time, he acquired
great wealth by selling them. So he came home to Jutland, and built himself
a house, which he called Katholm. There was one time a poor sailor out of Ribe,
who came to a foreign island whose inhabitants were grievously plagued
with mice. By good
luck he had a cat of his own on board, and the people of the island gave
him so much gold for it that he went home as fast as he could to fetch
more cats, and by this traffic he in a short time grew so rich that he
had no need of any more. Some time after, when he was on his deathbed,
he bequeathed a large sum of money for the building of Ribe Cathedral,
and a proof of this is still to be seen in a carving over the east door
of the church, representing a cat and four mice. The door is called
Cat-head Door (Kathoved Dor). THE MAGICIAN’S DAUGHTER Just on the Finland frontiers there is situated
a high mountain, which, on the Swedish side, is covered with beautiful
copsewood, and on the other with dark pine-trees, so closely ranked
together, and so luxuriant in shade, that one might almost say the smallest
bird could not find its way through the thickets. Below the copsewood there stands a chapel
with the image of St. George, as guardian of the
land and as a defence against dragons, if there be such, and other
monsters of paganism, while, on the other side, on the borders of
the dark firwood, are certain cottages inhabited by wicked sorcerers,
who have, moreover, a cave cut so deep into the mountain that it
joins with the bottomless abyss, whence come all the demons that assist
them. The Swedish
Christians who dwelt in the neighbourhood of this mountain thought it
would be necessary, besides the chapel and statue of St. George, to
choose some living protector, and therefore selected an ancient warrior,
highly renowned for his prowess in the battle-field, who had, in his old
age, become a monk. When this man went to take up his abode upon
the mountains, his only son (for he had formerly
lived as a married man in the world) would on no account leave him,
but lived there also, assisting his father in his duties as watcher,
and in the exercises of prayer and penitence, fully equalling the
example that was now afforded him as he had formerly done his example as
a soldier. The life led by those two valiant champions
is said to have been most admirable and pious. Once on a time it happened that the young
hero went out to cut wood in the forest. He bore a sharp axe on his shoulders, and
was besides girded with a great sword; for as the woods were
not only full of wild beasts, but also haunted by wicked men, the pious
hermits took the precaution of always going armed. While the good youth was forcing his way through
the thickest of the copsewood, and already beheld
over it the pointed tops of the fir-trees (for he was close on the
Finland frontier), there rushed out against him a great white wolf,
so that he had only just time enough to leap to one side, and not being
able immediately to draw his sword, he flung his axe at his assailant. The blow was so well aimed
that it struck one of the wolf’s fore-legs, and the animal, being sorely
wounded, limped back, with a yell of anguish, into the wood. The young
hermit warrior, however, thought to himself– “It is not enough that I am rescued, but I
must take such measures that no one else may in future be injured, or even
terrified by this wild beast.” So he rushed in as fast as possible among
the fir-trees, and inflicted such a vehement blow with his sword on the
wolf’s head, that the animal, groaning piteously, fell to the ground. Hereupon there came over the
young man all at once a strange mood of regret and compassion for his
poor victim. Instead of putting it immediately to death,
he bound up the wounds as well as he could with moss and twigs
of trees, placed it on a sort of canvas sling on which he was in the
habit of carrying great fagots, and with much labour brought it home,
in hopes that he might be able at last to cure and tame his fallen adversary. He did not find his
father in the cottage, and it was not without some fear and anxiety that
he laid the wolf on his own bed, which was made of moss and rushes, and
over which he had nailed St. George and the Dragon. He then turned to
the fire-place of the small hut, in order to prepare a healing salve for
the wounds. While he was thus occupied, how much was he
astonished to hear the moanings and lamentations of a human
voice from the bed on which he had just before deposited the wolf. On returning thither his
wonder was inexpressible on perceiving, instead of the frightful wild
beast, a most beautiful damsel, on whose head the wound which he had
inflicted was bleeding through her fine golden hair, and whose right
arm, in all its grace and snow-white luxuriance, was stretched out
motionless, for it had been broken by the blow from his axe. “Pray,” said she, “have pity, and do not kill
me outright. The little
life that I have still left is, indeed, painful enough, and may not
last long; yet, sad as my condition is, it is yet tenfold better than
death.” The young man then sat down weeping beside
her, and she explained to him that she was the daughter of a magician, on
the other side of the mountain, who had sent her out in the shape
of a wolf to collect plants from places which, in her own proper form,
she could not have reached. It was but in terror she had made that violent
spring which the youth had mistaken for an attack on him, when her
only wish had been to pass by him. “But you directly broke my right arm,” said
she, “though I had no evil design against you.” How she had now regained her proper shape
she could not imagine, but to the youth it was quite clear that the picture
of St. George and the Dragon had broken the spell by which the poor
girl had been transformed. While the son was thus occupied, the old man
returned home, and soon heard all that had occurred, perceiving, at
the same time, that if the young pagan wanderer had been released from
the spells by which she had been bound, the youth was, in his turn, enchanted
and spellbound by her beauty and amiable behaviour. From that moment he exerted himself to the
utmost for the welfare of her soul, endeavouring to convert her to Christianity,
while his son attended to the cure of her wounds; and, as
their endeavours were on both sides successful, it was resolved that
the lovers should be united in marriage, for the youth had not restricted
himself by any monastic vows. The magician’s daughter was now restored to
perfect health. A day had
been appointed for her baptism and marriage. It happened that one
evening the bride and bridegroom went to take a pleasure walk through
the woods. The sun was yet high in the west, and shone
so fervently through the beech-trees on the green turf
that they could never resolve on turning home, but went still deeper and
deeper into the forest. Then
the bride told him stories of her early life, and sang old songs which
she had learned when a child, and which sounded beautifully amid the
woodland solitude. Though the words were such that they could
not be agreeable to the youth’s ears (for she had
learned them among her pagan and wicked relations), yet he could not interrupt
her, first, because he loved her so dearly, and, secondly, because
she sang in a voice so clear and sweet that the whole forest seemed to
rejoice in her music. At last,
however, the pointed heads of the pine-trees again became visible, and
the youth wished to turn back, in order that he might not come again too
near the hated Finnish frontier. His bride, however, said to him– “Dearest Conrad, why should we not walk on
a little further? I would
gladly see the very place where you so cruelly wounded me on the head
and arm, and made me prisoner, all which has, in the end contributed to
my happiness. Methinks we are now very near the spot.” Accordingly they sought about here and there
until at last the twilight fell dim and heavy on the dense woods. The sun had long since set. The
moon, however, had risen, and, as a light broke forth, the lovers stood
on the Finland frontier, or rather they must have gone already some
distance beyond it, for the bridegroom was exceedingly terrified when he
found his cap lifted from his head, as if by human hand, though he saw
only the branch of a fir-tree. Immediately thereafter the whole air
around them was filled with strange and supernatural beings–witches,
devils, dwarfs, horned-owls, fire-eyed cats, and a thousand other
wretches that could not be named and described, whirled around them as
if dancing to rapid music. When the bride had looked on for a while,
she broke out into loud laughter, and at last
began to dance furiously along with them. The poor bridegroom might shout and pray as
much and as earnestly as he would, for she never attended
to him, but at last transformed herself in a manner so extraordinary
that he could not distinguish her from the other dancers. He thought, however, that he had
kept his eyes upon her, and seized on one of the dancers; but alas! it
was only a horrible spectre which held him fast, and threw its wide
waving shroud around him, so that he could not make his escape, while,
at the same time, some of the subterraneous black demons pulled at his
legs, and wanted to bear him down along with them into their bottomless
caves. Fortunately he happened at that moment to
cross himself and call on the name of the Saviour, upon which the whole
of this vile assembly fell into confusion. They howled aloud and ran off in all directions,
while Conrad in the meantime saved himself by recrossing
the frontier, and getting under the protection of the Swedish
copsewood. His beautiful
bride, however, was completely lost; and by no endeavours could he ever
obtain her again, though he often came to the Finland border, called out
her name aloud, wept and prayed, but all in vain. Many times, it is
true, he saw her floating about through the pine-trees, as if in chase,
but she was always accompanied by a train of frightful creatures, and
she herself also looked wild and disfigured. For the most part she never
noticed Conrad, but if she could not help fixing her eyes upon him, she
laughed so immoderately, and in a mood of merriment so strange and
unnatural, that he was terrified and made the sign of the cross,
whereupon she always fled away, howling, into one of the thickets. Conrad fell more and more into melancholy
abstraction, hardly ever spoke, and though he had given over his vain
walks into the forest, yet if one asked him a question, the only answer
he returned was– “Ay, she is gone away beyond the mountains,”
so little did he know or remember of any other object in the world
but the lost beauty. At last he died of grief; and according to
a request which he had once made, his father prepared a grave for him
on the place where the bride was found and lost, though during the fulfilment
of this duty he had enough to do–one while in contending with
his crucifix against evil spirits, and at another, with his sword against
wild beasts, which were no doubt sent thither by the magicians to
attack and annoy him. At
length, however, he brought his task to an end, and thereafter it seemed
as if the bride mourned for the youth’s untimely death, for there was
heard often a sound of howling and lamentation at the grave. For the
most part, indeed, this voice is like the voices of wolves, yet, at the
same time, human accents are to be distinguished, and I myself have
often listened thereto on dark winter nights. Alas! that the poor maiden should have ventured
again so near the accursed paths she had once renounced. A few steps in the backward
course, and all is lost! THE HILL-MAN INVITED TO THE CHRISTENING. The hill-people are excessively frightened
during thunder. When,
therefore, they see bad weather coming on, they lose no time in getting
to the shelter of their hills. This terror is also the cause of their
not being able to endure the beating of a drum. They take it to be the
rolling of thunder. It is, therefore, a good recipe for banishing
them to beat a drum every day in the neighbourhood
of their hills, for they immediately pack up, and depart to some quieter
residence. A farmer lived once in great friendship and
concord with a hill-man, whose hill was in his lands. One time when his wife was about to have a
child, it gave him great perplexity to think that he could not well
avoid inviting the hill-man to the christening, which might, not
improbably, bring him into ill repute with the priest and the other
people of the village. He was going about pondering deeply, but in
vain, how he might get out of this dilemma, when
it came into his head to ask the advice of the boy that kept his pigs,
who had a great head-piece, and had often helped him before. The pig-boy instantly undertook to
arrange the matter with the hill-man in such a manner that he should not
only stay away without being offended, but, moreover, give a good
christening present. Accordingly, when it was night, he took a
sack on his shoulder, went to the hill-man’s hill, knocked, and was admitted. He delivered his
message, gave his master’s compliments, and requested the honour of his
company at the christening. The hill-man thanked him, and said– “I think it is but right I should give you
a christening present.” With these words he opened his money-chests,
bidding the boy hold up his sack while he poured money into it. “Is there enough now?” said he, when he had
put a good quantity into it. “Many give more, few give less,” replied the
boy. The hill-man once more fell to filling the
sack, and again asked– “Is there enough now?” The boy lifted the sack a little off the ground
to see if he was able to carry any more, and then answered– “It is about what most people give.” Upon this the hill-man emptied the whole chest
into the bag, and once more asked– “Is there enough now?” The guardian of the pigs now saw that there
was as much in the sack as he would be able to carry, so he answered– “No one gives more, most people give less.” “Come now,” said the hill-man, “let us hear
who else is to be at the christening.” “Ah,” said the boy, “we are to have a great
many strangers and great people. First and foremost, we are to have three priests
and a bishop.” “Hem!” muttered the hill-man; “however, those
gentlemen usually look only after the eating and drinking; they will
never take any notice of me. Well, who else?” “Then we have asked St. Peter and St. Paul.” “Hem! hem! However, there will be a bye-place for me
behind the stove. Well, and what then?” “Then Our Lady herself is coming.” “Hem! hem! hem! However, guests of such high rank come late
and go away early. But tell me, my lad, what sort of music is
it you are to have?” “Music,” said the boy, “why, we are to have
drums.” “Drums!” repeated the troll, quite terrified. “No, no! Thank you. I
shall stay at home in that case. Give my best respects to your master,
and I thank him for the invitation, but I cannot come. I did but once go
out to take a little walk, and some people began to beat a drum. I
hurried home, and was but just got to my door when they flung the
drum-stick after me, and broke one of my shins. I have been lame of that
leg ever since, and I shall take good care in future to avoid that sort
of music.” So saying he helped the boy to put the sack
on his back, once more charging him to present his best respects
to his master. THE MEAL OF FROTHI. Gold is called by the poets the meal of Frothi,
and the origin of the term is found in this story. Odin had a son named Skioldr who settled and
reigned in the land which is now called Denmark, but was then called
Gotland. Skioldr had a son
named Frithleif, who reigned after him. Frithleif’s son was called
Frothi, and succeeded him on the throne. At the time that the Emperor
Augustus made peace over the whole world, Christ was born, but as Frothi
was the most powerful of all the monarchs of the north, that peace,
wherever the Danish language was spoken, was imputed to him, and the
Northmen called it Frothi’s peace. At that time no man hurt another, even if
he found the murderer of his father or brother, loose or bound. Theft and robbery were then unknown,
insomuch that a gold armlet lay for a long time untouched in
Jalangursheath. Frothi chanced to go on a friendly visit to
a certain king in Sweden, named Fiolnir, and there purchased two female
slaves, called Fenia and Menia, equally distinguished for their stature
and strength. In those
days there were found in Denmark two quern-stones of such a size, that
no one was able to move them, and these mill-stones were endued with
such virtue, that the quern in grinding produced whatever the grinder
wished for. The quern was called Grotti. He who presented this quern to
Frothi was called Hengikioptr (hanging-chops). King Frothi caused these
slaves to be brought to the quern, and ordered them to grind gold,
peace, and prosperity for Frothi. The king allowed them no longer rest
or sleep than while the cuckoo was silent or a verse could be recited. Then they are said to have sung the lay called
Grotta-Savngr, and before they ended their song to have ground a hostile
army against Frothi, insomuch, that a certain sea-king, called
Mysingr, arriving the same night, slew Frothi, taking great spoil. And so ended Frothi’s peace. Mysingr took with him the quern, Grotti, with
Fenia and Menia, and ordered them to grind salt. About midnight they asked Mysingr whether
he had salt enough. On his ordering them to go on grinding, they
went on a little longer till the ship sank under the
weight of the salt. A
whirlpool was produced, where the waves are sucked up by the mill-eye,
and the waters of the sea have been salt ever since. THE LOST BELL. A shepherd’s boy, belonging to Patzig, about
half a mile from Bergen, where there are great numbers of underground
people in the hills, found one morning a little silver bell on the green
heath among the giants’ graves, and fastened it on him. It happened to be the bell belonging to
the cap of one of the little brown ones, who had lost it while he was
dancing, and did not immediately miss it or observe that it was no
longer tinkling in his cap. He had gone down into the hill without his
bell, and, having discovered his loss, was filled with melancholy, for
the worst thing that can befall the underground people is to lose their
cap, or their shoes; but even to lose the bell from their caps, or the
buckle from their belts, is no trifle to them. Whoever loses his bell
must pass some sleepless nights, for not a wink of sleep can he get till
he has recovered it. The little fellow was in the greatest trouble,
and looked and searched about everywhere. But how could he learn who had the bell? for
only on a very few days in the year may they come up
to daylight, nor can they then appear in their true form. He had turned himself into every form of
birds, beasts, and men, and he had sung and groaned and lamented about
his bell, but not the slightest tidings or trace of tidings had he been
able to get. Most unfortunately for him, the shepherd’s
boy had left Patzig the very day he found the little bell,
and he was now keeping sheep at Unrich, near Gingst, so that it was
not till many a day after, and then by mere chance, that the little underground
fellow recovered his bell, and with it his peace of mind. He had thought it not unlikely that a raven,
or a crow, or a jackdaw, or a magpie, had found his bell, and from its
thievish disposition, which attracts it to anything bright and shining,
had carried it into its nest. With this thought he turned himself into a
beautiful little bird, and searched all the nests in the island,
and he’d sang before all kinds of birds to see if they had found what he
had lost, and could restore to him his sleep. He had, however, been able to learn nothing
from the birds. As he now, one evening, was flying over the
waters of Ralov and the fields of Unrich, the shepherd’s boy,
whose name was John Schlagenteufel (Smite-devil), happened to
be keeping his sheep there at the very time. Several of the sheep had bells about their
necks, and they tinkled merrily when the boy’s dog set
them trotting. The little
bird who was flying over them thought of his bell, and sang in a
melancholy tone—- “Little bell, little bell,
Little ram as well, You, too, little sheep,
If you’ve my tingle too, No sheep’s so rich as you,
My rest you keep.” The boy looked up and listened to this strange
song which came out of the sky, and saw the pretty bird, which seemed
to him still more strange. “If one,” said he to himself, “had but that
bird that’s singing up there, so plain that one of us could hardly
match him! What can he mean
by that wonderful song? The whole of it is, it must be a feathered
witch. My rams have only pinchbeck bells, he calls
them rich cattle; but I have a silver bell, and he sings nothing
about me.” With these words he began to fumble in his
pocket, took out his bell, and rang it. The bird in the air instantly saw what it
was, and rejoiced beyond measure. He vanished in a second, flew behind the nearest
bush, alighted, and drew off his speckled feather
dress, and turned himself into an old woman dressed in tattered clothes. The old dame, well
supplied with sighs and groans, tottered across the field to the
shepherd-boy, who was still ringing his bell and wondering what was
become of the beautiful bird. She cleared her throat, and coughing, bid
him a kind good evening, and asked him which was the way to Bergen. Pretending then that she had just seen the
little bell, she exclaimed– “Well now, what a charming pretty little bell! Well, in all my life, I
never beheld anything more beautiful. Hark ye, my son, will you sell me
that bell? What may be the price of it? I have a little grandson at
home, and such a nice plaything as it would make for him!” “No,” replied the boy, quite short; “the bell
is not for sale. It is a
bell that there is not such another bell in the whole world. I have only
to give it a little tinkle, and my sheep run of themselves wherever I
would have them go. And what a delightful sound it has! Only listen,
mother,” said he, ringing it; “is there any weariness in the world that
can hold out against this bell? I can ring with it away the longest
time, so that it will be gone in a second.” The old woman thought to herself– “We will see if he can hold out against bright
shining money,” and she took out no less than three silver dollars
and offered them to him, but he still replied– “No, I will not sell the bell.” She then offered him five dollars. “The bell is still mine,” said he. She stretched out her hand full of ducats. He replied this third time– “Gold is dirt, and does not ring.” The old dame then shifted her ground, and
turned the discourse another way. She grew mysterious, and began to entice him
by talking of secret arts and of charms by which his cattle might
be made to thrive prodigiously, relating to him all kinds of
wonders of them. It was then
the young shepherd began to long, and he lent a willing ear to her
tales. The end of the matter was, that she said to
him– “Hark ye, my child, give me your bell; and
see, here is a white stick for you,” said she, taking out a little white
stick which had Adam and Eve very ingeniously cut upon it as they were
feeding their flocks in the Garden, with the fattest sheep and lambs
dancing before them. There,
too, was the shepherd David, as he stood up with his sling against the
giant Goliath. “I will give you,” said the woman, “this stick
for the bell, and as long as you drive the cattle
with it they will be sure to thrive. With this you will become a rich shepherd. Your wethers will be
always fat a month sooner than the wethers of other shepherds, and every
one of your sheep will have two pounds of wool more than others, and yet
no one will ever be able to see it on them.” The old woman handed him the stick. So mysterious was her gesture, and
so strange and bewitching her smile, that the lad was at once in her
power. He grasped eagerly at the stick, gave her
his hand, and cried– “Done! strike hands! The bell for the stick!” Cheerfully the old woman took the bell for
the stick, and departed like a light breeze over the field and the heath. He saw her vanish, and she
seemed to float away before his eyes like a mist, and to go off with a
slight whiz and whistle that made the shepherd’s hair stand on end. The underground one, however, who, in the
shape of an old woman, had wheedled him out of his bell, had not deceived
him. For the underground
people dare not lie, but must ever keep their word–a breach of it
being followed by their sudden change into the shape of toads, snakes,
dunghill beetles, wolves, and apes, forms in which they wander about,
objects of fear and aversion, for a long course of years before they are
freed. They have, therefore, naturally a great dread
of lying. John
Schlagenteufel gave close attention and made trial of his new shepherd’s
staff, and he soon found that the old woman had told him the truth, for
his flocks and his work, and all the labour of his hands, prospered with
him, and he had wonderful luck, so that there was not a sheep-owner or
head shepherd but was desirous of having him in his employment. It was not long, however, that he remained
an underling. Before he was
eighteen years of age he had got his own flocks, and in the course of a
few years was the richest sheep-master in the whole island of Bergen. At
last he was able to buy a knight’s estate for himself, and that estate
was Grabitz, close by Rambin, which now belongs to the Lords of Sunde. My father knew him there, and how from a shepherd’s
boy he became a nobleman. He always conducted himself like a prudent,
honest, and pious man, who had a good word for every one. He brought up his sons like
gentlemen, and his daughters like ladies, some of whom are still alive,
and accounted people of great consequence. Well may people who hear such stories wish
that they had met with such an adventure, and had found a little silver
bell which the underground people had lost! MAIDEN SWANWHITE AND MAIDEN FOXTAIL. There was once upon a time a wicked woman
who had a daughter and a step-daughter. The daughter was ugly and of an evil disposition,
but the step-daughter was most beautiful and good,
and all who knew her wished her well. When the girl’s step-mother and step-sister
saw this they hated the poor girl. One day it chanced that she was sent by her
step-mother to the well to draw water. When the girl came there she saw a little
hand held out of the water, and a voice said– “Maiden, beautiful and good, give me your
golden apple, and in return for it I will thrice wish you well.” The girl thought that one who spoke so fairly
to her would not do her an ill turn, so she put the apple into the little
hand. Then she bent down
over the spring, and, taking care not to muddy the water, filled her
bucket. As she went home the guardian of the well
wished that the girl would become thrice as beautiful as she was,
that whenever she laughed a gold ring might fall from her mouth, and that
red roses might spring up wherever she trod. The same hour all that he wished came to pass. From
that day the girl was called the Maiden Swanwhite, and the fame of her
loveliness spread all through the land. When the wicked step-mother perceived this,
she was filled with rage, and she thought how her own daughter might
become as beautiful as Swanwhite. With this object she set herself to learn
all that had happened, and then she sent her own daughter
to fetch water. When the
wicked girl had come to the well, she saw a little hand rise up out of
the water, and heard a voice which said– “Maiden, beautiful and good, give me your
gold apple and I will thrice wish thee well.” But the hag’s daughter was both wicked and
avaricious, and it was not her way to make presents. She therefore made a dash at the little hand,
wished the guardian of the well evil, and said pettishly– “You need not think you’ll get a gold apple
from me.” Then she filled her bucket, muddying the water,
and away she went in a rage. The guardian of the well was enraged, so he
wished her three evil wishes, as a punishment for her wickedness. He wished that she should
become three times as ugly as she was, that a dead rat should fall from
her mouth whenever she laughed, and that the fox-tail grass might spring
up in the footsteps wherever she trod. So it was. From that day the
wicked girl was called Maiden Foxtail, and very much talk was there
among the folk of her strange looks and her ill-nature. The hag could
not bear her step-daughter should be more beautiful than her own
daughter, and poor Swanwhite had to put up with all the ill-usage and
suffering that a step-child can meet with. Swanwhite had a brother whom she loved very
much, and he also loved her with all his heart. He had long ago left home, and he was now
the servant of a king, far, far off in a strange
land. The other servants of
the king bore him no good-will because he was liked by his master, and
they wished to ruin him if they could find anything against him. They watched him closely, and one day, coming
to the king, said– “Lord king, we know well that you do not like
evil or vice in your servants. Thence we think it is only right to tell you
that the young foreigner, who is in your service, every morning
and evening bows the knee to an idol.” When the king heard that he set it down to
envy and ill-will, and did not think there was any truth in it, but the
courtiers said that he could easily discover for himself whether
what they said was true or not. They led the king to the young man’s rooms,
and told him to look through the key-hole. When the king looked in he saw the young man
on his knees before a fine picture, and so he
could not help believing that what the courtiers had told him was true. The king was much enraged, and ordered the
young man to come before him, when he condemned him to die for his
great wickedness. “My lord king,” said he, “do not imagine that
I worship any idol. That
is my sister’s picture, whom I commend to the care of God every morning
and evening, asking Him to protect her, for she remains in a wicked
step-mother’s power.” The king then wished to see the picture, and
he never tired of looking on its beauty. “If it is true,” said he, “what you tell me,
that that is your sister’s picture, she shall be my queen, and you yourself
shall go and fetch her; but if you lie, this shall be your punishment,–you
shall be cast into the lions’ den.” The king then commanded that a ship should
be fitted out in grand style, having wine and treasure in it. Then he sent away the young man in great
state to fetch his beautiful sister to the court. The young man sailed away over the ocean,
and came at length to his land. Here he delivered his master’s message, as
became him, and made preparations to return. Then the step-mother and step-sister begged
that they might go with him and his sister. The young man had no liking for
them, so he said no, and refused their request, but Swanwhite begged for
them, and got them what they wanted. When they had put to sea and were on the wide
ocean, a great storm arose so that the sailors expected the vessel and
all on her to go to the bottom. The young man was, however, in good spirits,
and went up the mast in order to see if he could discover
land anywhere. When he had
looked out from the mast, he called to Swanwhite, who stood on the
deck– “Dear sister, I see land now.” It was, however, blowing so hard that the
maiden could not hear a word. She asked her step-mother if she knew what
her brother said. “Yes,” said the false hag; “he says we shall
never come to God’s land unless you throw your gold casket into the
sea.” When Swanwhite heard that, she did what the
hag told her, and cast the gold casket into the deep sea. A while after her brother once more called
to his sister, who stood on the deck– “Swanwhite, go and deck yourself as a bride,
for we shall soon be there.” But the maiden could not hear a word for the
raging of the sea. She
asked her step-mother if she knew what her brother had said. “Yes,” said the false hag; “he says we shall
never come to God’s land unless you cast yourself into the sea.” While Swanwhite thought of this, the wicked
step-mother sprang to her, and thrust her on a sudden overboard. The young girl was carried away by
the blue waves, and came to the mermaid who rules over all those who are
drowned in the sea. When the young man came down the mast, and
asked whether his sister was attired, the step-mother told him many falsehoods
about Swanwhite having fallen into the sea. When the young man heard this he and all the
ship-folk were afraid, for they well knew what punishment awaited them
for having so ill looked after the king’s bride. The false hag then
thought of another deception. She said they had better dress her own
daughter as the bride, and then no one need know that Swanwhite had
perished. The young man would not agree to this, but
the sailors, being in fear of their lives, made him do as the
step-mother had suggested. Maiden Foxtail was dressed out in the finest
manner with red rings and a gold girdle, but the young man was ill at
ease, and could not forget what had happened to his sister. In the midst of this the vessel came to shore,
where was the king with all his court with much splendour awaiting
their arrival. Carpets were
spread upon the ground, and the king’s bride left the ship in great
state. When the king beheld Maiden Foxtail, and was
told that that was his bride, he suspected some cheat, and was
very angry, and he ordered that the young man should be thrown into the
lions’ den. He would not,
however, break his kingly word, so he took the ugly maiden for his wife,
and she became queen in the place of her step-sister. Now Maiden Swanwhite had a little dog of which
she was very fond, and she called it Snow-white. Now that its mistress was lost, there was
no one who cared for it, so it came into the
king’s palace and took refuge in the kitchen, where it lay down in front
of the fire. When it was
night and all had gone to bed, the master-cook saw the kitchen door open
of itself and a beautiful little duck, fastened to a chain, came into
the kitchen. Wherever the little bird trod the most beautiful
roses sprang up. The duck went up to the dog upon the hearth,
and said– “Poor little Snow-white! Once on a time you lay on blue silk cushions. Now you must lie on the grey ashes. Ah! my poor brother, who is in the
lions’ den! Shame on Maiden Foxtail! she sleeps in my
lord’s arms.” “Alas, poor me!” continued the duck, “I shall
come here only on two more nights. After that I shall see you no more.” Then it caressed the little dog, and the dog
returned its caresses. After a little while the door opened of itself
and the little bird went its way. The next morning, when it was daylight, the
master-cook took the beautiful roses that lay strewn on the floor
and with them decorated the dishes for the king’s table. The king so much admired the flowers that
he ordered the master-cook to be called to him, and asked him where he
had found such magnificent roses. The cook told him all that had
happened, and what the duck had said to the little dog. When the king
heard it he was much perplexed, and he told the cook to let him know as
soon as the bird showed itself again. The next night the little duck again came
to the kitchen, and spoke to the dog as before. The cook sent word to the king, and he came
just as the bird went out at the door. However he saw the beautiful roses lying
all over the kitchen floor, and from them came such a delightful scent
that the like had never been known. The king made up his mind that if the duck
came again he would see it, so he lay in wait for it. He waited a long while, when, at midnight,
the little bird, as before, came walking up to
the dog which lay on the hearth, and said– “Poor little Snow-white! once on a time you
lay on blue silk cushions. Now you must lie on grey ashes. Ah! my poor brother, who is in the
lions’ den. Shame on Maiden Foxtail! she sleeps in my
lord’s arms.” Then it went on– “Alas! poor me! I shall see thee no more.” Then it caressed the little dog, and the dog
returned its caresses. As
the bird was about to go away, the king sprang out and caught it by the
foot. Then the bird changed its form and became
a horrible dragon, but the king held it fast. It changed itself again, and took the forms
of snakes, wolves, and other fierce animals,
but the king did not lose his hold. Then the mermaid pulled hard at the chain,
but the king held so fast that the chain broke in two with a great
snap and rattling. That
moment there stood there a beautiful maiden much more beautiful than
that in the fine picture. She thanked the king for having saved her
from the power of the mermaid. The king was very glad, and took the
beautiful maiden in his arms, kissed her, and said– “I will have no one else in the world for
my queen, and now I well see that your brother was guiltless.” Then he sent off at once to the lions’ den
to learn if the young man was yet alive. There the young man was safe and sound among
the wild beasts, which had done him no injury. Then the king was in a happy mood, and
rejoiced that everything had chanced so well. The brother and sister
told him all that the step-mother had done. When it was daylight the king ordered a great
feast to be got ready, and asked the foremost people in the country to
the palace. As they all sat
at table and were very merry, the king told a story of a brother and
sister who had been treacherously dealt with by a step-mother, and he
related all that had happened from beginning to end. When the tale was
ended the king’s folk looked at one another, and all agreed that the
conduct of the step-mother in the tale was a piece of unexampled
wickedness. The king turned to his mother-in-law, and
said– “Some one should reward my tale. I should like to know what punishment
the taking of such an innocent life deserves.” The false hag did not know that her own treachery
was aimed at, so she said boldly– “For my part, I certainly think she should
be put into boiling lead.” The king then turned himself to Foxtail, and
said– “I should like to have your opinion; what
punishment is merited by one who takes so innocent a life?” The wicked woman answered at once– “For my part, I think she deserves to be put
into boiling tar.” Then the king started up from the table in
a great rage, and said– “You have pronounced doom on yourselves. Such punishment shall you
suffer!” He ordered the two women to be taken out to
die as they themselves had said, and no one save Swanwhite begged him
to have mercy on them. After that the king was married to the beautiful
maiden, and all folk agreed that nowhere could be found a finer
queen. The king gave his own
sister to the brave young man, and there was great joy in all the king’s
palace. There they live prosperous and happy unto
this day, for all I know. TALES OF TREASURE. There are still to be seen near Flensborg the ruins
of a very ancient building. Two soldiers once stood on guard there together,
but when one of them was gone to the town, it chanced that
a tall white woman came to the other, and spoke to him, and said– “I am an unhappy spirit, who has wandered
here these many hundred years, but never shall I find rest in the grave.” She then informed him that under the walls
of the castle a great treasure was concealed, which only three men
in the whole world could take up, and that he was one of the three. The man, who now saw that his
fortune was made, promised to follow her directions in every particular,
whereupon she desired him to come to the same place at twelve o’clock
the following night. The other soldier meanwhile had come back
from the town just as the appointment was made with his comrade. He said nothing about what,
unseen, he had seen and heard, but went early the next evening and
concealed himself amongst some bushes. When his fellow-soldier came with
his spade and shovel he found the white woman at the appointed place,
but when she perceived they were watched she put off the appointed
business until the next evening. The man who had lain on the watch to no
purpose went home, and suddenly fell ill; and as he thought he should
die of that sickness, he sent for his comrade, and told him how he knew
all, and conjured him not to have anything to do with witches or with
spirits, but rather to seek counsel of the priest, who was a prudent
man. The other thought it would be the wisest plan
to follow the advice of his comrade, so he went and discovered
the whole affair to the priest, who, however, desired him to do as
the spirit had bidden him, only he was to make her lay the first hand
to the work herself. The appointed time was now arrived, and the
man was at the place. When
the white woman had pointed out to him the spot, and they were just
beginning the work, she said to him that when the treasure was taken up
one-half of it should be his, but that he must divide the other half
equally between the church and the poor. Then the devil entered into the
man, and awakened his covetousness, so that he cried out– “What! shall I not have the whole?” Scarcely had he spoken when the figure, with
a most mournful wail, passed in a blue flame over the moat of the
castle, and the man fell sick, and died within three days. The story soon spread through the country,
and a poor scholar who heard it thought he had now an opportunity of making
his fortune. He therefore
went at midnight to the place, and there he met with the wandering white
woman, and he told her why he was come, and offered his services to
raise the treasure. She, however, answered that he was not one
of the three, one of whom alone could free her, and
that the wall in which was the money would still remain so firm that
no human being should be able to break it. She also told him that at some future time
he should be rewarded for his good inclination; and, it
is said, when a long time after he passed by that place, and thought
with compassion on the sufferings of the unblest woman, he fell on
his face over a great heap of money, which soon put him again on his
feet. The wall still remains
undisturbed, and as often as any one has attempted to throw it down,
whatever is thrown down in the day is replaced again in the night. * * * * * Three men went once in the night-time to Klumhöi
to try their luck, for a dragon watches there over a great treasure. They dug into the ground,
giving each other a strict charge not to utter a word whatever might
happen, otherwise all their labour would be in vain. When they had dug
pretty deep, their spades struck against a copper chest. They then made
signs to one another, and all, with both hands, laid hold of a great
copper ring that was on the top of the chest, and pulled up the
treasure. When they had just got it into their possession,
one of them forgot the necessity of silence, and shouted
out– “One pull more, and we have it!” That very instant the chest flew away out
of their hands to the lake Stöierup, but as they all held hard on the
ring it remained in their grasp. They went and fastened the ring on the door
of St. Olaf’s church, and there it remains to this very day. * * * * * Near Dangstrup there is a hill which is called
Dangbjerg Dons. Of this
hill it is related that it is at all times covered with a blue mist, and
that under it there lies a large copper kettle full of money. One night
two men went there to dig after this treasure, and they had got so far
as to lay hold of the handle of the kettle. All sorts of wonderful
things began then to appear to disturb them at their work. One time a
coach, drawn by four black horses, drove by them. Then they saw a black
dog with a fiery tongue. Then there came a cock drawing a load of hay. Still the men persisted in not letting themselves
speak, and still dug on without stopping. At last a fellow came limping up to them and
said– “See, Dangstrup is on fire!” When the men looked towards the town, it appeared
exactly as if the whole place were in a bright flame. Then at length one of the men forgot
to keep silence, and the moment he uttered an exclamation the treasure
sank deeper and deeper, and as often since as any attempt has been made
to get it up, the trolls have, by their spells and artifices, prevented
its success. HOLGER DANSKE. The Danish peasantry of the present day relate
many wonderful things of an ancient hero whom they name Holger Danske,
_i.e_. Danish Holger,
and to whom they ascribe wonderful strength and dimensions. Holger Danske came one time to a town named
Bagsvoer, in the isle of Zealand, where, being in want of a new suit
of clothes, he sent for twelve tailors to make them. He was so tall that they were obliged to
set ladders to his back and shoulders to take his measure. They measured
and measured away, but unluckily a man, who was on the top of one of the
ladders, happened, as he was cutting a mark in the measure, to give
Holger’s ear a clip with the scissors. Holger, forgetting what was going
on, thinking that he was being bitten by a flea, put up his hand and
crushed the unlucky tailor to death between his fingers. It is also said that a witch one time gave
him a pair of spectacles which would enable him to see through the
ground. He lay down at a place
not far from Copenhagen to make a trial of their powers, and as he put
his face close to the ground, he left in it the mark of his spectacles,
which mark is to be seen at this very day, and the size of it proves
what a goodly pair they must have been. Tradition does not say at what time it was
that this mighty hero honoured the isles of the Baltic with his
actual presence, but, in return, it informs us that Holger, like so
many other heroes of renown, “is not dead, but sleepeth.” The clang of arms, we are told, was
frequently heard under the castle of Cronberg, but in all Denmark no one
could be found hardy enough to penetrate the subterranean recesses and
ascertain the cause. At length a slave, who had been condemned
to death, was offered his life and a pardon if he would
go down, proceed through the subterranean passage as far as it went,
and bring an account of what he should meet there. He accordingly descended, and went along till
he came to a great iron door, which opened of
itself the instant he knocked at it, and he beheld before him a deep vault. From the roof in the
centre hung a lamp whose flame was nearly extinct, and beneath was a
huge great stone table, around which sat steel-clad warriors, bowed down
over it, each with his head on his crossed arms. He who was seated at
the head of the board then raised himself up. This was Holger Danske. When he had lifted his head up from off his
arms, the stone table split throughout, for his beard was grown into it. “Give me thy hand,” said he to the intruder. The slave feared to trust his hand in the
grasp of the ancient warrior, and he reached him the end of an iron bar
which he had brought with him. Holger squeezed it so hard, that the mark
of his hand remained in it. He
let it go at last, saying– “Well! I am glad to find there are still men in Denmark.” TALES FROM THE PROSE EDDA THE GODS AND THE WOLF. Among the Æsir, or gods, is reckoned one
named Loki or Loptur. By many
he is called the reviler of the gods, the author of all fraud and
mischief, and the shame of gods and men alike. He is the son of the
giant Farbauti, his mother being Laufey or Nal, and his brothers Byleist
and Helblindi. He is of a goodly appearance and elegant form,
but his mood is changeable, and he is inclined to
all wickedness. In cunning and
perfidy he excels every one, and many a time has he placed the gods in
great danger, and often has he saved them again by his cunning. He has a
wife named Siguna, and their son is called Nari. Loki had three children by Angurbodi, a giantess
of Jotunheim (the giants’ home). The first of these was Fenris, the wolf; the
second was Jörmungand, the Midgard serpent; and the
third was Hela, death. Very
soon did the gods become aware of this evil progeny which was being
reared in Jotunheim, and by divination they discovered that they must
receive great injury from them. That they had such a mother spoke bad
for them, but their coming of such a sire was a still worse presage. All-father therefore despatched certain of
the gods to bring the children to him, and when they were brought
before him he cast the serpent down into the ocean which surrounds
the world. There the monster
waxed so large that he wound himself round the whole globe, and that
with such ease that he can with his mouth lay hold of his tail. Hela
All-father cast into Niflheim, where she rules over nine worlds. Into
these she distributes all those who are sent to her,–that is to say,
all who die through sickness or old age. She has there an abode with
very thick walls, and fenced with strong gates. Her hall is Elvidnir;
her table is Hunger; her knife, Starvation; her man-servant, Delay; her
maid-servant, Sloth; her threshold, Precipice; her bed, Care; and her
curtains, Anguish of Soul. The one half of her body is livid, the other
half is flesh-colour. She has a terrible look, so that she can be
easily known. As to the wolf, Fenris, the gods let him grow
up among themselves, Tyr being the only one of them who dare give him
his food. When, however,
they perceived how he every day increased prodigiously in size, and that
the oracles warned them that he would one day prove fatal to them, they
determined to make very strong iron fetters for him which they called
Loeding. These they presented to the wolf, and desired
him to put them on to show his strength by endeavouring to
break them. The wolf saw that
it would not be difficult for him to burst them, so he let the gods put
the fetters on him, then violently stretching himself he broke the
fetters asunder, and set himself free. Having seen this, the gods went to work, and
prepared a second set of fetters, called Dromi, half as strong again
as the former, and these they persuaded the wolf to put on, assuring
him that if he broke them he would then furnish them with an undeniable
proof of his power. The wolf
saw well enough that it would not be easy to break this set, but he
considered that he had himself increased in strength since he broke the
others, and he knew that without running some risk he could never become
celebrated. He therefore allowed the gods to place the
fetters on him. Then Fenris shook himself, stretched his limbs,
rolled on the ground, and at length burst the fetters, which he
made fly in all directions. Thus did he free himself the second time from
his chains, and from this has arisen the saying, “To get free from Loeding,
or to burst from Dromi,” meaning to perform something by strong
exertion. The gods now despaired of ever being able
to secure the wolf with any chain of their own making. All-father, however, sent Skirnir, the
messenger of the god Frey, into the country of the Black Elves, to the
dwarfs, to ask them to make a chain to bind Fenris with. This chain was
composed of six things–the noise made by the fall of a cat’s foot, the
hair of a woman’s beard, the roots of stones, the nerves of bears, the
breath of fish, and the spittle of birds. The fetters were as smooth and as soft as
silk, and yet, as you will presently see, of great strength. The gods were very thankful for them
when they were brought to them, and returned many thanks to him who
brought them. Then they took the wolf with them on to the
island Lyngvi, which is in the lake Amsvartnir, and there
they showed him the chain, desiring him to try his strength in breaking
it. At the same time they
told him that it was a good deal stronger than it looked. They took it
in their own hands and pulled at it, attempting in vain to break it, and
then they said to Fenris– “No one else but you, Fenris, can break it.” “I don’t see,” replied the wolf, “that I shall
gain any glory by breaking such a slight string, but if any
artifice has been employed in the making of it, you may be sure, though
it looks so fragile, it shall never touch foot of mine.” The gods told him he would easily break so
slight a bandage, since he had already broken asunder shackles of iron
of the most solid make. “But,” said they, “if you should not be able
to break the chain, you are too feeble to cause us any anxiety, and we
shall not hesitate to loose you again.” “I very much fear,” replied the wolf, “that
if you once tie me up so fast that I cannot release myself, you will
be in no haste to unloose me. I am, therefore, unwilling to have this cord
wound around me; but to show you I am no coward, I will agree to it,
but one of you must put his hand in my mouth, as a pledge that you intend
me no deceit.” The gods looked on one another wistfully,
for they found themselves in an embarrassing position. Then Tyr stepped forward and bravely put his
right hand in the monster’s mouth. The gods then tied up the wolf, who forcibly
stretched himself, as he had formerly done, and exerted all his
powers to disengage himself; but the more efforts he made the
tighter he drew the chain about him, and then all the gods, except Tyr,
who lost his hand, burst out into laughter at the sight. Seeing that he was so fast tied that he
would never be able to get loose again, they took one end of the chain,
which was called Gelgja, and having drilled a hole for it, drew it
through the middle of a large broad rock, which they sank very deep in
the earth. Afterwards, to make all still more secure,
they tied the end of the chain, which came through the rock
to a great stone called Keviti, which they sank still deeper. The wolf used his utmost power to
free himself, and, opening his mouth, tried to bite them. When the gods
saw that they took a sword and thrust it into his mouth, so that it
entered his under jaw right up to the hilt, and the point reached his
palate. He howled in the most terrible manner, and
since then the foam has poured from his mouth in such abundance
that it forms the river called Von. So the wolf must remain until Ragnarök. Such a wicked race has Loki begot. The gods would not put the wolf to
death because they respected the sanctity of the place, which forbade
blood being shed there. THE STRANGE BUILDER. Once upon a time, when the gods were building
their abodes, a certain builder came and offered to erect them, in
the space of three half-years, a city so well fortified that
they should be quite safe in it from the incursions of the forest-giants
and the giants of the mountains, even although these foes should
have already penetrated within the enclosure Midgard. He asked, however, for his reward, the
goddess Freyja, together with the sun and moon. The gods thought over
the matter a long while, and at length agreed to his terms, on the
understanding that he would finish the whole work himself without any
one’s assistance, and that all was to be finished within the space of
one single winter. If anything remained to be done when the first
day of summer came, the builder was to entirely forfeit
the reward agreed on. When the builder was told this he asked that
he might be allowed the use of his horse, Svadilfari, and to this the
gods, by the advice of Loki, agreed. On the first day of winter the builder set
to work, and during the night he caused his horse to draw stones for the
building. The gods beheld
with astonishment the extraordinary size of these, and marked with
wonder that the horse did much more work than his master. The contract
between them and the giant had, however, been confirmed with many oaths
and in the presence of many witnesses, for without such a precaution a
giant would not have trusted himself among the gods, especially at a
time when Thor was returning from an expedition he had made into the
east against the giants. The winter was far advanced, and towards its
end the city had been built so strongly and so lofty as to be almost secure. The time was nearly
expired, only three days remaining, and nothing was wanted to complete
the work save the gates, which were not yet put up. The gods then began
to deliberate, and to ask one another who it was that had advised that
Freyja should be given to one who dwelt in Jotunheim, and that they
should plunge the heavens in darkness by allowing one to carry away with
him the sun and moon. They all agreed that only Loki could have
given such bad counsel, and that it would be only
just to either make him contrive some way or other to prevent the
builder accomplishing his work and having a right to claim his reward, or
to put him to death. They at
once laid hands on Loki, who, in his fright, promised upon oath to do
what they desired, let it cost him what it might. That very night, while the builder was employing
his horse to convey stones, a mare suddenly ran out of a neighbouring
forest and commenced to neigh. The horse broke loose and ran after the mare
into the forest, and the builder ran after his horse. Between one thing and another the whole night
was lost, so that when day broke the work was not completed. The builder, recognising that he could by
no means finish his task, took again his giant form; and the gods, seeing
that it was a mountain-giant with whom they had to deal,
feeling that their oath did not bind them, called on Thor. He at once ran to them, and paid the
builder his fee with a blow of his hammer which shattered his skull to
pieces and threw him down headlong into Niflhel. The horse Sleipner comes of the horse Svadilfari,
and it excels all others possessed by gods or men. THOR’S JOURNEY TO THE LAND OF GIANTS. One day the god Thor set out with Loki in
his chariot drawn by two he-goats. Night coming on they were obliged to put up
at a peasant’s cottage, when Thor slew his goats, and having
skinned them, had them put into the pot. When this had been done he sat down to supper
and invited the peasant and his children to take part
in the feast. The peasant had
a son named Thjalfi, and a daughter, Röska. Thor told them to throw the
bones into the goatskins, which were spread out near the hearth, but
young Thjalfi, in order to get at the marrow, broke one of the shank
bones with his knife. Having passed the night in this place, Thor
rose early in the morning, and having dressed himself,
held up his hammer, Mjolnir, and thus consecrating the goatskins;
he had no sooner done it than the two goats took again their usual
form, only one of them was now lame in one of its hind-legs. When Thor saw this he at once knew that
the peasant or one of his family had handled the bones of the goat too
roughly, for one was broken. They were terribly afraid when Thor knit
his brows, rolled his eyes, seized his hammer, and grasped it with such
force that the very joints of his fingers were white again. The peasant,
trembling, and fearful that he would be struck down by the looks of the
god, begged with his family for pardon, offering whatever they possessed
to repair the damage they might have done. Thor allowed them to appease
him, and contented himself with taking with him Thjalfi and Röska, who
became his servants, and have since followed him. Leaving his goats at that place, Thor set
out to the east, to the country of the giants. At length they came to the shore of a wide
and deep sea which Thor, with Loki, Thjalfi, and
Röska passed over. Then
they came to a strange country, and entered an immense forest in which
they journeyed all day. Thjalfi was unexcelled by any man as a runner,
and he carried Thor’s bag, but in the forest they could find nothing
eatable to put in it. As night came on they searched on all sides
for a place where they might sleep, and at last
they came to what appeared to be a large hall, the gate of which was so
large that it took up the whole of one side of the building. Here they lay down to sleep, but
about the middle of the night they were alarmed by what seemed to be an
earthquake which shook the whole of the building. Thor, rising, called
his companions to seek with him some safer place. Leaving the apartment
they were in, they found on their right hand an adjoining chamber into
which they entered, but while the others, trembling with fear, crept to
the farthest corner of their retreat, Thor, armed with his mace,
remained at the entrance ready to defend himself, happen what might. Throughout the night they heard a terrible
groaning, and when the morning came, Thor, going out, observed a
man of enormous size, lying near, asleep and snoring heavily. Then Thor knew that this was the noise
he had heard during the night. He immediately girded on his belt of
prowess which had the virtue of increasing his strength. The giant awoke
and stood up, and it is said that for once Thor was too frightened to
use his hammer, and he therefore contented himself with inquiring the
giant’s name. “My name,” replied the giant, “is Skrymir. As for you it is not
necessary I should ask your name. You are the god Thor. Tell me, what
have you done with my glove?” Then Skrymir stretched out his hand and took
it up, and Thor saw that what he and his companions had taken for a
hall in which they had passed the night, was the giant’s glove, the chamber
into which they had retreated being only the thumb. Skrymir asked whether they might not be friends,
and Thor agreeing, the giant opened his bag and took out something
to eat. Thor and his
companions also made their morning meal, but eat in another place. Then
Skrymir, proposing that they should put their provisions together, and
Thor assenting to it, put all into one bag, and laying it on his
shoulder marched before them, with huge strides, during the whole day. At night he found a place where Thor and his
companions might rest under an oak. There, he said, he would lie down and sleep. “You take the bag,” said he, “and make your
supper.” He was soon asleep, and, strange as it may
seem, when Thor tried to open the bag he could not untie a single knot nor
loose the string. Enraged
at this he seized his hammer, swayed it in both his hands, took a step
forward, and hurled it at the giant’s head. This awoke the giant, who
asked him if a leaf had not fallen on his head, and whether they had
finished their supper. Thor said they were just about to lie down
to sleep, and went to lie under another oak-tree. About midnight, observing
that Skrymir was snoring so loudly that the forest re-echoed the din,
Thor grasped his hammer and hurled it with such force at him that it
sank up to the handle in his head. “What is the matter?” asked he, awakening. “Did an acorn fall on my
head? How are you going on, Thor?” Thor departed at once, saying that it was
only midnight and that he hoped to get some more sleep yet. He resolved, however, to have a third
blow at the giant, hoping that with this he might settle everything. Seizing his hammer, he, with all his force,
threw it at the giant’s cheek, into which it buried itself up to the
handle. Skrymir, awaking,
put his hand to his cheek, and said– “Are there any birds perched on this tree? I thought some moss fell upon
me. How! art thou awake, Thor? It is time, is it not, for us to get up
and dress ourselves? You have not far, however, to go before you
arrive at the city Utgard. I have heard you whispering together that
I am a very tall fellow, but there you will see many
larger than me. Let me
advise you then when you get there not to take too much upon yourselves,
for the men of Utgard-Loki will not bear much from such little folk as
you. I believe your best way would even be to turn
back again, but if you are determined to proceed take the road
that goes towards the east, as for me mine now lies to the north.” After he had said this, he put his bag upon
his shoulder and turned away into a forest; and I could never hear that
Thor wished him a good journey. Proceeding on his way with his companions,
Thor saw towards noon a city situated in the middle of a vast plain. The wall of the city was so
lofty that one could not look up to the top of it without throwing one’s
head quite back upon the shoulder. On coming to the wall, they found the
gate-way closed with bars, which Thor never could have opened, but he
and his companions crept in between them, and thus entered the place. Before them was a large palace, and as the
door of it was open, they entered and found a number of men of enormous
size, seated on benches. Going on they came into the presence of the
king, Utgard-Loki, whom they saluted with great respect, but he, looking
upon them for a time, at length cast a scornful glance at them, and
burst into laughter. “It would take up too much time,” said he,
“to ask you concerning the long journey you have made, but if I am not
mistaken that little man there is Aku-Thor. You may,” said he to Thor, “be bigger than
you seem to be. What are you and your companions skilled in
that we may see what they can do, for no one may remain here unless
he understands some art and excels in it all other men?” “I,” said Loki, “can eat quicker than any
one else, and of that I am ready to give proof if there is here any one
who will compete with me.” “It must, indeed, be owned,” replied the king,
“that you are not wanting in dexterity, if you are able to do what you
say. Come, let us test it.” Then he ordered one of his followers who was
sitting at the further end of the bench, and whose name was Logi (Flame)
to come forward, and try his skill with Loki. A great tub or trough full of flesh meat was
placed in the hall, and Loki having placed himself
at one end of the trough, and Logi having set himself at the other end,
the two commenced to eat. Presently they met in the middle of the trough,
but Loki had only devoured the flesh of his portion, whereas
the other had devoured both flesh and bones. All the company therefore decided that Loki
was beaten. Then Utgard-Loki asked what the young man
could do who accompanied Thor. Thjalfi said that in running he would compete
with any one. The king
admitted that skill in running was something very good, but he thought
Thjalfi must exert himself to the utmost to win in the contest. He rose
and, accompanied by all the company, went to a plain where there was a
good place for the match, and then calling a young man named Hugi
(Spirit or Thought), he ordered him to run with Thjalfi. In the first
race Hugi ran so fast away from Thjalfi that on his returning to the
starting-place he met him not far from it. Then said the king– “If you are to win, Thjalfi, you must run
faster, though I must own no man has ever come here who was swifter of
foot.” In the second trial, Thjalfi was a full bow-shot
from the boundary when Hugi arrived at it. “Very well do you run, Thjalfi,” said Utgard-Loki;
“but I do not think you will gain the prize. However, the third trial will decide.” They ran a third time, but Hugi had already
reached the goal before Thjalfi had got half-way. Then all present cried out that there had
been a sufficient trial of skill in that exercise. Then Utgard-Loki asked Thor in what manner
he would choose to give them a proof of the dexterity for which he was
so famous. Thor replied that
he would contest the prize for drinking with any one in the court. Utgard-Loki consented to the match, and going
into the palace, ordered his cup-bearer to bring the large horn out
of which his followers were obliged to drink when they had trespassed
in any way against the customs of the court. The cup-bearer presented this to Thor, and
Utgard-Loki said– “Whoever is a good drinker will empty that
horn at a draught. Some men
make two draughts of it, but the most puny drinker of all can empty it
in three.” Thor looked at the horn, which seemed very
long, but was otherwise of no extraordinary size. He put it to his mouth, and, without drawing
breath, pulled as long and as deeply as he could,
that he might not be obliged to make a second draught of it. When, however, he set the horn down and
looked in it he could scarcely perceive that any of the liquor was gone. “You have drunk well,” said Utgard-Loki; “but
you need not boast. Had it
been told me that Asu-Thor could only drink so little, I should not have
credited it. No doubt you will do better at the second
pull.” Without a word, Thor again set the horn to
his lips and exerted himself to the utmost. When he looked in it seemed to him that he
had not drunk quite so much as before, but the horn could
now be carried without danger of spilling the liquor. Then Utgard-Loki said– “Well, Thor, you should not spare yourself
more than befits you in such drinking. If now you mean to drink off the horn the
third time it seems to me you must drink more than you have done. You will never be reckoned
so great a man amongst us as the Æsir make you out to be if you cannot
do better in other games than it appears to me you will do in this.” Thor, angry, put the horn to his mouth and
drank the best he could and as long as he was able, but when he looked
into the horn the liquor was only a little lower. Then he gave the horn to the cup-bearer, and
would drink no more. Then said Utgard-Loki– “It is plain that you are not so mighty as
we imagined. Will you try
another game? It seems to me there is little chance of your
taking a prize hence.” “I will try more contests yet,” answered Thor. “Such draughts as I have
drunk would not have seemed small to the Æsir. But what new game have
you?” Utgard-Loki answered– “The lads here do a thing which is not much. They lift my cat up from
the ground. I should not have thought of proposing such
a feat to Asu-Thor, had I not first seen that he is
less by far than we took him to be.” As he spoke there sprang upon the hall floor
a very large grey cat. Thor
went up to it and put his hand under its middle and tried to lift it
from the floor. The cat bent its back as Thor raised his hands,
and when Thor had exerted himself to the utmost the
cat had only one foot off the floor. Then Thor would make no further trial. “I thought this game would go so,” said Utgard-Loki. “The cat is large
and Thor is little when compared with our men.” “Little as you call me,” answered Thor, “let
any one come here and wrestle with me, for now I am angry.” Utgard-Loki looked along the benches, and
said– “I see no man here who would not think it
absurd to wrestle with you, but let some one call here the old woman,
my nurse, Elli, and let Thor wrestle with her, if he will. She has cast to the ground many a man who
seemed to me to be as strong as Thor.” Then came into the hall a toothless old woman,
and Utgard-Loki told her to wrestle with Asu-Thor. The story is not a long one. The harder Thor
tightened his hold, the firmer the old woman stood. Then she began to
exert herself, Thor tottered, and at last, after a violent tussle, he
fell on one knee. On this Utgard-Loki told them to stop, adding
that Thor could not desire any one else to wrestle
with him in the hall, and the night had closed in. He showed Thor and his companions to seats,
and they passed the night, faring well. At daybreak the next morning, Thor and his
companions rose, dressed themselves, and prepared to leave at once. Then Utgard-Loki came to them
and ordered a table to be set for them having on it plenty of meat and
drink. Afterwards he led them out of the city, and
on parting asked Thor how he thought his journey had prospered,
and whether he had met with any stronger than himself. Thor said he must own he had been much
shamed. “And,” said he, “I know you will call me a
man of little might, and I can badly bear that.” “Shall I tell you the truth?” said Utgard-Loki. “We are now out of the
city, and while I live and have my own way, you will never again enter
it. By my word you had never come in had I known
before you had been so strong and would bring us so near to great
misfortune. I have deluded
thee with vain shows; first in the forest, where I met you, and where
you were unable to untie the wallet because I had bound it with
iron-thread so that you could not discover where the knot could be
loosened. After that you gave me three blows with your
hammer. The first
blow, though the lightest, would have killed me had it fallen on me, but
I put a rock in my place which you did not see. In that rocky mountain
you will find three dales, one of which is very deep, those are the
dints made by your hammer. In the other games, I have deceived you with
illusions. The first one was the match with Loki. He was hungry and eat
fast, but Logi was Flame, and he consumed not only the flesh but the
trough with it. When Thjalfi contended with Hugi in running,
Hugi was my thought, and it was not possible for Thjalfi
to excel that in swiftness. When you drank of the horn and the liquor
seemed to get lower so slowly, you did, indeed, so well that had I not seen
it, I should never have believed it. You did not see that one end of the horn was
in the sea, but when you come to the shore you will see
how much the sea has shrunk in consequence of your draughts, which have
caused what is called the ebb. Nor did you do a less wondrous thing when
you lifted up the cat, and I can assure you all were afraid when
you raised one of its paws off the ground. The cat was the great Midgard serpent which
lies stretched round the whole earth, and when you raised
it so high then did its length barely suffice to enclose the earth
between its head and tail. Your wrestling match with Elli was, too, a
great feat, for no one has there been yet, and no one shall there be
whom old age does not come and trip up, if he but await her coming. Now we must part, and let me say
that it will be better for both of us if you never more come to seek me,
for I shall always defend my city with tricks, so that you will never
overcome me.” When Thor heard that he grasped his mace in
a rage, and raised it to hurl it at Utgard-Loki, but he had disappeared. Then Thor wanted to
return to the city, but he could see nothing but a wide fair plain. So
he turned, and went on his way till he came to Thrudvang, resolving if
he had an opportunity to attack the Midgard serpent. HOW THOR WENT A-FISHING. Thor had not been long at home before he left
it so hastily that he did not take his car, his goats, or any follower
with him. He left Midgard
disguised as a young man, and when night was coming on, arrived at the
house of a giant, called Hymir. Thor stayed there as a guest for the
night, and when he saw in the morning that the giant rose, dressed
himself, and prepared to go out to sea-fishing in his boat, he begged
him to let him go also. Hymir said he was too little and young to
be of much use. “And besides,” added he, “you will die of
cold, if I go so far out and sit so long as I am accustomed.” Thor said he would row as far out as ever
Hymir wanted, and he thought he might not be the first to want to row back. While he said this he was
in such a rage that he had much to do to keep himself from throwing the
hammer at once at the giant’s head, but he calmed himself thinking that
he might soon try his strength elsewhere. He asked Hymir what bait he
should use, but Hymir told him to look out for himself. Then Thor went
up to a herd of oxen belonging to Hymir, and capturing the largest bull,
called Himinbrjot, he wrung off its head, and went with it to the
sea-shore. Hymir launched the skiff, and Thor, sitting
down in the after-part, rowed with two oars so that Hymir,
who rowed in the fore-part, wondered to see how fast the boat
went on. At length he said
they had arrived at the place where he was accustomed to fish for flat
fish, but Thor told him they had better go on further. So they rowed
till Hymir cried out that if they proceeded further they might be in
danger from the Midgard serpent. In spite of this, Thor said he would
row further, and so he rowed on, disregarding Hymir’s words. When he
laid down his oars, he took out a very strong fishing line to which was
a no less strong hook. On this he fixed the bull’s head and cast
it over into the sea. The bait soon reached the ground, and then
truly Thor deceived the Midgard serpent no less than
Utgard-Loki deceived Thor when he gave him the serpent to lift in his hand. The Midgard serpent gaped
wide at the bait, and the hook stuck fast in his mouth. When the worm
felt this he tugged at the hook so that Thor’s hands were dashed against
the side of the boat. Then Thor got angry, and, collecting to himself
all his divine strength, he pulled so hard that his feet went through
the bottom of the boat and down to the sea’s bottom. Then he drew the
serpent up on board. No one can be said to have seen an ugly sight
who did not see that. Thor threw wrathful looks on the serpent,
and the monster staring at him from below cast out
venom at him. The giant
Hymir, it is said, turned pale when he saw the serpent, quaked, and,
seeing that the sea ran in and out of the skiff, just as Thor raised
aloft his mace, took out his knife and cut the line so that the serpent
at once sank under the water. Thor cast his mace at the serpent, and
some say it cut off its head at the bottom, but it is more true that the
Midgard serpent is yet alive lying at the bottom of the ocean. With his
fist Thor struck Hymir such a blow over the ear that the giant tumbled
headlong into the water, and Thor then waded to land. THE DEATH OF BALDUR. Baldur the Good had dreams which forewarned
him that his life was in danger, and he told the gods of them. The gods took counsel together
what should be done, and it was agreed that they should conjure away all
danger that might threaten him. Frigga took an oath of fire, water,
iron, and all other metals, stones, earth, trees, sicknesses, beasts,
birds, poisons, and worms, that these would none of them hurt Baldur. When this had been done the gods used to divert
themselves, Baldur standing up in the assembly, and all the others
throwing at him, hewing at him, and smiting him with stones, for,
do all they would, he received no hurt, and in this sport all enjoyed themselves. Loki, however, looked on with envy when he
saw that Baldur was not hurt. So he assumed the form of a woman, and set
out to Fensalir to Frigga. Frigga asked if the stranger knew what the
gods did when they met. He
answered that they all shot at Baldur and he was not hurt. “No weapon, nor tree may hurt Baldur,” answers
Frigga, “I have taken an oath of them all not to do so.” “What,” said the pretended woman, “have all
things then sworn to spare Baldur?” “There is only one little twig which grows
to the east of Valhalla, which is called the mistletoe. Of that I took no oath, for it seemed to
me too young and feeble to do any hurt.” Then the strange woman departed, and Loki
having found the mistletoe, cut it off, and went to the assembly. There he found Hodur standing
apart by himself, for he was blind. Then said Loki to him– “Why do you not throw at Baldur?” “Because,” said he, “I am blind and cannot
see him, and besides I have nothing to throw.” “Do as the others,” said Loki, “and honour
Baldur as the rest do. I will
direct your aim. Throw this shaft at him.” Hodur took the mistletoe and, Loki directing
him, aimed at Baldur. The
aim was good. The shaft pierced him through, and Baldur
fell dead upon the earth. Surely never was there a greater misfortune
either among gods or men. When the gods saw that Baldur was dead then
they were silent, aghast, and stood motionless. They looked on one another, and were all agreed
as to what he deserved who had done the deed,
but out of respect to the place none dared avenge Baldur’s death. They broke the silence at length
with wailing, words failing them with which to express their sorrow. Odin, as was right, was more sorrowful than
any of the others, for he best knew what a loss the gods had sustained. At last when the gods had recovered themselves,
Frigga asked– “Who is there among the gods who will win
my love and good-will? That
shall he have if he will ride to Hel, and seek Baldur, and offer Hela a
reward if she will let Baldur come home to Asgard.” Hermod the nimble, Odin’s lad, said he would
make the journey. So he
mounted Odin’s horse, Sleipner, and went his way. The gods took Baldur’s body down to the sea-shore,
where stood Hringhorn, Baldur’s vessel, the biggest in
the world. When the gods
tried to launch it into the water, in order to make on it a funeral fire
for Baldur, the ship would not stir. Then they despatched one to
Jotunheim for the sorceress called Hyrrokin, who came riding on a wolf
with twisted serpents by way of reins. Odin called for four Berserkir to
hold the horse, but they could not secure it till they had thrown it to
the ground. Then Hyrrokin went to the stem of the ship,
and set it afloat with a single touch, the vessel going
so fast that fire sprang from the rollers, and the earth trembled. Then Thor was so angry that he
took his hammer and wanted to cast it at the woman’s head, but the gods
pleaded for her and appeased him. The body of Baldur being placed on the
ship, Nanna, the daughter of Nep, Baldur’s wife, seeing it, died of a
broken heart, so she was borne to the pile and thrown into the fire. Thor stood up and consecrated the pile with
Mjolnir. A little dwarf,
called Litur, ran before his feet, and Thor gave him a push, and threw
him into the fire, and he was burnt. Many kinds of people came to this
ceremony. With Odin came Frigga and the Valkyrjor with
his ravens. Frey
drove in a car drawn by the boar, Gullinbursti or Slidrugtanni. Heimdall
rode the horse Gulltopp, and Freyja drove her cats. There were also many
of the forest-giants and mountain-giants there. On the pile Odin laid
the gold ring called Draupnir, giving it the property that every ninth
night it produces eight rings of equal weight. In the same pile was also
consumed Baldur’s horse. For nine nights and days Hermod rode through
deep valleys, so dark that he could see nothing. Then he came to the river Gjöll which he
crossed by the bridge which is covered with shining
gold. The maid who keeps the
bridge is called Modgudur. She asked Hermod his name and family, and
told him that on the former day there had ridden over the bridge five
bands of dead men. “They did not make my bridge ring as you do,
and you have not the hue of the dead. Why ride you thus on the way to Hel?” He said– “I ride to Hel to find Baldur. Have you seen him on his way to that
place?” “Baldur,” answered she, “has passed over the
bridge, but the way to Hel is below to the north.” Hermod rode on till he came to the entrance
of Hel, which was guarded by a grate. He dismounted, looked to the girths of his
saddle, mounted, and clapping his spurs into the horse, cleared
the grate easily. Then he
rode on to the hall and, dismounting, entered it. There he saw his
brother, Baldur, seated in the first place, and there Hermod stopped
the night. In the morning he saw Hela, and begged her
to let Baldur ride home with him, telling her how much the gods had sorrowed
over his death. Hela
told him she would test whether it were true that Baldur was so much
loved. “If,” said she, “all things weep for him,
then he shall return to the gods, but if any speak against him or refuse
to weep, then he shall remain in Hel.” Then Hermod rose to go, and Baldur, leading
him out of the hall, gave him the ring, Draupnir, which he wished Odin
to have as a keepsake. Nanna also sent Frigga a present, and a ring
to Fulla. Hermod rode back, and coming to Asgard related
all he had seen and heard. Then the gods sent messengers over all the
world seeking to get Baldur brought back again by weeping. All wept, men and living things,
earth, stones, trees, and metals, all weeping as they do when they are
subjected to heat after frost. Then the messengers came back again,
thinking they had done their errand well. On their way they came to a
cave wherein sat a hag named Thaukt. The messengers prayed her to assist
in weeping Baldur out of Hel. “I will weep dry tears,” answered she, “over
Baldur’s pyre. What gain I
by the son of man, be he live or dead? Let Hela hold what she has.” It was thought that this must have been Loki,
Laufey’s son, he who has ever wrought such harm to the gods. THE PUNISHMENT OF LOKI. The gods were so angry with Loki that he had
to run away and hide himself in the mountains, and there he built
a house which had four doors, so that he could see around him on
every side. He would often in
the day-time change himself into a salmon and hide in the water called
Franangursfors, and he thought over what trick the gods might devise to
capture him there. One day while he sat in his house, he took
flax and yarn, and with it made meshes like those of
a net, a fire burning in front of him. Then he became aware that the gods were near
at hand, for Odin had seen out of Hlidskjalf where he was. Loki sprang up, threw his
work into the fire, and went to the river. When the gods came to the
house, the first that entered was Kvasir, who was the most acute of them
all. In the hot embers he saw the ashes of a net,
such as is used in fishing, and he told the gods of it, and they
made a net like that which they saw in the ashes. When it was ready they went to the river and
cast the net in, Thor holding one end and the rest
of the gods the other, and so they drew it. Loki travelled in front of it and lay down
between two stones so that the net went over him, but
the gods felt that something living had been against the net. Then they cast the net a second time,
binding up in it a weight so that nothing could pass under it. Loki
travelled before it till he saw the sea in front of him. Then he leapt
over the top of the net and again made his way up the stream. The gods
saw this, so they once more dragged the stream, while Thor waded in the
middle of it. So they went to the sea. Then Loki saw in what a dangerous situation
he was. He must risk his
life if he swam out to sea. The only other alternative was to leap over
the net. That he did, jumping as quickly as he could
over the top cord. Thor snatched at him, and tried to hold him,
but he slipped through his hand, and would have escaped, but for his
tail, and this is the reason why salmon have their tails so thin. Loki being captured, they took him to a certain
cavern, and they took three rocks, through each of which they bored
a hole. Then they took
Loki’s sons Vali and Nari, and having changed Vali into a wolf, he tore
his brother Nari into pieces. Then the gods took his intestines and
bound Loki with them to the three stones, and they changed the cord into
bands of iron. Skadi then took a serpent and suspended it
over Loki’s head so that the venom drops from it on to
his face. Siguna, Loki’s
wife, stands near him, and holds a dish receiving the venom as it falls,
and when the dish is full she goes out and pours its contents away. While she is doing this, however, the venom
falls on Loki, and causes him such intense pain that he writhes so that
the earth is shaken as if by an earthquake. There he lies till Ragnarök (the twilight
of the gods). ORIGIN OF TIIS LAKE. A troll had once taken up his abode near the
village of Kund, in the high bank on which the church now stands,
but when the people about there had become pious, and went constantly
to church, the troll was dreadfully annoyed by their almost incessant
ringing of bells in the steeple of the church. He was at last obliged, in consequence of
it, to take his departure, for nothing has more contributed
to the emigration of the troll-folk out of the country, than
the increasing piety of the people, and their taking to bell-ringing. The troll of Kund accordingly
quitted the country, and went over to Funen, where he lived for some
time in peace and quiet. Now it chanced that a man who had lately
settled in the town of Kund, coming to Funen on business, met this same
troll on the road. “Where do you live?” asked the troll. Now there was nothing whatever about the troll
unlike a man, so he answered him, as was the truth– “I am from the town of Kund.” “So?” said the troll, “I don’t know you then. And yet I think I know
every man in Kund. Will you, however,” said he, “be so kind as
to take a letter for me back with you to Kund?” The man, of course, said he had no objection. The troll put a letter into his pocket and
charged him strictly not to take it out until he came to Kund church. Then he was to throw it over
the churchyard wall, and the person for whom it was intended would get
it. The troll then went away in great haste, and
with him the letter went entirely out of the man’s mind. But when he was come back to Zealand he
sat down by the meadow where Tiis lake now is, and suddenly recollected
the troll’s letter. He felt a great desire to look at it at least,
so he took it out of his pocket and sat a while
with it in his hands, when suddenly there began to dribble a little water
out of the seal. The
letter now unfolded itself and the water came out faster and faster, and
it was with the utmost difficulty the poor man was able to save his
life, for the malicious troll had enclosed a whole lake in the letter. The troll, it is plain, had thought to avenge
himself on Kund church by destroying it in this manner, but God ordered
it so that the lake chanced to run out in the great meadow where
it now stands. THERE ARE SUCH WOMEN. There was once upon a time a man and his wife,
and they wanted to sow their fields, but they had neither seed nor
money to buy it with. However, they had one cow, and so they decided
that the man should drive it to the town and sell it, so that they might
buy seed with the money. When the time came, however, the woman was
afraid to let her husband take the cow, fearing he would spend the money
in drink. So she set off
herself with the cow, and took a hen with her also. When she was near the town she met a butcher,
who said– “Do you want to sell the cow, mother?” “Yes,” answered she, “I do.” “How much do you want for it?” “I want a mark for the cow, and you shall
have the hen for sixty marks.” “Well,” said he, “I have no need of the hen. You can get rid of that
when you come to the town, but I will give you a mark for the cow.” She sold him the cow and got the mark for
it, but when she came to the town she could find no one who would give
her sixty marks for a tough lean hen. So she went back to the butcher and said– “I cannot get this hen off, master, so you
had better take it also with the cow.” “We will see about it,” said the butcher. So he gave her something to
eat, and gave her so much brandy that she became tipsy and lost her
senses, and fell asleep. When he saw that, the butcher dipped her in
a barrel of tar, and then laid her on a heap of feathers. When she awoke she found herself feathered
all over, and wondered at herself. “Is it me or some one else?” said she. “No, it cannot be me. It must be
a strange bird. How shall I find out whether it is me or not? Oh, I
know. When I get home, if the calves lick me, and
the dog does not bark at me, then it is me myself.” The dog had no sooner seen her than he began
to bark, as if there were thieves and robbers in the yard. “Now,” said she, “I see it is not me.” She went to the cow-house but the calves would
not lick her, for they smelt the strong tar. “No,” said she, “I see it cannot be me. It must be some strange bird.” So she crept up to the top of the barn, and
began to flap her arms as if they had been wings, and tried to fly. Her husband saw her, so he came
out with his gun and took aim. “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot,” called his wife. “It is me.” “Is it you?” said the man. “Then don’t stand there like a goat. Come
down and tell me what account you can give of yourself.” She crept down again; but she had not a shilling,
for she had lost the mark the butcher had given her while she was
drunk. When the man heard that he was very angry,
and declared he would leave her, and never come back again until he had
found three women as big fools as his wife. So he set off, and when he had gone a little
way he saw a woman who ran in and out of a newly built wood hut with
an empty sieve. Every time she
ran in she threw her apron over the sieve, as if she had something in
it. “Why do you do that, mother?” asked he. “Why, I am only carrying in a little sun,”
said she, “but I don’t understand how it is, when I am outside I
get the sunshine in the sieve, but when I get in I have somehow lost it. When I was in my old hut I had
plenty of sunshine, though I never carried it in. I wish I knew some one
who would give me sunshine. I would give him three hundred dollars.” “Have you an axe?” asked the man. “If so I will get you sunshine.” She gave him an axe and he cut some windows
in the hut, for the carpenter had forgotten them. Then the sun shone in, and the woman gave
him three hundred dollars. “That’s one,” said the man, and he set out
once more. Some time after he came to a house in which
he heard a terrible noise and bellowing. He went in and saw a woman who was beating
her husband across the head with a stick with all her
might. Over the man’s head
there was a shirt in which there was no hole for his head to go through. “Mother,” said he, “will you kill your husband?” “No,” said she, “I only want a hole for his
head in the shirt.” The man called out and, struggling, cried– “Heaven preserve and comfort all such as have
new shirts! If any one
would only teach my wife some new way to make a head-hole in them I
would gladly give him three hundred dollars.” “That shall soon be done. Give me a pair of scissors,” said the other. The woman gave him the scissors, and he cut
a hole in the shirt for the man’s head to go through, and took the three
hundred dollars. “That is number two,” said he to himself. After some time he came to a farm-house, where
he thought he would rest a while. When he went in the woman said– “Where do you come from, father?” “I am from Ringerige (Paradise),” said he. “Ah! dear, dear! Are you from Himmerige (Heaven)?” said she. “Then you
will know my second husband, Peter; happy may he be!” The woman had had three husbands. The first and third had been bad and
had used her ill, but the second had used her well, so she counted him
as safe. “Yes,” said the man, “I know him well.” “How does he get on there?” asked the woman. “Only pretty well,” said the man. “He goes about begging from one house
to another, and has but little food, or clothes on his back. As to money
he has nothing.” “Heaven have mercy on him!” cried the woman. “He ought not to go about
in such a miserable state when he left so much behind. There is a
cupboard full of clothes which belonged to him, and there is a big box
full of money, too. If you will take the things with you, you
can have a horse and cart to carry them. He can keep the horse, and he can sit in
the cart as he goes from house to house, for so he ought to go.” The man from Ringerige got a whole cart-load
of clothes and a box full of bright silver money, with meat and drink,
as much as he wanted. When
he had got all he wished, he got into the cart, and once more set out. “That is the third,” said he to himself. Now the woman’s third husband was ploughing
in a field, and when he saw a man he did not know come out of his yard
with his horse and cart, he went home and asked his wife, who it was that
was going off with the black horse. “Oh,” said the woman, “that is a man from
Himmerige (Heaven). He told me
that things went so miserably with my second Peter, my poor husband,
that he had to go begging from house to house and had no money or
clothes. I have therefore sent him the old clothes
he left behind, and the old money box with the money in it.” The man saw how matters were, so he saddled
a horse and went out of the yard at full speed. It was not long before he came up to the man
who sat and drove the cart. When the other saw him he drove the horse
and cart into a wood, pulled a handful of hair out
of the horse’s tail, and ran up a little hill, where he tied the hair fast
to a birch-tree. Then he
lay down under the tree and began to look and stare at the sky. “Well, well,” said he, as if talking to himself,
when Peter the third came near. “Well! never before have I seen anything to
match it.” Peter stood still for a time and looked at
him, and wondered what was come to him. At last he said– “Why do you lie there and stare so?” “I never saw anything like it,” said the other. “A man has gone up to
heaven on a black horse. Here in the birch-tree is some of the horse’s
tail hanging, and there in the sky you may see the black horse.” Peter stared first at the man and then at
the sky, and said– “For my part, I see nothing but some hair
out of a horse’s tail in the birch-tree.” “Yes,” said the other, “you cannot see it
where you stand, but come here and lie down, and look up, and take care not
to take your eyes off the sky.” Peter the third lay down and stared up at
the sky till the tears ran from his eyes. The man from Ringerige took his horse, mounted
it, and galloped away with it and the horse and cart. When he heard the noise
on the road, Peter the third sprang up, but when he found the man had
gone off with his horse he was so astonished that he did not think of
going after him till it was too late. He was very down-faced when he went home to
his wife, and when she asked him what he had done with the horse, he said– “I gave it to Peter the second, for I didn’t
think it was right he should sit in a cart and jolt about from house
to house in Himmerige. Now then he can sell the cart, and buy himself
a coach, and drive about.” “Heaven bless you for that,” said the woman. “I never thought you were
so kind-hearted a man.” When the Ringerige man reached home with his
six hundred dollars, his cart-load of clothes, and the money, he saw
that all his fields were ploughed and sown. The first question he put to his wife was
how she had got the seed. “Well,” said she, “I always heard that what
a man sowed he reaped, so I sowed the salt the North-people left here,
and if we only have rain I don’t doubt but that it will come up nicely.” “You are silly,” said the man, “and silly
you must remain, but that does not much matter, for the others are as silly
as yourself.” TALES OF THE NISSES. The Nis is the same being that is called Kobold
in Germany, and Brownie in Scotland. He is in Denmark and Norway also called Nisse
god Dreng (Nissè good lad), and in Sweden, Tomtegubbe
(the old man of the house). He is of the dwarf family, and resembles them
in appearance, and, like them, has the command of money, and the same
dislike to noise and tumult. His usual dress is grey, with a pointed red
cap, but on Michaelmas-day he wears a round hat like those of the peasants. No farm-house goes on well without there is
a Nis in it, and well is it for the maids and the men when they are in
favour with him. They may go
to their beds and give themselves no trouble about their work, and yet
in the morning the maids will find the kitchen swept up, and water
brought in; and the men will find the horses in the stable well cleaned
and curried, and perhaps a supply of corn cribbed for them from the
neighbours’ barns. There was a Nis in a house in Jutland. He every evening got his groute
at the regular time, and he, in return, used to help both the men and
the maids, and looked to the interest of the master of the house in
every respect. There came one time a mischievous boy to live
at service in this house, and his great delight was, whenever he got
an opportunity, to give the Nis all the annoyance in his power. Late one evening, when everything was quiet
in the house, the Nis took his little wooden dish, and was just going
to eat his supper, when he perceived that the boy had put the butter
at the bottom and had concealed it, in hopes that he might eat the
groute first, and then find the butter when all the groute was gone. He accordingly set about
thinking how he might repay the boy in kind. After pondering a little he
went up into the loft where a man and the boy were lying asleep in the
same bed. The Nis whisked off the bed clothes, and when
he saw the little boy by the tall man, he said– “Short and long don’t match,” and with this
word he took the boy by the legs and dragged him down to the man’s feet. He then went up to the head
of the bed, and– “Short and long don’t match,” said he again,
and then he dragged the boy up to the man’s head. Do what he would he could not succeed in making
the boy as long as the man, but persisted in dragging him up and down in
the bed, and continued at this work the whole night long till it was
broad daylight. By this time he was well tired, so he crept
up on the window stool, and sat with his legs dangling down into the yard. The house-dog–for all
dogs have a great enmity to the Nis–as soon as he saw him began to bark
at him, which afforded him much amusement, as the dog could not get up
to him. So he put down first one leg and then the
other, and teased the dog, saying– “Look at my little leg. Look at my little leg!” In the meantime the boy had awoke, and had
stolen up behind him, and, while the Nis was least thinking of it, and
was going on with his, “Look at my little leg,” the boy tumbled him down
into the yard to the dog, crying out at the same time– “Look at the whole of him now!” * * * * * There lived a man in Thyrsting, in Jutland,
who had a Nis in his barn. This Nis used to attend to his cattle, and
at night he would steal fodder for them from the neighbours, so that
this farmer had the best fed and most thriving cattle in the country. One time the boy went along with the Nis to
Fugleriis to steal corn. The
Nis took as much as he thought he could well carry, but the boy was more
covetous, and said– “Oh! take more. Sure, we can rest now and then!” “Rest!” said the Nis. “Rest! and what is rest?” “Do what I tell you,” replied the boy. “Take more, and we shall find
rest when we get out of this.” The Nis took more, and they went away with
it, but when they came to the lands of Thyrsting, the Nis grew tired, and
then the boy said to him– “Here now is rest!” and they both sat down
on the side of a little hill. “If I had known,” said the Nis, as they sat. “If I had known that rest
was so good, I’d have carried off all that was in the barn.” It happened, some time after, that the boy
and the Nis were no longer friends, and as the Nis was sitting one day
in the granary-window with his legs hanging out into the yard, the boy
ran at him and tumbled him back into the granary. The Nis was revenged on him that very night,
for when the boy was gone to bed he stole down
to where he was lying and carried him as he was into the yard. Then he laid two pieces of wood
across the well and put him lying on them, expecting that when he awoke
he would fall, from the fright, into the well and be drowned. He was,
however, disappointed, for the boy came off without injury. * * * * * There was a man who lived in the town of Tirup
who had a very handsome white mare. This mare had for many years belonged to the
same family, and there was a Nis attached to her who brought
luck to the place. This Nis was so fond of the mare that he could
hardly endure to let them put her to any kind of work, and he used to
come himself every night and feed her of the best; and as for this purpose
he usually brought a superfluity of corn, both thrashed and in
the straw, from the neighbours’ barns, all the rest of the cattle
enjoyed the advantage, and they were all kept in exceedingly good
condition. It happened at last that the farm-house passed
into the hands of a new owner, who refused to put any faith in what
they told him about the mare, so the luck speedily left the place,
and went after the mare to a poor neighbour who had bought her. Within five days after his purchase,
the poor farmer began to find his circumstances gradually improving,
while the income of the other, day after day, fell away and diminished
at such a rate that he was hard set to make both ends meet. If now the man who had got the mare had only
known how to be quiet and enjoy the good times that were come upon him,
he and his children and his children’s children after him would have
been in flourishing circumstances till this very day. But when he saw the quantity of corn
that came every night to his barn, he could not resist his desire to get
a sight of the Nis. So he concealed himself one evening at nightfall
in the stable, and as soon as it was midnight
he saw how the Nis came from his neighbour’s barn and brought a sack full
of corn with him. It was
now unavoidable that the Nis should get a sight of the man who was
watching, so he, with evident marks of grief, gave the mare her food for
the last time, cleaned and dressed her to the best of his ability, and
when he had done, turned round to where the man was lying, and bid him
farewell. From that day forward the circumstances of
both the neighbours were on an equality, for each now kept his own. THE DWARFS’ BANQUET. There lived in Norway, not far from the city
of Drontheim, a powerful man who was blessed with all the goods of
fortune. A part of the
surrounding country was his property, numerous herds fed on his
pastures, and a great retinue and a crowd of servants adorned his
mansion. He had an only daughter, called Aslog, the
fame of whose beauty spread far and wide. The greatest men of the country sought her,
but all were alike unsuccessful in their suit, and
he who had come full of confidence and joy, rode away home silent
and melancholy. Her father,
who thought his daughter delayed her choice only to select, forbore to
interfere, and exulted in her prudence, but when at length the richest
and noblest tried their fortune with as little success as the rest, he
grew angry and called his daughter, and said to her– “Hitherto I have left you to your free choice,
but since I see that you reject all without any distinction, and the
very best of your suitors seems not good enough for you, I will keep
measures no longer with you. What! shall my family become extinct, and
my inheritance pass away into the hands of strangers? I will break your stubborn spirit. I give you
now till the festival of the great winter-night. Make your choice by
that time, or prepare to accept him whom I shall fix on.” Aslog loved a youth named Orm, handsome as
he was brave and noble. She
loved him with her whole soul, and she would sooner die than bestow her
hand on another. But Orm was poor, and poverty compelled him
to serve in the mansion of her father. Aslog’s partiality for him was kept a secret,
for her father’s pride of power and wealth was such that he would never
have given his consent to a union with so humble a man. When Aslog saw the darkness of his countenance,
and heard his angry words, she turned pale as death, for she knew
his temper, and doubted not that he would put his threats into execution. Without uttering a
word in reply, she retired to her chamber, and thought deeply but in
vain how to avert the dark storm that hung over her. The great festival
approached nearer and nearer, and her anguish increased every day. At last the lovers resolved on flight. “I know,” said Orm, “a secure place where
we may remain undiscovered until we find an opportunity of quitting the
country.” At night, when all were asleep, Orm led the
trembling Aslog over the snow and ice-fields away to the mountains. The moon and the stars,
sparkling still brighter in the cold winter’s night, lighted them on
their way. They had under their arms a few articles of
dress and some skins of animals, which were all they could
carry. They ascended the
mountains the whole night long till they reached a lonely spot enclosed
with lofty rocks. Here Orm conducted the weary Aslog into a
cave, the low and narrow entrance to which was hardly
perceptible, but it soon enlarged to a great hall, reaching deep into
the mountain. He kindled a
fire, and they now, reposing on their skins, sat in the deepest solitude
far away from all the world. Orm was the first who had discovered this
cave, which is shown to this very day, and as no one knew anything of it,
they were safe from the pursuit of Aslog’s father. They passed the whole winter in this
retirement. Orm used to go a-hunting, and Aslog stayed
at home in the cave, minded the fire, and prepared the necessary
food. Frequently did
she mount the points of the rocks, but her eyes wandered as far as they
could reach only over glittering snow-fields. The spring now came on: the woods were green,
the meadows pat on their various colours, and Aslog could but rarely,
and with circumspection, venture to leave the cave. One evening Orm came in with the intelligence
that he had recognised her father’s servants in the distance, and that
he could hardly have been unobserved by them whose eyes were as good as
his own. “They will surround this place,” continued
he, “and never rest till they have found us. We must quit our retreat then without a minute’s
delay.” They accordingly descended on the other side
of the mountain, and reached the strand, where they fortunately
found a boat. Orm shoved off,
and the boat drove into the open sea. They had escaped their pursuers,
but they were now exposed to dangers of another kind. Whither should
they turn themselves? They could not venture to land, for Aslog’s
father was lord of the whole coast, and they would
infallibly fall into his hands. Nothing then remained for them but to commit
their bark to the wind and waves. They drove along the entire night. At break of day the
coast had disappeared, and they saw nothing but the sky above, the sea
beneath, and the waves that rose and fell. They had not brought one
morsel of food with them, and thirst and hunger began now to torment
them. Three days did they toss about in this state
of misery, and Aslog, faint and exhausted, saw nothing but certain
death before her. At length, on the evening of the third day,
they discovered an island of tolerable magnitude, and surrounded by a number
of smaller ones. Orm
immediately steered for it, but just as he came near to it there
suddenly arose a violent wind, and the sea rolled higher and higher
against him. He turned about with a view of approaching
it on another side, but with no better success. His vessel, as often as he approached
the island, was driven back as if by an invisible power. “Lord God!” cried he, and blessed himself and looked on
poor Aslog, who seemed to be dying of weakness before his
eyes. Scarcely had the exclamation passed his lips
when the storm ceased, the waves subsided, and the vessel came to the
shore without encountering any hindrance. Orm jumped out on the beach. Some mussels that he found
upon the strand strengthened and revived the exhausted Aslog so that she
was soon able to leave the boat. The island was overgrown with low dwarf shrubs,
and seemed to be uninhabited; but when they had got about the
middle of it, they discovered a house reaching but a little above
the ground, and appearing to be half under the surface of the earth. In the hope of meeting human
beings and assistance, the wanderers approached it. They listened if
they could hear any noise, but the most perfect silence reigned there. Orm at length opened the door, and with his
companion walked in; but what was their surprise to find everything
regulated and arranged as if for inhabitants, yet not a single living creature
visible. The fire was
burning on the hearth in the middle of the room, and a kettle with fish
hung on it, apparently only waiting for some one to take it off and eat. The beds were made and ready to receive their
weary tenants. Orm and
Aslog stood for some time dubious, and looked on with a certain degree
of awe, but at last, overcome with hunger, they took up the food and
ate. When they had satisfied their appetites, and
still in the last beams of the setting sun, which now streamed
over the island far and wide, discovered no human being, they gave
way to weariness, and laid themselves in the beds to which they had been
so long strangers. They had expected to be awakened in the night
by the owners of the house on their return home, but their expectation
was not fulfilled. They
slept undisturbed till the morning sun shone in upon them. No one
appeared on any of the following days, and it seemed as if some
invisible power had made ready the house for their reception. They spent
the whole summer in perfect happiness. They were, to be sure, solitary,
yet they did not miss mankind. The wild birds’ eggs and the fish they
caught yielded them provisions in abundance. When autumn came, Aslog presented Orm with
a son. In the midst of their
joy at his appearance they were surprised by a wonderful apparition. The
door opened on a sudden, and an old woman stepped in. She had on her a
handsome blue dress. There was something proud, but at the same
time strange and surprising in her appearance. “Do not be afraid,” said she, “at my unexpected
appearance. I am the
owner of this house, and I thank you for the clean and neat state in
which you have kept it, and for the good order in which I find
everything with you. I would willingly have come sooner, but I
had no power to do so, till this little heathen (pointing
to the new-born babe) was come to the light. Now I have free access. Only, fetch no priest
from the mainland to christen it, or I must depart again. If you will in
this matter comply with my wishes, you may not only continue to live
here, but all the good that ever you can wish for I will cause you. Whatever you take in hand shall prosper. Good luck shall follow you
wherever you go; but break this condition, and depend upon it that
misfortune after misfortune will come on you, and even on this child
will I avenge myself. If you want anything, or are in danger, you
have only to pronounce my name three times, and
I will appear and lend you assistance. I am of the race of the old giants, and my
name is Guru. But
beware of uttering in my presence the name of him whom no giant may hear
of, and never venture to make the sign of the cross, or to cut it on
beam or on board of the house. You may dwell in this house the whole
year long, only be so good as to give it up to me on Yule evening, when
the sun is at the lowest, as then we celebrate our great festival, and
then only are we permitted to be merry. At least, if you should not be
willing to go out of the house, keep yourselves up in the loft as quiet
as possible the whole day long, and, as you value your lives, do not
look down into the room until midnight is past. After that you may take
possession of everything again.” When the old woman had thus spoken she vanished,
and Aslog and Orm, now at ease respecting their situation, lived,
without any disturbance, content and happy. Orm never made a cast of his net without getting
a plentiful draught. He never shot an arrow from his bow that missed
its aim. In short, whatever they took in hand, were
it ever so trifling, evidently prospered. When Christmas came, they cleaned up the house
in the best manner, set everything in order, kindled a fire on the
hearth, and, as the twilight approached, they went up to the loft, where
they remained quiet and still. At length it grew dark. They thought they heard a sound of flying
and labouring in the air, such as the swans make in the winter-time. There was a hole in the roof over the fire-place
which might be opened or shut either to let in the light from above
or to afford a free passage for the smoke. Orm lifted up the lid, which was covered with
a skin, and put out his head, but what a wonderful
sight then presented itself to his eyes! The little islands around were all lit up
with countless blue lights, which moved about without
ceasing, jumped up and down, then skipped down to the shore, assembled
together, and now came nearer and nearer to the large island where
Orm and Aslog lived. At last
they reached it and arranged themselves in a circle around a large stone
not far from the shore, and which Orm well knew. What was his surprise
when he saw that the stone had now completely assumed the form of a man,
though of a monstrous and gigantic one! He could clearly perceive that
the little blue lights were borne by dwarfs, whose pale clay-coloured
faces, with their huge noses and red eyes, disfigured, too, by birds’
bills and owls’ eyes, were supported by misshapen bodies. They tottered
and wobbled about here and there, so that they seemed to be, at the same
time, merry and in pain. Suddenly the circle opened, the little ones
retired on each side, and Guru, who was now much enlarged and of as
immense a size as the stone, advanced with gigantic steps. She threw
both her arms about the stone image, which immediately began to receive
life and motion. As soon as the first sign of motion showed
itself the little ones began, with wonderful capers and
grimaces, a song, or, to speak more properly, a howl, with which the
whole island resounded and seemed to tremble. Orm, quite terrified, drew in his head, and
he and Aslog remained in the dark, so still that
they hardly ventured to draw their breath. The procession moved on towards the house,
as might be clearly perceived by the nearer approach of the shouting and
crying. They were now all
come in, and, light and active, the dwarfs jumped about on the benches,
and heavy and loud sounded, at intervals, the steps of the giants. Orm
and his wife heard them covering the table, and the clattering of the
plates, and the shouts of joy with which they celebrated their banquet. When it was over, and it drew near to midnight,
they began to dance to that ravishing fairy air which charms the
mind into such sweet confusion, and which some have heard in the
rocky glens, and learned by listening to the underground musicians. As soon as Aslog caught the
sound of the air she felt an irresistible longing to see the dance, nor
was Orm able to keep her back. “Let me look,” said she, “or my heart will
burst.” She took her child and placed herself at the
extreme end of the loft whence, without being observed, she could
see all that passed. Long did
she gaze, without taking off her eyes for an instant, on the dance, on
the bold and wonderful springs of the little creatures who seemed to
float in the air and not so much as to touch the ground, while the
ravishing melody of the elves filled her whole soul. The child,
meanwhile, which lay in her arms, grew sleepy and drew its breath
heavily, and without ever thinking of the promise she had given to the
old woman, she made, as is usual, the sign of the cross over the mouth
of the child, and said– “Christ bless you, my babe!” The instant she had spoken the word there
was raised a horrible, piercing cry. The spirits tumbled head over heels out at
the door, with terrible crushing and crowding, their lights
went out, and in a few minutes the whole house was clear of them
and left desolate. Orm and
Aslog, frightened to death, hid themselves in the most retired nook in
the house. They did not venture to stir till daybreak,
and not till the sun shone through the hole in the roof down
on the fire-place did they feel courage enough to descend from the loft. The table remained still covered as the underground
people had left it. All their vessels, which were of silver, and
manufactured in the most beautiful manner, were upon it. In the middle of the room there stood
upon the ground a huge copper kettle half-full of sweet mead, and, by
the side of it, a drinking-horn of pure gold. In the corner lay against
the wall a stringed instrument not unlike a dulcimer, which, as people
believe, the giantesses used to play on. They gazed on what was before
them full of admiration, but without venturing to lay their hands on
anything; but great and fearful was their amazement when, on turning
about, they saw sitting at the table an immense figure, which Orm
instantly recognised as the giant whom Guru had animated by her embrace. He was now a cold and hard stone. While they were standing gazing on it,
Guru herself entered the room in her giant form. She wept so bitterly
that the tears trickled down on the ground. It was long ere her sobbing
permitted her to utter a single word. At length she spoke– “Great affliction have you brought on me,
and henceforth must I weep while I live. I know you have not done this with evil intentions,
and therefore I forgive you, though it were a
trifle for me to crush the whole house like an egg-shell over your heads.” “Alas!” cried she, “my husband, whom I love
more than myself, there he sits petrified for ever. Never again will he open his eyes! Three
hundred years lived I with my father on the island of Kunnan, happy in
the innocence of youth, as the fairest among the giant maidens. Mighty
heroes sued for my hand. The sea around that island is still filled
with the rocky fragments which they hurled against
each other in their combats. Andfind won the victory, and I plighted myself
to him; but ere I was married came the detestable Odin into
the country, who overcame my father, and drove us all from the island. My father and sisters fled
to the mountains, and since that time my eyes have beheld them no more. Andfind and I saved ourselves on this island,
where we for a long time lived in peace and quiet, and thought it would
never be interrupted. Destiny, which no one escapes, had determined
it otherwise. Oluf came
from Britain. They called him the Holy, and Andfind instantly
found that his voyage would be inauspicious to the giants. When he heard how Oluf’s
ship rushed through the waves, he went down to the strand and blew the
sea against him with all his strength. The waves swelled up like
mountains, but Oluf was still more mighty than he. His ship flew
unchecked through the billows like an arrow from a bow. He steered
direct for our island. When the ship was so near that Andfind thought
he could reach it with his hands, he grasped
at the fore-part with his right hand, and was about to drag it down
to the bottom, as he had often done with other ships. Then Oluf, the terrible Oluf, stepped forward,
and, crossing his hands over each other, he cried with a loud voice–” “‘Stand there as a stone till the last day!’
and in the same instant my unhappy husband became a mass of rock. The ship went on unimpeded, and
ran direct against the mountain, which it cut through, separating from
it the little island which lies yonder.” “Ever since my happiness has been annihilated,
and lonely and melancholy have I passed my life. On Yule eve alone can petrified giants
receive back their life, for the space of seven hours, if one of their
race embraces them, and is, at the same time, willing to sacrifice a
hundred years of his own life. Seldom does a giant do that. I loved my
husband too well not to bring him back cheerfully to life, every time
that I could do it, even at the highest price, and never would I reckon
how often I had done it that I might not know when the time came when I
myself should share his fate, and, at the moment I threw my arms around
him, become the same as he. Alas! now even this comfort is taken from
me. I can never more by any embrace awake him,
since he has heard the name which I dare not utter, and never again
will he see the light till the dawn of the last day shall bring it.” “Now I go hence! You will never again behold me! All that is here in the
house I give you! My dulcimer alone will I keep. Let no one venture to
fix his habitation on the little islands which lie around here. There
dwell the little underground ones whom you saw at the festival, and I
will protect them as long as I live.” With these words Guru vanished. The next spring Orm took the golden horn
and the silver ware to Drontheim where no one knew him. The value of the
things was so great that he was able to purchase everything a wealthy
man desires. He loaded his ship with his purchases, and
returned to the island, where he spent many years in unalloyed
happiness, and Aslog’s father was soon reconciled to his wealthy
son-in-law. The stone image remained sitting in the house. No human power was able
to move it. So hard was the stone that hammer and axe
flew in pieces without making the slightest impression upon
it. The giant sat there
till a holy man came to the island, who, with one single word, removed
him back to his former station, where he stands to this hour. The copper
kettle, which the underground people left behind them, was preserved as
a memorial upon the island, which bears the name of House Island to the
present day. THE ICELANDIC SORCERESSES. “Tell me,” said Katla, a handsome and lively
widow, to Gunlaugar, an accomplished and gallant young warrior, “tell
me why thou goest so oft to Mahfahlida? Is it to caress an old woman?” “Thine own age, Katla,” answered the youth
inconsiderately, “might prevent thy making that of Geirrida a subject
of reproach.” “I little deemed,” replied the offended matron,
“that we were on an equality in that particular–but thou, who
supposest that Geirrida is the sole source of knowledge, mayst find that
there are others who equal her in science.” It happened in the course of the following
winter that Gunlaugar, in company with Oddo, the son of Katla, had renewed
one of those visits to Geirrida with which Katla had upbraided him. “Thou shalt not depart to-night,” said the
sage matron; “evil spirits are abroad, and thy bad destiny predominates.” “We are two in company,” answered Gunlaugar,
“and have therefore nothing to fear.” “Oddo,” replied Geirrida, “will be of no aid
to thee; but go, since thou wilt go, and pay the penalty of thy own
rashness.” In their way they visited the rival matron,
and Gunlaugar was invited to remain in her house that night. This he declined, and, passing forward
alone, was next morning found lying before the gate of his father
Thorbiorn, severely wounded and deprived of his judgment. Various causes
were assigned for this disaster; but Oddo, asserting that they had
parted in anger that evening from Geirrida, insisted that his companion
must have sustained the injury through her sorcery. Geirrida was
accordingly cited to the popular assembly and accused of witchcraft. But
twelve witnesses, or compurgators, having asserted upon their oath the
innocence of the accused party, Geirrida was honourably freed from the
accusation brought against her. Her acquittal did not terminate the
rivalry between the two sorceresses, for, Geirrida belonging to the
family of Kiliakan, and Katla to that of the pontiff Snorro, the
animosity which still subsisted between these septs became awakened by
the quarrel. It chanced that Thorbiorn, called Digri (or
the corpulent), one of the family of Snorro, had some horses which fed
in the mountain pastures, near to those of Thorarin, called the Black,
the son of the enchantress Geirrida. But when autumn arrived, and the horses were
to be withdrawn from the mountains and housed for the winter,
those of Thorbiorn could nowhere be found, and Oddo, the son of Katla,
being sent to consult a wizard, brought back a dubious answer, which
seemed to indicate that they had been stolen by Thorarin. Thorbiorn, with Oddo and a party of
armed followers, immediately set forth for Mahfahlida, the dwelling of
Geirrida and her son Thorarin. Arrived before the gate, they demanded
permission to search for the horses which were missing. This Thorarin
refused, alleging that neither was the search demanded duly authorised
by law, nor were the proper witnesses cited to be present, nor did
Thorbiorn offer any sufficient pledge of security when claiming the
exercise of so hazardous a privilege. Thorbiorn replied, that as
Thorarin declined to permit a search, he must be held as admitting his
guilt; and constituting for that purpose a temporary court of justice,
by choosing out six judges, he formally accused Thorarin of theft before
the gate of his own house. At this the patience of Geirrida forsook her. “Well,” said she to her son Thorarin, “is
it said of thee that thou art more a woman than a man, or thou wouldst not
bear these intolerable affronts.” Thorarin, fired at the reproach, rushed forth
with his servants and guests; a skirmish soon disturbed the legal
process which had been instituted, and one or two of both parties
were wounded and slain before the wife of Thorarin and the female attendants
could separate the fray by flinging their mantles over the weapons
of the combatants. Thorbiorn and his party retreating, Thorarin
proceeded to examine the field of battle. Alas! among the reliques of the fight was
a bloody hand too slight and fair to belong to any
of the combatants. It was that
of his wife Ada, who had met this misfortune in her attempts to separate
the foes. Incensed to the uttermost, Thorarin threw
aside his constitutional moderation, and, mounting on
horseback, with his allies and followers, pursued the hostile party,
and overtook them in a hay-field, where they had halted to repose
their horses, and to exult over the damage they had done to Thorarin. At this moment he assailed
them with such fury that he slew Thorbiorn upon the spot, and killed
several of his attendants, although Oddo, the son of Katla, escaped free
from wounds, having been dressed by his mother in an invulnerable
garment. After this action, more blood being shed than
usual in an Icelandic engagement, Thorarin returned to
Mahfahlida, and, being questioned by his mother concerning the events
of the skirmish, he answered in the improvisatory and enigmatical
poetry of his age and country– “From me the foul reproach be far,
With which a female waked the war, From me, who shunned not in the fray
Through foemen fierce to hew my way (Since meet it is the eagle’s brood
On the fresh corpse should find their food); Then spared I not, in fighting field,
With stalwart hand my sword to wield; And well may claim at Odin’s shrine
The praise that waits this deed of mine.” To which effusion Geirrida answered– “Do these verses imply the death of Thorbiorn?” And Thorarin, alluding to the legal process
which Thorbiorn had instituted against him, resumed his song– “Sharp bit the sword beneath the hood
Of him whose zeal the cause pursued, And ruddy flowed the stream of death,
Ere the grim brand resumed the sheath; Now on the buckler of the slain
The raven sits, his draught to drain, For gore-drenched is his visage bold,
That hither came his courts to hold.” As the consequence of this slaughter was likely
to be a prosecution at the instance of the pontiff Snorro, Thorarin
had now recourse to his allies and kindred, of whom the most powerful
were Arnkill, his maternal uncle, and Verimond, who readily premised
their aid both in the field and in the Comitia, or popular meeting, in
spring, before which it was to be presumed Snorro would indict Thorarin
for the slaughter of his kinsman. Arnkill could not, however, forbear asking
his nephew how he had so far lost his usual command of temper. He replied in verse– “Till then, the master of my mood,
Men called me gentle, mild, and good; But yon fierce dame’s sharp tongue might wake
In wintry den the frozen snake.” While Thorarin spent the winter with his uncle
Arnkill, he received information from his mother Geirrida that
Oddo, son of her old rival Katla, was the person who had cut off the
hand of his wife Ada, and that he gloried in the fact. Thorarin and Arnkill determined on instant
vengeance, and, travelling rapidly, surprised the house of Katla. The
undismayed sorceress, on hearing them approach, commanded her son to sit
close beside her, and when the assailants entered they only beheld
Katla, spinning coarse yarn from what seemed a large distaff, with her
female domestics seated around her. “My son,” she said, “is absent on a journey;”
and Thorarin and Arnkill, having searched the house in vain, were obliged
to depart with this answer. They had not, however, gone far before the
well-known skill of Katla, in optical delusion occurred to them,
and they resolved on a second and stricter search. Upon their return they found Katla in the
outer apartment, who seemed to be shearing the hair of a tame kid, but
was in reality cutting the locks of her son Oddo. Entering the inner
room, they found the large distaff flung carelessly upon a bench. They
returned yet a third time, and a third delusion was prepared for them;
for Katla had given her son the appearance of a hog, which seemed to
grovel upon the heap of ashes. Arnkill now seized and split the distaff,
which he had at first suspected, upon which Kalta tauntingly observed,
that if their visits had been frequent that evening, they could not be
said to be altogether ineffectual, since they had destroyed a distaff. They were accordingly returning completely
baffled, when Geirrida met them, and upbraided them with carelessness
in searching for their enemy. “Return yet again,” she said, “and I will
accompany you.” Katla’s maidens, still upon the watch, announced
to her the return of the hostile party, their number augmented
by one who wore a blue mantle. “Alas!” cried Katla, “it is the sorceress
Geirrida, against whom spells will be of no avail.” Immediately rising from the raised and boarded
seat which she occupied, she concealed Oddo beneath it, and covered
it with cushions as before, on which she stretched herself complaining
of indisposition. Upon the
entrance of the hostile party, Geirrida, without speaking a word, flung
aside her mantle, took out a piece of sealskin, in which she wrapped up
Katla’s head, and commanded that she should be held by some of the
attendants, while the others broke open the boarded space, beneath which
Oddo lay concealed, seized upon him, bound him, and led him away captive
with his mother. Next morning Oddo was hanged, and Katla stoned
to death; but not until she had confessed that,
through her sorcery, she had occasioned the disaster of Gunlaugar,
which first led the way to these feuds. THE THREE DOGS. Once upon a time there was a king who travelled
to a strange country, where he married a queen. When they had been married some time the queen
had a daughter, which gave rise to much joy through the whole land, for
all people liked the king, he was so kind and just. As the child was
born there came an old woman into the room. She was of a strange
appearance, and nobody could guess where she came from, or to what place
she was going. This old woman declared that the royal child
must not be taken out under the sky until it was fifteen
years old. If she was she
would be in danger of being carried away by the giants of the mountains. The king, when he was told what the woman
had said, heeded her words, and set a guard to see that the princess did
not come out into the open air. In a short time the queen bore another daughter,
and there was again much joy in the land. The old woman once more made her appearance,
and she said that the king must not let the young
princess go out under the sky before she was fifteen. The queen had a third daughter, and the third
time the old woman came, warning the king respecting this child as
she had done regarding the two former. The king was much distressed, for he loved
his children more than anything else in the world. So he gave strict orders that the three
princesses should be always kept indoors, and he commanded that every
one should respect his edict. A considerable time passed by, and the princesses
grew up to be the most beautiful girls that could be seen far or
near. Then a war began, and
the king had to leave his home. One day, while he was away at the seat of
war, the three princesses sat at a window looking at how the sun shone on
the flowers in the garden. They felt that they would like very much to
go and play among the flowers, and they begged the guards to let
them out for a little while to walk in the garden. The guards refused, for they were afraid of
the king, but the girls begged of them so prettily
and so earnestly that they could not long refuse them, so they let
them do as they wished. The
princesses were delighted, and ran out into the garden, but their
pleasure was short-lived. Scarcely had they got into the open air when
a cloud came down and carried them off, and
no one could find them again, though they searched the wide world over. The whole of the people mourned, and the king,
as you may imagine, was very much grieved when, on his return home,
he learned what had happened. However, there is an old saying, “What’s done
cannot be undone,” so the king had to let matters remain
as they were. As no one
could advise him how to recover his daughters, the king caused
proclamation to be made throughout the land that whoever should bring
them back to him from the power of the mountain-giants should have one
of them for his wife, and half the kingdom as a wedding present. As soon
as this proclamation was made in the neighbouring countries many young
warriors went out, with servants and horses, to look for the three
princesses. There were at the king’s court at that time
two foreign princes and they started off too, to see how
fortunate they might be. They put on fine armour, and took costly weapons,
and they boasted of what they would do, and how they would never
come back until they had accomplished their purpose. We will leave these two princes to wander
here and there in their search, and look at what was passing in another
place. Deep down in the
heart of a wild wood there dwelt at that time an old woman who had an
only son, who used daily to attend to his mother’s three hogs. As the
lad roamed through the forest, he one day cut a little pipe to play on. He found much pleasure in the music, and he
played so well that the notes charmed all who heard him. The boy was well built, of an honest
heart, and feared nothing. One day it chanced that, as he was sitting
in the wood playing on his pipe, while his three hogs grubbed among the
roots of the pine-trees, a very old man came along. He had a beard so long that it reached to
his waist, and a large dog accompanied him. When the lad saw the dog he said
to himself– “I wish I had a dog like that as a companion
here in the wood. Then
there would be no danger.” The old man knew what the boy thought, and
he said– “I have come to ask you to let me give you
my dog for one of your hogs.” The lad was ready to close the bargain, and
gave a gray hog in exchange for the big dog. As he was going the old man said– “I think you will be satisfied with your bargain. The dog is not like
other dogs. His name is Hold-fast, and if you tell him
to hold, hold he will whatever it may be, were it even the
fiercest giant.” Then he departed, and the lad thought that
for once, at all events, fortune had been kind to him. When evening had come, the lad called his
dog, and drove the hogs to his home in the forest. When the old woman learnt how her son had
given away the gray hog for a dog, she flew into a great
rage, and gave him a good beating. The lad begged her to be quiet, but it was
of no use, for she only seemed to get the more angry. When the boy saw that it was no good
pleading, he called to the dog– “Hold fast.” The dog at once rushed forward, and, seizing
the old woman, held her so firmly that she could not move; but he did
her no harm. The old woman
now had to promise that she would agree to what her son had done; but
she could not help thinking that she had suffered a great misfortune in
losing her fat gray hog. The next day the boy went once more to the
forest with his dog and the two hogs. When he arrived there he sat down and played
upon his pipe as usual, and the dog danced to the music in
such a wonderful manner that it was quite amazing. While he thus sat, the old man with the gray
beard came up to him out of the forest. He was accompanied by a dog as large
as the former one. When the boy saw the fine animal, he said
to himself– “I wish I had that dog as a companion in this
wood. Then there would be
no danger.” The old man knew what he thought, and said– “I have come to ask you to let me give you
my dog for one of your hogs.” The boy did not hesitate long, but agreed
to the bargain. He got the big
dog, and the man took the hog in exchange. As he went, the old man
said– “I think you will be satisfied with your bargain. The dog is not like
other dogs. He is called Tear, and if you tell him to
tear, tear he will in pieces whatever it be, even the fiercest
mountain giant.” Then he departed, and the boy was glad at
heart, thinking he had made a good bargain, though he well knew his old
mother would not be much pleased at it. Towards evening he went home, and his mother
was not a bit less angry than she had been on the previous day. She dared not beat her son,
however, for his big dogs made her afraid. It usually happens that when
women have scolded enough they at last give in. So it was now. The boy
and his mother became friends once more; but the old woman thought she
had sustained such a loss as could never again be made good. The boy went to the forest again with the
hog and the two dogs. He was
very happy, and, sitting down on the trunk of a tree he played, as
usual, on his pipe; and the dogs danced in such fine fashion that it was
a treat to look at them. While the boy thus sat amusing himself, the
old man with the gray beard again appeared out
of the forest. He had with
him a third dog as large as either of the others. When the boy saw it,
he said to himself– “I wish I had that dog as a companion in this
wood. Then there would be
no danger.” The old man said– “I came because I wished you to see my dog,
for I well know you would like to have him.” The lad was ready enough, and the bargain
was made. So he got the big
dog, giving his last hog for it. The old man then departed, saying– “I think you will be satisfied with your bargain. The dog is not like
other dogs. He is called Quick-ear, and so quick does
he hear, that he knows all that takes place, be it ever so
many miles away. Why, he hears
even the trees and the grass growing in the fields!” Then the old man went off, and the lad felt
very happy, for he thought he had nothing now to be afraid of. As evening came on the boy went home, and
his mother was sorely grieved when she found her son had parted with her
all; but he told her to bid farewell to sorrow, saying that he would see
she had no loss. The lad
spoke so well that the old woman was quite pleased. At daybreak the lad
went out a-hunting with his two dogs, and in the evening he came back
with as much game as he could carry. He hunted till his mother’s larder
was well stocked, then he bade her farewell, telling her he was going to
travel to see what fortune had in store for him, and called his dogs to
him. He travelled on over hills, and along gloomy
roads, till he got deep in a dark forest. There the old man with the gray beard met
him. The lad
was very glad to fall in with him again, and said to him– “Good-day, father. I thank you for our last meeting.” “Good-day,” answered the old man. “Where are you going?” “I am going into the world,” said the boy,
“to see what fortune I shall have.” “Go on,” said the old man, “and you will come
to a royal palace; there you will have a change of fortune.” With that they parted; but the lad paid good
heed to the old man’s words, and kept on his way. When he came to a house, he played on his
pipe while his dogs danced, and so he got food and shelter, and whatever
he wanted. Having travelled for some days, he at last
entered a large city, through the streets of which great crowds
of people were passing. The
lad wondered what was the cause of all this. At last he came to where
proclamation was being made, that whoever should rescue the three
princesses from the hands of the mountain giants should have one of them
for his wife and half the kingdom with her. Then the lad remembered what
the old man had told him, and understood what he meant. He called his
dogs to him, and went on till he came to the palace. There, from the
time that the princesses disappeared, the place had been filled with
sorrow and mourning, and the king and the queen grieved more than all
the others. The boy entered the palace, and begged to
be allowed to play to the king and show him his dogs. The people of the palace were much
pleased at this, for they thought it might do something to make the king
forget his grief. So they let him go in and show what he could
do. When
the king heard how he played, and saw how wonderfully his dogs danced,
he was so merry that no one had seen him so during the seven long years
that had passed since he lost his daughters. When the dancing was
finished, the king asked the boy what he should give him as a return for
the amusement he had given them. “My lord king,” said the boy, “I am not come
here for silver, goods, or gold! I ask one thing of you, that you will give
me leave to go and seek the three princesses who are now in the hands
of the mountain giants.” When the king heard this he knit his brow–“So
you think,” said he, “that you can restore my daughters. The task is a dangerous one, and men
who were better than you have suffered in it. If, however, any one save
the princesses I will never break my word.” The lad thought these words kingly and honest. He bade farewell to the
king and set out, determined that he would not rest till he had found
what he wanted. He travelled through many great countries
without any extraordinary adventure, and wherever he went his dogs went
with him. Quick-ear ran
and heard what there was to hear in the place; Hold-fast carried the
bag; and on Tear, who was the strongest of the three, the lad rode when
he was tired. One day Quick-ear came running fast to his
master to tell him that he had been near a high mountain,
and had heard one of the princesses spinning within it. The giant, Quick-ear said, was not at
home. At this the boy felt very glad, and he made
haste to the mountain with his dogs. When they were come to it, Quick-ear said– “We have no time to lose. The giant is only ten miles away, and I can
hear his horse’s golden shoes beating on the stones.” The lad at once ordered his dogs to break
in the door of the mountain, which they did. He entered, and saw a beautiful maiden who
sat spinning gold thread on a spindle of gold. He stepped forward and spoke to her. She was much astonished, and said–“Who are
you, that dare to come into the giant’s hall? For seven long years have I lived here, and
never during that time have I looked on a human
being. Run away, for Heaven’s
sake, before the giant comes, or you will lose your life.” The boy told her his errand, and said he would
await the troll’s coming. While they were talking, the giant came, riding
on his gold-shod horse, and stopped outside the mountain. When he saw that the door was open he
was very angry, and called out, in such a voice that the whole mountain
shook to its base, “Who has broken open my door?” The boy boldly
answered– “I did it, and now I will break you too. Hold-fast, hold him fast; Tear
and Quick-ear, tear him into a thousand pieces!” Hardly had he spoken the words when the three
dogs rushed forward, threw themselves on the giant, and tore him into
numberless pieces. The
princess was very glad, and said– “Heaven be thanked! Now I am free.” She threw herself on the lad’s neck
and kissed him. The lad would not stop in the place, so he
saddled the giant’s horses, put on them all the goods
and gold he found, and set off with the beautiful young princess. They travelled together for a long
time, the lad waiting on the maiden with that respect and attention that
such a noble lady deserved. It chanced one day that Quick-ear, who had
gone before to obtain news, came running fast to his master and informed
him that he had been to a high mountain, and had heard another of the
king’s daughters sitting within it spinning gold thread. The giant, he said, was not at home. The
lad was well pleased to hear this, and hastened to the mountain with his
three dogs. When they arrived there, Quick-ear said– “We have no time to waste. The giant is but eight miles off. I can hear
the sound of his horse’s gold shoes on the stones!” The lad ordered the dogs to break in the door,
and when they had done so he entered and found a beautiful maiden sitting
in the hall, winding gold thread. The lad stepped forward and spoke to her. She was much
surprised, and said– “Who are you, who dare to come into the giant’s
dwelling? Seven long
years have I lived here, and never during that time have I looked on a
human being. Run away, for Heaven’s sake, before the giant
comes, or you will lose your life.” The lad told her why he had come, and said
he would wait for the giant’s return home. In the midst of their talk the giant came,
riding on his gold-shod horse, and stopped outside the mountain. When he saw the door was open
he was in a great rage, and called out with such a voice that the
mountain shook to its base. “Who,” said he, “has broken open my door?” The lad answered boldly– “I did it, and now I will break you. Hold-fast, hold him fast; Tear and
Quick-ear, tear him into a thousand pieces!” The dogs straightway sprang
forward and threw themselves on the giant, and tore him into pieces as
numberless as are the leaves which fall in the autumn. Then the princess
was very glad, and said– “Heaven be thanked! Now I am free!” She threw herself on the lad’s neck
and kissed him. He led her to her sister, and one can well
imagine how glad they were to meet. The lad took all the treasures that the giant’s
dwelling contained, put them on the gold-shod horses, and set out with
the two princesses. They again travelled a great distance, and
the youth waited on the princesses with the respect and care they
deserved. It chanced one day that Quick-ear, who went
before to get news, came running fast to his master, and told him he
had been near a high mountain, and had heard the third princess
sitting within, spinning cloth of gold. The giant himself was not in. The youth was well pleased
to hear this, and he hurried to the mountain accompanied by his dogs. When they came there, Quick-ear said– “There is no time to be lost. The giant is not more than five miles off. I well know it. I hear the sound of his horse’s gold shoes
on the stones.” The lad told his dogs to break in the door,
and they did so. When he
entered the mountain he saw there a maiden, sitting and weaving cloth of
gold. She was so beautiful that the lad thought
another such could not be found in the world. He advanced and spoke to her. The young princess
was much astonished, and said– “Who are you, who dare to come into the giant’s
hall? For seven long
years have I lived here, and never during that time have I looked on a
human being. For Heaven’s sake,” added she, “run away before
the giant comes, or he will kill you!” The lad, however, was brave, and said that
he would lay down his life for the beautiful princess. In the middle of their talk home came the
giant, riding on his horse with the golden shoes, and stopped at the
mountain. When he came in and
saw what unwelcome visitors were there he was very much afraid, for he
knew what had happened to his brethren. He thought it best to be careful
and cunning, for he dared not act openly. He began therefore with fine
words, and was very smooth and amiable. He told the princess to dress
meat, so that he might entertain the guest, and behaved in such a
friendly manner that the lad was perfectly deceived, and forgot to be on
his guard. He sat down at the table with the giant. The princess wept in
secret, and the dogs were very uneasy, but no one noticed it. When the giant and his guest had finished
the meal, the youth said– “I am no longer hungry. Give me something to drink.” “There is,” said the giant, “a spring up in
the mountain which runs with sparkling wine, but I have no one to fetch
of it.” “If that is all,” said the lad, “one of my
dogs can go up there.” The giant laughed in his false heart when
he heard that, for what he wanted was that the lad should send away his
dogs. The lad told
Hold-fast to go for the wine, and the giant gave him a large jug. The
dog went, but one might see that he did so very unwillingly. Time went on and on, but the dog did not come
back. After some time the
giant said– “I wonder why the dog is so long away. It might, perhaps, be as well to
let another dog go to help him. He has to go a long distance, and the
jug is a heavy one to carry.” The lad, suspecting no trickery, fell in with
the giant’s suggestion, and told Tear to go and see why Hold-fast
did not come. The dog wagged
his tail and did not want to leave his master, but he noticed it, and
drove him off to the spring. The giant laughed to himself, and the
princess wept, but the lad did not mark it, being very merry, jested
with his entertainer, and did not dream of any danger. A long time passed, but neither the wine nor
the dogs appeared. “I can well see,” said the giant, “that your
dogs do not do what you tell them, or we should not sit here thirsty. It seems to me it would be
best to send Quick-ear to ascertain why they don’t come back.” The lad was nettled at that, and ordered his
third dog to go in haste to the spring. Quick-ear did not want to go, but whined and
crept to his master’s feet. Then the lad became angry, and drove him away. The dog
had to obey, so away he set in great haste to the top of the mountain. When he reached it, it happened to him as
it had to the others. There
arose a high wall around him, and he was made a prisoner by the giant’s
sorcery. When all the three dogs were gone, the giant
stood up, put on a different look, and gripped his bright sword
which hung upon the wall. “Now will I avenge my brethren,” said he,
“and you shall die this instant, for you are in my hands.” The lad was frightened, and repented that
he had parted with his dogs. “I will not ask my life,” said he, “for I
must die some day. I only ask
one thing, that I may say my _Paternoster_ and play a psalm on my
pipe. That is the custom in my country.” The giant granted him his wish, but said he
would not wait long. The lad
knelt down, and devoutly said his _Paternoster_, and began to play
upon his pipe so that it was heard over hill and dale. That instant the
magic lost its power, and the dogs were once more set free. They came
down like a blast of wind, and rushed into the mountain. Then the lad
sprang up and cried– “Hold-fast, hold him; Tear and Quick-ear,
tear him into a thousand pieces.” The dogs flew on the giant, and tore him into
countless shreds. Then the
lad took all the treasures in the mountain, harnessed the giant’s
horses to a golden chariot, and made haste to be gone. As may well be imagined, the young princesses
were very glad at being thus saved, and they thanked the lad for having
delivered them from the power of mountain giants. He himself fell deep in love with the youngest
princess, and they vowed to be true and faithful. So they travelled,
with mirth and jest and great gladness, and the lad waited on the
princesses with the respect and care they deserved. As they went on, the
princesses played with the lad’s hair, and each one hung her finger-ring
in his long locks as a keepsake. One day as they were journeying, they came
up with two wanderers who were going the same way. They had on tattered clothes, their feet were
sore, and altogether one would have thought they had come a long
distance. The lad stopped his chariot and asked them
who they were and where they came from. The strangers said they were two princes who
had gone out to look for the three maidens who
had been carried off to the mountains. They had, however, searched in vain, so they
had now to go home more like beggars than princes. When the lad heard that, he had pity on the
two wanderers, and he asked them to go with him in the beautiful chariot. The princes gave him many
thanks for the favour. So they travelled on together till they came
to the land over which the father of the princesses
ruled. Now when the princes heard how the poor lad
had rescued the princesses, they were filled with envy, thinking how they
themselves had wandered to no purpose. They considered how they could get rid of
him, and obtain the honour and rewards for themselves. So one day they suddenly set on
him, seized him by the throat, and nearly strangled him. Then they
threatened to kill the princesses unless they took an oath not to reveal
what they had done, and they, being in the princes’ power, did not dare
to refuse. However, they were very sorry for the youth
who had risked his life for them, and the youngest princess
mourned him with all her heart, and would not be comforted. After having done this, the princes went on
to the king’s demesnes, and one can well imagine how glad the king was
to once more see his three daughters. Meanwhile the poor lad lay in the forest as
if he were dead. He was not,
however, forsaken, for the three dogs lay down by him, kept him warm,
and licked his wounds. They attended to him till he got his breath
again, and came once more to life. When he had regained life and
strength, he began his journey, and came, after having endured many
hardships, to the king’s demesnes, where the princesses lived. When he went into the palace, he marked that
the whole place was filled with mirth and joy, and in the royal hall
he heard dancing and the sound of harps. The lad was much astonished, and asked what
it all meant. “You have surely come from a distance,” said
the servant, “not to know that the king has got back his daughters from
the mountain giants. The
two elder princesses are married to-day.” The lad asked about the youngest princess,
whether she was to be married. The servant said she would have no one, but
wept continually, and no one could find out the reason for her
sorrow. Then the lad was
glad, for he well knew that his love was faithful and true to him. He went up into the guard-room, and sent a
message to the king that a guest had come who prayed that he might add
to the wedding mirth by exhibiting his dogs. The king was pleased, and ordered that the
stranger should be well received. When the lad came into the hall, the wedding
guests much admired his smartness and his manly form, and they all
thought they had never before seen so brave a young man. When the three
princesses saw him they knew him at once, rose from the table, and ran
into his arms. Then the princes thought they had better not
stay there, for the princesses told how the lad had saved
them, and how all had befallen. As a proof of the truth of what they said,
they showed their rings in the lad’s hair. When the king knew how the two foreign princes
had acted so treacherously and basely he was much enraged,
and ordered that they should be driven off his demesnes with disgrace. The brave youth was welcomed with great honour,
as, indeed, he deserved, and he was, the same day, married to the youngest
princess. When the
king died, the youth was chosen ruler over the land, and made a brave
king. There he yet lives with his beautiful queen,
and there he governs prosperously to this day. I know no more about him. THE
LEGEND OF THORGUNNA. A ship from Iceland chanced to winter in a
haven near Helgafels. Among
the passengers was a woman named Thorgunna, a native of the Hebrides,
who was reported by the sailors to possess garments and household
furniture of a fashion far surpassing those used in Iceland. Thurida,
sister of the pontiff Snorro, and wife of Thorodd, a woman of a vain and
covetous disposition, attracted by these reports, made a visit to the
stranger, but could not prevail upon her to display her treasures. Persisting, however, in her inquiries, she
pressed Thorgunna to take up her abode at the house of Thorodd. The Hebridean reluctantly assented,
but added, that as she could labour at every usual kind of domestic
industry, she trusted in that manner to discharge the obligation she
might lie under to the family, without giving any part of her property
in recompense of her lodging. As Thurida continued to urge her request,
Thorgunna accompanied her to Froda, the house of Thorodd, where the
seamen deposited a huge chest and cabinet, containing the property of
her new guest, which Thurida viewed with curious and covetous eyes. So
soon as they had pointed out to Thorgunna the place assigned for her
bed, she opened the chest, and took forth such an embroidered bed
coverlid, and such a splendid and complete set of tapestry hangings, and
bed furniture of English linen, interwoven with silk, as had never been
seen in Iceland. “Sell to me,” said the covetous matron, “this
fair bed furniture.” “Believe me,” answered Thorgunna, “I will
not lie upon straw in order to feed thy pomp and vanity;” an answer which
so greatly displeased Thurida that she never again repeated her request. Thorgunna, to whose character
subsequent events added something of a mystical solemnity, is described
as being a woman of a tall and stately appearance, of a dark complexion,
and having a profusion of black hair. She was advanced in age; assiduous
in the labours of the field and of the loom; a faithful attendant upon
divine worship; grave, silent, and solemn in domestic society. She had
little intercourse with the household of Thorodd, and showed particular
dislike to two of its inmates. These were Thorer, who, having lost a leg
in the skirmish between Thorbiorn and Thorarin the Black, was called
Thorer-Widlegr (wooden-leg), from the substitute he had adopted; and his
wife, Thorgrima, called Galldra-Kinna (wicked sorceress), from her
supposed skill in enchantments. Kiartan, the son of Thurida, a boy of
excellent promise, was the only person of the household to whom
Thorgunna showed much affection; and she was much vexed at times when
the childish petulance of the boy made an indifferent return to her
kindness. After this mysterious stranger had dwelt at
Froda for some time, and while she was labouring in the hay-field with
other members of the family, a sudden cloud from the northern mountain
led Thorodd to anticipate a heavy shower. He instantly commanded the hay-workers to
pile up in ricks the quantity which each had been engaged in turning to
the wind. It was afterwards remembered that Thorgunna
did not pile up her portion, but left it spread on the field. The cloud approached with
great celerity, and sank so heavily around the farm, that it was scarce
possible to see beyond the limits of the field. A heavy shower next
descended, and so soon as the clouds broke away and the sun shone forth
it was observed that it had rained blood. That which fell upon the ricks
of the other labourers soon dried up, but what Thorgunna had wrought
upon remained wet with gore. The unfortunate Hebridean, appalled at the
omen, betook herself to her bed, and was seized with a mortal illness. On the approach of death she summoned Thorodd,
her landlord, and intrusted to him the disposition of her property
and effects. “Let my body,” said she, “be transported to
Skalholt, for my mind presages that in that place shall be founded
the most distinguished church in this island. Let my golden ring be given to the priests
who shall celebrate my obsequies, and do thou
indemnify thyself for the funeral charges out of my remaining effects. To thy wife I bequeath my
purple mantle, in order that, by this sacrifice to her avarice, I may
secure the right of disposing of the rest of my effects at my own
pleasure. But for my bed, with its coverings, hangings,
and furniture, I entreat they may be all consigned to the flames. I do not desire this
because I envy any one the possession of these things after my death,
but because I wish those evils to be avoided which I plainly foresee
will happen if my will be altered in the slightest particular.” Thorodd promised faithfully to execute this
extraordinary testament in the most exact manner. Accordingly, so soon as Thorgunna was dead,
her faithful executor prepared a pile for burning
her splendid bed. Thurida
entered, and learned with anger and astonishment the purpose of these
preparations. To the remonstrances of her husband she answered
that the menaces of future danger were only caused
by Thorgunna’s selfish envy, who did not wish any one should enjoy her
treasures after her decease. Then, finding Thorodd inaccessible to argument,
she had recourse to caresses and blandishments, and at length
extorted permission to separate from the rest of the bed-furniture
the tapestried curtains and coverlid; the rest was consigned to the flames,
in obedience to the will of the testator. The body of Thorgunna, being wrapped in new
linen and placed in a coffin, was next to be transported
through the precipices and morasses of Iceland to the distant district
she had assigned for her place of sepulture. A remarkable incident occurred on the way. The
transporters of the body arrived at evening, late, weary, and drenched
with rain, in a house called Nether-Ness, where the niggard hospitality
of the proprietor only afforded them house-room, without any supply of
food or fuel. But, so soon as they entered, an unwonted
noise was heard in the kitchen of the mansion, and the figure
of a woman, soon recognised to be the deceased Thorgunna, was
seen busily employed in preparing victuals. Their inhospitable landlord, being made acquainted
with this frightful circumstance, readily agreed to supply every
refreshment which was necessary, on which the vision instantly
disappeared. The apparition having become public, they
had no reason to ask twice for hospitality as they proceeded
on their journey, and they came to Skalholt, where Thorgunna, with all
due ceremonies of religion, was deposited quietly in the grave. But the consequences of the breach
of her testament were felt severely at Froda. The dwelling at Froda was a simple and patriarchal
structure, built according to the fashion used by the wealthy
among the Icelanders. The
apartments were very large, and a part boarded off contained the beds of
the family. On either side was a sort of store-room, one
of which contained meal, the other dried fish. Every evening large fires were
lighted in this apartment for dressing the victuals; and the domestics
of the family usually sat around them for a considerable time, until
supper was prepared. On the night when the conductors of Thorgunna’s
funeral returned to Froda, there appeared, visible to all who were
present, a meteor, or spectral appearance, resembling a half-moon, which
glided around the boarded walls of the mansion in an opposite direction
to the course of the sun, and continued to perform its revolutions until
the domestics retired to rest. This apparition was renewed every night
during a whole week, and was pronounced by Thorer with the wooden leg to
presage pestilence or mortality. Shortly after a herdsman showed signs
of mental alienation, and gave various indications of having sustained
the persecution of evil demons. This man was found dead in his bed one
morning, and then commenced a scene of ghost-seeing unheard of in the
annals of superstition. The first victim was Thorer, who had presaged
the calamity. Going out of doors one evening, he was grappled
by the spectre of the deceased shepherd as he attempted
to re-enter the house. His wooden leg stood him in poor stead in
such an encounter; he was hurled to the earth, and so fearfully beaten,
that he died in consequence of the bruises. Thorer was no sooner dead than his ghost
associated itself to that of the herdsman, and joined him in pursuing
and assaulting the inhabitants of Froda. Meantime an infectious disorder
spread fast among them, and several of the bondsmen died one after the
other. Strange portents were seen within-doors, the
meal was displaced and mingled, and the dried fish flung about
in a most alarming manner, without any visible agent. At length, while the servants were forming
their evening circle round the fire, a spectre, resembling the head of a
seal-fish, was seen to emerge out of the pavement of the room, bending
its round black eyes full on the tapestried bed-curtains of Thorgunna. Some of the domestics ventured to strike at
this figure, but, far from giving way, it rather erected itself further
from the floor, until Kiartan, who seemed to have a natural predominance
over these supernatural prodigies, seizing a huge forge-hammer,
struck the seal repeatedly on the head, and compelled it to
disappear, forcing it down into the floor, as if he had driven a stake
into the earth. This prodigy
was found to intimate a new calamity. Thorodd, the master of the family,
had some time before set forth on a voyage to bring home a cargo of
dried fish; but in crossing the river Enna the skiff was lost and he
perished with the servants who attended him. A solemn funeral feast was
held at Froda, in memory of the deceased, when, to the astonishment of
the guests, the apparition of Thorodd and his followers seemed to enter
the apartment dripping with water. Yet this vision excited less horror
than might have been expected, for the Icelanders, though nominally
Christians, retained, among other pagan superstitions, a belief that the
spectres of such drowned persons as had been favourably received by the
goddess Rana were wont to show themselves at their funeral feast. They
saw, therefore, with some composure, Thorodd and his dripping attendants
plant themselves by the fire, from which all mortal guests retreated to
make room for them. It was supposed this apparition would not
be renewed after the conclusion of the festival. But so far were their
hopes disappointed, that, so soon as the mourning guests had departed,
the fires being lighted, Thorodd and his comrades marched in on one
side, drenched as before with water; on the other entered Thorer,
heading all those who had died in the pestilence, and who appeared
covered with dust. Both parties seized the seats by the fire,
while the half-frozen and terrified domestics spent
the night without either light or warmth. The same phenomenon took place the next night,
though the fires had been lighted in a separate house,
and at length Kiartan was obliged to compound matters with the spectres
by kindling a large fire for them in the principal apartment, and one
for the family and domestics in a separate hut. This prodigy continued during the whole
feast of Jol. Other portents also happened to appal this
devoted family: the contagious disease again broke forth,
and when any one fell a sacrifice to it his spectre was sure to join
the troop of persecutors, who had now almost full possession of the
mansion of Froda. Thorgrima
Galldrakinna, wife of Thorer, was one of these victims, and, in short,
of thirty servants belonging to the household, eighteen died, and five
fled for fear of the apparitions, so that only seven remained in the
service of Kiartan. Kiartan had now recourse to the advice of
his maternal uncle Snorro, in consequence of whose counsel, which will perhaps
appear surprising to the reader, judicial measures were instituted
against the spectres. A
Christian priest was, however, associated with Thordo Kausa, son of
Snorro, and with Kiartan, to superintend and sanctify the proceedings. The inhabitants were regularly summoned to
attend upon the inquest, as in a cause between man and man, and the assembly
was constituted before the gate of the mansion, just as the spectres
had assumed their wonted station by the fire. Kiartan boldly ventured to approach them,
and, snatching a brand from the fire, he commanded
the tapestry belonging to Thorgunna to be carried out of doors, set
fire to it, and reduced it to ashes with all the other ornaments of her
bed, which had been so inconsiderately preserved at the request of
Thurida. A tribunal being
then constituted with the usual legal solemnities, a charge was
preferred by Kiartan against Thorer with the wooden leg, by Thordo Kausa
against Thorodd, and by others chosen as accusers against the individual
spectres present, accusing them of molesting the mansion, and
introducing death and disease among its inhabitants. All the solemn
rites of judicial procedure were observed on this singular occasion;
evidence was adduced, charges given, and the cause formally decided. It
does not appear that the ghosts put themselves on their defence, so that
sentence of ejectment was pronounced against them individually in due
and legal form. When Thorer heard the judgment, he arose,
and saying– “I have sat while it was lawful for me to
do so,” left the apartment by the door opposite to that at which the judicial
assembly was constituted. Each of the spectres, as it heard its individual
sentence, left the place, saying something which indicated
its unwillingness to depart, until Thorodd himself was solemnly
called on to leave. “We have here no longer,” said he, “a peaceful
dwelling, therefore will we remove.” Kiartan then entered the hall with his followers,
and the priest, with holy water, and celebration of a solemn mass,
completed the conquest over the goblins, which had been commenced
by the power and authority of the Icelandic law. THE LITTLE GLASS SHOE. A peasant, named John Wilde, who lived in
Rodenkirchen, found, one time, a little glass shoe on one of the hills, where
the little people used to dance. He clapped it instantly in his pocket, and
ran away with it, keeping his hand as close on his pocket as
if he had a dove in it, for he knew he had found a treasure which the
underground people must redeem at any price. Others say that John Wilde lay in ambush one
night for the underground people, and snatched an opportunity to pull
off one of their shoes by stretching himself there with a brandy bottle
beside him, and acting like one that was dead drunk, for he was a
very cunning man, not over scrupulous in his morals, and had taken in
many a one by his craftiness, and, on this account, his name was in no good
repute among his neighbours, who, to say the truth, were willing
to have as little to do with him as possible. Many hold, too, that he was acquainted with
forbidden acts, and used to carry on an intercourse with the fiends and
old women that raised storms, and such like. However, be this as it may, when John had
got the shoe he lost no time in letting the folk that dwell under the ground
know that he had it. At
midnight he went to the Nine-hills, and cried with all his might– “John Wilde of Rodenkirchen has got a beautiful
glass shoe. Who will buy
it? who will buy it?” for he knew that the little one who had lost the
shoe must go barefoot till he got it again; and that is no trifle, for
the little people have generally to walk upon very hard and stony
ground. John’s advertisement was speedily attended
to. The little fellow who had
lost the shoe made no delay in setting about redeeming it. The first
free day he got that he might come out in the daylight, he came as a
respectable merchant, knocked at John Wilde’s door, and asked if John
had not got a glass shoe to sell: “For,” says he, “they are an article now in
great demand, and are sought for in every market.” John replied that it was true that he had
a very pretty little glass shoe; but it was so small that even a dwarf’s
foot would be squeezed in it, and that a person must be made on purpose
to suit it before it could be of use. For all that, it was an extraordinary shoe,
a valuable shoe, and a dear shoe, and it was not every merchant
that could afford to pay for it. The merchant asked to see it, and when he
had examined it– “Glass shoes,” said he, “are not by any means
such rare articles, my good friend, as you think here in Rodenkirchen,
because you do not happen to go much into the world. However,” said he, after humming a
little, “I will give you a good price for it, because I happen to have
the very fellow of it.” He bid the countryman a thousand dollars for
it. “A thousand dollars are money, my father used
to say when he drove fat oxen to market,” replied John Wilde, in a
mocking tone; “but it will not leave my hands for that shabby price, and,
for my own part, it may ornament the foot of my daughter’s doll! Hark ye, my friend, I have
heard a sort of little song sung about the glass shoe, and it is not for
a parcel of dirt it will go out of my hands. Tell me now, my good
fellow, should you happen to know the knack of it, how in every furrow I
make when I am ploughing I may find a ducat? If not, the shoe is still
mine; and you may inquire for glass shoes at those other markets.” The merchant made still a great many attempts,
and twisted and turned in every direction to get the shoe; but when
he found the farmer inflexible, he agreed to what John desired,
and swore to the performance of it. Cunning John believed him, and gave him up
the glass shoe, for he knew right well with whom he had to do. So, the business being ended,
away went the merchant with his glass shoe. Without a moment’s delay John repaired to
his stable, got ready his horses and his plough, and went out to the
field. He selected a piece of
ground where he would have the shortest turns possible, and began to
plough. Hardly had the plough turned up the first
sod when up sprang a ducat out of the ground, and it was the same
with every fresh furrow he made. There was now no end of his ploughing, and
John Wilde soon bought eight new horses, and put them into the stable
to the eight he already had, and their mangers were never without
plenty of oats in them, that he might be able every two hours to yoke two
fresh horses, and so be enabled to drive them the faster. John was now insatiable in ploughing. Every morning he was out before
sunrise, and many a time he ploughed on till after midnight. Summer and
winter it was plough, plough with him ever-more, except when the ground
was frozen as hard as a stone. He always ploughed by himself, and never
suffered any one to go out with him, or to come to him when he was at
work, for John understood too well the nature of his crop to let people
see for what it was he ploughed so constantly. However, it fared far worse with him than
with his horses, who ate good oats, and were regularly changed and relieved,
for he grew pale and meagre by reason of his continual working
and toiling. His wife and
children had no longer any comfort for him. He never went to the
ale-house or to the club. He withdrew himself from every one, and
scarcely ever spoke a single word, but went about silent and wrapped up
in his own thoughts. All the day long he toiled for his ducats,
and at night he had to count them, and to plan and
meditate how he might find out a still swifter kind of plough. His wife and the neighbours lamented over
his strange conduct, his dulness and melancholy, and began to think
he was grown foolish. Everybody pitied his wife and children, for
they imagined the numerous horses that he kept in his stable, and the
preposterous mode of agriculture he pursued, with his unnecessary
and superfluous ploughing, must soon leave him without house or land. Their anticipations, however, were not fulfilled. True it is, the poor
man never enjoyed a happy or contented hour since he began to plough the
ducats up out of the ground. The old saying held good in his case, that
he who gives himself up to the pursuit of gold is half-way in the claws
of the evil one. Flesh and blood cannot bear perpetual labour,
and John Wilde did not long hold out against his running
through the furrows day and night. He got through the first spring; but one day
in the second he dropped down at the tail of the plough like
an exhausted November fly. Out of the pure thirst for gold he was wasted
away and dried up to nothing, whereas he had been a very strong
and hearty man the day the shoe of the little underground man fell into
his hands. His wife, however, found he had left a great
treasure–two great nailed-up chests full of good new ducats;
and his sons purchased large estates for themselves, and became lords and
noblemen. But what good did all that to poor John Wilde? HOW LOKI WAGERED HIS HEAD. Loki, the son of Laufey, out of mischief cut
off all the hair of Sif. When Thor discovered this he seized Loki,
and would have broken every bone in his body, only he swore that he would
get the black dwarfs to make hair of gold for Sif, which should grow
like any other hair. Loki then went to the dwarfs that are called
the sons of Ivallda. They
first made the hair, which, as soon as it was put on the head, grew like
natural hair. Then they made the ship Skidbladnir, which
always had the wind with it wherever it would sail. Lastly, they made the spear Gugner,
which always hit its mark in battle. Then Loki wagered his head against the dwarf
Brock, that his brother, Eitri, could not forge three such valuable
things as these. They went to
the forge. Eitri set the bellows to the fire, and bid
his brother, Brock, blow. While he was blowing there came a fly that
settled on his hand and bit him, but he blew without stopping
till the smith took the work out of the fire, and it was a boar, and
its bristles were of gold. Eitri then put gold into the fire, and bid
his brother not stop blowing till he came back. He went away, and the fly came and settled
on Brock’s neck, and bit him more severely than before,
but he blew on till the smith came back, and took out of the fire
the gold ring which is called Draupnir. Then he put iron into the fire, and bid Brock
blow, and said that if he stopped blowing all the work would be lost. The fly settled between
Brock’s eyes, and bit so hard that the blood ran down so that he could
not see. So, when the bellows were down, he caught
at the fly in all haste, and tore off its wings. When the smith came he said that all that
was in the fire was nearly spoiled. Then he took out of it the hammer,
Mjolnir. He then gave all the things to his brother
Brock, and bade him go with them to Asgard, and settle the wager. Loki produced his articles, and Odin, Thor,
and Frey were the judges. Then Loki gave to Odin the spear Gugner, and
to Thor the hair that Sif was to have, and to Frey Skidbladnir, and
told them what virtues those things possessed. Brock took out his articles, and gave to Odin
the ring, and told him that every ninth night
there would drop from it eight other rings as valuable as itself. To Frey he gave the boar, and said
that it would run through air and water, by night and by day, better
than any horse, and that never was there night so dark that the way by
which he went would not be light from his hide. The hammer he gave to
Thor, and said that it would never fail to hit a troll, and that at
whatever he threw it, it would never miss the mark, and that Thor could
never throw it so far that it would not return to his hand. It would
also, when Thor chose, become so small that he could put it in his
pocket. The only fault of the hammer was that its
handle was a little too short. Their judgment was that the hammer was the
best of all the things before them, and that the dwarf had won his wager. Then Loki prayed hard not to
lose his head, but the dwarf said that could not be. “Catch me, then!” said Loki, and when the
dwarf sought to catch him he was far away, for Loki had shoes with which
he could run through air and water. Then the dwarf prayed Thor to catch him, and
he did so. The dwarf
now proceeded to cut off his head, but Loki objected that he was to have
the head only, and not the neck. As he would not be quiet, the dwarf
took a knife and a thong, and began to sew his mouth up; but the knife
was bad, so the dwarf wished that he had his brother’s awl, and as soon
as he wished it, it was there. So he sewed Loki’s lips together. THE ADVENTURES OF JOHN DIETRICH. There once lived in Rambin an honest, industrious
man, named James Dietrich. He had several children, all of a good disposition,
especially the youngest, whose name was John. John Dietrich was a handsome, smart
boy, diligent at school, and obedient at home. His great passion was for
hearing stories, and whenever he met any one who was well stored he
never let him go till he had heard them all. When John was about eight years old he was
sent to spend a summer with his uncle, a farmer, in Rodenkirchen. Here John had to keep cows with
other boys, and they used to drive them to graze about the Nine-hills. There was an old cowherd, one Klas Starkwolt
who used frequently to join the boys, and then they would sit down together
and tell stories. Klas
abounded in these, and he became John Dietrich’s dearest friend. In
particular, he knew a number of stories of the Nine-hills, and the
underground people in the old times, when the giants disappeared from
the country and the little ones came into the hills. These tales John
swallowed so eagerly that he thought of nothing else, and was for ever
talking of golden cups, and crowns, and glass shoes, and pockets full of
ducats, and gold rings, and diamond coronets, and snow-white brides, and
such like. Old Klas used often to shake his head at him,
and say– “John! John! what are you about? The spade and scythe will be your
sceptre and crown, and your bride will wear a garland of rosemary, and a
gown of striped drill.” Still John almost longed to get into the Nine-hills,
for Klas told him that every one who by luck or cunning should
get a cap of the little ones might go down with safety, and instead
of their making a servant of him, he would be their master. The person whose cap he got would be his
servant, and obey all his commands. St. John’s day, when the days were longest
and the nights shortest, was now come. Old and young kept the holiday, had all sorts
of plays, and told all kinds of stories. John could now no longer contain himself,
but the day after the festival he slipt away to
the Nine-hills, and when it grew dark laid himself down on the top of
the highest of them, where Klas had told him the underground people had
their principal dancing-place. John lay quite still from ten till twelve
at night. At
last it struck twelve. Immediately there was a ringing and a singing
in the hills, and then a whispering and a lisping,
and a whiz and a buzz all about him, for the little people were
now, some whirling round and round in the dance, and others sporting and
tumbling about in the moonshine, and playing a thousand merry pranks
and tricks. He felt a
secret dread come over him at this whispering and buzzing, for he could
see nothing of them, as the caps they wore made them invisible, but he
lay quite still with his face in the grass, and his eyes fast shut,
snoring a little, just as if he were asleep. Now and then he ventured to
open his eyes a little and peep out, but not the slightest trace of them
could he see, though it was bright moonlight. It was not long before three of the underground
people came jumping up to where he was lying, but they took no heed
of him, and flung their brown caps up into the air, and caught them
from one another. At length
one snatched the cap out of the hand of another and flung it away. It
flew direct, and fell upon John’s head. The moment he felt it he caught
hold of it, and, standing up, bid farewell to sleep. He flung his cap
about for joy and made the little silver bell of it jingle, then set it
upon his head, and–oh wonderful! that instant he saw the countless and
merry swarm of the little people. The three little men came slily up to him,
and thought by their nimbleness to get back the cap, but he held
his prize fast, and they saw clearly that nothing was to be done in this
way with him, for in size and strength John was a giant in comparison
with these little fellows, who hardly came up to his knee. The owner of the cap now came up very
humbly to the finder, and begged, in as supplicating a tone as if his
life depended upon it, that he would give him back his cap. “No,” said John, “you sly little rogue, you
will get the cap no more. That’s not the sort of thing one gives away
for buttered cake. I should
be in a nice way with you if I had not something of yours, but now you
have no power over me, but must do what I please. I will go down with
you and see how you live down below, and you shall be my servant. Nay,
no grumbling. You know you must. I know that just as well as you do, for
Klas Starkwolt told it to me often and often!” The little man made as if he had not heard
or understood one word of all this. He began his crying and whining over again,
and wept and screamed and howled most piteously for his little cap. John, however, cut the
matter short by saying– “Have done. You are my servant, and I intend to make a
trip with you.” So he gave up, especially as the others told
him there was no remedy. John now flung away his old hat, and put on
the cap, and set it firm on his head lest it should slip off or fly away,
for all his power lay in the cap. He lost no time in trying its virtues, and
commanded his new servant to fetch him food and drink. The servant ran away like the wind,
and in a second was there again with bottles of wine, and bread, and
rich fruits. So John ate and drank, and looked at the sports
and dancing of the little ones, and it pleased him right
well, and he behaved himself stoutly and wisely, as if he had been
a born master. When the cock had now crowed for the third
time, and the little larks had made their first twirl in the sky, and
the infant light appeared in solitary white streaks in the east, then it
went hush, hush, hush, through the bushes and flowers and stalks,
and the hills rent again, and opened up, and the little men went down. John gave close attention to
everything, and found that it was exactly as he had been told, and,
behold! on the top of the hill, where they had just been dancing, and
where all was full of grass and flowers, as people see it by day, there
rose of a sudden, when the retreat was sounded, a bright glass point. Whoever wanted to go in stepped upon this. It opened, and he glided
gently in, the grass closing again after him; and when they had all
entered it vanished, and there was no further trace of it to be seen. Those who descended through the glass point
sank quite gently into a wide silver tun, which held them all, and
could have easily harboured a thousand such little people. John and his man went down into such a one
along with several others, all of whom screamed out, and prayed him not
to tread on them, for if his weight came on them they were dead men. He
was, however, careful, and acted in a very friendly way towards them. Several tuns of this kind went up and down
after each other, until all were in. They hung by long silver chains, which were
drawn and hung without. In his descent John was amazed at the brilliancy
of the walls between which the tun glided down. They were all, as it were, beset with pearls
and diamonds, glittering and sparkling brightly, and below him he heard
the most beautiful music tinkling at a distance, so that he did not know
what was become of him, and from excess of pleasure he fell fast asleep. He slept a long time, and when he awoke he
found himself in the most beautiful bed that could be, such as he had
never seen the like of in his father’s house, and it was in the prettiest
chamber in the world, and his servant was beside him with a fan
to keep away the flies and gnats. He had hardly opened his eyes when his little
servant brought him a basin and towel, and held him the nicest
new clothes of brown silk to put on, most beautifully made. With these was a pair of new black shoes
with red ribbons, such as John had never beheld in Rambin or in
Rodinkirchen either. There were also there several pairs of beautiful
shining glass shoes, such as are only used on great occasions. John was,
as we may well suppose, delighted to have such clothes to wear, and he
put them upon him joyfully. His servant then flew like lightning, and
returned with a breakfast of wine and milk, and beautiful white bread
and fruits, and such other things as boys are fond of. He now perceived
every moment more and more, that Klas Starkwolt, the old cowherd, knew
what he was talking about, for the splendour and magnificence he saw
here surpassed anything he had ever dreamt of. His servant, too, was the
most obedient one possible, a nod or a sign was enough for him, for he
was as wise as a bee, as all these little people are by nature John’s
bedchamber was all covered with emeralds and other precious stones, and
in the ceiling was a diamond as big as a nine-pin bowl, that gave light
to the whole chamber. In this place they have neither sun nor moon
nor stars to give them light, neither do they
use lamps or candlesticks of any kind, but they live in the midst of precious
stones, and have the purest of gold and silver in abundance, and
the skill to make it light both by day and night, though indeed, properly
speaking, as there is no sun there, there is no distinction between
day and night, and they reckon only by weeks. They set the brightest and clearest precious
stones in their dwellings, and in the ways and passages leading
underground, and in the places where they had their large halls, and
their dances and their feasts, where they sparkled so as to make it
eternal day. When John had finished breakfast, his servant
opened a little door in the wall, where was a closet with the most
beautiful silver and gold cups and dishes and other vessels and baskets
filled with ducats and boxes of jewels and precious stones. There were also charming pictures,
and the most delightful books he had seen in the whole course of his
life. John spent the morning looking at these things,
and when it was midday a bell rang, and his servant said– “Will you dine alone, sir, or with the large
company?” “With the large company, to be sure,” replied
John. So his servant led
him out. John, however, saw nothing but solitary halls
lighted up with precious stones, and here and there little
men and women, who appeared to him to glide in and out of the clefts and
fissures of the rocks. Wondering what it was the bells rang for,
he said to his servant– “But where is the company?” Scarcely had he spoken when the hall they
were in opened out to a great extent, and a canopy set with diamonds and
precious stones was drawn over it. At the same moment he saw an immense throng
of nicely dressed little men and women pouring in through several
open doors. The floor
opened in several places, and tables, covered with the most beautiful
ware, and the most luscious meats and fruits and wines, placed
themselves beside each other, and the chairs arranged themselves along
the tables, and then the men and women took their seats. The principal persons now came forward and
bowed to John, and led him to their table, where they placed him among their
most beautiful maidens, a distinction which pleased John well. The party, too, was very merry, for
the underground people are extremely lively and cheerful, and can never
stay long quiet. Then the most charming music sounded over
their heads, and beautiful birds, flying about, sang most
sweetly, and these were not real birds but artificial ones which the little
men make so ingeniously that they can fly about and sing like natural
ones. The servants of both sexes who waited at table
and handed about the golden cups, and the silver and crystal baskets
with fruit, were children belonging to this world, whom some
casualty or other had thrown among the underground people, and who, having
come down without securing any pledge, were fallen into the power of
the little ones. These were
differently clad. The boys and girls were dressed in short white
coats and jackets, and wore glass shoes so fine
that their step could never be heard, with blue caps on their heads, and
silver belts round their waists. John at first pitied them, seeing how they
were forced to run about and wait on the little people, but as they looked
cheerful and happy, and were handsomely dressed, and had such rosy
cheeks, he said to himself–“After all, they are not so badly
off, and I was myself much worse when I had to be running after the cows
and bullocks. To be sure I
am now a master here, and they are servants, but there is no help for
it. Why were they so foolish as to let themselves
be taken and not get some pledge beforehand? At any rate the time must come when they will
be set at liberty, and they will certainly not
be longer than fifty years here.” With these thoughts he consoled himself, and
sported and played away with his little play-fellows, and ate, and
drank, and made his servant tell him stories, for he would know everything
exactly. They sat at table about two hours. The principal person then rang a
bell, and the tables and chairs all vanished in a whiff, leaving all the
company on their feet. The birds now struck up a most lively air,
and the little people danced their rounds most
merrily. When they were done,
the joyous sets jumped and leaped, and whirled themselves round and
round, as if the world was grown dizzy. The pretty girls who sat next
John caught hold of him and whirled him about, and, without making any
resistance, he danced round and round with them for two good hours. Every afternoon while he remained there he
used to dance thus merrily with them, and, to the last hour of his life,
he used to speak of it with the greatest glee. His language was–that the joys of heaven
and the songs and music of the angels, which the
righteous hope to enjoy there, might be excessively beautiful, but
that he could conceive nothing to surpass the music and the dancing
under the earth, the beautiful and lively little men, the wonderful
birds in the branches, and the tinkling silver bells in their caps. “No one,” said he, “who has not seen and heard
it, can form any idea whatever of it.” When the music and dancing were over it might
be about four o’clock. The
little people then disappeared, and went each about his own business or
pleasure. After supper they sported and danced in the
same way, and at midnight, especially on star-light nights,
they slipped out of their hills to dance in the open air. John used then to say his prayers, a
duty he never neglected either in the evening or in the morning, and go
to sleep. For the first week John was in the glass hill,
he only went from his chamber to the great hall and back again. After the first week, however,
he began to walk about, making his servant show and explain everything
to him. He found that there were in that place the
most beautiful walks in which he might ramble about for miles,
in all directions, without ever finding an end to them, so immensely
large was the hill in which the little people lived, and yet outwardly
it seemed but a little place, with a few bushes and trees growing on it. It was extraordinary that, between the meads
and fields, which were thick sown with hills and lakes and islands,
and ornamented with trees and flowers in great variety, there ran, as
it were, small lanes, through which, as through crystal rocks, one
was obliged to pass to come to any new place; and the single meads and
fields were often a mile long, and the flowers were so brilliant and
so fragrant, and the songs of the numerous birds so sweet, that John
had never seen anything on earth like it. There was a breeze, and yet one did not feel
the wind. It
was quite clear and bright, and yet there was no heat. The waves were
dashing, still there was no danger, and the most beautiful little barks
and canoes came, like white swans, when one wanted to cross the water,
and went backwards and forwards of themselves. Whence all this came no
one knew, nor could John’s servant tell anything about it, but one thing
John saw plainly, which was, that the large carbuncles and diamonds that
were set in the roof and walls gave light instead of the sun, moon, and
stars. These lovely meads and plains were, for the
most part, all lonesome. Few
of the underground people were to be seen upon them, and those that were
just glided across them as if in the greatest hurry. It very rarely
happened that any of them danced out there in the open air. Sometimes
about three of them did so, or, at the most, half a dozen. John never
saw a greater number together. The meads were never cheerful except when
the servants, of whom there might be some hundreds, were let out to
walk. This, however, happened but twice a week,
for they were mostly kept employed in the great hall and adjoining
apartments or at school. For John soon found they had schools there
also. He had been there about
ten months when one day he saw something snow-white gliding into a rock
and disappearing. “What!” said he to his servant, “are there
some of you that wear white like the servants?” He was informed that there were, but they
were few in number, and never appeared at the large tables or the dances,
except once a year, on the birthday of the great Hill-king, who dwelt
many thousand miles below in the great deep. These were the oldest among them, some of
them many thousand years old, who knew all things and
could tell of the beginning of the world, and were called the Wise. They lived all alone, and only
left their chambers to instruct the underground children and the
attendants of both sexes, for whom there was a great school. John was much pleased with this intelligence,
and he determined to take advantage of it; so next morning he made his
servant conduct him to the school, and was so well pleased with it that
he never missed a day going there. They were there taught reading, writing, and
accounts, to compose and relate histories, stories, and many elegant
kinds of work, so that many came out of the hills, both men and women,
very prudent and knowing people in consequence of what they were taught
there. The biggest, and
those of best capacity, received instruction in natural science and
astronomy, and in poetry and in riddle-making, arts highly esteemed
among the little people. John was very diligent, and soon became a
most clever painter and drawer. He wrought, too, most ingeniously in gold
and silver and stones, and in verse and riddle-making
he had no fellow. John had spent many a happy year here without
ever thinking of the upper world, or of those he had left behind, so
pleasantly passed the time–so many agreeable companions had he. Of all of them there was none of whom he was
so fond as of a fair-haired girl named Elizabeth Krabbe. She was from his own village, and was the
daughter of Frederick Krabbe, the minister of Rambin. She was but four
years old when she was taken away, and John had often heard tell of her. She was not, however, stolen by the little
people, but had come into their power in this manner. One day in summer she and other children ran
out into the fields. In their rambles they went to the Nine-hills,
where little Elizabeth fell asleep, and was forgotten
by the rest. At night
when she awoke, she found herself under the ground among the little
people. It was not merely because she was from his
own village that John was so fond of Elizabeth, but she was very
beautiful, with clear blue eyes and ringlets of fair hair, and a most
angelic smile. Time flew away
unperceived. John was now eighteen, and Elizabeth sixteen. Their
childish fondness was now become love, and the little people were
pleased to see it, thinking that by means of her they might get John to
renounce his power, and become their servant, for they were fond of him,
and would willingly have had him to wait upon them, for the love of
dominion is their vice. They were, however, mistaken. John had learned
too much from his servant to be caught in that way. John’s chief delight was walking about with
Elizabeth, for he now knew every place so well that he could dispense
with the attendance of his servant. In these rambles he was always gay and lively,
but his companion was frequently sad and melancholy,
thinking on the land above, where men live, and where the sun, moon, and
stars shine. Now it
happened in one of their walks, as they talked of their love, and it was
after midnight, they passed under the place where the tops of the glass
hills used to open and let the underground people in and out. As they
went along, they heard of a sudden the crowing of several cocks above. At this sound, which she had not heard for
several years, Elizabeth felt her heart so affected that she could contain
herself no longer, but throwing her arms about John’s neck, she bathed
his cheek with her tears. At length she said– “Dearest John, everything down here is very
beautiful, and the little people are kind and do nothing to injure me,
but still I have been always uneasy, nor ever felt any pleasure
till I began to love you; and yet that is not pure pleasure, for this is
not a right way of living, such as is fit for human beings. Every night I dream of my father and
mother, and of our churchyard where the people stand so pious at the
church door waiting for my father, and I could weep tears of blood that
I cannot go into the church with them and worship God as a human being
should, for this is no Christian life we lead down here, but a delusive
half-heathen one. And only think, dear John, that we can never
marry, as there is no priest to join us. Do, then, plan some way for us to leave
this place, for I cannot tell you how I long to get once more to my
father, and among pious Christians.” John, too, had not been unaffected by the
crowing of the cocks, and he felt what he had never felt there before,
a longing after the land where the sun shines. “Dear Elizabeth,” said he, “all you say is
true, and I now feel it is a sin for Christians to stay here, and it seems
to me as if our Lord said to us in that cry of the cocks, ‘Come up,
ye Christian children, out of those abodes of illusion and magic. Come to the light of the stars, and
act as children of the light.’ I now feel that it was a great sin for me
to come down here, but I trust I shall be forgiven on account of my
youth, for I was only a boy, and knew not what I did. But now I will not
stay a day longer. They cannot keep _me_ here.” At these last words Elizabeth turned pale,
for she recollected that she was a servant, and must serve her fifty years. “And what will it avail me,” cried she, “that
I shall continue young, and be but as of twenty years when I go out,
for my father and mother will be dead, and all my companions old and
grey; and you, dearest John, will be old and grey also,” cried she, throwing
herself on his bosom. John was thunderstruck at this, for it had
never before occurred to him. He, however, comforted her as well as he could,
and declared he would never leave the place without her. He spent the whole night in forming
various plans. At last he fixed on one, and in the morning
he despatched his servant to summon to his apartment six
of the principal of the little people. When they came, John thus mildly addressed
them– “My friends, you know how I came here, not
as a prisoner or servant, but as a lord and master over one of you, and
of consequence over all. You
have now for the ten years I have been with you treated me with respect
and attention, and for that I am your debtor. But you are still more my
debtors, for I might have given you every sort of vexation and
annoyance, and you must have submitted to it. I have, however, not done
so, but have behaved as your equal, and have sported and played with you
rather than ruled over you. I have now one request to make. There is a
girl among your servants whom I love, Elizabeth Krabbe, of Rambin, where
I was born. Give her to me and let us depart, for I will
return to where the sun shines and the plough goes through
the land. I ask to take
nothing with me but her and the ornaments and furniture of my chamber.” He spoke in a determined tone, and they hesitated
and cast their eyes upon the ground. At last the oldest of them replied– “Sir, you ask what we cannot grant. It is a fixed law that no servant
can leave this place before the appointed time. Were we to break through
this law our whole subterranean empire would fall. Anything else you
desire, for we love and respect you, but we cannot give up Elizabeth.” “You can, and you shall, give her up!” cried
John in a rage. “Go, think
of it till to-morrow. Return then at this hour. I will show you whether
or not I can triumph over your hypocritical and cunning stratagems.” The six retired. Next morning, on their return, John addressed
them in the kindest manner, but to no purpose. They persisted in their refusal. He gave them till the next day, threatening
them severely in case they still proved refractory. Next day, when the six little people appeared
before him, John looked at them sternly, and made no return to their
salutations, but said to them shortly– “Yes, or No?” They answered, with one voice, “No.” He then ordered his servant to
summon twenty-four more of the principal persons, with their wives and
children. When they came they were in all five hundred
men, women, and children. John ordered them forthwith to go and fetch
pick-axes, spades, and bars, which they did in a second. He now led them out to a rock in one of the
fields, and ordered them to fall to work at blasting, hewing, and dragging
stones. They toiled
patiently, and made as if it were only sport to them. From morning till night their task-master
made them labour without ceasing, standing over them constantly to
prevent them resting. Still
their obstinacy was inflexible, and at the end of some weeks his pity
for them was so great that he was obliged to give over. He now thought of a new species of punishment
for them. He ordered them
to appear before him next morning, each provided with a new whip. They
obeyed, and John commanded them to lash one another, and he stood
looking on while they did it, as grim and cruel as an Eastern tyrant. Still the little people cut and slashed themselves
and mocked at John, and refused to comply with his wishes. This he did for three or four
days. Several other courses did he try, but all
in vain. His temper was too
gentle to struggle with their obstinacy, and he commenced to despair of
ever accomplishing his dearest wish. He began now to hate the little
people of whom he had before been so fond. He kept away from their
banquets and dances, and associated with none but Elizabeth, and ate and
drank quite solitary in his chamber. In short, he became almost a
hermit, and sank into moodiness and melancholy. While in this temper, as he was taking a solitary
walk in the evening, and, to divert his melancholy, was flinging
the stones that lay in his path against each other, he happened to break
a tolerably large one, and out of it jumped a toad. The moment John saw the ugly animal he caught
him up in ecstasy, and put him in his pocket and ran home, crying– “Now I have her! I have my Elizabeth! Now you shall get it, you little
mischievous rascals!” On getting home he put the toad into a costly
silver casket, as if it was the greatest treasure. To account for John’s joy, you must know that
Klas Starkwolt had often told him that the underground people could
not endure any ill smell, and that the sight, or even the smell, of a toad
made them faint, and suffer the most dreadful tortures, and that by means
of one of those odious animals one could compel them to do anything. Hence there are no bad
smells to be found in the whole glass empire, and a toad is a thing
unheard of there. This toad must certainly have been enclosed
in the stone from the creation, as it were, for the
sake of John and Elizabeth. Resolved to try the effect of his toad, John
took the casket under his arm and went out, and on the way he met two
of the little people in a lonesome place. The moment he approached they fell to the
ground, and whimpered and howled most lamentably as long
as he was near them. Satisfied now of his power, he, the next morning,
summoned the fifty principal persons, with their wives and children,
to his apartment. When
they came he addressed them, reminding them once again of his kindness
and gentleness towards them, and of the good terms on which they had
hitherto lived. He reproached them with their ingratitude
in refusing him the only favour he had ever asked of them,
but firmly declared that he would not give way to their obstinacy. “Therefore,” said he, “for the last time,
think for a minute, and if you then say ‘No,’ you shall feel that pain which
is to you and your children the most terrible of all pains.” They did not take long to deliberate, but
unanimously replied “No”; and they thought to themselves, “What new scheme
has the youth hit on with which he thinks to frighten wise ones like
us?” and they smiled as they said “No.” Their smiling enraged John above all, and
he ran back a few hundred paces to where he had laid the casket
with the toad under a bush. He was hardly come within a few hundred paces
of them when they all fell to the ground as if struck with a thunderbolt,
and began to howl and whimper, and to writhe, as if suffering the
most excruciating pain. They
stretched out their hands, and cried– “Have mercy, have mercy! We feel you have a toad, and there is no escape
for us. Take the odious beast away, and we will do
all you require.” He let them kick a few seconds longer, and
then took the toad away. They
then stood up and felt no more pain. John let all depart but the six
chief persons, to whom he said– “This night, between twelve and one, Elizabeth
and I will depart. Load
then for me three waggons with gold and silver and precious stones. I
might, you know, take all that is in the hill, and you deserve it; but I
will be merciful. Further, you must put all the furniture of
my chamber in two waggons, and get ready for me the handsomest
travelling carriage that is in the hill, with six black horses. Moreover, you must set at
liberty all the servants who have been so long here that on earth they
would be twenty years old and upwards; and you must give them as much
silver and gold as will make them rich for life, and make a law that no
one shall be detained here longer than his twentieth year.” The six took the oath, and went away quite
melancholy; and John buried his toad deep in the ground. The little people laboured hard, and
prepared everything. At midnight everything was out of the hill;
and John and Elizabeth got into the silver tun,
and were drawn up. It was then one o’clock, and it was midsummer,
the very time that, twelve years before, John had gone down into
the hill. Music sounded
around them, and they saw the glass hill open, and the rays of the light
of heaven shine on them after so many years. And when they got out, they
saw the first streaks of dawn already in the east. Crowds of the
underground people were around them, busied about the waggons. John bid
them a last farewell, waved his brown cap three times in the air, and
then flung it among them. At the same moment he ceased to see them. He
beheld nothing but a green hill, and the well-known bushes and fields,
and heard the town-clock of Rambin strike two. When all was still, save
a few larks, who were tuning their morning songs, they all fell on their
knees and worshipped God, resolving henceforth to live a pious and a
Christian life. When the sun rose, John arranged the procession,
and they set out for Rambin. Every well-known object that they saw awoke
pleasing recollections in the bosom of John and his
bride; and as they passed by Rodenkirchen, John recognised, among the people
that gazed at and followed them, his old friend Klas Starkwolt,
the cowherd, and his dog Speed. It was about four in the morning when they
entered Rambin, and they halted in the middle of the village,
about twenty paces from the house where John was born. The whole village poured out to gaze on these
Asiatic princes, for such the old sexton, who had in his youth been at
Constantinople and at Moscow, said they were. There John saw his father
and mother, and his brother Andrew, and his sister Trine. The old
minister Krabbe stood there too, in his black slippers and white
nightcap, gaping and staring with the rest. John discovered himself to his parents, and
Elizabeth to hers; and the wedding-day was soon fixed. And such a wedding was never seen before or
since in the island of Rügen, for John sent to Stralsund and Greifswald
for whole boat-loads of wine and sugar and coffee; and whole herds of
oxen, sheep, and pigs were driven to the feast. The quantity of harts
and roes and hares that were shot upon the occasion it were vain to
attempt to tell, or to count the fish that was caught. There was not a
musician in Rügen or in Pomerania that was not engaged, for John was
immensely rich, and he wished to display his wealth. John did not neglect his old friend Klas Starkwolt,
the cowherd. He gave
him enough to make him comfortable for the rest of his days, and
insisted on his coming and staying with him as often and as long as he
wished. After his marriage John made a progress through
the country with his wife; and he purchased towns and villages
and lands until he became master of nearly half Rügen and a very considerable
Count in the country. His father, old James Dietrich, was made a
nobleman, and his brothers and sisters gentlemen and ladies–for
what cannot money do? John and his wife spent their days in doing
acts of piety and charity. They built several churches, and had the blessing
of every one that knew them, and died universally lamented. It was Count John Dietrich that
built and richly endowed the present church of Rambin. He built it on
the site of his father’s house, and presented to it several of the cups
and plates made by the underground people, and his own and Elizabeth’s
glass-shoes, in memory of what had befallen them in their youth. But
they were taken away in the time of the great Charles the Twelfth of
Sweden, when the Russians came on the island and the Cossacks plundered
even the churches, and took away everything. HOW THORSTON BECAME RICH. When spring came Thorston made ready his ship
and put twenty-four men on board of her. When they came to Finland they ran her into
a harbour, and every day he went on shore to amuse himself. He came one day to an open part of the wood,
where he saw a great rock, and a little way out from it was a horribly
ugly dwarf. He was looking
over his head, with his mouth wide open, and it appeared to Thorston
that it stretched from ear to ear, and that the lower jaw came down to
his knees. Thorston asked him why he acted so foolishly. “Do not be surprised, my good lad,” answered
the dwarf, “do you not see that great dragon that is flying up there? He has taken off my son, and
I believe that it is Odin himself that has sent the monster to do it. I
shall burst and die if I lose my son.” Then Thorston shot at the dragon, and hit
him under one of the wings, so that he fell dead to the earth; but Thorston
caught the dwarf’s child in the air, and brought him to his father. The dwarf was very glad, more rejoiced than
any one can tell, and he said– “I have to reward you for a great service,
you who are the deliverer of my son. Now choose your reward in silver or gold.” “Take your son,” said Thorston; “but I am
not used to accept rewards for my services.” “It would not be becoming,” said the dwarf,
“if I did not reward you. I
will give you my vest of sheep’s wool. Do not think it is a contemptible
gift, for you will never be tired when swimming, or wounded, if you wear
it next your skin.” Thorston took it and put it on, and it fitted
him well, though it had appeared too small for the dwarf. The dwarf next took a gold ring out of his
purse and gave it to Thorston, and bade him take good care of it,
telling him he should never want money while he had the ring. Next he gave him a black stone, and said– “If you hide this stone in the palm of your
hand no one will see you. I
have not many more things to offer you, or that would be of any value to
you. I will, however, give you a firestone for
your amusement.” He took the stone out of his purse, and with
it a steel point. The stone
was triangular, white on one side and red on the other, and a yellow
border ran round it. The dwarf said– “If you prick the stone with the point in
the white side there will come on such a hailstorm that no one will be able
to look at it. If you want
to stop the shower you have only to prick on the yellow part, and there
will come so much sunshine that the hail will melt away. If you prick
the red side then there will come out of it such fire, with sparks and
crackling, that no one will be able to look at it. You may also get
whatever you will by means of this point and stone, and they will come
of themselves back to your hand when you call them. I can give you no
more of such gifts.” Thorston then thanked the dwarf for his presents,
and returned to his men; and it was better for him to have made
that voyage than to have stayed at home. GUDBRAND. There was once upon a time a man who was called
Gudbrand. He had a farm
which lay far away on a hill, and he was therefore known as Gudbrand of
the Hillside. He and his wife lived so happily together,
and were so well matched, that do what the man would his
wife was well pleased, thinking nothing in the world could be better. Whatever he did she was
satisfied. The farm was their own, and they had a hundred
dollars which lay in a box, and in the stall they had two
cows. One day the woman said to Gudbrand. “I think it would be well to take one of the
cows to town and sell it, and so we shall have some money at hand. We are such fine folk that we
ought to have a little ready money, as other people have. As for the
hundred dollars which lie in the chest, we must not make a hole in them,
but I do not see why we should keep more than one cow. We shall, too,
gain something, for I shall then have only to look after one cow,
instead of having to litter and feed two.” This Gudbrand thought was right and reasonable,
so he took the cow, and set off to town to sell it. When he arrived there he could find no one
who would buy the beast. “Well, well,” said he, “I can go home again
with the cow. I have stall
and litter for her, and the road home is no longer than the road here.” So he began to go homewards again. When he had gone a little distance he met
a man who had a horse he wanted to sell. So Gudbrand thought it was better to have
a horse than a cow, and exchanged with him. He went on a bit further, and met a man
walking along driving a fat pig before him, and he thought it would be
better to have a fat pig than a horse. So he exchanged with the man. He
went on a bit further, and met a man with a goat. A goat, he thought,
was better than a pig. So he exchanged with him. He went on a good bit
further till he met a man who had a sheep, and he exchanged with him,
for he thought a sheep was always better than a goat. He went on again,
and met a man with a goose. So he exchanged the sheep for the goose. Then he went a long, long way, and met a man
with a cock. So he gave the
goose for the cock, for he thought to himself– “It is better to have a cock than a goose.” He walked on till late in the day, and then
as he was getting hungry he sold the cock for twelve shillings, and bought
something to eat, for, thought Gudbrand of the Hillside– “It is better to save one’s life than have
a cock.” Then he walked on homeward till he came to
the house of his nearest neighbour, and there he looked in. “Well, how did you get on at the town?” asked
the neighbour. “Only so and so,” said the man. “I cannot say I have had good or bad
luck,” and then he began and told them all that had happened. “Well,” said the neighbour, “you will catch
it when you get home to your wife. Heaven help you! I would not stand in your shoes.” “I think things might have been much worse,”
said Gudbrand of the Hillside; “but whether things have gone well
or badly, I have such a gentle wife that she never says anything,
do what I will.” “Ah,” said the neighbour, “I hear what you
say, but I don’t believe it.” “Shall we make a bet?” said Gudbrand. “I have a hundred dollars lying at
home in a chest, will you lay as much?” The neighbour was willing, so the bet was
made. They waited till
evening, and then set out for Gudbrand’s house. The neighbour stood
outside the door, while Gudbrand went inside to his wife. “Good evening,” said Gudbrand, when he was
inside. “Good evening,” said his wife. “Heaven be praised. Is it you?” Yes, it was he. His wife then asked him how things went at
the town. “Oh, but so-so,” said Gudbrand, “not much
to boast of. When I came to
the town I could find no one to buy the cow, so I exchanged it for a
horse.” “Thanks for that!” said the wife; “we are
such fine folk that we can ride to church the same as other people, and
as we can keep a horse we might as well have one. Go and put the horse up, children.” “But,” said Gudbrand, “I have not got the
horse. After I had gone a bit
further I exchanged it for a pig.” “Well, well,” said his wife, “that was good. I should have done the
same. Thanks for that! now I shall have meat in
the house to put before folk when they come to see me. What could we do with a horse? People
would only have said that we had got too proud to walk to church. Go
along, children, and put the pig in the sty.” “But I have not got the pig either,” said
Gudbrand. “When I had gone on
a bit further I exchanged it for a milch goat.” “Bless me,” said the wife, “you do everything
well! When I think of it,
what could we have done with a pig? Folk would only have said we eat up
all we had. Now we have a goat we shall have milk and
cheese, and we shall have the goat too. Run, children, and put up the goat.” “But I have not got the goat,” said Gudbrand. “I went on a bit, and
exchanged it for a fine sheep.” “Well,” said the wife, “you have done just
what I should have wished–just as if I had done it myself. What did we want a goat for? I
should have had to go over hill and dale after it. Now we have a sheep
I shall have wool and clothes in the house, and food as well. Go,
children, and put up the sheep.” “But I have not got the sheep either,” said
Gudbrand. “I went on a
while, and then I exchanged it for a goose.” “You shall have thanks for that,” said the
wife, “many thanks! What
would we have done with a sheep? I have no spinning-wheel nor distaff,
and I should not care to bother about making clothes. We can buy
clothes, as we have always done. Now we shall have roast goose, which I
have so often wished for, and I shall be able to stuff my little pillow
with the down. Go and bring in the goose, children.” “But,” said Gudbrand, “I have not got the
goose either. When I had gone
a bit further I gave it in exchange for a cock.” “Heaven knows,” said his wife, “how you thought
all this out so well! It
is just what I should have done myself. A cock! why it is just the same
as if you had bought an eight-day clock, for the cock crows at four
o’clock every morning, so we shall be able to get up in good time. What
could we have done with a goose? I don’t know how to cook it, and I can
stuff my pillow with moss. Run and fetch the cock in, children.” “But,” said Gudbrand, “I have not got the
cock either. When I had gone a
bit further I got hungry, and so I sold the cock for twelve shillings so
that I might live.” “Thank God you did so,” said his wife; “whatever
you do you do it just as I should have wished. What could we have done with a cock? We are our
own masters, and can lie in bed in the morning as late as we please. Thank Heaven you have come back again safe. You do everything so well
that we can well spare the cock, the goose, the pig, and the cow.” Then Gudbrand opened the door. “Have I won the hundred dollars?” said he,
and the neighbour was obliged to own that
he had. THE DWARF-SWORD TIRFING. Suaforlami, the second in descent from Odin,
was king over Gardarike (Russia). One day he rode a-hunting, and sought long
after a hart, but could not find one the whole day. When the sun was setting, he found
himself plunged so deep in the forest that he knew not where he was. On
his right hand he saw a hill, and before it he saw two dwarfs. He drew
his sword against them, and cut off their retreat by getting between
them and the rock. They offered him ransom for their lives, and
he asked them their names, and they said that one of
them was called Dyren and the other Dualin. Then he knew that they were the most ingenious
and the most expert of all the dwarfs, and he therefore
demanded that they should make for him a sword, the best that
they could form. Its hilt was
to be of gold, and its belt of the same metal. He moreover commanded
that the sword should never miss a blow, should never rust, that it
should cut through iron and stone as through a garment, and that it
should always be victorious in war and in single combat. On these
conditions he granted the dwarfs their lives. At the time appointed he came, and the dwarfs
appearing, they gave him the sword. When Dualin stood at the door, he said– “This sword shall be the bane of a man every
time it is drawn, and with it shall be perpetrated three of the greatest
atrocities, and it will also prove thy bane.” Suaforlami, when he heard that, struck at
the dwarf, so that the blade of the sword penetrated the solid rock. Thus Suaforlami became possessed
of this sword, and he called it Tirfing. He bore it in war and in single
combat, and with it he slew the giant Thiasse, whose daughter Fridur he
took. Suaforlami was soon after slain by the Berserker
Andgrim, who then became master of the sword. When the twelve sons of Andgrim were to
fight with Hialmar and Oddur for Ingaborg, the beautiful daughter of
King Inges, Angantyr bore the dangerous Tirfing, but all the brethren
were slain in the combat, and were buried with their arms. Angantyr left an only daughter, Hervor, who,
when she grew up, dressed herself in man’s attire, and took the name
of Hervardar, and joined a party of Vikinger, or pirates. Knowing that Tirfing lay buried with her
father, she determined to awaken the dead, and obtain the charmed blade. She landed alone, in the evening, on the Island
of Sams, where her father and uncles lay in their sepulchral
mounds, and ascending by night to their tombs, that were enveloped in flame,
she, by the force of entreaty, obtained from the reluctant Angantyr
the formidable Tirfing. Hervor proceeded to the court of King Gudmund,
and there one day, as she was playing at tables with the king, one of
the servants chanced to take up and draw Tirfing, which shone like a sunbeam. But Tirfing was never
to see the light but for the bane of men, and Hervor, by a sudden
impulse, sprang from her seat, snatched the sword, and struck off the
head of the unfortunate man. After this she returned to the house of her
grandfather, Jarl Biartmar, where she resumed her female attire, and was
married to Haufud, the son of King Gudmund. She bore him two sons, Angantyr and Heidreker;
the former of a mild and gentle disposition, the
latter violent and fierce. Haufud would not permit Heidreker to remain
at his court, and as he was departing, his mother, among other gifts,
presented him with Tirfing. His brother accompanied him out of the castle. Before they parted,
Heidreker drew out his sword to look at and admire it, but scarcely did
the rays of light fall on the magic blade, when the Berserker rage came
on its owner, and he slew his gentle brother. After this he joined a body of Vikinger, and
became so distinguished that King Harold, for the aid he lent him,
gave him his daughter Helga in marriage. But it was the destiny of Tirfing to commit
crime, and Harold fell by the sword of his son-in-law. Heidreker was afterwards in
Russia, and the son of the king was his foster-son. One day as they were
out hunting, Heidreker and his foster-son happened to be separated from
the rest of the party, when a wild boar appeared before them. Heidreker ran at him with his spear, but the
beast caught it in his mouth and broke it across. Then he alighted and drew Tirfing, and killed
the boar. On looking round him, he saw no one but his
foster-son, and Tirfing could only be appeased with warm human
blood, so Heidreker slew the poor youth. In the end Heidreker was murdered in his bed
by his Scottish slaves, who carried off Tirfing. His son Angantyr, who succeeded him, discovered
the thieves and put them to death, and recovered
the magic blade. He made
great slaughter in battle against the Huns, but among the slain was
discovered his own brother, Landur. So ends the history of the Dwarf-Sword Tirfing.

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