FOLK-LORE AND LEGENDS SCANDINAVIAN
W. W. Gibbings 18 Bury St., London, W.C.
Thanks to Thiele, to Hylten-Cavallius and Stephens, and to Asbjoernsen and Moe, Scandinavian Folklore is well to the front. Its treasures are many, and of much value. One may be almost sorry to find among them the originals of many of our English tales. Are we indebted to the folk of other nations for all our folk-tales? It would almost seem so.
I have introduced into the present volume only one or two stories from the Prose Edda. Space would not allow me to give so much of the Edda as I could have wished.
In selecting and translating the matter for this volume, I have endeavoured to make the book such as would afford its readers a fair general view of the main features of the Folklore of the North. C.J.T.
The Wonderful Plough (Isle of Rugen)
How a Lad stole the Giant's Treasure (Sweden)
Tales of Cats (Denmark)
The Magician's Daughter (Sweden)
The Hill-man invited to the Christening (Denmark)
The Meal of Frothi (Norway)
The Lost Bell (Isle of Rugen)
Maiden Swanwhite and Maiden Foxtail (Sweden)
Tales of Treasure (Denmark)
Holger Danske (Denmark)
Tales from the Prose Edda—
The Gods and the Wolf
The Strange Builder
Thor's Journey to the Land of Giants
How Thor Went a-Fishing
The Death of Baldur
The Punishment of Loki
The Origin of Tiis Lake (Denmark)
There are such Women (Norway)
Tales of the Nisses (Denmark)
The Dwarfs' Banquet (Norway)
The Icelandic Sorceresses (Eyrbiggia Saga)
The Three Dogs (Sweden)
The Legend of Thorguima (Eyrbiggia Saga)
The Little Glass Shoe (Isle of Rugen)
How Loki Wagered his Head (Edda Resenii)
The Adventures of John Dietrich (Isle of Rugen)
How Thorston Became Rich (Thorston's Saga)
Gudbrand of the Hillside (Norway)
The Dwarf-Sword Tirfing (Hervarar Saga)
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 Klumhoei 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 Stoeierup, 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.
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 AEsir, 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 Joermungand, 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 Ragnaroek.
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, Roeska. 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 Roeska, 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 Roeska 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 AEsir 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 AEsir. But what new game have you?"
"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."