Sæmundur Fróði

Sæmundur...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–5. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 2
Background image of page 3

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 4
Background image of page 5
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: Icelandic Folk and Fairy Tales Selected and translated with foreword and notes by May and Hallberg Hallmundsson. Illustrations by Kjartan Gudjénsson. % ICELAND REVIEW LIBRARY had boarded and Sigurdur’s boat was already afloat, the crew spoke up about Rusty. According to the story, they had seen something akin to a rust-colored clew of yarn or a piece of horse dung roll aboard the boat along with Magnus. Hearing this, Sigurdur. who was considered a cautious, intelligent man, ordered Magnus off the boat and refused to carry him any longer, either because he himself had become aware of Rusty, or he didn’t want his crew to look askance at Magnus and blame him for bringing them bad luck should anything go wrong. At one time, Magnus of lrafell had left a copy of Hallgrimur Pe’tursson’s Passion Hymns with farmer Asgeir Finnbogason of Bradraedi, who was supposed to bind it for him. One night, Asgeir was not at home, and his wife waited up for him. At first she kept herself busy doing some chores but later went to bed, waiting there by light until Asgeir returned home. Then he, too, went to bed, and they put out the light. Right afterward, she saw a boy enter the room, sit down on a chair beside the bed, and put his arm in over the bedboard. She happened to be sleeping on the outer side of the bed, and she found the arm so heavy and oppressive that she called out asking if it was JOhannes, their fosterson. But there was no answer. She repeated the question and then told the visitor, whoso— ever he was, to go to hell. Then the one sitting on the chair stood up, opened his eyes up wide so they glinted in the moonlight shin— ing in through the window, and dashed out —— through the locked door. A thunderous crash followed, and at the same moment a shelf on the other side of the room, diagonally opposite the bed, fell down. The shelf had held many books, among them the copy of the Passion Hymns that Asgeir had taken from Magnus to bind. ln addition, the shelf had held several pieces of china, which, as was to be expected, were smashed to tiny shards that flew all over the floor. Mistress Sigridur then relit the lamp and had someone sit up with her the rest of the night; she got little sleep. In the early hours next morning, Magnus came to Bradraedi asking for the book that had been on the shelf, and he was informed what a pleasant companion he had. Rusty also attached himself to Magnus’ only son, Gudmundur. One winter, farmer Asgeir, now living at Lambastadir near Reykjavik, sent his son, named Thorvaldur, to be tutored by the pastor of Reynivellir in the Kjés district. The boy returned home shortly before Christmas in order to spend the holidays with his 58 parents, and it was agreed that he would be accompanied back to Reynivellir after Christmas, when someone from the Kjos district would be traveling to Reykjavik. One night at Lambastadir, Thorvaldur and his mother were sleep- ing by themselves in the badstofa; it was late, and the lights were out. Suddenly, the boy’s mother felt ill and asked him to relight the lamp. When he had done so, she asked him to get her a drink of water and to take the lamp with him so he wouldn’t bump into anything. Thorvaldur was only twelve at the time, but he was un— afraid of the dark and felt he didn’t need the lamp. So, when he went for the water, he left the light in the badstofa but kept the door open so the glow from it would be thrown into the kitchen. When Thorvaldur turned around, having filled a glass with water, he saw a small boy step from the foyer and onto the kitchen floor; the doors had not been locked in the evening. The boy planted himself there in the glow of the light, his head bare but a wide— brimmed hat in his hand, and wearing a rust—colored coat. He stared at Thorvaldur with his big eyes, a roguish grin on his face, and for a while they gazed at each other that way. Thorvaldur said afterward that he had not been afraid of him but observed him closely, and he recalled that the boy had seemed all hairy in the face. It was only when Thorvaldur turned away that he gave a start so the water splashed from the glass, for at that moment a dog that had been lying in the badstofa jumped up with a ferocious bark and dashed through the kitchen and out into the homefield; other dogs joined in, and they kept barking for a long time. The next day two men from the Kjos district came for Thor- valdur, and one of them happened to be Gudmundur Magnusson. It was then concluded that it must have been Rusty of Irafell that Thorvaldur had seen the previous night. Tales of Saemundur the Learned l. The Black School In olden times there was a school over the seas called the Black School, where young men studied sorcery and all kinds of ancient lore. This school was housed in an underground bunker, very stur- dily built; it had no windows, so it was pitch—dark inside. Nor was there any teacher; everything the students learned, they got from 59 books written in fiery red letters which could be read in the dark. Those who enrolled were forbidden to go out in the open air or see the light of day while attending the school, and to complete their studies, they had to remain there for three or seven years. A gray, hairy hand w0uld come through the wall every day delivering meals to the students. The master of the school reserved the right to keep the one graduate each year who was the last to leave. And since it was common knowledge that the master was the Devil himself, everyone wanted to avoid being the last to exit. Once there were three Icelanders together at the Black School: Saemundur the Learned, Kalfur Arnason, and Halfdan Eldjarnsson or Einarsson, later priest at Fell in Sléttuhlid. They were all graduat— ing at the same time, and Saemundur offered to be the last one out. That was a great relief to the others. Saemundur then wrapped himself in a large overcoat but let the sleeves hang empty and did not button the coat. A flight of stairs led out of the schoolhouse. As Saemundur was walking up the stairs, the Devil grabbed him by the coat and said, “You’re mine!” Saemundur then let loose the coat and ran out, leaving Old Nick with the garment alone in his hands. The iron door creaked and rumbled on its hinges and banged shut so tightly behind Saemundur that his heel bones were hurt. “A close call,” he remarked -— which has since been a popular phrase. In this way, Saemundur got away from the Black School along with his companions. Another version has it that when Saemundur walked up the stairs and reached the door of the Black School, the sun shone in, casting his shadow on the inside wall. And when the Devil at— tempted to seize Saemundur, he said, “I’m not the last one. Don’t you see the one behind me?” The Devil reached out for the shadow, thinking it was a man, while Saemundur got out and the door slammed shut on his heels. But from that time on, he was a man without a shadow, for the Devil never let go of it. iii] //// .\\ /// o 2. How Saemundur Got His Beiiefice When Saemundur, Kalfur, and Halfdan left the Black School, the benefice of Oddi was vacant, and they all applied to the king for it. The king knew full well with whom he was dealing and told them that whoever could get there first would have the Oddi. iillll ‘ 60 Saemundur immediately went to summon Old Nick, saying, “Swim with me on your back out to Iceland, and if you can get me ashore without wetting my coattails, my soul is yours.” Old Nick agreed to this, quickly changed into a seal, and set off with Saemundur on his back. On the way, Saemundur continuous- ly read in his Psalter. In a short time they were close to land in Iceland. Then Saemundur struck the seal over the head with the Psalter so the creature sank; Saemundur was temporarily sub- merged but swam ashore. And that’s how the Devil lost his bargain and Saemundur got the Oddi. 3. Gathering the Hay Saemundur the Learned once had a considerable quantity of dry hay in the field while the outlook was for rain. So he asked all his working people to pull together and try to save the hay. At that time, there was one very old woman in his household at Oddi, and Saemundur went to her, too, asking if she would try to limp out to the field and rake together whatever scattered rem- nants of hay the others left. She said she would. Then she took her rake, tying onto the end of it the bonnet off her head, and shuffled out to the field. To Saemundur, she said he had better stay in the yard and stack the hay, for his field hands wouldn’t take long bind— ing it and bringing it home. The cleric said he would do just that; it would be for the best. The old one stuck the end of her rake under each of the bundles of hay, saying, “Up to the yard to Saemundur with you!” and the bundles went there straightaway. Saemundur then told Old Nick and his imps to make haste. And in a short time, all the hay was home in the yard, safe from the rain. Afterward, Saemundur said to the crone, “I guess you know a thing or two, my dear old Thorhildur.” “It isn’t much now,” she replied. “I’ve forgotten most of what I knew in my younger days.” 4. The Imp Whistle Saemundur the Learned had a whistle possessed of a very peculiar quality: Whenever it was blown, one or more imps would appear, asking what they should do. One day, Saemundur left the whistle under the pillow in his 62 bed, where he always kept it at night. In the evening he told his maid to prepare his bed as usual but warned her that if she came across anything out of the ordinary, she should not touch it but just leave it be. The girl began to prepare the bed, and when she saw the whistle, she couldn’t check her curiosity. She picked it up at once, examined it closely, and finally blew it. An imp immediately appeared to her, asking, “What do you wish me to do?” The girl was startled, but she acted unperturbed. It so happened that ten of Saemundur’s wethers had been slaughtered earlier in the day, and all the skins were lying about outside. The girl told the imp that he should count every hair on all the skins, and if he could finish before she had made the bed, he could have her. The imp went out and began counting, while the girl hastened to make the bed. When she had finished, the imp still had one more skin to go, so he lost out on the bargain. Saemundur later asked the girl if she had found anything in his bed. She told him the truth, and Saemundur was quite pleased with her presence of mind. 5. The Imp and the Cowherd Saemundur the Learned once had a cowherd who he felt swore far too much, and he often admonished him about it. He told the cowherd that the Devil and all his imps fed on the oaths and bad language people used. “Well,” said the cowherd, “ifI knew that Old Nick would starve because of it, I would never utter a wicked word.” “We’ll soon see how serious you are,” said Saemundur, and he placed an imp in the cowbarn. The cowherd detested his new boarder because the imp did every— thing he could to harm and irk him, and it wasjust barely that the poor fellow could keep from cursing. Yet some time passed during which he was very nearly successful, and he noticed that the imp grew thinner every day. This pleased the cowherd very much, and he soon stopped swearing altogether. Then one morning he came to the cowbarn to find it in total shambles and the cows all tied together by their tails — and there were quite a few of them. Seeing this, the cowherd turned on the imp, who was lying there in his stall half-dead with misery, and poured out his fury with dreadful oaths and ugly curses. To his 63 distress, however, the imp suddenly began to revive and in no time became so plump and portly as to verge on obesity. Then the cow- herd controlled himself and stopped cursing. The truth of the Reverend Saemundur’s words had been driven home to him, and he never swore or uttered a bad word after that. As for the imp who was supposed to feed on his profanities — well, he soon went the way of all flesh. You and I had better follow the cowherd’s example. 6. Old Nick’s Pact With the Weaver With Saemundur the Learned at Oddi, there once was a maid who wove most of the fabric needed in the household. One day as she was at the loom, a man came to her and struck up a conversa- tion. He asked if being in service at Oddi wasn’t pretty bad. She said it wasn’t too bad, although once in a while the food was rather skimpy because so much went to feed visitors and wayfarers. “You go hungry once in a while, then?” the man asked. “Not as a rule,” replied the maid. “Wouldn’t it be good, though, if you found a buttered cake each evening by your bedside?” She said she wouldn’t mind. He told her he would see to it that cake and butter be at her bedside every evening, but she would have to promise him in re- turn never to pray for Saemundur, for if she did, she wouldn’t get the cake and butter. She said she would do as he asked. For a long time that winter, she never prayed for Saemundur. Even when he sneezed and all the other people present bid God bless him, she never did. Consequently, there was always a buttered cake at her bedside every evening. Once as she was weaving, Saemundur came by and began talk- ing to her. And when he had done so for a spell, he had a severe sneezing fit. She kept silent, acting as if she’d heard nothing. After some time, he started sneezing still more vehemently. Then the poor girl couldn’t stand it anymore, and she said, “Don’t sneeze your sense away, Reverend Saemundur. God help you.” The Reverend Saemundur immediately stopped sneezing and said, “I don’t think you’ll have your cake and butter tonight.” And from then on she never got cake and butter from Old Nick again. 64 Tales of the Reverend Eirikur of Vogsésar Numerous tales are told of the Reverend Eiri’kur of Vogsosar, the best ones coming from his home district of Selvogur in the South- west. According to those who knew, E irikur was “eccentric and learned in magic, frequently entered hills, and did many other strange things. He never harmed anybody with his knowledge but was not above playing practical jokes, especially tfprovoked. It was Eirikur’s custom to disappear from his parsonage every Saturday night, not to return again until Sunday morning. No one ever knew what he was doing during these absences of his. ” 1. How Eirfkur Learned Magic in School In the district of Biskupstungur, in the South, there once was an old, eccentric cotter who didn’t much mix with other folks. Two things in his possession he valued more than anything else: a book whose contents no one knew and a heifer which he fed prodigious- ly. The cotter contracted a severe illness and sent word to the bishop of Skalholt, asking him to come and see him. The bishop, thinking he might persuade the old man to repent his sins, reacted quickly and went to his bedside. ' “It so happens, sir,” said the cotter, “that I am about to die, and I want to ask a small favor.” The bishop said he would listen. “I have here a book,” continued the old one, “and a heifer I am very fond of, and I want both to be buried with me, or else there will be consequences.” The bishop promised this would be done, for he was afraid the cotter would otherwise return to haunt him. Then the old man died, and the bishop had him buried with the book and the heifer. A long time after this happened, three youths at the school of Skalholt began to study black magic. One of them was named Bogi, another Magnus, and the third Eirikur. They had been told of the old cotter and his book, and they wanted very much to get hold of it, so they proceeded one night to raise the old man out of his grave. The trouble was that no one knew exactly where the grave was. They finally resorted to calling up all the dead, row by row, and filled the church with ghosts, but the cotter wasn’t among them. Putting these to rest again, they filled the church the second and third time, at which point only a few graves remained, but the 65 ...
View Full Document

Page1 / 5

Sæmundur...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 5. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online