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Serpant of Lagarfljot

Serpant of Lagarfljot - Icelandic Folk and Fairy Tales...

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Unformatted text preview: Icelandic Folk and Fairy Tales Selected and translated with foreword and notes by May and Hallberg Hallmundsson. Illustrations by Kjartan Gudjénsson. ,...,\,.¢.«~"‘ I! h " 5 y M”? if z‘j ;" n; $.42? ,5 f x (4‘ “w?” / 5 ~ I N. g, <m><><m> ICELAND REVIEW LIBRARY After some time had passed, the man married her. They proved to be quite compatible and had several children. The husband al- ways kept the skin locked away in his trunk and carried the key with him wherever he went. One day, many years later, he went out to fish and forgot the key under his pillow. Others say that he went to Christmas ser- vices, along with his household, while his wife, who was not feeling well, remained at home, and that he forgot to take the key from the pocket of his work clothes when he changed. Whichever way it was, when he returned home, the trunk was open and his wife, along with the sealskin, gone. She had taken the key, looked into the trunk out of curiosity, and found the skin. Unable to resist the temptation, she then had said good-bye to her children, put on the skin, and plunged into the sea. But before she did, the story goes, she recited these words, as if to herself: “Of two minds must I be: I’ve seven children in the sea and seven more on land.” The husband is said to have grieved for her deeply. Later, when he went out fishing, a seal would often circle around his skiff, and sometimes it looked as if tears were running from its eyes. The man had the best of luck in his fisheries ever after, and the sea washed many things up on his shore. People often noticed that when his children happened to be walking on the beach, a seal would swim offshore along with them and throw them multi- colored fish and pretty seashells. But never again did their mother return to land. The Serpent of Lagarfljét At one time, long, long ago, there was a woman living on a farm in the Lagarfljot district, close by the stream where it broadens into a lake. She had a grown daughter. Once, she gave her daughter a gold ring. The girl said to her, “Mother, how can I make the most out of this gold?” “Put it under a ling snake,” said the woman. So, the girl secured a ling snake and put it in her linen chest, 96 the gold underneath it. There it lay for a few days. But when the girl went to look at her ring again, the snake had grown so large that the chest was beginning to come apart. Then the girl was fright- ened, and she picked up the chest with everything in it and threw it into the lake. A long time passed. Gradually, people became aware that there was a serpent in the lake, for it was beginning to kill both people and animals crossing the waters. Sometimes it would even reach up on the banks, spew— ing its venom around most fearfully. It was soon obvious that this was a potentially big problem, but no one knew how to solve it. Finally, two Finns were summoned to kill the serpent and re- cover the gold. They dived into the lake but soon came back up again. The task, they declared, was totally beyond them. Neither could this serpent be killed, said the Finns, nor the gold retrieved, for there was another snake beneath the gold, half again as fierce as the first one. So they did the next best thing: chained the ser- pent down with two fetters, one behind the flippers and another around the tail. The serpent, therefore, can no longer kill man or beast, but sometimes it will arch its back, and when this is seen, it is always taken to augur disaster. Those who do not believe in the serpent, however, say it is a mere figment of the imagination, and they quote a story about a certain minister who not very long ago rowed straight across the spot where the serpent seemed to be in order to prove his conten- tion that it doesn’t exist. The Convent at Kirkjubaer This Cloister is located in the South, in the Sida district of the Skaftafell County. The Book of Settlements states that the site was inhabited by the papar, that is, Christians, before Iceland was settled by the Norsemen. So sacrosanct was the place, already in the Age of Settlement, that it was commonly believed that no heathen might live there. And as fortune would have it, Ketill the Foolish, who settled there and raised his farm at Kirkjubaer, was indeed a Christian. But after Ketill died, a heathen by the name of Hildir, discounting the common belief, decided to move his household to the site. When he arrived at the edge of the homefield, he fell down dead and was buried in Hildir’s Mound, which lies east of Kirkju- 97 ...
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