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The Homestead Westward in the Blue Mountains

What shall we do tonight?

We can go freezing or we can have a weird story.

Weird story! With gingerbread cookies!

There was once a farmer’s son who was off to Moen for the annual manoeuvres. He was to be the drummer, and his way lay right across the mountains. There he could practise his drumming at his ease, and beat his tattoos again and again without making folks laugh, or having a parcel of small boys dangling about him like so many midges.

Every time he passed a mountain homestead he beat his rat-tat-tat to bring the girls out, and they stood and hung about and gaped after him at all the farmhouses.

It was in the midst of the hottest summer weather. He had been practising his drumming from early in the morning, till he had grown quite sick and tired of it. And now he was toiling up a steep cliff, and had slung his drum over his shoulder, and stuck his drumsticks in his bandoleer.

The sun baked and broiled upon the hills; but in the clefts there was a coolness as of a rushing roaring waterfall. The little knolls swarmed with bilberries the whole way along, and he felt he must stoop down and pluck whole handfuls at a time, so that it took a long time to get to the top.

Then he came to a hilly slope where the ferns stood high, and there were lots of birch bushes. It was so nice and shady there, he thought, and so he couldn’t for the life of him help taking a rest.

His drum he took off, his jacket he put beneath his head, and his cap over his face, and off he went to sleep.

But as he lay dozing there, he dreamt that some one was tickling him under the nose with a straw so that he could get no peace; and the instant he awoke, he fancied he heard laughing and giggling.

The sun had by this time begun to cast oblique shadows, and far down below, towards the valleys, lay the warm steaming vapours, creeping upwards in long drawn-out gossamer bands and ribands of mist.

As he reached behind him for his jacket, he saw a snake, which lay and looked at him with such shrewd quick eyes. But when he threw a stone at it, it caught its tail in its mouth, and trundled away like a wheel.

Again there was a giggling and a sniggering among the bushes.

And now he heard it among some birch trees which stood in such a wonderful sunlight, for they were filled with the rain and fine drizzle of a waterfall. The water-drops glistened and sparkled so that he really couldn’t see the trees properly.

But it was as though something were moving about in them, and he could have sworn that he had caught a glimpse of a fine bright slim damsel, who was laughing and making fun of him. She peeped at him from beneath her hand, because of the sun, and her sleeves were tucked up.

A little while afterwards a dark-blue blouse appeared above the brushwood.

He was after it in an instant.

He ran and ran till he had half a mind to give up, but then a frock and a bare shoulder gleamed betwixt an opening in the leaves.

And off again he pelted as hard as he could, till he began to think that it must have all been imagination.

Then he saw her right in a corner of the green bushes. Her hair had been torn out of its plaits from the speed with which she had flown through the bushes. She stood still, and looked back as if she were terribly frightened.

But the lad thought to himself that if she had run away with his drumsticks, she should pay for it.

And off they ran again, she in front, and he behind.

Now and again she turned round and laughed and gibed, and gave a toss and a twist, so that it looked as if her long wavy hair were writhing and wriggling and twisting like a serpent’s tail.

At last she turned round on the top of the hill, laughed, and held out his drumsticks towards him.

But now he was determined to catch her. He was so near that he made grab after grab at her; but just as he was about to lay hold of her hard by a fence, she was over it, while he tumbled after her into the enclosure of a homestead.

Then she cried and shouted up to the house, “Randi, and Brandi, and Gyri, and Gunna!”

And four girls came rushing down over the sward.

But the last of them, who had a fine ruddy complexion and heavy golden-red hair, stood and greeted him so graciously with her downcast eyes, as if she was quite distressed that they should play such wanton pranks with a strange young man.

She stood there abashed and uncertain, poor thing! just like a child, who knows not whether it should say something or not; but all the while she sidled up nearer and nearer to him. Then, when she was so close to him that her hair almost touched him, she opened her blue eyes wide, and looked straight at him.

But she had a frightfully sharp look in those eyes of hers.

“Rather come with me, and thou shalt have dancing–or art thou tired, my lad?” cried a girl with blue-black hair, and a wild dark fire in her eyes. She tripped up and down, and clapped her hands. She had white teeth and hot breath, and would have dragged him off with her.

“Tie thyself up behind first, black Gyri!” giggled the others.

And immediately she let the lad go, and wobbled and twisted, and went backwards so oddly.

He couldn’t help staring after the black lassie, who stood and writhed and twisted so uncomfortably, as if she were concealing something behind her, and had, all at once, become so meek.

But the fine bright girl with the slim slender waist, who had rushed on before him, and who seemed to him the loveliest of them all, began to laugh at him again and tease him.

Run as he might, he shouldn’t catch her, she jibed and jeered; never should he find his drumsticks again, she said.

But then her mood shifted right round, and she flung herself down headlong, and began to cry. She had followed his drumming the whole day, she said, and never had she heard any fellow who could beat rat-tat-tat so well; nor had she ever seen a lad who was so handsome while he was asleep. “I kissed thee then,” said she, and smiled up at him so sorrowfully.

“Beware of the serpent’s tongue, lest it bite thee, swain! Tis worst of all when it licks thee first,” whispered the bashful one with the golden-red hair. She would fain have stolen between them so softly.

And all at once the swain recollected the snake, which was as slender, and supple, and quick, and sparkling as the girl who lay there on the hill-side, and wept and made fun at the same time and looked oddly alert and wary.

But a stooping, somewhat clumsy little thing now stuck her head quickly in between, and smiled shamefacedly at him, as if she knew and could tell him so much. Her eyes sparkled a long way inwards, and across her face there passed a sort of pale golden gleam, as when the last sunbeam slowly draws away from the grassy mountain slope.

“At my place,” said she, “thou shalt hear such Langelejk as none else has ever heard. I will play for thee, and thou shalt listen to things unknown to others. Thou shalt hear all that sings, and laughs, and cries in the roots of trees, and in the mountains, and in all things that grow, so that thou wilt never trouble thy head about anything else in the world.”

Then there was a scornful laugh; and up on a rock he saw a tall strongly built girl, with a gold band in her hair and a huge wand in her hand.

She lifted a long wooden trumpet with such splendid powerful arms, threw back her neck with such a proud and resolute air, and stood firm and fast as a rock while she blew.

And it sounded far and wide through the summer evening, and rang back again across the hills.

But she, the prettiest and daintiest of them all, who had cast herself on the ground, stuck her fingers in her ears, and mimicked her and laughed and jeered.

Then she glanced up at him with her blue eyes peeping through her ashen-yellow hair, and whispered—
“If thou dost want me, swain, thou must pick me up.”

“She has a strong firm grip for a gentle maiden,” thought he to himself, as he raised her from the ground.

“But thou must catch me first,” cried she.

And right towards the house they ran–she first, and he after her.

Suddenly she stopped short, and putting both arms akimbo, looked straight into his eyes: “Dost like me?” she asked.

The swain couldn’t say no to that. He had now got hold of her, and would have put his arm round her.

“‘Tis for thee to have a word in the matter, father,” she shouted all at once in the direction of the house; “this swain here would fain wed me.”

And she drew him hastily towards the hut door.

There sat a little grey-clad old fellow, with a cap like a milk-can on his head, staring at the livestock on the mountain-side. He had a large silver jug in front of him.

“‘Tis the homestead westward in the Blue Mountains that he’s after, I know,” said the old man, nodding his head, with a sly look in his eyes.

“Haw, haw! That’s what they’re after, is it?” thought the swain. But aloud he said, “‘Tis a great offer, I know; but methinks ’tis a little hasty too. Down our way ’tis the custom to send two go-betweens first of all to arrange matters properly.”

“Thou didst send two before thee, and here they be,” quoth she smartly, and produced his drumsticks.

“And ’tis usual with us, moreover, to have a look over the property first; though the lass herself have wit enough and to spare,” added he.

Then she all at once grew so small, and there was a nasty green glitter in her eyes—
“Hast thou not run after me the livelong day, and wooed me right down in the enclosure there, so that my father both heard and saw it all?” cried she.

“Pretty lasses are wont to hold back a bit,” said the swain, in a wheedling sort of way. He perceived that he must be a little subtle here; it was not all love in this wooing.

Then she seemed to bend her body backwards into a complete curve, and shot forward her head and neck, and her eyes sparkled.

But the old fellow lifted his stick from his knee, and she stood there again as blithe and sportive as ever.

She stretched herself out tall and stiff, with her hands in her silver girdle; and she looked right into his eyes and laughed, and asked him if he was one of those fellows who were afraid of the girls. If he wanted her he might perchance be run off his legs again, said she.

Then she began tripping up and down, and curtseying and making fun of him again.

But all at once he saw on the sward behind her what looked like the shadow of something that whisked and frisked and writhed round and round, and twisted in and out according as she practised her wheedling ways upon him.

“That is a very curious long sort of riband,” thought the drummer to himself in his amazement. They were in a great hurry, too, to get him under the yoke, he thought; but they should find that a soldier on his way to the manoeuvres is not to be betrothed and married offhand.

So he told them bluntly that he had come hither for his drumsticks, and not to woo maidens, and he would thank them to let him have his property.

“But have a look about you a bit first, young man,” said the old fellow, and he pointed with his stick.

And all at once the drummer saw large dun cows grazing all along the mountain pastures, and the cow-bells rang out their merry peals. Buckets and vats of the brightest copper shone all about, and never had he seen such shapely and nicely dressed milkmaids. There must needs be great wealth here.

“Perchance thou dost think ’tis but a beggarly inheritance I have here in the Blue Mountains,” said she, and sitting down on a haycock, she began chatting with him. “But we’ve four such s√¶tar2 as this, and what I inherit from my mother is twelve times as large.”

But the drummer had seen what he had seen. They were rather too anxious to settle the property upon him, thought he. So he declared that in so serious a matter he must crave a little time for consideration.

Then the lass began to cry and take on, and asked him if he meant to befool a poor innocent, ignorant, young thing, and pursue her and drive her out of her very wits. She had put all her hope and trust in him, she said, and with that she fell a-howling.

She sat there quite inconsolable, and rocked herself to and fro with all her hair over her eyes, till at last the drummer began to feel quite sorry for her and almost angry with himself. She was certainly most simple-minded and confiding.

All at once she twisted round and threw herself petulantly down from the haycock. Her eyes spied all about, and seemed quite tiny and piercing as she looked up at him, and laughed and jested.

He started back. It was exactly as if he again saw the snake beneath the birch tree down there when it trundled away.

And now he wanted to be off as quickly as possible; he cared no longer about being civil.

Then she reared up with a hissing sound. She quite forgot herself, and a long tail hung down and whisked about from behind her kirtle.

He shouldn’t escape her in that way, she shrieked. He should first of all have a taste of public penance and public opinion from parish to parish. And then she called her father.

Then the drummer felt a grip on his jacket, and he was lifted right off his legs.

He was chucked into an empty cow-house, and the door was shut behind him.

There he stood and had nothing to look at but an old billy-goat through a crack in the door, who had odd, yellow eyes, and was very much like the old fellow, and a sunbeam through a little hole, which sunbeam crept higher and higher up the blank stable wall till late in the evening, when it went out altogether.

But towards night a voice outside said softly, “Swain! swain!” and in the moonlight he saw a shadow cross the little hole.

“Hist! hist! the old man is sleeping at the other side of the wall,” it sounded.

He knew by the voice that it was she, the golden-red one, who had behaved so prettily and been so bashful the moment he had come upon the scene.

“Thou need’st but say that thou dost know that serpent-eye has had a lover before, or they wouldn’t be in such a hurry to get her off their hands with a dowry. Thou must know that the homestead westwards in the Blue Mountains is mine. And answer the old man that it was me, Brandi, that thou didst run after all the time. Hist! hist! here comes the old man,” she whispered, and whisked away.

But a shadow again fell across the little hole in the moonlight, and the duck-necked one stuck her head in and peeped at him.

“Swain, swain, art thou awake?”

“That serpent-eye will make thee the laughingstock of the neighbourhood. She’s spiteful, and she stings. But the homestead westward in the Blue Mountains is mine, and when I play there the gates beneath the high mountains fly open, and through them lies the road to the nameless powers of nature. Do but say that ’twas me, Randi, thou wert running after, because she plays so prettily on the Langelijk.–“Hist, hist! the old man is stirring about by the wall!”–she beckoned to him and was gone.

A little afterwards nearly every bit of the hole was darkened, and he recognised the Black one by her voice.

“Swain, swain!” she hissed.

“I had to bind up my kirtle to-day behind,” said she, “so we couldn’t go dancing the Halling-fling together on the green sward. But the homestead in the Blue Mountains is my lawful property, and tell the old man that it was madcap Gyri thou wast running after to-day, because thou art so madly fond of dancing jigs and hallings.”

Then she clapped her hands aloud, and straightway was full of fear lest she should have awakened the old man.

And she was gone.

But the lad sat inside there, and thought it all over, and looked up at the thin pale summer moon, and he thought that never in his whole life had he been in such evil case.

From time to time he heard something moving, scraping, and snorting against the wall outside. It was the old fellow who lay there and kept watch over him.

“Thou, swain, thou,” said another voice at the peep-hole.

It was she who had planted herself so firmly on the rock with such sturdy hips and such a masterful voice.

“For these three hundred years have I been blowing the langelur here in the summer evenings far and wide, but never has it drawn any one westward hither into the Blue Mountains. And let me tell thee that we are all homeless and houseless, and all thou seest here is but glitter and glamour. Many a man has been befooled hither time out of mind. But I won’t have the other lasses married before me. And rather than that any one of them should get thee, I’ll free thee from the mountains. Mark me, now! When the sun is hot and high the old man will get frightened and crawl into his corner. Then look to thyself. Shove hard against the door of the hayloft, and hasten to get thee over the fence, and thou wilt be rid of us.”

The drummer was not slow to follow this counsel. He crept out the moment the sun began to burn, and cleared the fence with one good bound.

In less than no time he was down in the valley again.

And far, far away towards sunrise in the mountains, he heard the sound of her langelur.

He threw his drum across his shoulder, and hied him off to the manoeuvres at Moen.

But never would he play rat-tat-tat and beat the tattoo before the lasses again, lest he should find himself westwards in the Blue Mountains before he was well aware of it.

Story from ‘Weird Tales from the Northern Seas’ by Jonas Lie.

The Little Mermaid

Do mermaids eat princess cake?

They do today!

Today The Little Mermaid turns 28 years old. When it came out, in 1989, Disney had gone three decades without a big hit, Sleeping Beauty, the last major success, was released in 1959, six years before Walt Disney’s death.

Ron Clements, co-writer and director of the movie with John Musker, was unfamiliar with The Little Mermaid story before he stumbled upon it in search of a story for a new Disney movie. He thought Hans Christian Andersen’s cinematic writing style would make for a great film as soon as he started reading. That is, until he reached the incredibly sad ending.

Andersen’s Little Mermaid is far more tragic than the story of Ariel that has since left an indelible mark on popular culture. The 1837 protagonist is motivated not only by her attraction to a prince, but the eternal soul that humans possess and mermaids do not. With the help of a sea witch, she trades her voice for legs. Andersen’s mermaid must obtain true love’s first kiss or the deal will result in her death. She attempts to enchant the prince with her dancing, despite the fact that it feels as though she is stepping on knives. He marries the human princess, whom he thinks saved him from a ship wreck (though, the little mermaid is truly the one responsible for his rescue). She is given the option to murder him in exchange for becoming a mermaid again. In the end, she loses the prince and she turns into sea foam. Not quite the ending for a Disney movie!

Ron Clements came up with the name Ariel and reworked Andersen’s ending for a “gong show” in January 1985. The name “gong show” came from a process Michael Eisner pulled from Paramount: story writers and directors would pitch a series of ideas, and the bad ones would get gonged.

It turns out the story of The Little Mermaid who lived happily ever with her prince got gonged at first. Disney was working on a sequel to Splash at the time, and they thought it was too similar. Although, a few days later, Clements got a call from the studio, saying they’d like to hear his ideas again. Weeks later, The Little Mermaid received the green light. Ron Clements teamed up with John Musker, with whom he’d worked with on The Great Mouse Detective (we love this movie!), and the two got to work envisioning the film that would pave the way for the Disney renaissance.

Clements and Musker were willing to rework much of Andersen’s story. Although, there were certain elements they felt they couldn’t leave behind: the idea of love at first sight and Ariel’s loss of voice. It was a controversial stance. Some people questioned, ‚ÄėCan you really do that? Can you have the star of your movie actually lose their voice for a significant amount of time?‚Äô‚ÄĚ Well, why not? Aurora spent most of her movie asleep! And I don’t remember her sleep talking.

Interestingly enough, in making the fairy tale kid-friendly, one of the biggest changes they made was creating a more forcefully evil sea witch. In Andersen’s story she acts as an enabler, but Clements and Musker knew that Ursula was their chance to create a classic Disney villain.

Once they made that choice, a lot of possible inspiration popped up. Ursula was a mix of Bea Arthur, Joan Collins’ Dynasty character, Divine and an octopus. That took quite a bit of brainstorming to come together, and the octopus part was only added in animation. As she came to life, it just too cool to use the tentacles to play the villainess.

John Musker had Bea Arthur in mind for the part. Even though they never got a chance to sit down with her (due to her Golden Girls schedule and possibly the fact that she did not want to play a witch), he kept her sardonic wit in mind throughout creation. Ron Clements described the character of Ursula as vampy and campy, like Joan Collins in Dynasty. So when they were writing the script, John Musker was picturing Bea Arthur and Ron Clements was picturing Joan Collins. The two got to have a lot of fun in playing up that campy evil gloriousness. They pulled the polyps from Andersen’s story (originally guards of the sea witch’s castle) and made them condemned mer-folk.

Divine’s name popped up when Musker and Clements presented the character to producer and head of the music department Howard Ashman. Ashman knew Divine from work in John Waters’ films and suggested Harris Glenn Milstead’s stage persona serve as inspiration for Ursula. Ashman was also largely responsible for the development of Sebastian, who appeared in early treatments as a crab named Clarence. At that point, he had an English accent. But Ashman knew right away that he wanted to make Sebastian Rastafarian so that he could logically incorporate calypso elements into the music. Musker and Clements had a stuffy character in mind, and they didn’t know how that could work with an “island guy”, so Ashman suggested they model Sebastian after Geoffrey Holder.

Ariel herself underwent quite a bit of transformation from that first treatment. Initially, she was modelled closely after Andersen’s little mermaid: shy and passive. The rambunctious curiosity she came to be endowed with originally appeared in the form of a male dolphin sidekick named Breaker, who was cut from the film because there were too many characters. Breaker was eliminated and some of his personality traits were transferred to Ariel. She became as energetic as the dolphin was.

That helped in modelling Ariel after a rebellious human teen. The artist, Glen Keane, pictured Alyssa Milano when drawing her, though Musker and Clements pulled their inspiration from teen movies. She has a grotto filled with human objects, which was a little bit like a teenage girl who has all her posters gathered around. The sense of rebellion that is almost synonymous with any child’s teenage years was very important to the story they wanted to tell. For both Musker and Clements, The Little Mermaid is first and foremost about a father and daughter.

Even though it is removed from the tragic origins, The Little Mermaid, like any Disney movie, has dark and sexy elements that are retrospectively surprising for a G-Rated film.

Clements and Musker wanted the movie to be scary. Fairy tales have dark elements. It’s a way for kids to process difficult things in the world.

Nothing scares little bears when they have cake and chocolate shells ūüôā

Original article in Huffington Post.

The Cormorants of Andvær

It’s story time again!

Outside Andvær lies an island, the haunt of wild birds, which no man can land upon, be the sea never so quiet; the sea-swell girds it round about with sucking whirlpools and dashing breakers.

On fine summer days something sparkles there through the sea-foam like a large gold ring; and, time out of mind, folks have fancied there was a treasure there left by some pirates of old.

At sunset, sometimes, there looms forth from thence a vessel with a castle astern, and a glimpse is caught now and then of an old-fashioned galley. There it lies as if in a tempest, and carves its way along through heavy white rollers.

Along the rocks sit the cormorants in a long black row, lying in wait for dog-fish.

But there was a time when one knew the exact number of these birds. There was never more nor less of them than twelve, while upon a stone, out in the sea-mist, sat the thirteenth, but it was only visible when it rose and flew right over the island.

The only persons who lived near the Vær at winter time, long after the fishing season was over, was a woman and a slip of a girl. Their business was to guard the scaffolding poles for drying fish against the birds of prey, who had such a villainous trick of hacking at the drying-ropes.

The young girl had thick coal-black hair, and a pair of eyes that peeped at folk so oddly. One might almost have said that she was like the cormorants outside there, and she had never seen much else all her life. Nobody knew who her father was.

Thus they lived till the girl had grown up.

It was found that, in the summer time, when the fishermen went out to the Vær to fetch away the dried fish, that the young fellows began underbidding each other, so as to be selected for that special errand.

Some gave up their share of profits, and others their wages; and there was a general complaint in all the villages round about that on such occasions no end of betrothals were broken off.

But the cause of it all was the girl out yonder with the odd eyes.

For all her rough and ready ways, she had something about her, said those she chatted with, that there was no resisting. She turned the heads of all the young fellows; it seemed as if they couldn’t live without her.

The first winter a lad wooed her who had both house and warehouse of his own.

“If you come again in the summer time, and give me the right gold ring I will be wedded by, something may come of it,” said she.

And, sure enough, in the summer time the lad was there again.

He had a lot of fish to fetch away, and she might have had a gold ring as heavy and as bonnie as heart could wish for.

“The ring I must have lies beneath the wreckage, in the iron chest, over at the island yonder,” said she; “that is, if you love me enough to dare fetch it.”

But then the lad grew pale.

He saw the sea-bore rise and fall out there like a white wall of foam on the bright warm summer day, and on the island sat the cormorants sleeping in the sunshine.

“Dearly do I love thee,” said he, “but such a quest as that would mean my burial, not my bridal.”

The same instant the thirteenth cormorant rose from his stone in the misty foam, and flew right over the island.

Next winter the steersman of a yacht came a wooing. For two years he had gone about and hugged his misery for her sake, and he got the same answer.

“If you come again in the summer time, and give me the right gold ring I will be wedded with, something may come of it.”

Out to the Vær he came again on Midsummer Day.

But when he heard where the gold ring lay, he sat and wept the whole day till evening, when the sun began to dance north-westward into the sea.

Then the thirteenth cormorant arose, and flew right over the island.

There was nasty weather during the third winter.

There were manifold wrecks, and on the keel of a boat, which came driving ashore, hung an exhausted young lad by his knife-belt.

But they couldn’t get the life back into him, roll and rub him about in the boat-house as they might.

Then the girl came in.

“‘Tis my bridegroom!” said she.

And she laid him in her bosom, and sat with him the whole night through, and put warmth into his heart.

And when the morning came, his heart beat.

“Methought I lay betwixt the wings of a cormorant, and leaned my head against its downy breast,” said he.

The lad was ruddy and handsome, with curly hair, and he couldn’t take his eyes away from the girl.

He took work upon the Vær.

But off he must needs be gadding and chatting with her, be it never so early and never so late.

So it fared with him as it had fared with the others.

It seemed to him that he could not live without her, and on the day when he was bound to depart, he wooed her.

“Thee I will not fool,” said she. “Thou hast lain on my breast, and I would give my life to save thee from sorrow. Thou shalt have me if thou wilt place the betrothal ring upon my finger; but longer than the day lasts thou canst not keep me. And now I will wait, and long after thee with a horrible longing, till the summer comes.”

On Midsummer Day the youth came thither in his boat all alone.

Then she told him of the ring that he must fetch for her from among the skerries.

“If thou hast taken me off the keel of a boat, thou mayest cast me forth yonder again,” said the lad. “Live without thee I cannot.”

But as he laid hold of the oars in order to row out, she stepped into the boat with him and sat in the stern. Wondrous fair was she!

It was beautiful summer weather, and there was a swell upon the sea: wave followed upon wave in long bright rollers.

The lad sat there, lost in the sight of her, and he rowed and rowed till the insucking breakers roared and thundered among the skerries; the ground-swell was strong, and the frothing foam spurted up as high as towers.

“If thy life is dear to thee, turn back now,” said she.

“Thou art dearer to me than life itself,” he made answer.

But just as it seemed to the lad as if the prow were going under, and the jaws of death were gaping wide before him, it grew all at once as still as a calm, and the boat could run ashore as if there was never a billow there.

On the island lay a rusty old ship’s anchor half out of the sea.

“In the iron chest which lies beneath the anchor is my dowry,” said she; “carry it up into thy boat, and put the ring that thou seest on my finger. With this thou dost make me thy bride. So now I am thine till the sun dances north-westwards into the sea.”

It was a gold ring with a red stone in it, and he put it on her finger and kissed her.

In a cleft on the skerry was a patch of green grass. There they sat them down, and they were ministered to in wondrous wise, how he knew not nor cared to know, so great was his joy.

“Midsummer Day is beauteous,” said she, “and I am young and thou art my bridegroom. And now we’ll to our bridal bed.”

So bonnie was she that he could not contain himself for love.

But when night drew nigh, and the sun began to dance out into the sea, she kissed him and shed tears.

“Beauteous is the summer day,” said she, “and still more beauteous is the summer evening; but now the dusk cometh.”

And all at once it seemed to him as if she were becoming older and older and fading right away.

When the sun went below the sea-margin there lay before him on the skerry some mouldering linen rags and nought else.

Calm was the sea, and in the clear Midsummer night there flew twelve cormorants out over the sea.

Still weird!

Story from ‘Weird Tales from the Northern Seas’ by Jonas Lie.

The Fisherman and the Draug

Mummy, can we have a story to keep us awake? ūüôā

On Kvalholm, down in Helgeland, dwelt a poor fisherman, Elias by name, with his wife Karen, who had been in service at the parson’s over at Alstad. They had built them a hut here, and he used to go out fishing by the day about the Lofotens.

There could be very little doubt that the lonely Kvalholm was haunted. Whenever her husband was away, Karen heard all manner of uncanny shrieks and noises, which could mean no good. One day, when she was up on the hillside, mowing grass to serve as winter fodder for their couple of sheep, she heard, quite plainly, a chattering on the strand beneath the hill, but look over she durst not.

They had a child every year, but that was no burden, for they were both thrifty, hard-working folks. When seven years had gone by, there were six children in the house; but that same autumn Elias had scraped together so much that he thought he might now venture to buy a Sexæring, and henceforward go fishing in his own boat.

One day, as he was walking along with a Kvejtepig in his hand, and thinking the matter over, he unexpectedly came upon a monstrous seal, which lay sunning itself right behind a rock on the strand, and was as much surprised to see the man as the man was to see the seal. But Elias was not slack; from the top of the rock on which he stood, he hurled the long heavy Kvejtepig right into the monster’s back, just below the neck.

The seal immediately rose up on its tail right into the air as high as a boat’s mast, and looked so evilly and viciously at him with its bloodshot eyes, at the same time showing its grinning teeth, that Elias thought he should have died on the spot for sheer fright. Then it plunged into the sea, and lashed the water into bloody foam behind it. Elias didn’t stop to see more, but that same evening there drifted into the boat place on Kvalcreek, on which his house stood, a Kvejtepole, with the hooked iron head snapped off.

Elias thought no more about it, but in the course of the autumn he bought his Sexæring, for which he had been building a little boat-shed the whole summer.

One night as he lay awake, thinking of his new Sexæring, it occurred to him that his boat would balance better, perhaps, if he stuck an extra log of wood on each side of it. He was so absurdly fond of the boat that it was a mere pastime for him to light a lantern and go down to have a look at it.

Now as he stood looking at it there by the light of the lantern, he suddenly caught a glimpse in the corner opposite, on a coil of nets, of a face which exactly resembled the seal’s. For an instant it grinned savagely at him and the light, its mouth all the time growing larger and larger; and then a big man whisked out of the door, not so quickly, however, but that Elias could catch a glimpse, by the light of the lantern, of a long iron hooked spike sticking out of his back. And now he began to put one and two together. Still he was less anxious about his life than about his boat; so he there and then sat him down in it with the lantern, and kept watch. When his wife came in the morning, she found him sleeping there, with the burnt-out lantern by his side.

One morning in January, while he was out fishing in his boat with two other men, he heard, in the dark, a voice from a skerry at the very entrance of the creek. It laughed scornfully, and said, “When it comes to a Femb√∂ring, Elias, look to thyself!”

But there was many a long year yet before it did come to that; but one autumn, when his son Bernt was sixteen, Elias knew he could manage it, so he took his whole family with him in his boat to Ranen, to exchange his Sexæring for a Femböring. The only person left at home was a little Finn girl, whom they had taken into service some few years before, and who had only lately been confirmed.

Now there was a boat, a little Femb√∂ring, for four men and a boy, that Elias just then had his eye upon–a boat which the best boat-builder in the place had finished and tarred over that very autumn. Elias had a very good notion of what a boat should be, and it seemed to him that he had never seen a Femb√∂ring so well built below the water-line. Above the water-line, indeed, it looked only middling, so that, to one of less experience than himself, the boat would have seemed rather a heavy goer than otherwise, and anything but a smart craft.

Now the boat-master knew all this just as well as Elias. He said he thought it would be the swiftest sailer in Ranen, but that Elias should have it cheap, all the same, if only he would promise one thing, and that was, to make no alteration whatever in the boat, nay, not so much as adding a fresh coat of tar. Only when Elias had expressly given his word upon it did he get the boat.

But “yon laddie” who had taught the boat-master how to build his boats so cunningly below the water-line–above the water-line he had had to use his native wits, and they were scant enough–must surely have been there beforehand, and bidden him both sell it cheaply, so that Elias might get it, and stipulate besides that the boat should not be looked at too closely. In this way it escaped the usual tarring fore and aft.

Elias now thought about sailing home, but went first into the town, provided himself and family with provisions against Christmas, and indulged in a little nip of brandy besides. Glad as he was over the day’s bargain, he, and his wife too, took an extra drop in their e’en, and their son Bernt had a taste of it too.

After that they sailed off homewards in their new boat. There was no other ballast in the boat but himself, his old woman, the children, and the Christmas provisions. His son Bernt sat by the main-sheet; his wife, helped by her next eldest son, held the sail-ropes; Elias himself sat at the rudder, while the two younger brothers of twelve and fourteen were to take it in turns to bail out.

They had eight miles of sea to sail over, and when they got into the open, it was plain that the boat would be tested pretty stiffly on its first voyage. A gale was gradually blowing up, and crests of foam began to break upon the heavy sea.

And now Elias saw what sort of a boat he really had. She skipped over the waves like a sea-mew; not so much as a splash came into the boat, and he therefore calculated that he would have no need to take in all his clews against the wind, which an ordinary Femböring would have been forced to do in such weather.

Out on the sea, not very far away from him, he saw another Femböring, with a full crew, and four clews in the sail, just like his own. It lay on the same course, and he thought it rather odd that he had not noticed it before. It made as if it would race him, and when Elias perceived that, he could not for the life of him help letting out a clew again.

And now he went racing along like a dart, past capes and islands and rocks, till it seemed to Elias as if he had never had such a splendid sail before. Now, too, the boat showed itself what it really was, the best boat in Ranen.

The weather, meantime, had become worse, and they had already got a couple of dangerous seas right upon them. They broke in over the main-sheet in the forepart of the boat where Bernt sat, and sailed out again to leeward near the stern.

Since the gloom had deepened, the other boat had kept almost alongside, and they were now so close together that they could easily have pitched the baling-can from one to the other.

So they raced on, side by side, in constantly stiffer seas, till night-fall, and beyond it. The fourth clew ought now to have been taken in again, but Elias didn’t want to give in, and thought he might bide a bit till they took it in in the other boat also, which they needs must do soon. Ever and anon the brandy-flask was brought out and passed round, for they had now both cold and wet to hold out against.

The sea-fire, which played on the dark billows near Elias’s own boat, shone with an odd vividness in the foam round the other boat, just as if a fire-shovel was ploughing up and turning over the water. In the bright phosphorescence he could plainly make out the rope-ends on board her. He could also see distinctly the folks on board, with their sou’westers on their heads; but as their larboard side lay nearest, of course they all had their backs towards him, and were well-nigh hidden by the high heeling hull.

Suddenly a tremendous roller burst upon them. Elias had long caught a glimpse of its white crest through the darkness, right over the prow where Bernt sat. It filled the whole boat for a moment, the planks shook and trembled beneath the weight of it, and then, as the boat, which had lain half on her beam-ends, righted herself and sped on again, it streamed off behind to leeward.

While it was still upon him, he fancied he heard a hideous yell from the other boat; but when it was over, his wife, who sat by the shrouds, said, with a voice which pierced his very soul: “Good God, Elias! the sea has carried off Martha and Nils!”–their two youngest children, the first nine, the second seven years old, who had been sitting in the hold near Bernt. Elias merely answered: “Don’t let go the lines, Karen, or you’ll lose yet more!”

They had now to take in the fourth clew, and, when this was done, Elias found that it would be well to take in the fifth and last clew too, for the gale was ever on the increase; but, on the other hand, in order to keep the boat free of the constantly heavier seas, he dare not lessen the sail a bit more than he was absolutely obliged to do; but they found that the scrap of sail they could carry gradually grew less and less. The sea seethed so that it drove right into their faces, and Bernt and his next eldest brother Anthony, who had hitherto helped his mother with the sail-lines, had, at last, to hold in the yards, an expedient one only resorts to when the boat cannot bear even the last clew–here the fifth.

The companion boat, which had disappeared in the meantime, now suddenly ducked up alongside again, with precisely the same amount of sail as Elias’s boat; but he now began to feel that he didn’t quite like the look of the crew on board there. The two who stood and held in the yards (he caught a glimpse of their pale faces beneath their sou’westers) seemed to him, by the odd light of the shining foam, more like corpses than men, nor did they speak a single word.

A little way off to larboard he again caught sight of the high white back of a fresh roller coming through the dark, and he got ready betimes to receive it. The boat was laid to with its prow turned aslant towards the on-rushing wave, while the sail was made as large as possible, so as to get up speed enough to cleave the heavy sea and sail out of it again. In rushed the roller with a roar like a foss; again, for an instant, they lay on their beam ends; but, when it was over, the wife no longer sat by the sail ropes, nor did Anthony stand there any longer holding the yards–they had both gone overboard.

This time also Elias fancied he heard the same hideous yell in the air; but in the midst of it he plainly heard his wife anxiously calling him by name. All that he said when he grasped the fact that she was washed overboard, was, “In Jesus’ Name!” His first and dearest wish was to follow after her, but he felt at the same time that it became him to save the rest of the freight he had on board, that is to say, Bernt and his other two sons, one twelve, the other fourteen years old, who had been baling out for a time, but had afterwards taken their places in the stern behind him.

Bernt had now to look to the yards all alone, and the other two helped as best they could. The rudder Elias durst not let slip, and he held it fast with a hand of iron, which continuous exertion had long since made insensible to feeling.

A moment afterwards the comrade boat ducked up again: it had vanished for an instant as before. Now, too, he saw more of the heavy man who sat in the stern there in the same place as himself. Out of his back, just below his sou’wester (as he turned round it showed quite plainly), projected an iron spike six inches long, which Elias had no difficulty in recognising again. And now, as he calmly thought it all over, he was quite clear about two things: one was that it was the Draug itself which was steering its half-boat close beside him, and leading him to destruction; the other was that it was written in heaven that he was to sail his last course that night. For he who sees the Draug on the sea is a doomed man. He said nothing to the others, lest they should lose heart, but in secret he commended his soul to God.

During the last hour or so he had been forced out of his proper course by the storm; the air also had become dense with snow; and Elias knew that he must wait till dawn before land could be sighted. Meanwhile he sailed along much the same as before. Now and then the boys in the stern complained that they were freezing; but, in the plight they were now in, that couldn’t be helped, and, besides, Elias had something else to think about. A terrible longing for vengeance had come over him, and, but for the necessity of saving the lives of his three lads, he would have tried by a sudden turn to sink the accursed boat which kept alongside of him the whole time as if to mock him; he now understood its evil errand only too well. If the Kvejtepig could reach the Draug before, a knife or a gaff might surely do the same thing now, and he felt that he would gladly have given his life for one good grip of the being who had so mercilessly torn from him his dearest in this world and would fain have still more.

At three or four o’clock in the morning they saw coming upon them through the darkness a breaker of such a height that at first Elias thought they must be quite close ashore near the surf swell. Nevertheless, he soon recognised it for what it really was–a huge billow. Then it seemed to him as if there was a laugh over in the other boat, and something said, “There goes thy boat, Elias!” He, foreseeing the calamity, now cried aloud: “In Jesus’ Name!” and then bade his sons hold on with all their might to the withy-bands by the rowlocks when the boat went under, and not let go till it was above the water again. He made the elder of them go forward to Bernt; and himself held the youngest close by his side, stroked him once or twice furtively down the cheeks, and made sure that he had a good grip. The boat, literally buried beneath the foaming roller, was lifted gradually up by the bows and then went under. When it rose again out of the water, with the keel in the air, Elias, Bernt, and the twelve-year-old Martin lay alongside, holding on by the withy-bands; but the third of the brothers was gone.

They had now first of all to get the shrouds on one side cut through, so that the mast might come to the surface alongside instead of disturbing the balance of the boat below; and then they must climb up on the swaying bottom of the boat and stave in the key-holes, to let out the air which kept the boat too high in the water, and so ease her. After great exertions they succeeded, and Elias, who had got up on the top first, now helped the other two up after him.

There they sat through the long dark winter night, clinging convulsively on by their hands and knees to the boat’s bottom, which was drenched by the billows again and again.

After the lapse of a couple of hours died Martin, whom his father had held up the whole time as far as he was able, of sheer exhaustion, and glided down into the sea. They had tried to cry for help several times, but gave it up at last as a bad job.

Whilst they two thus sat all alone on the bottom of the boat, Elias said to Bernt he must now needs believe that he too was about to be “along o’ mother!” but that he had a strong hope that Bernt, at any rate, would be saved, if he only held out like a man. Then he told him all about the Draug, whom he had struck below the neck with the Kvejtepig, and how it had now revenged itself upon him, and certainly would not forbear till it was “quits with him”.

It was towards nine o’clock in the morning when the grey dawn began to appear. Then Elias gave to Bernt, who sat alongside him, his silver watch with the brass chain, which he had snapped in two in order to drag it from beneath his closely buttoned jacket. He held on for a little time longer, but, as it got lighter, Bernt saw that his father’s face was deadly pale, his hair too had parted here and there, as often happens when death is at hand, and his skin was chafed off his hands from holding on to the keel. The son understood now that his father was nearly at the last gasp, and tried, so far as the pitching and tossing would allow it, to hold him up; but when Elias marked it, he said, “Nay, look to thyself, Bernt, and hold on fast. I go to mother–in Jesus’ Name!” and with that he cast himself down headlong from the top of the boat.

Every one who has sat on the keel of a boat long enough knows that when the sea has got its own it grows much calmer, though not immediately. Bernt now found it easier to hold on, and still more of hope came to him with the brightening day. The storm abated, and, when it got quite light, it seemed to him that he knew where he was, and that it was outside his own homestead, Kvalholm, that he lay driving.

He now began again to cry for help, but his chief hope was in a current which he knew bore landwards at a place where a headland broke in upon the surge, and there the water was calmer. And he did, in fact, drive closer and closer in, and came at last so near to one of the rocks that the mast, which was floating by the side of the boat all the time, surged up and down in the swell against the sloping cliff. Stiff as he now was in all his limbs from sitting and holding on, he nevertheless succeeded, after a great effort, in clambering up the cliff, where he hauled the mast ashore, and made the Femböring fast.

The Finn girl, who was alone in the house, had been thinking, for the last two hours, that she had heard cries for help from time to time, and as they kept on she mounted the hill to see what it was. There she saw Bernt up on the cliff, and the overturned Femböring bobbing up and down against it. She immediately dashed down to the boat-place, got out the old rowing-boat, and rowed along the shore and round the island right out to him.

Bernt lay sick under her care the whole winter through, and didn’t go a fishing all that year. Ever after this, too, it seemed to folks as if the lad were a little bit daft.

On the open sea he never would go again, for he had got the sea-scare. He wedded the Finn girl, and moved over to Malang, where he got him a clearing in the forest, and he lives there now, and is doing well, they say.

Wide awake!

Story from ‘Weird Tales from the Northern Seas’ by Jonas Lie.

Jack of Sjöholm and the Gan-Finn

Mummeee! Can we have some hot chocolate?

And a cookie?

And a bed-time story from the Northern Seas?

In the days of our forefathers, when there was nothing but wretched boats up in Nordland, and folks must needs buy fair winds by the sackful from the Gan-Finn, it was not safe to tack about in the open sea in wintry weather. In those days a fisherman never grew old. It was mostly womenfolk and children, and the lame and halt, who were buried ashore.

Now there was once a boat’s crew from Thj√∂tt√∂ in Helgeland, which had put to sea, and worked its way right up to the East Lofotens.

But that winter the fish would not bite.

They lay to and waited week after week, till the month was out, and there was nothing for it but to turn home again with their fishing gear and empty boats.

But Jack of Sj√∂holm, who was with them, only laughed aloud, and said that, if there were no fish there, fish would certainly be found higher northwards. Surely they hadn’t rowed out all this distance only to eat up all their victuals, said he.

He was quite a young chap, who had never been out fishing before. But there was some sense in what he said for all that, thought the head-fisherman.

And so they set their sails northwards.

On the next fishing-ground they fared no better than before, but they toiled away so long as their food held out.

And now they all insisted on giving it up and turning back.

“If there’s none here, there’s sure to be some still higher up towards the north,” opined Jack; “and if they had gone so far, they might surely go a little further still,” quoth he.

So they tempted fortune from fishing-ground to fishing-ground, till they had ventured right up to Finmark. But there a storm met them, and, try as they might to find shelter under the headlands, they were obliged at last to put out into the open sea again.

There they fared worse than ever. They had a hard time of it. Again and again the prow of the boat went under the heavy rollers, instead of over them, and later on in the day the boat foundered.

There they all sat helplessly on the keel in the midst of the raging sea, and they all complained bitterly against that fellow Jack, who had tempted them on, and led them into destruction. What would now become of their wives and children? They would starve now that they had none to care for them.

When it grew dark, their hands began to stiffen, and they were carried off by the sea one by one.

And Jack heard and saw everything, down to the last shriek and the last clutch; and to the very end they never ceased reproaching him for bringing them into such misery, and bewailing their sad lot.

“I must hold on tight now,” said Jack to himself, for he was better even where he was than in the sea.

And so he tightened his knees on the keel, and held on fast till he had no feeling left in either hand or foot.

In the coal-black gusty night he fancied he heard yells from one or other of the remaining boats’ crews.

“They, too, have wives and children,” thought he. “I wonder whether they have also a Jack to lay the blame upon!”

Now while he thus lay there and drifted and drifted, and it seemed to him to be drawing towards dawn, he suddenly felt that the boat was in the grip of a strong shoreward current; and, sure enough, Jack got at last ashore. But whichever way he looked, he saw nothing but black sea and white snow.

Now as he stood there, speering and spying about him, he saw, far away, the smoke of a Finn Gamme, which stood beneath a cliff, and he managed to scramble right up to it.

The Finn was so old that he could scarcely move. He was sitting in the midst of the warm ashes, and mumbling into a big sack, and neither spoke nor answered. Large yellow humble-bees were humming about all over the snow, as if it were Midsummer; and there was only a young lass there to keep the fire alight, and give the old man his food. His grandsons and grand-daughters were with the reindeer, far far away on the Fjeld.

Here Jack got his clothes well dried, and the rest he so much wanted. The Finn girl, Seimke, couldn’t make too much of him; she fed him with reindeer milk and marrow-bones, and he lay down to sleep on silver fox-skins.

Cosy and comfortable it was in the smoke there. But as he thus lay there, ‘twixt sleep and wake, it seemed to him as if many odd things were going on round about him.

There stood the Finn in the doorway talking to his reindeer, although they were far away in the mountains. He barred the wolf’s way, and threatened the bear with spells; and then he opened his skin sack, so that the storm howled and piped, and there was a swirl of ashes into the hut. And when all grew quiet again, the air was thick with yellow humble-bees, which settled inside his furs, whilst he gabbled and mumbled and wagged his skull-like head.

But Jack had something else to think about besides marvelling at the old Finn. No sooner did the heaviness of slumber quit his eyes than he strolled down to his boat.

There it lay stuck fast on the beach and tilted right over like a trough, while the sea rubbed and rippled against its keel. He drew it far enough ashore to be beyond the reach of the sea-wash.

But the longer he walked around and examined it, the more it seemed to him as if folks built boats rather for the sake of letting the sea in than for the sake of keeping the sea out. The prow was little better than a hog’s snout for burrowing under the water, and the planking by the keel-piece was as flat as the bottom of a chest. Everything, he thought, must be arranged very differently if boats were to be really seaworthy. The prow must be raised one or two planks higher at the very least, and made both sharp and supple, so as to bend before and cut through the waves at the same time, and then a fellow would have a chance of steering a boat smartly.

He thought of this day and night. The only relaxation he had was a chat with the Finn girl of an evening.

He couldn’t help remarking that this Seimke had fallen in love with him. She strolled after him wherever he went, and her eyes always became so mournful when he went down towards the sea; she understood well enough that all his thoughts were bent upon going away.

And the Finn sat and mumbled among the ashes till his fur jacket regularly steamed and smoked.

But Seimke coaxed and wheedled Jack with her brown eyes, and gave him honeyed words as fast as her tongue could wag, till she drew him right into the smoke where the old Finn couldn’t hear them.

The Gan-Finn turned his head right round.

“My eyes are stupid, and the smoke makes ’em run,” said he; “what has Jack got hold of there?”

“Say it is the white ptarmigan you caught in the snare,” whispered she.

And Jack felt that she was huddling up against him and trembling all over.

Then she told him so softly that he thought it was his own thoughts speaking to him, that the Finn was angry and muttering mischief, and jöjking,4 against the boat which Jack wanted to build. If Jack were to complete it, said she, the Gan-Finn would no longer have any sale for his fair-winds in all Nordland. And then she warned him to look to himself and never get between the Finn and the Gan-flies.

Then Jack felt that his boat might be the undoing of him. But the worse things looked, the more he tried to make the best of them.

In the grey dawn, before the Finn was up, he made his way towards the sea-shore.

But there was something very odd about the snow-hills. They were so many and so long that there was really no end to them, and he kept on trampling in deep and deeper snow and never got to the sea-shore at all. Never before had he seen the northern lights last so long into the day. They blazed and sparkled, and long tongues of fire licked and hissed after him. He was unable to find either the beach or the boat, nor had he the least idea in the world where he really was.

At last he discovered that he had gone quite astray inland instead of down to the sea. But now, when he turned round, the sea-fog came close up against him, so dense and grey that he could see neither hand nor foot before him.

By the evening he was well-nigh worn out with weariness, and was at his wits’ end what to do.

Night fell, and the snowdrifts increased.

As now he sat him down on a stone and fell a brooding and pondering how he should escape with his life, a pair of snow-shoes came gliding so smoothly towards him out of the sea-fog and stood still just in front of his feet.

“As you have found me, you may as well find the way back also,” said he.

So he put them on, and let the snow-shoes go their own way over hillside and steep cliff. He let not his own eyes guide him or his own feet carry him, and the swifter he went the denser the snowflakes and the driving sea-spray came up against him, and the blast very nearly blew him off the snow-shoes.

Up hill and down dale he went over all the places where he had fared during the daytime, and it sometimes seemed as if he had nothing solid beneath him at all, but was flying in the air.

Suddenly the snow-shoes stood stock still, and he was standing just outside the entrance of the Gan-Finn’s hut.

There stood Seimke. She was looking for him.

“I sent my snow-shoes after thee,” said she, “for I marked that the Finn had bewitched the land so that thou should’st not find the boat. Thy life is safe, for he has given thee shelter in his house, but it were not well for thee to see him this evening.”

Then she smuggled him in, so that the Finn did not perceive it in the thick smoke, and she gave him meat and a place to rest upon.

But when he awoke in the night, he heard an odd sound, and there was a buzzing and a singing far away in the air:

“The Finn the boat can never bind,
The Fly the boatman cannot find,
But round in aimless whirls doth wind.”

The Finn was sitting among the ashes and jöjking, and muttering till the ground quite shook, while Seimke lay with her forehead to the floor and her hands clasped tightly round the back of her neck, praying against him to the Finn God. Then Jack understood that the Gan-Finn was still seeking after him amidst the snowflakes and sea-fog, and that his life was in danger from magic spells.

So he dressed himself before it was light, went out, and came tramping in again all covered with snow, and said he had been after bears in their winter retreats. But never had he been in such a sea-fog before; he had groped about far and wide before he found his way back into the hut again, though he stood just outside it.

The Finn sat there with his skin-wrappings as full of yellow flies as a beehive. He had sent them out searching in every direction, but back they had all come, and were humming and buzzing about him.

When he saw Jack in the doorway, and perceived that the flies had pointed truly, he grew somewhat milder, and laughed till he regularly shook within his skin-wrappings, and mumbled, “The bear we’ll bind fast beneath the scullery-sink, and his eyes I’ve turned all awry, so that he can’t see his boat, and I’ll stick a sleeping-peg in front of him till springtime.”

But the same day the Finn stood in the doorway, and was busy making magic signs and strange strokes in the air.

Then he sent forth two hideous Gan-flies, which flitted off on their errands, and scorched black patches beneath them in the snow wherever they went. They were to bring pain and sickness to a cottage down in the swamps, and spread abroad the Finn disease, which was to strike down a young bride at Bodö with consumption.

But Jack thought of nothing else night and day but how he could get the better of the Gan-Finn.

The lass Seimke wheedled him and wept and begged him, as he valued his life, not to try to get down to his boat again. At last, however, she saw it was no use–he had made up his mind to be off.

Then she kissed his hands and wept bitterly. At least he must promise to wait till the Gan-Finn had gone right away to Jokmok in Sweden.

On the day of his departure, the Finn went all round his hut with a torch and took stock.

Far away as they were, there stood the mountain pastures, with the reindeer and the dogs, and the Finn’s people all drew near. The Finn took the tale of the beasts, and bade his grandsons not let the reindeer stray too far while he was away, and could not guard them from wolves and bears. Then he took a sleeping potion and began to dance and turn round and round till his breath quite failed him, and he sank moaning to the ground. His furs were all that remained behind of him. His spirit had gone–gone all the way over to Jokmok.

There the magicians were all sitting together in the dark sea-fog beneath the shelter of the high mountain, and whispering about all manner of secret and hidden things, and blowing spirits into the novices of the black art.

But the Gan-flies, humming and buzzing, went round and round the empty furs of the Gan-Finn like a yellow ring and kept watch.

In the night Jack was awakened by something pulling and tugging at him as if from far away. There was as it were a current of air, and something threatened and called to him from the midst of the snowflakes outside–
“Until thou canst swim like the duck or the drake,
The egg thou’dst be hatching no progress shall make;
The Finn shall ne’er let thee go southwards with sail,
For he’ll screw off the wind and imprison the gale.”

At the end of it the Gan-Finn was standing there, and bending right over him. The skin of his face hung down long and loose, and full of wrinkles, like an old reindeer skin, and there was a dizzying smoke in his eyes. Then Jack began to shiver and stiffen in all his limbs, and he knew that the Finn was bent upon bewitching him.

Then he set his face rigidly against it, so that the magic spells should not get at him; and thus they struggled with one another till the Gan-Finn grew green in the face, and was very near choking.

After that the sorcerers of Jokmok sent magic shots after Jack, and clouded his wits. He felt so odd; and whenever he was busy with his boat, and had put something to rights in it, something else would immediately go wrong, till at last he felt as if his head were full of pins and needles.

Then deep sorrow fell upon him. Try as he would, he couldn’t put his boat together as he would have it; and it looked very much as if he would never be able to cross the sea again.

But in the summer time Jack and Seimke sat together on the headland in the warm evenings, and the gnats buzzed and the fishes spouted close ashore in the stillness, and the eider-duck swam about.

“If only some one would build me a boat as swift and nimble as a fish, and able to ride upon the billows like a sea-mew!” sighed and lamented Jack, “then I could be off.”

“Would you like me to guide you to Thj√∂tt√∂?” said a voice up from the sea-shore.

There stood a fellow in a flat turned-down skin cap, whose face they couldn’t see.

And right outside the boulders there, just where they had seen the eider-duck, lay a long and narrow boat, with high prow and stern; and the tar-boards were mirrored plainly in the clear water below; there was not so much as a single knot in the wood.

“I would be thankful for any such guidance,” said Jack.

When Seimke heard this, she began to cry and take on terribly. She fell upon his neck, and wouldn’t let go, and raved and shrieked. She promised him her snow-shoes, which would carry him through everything, and said she would steal for him the bone-stick from the Gan-Finn, so that he might find all the old lucky dollars that ever were buried, and would teach him how to make salmon-catching knots in the fishing lines, and how to entice the reindeer from afar. He should become as rich as the Gan-Finn, if only he wouldn’t forsake her.

But Jack had only eyes for the boat down there. Then she sprang up, and tore down her black locks, and bound them round his feet, so that he had to wrench them off before he could get quit of her.

“If I stay here and play with you and the young reindeer, many a poor fellow will have to cling with broken nails to the keel of a boat,” said he. “If you like to make it up, give me a kiss and a parting hug, or shall I go without them?”

Then she threw herself into his arms like a young wild cat, and looked straight into his eyes through her tears, and shivered and laughed, and was quite beside herself.

But when she saw she could do nothing with him, she rushed away, and waved her hands above her head in the direction of the Gamme.

Then Jack understood that she was going to take counsel of the Gan-Finn, and that he had better take refuge in his boat before the way was closed to him. And, in fact, the boat had come so close up to the boulders, that he had only to step down upon the thwarts. The rudder glided into his hand, and aslant behind the mast sat some one at the prow, and hoisted and stretched the sail: but his face Jack could not see. Away they went. And such a boat for running before the wind Jack had never seen before. The sea stood up round about them like a deep snow-drift, although it was almost calm. But they hadn’t gone very far before a nasty piping began in the air. The birds shrieked and made for land, and the sea rose like a black wall behind them. It was the Gan-Finn who had opened his wind-sack, and sent a storm after them. “One needs a full sail in the Finn-cauldron here,” said something from behind the mast.

The fellow who had the boat in hand took such little heed of the weather that he did not so much as take in a single clew.

Then the Gan-Finn sent double knots after them.

They sped along in a wild dance right over the firth, and the sea whirled up in white columns of foam, reaching to the very clouds.

Unless the boat could fly as quick and quicker than a bird, it was lost.

Then a hideous laugh was heard to larboard–
“Anfinn Ganfinn gives mouth,
And blows us right south;
There’s a crack in the sack,
With three clews we must tack.”

And heeling right over, with three clews in the sail, and the heavy foremost fellow astride on the sheer-strake, with his huge sea-boots dangling in the sea-foam, away they scudded through the blinding spray right into the open sea, amidst the howling and roaring of the wind.

The billowy walls were so vast and heavy that Jack couldn’t even see the light of day across the yards, nor could he exactly make out whether they were going under or over the sea-trough.

The boat shook the sea aside as lightly and easily as if its prow were the slippery fin of a fish, and its planking was as smooth and fine as the shell of a tern’s egg; but, look as he would, Jack couldn’t see where these planks ended; it was just as if there was only half a boat and no more; and at last it seemed to him as if the whole of the front part came off in the sea-foam, and they were scudding along under sail in half a boat.

When night fell, they went through the sea-fire, which glowed like hot embers, and there was a prolonged and hideous howling up in the air to windward.

And cries of distress and howls of mortal agony answered the wind from all the upturned boat keels they sped by, and many hideously pale-looking folks clutched hold of their thwarts. The gleam of the sea-fire cast a blue glare on their faces, and they sat, and gaped, and glared, and yelled at the blast.

Suddenly he awoke, and something cried, “Now thou art at home at Thj√∂tt√∂, Jack!”

And when he had come to himself a bit, he recognised where he was. He was lying over against the boulders near his boathouse at home. The tide had come so far inland that a border of foam gleamed right up in the potato-field, and he could scarcely keep his feet for the blast. He sat him down in the boathouse, and began scratching and marking out the shape of the Draugboat in the black darkness till sleep overtook him.

When it was light in the morning, his sister came down to him with a meat-basket. She didn’t greet him as if he were a stranger, but behaved as if it were the usual thing for her to come thus every morning. But when he began telling her all about his voyage to Finmark, and the Gan-Finn, and the Draugboat he had come home in at night, he perceived that she only grinned and let him chatter. And all that day he talked about it to his sister and his brothers and his mother, until he arrived at the conclusion that they thought him a little out of his wits. When he mentioned the Draugboat they smiled amongst themselves, and evidently went out of their way to humour him. But they might believe what they liked, if only he could carry out what he wanted to do, and be left to himself in the out-of-the-way old boathouse.

“One should go with the stream,” thought Jack; and if they thought him crazy and out of his wits, he ought to behave so that they might beware of interfering with him, and disturbing him in his work.

So he took a bed of skins with him down to the boathouse, and slept there at night; but in the daytime he perched himself on a pole on the roof, and bellowed out that now he was sailing. Sometimes he rode astraddle on the roof ridge, and dug his sheath-knife deep into the rafters, so that people might think he fancied himself at sea, holding fast on to the keel of a boat.

Whenever folks passed by, he stood in the doorway, and turned up the whites of his eyes so hideously, that every one who saw him was quite scared. As for the people at home, it was as much as they dared to stick his meat-basket into the boathouse for him. So they sent it to him by his youngest sister, merry little Malfri, who would sit and talk with him, and thought it such fun when he made toys and playthings for her, and talked about the boat which should go like a bird, and sail as no other boat had ever sailed.

If any one chanced to come upon him unexpectedly, and tried to peep and see what he was about in the boathouse there, he would creep up into the timber-loft and bang and pitch the boards and planks about, so that they didn’t know exactly where to find him, and were glad enough to be off. But one and all made haste to climb over the hill again when they heard him fling himself down at full length and send peal after peal of laughter after them.

So that was how Jack got folks to leave him at peace.

He worked best at night when the storm tore and tugged at the stones and birchbark of the turf roof, and the sea-wrack came right up to the boathouse door.

When it piped and whined through the fissured walls, and the fine snowflakes flitted through the cracks, the model of the Draugboat stood plainest before him. The winter days were short, and the wick of the train-oil lamp, which hung over him as he worked, cast deep shadows, so that the darkness came soon and lasted a long way into the morning, when he sought sleep in his bed of skins with a heap of shavings for his pillow.

He spared no pains or trouble. If there was a board which would not run into the right groove with the others, though never so little, he would take out a whole row of them and plane them all round again and again.

Now, one night, just before Christmas, he had finished all but the uppermost planking and the gabs. He was working so hard to finish up that he took no count of time.

The plane was sending the shavings flying their briskest when he came to a dead stop at something black which was moving along the plank.

It was a large and hideous fly which was crawling about and feeling and poking all the planks in the boat. When it reached the lowest keel-board it whirred with its wings and buzzed. Then it rose and swept above it in the air till, all at once, it swerved away into the darkness.

Jack’s heart sank within him. Such doubt and anguish came upon him. He knew well enough that no good errand had brought the Gan-fly buzzing over the boat like that.

So he took the train-oil lamp and a wooden club, and began to test the prow and light up the boarding, and thump it well, and go over the planks one by one. And in this way he went over every bit of the boat from stem to stern, both above and below. There was not a nail or a rivet that he really believed in now.

But now neither the shape nor the proportions of the boat pleased him any more. The prow was too big, and the whole cut of the boat all the way down the gunwale had something of a twist and a bend and a swerve about it, so that it looked like the halves of two different boats put together, and the half in front didn’t fit in with the half behind. As he was about to look into the matter still further (and he felt the cold sweat bursting out of the roots of his hair), the train-oil lamp went out and left him in blank darkness.

Then he could contain himself no longer. He lifted his club and burst open the boathouse door, and, snatching up a big cow-bell, he began to swing it about him and ring and ring with it through the black night.

“Art chiming for me, Jack?” something asked. There was a sound behind him like the surf sucking at the shore, and a cold blast blew into the boathouse.

There on the keel-stick sat some one in a sloppy grey sea-jacket, and with a print cap drawn down over its ears, so that its skull looked like a low tassel.

Jack gave a great start. This was the very being he had been thinking of in his wild rage. Then he took the large baling can and flung it at the Draug.

But right through the Draug it went, and rattled against the wall behind, and back again it came whizzing about Jack’s ears, and if it had struck him he would never have got up again.

The old fellow, however, only blinked his eyes a little savagely.

“Fie!” cried Jack, and spat at the uncanny thing–and back into his face again he got as good as he gave.

“There you have your wet clout back again!” cried a laughing voice.

But the same instant Jack’s eyes were opened and he saw a whole boat-building establishment on the sea-shore.

And, there, ready and rigged out on the bright water, lay an Ottring, so long and shapely and shining that his eyes could not feast on it enough.

The old ‘un blinked with satisfaction. His eyes became more and more glowing.

“If I could guide you back to Helgeland,” said he, “I could put you in the way of gaining your bread too. But you must pay me a little tax for it. In every seventh boat you build ’tis I who must put in the keel-board.”

Jack felt as if he were choking. He felt that the boat was dragging him into the very jaws of an abomination.

“Or do you fancy you’ll worm the trick out of me for nothing?” said the gaping grinning Draug.

Then there was a whirring sound, as if something heavy was hovering about the boathouse, and there was a laugh: “If you want the seaman’s boat you must take the dead man’s boat along with it. If you knock three times to-night on the keel-piece with the club, you shall have such help in building boats that the like of them will not be found in all Nordland.”

Twice did Jack raise his club that night, and twice he laid it aside again.

But the Ottring lay and frisked and sported in the sea before his eyes, just as he had seen it, all bright and new with fresh tar, and with the ropes and fishing gear just put in. He kicked and shook the fine slim boat with his foot just to see how light and high she could rise on the waves above the water-line.

And once, twice, thrice, the club smote against the keel-piece.

So that was how the first boat was built at Sjöholm.

Thick as birds together stood a countless number of people on the headland in the autumn, watching Jack and his brothers putting out in the new Ottring.

It glided through the strong current so that the foam was like a foss all round it.

Now it was gone, and now it ducked up again like a sea-mew, and past skerries and capes it whizzed like a dart.

Out in the fishing grounds the folks rested upon their oars and gaped. Such a boat they had never seen before.

But if in the first year it was an Ottring, next year it was a broad heavy Femböring for winter fishing which made the folks open their eyes.

And every boat that Jack turned out was lighter to row and swifter to sail than the one before it.

But the largest and finest of all was the last that stood on the stocks on the shore.

This was the seventh.

Jack walked to and fro, and thought about it a good deal; but when he came down to see it in the morning, it seemed to him, oddly enough, to have grown in the night and, what is more, was such a wondrous beauty that he was struck dumb with astonishment. There it lay ready at last, and folks were never tired of talking about it.

Now, the Bailiff who ruled over all Helgeland in those days was an unjust man who laid heavy taxes upon the people, taking double weight and tale both of fish and of eider-down, nor was he less grasping with the tithes and grain dues. Wherever his fellows came they fleeced and flayed. No sooner, then, did the rumour of the new boats reach him than he sent his people out to see what truth was in it, for he himself used to go fishing in the fishing grounds with large crews. When thus his fellows came back and told him what they had seen, the Bailiff was so taken with it that he drove straightway over to Sj√∂holm, and one fine day down he came swooping on Jack like a hawk. “Neither tithe nor tax hast thou paid for thy livelihood, so now thou shalt be fined as many half-marks of silver as thou hast made boats,” said he.

Ever louder and fiercer grew his rage. Jack should be put in chains and irons and be transported northwards to the fortress of Skraar, and be kept so close that he should never see sun or moon more.

But when the Bailiff had rowed round the Femböring, and feasted his eyes upon it, and seen how smart and shapely it was, he agreed at last to let Mercy go before Justice, and was content to take the Femböring in lieu of a fine.

Then Jack took off his cap and said that if there was one man more than another to whom he would like to give the boat, it was his honour the Bailiff.

So off the magistrate sailed with it.

Jack’s mother and sister and brothers cried bitterly at the loss of the beautiful Femb√∂ring; but Jack stood on the roof of the boat-house and laughed fit to split.

And towards autumn the news spread that the Bailiff with his eight men had gone down with the Femböring in the West-fjord.

But in those days there was quite a changing about of boats all over Nordland, and Jack was unable to build a tenth part of the boats required of him. Folks from near and far hung about the walls of his boat-house, and it was quite a favour on his part to take orders, and agree to carry them out. A whole score of boats soon stood beneath the pent-house on the strand.

He no longer troubled his head about every seventh boat, or cared to know which it was or what befell it. If a boat foundered now and then, so many the more got off and did well, so that, on the whole, he made a very good thing indeed out of it. Besides, surely folks could pick and choose their own boats, and take which they liked best.

But Jack got so great and mighty that it was not advisable for any one to thwart him, or interfere where he ruled and reigned.

Whole rows of silver dollars stood in the barrels in the loft, and his boat-building establishment stretched over all the islands of Sjöholm.

One Sunday his brothers and merry little Malfri had gone to church in the Femb√∂ring. When evening came, and they hadn’t come home, the boatman came in and said that some one had better sail out and look after them, as a gale was blowing up.

Jack was sitting with a plumb-line in his hand, taking the measurements of a new boat, which was to be bigger and statelier than any of the others, so that it was not well to disturb him.

“Do you fancy they’re gone out in a rotten old tub, then?” bellowed he. And the boatman was driven out as quickly as he had come.

But at night Jack lay awake and listened. The wind whined outside and shook the walls, and there were cries from the sea far away. And just then there came a knocking at the door, and some one called him by name.

“Go back whence you came,” cried he, and nestled more snugly in his bed.

Shortly afterwards there came the fumbling and the scratching of tiny fingers at the door.

“Can’t you leave me at peace o’ nights?” he bawled, “or must I build me another bedroom?”

But the knocking and the fumbling for the latch outside continued, and there was a sweeping sound at the door, as of some one who could not open it. And there was a stretching of hands towards the latch ever higher and higher.

But Jack only lay there and laughed. “The Femb√∂rings that are built at Sj√∂holm don’t go down before the first blast that blows,” mocked he.

Then the latch chopped and hopped till the door flew wide open, and in the doorway stood pretty Malfri and her mother and brothers. The sea-fire shone about them, and they were dripping with water.

Their faces were pale and blue, and pinched about the corners of the mouth, as if they had just gone through their death agony. Malfri had one stiff arm round her mother’s neck; it was all torn and bleeding, just as when she had gripped her for the last time. She railed and lamented, and begged back her young life from him.

So now he knew what had befallen them.

Out into the dark night and the darker weather he went straightway to search for them, with as many boats and folk as he could get together. They sailed and searched in every direction, and it was in vain.

But towards day the Femböring came drifting homewards bottom upwards, and with a large hole in the keel-board.

Then he knew who had done the deed.

But since the night when the whole of Jack’s family went down, things were very different at Sj√∂holm.

In the daytime, so long as the hammering and the banging and the planing and the clinching rang about his ears, things went along swimmingly, and the frames of boat after boat rose thick as sea fowl on an Æggevær.

But no sooner was it quiet of an evening than he had company. His mother bustled and banged about the house, and opened and shut drawers and cupboards, and the stairs creaked with the heavy tread of his brothers going up to their bedrooms.

At night no sleep visited his eyes, and sure enough pretty Malfri came to his door and sighed and groaned.

Then he would lie awake there and think, and reckon up how many boats with false keel-boards he might have sent to sea. And the longer he reckoned the more draug-boats he made of it.

Then he would plump out of bed and creep through the dark night down to the boathouse. There he held a light beneath the boats, and banged and tested all the keel-boards with a club to see if he couldn’t hit upon the seventh. But he neither heard nor felt a single board give way. One was just like another. They were all hard and supple, and the wood, when he scraped off the tar, was white and fresh.

One night he was so tormented by an uneasiness about the new Sekstring, which lay down by the bridge ready to set off next morning, that he had no peace till he went down and tested its keel-board with his club.

But while he sat in the boat, and was bending over the thwart with a light, there was a gulping sound out at sea, and then came such a vile stench of rottenness. The same instant he heard a wading sound, as of many people coming ashore, and then up over the headland he saw a boat’s crew coming along.

They were all crooked-looking creatures, and they all leaned right forward and stretched out their arms before them. Whatever came in their way, both stone and stour, they went right through it, and there was neither sound nor shriek.

Behind them came another boat’s crew, big and little, grown men and little children, rattling and creaking.

And crew after crew came ashore and took the path leading to the headland.

When the moon peeped forth Jack could see right into their skeletons. Their faces glared, and their mouths gaped open with glistening teeth, as if they had been swallowing water. They came in heaps and shoals, one after the other: the place quite swarmed with them.

Then Jack perceived that here were all they whom he had tried to count and reckon up as he lay in bed, and a fit of fury came upon him.

He rose in the boat and spanked his leather breeches behind and cried: “You would have been even more than you are already if Jack hadn’t built his boats!”

But now like an icy whizzing blast they all came down upon him, staring at him with their hollow eyes.

They gnashed their teeth, and each one of them sighed and groaned for his lost life.

Then Jack, in his horror, put out from Sjöholm.

But the sail slackened, and he glided into dead water. There, in the midst of the still water, was a floating mass of rotten swollen planks. All of them had once been shaped and fashioned together, but were now burst and sprung, and slime and green mould and filth and nastiness hung about them.

Dead hands grabbed at the corners of them with their white knuckles and couldn’t grip fast. They stretched themselves across the water and sank again.

Then Jack let out all his clews and sailed and sailed and tacked according as the wind blew.

He glared back at the rubbish behind him to see if those things were after him. Down in the sea all the dead hands were writhing, and tried to strike him with gaffs astern.

Then there came a gust of wind whining and howling, and the boat drove along betwixt white seething rollers. The weather darkened, thick snowflakes filled the air, and the rubbish around him grew greener.

In the daytime he took the cormorants far away in the grey mist for his landmarks, and at night they screeched about his ears.

And the birds flitted and flitted continually, but Jack sat still and looked out upon the hideous cormorants.

At last the sea-fog lifted a little, and the air began to be alive with bright, black, buzzing flies. The sun burned, and far away inland the snowy plains blazed in its light.

He recognised very well the headland and shore where he was now able to lay to. The smoke came from the Gamme up on the snow-hill there. In the doorway sat the Gan-Finn. He was lifting his pointed cap up and down, up and down, by means of a thread of sinew, which went right through him, so that his skin creaked.

And up there also sure enough was Seimke.

She looked old and angular as she bent over the reindeer-skin that she was spreading out in the sunny weather. But she peeped beneath her arm as quick and nimble as a cat with kittens, and the sun shone upon her, and lit up her face and pitch-black hair.

She leaped up so briskly, and shaded her eyes with her hand, and looked down at him. Her dog barked, but she quieted it so that the Gan-Finn should mark nothing.

Then a strange longing came over him, and he put ashore.

He stood beside her, and she threw her arms over her head, and laughed and shook and nestled close up to him, and cried and pleaded, and didn’t know what to do with herself, and ducked down upon his bosom, and threw herself on his neck, and kissed and fondled him, and wouldn’t let him go.

But the Gan-Finn had noticed that there was something amiss, and sat all the time in his furs, and mumbled and muttered to the Gan-flies, so that Jack dare not get between him and the doorway.

The Finn was angry.

Since there had been such a changing about of boats over all Nordland, and there was no more sale for his fair winds, he was quite ruined, he complained. He was now so poor that he would very soon have to go about and beg his bread. And of all his reindeer he had only a single doe left, who went about there by the house.

Then Seimke crept behind Jack, and whispered to him to bid for this doe. Then she put the reindeer-skin around her, and stood inside the Gamme door in the smoke, so that the Gan-Finn only saw the grey skin, and fancied it was the reindeer they were bringing in.

Then Jack laid his hand upon Seimke’s neck, and began to bid.

The pointed cap ducked and nodded, and the Finn spat in the warm air; but sell his reindeer he would not.

Jack raised his price.

But the Finn heaved up the ashes all about him, and threatened and shrieked. The flies came as thick as snow-flakes; the Finn’s furry wrappings were alive with them.

Jack bid and bid till it reached a whole bushel load of silver, and the Finn was ready to jump out of his skins.

Then he stuck his head under his furs again, and mumbled and jöjked till the amount rose to seven bushels of silver.

Then the Gan-Finn laughed till he nearly split. He thought the reindeer would cost the purchaser a pretty penny.

But Jack lifted Seimke up, and sprang down with her to his boat, and held the reindeer-skin behind him, against the Gan-Finn.

And they put off from land, and went to sea.

Seimke was so happy, and smote her hands together, and took her turn at the oars.

The northern light shot out like a comb, all greeny-red and fiery, and licked and played upon her face. She talked to it, and fought it with her hands, and her eyes sparkled. She used both tongue and mouth and rapid gestures as she exchanged words with it.

Then it grew dark, and she lay on his bosom, so that he could feel her warm breath. Her black hair lay right over him, and she was as soft and warm to the touch as a ptarmigan when it is frightened and its blood throbs.

Jack put the reindeer-skin over Seimke, and the boat rocked them to and fro on the heavy sea as if it were a cradle.

They sailed on and on till night-fall; they sailed on and on till they saw neither headland nor island nor sea-bird in the outer skerries more.

That was weird!

Totally! I can’t sleep now!

Story from ‘Weird Tales from the Northern Seas’ by Jonas Lie.