Grimso Man and the Bear

It once happened on Grimsö that the fire went out in winter, so that no fire or light could be lit on any farm. It was calm weather then and the frost was so severe that Grimsösund was frozen over and it was believed that the ice could carry. So the inhabitants of Grimsö decided to send a few people to the mainland to fetch fires, and they chose three of the ablest men on the island.

They departed early in the morning in bright weather, and a crowd of residents accompanied them out onto the ice, wishing them a happy journey and a speedy return home. Nothing is recorded of the journey of the emissaries until they came to a wake in the middle of the sound, so long that they could not see its end, and so wide that only two could narrowly leap across, while the third was didn’t think he could do it. The others therefore advised him to return to the island and continued their wanderings; but he stayed behind at the edge of the wake and followed her with his eyes. Reluctant to return empty handed, he decided to walk along the wake to see if it might be narrower somewhere else. During the day the weather became cloudy,[253] storm and rain. The ice broke away and finally the man stood on an ice floe that was drifting towards the sea. In the evening, the floe hit a large iceberg, which the man climbed onto. Then he discovered a bear lying on his cubs not far from him. But he was uptight and hungry, and now he dreaded life. When the bear saw the man, he looked at him for a while, then got up, walked towards him, circled him, and motioned for him to lie down on the bed with the cubs. He did this with fear in his heart. Then the animal lay down itself with him, spread itself over him and suckled him and his young at the same time. The night passed; the next day the animal got up, moved a little way from the bed and beckoned the man to follow him. When he got out on the ice the bear lay down at his feet and motioned for him to sit on his back. When he mounted the bear’s back, it rose, shaking and shaking until the man fell off him. This time he was satisfied with this test, but the man wondered about it. Three days passed; at night the man lay on the bear’s bed and sucked his milk, but every morning the bear made him sit on his back and then he shook himself until the man could hold on no longer. On the fourth morning, the man was able to hold onto the animal’s back no matter how much it shook. until the man fell off him. This time he was satisfied with this test, but the man wondered about it. Three days passed; at night the man lay on the bear’s bed and sucked his milk, but every morning the bear made him sit on his back and then he shook himself until the man could hold on no longer. On the fourth morning, the man was able to hold onto the animal’s back no matter how much it shook. until the man fell off him. This time he was satisfied with this test, but the man wondered about it. Three days passed; at night the man lay on the bear’s bed and sucked his milk, but every morning the bear made him sit on his back and then he shook himself until the man could hold on no longer. On the fourth morning, the man was able to hold onto the animal’s back no matter how much it shook.[254] Toward evening they went down onto the ice, with the man on their backs, and swam with him to the island.

When the man came ashore, he went up to the island and motioned to the bear to follow him. He led the way to his home, and immediately had the best cow in the stable milked, and had him drink as much freshly milked milk as he could; then he went into his fold before the bear, had the two best sheep taken out of his flock and slaughtered, tied them by the horns and laid them across the bear’s back. This returned to the sea and swam out to his young.

And now there was much joy at Grimsö; for while the islanders were looking at the bear in astonishment, they saw a boat coming from the mainland, and sailing towards the island with a fair wind. In it they hoped to see the other two emissaries with the fire.


The bear wrestling with the barrel
Somewhere in the Westfjords lies a farm below a steep mountain where a rich farmer once lived. High on the ridge he had a large shed where he kept his fish and other belongings. From the yard a straight path went up the hill, past the shed. It was as if surrounded by a wall; for great stones lay in rows on either side, while the ground was quite level.

The farmer had noticed that when it got dark in the evening, a bear usually came up the straight path to the shed and went to his fish, and had done him some harm in this way. So he had come up with a trick to get the critter to stop eating his fish. For he had a gigantic barrel made, which blocked the way when it was rolled down from the mountain, filled it with stones and pounded the ground properly. Now he left the bin on the ridge where the fenced path began and waited there himself until the bear came. This appeared at the usual time and went up the mountain unsuspectingly. But when he was almost at the top, the farmer rolled the barrel towards him. The Petz couldn’t go any further. The barrel was in a hurry[256] come while Petz tried with all his might to stop her in her run. He couldn’t turn around; for then he had the barrel close at his heels; nor could he jump over the barrel; for it took all his strength to resist her, lest she fall on his head. He wrestled with the barrel like this all night and slowly slid back in front of her until they were both on level ground below. Then the snitch was on the point of falling over from tiredness and slunk away, squinting at the bin.

The farmer, however, followed him with his laughter, and from then on had peace from him in his shed.


How the seals came into being
About the origin of the seals it is said that when Egypt’s king Pharaoh pursued Moses and the Jews across the Red Sea and drowned in it with all his army, as we know from the Bible, the king and all his men became seals, and that is why the bones of seals resemble those of humans so much. Since that time, the seals have lived as a family on the seabed, but have fully preserved the shape, nature and characteristics of the human under the fur. They are permitted as a mercy to crawl out of their skins every Midsummer Eve, or as others say, every Epiphany; then they go ashore, assume human form, and sing and dance like other humans.


The sealskin
A man from Myrdal in the east passed some rocks early one morning, before the people were up, and came to the mouth of a cave. Then he heard noise and dancing on the hill, but outside he saw a large number of sealskins. He picked up one of them, took it home and locked it in his chest. A little later, during the day, he came back to the entrance of the cave; there sat a young and beautiful girl who was completely naked and wept bitterly. This was the seal who owned the fur that the man had taken. The man gave the girl clothes, comforted her and took her home.

Later she was very fond of him, but her feelings did not agree with those of other people. She often sat and looked out over the sea. After some time the man took her to wife; they lived well together and had many children together.

The farmer hid the hide under lock and key in his chest and carried the key with him wherever he went. One day after the passage of many years he rowed out to fish and forgot the key at home under his pillow. Others, on the other hand, say that the farmer went to the Christmas service with his people, but that the woman did[259] had been ill and could not go; he is said to have forgotten to take the key out of the pocket of his weekday clothes when he was changing; but when he came home in the evening, the chest was open and the woman and her fur had disappeared. She had found the key and, out of curiosity, searched the chest and found the fur. She could no longer resist the temptation; she said farewell to her children, drove into the skin, and threw herself into the sea.

Before the woman jumped into the sea, she is said to have said to herself:

“I don’t want to, and I don’t want to –
I have seven children on the seabed,
I also have seven children up here.«
It is said that the farmer took this to heart. Later, when he rowed out to fish, the seal often swam around his boat and it was as if tears were streaming from his eyes. From that time on he was always successful in his fishing and fortune often visited his beach.

Frequently, when the couple’s children went to the beach, a seal would be seen swimming out in the sea and accompanying them as they walked in the country or along the beach, throwing up at them brightly colored fish and pretty shells. But her mother never returned to the country.


The Lindworm in the Lagar River
It happened once in the olden days that a woman lived on a farm near the Lagar River. She had a grown daughter who she once gave a gold circlet to. Then the girl asked, “How can I get the most out of this gold, mother?” “Put it under a lindworm,” replied the mother. So the girl took a lindworm, put the gold under it and then put everything in her drawer. The worm lay there for a few days. But when the girl wanted to look at the drawer, the worm had grown so big that the drawer had started to fall apart. The girl was frightened, took the ark and threw it and its contents into the river.

A long time passed, and one began to notice the worm in the river. He harmed people and animals trying to cross the river. At times it stretched itself up to the river hills and spat venom in a horrible way. This seemed to lead to a great calamity that no one knew how to face.

So they took refuge with two Finns. You should kill the worm and recover the gold. They threw themselves into the river, but soon got up again. They said that they were dealing with a great superiority here, and that it was not easy[261] The thing is to kill the worm and salvage the gold. They said there was another worm under the gold, and that it was much worse than the first. They tied the worm with two ropes, one tied around the belly and the other around the tail.

Therefore, since then, the worm has not been able to harm humans or animals; but it happens at times that it makes a hump on its back, and when this is seen it is easy to believe that it is a harbinger of bad things to come, such as famine and lack of grass. Those who do not believe in this worm say that not long ago a priest crossed the river at the very spot where the worm appeared to be. But they say that to prove that he’s not there.


The Grateful Raven
It is said that once some farms in Vatnsdal on Nordland were destroyed by a landslide that came from Vatnsdalberg. Among these farms was one called Guldberastad. The farmer’s daughter at Guldberastad was in the habit of sharing her food with the court raven whenever she ate. Once when she handed him the food she wanted to give him out the window, as she used to do, the raven would not take her. The girl wondered about it, and then she went out with her. The raven came close to her, but still would not take the food, although he showed all the time that he had an appetite, so that the girl pursued him to the home field, a short distance from the farm. But they had scarcely got there when the girl heard a loud noise from the mountain above, and suddenly a landslide came down from there; he ran past on either side of the raven and the farmer’s daughter, not touching the spot on which they were standing. On the other hand, the avalanche swept over the courtyard and destroyed it with everything that was there, living and dead. So the raven rewarded the farmer’s daughter for the food she had given him.

The reason, however, that the landslide did not roll over the spot where the raven and the girl[263] was that Bishop Gudmund the Holy had once pitched his tent at this place while passing through. But before he left there he consecrated the campsite, as he often did, and therefore no calamity could come upon that spot.