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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang


The Marvels at Froda

The following tale has all the direct simplicity and truth to human nature which mark the ancient literature of Iceland. Defoe might have envied the profusion of detail; "The large chest with a lock, and the small box," and so on. Some of the minor portents, such as the disturbances among inanimate objects, and the appearance of a glow of mysterious light, "the Fate Moon," recur in modern tales of haunted houses. The combination of Christian exorcism, then a novelty in Iceland, with legal proceedings against the ghosts, is especially characteristic.


During that summer in which Christianity was adopted by law in Iceland (1000 A.D.), it happened that a ship came to land at Snowfell Ness. It was a Dublin vessel, manned by Irish and Hebrideans, with few Norsemen on board. They lay there for a long time during the summer, waiting for a favourable wind to sail into the firth, and many people from the Ness went down to trade with them. There was on board a Hebridean woman named Thorgunna, of whom her shipmates said that she owned some costly things, the like of which would be difficult to find in Iceland. When Thurid, the housewife at Froda, heard of this she was very curious to see the articles, for she was a woman that was fond of show and finery. She went to the ship and asked Thorgunna whether she had any woman's apparel that was finer than the common. Thorgunna said that she had nothing of the kind to sell, but had some good things of her own, that she might not be affronted at feasts or other gatherings. Thurid begged a sight of these, and Thorgunna showed her treasures. Thurid was much pleased with them, and thought them very becoming, though not of high value. She offered to buy them, but Thorgunna would not sell. Thurid then invited her to come and stay with her, because she knew that Thorgunna was well provided, and thought that she would get the things from her in course of time.

Thorgunna answered, "I am well pleased to go to stay with you, but you must know that I have little mind to pay for myself, because I am well able to work, and have no dislike to it, though I will not do any dirty work. I must be allowed to settle what I shall pay for myself out of such property as I have."

Although Thorgunna spoke in this fashion, yet Thurid would have her to go with her, and her things were taken out of the ship; these were in a large chest with a lock and a small box, and both were taken home to Froda. When Thorgunna arrived there she asked for her bed to be shown her, and was given one in the inner part of the hall. Then she opened up the chest, and took bed-clothes out of it: they were all very beautiful, and over the bed she spread English coverlets and a silken quilt. Out of the chest she also brought a bed-curtain and all the hangings that belonged to it, and the whole outfit was so fine that folk thought they had never seen the like of it.

Then said Thurid the housewife: "Name the price of all your bed- clothes and hangings".

Thorgunna answered, "I will not lie among straw for you, although you are so stately, and bear yourself so proudly".

Thurid was ill pleased at this, and offered no more to buy the things.