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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang


Soon after this there began great hauntings. One night Thorir Wooden- leg went outside and was at some distance from the door. When he was about to go in again, he saw that the shepherd had come between him and the door. Thorir tried to get in, but the shepherd would not allow him. Then Thorir tried to get away from him, but the shepherd followed him, caught hold of him, and threw him down at the door. He received great hurt from this, but was able to reach his bed; there he turned black as coal, took sickness and died. He was also buried at the church there, and after this both the shepherd and Thorir were seen in company, at which all the folk became full of fear, as was to be expected.

This also followed upon the burial of Thorir, that one of Thorodd's men grew ill, and lay three nights before he died; then one died after another, until six of them were gone. By this time the Christmas fast had come, although the fast was not then kept in Iceland. The store- closet, in which the dried fish were kept, was packed so full that the door could not be opened; the pile reached nigh up to the rafters, and a ladder was required to get the fish off the top of it. One evening while the folk were sitting round the fires, the fish were torn, but when search was made no living thing could be found there.

During the winter, a little before Christmas, Thorodd went out to Ness for the fish he had there; there were six men in all in a ten-oared boat, and they stayed out there all night. The same evening that Thorodd went from home, it happened at Froda, when folk went to sit by the fires that had been made, that they saw a seal's head rise up out of the fireplace. A maid-servant was the first who came forward and saw this marvel; she took a washing-bat which lay beside the door, and struck the seal's head with this, but it rose up at the blow and gazed at Thorgunna's bed-hangings. Then one of the men went up and beat the seal, but it rose higher at every blow until it had come up above the fins; then the man fell into a swoon, and all those who were present were filled with fear. Then the lad Kjartan sprang forward, took up a large iron sledge-hammer and struck at the seal's head; it was a heavy blow, but it only shook its head, and looked round. Then Kjartan gave it stroke after stroke, and the seal went down as though he were driving in a stake. Kjartan hammered away till the seal went down so far that he beat the floor close again above its head, and during the rest of the winter all the portents were most afraid of Kjartan.

Next morning, while Thorodd and the others were coming in from Ness with the fish, they were all lost out from Enni; the boat and the fish drove on shore there, but the bodies were never found. When the news of this reached Froda, Kjartan and Thurid invited their neighbours to the funeral banquet, and the ale prepared for Christmas was used for this purpose. The first evening of the feast, however, after the folk had taken their seats, there came into the hall Thorodd and his companions, all dripping wet. The folk greeted Thorodd well, thinking this a good omen, for at that time it was firmly believed that drowned men, who came to their own funeral feast, were well received by Ran, the sea-goddess; and the old beliefs had as yet suffered little, though folk were baptised and called Christians.