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Eight-year-old Princess Irene lives a lonely life in a wild and desolate country full of mountains and valleys. Her fathers palace, built upon one of the mountains, was very grand and beautiful. The princess was born there, but, soon after her birth, she was sent away to be brought up by country people in a large house, half castle, half farm-house, on the side of another mountain, about halfway between its base and its peak.
Her father the king is normally absent attending to affairs of state, and her mother is dead. Irene has never known about the existence of the goblins which lurk in the underground mines, but her nursemaid Lootie does know about them. These goblins are grotesque and hideous beings, who centuries ago were human, but due to various reasons, they were driven underground and became malformed and distorted by their new lifestyle. This caused them to despise the humans above the ground and vow revenge against them.
When the peaceful kingdom is menaced by an army of monstrous goblins, intent of revenge, the brave and beautiful princess Irene joins forces with, Curdie, a resourceful peasant boy to rescue the noble king and all his people. The lucky pair explore the mines and battle the evil power of the wicked goblin prince armed only with the gift of song, the miracle of love, and a magical shimmering thread given to her by a beautiful lady who lives in the attic of the great house. But just who is this beautiful lady and what does she want?
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ONCE upon a time there lived a man whose one wish and prayer was to get rich. Day and night he thought of nothing else, and at last his prayers were granted, and he became very wealthy. Now being so rich, and having so much to lose, he felt that it would be a terrible thing to die and leave all his possessions behind; so he made up his mind to set out in search of a land where there was no death. He got ready for his journey, took leave of his wife, and started. Whenever he came to a new country the first question that he asked was whether people died in that land, and when he heard that they did, he set out again on his quest. At last he reached a country where he was told that the people did not even know the meaning of the word death. Our traveller was delighted when he heard this, and said:
‘But surely there are great numbers of people in your land, if no one ever dies?’
`No,’ they replied, `there are not great numbers, for you see from time to time a voice is heard calling first one and then another, and whoever hears that voice gets up and goes away, and never comes back.’
`And do they see the person who calls them,’ he asked, `or do they only hear his voice?’
`They both see and hear him,’ was the answer.
Well, the man was amazed when he heard that the people were stupid enough to follow the voice, though they knew that if they went when it called them they would never return. And he went back to his own home and got all his possessions together, and, taking his wife and family, he set out resolved to go and live in that country where the people did not die, but where instead they heard a voice calling them, which they followed into a land from which they never returned. For he had made up his own mind that when he or any of his family heard that voice they would pay no heed to it, however loudly it called.
After he had settled down in his new home, and had got everything in order about him, he warned his wife and family that, unless they wanted to die, they must on no account listen to a voice which they might someday hear calling them.
For some years everything went well with them, and they lived happily in their new home. But one day, while they were all sit-ting together round the table, his wife suddenly started up, exclaiming in a loud voice:
`I am coming! I am coming!’
And she began to look round the room for her fur coat, but her husband jumped up, and taking firm hold of her by the hand, held her fast, and reproached her, saying:
`Don’t you remember what I told you? Stay where you are unless you wish to die.’
`But don’t you hear that voice calling me?’ she answered. `I am merely going to see why I am wanted. I shall come back directly.’
So she fought and struggled to get away from her husband, and to go where the voice summoned. But he would not let her go, and had all the doors of the house shut and bolted. When she saw that he had done this, she said:
‘Very well, dear husband, I shall do what you wish, and remain where I am.’
So her husband believed that it was all right, and that she had thought better of it, and had got over her mad impulse to obey the voice. But a few minutes later she made a sudden dash for one of the doors, opened it and darted out, followed by her husband. He caught her by the fur coat, and begged and implored her not to go, for if she did she would certainly never return. She said nothing, but let her arms fall backwards, and suddenly bending herself forward, she slipped out of the coat, leaving it in her husband’s hands. He, poor man, seemed turned to stone as he gazed after her hurrying away from him, and calling at the top of her voice, as she ran:
`I am coming! I am coming!’
When she was quite out of sight her husband recovered his wits and went back into his house, murmuring:
`If she is so foolish as to wish to die, I can’t help it. I warned and implored her to pay no heed to that voice, however loudly it might call.’
Well, days and weeks and months and years passed, and nothing happened to disturb the peace of the household. But one day the man was at the barber’s as usual, being shaved. The shop was full of people, and his chin had just been covered with a lather of soap, when, suddenly starting up from the chair, he called out in a loud voice:
`I won’t come, do you hear? I won’t come!’
The barber and the other people in the shop listened to him with amazement. But again looking towards the door, he exclaimed:
`I tell you, once and for all, I do not mean to come, so go away.’
And a few minutes later he called out again:
`Go away, I tell you, or it will be the worse for you. You may call as much as you like but you will never get me to come.’
And he got so angry that you might have thought that someone was actually standing at the door, tormenting him. At last he jumped up, and caught the razor out of the barber’s hand, exclaiming:
`Give me that razor, and I’ll teach him to let people alone for the future.’
And he rushed out of the house as if he were running after someone, whom no one else saw. The barber, determined not to lose his razor, pursued the man, and they both continued running at full speed till they had got well out of the town, when all of a sudden the man fell head foremost down a precipice, and never was seen again. So he too, like the others, had been forced against his will to follow the voice that called him.
The barber, who went home whistling and congratulating himself on the escape he had made, described what had happened, and it was noised abroad in the country that the people who had gone away, and had never returned, had all fallen into that pit; for till then they had never known what had happened to those who had heard the voice and obeyed its call.
But when crowds of people went out from the town to examine the ill-fated pit that had swallowed up such numbers, and yet never seemed to be full, they could discover nothing. All that they could see was a vast plain, that looked as if it had been there since the beginning of the world. And from that time the people of the country began to die like ordinary mortals all the world over.
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There was once an old king who was so wise that he was able to understand the speech of all the animals in the world. This is how it happened. An old woman came to him one day bringing him a snake in a basket.
“If you have this snake cooked,” she told him, “and eat it as you would a fish, then you will be able to understand the birds of the air, the beasts of the earth, and the fishes of the sea.”
The king was delighted. He made the old wise woman a handsome present and at once ordered his cook, a youth named Yirik, to prepare the “fish” for dinner.
“But understand, Yirik,” he said severely, “you’re to cook this ‘fish,’ not eat it! You’re not to taste one morsel of it! If you do, you forfeit your head!”
Yirik thought this a strange order.
“What kind of a cook am I,” he said to himself, “that I’m not to sample my own cooking?”
When he opened the basket and saw the “fish,” he was further mystified.
“Um,” he murmured, “it looks like a snake to me.”
He put it on the fire and, when it was broiled to a turn, he ate a morsel. It had a fine flavor. He was about to take a second bite when suddenly he heard a little voice that buzzed in his ear these words:
“Give us some, too! Give us some, too!”
He looked around to see who was speaking but there was no one in the kitchen. Only some flies were buzzing about.
Just then outside a hissing voice called out:
“Where shall we go? Where shall we go?”
A higher voice answered:
“To the miller’s barley field! To the miller’s barley field!”
Yirik looked out the window and saw a gander with a flock of geese.
“Oho!” he said to himself, shaking his head. “Now I understand! Now I know what kind of ‘fish’ this is! Now I know why the poor cook was not to take a bite!”
He slipped another morsel into his mouth, garnished the “fish” carefully on a platter, and carried it to the king.
After dinner the king ordered his horse and told Yirik to come with him for a ride. The king rode on ahead and Yirik followed.
As they cantered across a green meadow, Yirik’s horse began to prance and neigh.
“Ho! Ho!” he said. “I feel so light that I could jump over a mountain!”
“So could I,” the king’s horse said, “but I have to remember the old bag of bones that is perched on my back. If I were to jump he’d tumble off and break his neck.”
“And a good thing, too!” said Yirik’s horse. “Why not? Then instead of such an old bag of bones you’d get a young man to ride you like Yirik.”
Yirik almost burst out laughing as he listened to the horses’ talk, but he suppressed his merriment lest the king should know that he had eaten some of the magic snake.
Now of course the king, too, understood what the horses were saying. He glanced apprehensively at Yirik and it seemed to him that Yirik was grinning.
“What are you laughing at, Yirik?”
“Me?” Yirik said. “I’m not laughing. I was just thinking of something funny.”
“Um,” said the king.
His suspicions against Yirik were aroused. Moreover he was afraid to trust himself to his horse any longer. So he turned back to the palace at once.
There he ordered Yirik to pour him out a goblet of wine.
“And I warn you,” he said, “that you forfeit your head if you pour a drop too much or too little.”
Yirik carefully tilted a great tankard and began filling a goblet. As he poured a bird suddenly flew into the window pursued by another bird. The first bird had in its beak three golden hairs.
“Give them to me! Give them to me! They’re mine!” screamed the second bird.
“I won’t! I won’t! They’re mine!” the first bird answered. “I picked them up!”
“Yes, but I saw them first!” the other cried. “I saw them fall as the maiden sat and combed her golden tresses. Give me two of them and I’ll let you keep the third.”
“No! No! No! I won’t let you have one of them!”
The second bird darted angrily at the first and after a struggle succeeded in capturing one of the golden hairs. One hair dropped to the marble floor, making as it struck a musical tinkle, and the first bird escaped still holding in its bill a single hair.
In his excitement over the struggle, Yirik overflowed the goblet.
“Ha! Ha!” said the king. “See what you’ve done! You forfeit your head! However, I’ll suspend sentence on condition that you find this golden-haired maiden and bring her to me for a wife.”
Poor Yirik didn’t know who the maiden was nor where she lived. But what could he say? If he wanted to keep his head, he must undertake the quest. So he saddled his horse and started off at random.
His road led him through a forest. Here he came upon a bush under which some shepherds had kindled a fire. Sparks were falling on an anthill nearby and the ants in great excitement were running hither and thither with their eggs.
“Yirik!” they cried. “Help! Help, or we shall all be burned to death, we and our young ones in the eggs!”
Yirik instantly dismounted, cut down the burning bush, and put out the fire.
“Thank you, Yirik, thank you!” the ants said. “Your kindness to us this day will not go unrewarded. If ever you are in trouble, think of us and we will help you.”
As Yirik rode on through the forest, he came upon two fledgling ravens lying by the path.
“Help us, Yirik, help us!” they cawed. “Our father and mother have thrown us out of the nest in yonder tall fir tree to fend for ourselves. We are young and helpless and not yet able to fly. Give us some meat to eat or we shall perish with hunger.”
The sight of the helpless fledglings touched Yirik to pity. He dismounted instantly, drew his sword, and killed his horse. Then he fed the starving birds the meat they needed.
“Thank you, Yirik, thank you!” the little ravens croaked. “You have saved our lives this day. Your kindness will not go unrewarded. If ever you are in trouble, think of us and we will help you.”
Yirik left the young ravens and pushed on afoot. The path through the forest was long and wearisome. It led out finally on the seashore.
On the beach two fishermen were quarreling over a big fish with golden scales that lay gasping on the sand.
“It’s mine, I tell you!” one of the men was shouting. “It was caught in my net, so of course it’s mine!”
To this the other one shouted back:
“But your net would never have caught a fish if you hadn’t been out in my boat and if I hadn’t helped you!”
“Give me this one,” the first man said, “and I’ll let you have the next one.”
“No! You take the next one!” the other said. “This one’s mine!”
So they kept on arguing to no purpose until Yirik went up to them and said:
“Let me decide this for you. Suppose you sell me the fish and then divide the money.”
He offered them all the money the king had given him for his journey. The fishermen, delighted at the offer, at once agreed. Yirik handed them over the money and then, taking the gasping fish in his hand, he threw it back into the sea.
When the fish had caught its breath, it rose on a wave and called out to Yirik:
“Thank you, Yirik, thank you. You have saved my life this day. Your kindness will not go unrewarded. If ever you are in trouble, think of me and I will help you.”
With that the golden fish flicked its tail and disappeared in the water.
“Where are you going, Yirik?” the fishermen asked.
“I’m going in quest of a golden-haired maiden whom my master, the king, wished to make his wife.”
“He must mean the Princess Zlatovlaska,” the fishermen said to each other.
“The Princess Zlatovlaska?” Yirik repeated. “Who is she?”
“She’s the golden-haired daughter of the King of the Crystal Palace. Do you see the faint outlines of an island over yonder? That’s where she lives. The king has twelve daughters but Zlatovlaska alone has golden hair. Each morning at dawn a wonderful glow spreads over land and sea. That’s Zlatovlaska combing her golden hair.”
The fishermen conferred apart for a moment and then said:
“Yirik, you settled our dispute for us and now in return we’ll row you over to the island.”
So they rowed Yirik over to the Island of the Crystal Palace and left him there with the warning that the king would probably try to palm off on him one of the dark-haired princesses.
Yirik at once presented himself at the palace, got an audience with the king, and declared his mission.
“H’m,” the king said. “So your master desires the hand of my daughter, the Princess Zlatovlaska, eh? H’m, h’m. Well, I see no objection to your master as a son-in-law, but of course before I entrust the princess into your hands you must prove yourself worthy. I tell you what I’ll do: I’ll give you three tasks to perform. Be ready for the first one tomorrow.”
Early the next day the king said to Yirik:
“My daughter, Zlatovlaska, had a precious necklace of pearls. She was walking in the meadow over yonder when the string broke and the pearls rolled away in the tall grasses. Now your first task is to gather up every last one of those pearls and hand them to me before sundown.”
Yirik went to the meadow and when he saw how broad it was and how thickly covered with tall grasses his heart sank for he realized that he could never search over the whole of it in one day. However, he got down on his hands and knees and began to hunt.
Midday came and he had not yet found a single pearl.
“Oh dear,” he thought to himself in despair, “if only my ants were here, they could help me!”
He had no sooner spoken than a million little voices answered:
“We are here and we’re here to help you!”
And sure enough there they were, the very ants that he supposed were far away!
“What do you want us to do?” they asked.
“Find me all the pearls that are scattered in this meadow. I can’t find one of them.”
Instantly the ants scurried hither and thither and soon they began bringing him the pearls one by one. Yirik strung them together until the necklace seemed complete.
“Are there any more?” he asked.
He was about to tie the string together when a lame ant, whose foot had been burned in the fire, hobbled up, crying:
“Wait, Yirik, don’t tie the string yet! Here’s the last pearl!”
Yirik thanked the ants for their help and at sundown carried the string of pearls to the king. The king counted the pearls and, to his surprise, found that not one was missing.
“You’ve done this well,” he said. “Tomorrow I’ll give you your second task.”
The next day when Yirik presented himself, the king said:
“While my daughter, Zlatovlaska, was bathing in the sea, a golden ring slipped from her finger and disappeared. Your task is to find me this ring before sundown.”
Yirik went down to the seashore and as he walked along the beach his heart grew heavy as he realized the difficulty of the task before him. The sea was clear but so deep that he couldn’t even see the bottom. How then could he find the ring?
“Oh dear,” he said aloud, “if only the golden fish were here! It could help me.”
“I am here,” a voice said, “and I’m here to help you.”
And there was the golden fish on the crest of a wave, gleaming like a flash of fire!
“What do you want me to do?” it said.
“Find me a golden ring that lies somewhere on the bottom of the sea.”
“Ah, a golden ring? A moment ago I met a pike,” the fish said, “that had just such a golden ring. Wait for me here and I’ll go find the pike.”
In a few moments the golden fish returned with the pike and sure enough it was Zlatovlaska’s ring that the pike was carrying.
That evening at sundown the king acknowledged that Yirik had accomplished his second task.
The next day the king said:
“I could never allow my daughter, Zlatovlaska, the Golden-Haired, to go to the kingdom of your master unless she carried with her two flasks, one filled with the Water of Life, the other with the Water of Death. So today for a third task I set you this: to bring the princess a flask of the Water of Life and a flask of the Water of Death.”
Yirik had no idea which way to turn. He had heard of the Waters of Life and Death, but all he knew about them was that their springs were far away beyond the Red Sea. He left the Crystal Palace and walked off aimlessly until his feet had carried him of themselves into a dark forest.
“If only those young ravens were here,” he said aloud, “they could help me!”
Instantly he heard a loud, “Caw! Caw!” and two ravens flew down to him, saying:
“We are here! We are here to help you! What do you want us to do?”
“I have to bring the king a flask of the Water of Life and a flask of the Water of Death and I don’t know where the springs are. Do you know?”
“Yes, we know,” the ravens said. “Wait here and we’ll soon fetch you water from both springs.”
They flew off and in a short time returned, each bearing a gourd of the precious water.
Yirik thanked the ravens and carefully filled his two flasks.
As he was leaving the forest, he came upon a great spider web. An ugly spider sat in the middle of it sucking a fly. Yirik took a drop of the Water of Death and flicked it on the spider. The spider doubled up dead and fell to the ground like a ripe cherry.
Then Yirik sprinkled a drop of Living Water on the fly. The fly instantly revived, pulled itself out of the web, and flew about happy and free once again.
“Thank you, Yirik,” it buzzed, “thank you for bringing me back to life. You won’t be sorry. Just wait and you’ll soon see that I’ll reward you!”
When Yirik returned to the palace and presented the two flasks, the king said:
“But one thing yet remains. You may take Zlatovlaska, the Golden-Haired, but you must yourself pick her out from among the twelve sisters.”
The king led Yirik into a great hall. The twelve princesses were seated about a table, beautiful maidens all and each looking much like the others. Yirik could not tell which was Zlatovlaska, the Golden-Haired, for each princess wore a long heavy white veil so draped over her head and shoulders that it completely covered her hair.
“Here are my twelve daughters,” the king said. “One of them is Zlatovlaska, the Golden-Haired. Pick her out and you may lead her at once to your master. If you fail to pick her out, then you must depart without her.”
In dismay Yirik looked from sister to sister. There was nothing to show him which was Zlatovlaska, the Golden-Haired. How was he to find out?
Suddenly he heard a buzzing in his ear and a little voice whispered:
“Courage, Yirik, courage! I’ll help you!”
He turned his head quickly and there was the fly he had rescued from the spider.
“Walk slowly by each princess,” the fly said, “and I’ll tell you when you come to Zlatovlaska, the Golden-Haired.”
Yirik did as the fly ordered. He stopped a moment before the first princess until the fly buzzed:
“Not that one! Not that one!”
He went on to the next princess and again the fly buzzed:
“Not that one! Not that one!”
So he went on from princess to princess until at last the fly buzzed out:
“Yes, that one! That one!”
So Yirik remained standing where he was and said to the king:
“This, I think, is Zlatovlaska, the Golden-Haired.”
“You have guessed right,” the king said.
At that Zlatovlaska removed the white veil from her head and her lovely hair tumbled down to her feet like a golden cascade. It shimmered and glowed like the sun in the early morning when he peeps over the mountain top. Yirik stared until the brightness dimmed his sight.
The king immediately prepared Zlatovlaska, the Golden-Haired, for her journey. He gave her the two precious flasks of water; he arranged a fitting escort; and then with his blessing he sent her forth under Yirik’s care.
Yirik conducted her safely to his master.
When the old king saw the lovely princess that Yirik had found for him, his eyes blinked with satisfaction, he capered about like a spring lamb, and he ordered that immediate preparations be made for the wedding. He was most grateful to Yirik and thanked him again and again.
“My dear boy,” he said, “I had expected to have you hanged for your disobedience and let the ravens pick your bones. But now, to show you how grateful I am for the beautiful bride you have found me, I’m not going to have you hanged at all. Instead, I shall have you beheaded and then given a decent burial.”
The execution took place at once in order to be out of the way before the wedding.
“It’s a great pity he had to die,” the king said as the executioner cut off Yirik’s head. “He has certainly been a faithful servant.”
Zlatovlaska, the Golden-Haired, asked if she might have his severed head and body. The king who was too madly in love to refuse her anything said: “Yes.”
So Zlatovlaska took the body and the head and put them together. Then she sprinkled them with the Water of Death. Instantly the wound closed and soon it healed so completely that there wasn’t even a scar left.
Yirik lay there lifeless but looking merely as if he were asleep. Zlatovlaska sprinkled him with the Water of Life and immediately his dead limbs stirred. Then he opened his eyes and sat up. Life poured through his veins and he sprang to his feet younger, fresher, handsomer than before.
The old king was filled with envy.
“I, too,” he cried, “wish to be made young and handsome!”
He commanded the executioner to cut off his head and he told Zlatovlaska to sprinkle him afterwards with the Water of Life.
The executioner did as he was told. Then Zlatovlaska sprinkled the old king’s head and body with the Water of Life. Nothing happened. Zlatovlaska kept on sprinkling the Water of Life until there was no more left.
“Do you know,” the princess said to Yirik, “I believe I should have used the Water of Death first.”
So now she sprinkled the body and head with the Water of Death and, sure enough, they grew together at once. But of course there was no life in them. And of course there was no possible way of putting life into them because the Water of Life was all gone. So the old king remained dead.
“This will never do,” the people said. “We must have a king. And with the wedding feast and everything prepared we simply must have a wedding, too. If Zlatovlaska, the Golden-Haired, cannot marry the old king, she’ll have to marry someone else. Now who shall it be?”
Someone suggested Yirik because he was young and handsome and because, like the old king, he could understand the birds and the beasts.
“Yirik!” the people cried. “Let Yirik be our king!”
And Zlatovlaska, the Golden-Haired, who had long since fallen in love with handsome Yirik, consented to have the wedding at once in order that the feast already prepared might not be wasted.
So Yirik and Zlatovlaska, the Golden-Haired, were married and they ruled so well and they lived so happily that to this day when people say of some one: “He’s as happy as a king,” they are thinking of King Yirik, and when they say of some one: “She’s as beautiful as a queen,” they are thinking of Zlatovlaska, the Golden-Haired.
From: THE SHOEMAKER’s APRON – 20 Czech and Slovak Folk Tales
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Excerpt: CHAPTER LXXXII HACON’S WARS AND DEATH – POEM ON ARINBJORN
Long time did Egil dwell at Borg, and became an old man. But it is not told that he had lawsuits with any here in the land; nor is there a word of single combats, or war and slaughter of his after he settled down here in Iceland. They say that Egil never went abroad out of Iceland after the events already related. And for this the main cause was that Egil might not be in Norway, by reason of the charges which (as has been told before) the kings there deemed they had against him. He kept house in munificent style, for there was no lack of money, and his disposition led him to munificence.
King Hacon, Athelstan’s foster-son, long ruled over Norway; but in the latter part of his life Eric’s sons came to Norway and strove with him for the kingdom; and they had battles together, wherein Hacon ever won the victory. The last battle was fought in Hordaland, on Stord-island, at Fitjar: there king Hacon won the victory, but also got his death-wound. After that Egil’s sons took the kingdom in Norway.
Lord Arinbjorn was with Harold Eric’s son, and was made his counsellor, and had of him great honours. He was commander of his forces and defender of the land. A great warrior was Arinbjorn, and a victorious. He was governor of the Firth folk. Egil Skallagrimsson heard these tidings of the change of kings in Norway, and therewith how Arinbjorn had returned to his estates in Norway, and was there in great honour. Then Egil composed a poem about Arinbjorn, whereof this is the beginning:
ARINBJORN’S EPIC, or a PART THEREOF.
‘For generous prince
Swift praise I find,
But stint my words
To stingy churl.
Openly sing I
Of king’s true deeds,
But silence keep
On slander’s lies.
‘For fabling braggarts
Full am I of scorn,
But willing speak I
Of worthy friends:
Courts I of monarchs
A many have sought,
A gallant minstrel
Of guileless mood.
‘Erewhile the anger
Of Yngling’s son
I bore, prince royal
Of race divine.
With hood of daring
O’er dark locks drawn
A lord right noble
I rode to seek.
‘There sate in might
The monarch strong,
With helm of terror
High-throned and dread;
A king unbending
With bloody blade
Within York city
Wielded he power.
‘That moon-like brightness
Might none behold,
Nor brook undaunted
Great Eric’s brow:
As fiery serpent
His flashing eyes
Shot starry radiance
Stern and keen.
‘Yet I to this ruler
Of fishful seas
My bolster-mate’s ransom
Made bold to bear,
Of Odin’s goblet
Each listening ear-mouth
‘Not beauteous in seeming
My bardic fee
To ranks of heroes
In royal hall:
When I my hood-knoll
Wolf-gray of hue
For mead of Odin
From monarch gat.
‘Thankful I took it,
The pit-holes black
Of my beetling brows;
Yea and that mouth
That for me bare
The poem of praise
To princely knees.
‘Tooth-fence took I,
And tongue likewise,
Ears’ sounding chambers
And sheltering eaves.
And better deemed I
Than brightest gold
The gift then given
By glorious king.
‘There a staunch stay
Stood by my side,
One man worth many
Of meaner wights,
Mine own true friend
Whom trusty I found,
In counsels bold.
Alone us saved
Foremost of champions
From fury of king;
Friend of the monarch
He framed no lies
Within that palace
Of warlike prince.
‘Of the stay of our house
Still spake he truth,
(While much he honoured
Of the son of Kveldulf,
Whom fair-haired king
Slew for a slander,
But honoured slain.
‘Wrong were it if he
Who wrought me good,
Such gifts had cast
To the wasteful tract
Of the wild sea-mew,
To the surge rough-ridden
By sea-kings’ steeds.
‘False to my friend
Were I fairly called,
An untrue steward
Of Odin’s cup;
Of praise unworthy,
If I for such good
Gave nought again.
‘Now better seeth
The bard to climb
With feet poetic
The frowning steep,
And set forth open
In sight of all
The laud and honour
Of high-born chief.
‘Now shall my voice-plane
Shape into song
Virtues full many
Of valiant friend.
Ready on tongue
Twofold they lie,
Yea, threefold praises
Of Thorir’s son.
‘First tell I forth
What far is known,
In ears of all;
How generous of mood
Men deem this lord,
Bjorn of the hearth-fire
The birchwood’s bane.
‘Folk bear witness
With wond’ring praise,
How to all guests
Good gifts he gives:
For Bjorn of the hearth-stone
Is blest with store
Freely and fully
By Frey and Njord.
‘To him, high scion
Of Hroald’s tree,
Fulness of riches
Flowing hath come;
And friends ride thither
In thronging crowd
By all wide ways
‘Neath windy heaven.
‘Above his ears
Around his brow
A coronal fair,
As a king, he wore.
Beloved of gods,
Beloved of men,
The warrior’s friend,
The weakling’s aid.
‘That mark he hitteth
That most men miss;
Though money they gather,
This many lack:
For few be the bounteous
And far between,
Nor easily shafted
Are all men’s spears.
‘Out of the mansion
When guested and rested
In generous wise,
None with hard jest,
None with rude jeer,
None with his axe-hand
‘Hater of money
Is he of the Firths,
A foe to the gold-drops
Of Draupnir born.
. . . . .
‘Rings he scatters,
Riches he squanders,
Of avarice thievish
An enemy still.
. . . . .
‘Long course of life
His lot hath been,
By battles broken,
Bereft of peace.
. . . . .
It is not known, now, for what length of time the Tuatha de Danaan had the sway over Ireland, and it is likely it was a long time they had it, but they were put from it at last.
It was at Inver Slane, to the north of Leinster, the sons of Gaedhal of the Shining Armour, the Very Gentle, that were called afterwards the Sons of the Gael, made their first attempt to land in Ireland to avenge Ith, one of their race that had come there one time and had met with his death.
It is under the leadership of the sons of Miled they were, and it was from the south they came, and their Druids had told them there was no country for them to settle in till they would come to that island in the west. “And if you do not get possession of it yourselves,” they said, “your children will get possession of it.”
But when the Tuatha de Danaan saw the ships coming, they flocked to the shore, and by their enchantments they cast such a cloud over the whole island that the sons of Miled were confused, and all they could see was some large thing that had the appearance of a pig.
And when they were hindered from landing there by enchantments, they went sailing along the coast till at last they were able to make a landing at Inver Sceine in the west of Munster.
From that they marched in good order as far as Slieve Mis. And there they were met by a queen of the Tuatha de Danaan, and a train of beautiful women attending on her, and her Druids and wise men following her. Amergin, one of the sons of Miled, spoke to her then, and asked her name, and she said it was Banba, wife of Mac Cuill, Son of the Hazel.
They went on then till they came to Slieve Eibhline, and there another queen of the Tuatha de Danaan met them, and her women and her Druids after her, and they asked her name, and she said it was Fodhla, wife of Mac Cecht, Son of the Plough.
They went on then till they came to the hill of Uisnech, and there they saw another woman coming towards them. And there was wonder on them while they were looking at her, for in the one moment she would be a wide-eyed most beautiful queen, and in another she would be a sharp-beaked, grey-white crow. She came on to where Eremon, one of the sons of Miled, was, and sat down before him, and he asked her who was she, and she said: “I am Eriu, wife of Mac Greine, Son of the Sun.”
And the names of those three queens were often given to Ireland in the after time.
The Sons of the Gael went on after that to Teamhair, where the three sons of Cermait Honey-Mouth, son of the Dagda, that had the kingship between them at that time held their court. And these three were quarrelling with one another about the division of the treasures their father had left, and the quarrel was so hot it seemed likely it would come to a battle in the end.
And the Sons of the Gael wondered to see them quarrelling about such things, and they having so fruitful an island, where the air was so wholesome, and the sun not too strong, or the cold too bitter, and where there was such a plenty of honey and acorns, and of milk, and of fish, and of corn, and room enough for them all.
Great grandeur they were living in, and their Druids about them, at the palace of Teamhair. And Amergin went to them, and it is what he said, that they must give up the kingship there and then, or they must leave it to the chance of a battle. And he said he asked this in revenge for the death of Ith, of the race of the Gael, that had come to their court before that time, and that had been killed by treachery.
When the sons of Cermait Honey-Mouth heard Amergin saying such fierce words, there was wonder on them, and it is what they said, that they were not willing to fight at that time, for their army was not ready. “But let you make an offer to us,” they said, “for we see well you have good judgment and knowledge. But if you make an offer that is not fair,” they said, “we will destroy you with our enchantments.”
At that Amergin bade the men that were with him to go back to Inver Sceine, and to hurry again into their ships with the rest of the Sons of the Gael, and to go out the length of nine waves from the shore. And then he made his offer to the Tuatha de Danaan, that if they could hinder his men from landing on their island, he and all his ships would go back again to their own country, and would never make any attempt to come again; but that if the Sons of the Gael could land on the coast in spite of them, then the Tuatha de Danaan should give up the kingship and be under their sway.
The Tuatha de Danaan were well pleased with that offer, for they thought that by the powers of their enchantments over the winds and the sea, and by their arts, they would be well able to keep them from ever setting foot in the country again.
So the Sons of the Gael did as Amergin bade them and they went back into their ship and drew up their anchors, and moved out to the length of nine waves from the shore. And as soon as the Men of Dea saw they had left the land, they took to their enchantments and spells, and they raised a great wind that scattered the ships of the Gael, and drove them from one another. But Amergin knew it was not a natural storm was in it, and Arranan, son of Miled, knew that as well, and he went up in the mast of his ship to look about him. But a great blast of wind came against him, and he fell back into the ship and died on the moment. And there was great confusion on the Gael, for the ships were tossed to and fro, and had like to be lost. And the ship that Donn, son of Miled, was in command of was parted from the others by the dint of the storm, and was broken in pieces, and he himself and all with him were drowned, four-and-twenty men and women in all. And Ir, son of Miled, came to his death in the same way, and his body was cast on the shore, and it was buried in a small island that is now called Sceilg Michill. A brave man Ir was, leading the Sons of the Gael to the front of every battle, and their help and their shelter in battle, and his enemies were in dread of his name.
And Heremon, another of the sons of Miled, with his share of the ships, was driven to the left of the island, and it is hardly he got safe to land. And the place where he landed was called Inver Colpa, because Colpa of the Sword, another of the sons of Miled, was drowned there, and he trying to get to land. Five of the sons of Miled in all were destroyed by the storm and the winds the Men of Dea had raised by their enchantments, and there were but three of them left, Heber, and Heremon, and Amergin.
And one of them, Donn, before he was swept into the sea, called out: “It is treachery our knowledgeable men are doing on us, not to put down this wind.” “There is no treachery,” said Amergin, his brother. And he rose up then before them, and whatever enchantment he did on the winds and the sea, he said these words along with it:
“That they that are tossing in the great wide food-giving sea may reach now to the land.
“That they may find a place upon its plains, its mountains, and its valleys; in its forests that are full of nuts and of all fruits; on its rivers and its streams, on its lakes and its great waters.
“That we may have our gatherings and our races in this land; that there may be a king of our own in Teamhair; that it may be the possession of our many kings.
“That the sons of Miled may be seen in this land, that their ships and their boats may find a place there.
“This land that is now under darkness, it is for it we are asking; let our chief men, let their learned wives, ask that we may come to the noble woman, great Eriu.”
After he had said this, the wind went down and the sea was quiet again on the moment.
And those that were left of the sons of Miled and of the Sons of the Gael landed then at Inver Sceine.
And Amergin was the first to put his foot on land, and when he stood on the shore of Ireland, it is what he said:
“I am the wind on the sea;
I am the wave of the sea;
I am the bull of seven battles;
I am the eagle on the rock;
I am a flash from the sun;
I am the most beautiful of plants;
I am a strong wild boar;
I am a salmon in the water;
I am a lake in the plain;
I am the word of knowledge;
I am the head of the spear in battle;
I am the god that puts fire in the head;
Who spreads light in the gathering on the hills?
Who can tell the ages of the moon?
Who can tell the place where the sun rests?”
– – – – – – –
An excerpt from “Of Gods and Fighting Men” – The Story of the Tuatha De Danaan ad of the Fianna of Ireland”.
THE stars shine down!
The Northern Lights flash over the sky,
and the Milky Way glows white!
Listen to the song of the Wizard
of the Crystal-Lighted Cavern!
AH! BEAUTIFUL was Linda the lovely daughter of Uko. She showed all the skypaths to the little birds, when they came flocking home in the springtime or flew away in autumn. She cared as gently and tenderly for the little birds, as a mother cares for her children. And just as a flower bespangled with a thousand drops of dew shines and smiles in the morning sunshine, so Linda shone while caring for her little winged ones.
Thus it was no wonder that all the world loved Linda. Every youth wished her for his bride, and crowds of suitors came to woo her.
In a handsome coach with six brown horses, the Pole Star drove up, and brought ten gifts. But Linda sent him away, with hurried words:
“You always have to stay in the same place. You cannot move about,” said she.
Then came the Moon in a silver coach drawn by ten brown horses. He brought her twenty gifts. But Linda refused the Moon, saying:
“You change your looks too often. You run in your same old way. You do not suit me.
Hardly had the Moon driven sorrowfully off, before the Sun drove up. In a golden coach with twenty red-gold horses, he rattled up to the door. He brought thirty presents with him. But all his pomp, shining splendor, and fine gifts did not help him. Linda said:
“I do not want you. You are like the Moon. Day after day you run in the same street.”
So the Sun went away sorrowful.
Then at midnight, in a diamond coach drawn by a thousand white horses, came the Northern Lights. His coming was so magnificent, that Linda ran to the door to meet him. A whole coach-load of gold, silver, pearls and jewelled ornaments, the servants of the Northern Lights carried into the house and his gifts pleased her, and she let him woo her.
“You do not always travel in the same course,” said Linda. “You flash where you will, and stop when you please. Each time you appear robed in new beauty and richness, and wear each time a different garment. And each time you ride about in a new coach with new horses. You are the true bridegroom!”
Then they celebrated their betrothal. But the Sun, Moon, and Pole Star looked sadly on. They envied the Northern Lights his happiness.
The Northern Lights could not stay long in the bride’s house, for he had to hurry back to the sky. When he said farewell, he promised to return soon for the wedding, and to drive Linda back with him to his home in the North. Meanwhile, they were to prepare Linda’s bridal garments.
Linda made her bridal robes, and waited and waited. One day followed the other, but the bridegroom did not come to hold the joyous wedding with his beloved. The winter passed, and the lovely spring adorned the earth with fresh beauty, while Linda waited in vain for her bridegroom. Nothing was seen of him!
Then she began to grieve bitterly and lament, and to sorrow day and night. She put on her bridal robes and white veil, and set the wreath on her head, and sat down in a meadow by a river. From her thousand tears little brooks ran into the valleys. In her deep heart-felt sorrow she thought only of her bridegroom.
The little birds flew tenderly about her head, brushing her with their soft wings, to comfort her. But she did not see them, nor did she take care of them anymore. So the little birds wandered about, flying here, flying there, for they did not know what to do or where to go.
Uko, Linda’s father, heard of her sorrow and how the little birds were untended. He ordered his Winds to fetch his daughter to him, to rescue her from such deep grief. And while Linda was sitting alone in the meadow weeping and lamenting, the Winds sank softly down beside her, and gently lifting her, bore her up and away. They laid her down in the blue sky.
And there is Linda now, dwelling in a sky-tent. Her white bridal veil spreads round her. And if you look up at the Milky Way, you will see Linda in her bridal robes. There she is, showing the way to little birds who wander.
Linda is happy! In winter she gazes towards the North. She waves her hand at the Northern Lights flashing nearer and nearer, then he again asks her to be his bride.
But though he flashes very close to Linda, heart to heart, he cannot carry her off. She must stay forever in the sky, robed in white, and must spread out her veil to make the Milky Way.
From WONDER TALES FROM BALTIC WIZARDS