Not all puppies get to go to the White House

So my Thanksgiving holiday reading includes Legends of the Icelandic Magicians, the collection of Icelandic folklore (with a focus on sorcerers and sorcery, no surprise) I got hold of thanks to interlibrary loan.

The introduction was a bit irritating (by one B.S. Benedikz, who claims that the poverty and the oppression of the reformation reduced the Icelanders of that era to little more than animals as they struggled to survive–umm, yeah, and when has this proven true of any culture it’s been claimed of?), but the actual folktales, translated by Jacqueline Simpson, are great fun.

Although this one did make me worry about the puppies:

Old Nick Builds a Bridge: Sæmundur told the demon who served him to build a bridge over Rangá River below Bergvad, because it was often difficult to cross the river, especially for those who had to come to Oddi to church. As payment, the demon demanded to have as his own the first three who would cross the bridge on the first Sunday it was in use; this Sæmundur agreed to. Once the bridge was finished, Sæmundur, in order to keep his promise, had three puppies carried to the bridge and thrown onto it. The bridge-builder had to be content with this, for he got no other payment.

While the tale where a man, after complaining his wife was screaming too much during childbirth, was told okay, why don’t you take the pain for her and see how well you do (he howled and screamed–but at least his wife didn’t feel any pain anymore) made me smile.

And I was intrigued by the woman who, after being rescued from the otherworld, would have lost her memory forever had the sorcerer who rescued her–and who guarded her and her husband for three nights–not given her a magic drink the three mornings after he stood guard.

(ETA: You know, I want to read the picture book in which the Devil has to deal with the three puppy souls that are sent his way to serve him …)

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