More from Legends of Icelandic Magicians

I need to return my copy of Legends of Icelandic Magicians (yay, interlibrary loan!) soon (boo, 50 cent a day overdue charges!), so am noting a few more bits I want to remember for future reference.

This tale one made me laugh:

Halla was a skilled midwife. One day she was sent for, as usual, to help a woman in labour. Bales of hay had been arranged to make a couch for the woman. When the pains got bad and she began screaming, her husband said: ‘Behave yourself, wife. There’s probably no need to make such a fuss, when you’ve been lying such a short while on the hay.’

Then Halla prepares another couch in the hay, and says to the husband: ‘Lie down there, and see how you like it.’

He maintained that it would not bother him much, and he lay down; but then he began at once to howl and scream, but his wife stopped. When she was on the point of giving birth to the child, the husband’s screams grew quieter, and he stopped shortly after. Then he stood up, and was quite all right.

Halla told the woman: ‘I was able to make him bear the pains for you, but I couldn’t make him bear the child.’

This snippet, from after the sorcerer Eiríkur rescued a farmer’s wife rescued from the otherworld, where she was imprisoned by trolls, intrigued me:

That evening the farmer took his wife into his bed, but Eiríkur kept guard over them for three nights running, after which he said: ‘I don’t suppose many people would have enjoyed keeping guard these three nights, and last night least of all. But your wife will be in no danger from now on.’

While Eiríkur was guarding the woman he gave her a drink every morning, and so she got her memories back, which otherwise she would have lost for ever.

And this snippet creeped me out:

Loftur incited his fellow students to play magical pranks on other people, taking the lead in these himself. Thus he once went home to his parents’ house for Christmas leave, and took a servant maid in the bishop’s residence for the journey; he shod her with horse-shoes, placed a bridle on her, and so by his magic rode her all the way there and back. For a long time afterwards she was bedridden from sores and exhaustion, but as long as Loftur lived she could tell no one what had happened to her.

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 …)