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~ Sneak Peak ~
3 selections from Spun Again:
new spins on old tales
the Faeroe Islands
Grímur Fatcheeks toddled after the older children but couldn't keep up. "Nika! Nika, me too!" he called.
His big brother Niklas didn't hear the piping voice in the midst of all the jesting and laughter.
Grímur halted, stuck a thumb in his mouth and watched the four bigger kids pelt down the stony path from Sørvágur village to the lakeshore. His baby-face dimpled in a frown. He popped the thumb out and stumped along, bound to join in the fun.
Niklas and his friends skipped flat stones across the shining waters of Leitisvatn. The late evening sun hung above the clifftops beyond, and gulls spun across the silvered sky.
Grímur picked up a rock as he neared the others. He had no hopes of skipping it, but it should make a hearty splash.
Just as he reached them, the children yelled and took off running along the waterline.
"No!" Grímur cried, and tried to keep up. "Me too!"
Niklas and the others slowed, their voices dropping to soft coos as they approached a tall white mare standing in the shallows. The lovely horse shook a silken mane and stepped to meet them.
Grímur stopped. In went the thumb again. Hadn't old Auntie told a scary story about the fierce horse-shaped nøkk that haunts lakes? But this mare stood sweetly and nickered soft as a lamb.
Niklas, largest of the foursome, boosted the others one by one to the horse's back, then they hauled him up. The mare nodded, shifting weight ever so smoothly, her tail whisking like lace in a breeze. She took a step along shore.
Leaving Grímur behind again! The little boy ran, calling out in woe, "Me too! Me too!"
Niklas gave his little brother one annoyed glance, and turned away.
The mare swung about and plunked one hoof into the lake.
"No!" Grímur wailed. "Nika, Nika!"
The horse's head shot up at the cry, nostrils flaring, eye rolling. A rage gleamed in that fiery eye. Mane and tail writhed like serpents. The smooth gait turned to a lurch, and the children tumbled off its back onto dry land.
"Nika!" Grímur Fatcheeks screamed in fear.
The nøkk, which cannot bear hearing its name called aloud, galloped into deeper water and vanished, back to its lair on the bed of the lake.
"Nøkken," by Theodor Severin Kittelsen (1857-1914)
detail from "Marine Paintings 2," by Ivan Aivazovsky (1817-1900)
folktale from Sweden
"I see a light!" cried Nils as he bailed. "To starboard, to starboard!"
Farulf leaned on the tiller. Sleet pelted at his back. Waves reared like a furious sea serpent, wrenching the small fishing craft about, hurling watery walls across the deck. If not for the safety lines tethering the two fishermen in place they'd have washed away long ago.
"Rock dead ahead," Nils yelled. "Swerve to port!" He braced himself against the rail with a pole, ready to push off the obstacle. "We're entering a channel. Hear the waves crashing on cliffs?"
"Ja, and none too soon," Farulf said, peering through the gloom and spray. They needed the day's last light if they hoped to make it to shore alive.
"To starboard again, hard, hard, hard!"
The keel thudded, scraping over a submerged pile, boards screeching. The keel screamed again, the boat bucked.
Nils staggered in the prow, rose, slashed his safety line, leaped over the bow.
"Nils, you fool!" Farulf yelled.
His partner's head appeared. "Beach!" he spluttered, hauling on the bow line.
Farulf joined Nils. Waves rose to his shoulders, sucked at his legs, swamped his face. The two Swedes managed to drag the boat up a shingled shore, then collapsed against each other, shuddering with cold and fatigue.
"Always good fishing right before a storm, huh?" Farulf muttered through chattering teeth. "That gale has blown us all the way across the Skagerrak to Norway!"
"My cousin married a Norwegian," Nils said. "He's a decent sort. I'll wager the locals will take us in."
"Where's that light you saw?"
The Swedes blundered uphill in the dark, following a dim glow which led not to a hut or a hall but to a crack in the mountainside. The light beckoned. They stepped inside.
A fire blazed in the middle of the cave. Beside the stony hearth sat a hulking figure which turned its head, twitching large pointed ears in the fishermen's direction. "Who's there?" growled the troll.
Nils and Farulf stood frozen with fear, soaked and chilled to the bone.
"Two travelers," Nils said with a gulp. "May we warm ourselves at your fire?"
The troll blinked eyes as large as oarlocks -- blank, white, sightless eyes. "Welcome, welcome!" he rumbled. "Your speech, like my kin! I been gone from home for ages. You from my old haunts! Welcome!"
Nils and Farulf edged closer. The troll flared nostrils. "You smells of sea. You swim across?"
"Did some swimming," Farulf said. To Nils he mouthed, "He thinks we're troll-folk!"
"Give me your hand,* " the troll ordered Farulf. "Wanna see if warm blood still runs in troll-folks back home. * "
Nils glanced around, grabbed the troll's bronze fire poker, shoved it into Farulf's grasp.
Farulf laid the poker in the troll's waiting hand.
The huge, horny fingers closed so tight around the bronze rod that it heated, glowed red-hot, melted like butter and trickled out between his claws. "Huh," the troll grunted. "Not bad, but not quite like in the old days. * "
* slightly modified dialogue taken from the folktale
detail from "Rocky Landscape at Night," by Carl Spitzweg (1808-1885)
detail from "Vatnshorn in Haukadalur," 1897, by W.G. Collingwood (1854-1932)
folktale from Iceland
When Reverend Skúli began his ministry among the folk at Breiðabólstaður, everyone told him he must meet Old Gísli at Rauðisandur. "He knows all the old tales," they told him.
So one fine morning the minister paid the old man a visit. Skúli found Gísli on the dock below his cottage, mending fish nets. The minister settled on a lumpy, white bench and listened while the old man told of his forebears, all the way back to the first settlers of Iceland. He told of his years at sea, tales of icebergs and whales, sea serpents and mermaids.
"There was a giant troll woman in Norway," Gísli said, "who took it into her head to visit kin here in Iceland. She decided to wade across the sea."
"Wade across?" Skúli asked, arching his brows.
"She was a giant troll, as I said. An ogress, taller than any pine of Norway. Even so, the other trolls warned her about the ocean trenches along her path. 'Iceland's trenches may be deep,' says she, 'but it is possible to wade across them!' * "
The minister chuckled.
Gísli nodded. "The oldest troll warned her about the worst trench, narrow but twice as deep as the others. 'Hah!' says the ogress. 'So I might get the top of my head wet,* is that it?'
"She wouldn't listen to any advice, but set out across the sea. Up to her thighs the water came, up to her waist, to her shoulders. She crossed one trench then another with her long strides, wide as a mountain dale. At last she came to the deepest trench of all. She realized there was no wading it. She couldn't swim, for until now she'd never needed to learn such a skill. She stood there with only her head above water, fuming to have her plans thwarted, too stubborn to turn and go home again. Then she brightened, for along came a ship."
"So she clambered aboard," the minister said.
"No, not at all. Would have swamped the ship. No, she just meant to grab hold and let it tow her across. But when she reached for the handy float, she missed. She lost her footing, plunged into the trench, and drowned."
Skúli chuckled again. "A fine, fanciful tale."
Gísli shook his head. "No fancy, Reverend. One horrendous storm that winter, and her body washed up here at Rauðisandur." The old man pointed down the beach. "A huge corpse lying on its back, knees bent. I rode up close, and even reaching up from horseback with my riding crop, I couldn't touch the underside of her knees arching overhead."
"What happened to the remains? Surely a corpse so large--"
"This happened many years ago. The storms since then have washed her away, piece by piece. All that's left is her kneecap."
Still skeptical, Skúli glanced down the beach. He saw no giant bone.
Gísli smiled, a gap-toothed grin. "You're sitting on it."