Thursday’s Tale: I is for Iceland

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Today’s tale, “The Troll in the Skrúdur, ” is from Iceland and was collected in Icelandic Lengends collected by Jón Áronson, translated by George Powell and Eríkur Magnusson, 1864. Iceland is a Nordic island country marking the juncture between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It sounds like a beautiful place. Iceland’s best-known classical works of literature are the Icelanders’ sagas, prose epics set in Iceland’s age of settlement. Icelanders are avid consumers of literature, with the highest number of bookstores per capita in the world. For its size, Iceland imports and translates more international literature than any other nation. Iceland also has the highest per capita publication of books and magazines, and around 10% of the population will publish a book in their lifetime.

“The Troll in the Skrúdur” begins with a priest from Hólmar near the Reidarfjördur whose daughter is lost. They’ve searched near and far for her, but she was not found. Near the mouth of the Reidarfjördur, there was a high rocky island called Skrúdur, where the priest grazed his sheep, but for several years after his daughter went missing, his best male sheep went missing also.

One winter, some sailors were caught in a storm and took shelter under the rocky island. After they had secured their boats, they sat around singing songs about the Virgin Mary. Suddenly the rock opened and a huge hand with rings on the fingers and a scarlet sleeve reached out, giving them a large bowl of soup with enough spoons for all of them, saying “My wife is pleased now, but I am not.” The next year, the same thing happened, but the sailors sang songs of Andri the Hero and, as the hand gave them soup, the voice stated, “Now I am pleased, but not my wife.”

Years passed and a Bishop was visiting throughout the area, binding monsters with his prayers. The priest at Hólmar asked him to consecrate Skrúdur. That night the Bishop had a dream in which a tall, splendidly dressed man told him not to consecrate Skrúdur, as it would be difficult for the man to move on such short notice. The man went on to say, “Besides this, I may as well tell you, that if you come out to visit that island, it will be your last journey in this life.” The bishop, of course, refused to consecrate the island and the troll was left in peace. The end.

The thing that struck me in this story was how different this troll is than most. First, he’s well dressed and seems intelligent. He’s kind to the sailors, feeding them and allowing them to go on their way. Also, apparently his wife, the priest’s daughter, is not being mistreated. Of course, she’s also not rescued. I’m going to assume she was well taken care of.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.

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