I’m sticking with tales featuring women again this week. “The Ghost at Fjelkinge” is a story from Sweden that features a brave, wealthy woman. It was told by Claire Boose in Scandinavian Folk and Fairy Tales, published in 1984, but I read it in Fearless Girls, Wise Women & Beloved Sisters edited by Kathleen Ragan.
Madame Margaretta Barkenow was a widow who owned many of the best estates in Skåne at the southernmost tip of Sweden in the early seventeenth century. She was a good manager, intelligent, energetic, and she took good care of her dependents.
One evening, as Margaretta was journeying through her estates, she stopped to stay at Fjelkinge’s inn and insisted on sleeping in the “ghost’s room.” It was said that a traveler had been murdered there a few years before and his ghost supposedly appeared nightly in that room. Most people refused to stay at that inn, let alone in that room, but I can just picture Margaretta saying how foolish the others were.
That evening the ghost appears, his head split. The ghost asks Margaretta to prepare him a resting place in consecrated ground and to punish his murderer. Margaretta was not alarmed. The ghost told her that he had begged others for the same thing, but none had the courage to help him. The widow took off her gold ring, laid it in the gaping wound, and bound the apparition’s head up with her handkerchief. With a look of gratitude he told her the name of his murderer and disappeared beneath the floor without a sound.
The following morning, the lady sent for the bailiff of the estate to come to the tavern with some people. She told them what had happened during the night, and ordered that the planks of the floor be taken up. Under the floor, they discovered the remains of a body. They noticed that the ring of the countess lay in a wound in its head, and her kerchief was tied about its head.
At the sight of this, one of those present grew pale and fell to the ground in a swoon. When he came to his senses, he confessed that he had murdered the traveller and robbed him of his belongings. He was condemned to death for his crime, and the body of the murdered man was buried in the village churchyard.
The ring, which is still in the Barkenow family, is said to possess healing powers and provide protection from evil spirits and misfortune.
Clearly Madame Margaretta is fearless woman. I think that bandaging the ghost’s head was a feminine touch. I can picture a man promising to avenge the dead man, but I can’t see him bandaging his head.
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Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all. Feel free to join in.