Church near Reykjavik, Iceland

How about another ghost story? “White Cap” comes from Iceland and was retold by Jón Arnason in Icelandic Legends, translated by George E. J. Powell and Eiríkur Magnússon, 1864.

A boy and girl lived near a church. The boy tended to be mischievous and often tried to frighten the girl in a variety of ways, until she became used to his tricks, and she assumed everything strange that she saw or heard was due to the boy.

One washing day, the girl was sent by her mother to fetch the linen, which had been spread to dry in the churchyard. When she had nearly filled her basket, she happened to look up, and saw sitting on a tomb near her a figure dressed in white from head to foot She wasn’t alarmed however, because she assumed it was the boy playing a trick on her as usual. So she ran up to it, and pulling its cap off said, “You shall not frighten me, this time.”

When she had finished collecting the laundry she went home. But, to her surprise the boy was the first person who greeted her on her arrival at the cottage. It would have been impossible for him to return home without her seeing him.

Among the linen, too, when it was sorted, was found a moldy white cap, which a belonged to no one and was half full of earth.

The next morning the ghost (for it was a ghost that the girl had seen) was found sitting with no cap on its head, on the same tombstone as the evening before. Since nobody had the courage to speak to it, or knew in the least how to get rid of it, they sent into the neighboring village for advice.

An old man declared that the only way to avoid calamity, was for the little girl to replace on the ghost’s head the cap she had seized from it, in the presence of many people, all of whom were to be perfectly silent. So a crowd collected in the churchyard, and the little girl, going forward, half afraid, placed the cap on the ghost’s head, saying, “Are you satisfied now?”

But the ghost, raising its hand, gave her a fearful blow, and said, “Yes, but are you now satisfied?”

The little girl fell down dead, and at the same instant the ghost sank into the grave upon which it had been sitting, and was not seen again.

I feel bad for the girl. It wasn’t her fault she thought the ghost was a trick, it was the boy’s. And she was pretty brave to return the cap, if you ask me. I don’t think the ghost should have killed her – but once again you have to be careful with the dead.

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.


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