22 October 2010

Friday night folklore: Tricking a ghost

Once upon a time there were two brothers in eastern Iceland named Jón and Sigurður. For some reason they swore an oath other than neither should marry without the other’s knowledge. But then a theology student from the east needed to travel to the bishop’s seat in Hólar so the bishop could ordain him, and asked Sigurður to accompany him.

While Sigurður and the young priest-to-be were in Hólar Sigurður met a girl and they became engaged. She asked him not to return to the east, but to stay with her in the north, but the told her about the oath he and his brother had taken and hinted that his brother was wise in old lore, but she said it did not signify. After this they were wed and set up house on a farm.
Sigurður knew that it would not be long until he would receive a sending from his brother, and in this he was right: one day he became so sleepy and nauseous that he took to his bed, but his wife sat by the bedside all day and until night-fall.

When dark had fallen, there was a knock on the door and the woman sent one of the farm-hands to answer the door, but he saw no-one. She then told everyone to go to sleep, but lit a lamp, saying that she would stay awake. After a short time she heard the door bang, and then a horrible ghost climbed up into the loft where they slept and stopped in front of her. She looked at it and said: “What is your business and why do you come here without greeting anyone?”
It replied: “I am only sent to your husband and i want you to stand up so I can get to him.”

“You can’t be in that much of a hurry,” said the woman. “First you must show me some tricks.”
The she proceeded to ask the ghost to take on the form of all kinds of creatures, which it did, and she praised it and then asked: “But how small can you become?”

“Like a midge,” it replied.

She then pulled a small bottle from her pocket and asked it to turn into a midge and go into the bottle, but the ghost was reluctant, saying she would trick it, but she promised not to do so. This the ghost accepted and flew into the bottle, but the woman immediately put a cork in the bottle and tied a piece of parchment over it and put it in her pocket.

Then she woke up her husband and showed him the ghost in the bottle, saying that he was a coward to fear such a small thing. She then stored the bottle away for three years before sending the ghost back to Jón, whom it immediately killed.

After this the ghost never dared to visit Sigurður or his wife, because it was afraid of the woman and her little bottle.

Copyright notice: The wording used to tell this folk-tale is under copyright. The story itself is not copyrighted. If you want to re-tell it, for a collection of folk-tales, incorporate it into fiction, use it in a school essay or any kind of publication, please tell it in your own words or give the proper attribution if you choose to use the wording unchanged.

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