17 June 2011

Icelandic folk-lore: Crossroads

Some say that cross-roads are where you can see four churches, all in a different direction. The oldest cross-roads belief is that you should stay out by a cross-roads on Christmas Night, because that is when the new year begins, and even though the new year is now celebrated a week after Christmas, people still speak of having lived for a certain amount of winters when they have lived that number of Christmases.
When you sit at a cross-roads elves will come from every direction and flock around you and ask you to come with them, but you must not answer. Then they will offer you all kinds of treasures, gold and silver, cloth, food and drink, but you must not take any of it. Then elf-women will come to you in the guise of your mother or sister and ask you to come with them and all sorts of other tricks. You must not respond, whatever happens.
But when dawn breaks you should stand up and say “Thank God, the day brightens all the sky.” Then the elves will disappear, leaving behind all the treasure, which you can keep for yourself. But if you answer or accept anything from them, you will go insane and never be the same again.
Once a man named Fúsi sat at a cross-roads and withstood the offers for a long time, until one elf-woman brought him a large piece of tallow, skimmed off the top of a cooking pot and offered him a bite. Then Fúsi answered: “I have not been in the habit of refusing this treat,” and took a bite and ended up mad and witless.

Note: The hardened fat skimmed off a pot of in which meat had been cooked was considered a tasty treat and often used in place of butter on bread.

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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