28 October 2011

Icelandic folk-tale: The little ghost

Since its almost Halloween, I decided to post a ghost story. This is one of the most chilling and tragic ghost stories found in the Icelandic folk-tales, and almost everyone knows it.

The folk-group Islandica has recorded the ghost’s poem under a haunting melody, sung by a little girl, that chills me to the bone every time I hear it. I have incorporated it into the story.
I think I mentioned it in the introduction to last’year’s Halloween ghost story, but will repeat it anyway, that verses that were supposedly spoken by ghosts in Icelandic folk-tales usually have repeated words and/or lines in them, which are the mark of a ghost.

Once upon a time there was a young woman worker on a farm. She had gotten pregnant and given birth to a baby and to avoid punishment she had left it out to die of exposure. This was not uncommon in those days, as the law concerning babies born out of wedlock was very harsh. An unmarried woman who got pregnant risked heavy fines at best (if she had powerful relatives to protect her) and a death penalty at worst (if she had no protection) for her “crime”.
Some time after this took place there was to be a vikivaki dance in the neighbourhood, to which this girl was invited. She was only a poor farm worker and had no clothing suitable to wear to the dance, but since she liked fancy clothes and fripperies this made her unhappy because she would rather stay at home than go in her everyday clothes.
Shortly before the dance she was out in the sheep-fold milking the ewes with another woman and telling her companion that she needed something nice to wear to the dance. The words had hardly left her mouth when they heard the following sung under the wall of the sheep-fold:




The woman who had killed her baby knew the message to be directed at her, and knew it must be the ghost of the baby speaking. The shock was so great that she went permanently insane.
--

The Icelandic version of the verse goes like this (the sung version changes the order and repetition, but not the words):
"Móðir mín í kví, kví,
kvíddu ekki því, því;
ég skal ljá þér duluna mína
að dansa í
og dansa í."   

In English:

“Mother mine in fold, fold,
 Do not worry none, none
 I will lend you my little rag
 To dance in,
 and dance in.”

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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