Skip to main content

Friday night folklore: The Skeleton and the Man in Red

Here is spooky New year's Eve tale:

Once upon a time at one of Icelend’s farm churches, a whole skeleton of a man was found on the ground in the graveyard. The next time there was a burial, the pastor had it buried with the coffin, but not long afterwards it was again discovered above ground. The pastor made several  attempts to bury the skeleton, but it would always find its way back out. Eventually he gave up and had the skeleton transferred into the church and stored under one of the pews and there it stayed for a long time. 

One New Year’s Eve when the pastor was about to perform the nightly reading from the holy books, he realised that he had left his hymnal in the church after the last service. He spoke up and said “Is there someone here who is not afraid of the dark who is willing to fetch my hymnal from the church?”

One of the farm maids replied that she would do it and went and brought back the hymnal.
Then the pastor said to her: “I see you are not afraid of the dark, but you will not hear me praise your courage until fetch the skeleton from the church.”

She replied that this was an easy task and went and fetched the skeleton and carried it to the pastor.

Then he said: “That was brave of you, but now take it back.”

She started on her way, but as she was passing out the door of the house, the skeleton spoke up and said: “When you go into the church, it will be full of people and by the corner of the altar there will be a man clad in red with a red cap on his head. If you can get me back into his good graces you will never want for good luck.”

She continued to the church and saw that everything the skeleton had told her was true. The church was full of people, and she gave no indication of shock but walked into the church and up to the man in red and said to him with a serious voice: “Would you be so kind as to allow this skeleton to lie in peace in the ground from here on?”

“No,” he said, “that I cannot bring myself to do.”

“If you don’t,” she said, “may all the demons of Hell come after you and never leave you in peace or quiet.”

This deflated him somewhat and he said: “Since it is so very urgent, I shall henceforth leave the skeleton in peace.”

Then she took the skeleton to where it had been stored and put it back, the people moving back from the pew so she could do it.

The she started to leave, but when she was nearing the church door she heard the man in red say: “Look into my burning eye.”

She was convinced that if she were to look back she would never get out alive, so she lifted up the back of her skirt and said: “You look into my black arse.”

Then she continued calmly on her way back to the farmhouse and no-one could see that anything out of the way had happened. 

A few days later a man was to be buried in the graveyard, and the maid suggested to the pastor that this would be a good time to bury the skeleton. The pastor said it was no use, but she said it was such a small thing and he should try again. This he did, and this time the skeleton stayed buried.

After this the maid told the story of what had happened in the church, and received great praise for her actions. A short time later she was married to a promising young man and was always a solid and very lucky woman.

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.


Dorte H said…
Hehe. I heard a very similar story in a Danish church a year or two ago.

Happy New Year!

Popular posts from this blog

Book 40: The Martian by Andy Weir, audiobook read by Wil Wheaton

Note : This will be a general scattershot discussion about my thoughts on the book and the movie, and not a cohesive review. When movies are based on books I am interested in reading but haven't yet read, I generally wait to read the book until I have seen the movie, but when a movie is made based on a book I have already read, I try to abstain from rereading the book until I have seen the movie. The reason is simple: I am one of those people who can be reduced to near-incoherent rage when a movie severely alters the perfectly good story line of a beloved book, changes the ending beyond recognition or adds unnecessarily to the story ( The Hobbit , anyone?) without any apparent reason. I don't mind omissions of unnecessary parts so much (I did not, for example, become enraged to find Tom Bombadil missing from The Lord of the Rings ), because one expects that - movies based on books would be TV-series long if they tried to include everything, so the material must be pared down

List love: 10 recommended stories with cross-dressing characters

This trope is almost as old as literature, what with Achilles, Hercules and Athena all cross-dressing in the Greek myths, Thor and Odin disguising themselves as women in the Norse myths, and Arjuna doing the same in the Mahabaratha. In modern times it is most common in romance novels, especially historicals in which a heroine often spends part of the book disguised as a boy, the hero sometimes falling for her while thinking she is a boy. Occasionally a hero will cross-dress, using a female disguise to avoid recognition or to gain access to someplace where he would never be able to go as a man. However, the trope isn’t just found in romances, as may be seen in the list below, in which I recommend stories with a variety of cross-dressing characters. Unfortunately I was only able to dredge up from the depths of my memory two book-length stories I had read in which men cross-dress, so this is mostly a list of women dressed as men. Ghost Riders by Sharyn McCrumb. One of the interwove

First book of 2020: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach (reading notes)

I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I loathe movie tie-in book covers because I feel they are (often) trying to tell me how I should see the characters in the book. The edition of Deborah Moggach's These Foolish Things that I read takes it one step further and changes the title of the book into the title of the film version as well as having photos of the ensemble cast on the cover. Fortunately it has been a long while since I watched the movie, so I couldn't even remember who played whom in the film, and I think it's perfectly understandable to try to cash in on the movie's success by rebranding the book. Even with a few years between watching the film and reading the book, I could see that the story had been altered, e.g. by having the Marigold Hotel's owner/manager be single and having a romance, instead being of unhappily married to an (understandably, I thought) shrewish wife. It also conflates Sonny, the wheeler dealer behind the retireme