Sacred Texts  Sagas and Legends  Celtic  Index  Previous  Next 


LITTLE Kerstin she weeps in her bower all the day;
Sir Peter in his courtyard is playing so gay.
My heart's own dear!
Tell me wherefore you grieve?
"Grieve you for saddle, or grieve you for steed?
Or grieve you for that I have you wed?"
My heart's, &c.
"And grieve do I not for saddle or for steed:
And grieve do I not for that I have you wed.
My heart's, &c.
"Much more do I grieve for my fair gold hair,
Which in the blue waves shall be stained to-day.
My heart's, &c.
"Much more do I grieve for Ringfalla flood,
In which have been drowned my two sisters proud.
My heart's, &c.
"It was laid out for me in my infancy,
That my wedding-day should prove heavy to me."
My heart's, &c.
"And I shall make them the horse round shoe,
He shall not stumble on his four gold shoes.
My heart's, &c.
"Twelve of my courtiers shall before thee ride,
Twelve of my courtiers upon each side."
My heart's, &c.
But when they were come to Ringfalla wood,
There sported a hart with gilded horns prowl.
My heart's, &c.
And all the courtiers after the hart are gone;
Little Kerstin, she must proceed alone.
My heart's, &c.
And when on Ringfalla bridge she goes,
Her steed he stumbled on his four gold shoes.
My heart's, &c.
Four gold shoes, and thirty gold nails,
And the maiden into the swift stream falls.
My heart's, &c.
Sir Peter he spake to his footpage so--
"Thou must for my gold harp instantly go."
My heart's, &c.
The first stroke on his gold harp he gave
The foul ugly Neck sat and laughed on the wave.
My heart's, &c.
The second time the gold harp he swept,
The foul ugly Neck on the wave sat and wept.
My heart's, &c.
The third stroke on the gold harp rang,
Little Kerstin reached up her snow-white arm.
My heart's, &c.
He played the bark from off the high trees;
He played Little Kerstin back on his knees.
My heart's, &c.
And the Neck he out of' the waves came there,
And a proud maiden on each arm be bare.
My heart's, &c.
Tell me wherefore you grieve? [a]
The STROMKARL, called in Norway Grim or Fosse-Grim [b] (Waterfall-Grim) is a musical genius like the Neck. Like him too, when properly propitiated, he communicates his art. The sacrifice also is a black lamb [c] which the offerer must present with averted head, and on Thursday evening. If it is poor the pupil gets no further than to the tuning of the instruments; if it is fat the Strömkarl seizes the votary by the right hand, and swings it backwards and forwards till the blood runs out at the finger-ends. The aspirant is then enabled to play in such a masterly manner that the trees dance and waterfalls stop at his music. [d]
The Havmand, or Merman, is described as of a handsome form, with green or black hair and beard. He dwells either in the bottom of the sea, or in the cliffs and hills near the sea shore, and is regarded as rather a good and beneficent kind of being. [e]
The Havfrue, or Mermaid, is represented in the popular tradition sometimes as a good, at other lames as an evil and treacherous being. She is beautiful in her appearance.
Fishermen sometimes see her in the bright summer's sun, when a thin mist hangs over the sea, sitting on the surface of the water, and combing her long golden hair with a golden comb, or driving up her snow-white cattle to feed on the strands and small islands. At other times she comes as a beautiful maiden, chilled and shivering with the cold of the night, to the fires the fishers have kindled, hoping by this means to entice them to her love. [f] Her appearance prognosticates both storm and ill success in their fishing. People that are drowned, and whose bodies are not found, are believed to be taken into the dwellings of the Mermaids. These beings are also supposed to have the power of foretelling future events. A Mermaid, we are told, prophesied the birth of Christian IV. of Denmark, and
En Havfrue op af Vandet steg,
Og spaade Herr Sinklar ilde.
A mermaid from the water rose,
And spaed Sir Sinclar ill.
Fortune-telling has been in all countries a gift of the sea-people. We need hardly mention the prophecies of Nereus and Proteus.
A girl one time fell into the power of a Havfrue and passed fifteen years in her submarine abode without ever seeing the sun. At length her brother went down in quest of her, and succeeded in bringing her back to the upper world. The Havfrue waited for seven years expecting her return, but when she did not come back, she struck the water with her staff and made it boil up and cried--
Hade jag trott att du varit så falsk,
Så skulle jag kreckt dig din tiufvehals!
Had I but known thee so false to be,
Thy thieving neck I'd have cracked for thee. [g]

[a] As sung in West Gothland and Vermland.
[b] Fosse is the North of England force.
[c] Or a white kid, Faye ap. Grimm, Deut. Mythol., p. 461.
[d] The Strömkarl has eleven different measures, to ten of which alone people may dance; the eleventh belongs to the night spirit his host. If any one plays it, tables and benches, cans and cups, old men and women, blind and lame, even the children in the cradle, begin to dance.--Arndt. ut sup.,
[e] In the Danske Viser and Folkesagn there are a few stories of Mermen, such as Rosmer Havmand arid Marstig's Daughter, both translated by Dr. Jamieson, and Agnete and the Merman, which resembles Proud Margaret. It was natural, says Afzelius, that what in Sweden was related of a Hill King, should, in Denmark, be ascribed to a Merman.
[f] The appearance of the Wood-woman (Skogsfru) or Elve-woman, is equally unlucky for hunters. She also approaches the fires, and seeks to seduce young men.
[g] Arvidsson, ii. 320, ap. Grimm, p. 463.

Next: Duke Magnus and the Mermaid