Monday, 15 May 2017

Hippocampus

The hippocampus (crooked horse) is known in Greek mythology as Poseidon’s horse. My understanding is that the motif is also quite widespread in folklore. Below are two short legends from Norway.

Sea-horse and Sea Serpent in Battle

The belief in great serpents, the lindworm, sea serpents, and such was common. There were supposed to be great serpents in many mountain lakes, about which there are many legends. At times, great serpents came into the fjord and lay close by mighty waterfalls, to drink “burst” water.

Once, a terribly long time ago, it happened some place one Sunday evening, when the folk came out of church, that a terribly long sea serpent had laid itself across the bay, so that those who should go home by way of the sea could not get out with their boats. There lay the sea serpent, day after day, and no one dared go out on the fjord, and everybody was frightened, and had no idea what to do about getting home. But then they made an effort to keep calm, and then it was not long, either, before a great sea-horse came at full tilt from the sea, and attacked the sea serpent and killed it. Then all the folk were terrified, got into their boats, and rowed home, each to his own; and all the sea was red from the blood that had run out of the sea serpent.

Norsk folkeminnesamling: Rasmus Løland 1, p. 29

The Sea-horse that Attacked

Many boats lay fishing by Grip, off Kristiansand, among them a fembøring that lay a little by itself. Suddenly there came a huge, ugly beast that laid its forelegs on the gunwales and tried to overturn it. The animal had long claws on its feet, just like a dog, and they were so long that they almost reached across to the other side of the boat.

The crew of four managed to get the animal off, but after a short while it came again and laid its forelegs and claws on the gunwales. Also this time, they managed to remove the nuisance, but after that, they rowed in to land.

Not before the following day did they row out to sea again. Then there was such a terrible storm that they never came back.

— Sivertsen, Birger. “Havhest” in For noen troll. Oslo: Andresen & Butenschøn, 2000. p 304.

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