Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Further Legends of the Fylgje

Previous legends here: “The Hug, the Vardøger, and the Fylgje.”

It seems that any appearance of a person’s spirit, be they alive or dead, may be interpreted as their fylgje. Here the legends turn dark…

The Mo-men and the Revenge of the Dead

The two brothers Peder and Johannes Mo were renowned as fox trappers. The foxes came straight to the farm and into the trap just outside the cabin door. The folk of the village speculated about whether or not the fox trapping was quite natural, and in this they were not wholly wrong, either.

The brothers had a sister called Rebekka, who was the milkmaid for one of the brothers. One evening, when she stood in the barn, taking hay for the livestock, she grabbed hold of something unpleasant, which felt like a human head. She went into the shed for the lantern, and then she saw that it really was a human head, too, off which the flesh had been partially scraped.

On a plank above the stacks of hay, there lay two more heads, which smelled of the brothers’ skis and fox traps. She understood then what kind of bait the brothers used and what they waxed their skis with, when they went into the forest, to lure the foxes into the traps.

Rebekka was filled with such disgust for her brothers that she fled from service and would never go back. Neither did she remain silent about what she had seen or what she knew, and from that time, they never used a Mo-man to dig any graves.


One Tollev’s eve some years later, the two brothers sat drinking together. They also mocked the stupid superstition of the folk, and their fear of the dead. In order to trap the foxes, they had taken a limb here, a lump of fat there, and no revenant had hindered them so far, nor made them suffer for it, they said.

“But you are not completely free of fear,” said Johannes to his brother. “I bet you don’t dare go up to the church, and take the missal from the altar, for if the dead shall ever be out, then it will be tonight, as dark as it is.”

But Peder was brave. He wagered Johannes a jug of brandy, and went to the church.

Just as the clock struck twelve midnight, he walked into the churchyard through the western gate. But hardly had he closed the gate behind him before he was surrounded by the dead. They were so many that they filled the churchyard, and it was impossible for Peder to go forwards. It was also impossible for him to go back; and he was pushed and pressed towards the southern gate and further in the direction of Svartdalen.

It occured to him that, if he could reach the bottom of Svartdalen, and wade across the Mo brook, he would escape the revenants, as they dare not cross running water. This plan succeeded, and he followed the southern side of the brook, down towards the sea. Here, by the mouth of the brook, he crossed again, and was allowed unhindered home. He went straight into the loft and went to bed without going down to his wife. She sat down in the parlour, waiting for him.

He called for her, but merely asked her to put out the light before she came into him. She misheard or misunderstood, and came in with the burning candle in her hand.

“Now I am lost,” he exclaimed. “Had I but slept until morning without seeing a candle, I would have been saved; but now the dead will fall upon me and kill me.”

He then told her what he had experienced since he had gone out to fetch the missal; and he had hardly finished his story before the dead swarmed into the chamber. Enraged, they grasped him by the throat, and throttled him in front of his wife.

Some time later, the brother Johannes was also struck by the dead, which was the death of him.

This revenge of the dead did not come unexpectedly. The village folk had even wondered that the revenge had come so late. But the fate of the Mo-men, even today, appears to have been a warning to those who might decide to improve their trapping by the dark arts.


Punished Theft of Human Bones

The Swede Ole Rønlund was, in deference to his fatherland’s law, moved over to Norway, and had settled in southern Krogstrand. He had once heard of the usefulness of possessing a bone of the dead. Using it, one could bind a thief, and force him to carry the bounty back, and one could conjure the dead to whom the bone had belonged, and ask for advice.

Ole determined to get hold of such a bone, and at the very first opportunity, he stole one from the churchyard. He knew, of course, that this was a dangerous experiment, and he therefore commissioned Erik Kristiansen Siljelid to drive him from Mo to Skonseng.

The conditions were good, and by midnight, the driver was holding the horse and sleigh by the north gate of the churchyard. Ole had already stolen the bone, and hidden it in the churchyard, so now he could simply go in and fetch it. But as he grasped the bone, he was surrounded by the dead. He struck out around himself, and went backwards out of the churchyard gate; backwards he also threw himself on to the sleigh, fencing both with arms and legs, to keep the crowd of the dead at bay until he was rid of them at the crossroads to Gullsmedsvigen. He came from this unscathed, and thought the danger was now over.

But unfortunately, he was a dilettante, as they say; for hardly had he fallen asleep before he was accosted by the dead whose bone he had stolen. And, for head and for neck, he had to take the bone back that same night. With a supplication of forgiveness, he laid the bone whence he had taken it, and he had to be thankful that he escaped with his life.


The Fylgje as Gjenganger

Jens Strømmen had been a merchant for close to 40 years. He was rich and owned two farms, Strømmen and Sjøvigen. Both he and his wife were miserly folk, and they would never hear of being parted from their worldly goods, or of dying.

But the the wife died—it was a Saturday, and next Saturday the husband also died.

Soon afterwards, the wife began to walk again, and she nearly scared the life out of folk, slamming doors, or by breaking plates and kitchenware.

She continued this for several years, and folk dared not go out at night because of her.

One day, she came and said to her daughter’s daughter, who was with child, that she would take the child to her, but she comforted the horrified mother by telling her that the child would be looked after. And so it went; the child died as soon as it was born.

The husband also began to walk again. He went around all the time, and took care of the things he had left behind.

Then his daughter’s daughter’s husband said to him on one occasion, that both he and the other heirs were content with the inheritance that had fallen to them.

And from that time they never again saw the fylgjes of the deceased.

Olsen, O. T. Norske folkeeventyr og sagn, 1912.

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