Har Necken sin Harpa i Glasborgen slar,
Och Hafsfruar kamma sitt gronskande har,
Och bleka den skinande dragten.
The Neck here his harp in the glass-castle plays,
And Mermaidens comb out their green hair always,
And bleach here their shining white clothes.
Under the title of Northern Islands we include all those
lying in the ocean to the north of Scotland, to wit Iceland, the Feroes, Shetland, and the
These islands were all peopled from Norway and Denmark during the ninth century.
Till that time many of them, particularly Iceland and the Feroes, though, perhaps, occasionally
visited by stray Vikings, or by ships driven out of their course by tempests, had lain waste and
desert from the creation, the abode alone of wild beasts and birds.
But at that period the proud nobles of Norway and Denmark, who scorned to be the
vassals of Harold Fairhair and Gorm the Old, the founders of the Norwegian and Danish monarchies,
set forth in quest of new settlements, where, at a distance from these haughty potentates, they
might live in the full enjoyment of their beloved independence. Followed by numerous vassals,
they embarked on the wide Atlantic. A portion fixed themselves on the distant shores of Iceland;
others took possession of the vacant Feroes; and more dispossessed the Peti and Papae, the ancient
inhabitants of Shetland and the Orkneys, and seized on their country.
As the Scandinavians were at that time still worshipers of Thor and Odin, the belief
in Alfs and Dwarfs accompanied them to their new abodes, and there, as elsewhere, survived the
introduction of Christianity. We now proceed to examine the vestiges of the old religion still
to be traced.
Hvad mon da ei
Og her lyksalig leves kan? Jeg troer
Det mueligt, som for i Heden-Old
For raske Skander mueligt det var,
Paa denne kolde Oe.
What! cannot one
Here, too, live happy? I believe it now
As possible, as in the heathen age,
For the bold Scandinavians it was,
On this cold isle.
IT is in vain that we look into the works of travellers for
information on the subject of popular belief in Iceland. Their attention was too much occupied by
Geysers, volcanoes, agriculture, and religion, to allow them to devote any part of it to this,
in their eyes, unimportant subject. So that, were it not for some short but curious notices given
by natives of the island, we should be quite ignorant of the fate of the subordinate classes of
the old religion in Iceland.
Torfaeus, who wrote in the latter end of the seventeenth century, gives, in his
preface to his edition of Hrolf Krakas Saga, the opinion of a venerable Icelandic pastor, named
Einar Gudmund, respecting the Dwarfs. This opinion Torfaeus heard when a boy from the lips of the
"I believe, and am fully persuaded," said he, "that this people are the creatures
of God, consisting of a body and a rational spirit; that they are of both sexes; marry, and have
children; and that all human acts take place among them as with us : that they are possessed of
cattle, and of many other kinds of property; have poverty and riches, weeping and laughter, sleep
and wake, and have all other affections belonging to human nature; and that they enjoy a longer
or a shorter term of life according to the will and pleasure of God. Their power of having
children," he adds, "appears from this, that some of their women have had children by men, and
were very anxious to have their offspring dipped in the sacred font, and initiated into
Christianity; but they, in general, sought in vain. Thorkatla Mari, the wife of Kari, was
pregnant by a Hill-man, but she did not bring the child Aresus into the world, as appears from
the poems made on this fatal occasion.
"There was formerly on the lands of Haga a nobleman named Sigvard Fostre, who had
to do with a Hill-woman. He promised her faithfully that he would take care to have the child
received into the bosom of the church. In due time the woman came with her child and laid it on
the churchyard wall, and along with it a gilded cup and a holy robe (presents she intended
making to the church for the baptism of her child), and then retired a little way. The pastor
inquired who acknowledged himself the father of the child. Sigvard, perhaps, out of shame, did
not venture to acknowledge himself. The clerk now asked him if it should be baptised or not.
Sigvard said 'No,' lest by assenting he should be proved to be the father. The infant then was
left where it was, untouched and unbaptised. The mother, filled with rage, snatched up her babe
and the cup, but left the vestment, the remains of which may still be seen in Haga. That woman
foretold and inflicted a singular disease on Sigvard and his posterity till the ninth generation,
and several of his descendants are to this day afflicted with it. Andrew Gudmund (from which I am
the seventh in descent) had an affair of the same kind. He also refused to have the child
baptised, and he and his posterity have suffered a remarkable disease, of which very many of
them have died; but some, by the interposition of good men, have escaped the deserved punishment."
The fullest account we have of the Icelandic Elves or Dwarfs is contained in the
following passage of the Ecclesiastical History of Iceland of the learned Finnus Johannaeus.
"As we have not as yet," says he, "spoken a single word about the very ancient,
and I know not whether more ridiculous or perverse, persuasion of our forefathers about semigods,
this seems the proper place for saying a few words about this so celebrated figment, as it was
chiefly in this period it attained its acme, and it was believed as a true and necessary article
of faith, that there are genii or semigods, called in our language Alfa and Alfa-folk.
"Authors vary respecting their essence and origin. Some hold that they have been
created by God immediately and without the intervention of parents, like some kinds of spirits:
others maintain that they are sprung from Adam, but before the creation of Eve:1
lastly, some refer them to another race of men, or to a stock of præ-Adamites. Some bestow on
them not merely a human body, but an immortal soul: others assign them merely mortal breath
(spiritum) instead of a soul, whence a certain blockhead,2 in an essay written
by him respecting them, calls them our half-kin (half-kyn).
"According to the old wives' tales that are related about this race of genii who
inhabit Iceland and its vicinity, they have a political form of government modelled after the
same pattern as that which the inhabitants themselves are under. Two viceroys rule over them,
who in turn every second year, attended by some of the subjects, sail to Norway, to present
themselves before the monarch of the whole race, who resides there, and to give him a true report
concerning the fidelity, good conduct, and obedience of the subjects; and those who accompany
them are to accuse the government or viceroys if they, have transgressed the bounds of justice
or of good morals. If these are convicted of crime or injustice, they are forthwith stript of
their office, and others are appointed in their place.
"This nation is reported to cultivate justice and equity above all other virtues,
and hence, though they are very potent, especially with words and imprecations, they very rarely,
unless provoked or injured, do any mischief to man; but when irritated they avenge themselves on
their enemies with dreadful curses and punishments.
"The new-born infants of Christians are, before baptism, believed to be exposed
to great peril of being stolen by them, and their own, which they foresee likely to be feeble
in mind, in body, in beauty, or other gifts, being substituted for them. These supposititious
children of the semigods are called Umskiptingar; whence nurses and midwives were strictly
enjoined to watch constantly, and to hold the infant firmly in their arms, till it had had the
benefit of baptism, lest they should furnish any opportunity for such a change. Hence it comes,
that the vulgar use to call fools, deformed people, and those who act rudely and uncivilly,
Umskiptinga eins og harm sie ko minnaf Alfum, i.e. changelings, and come of the Alfs.
"They use rocks, hills, and even the seas, for their habitations, which withinside
are neat, and all their domestic utensils extremely clean and orderly. They sometimes invite men
home, and take especial delight in the converse of Christians, some of whom have had intercourse
with their daughters or sisters, who are no less wanton than beautiful, and have had children by
them, who must by all means be washed in holy water, that they may receive an immortal soul, and
one that can be saved. Nay, they have not been ashamed to feign that certain women of them have
been joined in lawful marriage with men, and continued for a long time with them, happily at
first, but, for the most part, with an ill or tragical conclusion.
"Their cattle, if not very numerous, are at least very profitable They are invisible
as their owners are, unless when it pleases them to appear, which usually takes place when the
weather is serene and the sun shining very bright; for as they do not see the sun within their
dwellings, they frequently walk out in the sunshine that they may be cheered by his
radiance.3 Hence, even the coffins of dead kings and nobles, such as are the oblong
stones which are to be seen here and there, in wildernesses and rough places, always lie in the
open air and exposed to the sun.
"They change their abodes and habitations occasionally like mankind; this they do
on new-year's night; whence certain dreamers and mountebanks used on that night to watch in the
roads, that, by the means of various forms of conjurations appointed for that purpose, they
might extort from them as they passed along the knowledge of future events.4 But
people in general, who were not acquainted with such things, especially the heads of families,
used on this evening strictly to charge their children and servants to be sure to be serious
and modest in their actions and language, lest their invisible guests, and mayhap future
neighbours, should be aggrieved or any way offended. Hence, when going to bed they did not shut
the outer doors of their houses, nor even the door of the sitting-room, but having kindled a
light, and laid out a table, they desired the invisible personages who had arrived, or were to
arrive, to partake, if it was their pleasure, of the food that was laid out or them; and hoped
that if it pleased them to dwell within the limits of their lands, they would live safe and
sound, and be propitious to them. As this superstitious belief is extremely ancient, so it
long continued in full vigour, and was held by some even within the memory of our
The Icelandic Neck, Kelpie, or Water-Spirit, is called Nickur, Ninnir, and Hnikur,
one of the Eddaic names of Odin. He appears always in the form of a fine apple-grey horse on the
sea-shore; but he may be distinguished from ordinary horses by the circumstance of his hoofs
being reversed. If any one is so foolish as to mount him, he gallops off, and plunges into the
sea with his burden. He can, however, be caught in a particular manner, tamed, and made to
The Icelanders have the same notions respecting the seals which we shall find in
the Feroes and Shetland. It is a common opinion with them that King Pharaoh and his army were
changed into these animals.
Sigurd took the very best sword
That the Dwarfs had ever smithed.
THE people of the Feroes believe in the same classes of
beings as the inhabitants of the countries whence their ancestors came.
They call the Trolls Underground-people, Hollow-men, Foddenskkmænd, and Huldefolk.
These Trolls used frequently to carry people into their hills, and detain them there. Among
several other instances, Debes7 gives the following one of this practice:
"Whilst Mr. Taale was priest in Osteröe, it happened that one of his hearers was
carried away and returned again. At last the said young man being to be married, and every
thing prepared, and the priest being arrived the Saturday before at the parish, the bridegroom
was carried away; wherefore they sent folks to look after him, but he could not be found. The
priest desired his friends to have good courage, and that he would come again; which he did at
last, and related that the spirit that led him away was in the shape of a most beautiful woman,
and very richly dressed, who desired him to forsake her whom he was now to marry, and consider
how ugly his mistress was in comparison of her, and what fine apparel she had. He said also that
he saw the men that sought after him, and that they went close by him but could not see him, and
that he heard their calling, ano yet could not answer them; but that when he would not be
persuaded he was again left at liberty."
The people of the Feroes call the Nisses or Brownies Niägruisar, and describe them
as little creatures with red caps on their heads, that bring luck to any place where they take
up their abode. It is the belief of the people of these islands that every ninth-night the seals
put off their skins and assume the human form, and dance and sport about on the land. After some
time, they resume their skins and return to the water. The following adventure, it is said,
"A man happening to pass by where a female seal was disporting herself in the form
of a woman, found her skin, and took and hid it. When she could not find her skin to creep into,
she was forced to remain in the human form; and as she was fair to look upon, that same man
took her to wife, had children by her, and lived right happily with her. After a long time, the
wife found the skin that had been stolen, and could not resist the temptation to creep into it,
and so she became a seal again, and returned to the sea."
The Neck called Nikar is also an object of popular faith in the Feroes. He inhabits
the streams and lakes, and takes a delight in drowning people.
Well, since we are welcome to Yule,
Up wi't Lightfoot, link it awa', boys!
Send for a fiddler, play up Foula reel,
The Shaalds will pay for a', boys.
Dr. Hibbert's valuable work on the Shetland Islands9
fortunately enables us to give a tolerably complete account of the fairy system of these islands.
The Shetlanders, he informs us, believe in two kinds of Trolls, as they call the
Scandinavian Trolls, those of the land and those of the sea.
The former, whom, like the Scots, they also term the guid folk and guid
neighbours, they conceive to inhabit the interior of green hills. Persons who have been
brought into their habitations have been dazzled with the splendour of what they saw there. All
the interior walls are adorned with gold and silver, and the domestic utensils resemble the
strange things that are found sometimes lying on the hills. These persons have always entered
the hill on one side and gone out at the other.
They marry and have children, like their northern kindred. A woman of the island of
Yell, who died not long since, at the advanced age of more than a hundred years, said, that she
once met some fairy children, accompanied by a little dog, playing like other boys and girls, on
the top of a hill. Another time she happened one night to raise herself up in the bed, when she
saw a little boy with a white nightcap on his head, sitting at the fire. She asked him who he was.
"I am Trippa's son," said he. When she heard this, she instantly sained, i.e. blessed
herself, and Trippa's son vanished. Saining is the grand protection against them; a Shetlander always sains
himself when passing by their hills.
The Trows are of a diminutive stature, and they are usually dressed in gay green
garments. When travelling from one place to another they, may be seen mounted on bulrushes, and
riding through the air. If a person should happen to meet them when on these journeys, he should,
if he has not a bible in his pocket, draw a circle round him on the ground, and in God's name
forbid their approach. They then generally disappear.10
They are fond of music and dancing, and it is their dancing that forms the fairy
rings. A Shetlander lying awake in bed before day one morning, heard the noise of a party of
Trows passing by his door. They were preceded by a piper, who was playing away lustily. The
man happened to have a good ear for music, so he picked up the tune he heard played, and used
often after to repeat it for his friends under the name of the Fairy-tune.
The Trows are not free from disease, but they are possessed of infallible remedies,
which they sometimes bestow on their favourites. A man in the island of Unst had an earthen pot
that contained an ointment of marvellous power. This he said he got from the hills, and, like
the widow's cruise, its contents never failed.
They have all the picking and stealing propensities of the Scandinavian Trolls.
The dairy-maid sometimes detects a Trow-woman secretly milking the cows in the byre. She sains
herself, and the thief takes to flight so precipitately as to leave behind her a copper pan of
a form never seen before. When they want beef or mutton on any festal occasion, they betake
themselves to the Shetlanders' scatholds or townmails, and with elf-arrows bring down
their game. On these occasions they delude the eyes of the owner with the appearance of
something exactly resembling the animal whom they have carried off, and by its apparent violent
death by some accident. It is on this account that the flesh of such animals as have met a sudden
or violent death is regarded as improper food.
A Shetlander, who is probably still alive, affirmed that he was once taken into a
hill by the Trows. Here one of the first objects that met his view was one of his own cows,
that was brought in to furnish materials for a banquet. He regarded himself as being in rather
a ticklish situation if it were not for the protection of the Trow-women, by whose favour he had
been admitted within the hill. On returning home, he learned, to his great surprise, that at the
very moment he saw the cow brought into the hill, others had seen her falling over the rocks.
Lying-in-women and "unchristened bairns" they regard as lawful prize. The former they
employ as wet-nurses, the latter they of course rear up as their own. Nothing will induce
parents to show any attention to a child that they suspect of being a changeling. But there are
persons who undertake to enter the hills and regain the lost child.
A tailor, not long since, related the following story. He was employed to work at
a farm-house where there was a child that was an idiot, and who was supposed to have been left
there by the Trows instead of some proper child, whom they had taken into the hills. One night,
after he had retired to his bed, leaving the idiot asleep by the fire, he was suddenly waked out
of his sleep by the sound of music, and on looking about him he saw the whole room full of
fairies, who were dancing away their rounds most joyously. Suddenly the idiot jumped up and
joined in the dance, and showed such a degree of acquaintance with the various steps and
movements as plainly testified that it must have been a long time since he first went under
the hands of the dancing master. The tailor looked on for some time with admiration, but at
last he grew alarmed and sained himself. On hearing this, the Trows all fled in the utmost
disorder, but one of them, a woman, was so incensed at this interruption of their revels, that
as she went out she touched the big toe of the tailor, and he lost the power of ever after
In these cases of paralysis they believe that the Trows have taken away the sound
member and left a log behind. They even sometimes sear the part, and from the want of sensation
in it boast of the correctness of this opinion.12
With respect to the Sea-Trows, it is the belief of the Shetlanders that they inhabit
a region of their own at the bottom of the sea.13 They here respire a peculiar
atmosphere, and live in habitations constructed of the choicest submarine productions. When they
visit the upper world on occasions of business or curiosity, they are obliged to enter the skin
of some animal capable of respiring in the water. One of the shape they assume is that of what
is commonly called a merman or mermaid, human from the waist upwards, terminating below in the
tail of a fish. But their most favourite vehicle is the skin of the larger seal or Haaf fish,
for as this snimal is amphibious they can land on some rock, and there cast off their sea-dress
and assume their own shape, and amuse themselves as they will in the upper world. They must,
however, take especial care of their skins, as each has but one, and if that should be lost,
the owner can never re-descend, but must become an inhabitant of the supramarine world.
The following Shetland tales will illustrate this: --
A boat's-crew landed one time upon one of the
stacks14 with the intention of attacking the seals. They had considerable success;
stunned several of them, and while they lay stupefied, stripped them of their skins, with the
fat attached to them. They left the naked carcases lying on the rocks, and were about to get
into their boat with their spoils and return to Papa Stour, whence they had come. But just as
they were embarking, there rose such a tremendous swell that they saw there was not a moment to
be lost, and every one flew as quickly as he could to get on board the boat. They were all
successful but one man, who had imprudently loitered behind. His companions were very unwilling
to leave him on the skerries, perhaps to perish, but the surge increased so fast, that after
many unsuccessful attempts to bring the boat in close to the stacks, they were obliged to depart,
and leave the unfortunate man to his fate.
A dark stormy night came on, the sea dashed most furiously against the rocks, and
the poor deserted Shetlander saw no prospect before him but that of dying of the cold and
hunger, or of being washed into the sea by the breakers, which now threatened every moment to
run over the stack.
At length he perceived several of the seals, who had escaped from the boatmen,
approaching the skerry. When they landed they stripped off their seal-skin dresses and appeared
in their proper forms of Sea-Trows. Their first object was to endeavour to recover their
friends, who lay stunned and skinless. When they had succeeded in bringing them to themselves,
they also resumed their proper form, and appeared in the shape of the sub-marine people. But in
mournful tones, wildly accompanied by the raging storm, they lamented the loss of their
sea-ventures, the want of which would for ever prevent them from returning to their native
abodes beneath the deep waters of the Atlantic. Most of all did they lament for Ollavitinus,
the son of Gioga, who, stripped of his seal-skin, must abide for ever in the upper world.
Their song was at length broken off by their perceiving the unfortunate boatman,
who, with shivering limbs and despairing looks, was gazing on the furious waves that now dashed
over the stack. Gioga, when she saw him, instantly conceived the design of rendering the
perilous situation of the man of advantage to her son. She went up to him, and mildly addressed
him, proposing to carry him on her back through the sea to Papa Stour, on condition of his
getting her the seal-skin of her son.
The bargain was soon made, and Gioga equipped herself in her phocine garb; but
when the Shetlander gazed on the stormy sea he was to ride through, his courage nearly failed
him, and he begged of the old lady to have the kindness to allow him to cut a few holes in her
shoulders and flanks, that he might obtain a better fastening for his hands between the skin
and the flesh. This, too, her maternal tenderness induced Gioga to consent to. The man, having
prepared everything, now mounted, and she plunged into the waves with him, gallantly ploughed
the deep, and landed him safe and sound at Acres Gio, in Papa Stour. He thence set out for Skeo,
at Hamna Voe, where the skin was, and honourably fulfilled his agreement by restoring to Gioga
the means of bringing back her son to his dear native land.
The Mermaid Wife
On a fine summer's evening, an inhabitant of Unst happened
to be walking along the sandy margin of a voe.15 The moon was risen, and by her light
he discerned at some distance before him a number of the sea-people, who were dancing with great
vigour on the smooth sand. Near them he saw lying on the ground several seal-skins.
As the man approached the dancers, all gave over their merriment, and flew like
lightning to secure their garments; then clothing themselves, plunged in the form of seals into
the sea. But the Shetlander, on coming up to the spot where they had been, and casting his eyes
down on the ground, saw that they had left one skin behind them, which was lying just at his feet.
He snatched it up, carried it swiftly away, and placed it in security.
On returning to the shore, he met the fairest maiden that eye ever gazed upon: she
was walking backwards and forwards, lamenting in most piteous tones the loss of her sealskin
robe, without which she never could hope to rejoin her family and friends below the waters, but
must remain an unwilling inhabitant of the region enlightened by the sun.
The man approached and endeavoured to console her, but she would not be comforted.
She implored him in the most moving accents to restore her dress; but the view of her lovely
face, more beautiful in tears, had steeled his heart. He represented to her the impossibility
of her return, and that her friends would soon give her up; and finally, made an offer to her
of his heart, hand, and fortune.
The sea-maiden, finding she had no alternative, at length consented to become his
wife. They were married, and lived together for many years, during which time they had several
children, who retained no vestiges of their marine origin, saving a thin web between their
fingers, and a bend of their hands, resembling that of the fore paws of a seal; distinctions
which characterise the descendants of the family to the present day.
The Shetlander's love for his beautiful wife was unbounded, but she made but a
cold return to his affection. Often would she steal out alone and hasten down to the lonely
strand, and there at a given signal, a seal of large size would make his appearance, and they
would converse for hours together in an unknown language; and she would return home from this
meeting pensive and melancholy.
Thus glided away years, and her hopes of leaving the upper world had nearly
vanished, when it chanced one day, that one of the children, playing behind a stack of corn,
found a seal-skin. Delighted with his prize, he ran with breathless eagerness to display it
before his mother. Her eyes glistened with delight at the view of it; for in it she saw her,
own dress, the loss of which had cost her so many tears. She now regarded herself as completely
emancipated from thraldom; and in idea she was already with her friends beneath the waves. One
thing alone was a drawback on her raptures. She loved her children, and she was now about to
leave them for ever. Yet they weighed not against the pleasures she had in prospect: so after
kissing and embracing them several times, she took up the skin, went out, and proceeded down
to the beach.
In a few minutes after the husband came in, and the children told him what had
occurred. The truth instantly flashed across his mind, and he hurried down to the shore with all
the speed that love and anxiety could give. But he only arrived in time to see his wife take the
form of a seal, and from the ledge of a rock plunge into the sea.
The large seal, with whom she used to hold her conversations, immediately joined
her, and congratulated her on her escape, and they quitted the shore together. But ere she went
she turned round to her husband, who stood in mute despair on the rock, and whose misery
excited feelings of compassion in her breast. "Farewell," said she to him, "and may all good
fortune attend you. I loved you well while I was with you, but I always loved my first husband
The water-spirit is in Shetland called Shoopiltee; he appears in the form of a
pretty little horse, and endeavours to entice persons to ride on him, and then gallops with
them into the sea.
Harold was born where restless seas
Howl round the storm-swept Orcades.
Of the Orcadian Fairies we have very little information.
Brandt17 merely tells us, they were, in his time, frequently seen in several of the
isles dancing and making merry; So that we may fairly conclude they differed little from their
Scottish and Shetland neighbours. One thing he adds, which is of Some importance, that they were
frequently Seen in armour.
Brownie seems to have been the principal Orkney Fairy, where he possessed a degree
of importance rather beyond what was allotted to him in the neighbouring realm of Scotland.
"Not above forty or fifty years ago," says Brand, " almost every family had a Brownie,
or evil Spirit, so called, which served them, to whom they gave a sacrifice for its service; as,
when they churned their milk, they took a part thereof and sprinkled every corner of the house
with it for Brownie's use; likewise, when they brewed, they had a stone which they called Brownie's
stone, wherein there was a little hole, into which they poured some wort for a sacrifice to
Brownie. My informer, a minister of the country, told me that he had conversed with an old man,
who, when young, used to brew and sometimes read upon his bible; to whom an old woman in the
house said that Brownie was displeased with that book he read upon, which, if he continued to
do, they would get no more service of Brownie. But he being better instructed from that book
which was Brownie's eyesore, and the object of his wrath, when he brewed, he would not suffer
any sacrifice to be given to Brownie; whereupon, the first and second brewings were spilt and
for no use, though the wort wrought well, yet in a little time it left off working and grew cold;
but of the third browst or brewing, he had ale very good, though he would not give any sacrifice
to Brownie, with whom afterwards they were no more troubled. I had also from the same informer,
that a lady in Unst, now deceased, told him that when she first took up house, she refused to give
a sacrifice to Brownie, upon which, the first and second brewings misgave, but the third was
good; and Brownie, not being regarded and rewarded as formerly he had been, abandoned his wonted
service: which cleareth the Scripture, 'Resist the devil and he will flee from you.' They also
had stacks of corn which they called Brownie's stacks, which, though they were not bound with
straw ropes, or any way fenced as other stacks use to be, yet the greatest storm of wind was not
able to blow anything off them."
A very important personage once, we are told, inhabited, the Orkneys in the character
"Luridan," says Reginald Scot, "a familiar of this kind, did for many years
inhabit the island of Pomonia, the largest of the Orkades in Scotland, supplying the place of
manservant and maid-servant with wonderful diligence to those families whom he did haunt, sweeping
their rooms and washing their dishes, and making their fires before any were up in the morning.
This Luridan affirmed, that he was the genius Astral of that island; that his place or
residence in the days of Solomon and David was at Jerusalem; that then he was called by the
Jews Belelah; after that, he remained long in the dominion of Wales, instructing their bards
in British poesy and prophecies, being called Wrthin, Wadd, Elgin; 'and now,' said he, 'I have
removed hither, and, alas! my continuance is but short, for in seventy years I must resign my
place to Balkin, lord of the Northern Mountains.'
"Many wonderful and incredible things did he also relate of this Balkin, affirming
that he was shaped like a satyr, and fed upon the air, having wife and children to the number of
twelve thousand, which were the brood of the Northern Fairies, inhabiting Southerland and
Catenes, with the adjacent islands. And that these were the companies of spirits that hold
continual wars with the fiery spirits in the mountain Heckla, that vomits fire in Islandia.
That their speech was ancient Irish, and their dwelling the caverns of the rocks and mountains,
which relation is recorded in the antiquities of Pomonia."18
Concerning Luridan, we are farther informed from the Book of Vanagastus, the
Norwegian, that it is his nature to be always at enmity with fire; that he wages war with the
fiery spirits of Hecla; and that in this contest they do often anticipate and destroy one
another, killing and crushing when they meet in mighty and violent troops in the air upon the
sea. And at such times, many of the fiery spirits are destroyed when the enemy hath brought them
off the mountains to fight upon the water. On the contrary, when the battle is upon the mountain
itself, the spirits of the air are often worsted, and then great moanings and doleful noises
are heard in Iceland, and Russia, and Norway, for many days after.19
The Water-spirit called Tangie, from Tang, the sea-weed with which he is covered,
appears sometimes as a little horse, other times as a man.
1. This was plainly a theory of the monks. It greatly resembles the
Rabbinical account of the origin of the Mazckeen, which the reader will meet in the sequel.
Some Icelanders of the present day say, that one day, when Eve was washing her
children at the running water, God suddenly called her. She was frightened, and thrust aside such
of them as were not clean. God asked her if all her children were there, and she said, Yes; but
got for answer, that what she tried to hide from God should be hidden from man. These children
became instantly invisible and distinct from the rest. Before the flood came on, God put them into
a cave and closed up the entrance. From them are descended all the underground-people.-Magnussen,
2. This was one Janus Gudmund, who wrote several treatises on this and similar subjects,
particularly one "De Alfis et Alfheimum," which the learned bishop characterises as a
work "nullius pretii, et meras nugas continens." We might, if we were to see it, be of a
different opinion. Of Janus Gudmund Brynj Svenonius thus expresses himself to Wormius: Janus
Gudmundius, ære dirutus verius quam rude donatus, sibi et aliis inutilis in angulo ronaenuit.
Worm., Epist., 970.
3. The Icelandic dwarfs, it would appear, wore red clothes. In Nial's Saga (p. 70), a person gaily
dressed (i litklædum) is jocularly called Red-elf (raud-alfr).
4. There was a book of prophecies called the Kruckspá, or Prophecy of Kruck, a man who was
said to have lived in the 15th century. It treated of the change of religion and other matters
said to have been revealed to him by the Dwarfs. Johannæus says it was forged by Brynjalf
Svenonius in or about the year 1660.
5. Finni Johannæi Historia Ecclesiastics Islandise, tom. ii. p. 368. Havniae, 1774. We believe
we might safely add, is held at the present day, for the superstition is no more extinct in
Iceland than elsewhere.
6. Svenska Visor, iii. 128. Grimm, Deut. Mythol., p. 458. At Bahus, in Sweden, a clever man
contrived to throw on him an ingeniously made bridle so that he could not get away, and he
ploughed all his land with him. One time the bridle fell off and the Neck, like a flash of
fire, sprang into the lake and dragged the harrow down with him. Grimm, ut sup., see p.
7. Færoae et Færoes reserata. Lond. 1676.
8. Thiele, iii. 51, from the MS. Travels of Svaboe in the Feroes.
9. Description of the Shetland Islands. Edinburgh, 1822
10. Edmonston's View, &c., of Zetland Islands. Edin. 1809.
11. We need hardly to remind the reader that in what precedes Dr. Hibbert is to be regarded as
the narrator in 1822.
12. Edmonston, ut supra.
13. Dr. Hibbert says he could get but little satisfaction from the Shetlanders respecting this
14. Stacks or skerries are bare rocks out in the sea.
15. A voe is a small bay.
16. see below, Germany.
17. Description of Orkney, Zetland, &c. Edin. 1703.
18. Reg. Scot. Discoverie of Witchcraft, b. 2. c. 4. Lond. 1666.
19. Quarterly Review, vol. xxii. p. 367.