Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas

Page: 120

“I am the Princess Ilse,

And I dwell at the Ilsenstein;

Come with me to my castle,

And bliss shall be mine and thine.

“With the cool of my glass-clear waters

Thy brow and thy locks I’ll lave;

And thou’lt think of thy sorrows no longer,

For all that thou look’st so grave.

“With my white arms twined around thee,

And lapped on my breast so white,

Thou shalt lie, and dream of elf-land—

Its loves and wild delight.”

Heine (Martin’s tr.).

The Giantess’s Plaything

The giants inhabited all the earth before it was given to mankind, and it was only with reluctance that they made way for the human race, and retreated into the waste and barren parts of the country, where they brought up their families in strict seclusion. Such was the ignorance of their offspring, that a young giantess, straying from home, once came to an inhabited valley, where for the first time in her life she saw a farmer ploughing on the hillside. Deeming him a pretty plaything, she caught him up with his team, [238]and thrusting them into her apron, she gleefully carried them home to exhibit to her father. But the giant immediately bade her carry peasant and horses back to the place where she had found them, and when she had done so he sadly explained that the creatures whom she took for mere playthings, would eventually drive the giant folk away, and become masters of the earth. [239]


Chapter XXIV: The Dwarfs

Little Men

In the first chapter we saw how the black elves, dwarfs, or Svart-alfar, were bred like maggots in the flesh of the slain giant Ymir. The gods, perceiving these tiny, unformed creatures creeping in and out, gave them form and features, and they became known as dark elves, on account of their swarthy complexions. These small beings were so homely, with their dark skin, green eyes, large heads, short legs, and crow’s feet, that they were enjoined to hide underground, being commanded never to show themselves during the daytime lest they should be turned into stone. Although less powerful than the gods, they were far more intelligent than men, and as their knowledge was boundless and extended even to the future, gods and men were equally anxious to question them.

The dwarfs were also known as trolls, kobolds, brownies, goblins, pucks, or Huldra folk, according to the country where they dwelt.

“You are the grey, grey Troll,

With the great green eyes,

But I love you, grey, grey Troll—

You are so wise!

“Tell me this sweet morn,

Tell me all you know—

Tell me, was I born?

Tell me, did I grow?”

The Legend of the Little Fay (Buchanan).

The Tarnkappe

These little beings could transport themselves with marvellous celerity from one place to another, and they loved to conceal themselves behind rocks, when they [240]would mischievously repeat the last words of conversations overheard from such hiding-places. Owing to this well-known trick, the echoes were called dwarfs’ talk, and people fancied that the reason why the makers of such sounds were never seen was because each dwarf was the proud possessor of a tiny red cap which made the wearer invisible. This cap was called Tarnkappe, and without it the dwarfs dared not appear above the surface of the earth after sunrise for fear of being petrified. When wearing it they were safe from this peril.

“Away! let not the sun view me—