Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas

Page: 121

I dare no longer stay;

An Elfin-child, thou wouldst me see,

To stone turn at his ray.”

La Motte-Fouqué.

The Legend of Kallundborg

Helva, daughter of the Lord of Nesvek, was loved by Esbern Snare, whose suit, however, was rejected by the proud father with the scornful words: “When thou shalt build at Kallundborg a stately church, then will I give thee Helva to wife.”

Now Esbern, although of low estate, was proud of heart, even as the lord, and he determined, come what might, to find a way to win his coveted bride. So off he strode to a troll in Ullshoi Hill, and effected a bargain whereby the troll undertook to build a fine church, on completion of which Esbern was to tell the builder’s name or forfeit his eyes and heart.

Night and day the troll wrought on, and as the building took shape, sadder grew Esbern Snare. He listened at the crevices of the hill by night; he watched during the day; he wore himself to a shadow by anxious thought; he besought the elves to aid him. All to no purpose. Not a sound did he hear, not a thing did he see, to suggest the name of the builder. [241]

Meantime, rumour was busy, and the fair Helva, hearing of the evil compact, prayed for the soul of the unhappy man.

Time passed until one day the church lacked only one pillar, and worn out by black despair, Esbern sank exhausted upon a bank, whence he heard the troll hammering the last stone in the quarry underground. “Fool that I am,” he said bitterly, “I have builded my tomb.”

Just then he heard a light footstep, and looking up, he beheld his beloved. “Would that I might die in thy stead,” said she, through her tears, and with that Esbern confessed how that for love of her he had imperilled eyes and heart and soul.

Then fast as the troll hammered underground, Helva prayed beside her lover, and the prayers of the maiden prevailed over the spell of the troll, for suddenly Esbern caught the sound of a troll-wife singing to her infant, bidding it be comforted, for that, on the morrow, Father Fine would return bringing a mortal’s eyes and heart.

Sure of his victim, the troll hurried to Kallundborg with the last stone. “Too late, Fine!” quoth Esbern, and at the word, the troll vanished with his stone, and it is said that the peasants heard at night the sobbing of a woman underground, and the voice of the troll loud with blame.

“Of the Troll of the Church they sing the rune

By the Northern Sea in the harvest moon;

And the fishers of Zealand hear him still

Scolding his wife in Ulshoi hill.

“And seaward over its groves of birch

Still looks the tower of Kallundborg church,

Where, first at its altar, a wedded pair,

Stood Helva of Nesvek and Esbern Snare!”

J. G. Whittier [242]

The Magic of the Dwarfs

The dwarfs, as well as the elves, were ruled by a king, who, in various countries of northern Europe, was known as Andvari, Alberich, Elbegast, Gondemar, Laurin, or Oberon. He dwelt in a magnificent subterranean palace, studded with the gems which his subjects had mined from the bosom of the earth, and, besides untold riches and the Tarnkappe, he owned a magic ring, an invincible sword, and a belt of strength. At his command the little men, who were very clever smiths, would fashion marvellous jewels or weapons, which their ruler would bestow upon favourite mortals.