Some people grow old gracefully, while others fight and scratch the whole way. Andy's wife, refusing to give in to the looks of growing old, goes out and buys a new line of expensive cosmetics guaranteed to make her look years younger. After ... Read more of How old am I? at Free Jokes.caInformational Site Network Informational
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House Island

from The Best Popular Stories Selected And Rendered Anew





There lived in Norway, not far from the city of Drontheim, a rich and
prosperous gentleman. He had an only daughter, called Aslog, the fame
of whose beauty spread far and wide. The greatest men of the country
sought her, but all were alike unsuccessful in their suit. Her father,
who thought his daughter delayed her choice only that she might choose
the better, forbore to interfere, and exulted in her prudence. But
when, at length, the richest and noblest had tried their fortune with
as little success as the rest, he grew angry, called his daughter, and
said to her:--

Hitherto I have left you to your free choice, but since I see that
you reject all without any distinction, and the very best of your
suitors seem not good enough for you, I will keep measures no longer
with you. What! shall my family become extinct, and my inheritance
pass away into the hands of strangers? I will break your stubborn
spirit. I give you now till the festival of the great Winter-night; by
that time you must make your decision, or prepare to accept the
husband whom I myself shall select.

Now Aslog secretly loved a youth named Orm, handsome, noble and brave.
She loved him with her whole soul, and would sooner die than bestow
her hand on another. But Orm was poor, and poverty compelled him to
keep his love as secret as her own.

When Aslog saw the darkness of her father's countenance, and heard his
angry words, she turned pale as death, for she knew his temper, and
doubted not but that he would put his threats into execution. Without
uttering a word in reply, she retired to her chamber, and pondered
vainly how to escape the storm that hung over her. The great festival
approached nearer and nearer, and her anguish increased every day.

At last the lovers resolved on flight. Orm knew a secure place, where
they could hide until they found an opportunity of quitting the
country. So at night, when all were asleep, he led the trembling Aslog
over the snow and ice-fields away to the mountains. The moon and the
stars lighted them on their way. They had under their arms a few
articles of dress and some skins of animals, which were all they could
carry. They ascended the mountains the whole night long, till they
reached a lonely spot inclosed with lofty rocks. Here Orm conducted
the weary Aslog into a cave, the low and narrow entrance to which was
hardly perceptible, but it soon enlarged to a great hall, reaching
deep into the mountain. He kindled a fire, and they now, reposing on
their skins, sat in the deepest solitude far away from all the world.

Orm was the first who had discovered this cave, which is shown to this
very day. But as no one then knew anything of it, they were safe from
the pursuit of Aslog's father. They passed the whole winter in this
retirement, contented and even happy; for they knew they were married,
and belonged to one another, and no cruel father could separate them
more. Orm used to go a-hunting, and Aslog stayed at home in the cave,
minded the fire, and prepared the necessary food. Frequently did she
mount the points of the rocks, but her eyes, did they wander ever so
far, saw only glittering snow-fields.

The spring now came on--the woods were green--the meadows put on their
various colors, people began to wander out for summer pleasuring, and
Aslog could but rarely and with circumspection venture to leave the
cave. One evening Orm came in with the intelligence that he had
recognised her father's servants in the distance, and that he could
hardly have been unobserved by them. They will surround this place,
continued he, and never rest till they have found us; we must quit
our retreat, then, without a moment's delay.

They accordingly descended on the other side of the mountain, and
reached the strand, where they fortunately found a boat. Orm pushed
off, and the boat drove into the open sea. They had escaped their
pursuers, but they were now exposed to dangers of another kind:
whither should they turn? They could not venture to land, for Aslog's
father was lord of the whole coast, and they would infallibly fall
into his hands. Nothing then remained for them but to commit their
bark to the wind and waves. They were driven along the entire night.
At break of day the coast had disappeared, and they saw nothing but
the sky, the sea, and the waves. They had not brought one morsel of
food with them, and thirst and hunger began now to torment them. Three
days did they toss about in this state of misery, and Aslog, faint and
exhausted, saw nothing but certain death before her.

At length, on the evening of the third day, they discovered an island
of tolerable magnitude, and surrounded by a number of smaller ones.
Orm immediately steered for it, but, just as he came near it, there
suddenly rose a violent wind, and the sea rolled every moment higher
and higher. He turned about with a view of approaching it on another
side, but with no better success; his vessel, as often as it neared
the island, was driven back as if by an invisible power. God help
us! he cried, and crossed himself, and looked on poor Aslog, who
seemed to be dying of weakness before his eyes. But scarcely had the
exclamation passed his lips when the storm ceased, the waves subsided,
and the vessel came to the shore without encountering any hindrance.
Orm jumped out on the beach; some mussels that he found on the strand
strengthened and revived the exhausted Aslog, so that she was soon
able to leave the boat.

The island was overgrown with low dwarf shrubs, and seemed to be
uninhabited; but when they had reached the middle of it, they
discovered a house, which appeared to be half under the surface of
the earth. In the hope of meeting with human help, the wanderers
approached it. They listened, but the most perfect silence reigned
there. Orm at length opened the door, and they both walked in: but
what was their surprise, to find everything regulated and arranged as
if for inhabitants, yet not a single living creature visible. The fire
was burning on the hearth, in the middle of the room, and a kettle
with fish hung on it, apparently only waiting for some one to take it
up and eat it. The beds were made, and ready to receive their wearied
tenants. Orm and Aslog stood for some time dubious, and looked on with
a certain degree of awe, but at last, overcome by hunger, they took up
the food and ate. When they had satisfied their appetites, and still
discovered no human being, they gave way to weariness, and laid
themselves in the beds, which looked so peaceful and inviting to their
wearied limbs.

They had expected to be awakened in the night by the owners of the
house on their return home, but their expectation was not fulfilled;
they slept undisturbed till the morning sun shone in upon them. No one
appeared on any of the following days, and it seemed as if some
invisible power had made ready the house for their reception. They
spent the whole summer in perfect happiness: they were, to be sure,
solitary, yet they did not miss mankind. The wild birds' eggs, and the
fish they caught, yielded them provisions in abundance.

When autumn came, Aslog brought forth a son. In the midst of their
joy at this, they were surprised by a wonderful apparition. The door
opened on a sudden, and an old woman stepped in. She wore a handsome
blue dress; there was something proud, but at the same time something
strange, in her appearance.

Do not be afraid, said she, at my unexpected appearance. I am the
owner of this house, and I thank you for the clean and neat state in
which you have kept it, and for the good order in which I find
everything with you. I would willingly have come sooner, but I had no
power to do so till this little heathen (pointing to the new-born
babe) was come to the light. Now I have free access. Only fetch no
priest from the mainland to christen it, or I must depart again. If
you will in this matter comply with my wishes, you may not only
continue to live here, but all the good that ever you can wish for I
will do you. Whatever you take in hand shall prosper; good luck shall
follow you wherever you go. But break this condition, and depend upon
it that misfortune after misfortune will come on you, and even on this
child will I avenge myself. If you want anything, or are in danger,
you have only to pronounce my name three times, and I will appear and
lend you assistance. I am of the race of the old giants, and my name
is Guru. But beware of uttering in my presence the name of Him whom no
giant may hear of, and never venture to make the sign of the cross, or
to cut it on beam or board in the house. You may dwell in this house
the whole year long, only be so good as to give it up to me on Yule
evening, when the sun is at the lowest, as then we celebrate our great
festival, and then only are we permitted to be merry. At least, if you
should not be willing to go out of the house, keep yourselves up in
the loft as quiet as possible the whole day long, and as you value
your lives do not look down into the room below until midnight is
past. After that you may take possession of everything again.

When the old woman had thus spoken she vanished, and Aslog and Orm
lived without any disturbance, contented and happy. Orm never made a
cast of his net without getting a plentiful draught; he never shot an
arrow from his bow that it was not sure to hit; in short, whatever
they took in hand, were it ever so trifling, evidently prospered.

When Christmas came, they cleaned up the house in the best manner, set
everything in order, kindled a fire on the hearth, and as the twilight
approached they went up to the loft, where they remained quite still
and quiet. At length it grew dark; they thought they heard a sound of
whizzing and snorting in the air, such as the swans used to make in
the winter time. There was a hole in the roof over the fireplace,
which might be opened and shut either to let in the light from above,
or to afford a free passage for the smoke. Orm lifted up the lid,
which was covered with a skin, and put out his head. But what a
wonderful sight then presented itself to his eyes! The little islands
around were all lit up with countless blue lights, which moved about
without ceasing, jumped up and down, then skipped to the shore,
assembled together, and came nearer and nearer to the large island
where Orm and Aslog lived. At last they reached it, and arranged
themselves in a circle around a large stone not far from the shore,
and which Orm well knew. But what was his surprise when he saw that
the stone had now completely assumed the form of a man, though a
monstrous and gigantic one! He could clearly perceive that the little
blue lights were borne by Dwarfs whose pale clay-coloured faces, with
their huge noses and red eyes, disfigured too by birds' bills and
owls' eyes, were supported by misshapen bodies, and they tottered and
wabbled about here and there, so that they seemed to be at the same
time merry and in pain. Suddenly, the circle opened; the little ones
retired on each side, and Guru--who was the woman Guru, whom Orm
recognised immediately, though she had risen in stature and size so as
to be almost as gigantic as the stone man--advanced towards it. She
threw both her arms round the image, which immediately seemed to
receive life and motion. Then the Dwarfs, with wonderful capers and
grimaces, began a song, or, to speak more properly, a howl, with which
the whole island resounded and almost trembled at the noise. Orm,
quite terrified, drew in his head, and he and Aslog remained in the
dark, so still that they hardly ventured to draw their breath.

The procession moved on towards the house, as might be clearly
perceived by the nearer approach of the shouting and crying. They were
now all come in, light and active; the Dwarfs were heard jumping about
on the benches, and heavy and loud sounded at intervals the steps of
the giants. Orm and his wife listened to the clattering of the plates,
and the shouts of joy with which they celebrated their banquet. When
it was over and midnight drew near, they began to dance to that
ravishing fairy-tune, which some have heard in the rocky glens, and
learned by listening to the underground musicians. As soon as Aslog
caught the sound of this air, she felt an irresistible longing to see
the dance. Nor was Orm able to keep her back. Let me look, said she,
or my heart will burst. She took her child and placed herself at the
extreme end of the loft, whence, without being observed, she could see
all that passed. Long did she gaze, without taking off her eyes for an
instant, on the dance--on the bold and wonderful springs of the little
creatures, who seemed to float in the air, and not so much as to touch
the ground, while the ravishing melody of the Elves filled her whole
soul. The child, meanwhile, which lay in her arms grew sleepy and drew
its breath heavily, and, without ever thinking on the promise she had
given the old woman, she made, as is usual, the sign of the cross over
the mouth of the child, and said, Christ bless you, my babe!

The instant she had spoken the word there was raised a horrible,
piercing cry. The Dwarfs tumbled head over heels out at the door with
terrible crushing and crowding, their lights went out, and in a few
minutes the whole house was clear of them and left desolate. Orm and
Aslog, frightened to death, hid themselves in the most retired nook
they could find. They did not venture to stir till daybreak, and not
till the sun shone through the hole in the roof down on the fireplace
did they feel courage enough to descend from the loft.

The table remained still covered as the underground people had left
it; all their vessels, which were of silver, and manufactured in the
most beautiful manner, lay upon it. In the middle of the room, there
stood upon the ground a huge copper kettle half full of sweet mead,
and by the side of it a drinking-horn of pure gold. In the corner
rested, against the wall, a stringed instrument, not unlike a
dulcimer, which, as people believe, the Giantesses used to play on.
They gazed on what was before them, full of admiration, but without
venturing to lay their hands on anything; how great and fearful was
their amazement, when, on turning about, they saw sitting at the table
an immense figure, which Orm instantly recognised as the Giant whom
Guru had animated by her embrace. He was now a cold and hard stone.
While they were standing gazing on it, Guru herself entered the room
in her giant form. She wept so bitterly, that her tears trickled down
on the ground. It was long ere her sobbing permitted her to utter a
single word; at last she spoke:--

Great affliction have you brought on me, and henceforth I must weep
while I live; yet as I know that you have not done this with evil
intentions, I forgive you, though it were a trifle for me to crush the
whole house like an egg-shell over your heads.

What have we done? cried Orm and Aslog, penetrated with the deepest
sorrow.

Alas! answered she, my husband, whom I love more than myself, there
he sits, petrified for ever; never again will he open his eyes! Three
hundred years lived I with my father on the island of Kunnan, happy in
the innocence of youth, as the fairest among the Giant-maidens. Mighty
heroes sued for my hand; the sea around that island is still filled
with the rocky fragments which they hurled against each other in their
combats. Andfind won the victory, and I plighted myself to him. But
ere I was married came the detestable Odin into the country, who
overcame my father, and drove us all from the island. My father and
sisters fled to the mountains, and since that time my eyes have beheld
them no more. Andfind and I saved ourselves on this island, where we
for a long time lived in peace and quiet, and thought it would never
be interrupted. But destiny which no one escapes, had determined it
otherwise. Oluf came from Britain. They called him the Holy, and
Andfind instantly found that his voyage would be inauspicious to the
Giants. When he heard how Oluf's ship rushed through the waves, he
went down to the strand and blew the sea against him with all his
strength. The waves swelled up like mountains. But Oluf was still
more mighty than he; his ship flew unchecked through the billows like
an arrow from a bow. He steered direct for our island. When the ship
was so near that Andfind thought he could reach it with his hands, he
grasped at the forepart with his right hand, and was about to drag it
down to the bottom, as he had often done with other ships. But Oluf,
the terrible Oluf, stepped forward, and crossing his hands over each
other, he cried with a loud voice, Stand there as a stone till the
last day, and in the same instant my unhappy husband became a mass of
rock. The ship sailed on unimpeded, and ran direct against the
mountain, which it cut through, and separated from it the little
island which lies out yonder.

Ever have I passed my life alone and forlorn. On Yule-eve alone can
petrified Giants receive back their life for the space of seven hours,
if one of their race embraces them, and is at the same time willing to
sacrifice a hundred years. I loved my husband too well not to bring
him back to life every time that I could do it, even at this price,
and I have not even counted how often I have done it, that I might not
know the hour when I myself should share his fate, and at the moment
when I threw my arms around him become stone like him. But, alas! even
this comfort is taken from me; I can never more by any embrace awake
him. He has heard the Name which I dare not utter, and never again
will he see the light until the dawn of the last day shall bring it.

I now go hence, and you will behold me no more. All that is here in
the house I give you; my dulcimer alone will I keep. But let no one
venture to fix his habitation on the small islands that lie around
here. There dwell the little underground people whom you saw at the
festival, and I will protect them as long as I live!

With these words Guru vanished. The next spring Orm took the golden
horn and the silverware to Drontheim, where no one knew him. The value
of these precious metals was so great that he was able to purchase
everything requisite for a wealthy man. He laded his ship with his
purchases, and returned back to the island, where he spent many years
in unalloyed happiness, and Aslog's father was soon reconciled to his
wealthy son-in-law.

The huge image remained sitting in the house; no human power was able
to move it. So hard was the stone, that hammer and axe flew in pieces
without making the slightest impression upon it. The giant sat there
till a holy man came to the island, who with one single word removed
him back to his former station, where he stands to this hour. The
copper kettle, which the underground people left behind them, was
preserved as a memorial upon the island, which bears the name of House
Island to the present day.





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