Henry [Garrett] 1804-1860 Newland.

Forest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman online

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inoon, a light cat's-paw ruffled the surface, frosting it over
with little wavelets. At the time when this occurred it was
. quite unexpected ; the boats were following a chain of bub-
bles, and all available eyes being fixed on them, no one was
looking out into the offing.

In a moment the trace was lost ; the birds might have
risen, but the eye could no longer mark the clear, well-de-
fined, black dot. Ten minutes afterwards all was calm again,
but the flock were alread}?- safe.

" It is all over for to-day," said Tom, looking anxiously
into the offing, where a narrow line of darker blue had
already begun to mark the hitherto undistinguishable boun-
dary of sea and sky ; " here comes the breeze already."

And slowly but surely the line crept down, first widening,
then throwing out ramifications before it ; and then the
sleepy surface of the sea seemed to shudder, as if touched by
a cold breath ; little wavelets began to ripple on the backs
of the long swells, — then light airs fanned the boats un-
certainly, and, at last, a steady breeze set in from the south-
ward and westward.

" Up stick, for the cod ground !" said Tom ; " we are
only wasting time here." And in a couple of minutes the
three boats were running away to the eastward, under their
English lugs, which, having hitherto served as tents, were
now for the first time applied to their legitimate use.

The end of the chase had left them five or six miles to
westward of the fjord's mouth, and as far to seaward, while
the fishing-ground was a sunken island or shoal, a couple of
miles or so from the lighthouse near the outer range of
islands ; — it is called a shoal, and possibly, for Norway, it is
a shoal ; but there is not less than twenty fathoms on any
part of it.

The boats were slipping along through the smooth water,
as if they were going up and down the hills of an undulating
road ; the breeze, though very light, was steady, and already
the features of the outer islands were growing distinct ; and
Tom was looking out for the bearings of the shoal.

" This is all very well," said the Captain, steering his boat
slose to that of the Parson, " but I have had no breakfast."



. " Then why don't you set about it ; I am sure Marie has
not forgotten yon."

"Oh ! I will not stand that ; why should we make a toil of
pleasure 1 I mean to have a regular breakfast, and a pot oi
hot coffee — why not 1 we have the whole day before us."

" Well, I do not mind ; hail Birger — there is a dissolute
island, as Jacob calls it, before us ; we will boil your pot

Birger was always ready for his grub, or, indeed, for any-
thing else that was proposed ; and the boats were made fast
to some rocky prominences on the lea of the island, with a
boat-keeper in each, to prevent them from grinding one
another to pieces.

Strange to say, many of these islets, which are mere rocks,
contain fresh water, some of them in pools in the rocks, but
many in regular springs, and in this particular case a very
respectable little streamlet trickled down a crevice of the

Every beach, rock, and islet on the Norwegian coast is
fringed with a layer of drift-wood, in pieces of every size
from the great baulk which in England would be worth five
or six pounds down to the smallest splinters. The reasor
of this is, that each river is continually floating down itf
yearly freight of pines to the sea ; these are caught by
boom at the mouth, — that is to say, by a floating chair
of squared pine-stems, — but many dip under this anc
escape, many escape when it is opened to let boats pass
and occasionally a freshet breaks a link or draws £
staple, in which case the whole boom-full of timber float;
out to sea at once. All this is irrecoverably lost, for it h
illegal to pick up timber floating ; and a very necessary la^
this is, or the booms would find themselves broken mucl
oftener than they are. Nevertheless, the quantity of timbei
lost annually in that way would pretty nearly supply all th(
wants of all the English dockyards put together. But " ii
is an ill wind that blows nobody any good ;" — the wanderei
on the sea coast need never be without a fire to warm him
self by.
. " I like this," said the Captain, as he lay on his bacl









looking up to the sky, watching the blue smoke as it came
in wreaths above his head. " I should like to be a Robinson
Crusoe now, with a desolate island of my own, like this,
where the foot of man has never trod, and — Holloa ! What
the devil have we got now ?" he said, jumping up ; — " how
came these little animals here ?"

The little animals referred to were half a dozen children,
with rakes and hay-forks in their hands, who, attracted by
the smoke and possibly by the smell of the fried ham, were
peering over the edge of the cliff like so many sea-gulls.

" These are the savages, Mr. Crusoe," said the Parson,
quietly ; " but it really is a curious thing, so let us climb up
the cliff and see what they are about."

The cliff was not difficult to scale, for the edges of the rocks
were like steps ; and at the top a very unexpected scene
met their eye : a regular hay-field, with the hay in cocks,
and five or six men and women at work at it ; they were
carrying their cocks on a sort of handbier down to their
boats, — great, broad, heavy affairs these were, borrowed
from the horse-ferry, — and upon these they were building
hay-stacks, intending to take them in tow of their whale-
boats, during the calm, and to bring them to the main land.

The form of the island was a sort of cup, of which the
cliffs round the edge were the highest parts, and the centre,
from having no drain, had formed a fresh-water lake with a
spongy, mossy border, — and this it was which supplied the
streamlet. The outer rim was bare rock, but between these
two extremes there was a boggy, black ring of vegetable
mould, winch produced in great abundance a coarse, rank,
wiry grass, which the people were storing up for the winter,
in order to deceive the poor beasts into the idea that they
were eating hay. Poor as it was, they had come out a dozen
miles to sea to get it : their boats, four in number, includ-
ing the floating hay-stack, lay snugly in a little bay or inlet,
on the shoreward side, where the water was comparatively
quiet. They had evidently taken up their quarters on
the island, and established a regular bivouac till the work
should be finished, for there w r as a cooking place built up
w T ith stones, and two or three of the girls were spreading

p 2


out to dry, in the hot sun, the clothes they had been washim
in the lake.

" AY ho would have expected such a marine pastoral," sale

" Har Necken sin harssa in glasborgen slaar,
Och Haafsfruar kamma sitt gronskende haar,
Och bleka den skinande dragten." *

" Heaven forefend," said the Parson, hastily, " we are mac
enough, some of us already ; and Torkel is in love, which is
worse ; we do not want to see Haafsfruer. Kemember Duke

" It was not the Haafsfru that took away the senses o:
Duke Magnus," said Torkel, " it was the curse of good Bishoj
Brask, that rested on the family of Gustavus from the da}
when he killed the two bishops and deceived our Bishop o:
Trondjem, who had given them sanctuary ; the whole roya
family of Sweden have been crazy, more or less ever since
till they turned them all out and put our good father Kar
Johann in their place."

Birger shook his head sadly ; he was too highly born him-
self, and too aristocratic, not to feel a little shame at the idee
of a French common soldier superseding the old family oj
Vasa, sprung, like himself, from Jarl Birger ; but, for all that
he could not help admiring the worthy old king who, by his
downright honesty and sincerity and his strict sense of duty,
had painfully worked his way against all prejudices of rank
and nationality, and had wound himself into the affections oJ
the people who had chosen him. Still he had a kindly feel-
ing for the old and glorious race, and though he could
neither deny the fact of the sacrilege and breach of faith oi
Gustavus Vasa, — to which all the Norwegians, and many oi
the Swedes also, attribute the hereditary madness of his family,
— nor indeed, the fact of the insanity itself, which was noto-
rious in .Eric his successor, in Charles XII., and Gustavus IV.,
as well as the present exiled representative of the family,

* Here the Neck strikes his harp in his city of glass,

And the Mermaids comb out their bright hair, green as grass,
And bleach here their glittering clothes.









I yet he did not above half like Torkel's allusion to it. The
Duke Magnus, whom they were speaking of, was the

1 youngest son of Gustavus Vasa, and was the first in whom
the symptoms of that disease about to be hereditary, had
manifested themselves.

The Parson, rather sympathising in his discomfiture,
*ave a turn to the subject by quoting the Swedish version
Df the Duke's madness, to which he had himself alluded ; lor
the Swedes ascribe it to the love of a mermaid, the sight of
whom is invariably unlucky and is generally supposed to
produce insanity.

"Duke Magnus ! Duke Magnus ! bethink thee well, —
Answer me not so haughtily ;
For if thou wilt not plight thee to me,
Thou shalt ever crazy be.
Duke Magnus ! Duke Magnus ! plight thee to me,
I pray you still so freely, —
Say me not nay, but yes, yes ! "

" There is no harm in these mermaids," said Tom, " for
they are as good and hard-working a set of girls as any in
Ohristiansand, but I trust we shall never meet with the real
ones ; at least, not just before a voyage."

" "Why not," said the Captain, " my principal reason for
coining here was the chance of seeing a mermaid in the only
country in which they are still to be met with. Have you
never seen one yourself, Tom ?"

" No, and God grant I never may ; they are not seen so
often now-a-days as they used to be, that is truth. If they
are to be seen at all," he said, after a pause, " I must say
this is just the time and the weather for them ; a calm, still,
sunny day, with a mist on the water ; through this they
used often and often to be seen in old times, combing
their hair, or driving their milk-white cattle to feed on the
rock weed ; sometimes, though not so often, they are seen at
night, coming and shivering round the fishermen's fires, and
trying to entice away the young men and to get them to go
with them to their deep sea-caves ; and those that they carry


off are never seen again in the upper world.* But mermaid
are never seen except in a still that comes before a storm
and no one ever catches a fish for the first voyage after the}
have seen them."

"It is just the same with the Skogsfrue," (the Lady of th(
Forest,) said Torkel ; " she is just as unlucky for us hunters
and when she can get any young men to go with her, slit
never lets them come back again. I have fancied more thai:
once that I have seen her through the smoke of my fire id
the wild fjeld, but she was not likely to catch me."t

" Ah ! there spoke the bridegroom elect," said Tom, " but
I am not so sure of that either : I think, Torkel, I could
tell Froken Lota more than you would like her to hear."

" If you do, Tom, you deserve to be ducked," said the
Captain, " and I will help to duck you with my own

" He may tell what he likes, and what he can," said
Torkel ; " but it is quite true about the ill-luck in hunting
and fishing, which follow the sight of the Skogsfruer and
Haafsfruer both."

" Well, we will prove that, after Middagsmad, and there,
in good time, goes Jacob's shot, to let us know that all is

The afternoon was spent in a lazy, lounging way ; the
shoal, if shoal it can be called, where the bottom was
evidently jagged rock and the depth never less than twenty
fathoms, lay just off the island where they were, and the
boats had but to pull out a cable's length to be in the very
best of the ground ; but it is not a very exciting amusement
to be continually hauling in little fish about the size of
whiting, as fast as the lines could run down. It did not
take long to half fill the boats with that staple of Norwegian











* Those who are drowned at sea, and whose bodies are never recovered,
are said to have been enticed away to the mermaids' caves beneath the
deep water.

f Those who are lost and starved to death in the forest — a thing which
is of perpetual occux'rence, — are said to be detained through the love of
the Skogsfrue.


s life, rock cod : the hands of the fishermen, hardened with

, iorest work as they were, and tanned with the sun, were

scarcely calculated to stand the salt water and the constant

friction ; the pleasure soon became a toil, and one by one

the boats sought the shore of the island.

The mermaids were soon characteristically employed in
splitting and laying out in the hot sun the baby cod, which
proved a very acceptable present ; for this little fish, which
swarms in every Norwegian fjord, is among the poorer
families, the principal winter store, and in nine cases out of
ten the only sea stock besides ro kovringer (or rye biscuits)
which a vessel carries. A present, in the strict sense of the
word, it could hardly be called, for Tom fairly sold his fish,
and gravely bargained for them with the young ladies, at so
many kisses the hundred, excluding Torkel from all
competition, much to his disgust, by explaining to them
that as an engaged man he was entirely shut out from the

The Parson and Birger were in the meanwhile seated in a
niche of the rock which formed a natural chaise-longue,
sedately smoking their pipes and watching the picturesque-
looking galliasses, which had endeavoured to work out
against the mid-day's spurt of breeze that had by this time
entirely died away, and which now, with their great
sails hanging idly, like so many curtains from their yards and
gaffs, seemed, as well as the fishermen, to be basking and
enjoying themselves in the evening sun.

There was no sort of hurry to return. Christiansand had
few attractions, and excepting Marie (and no one besides
Birger could profit by that), Ullitz's house had still fewer.
The luggage was all packed, and probably by this time on
board, their places taken, and their passage paid. Their
intention was, not to land again but to go along side at once.
In the meanwhile, a little tired with their morning's work,
they watched with half-closed eyes the beautiful and peace-
ful sunset and the glorious rising of the round full moon
that threw a path of light across the glassy waters.

"How beautiful!" said the Parson, who had just opened
his eyes.


" Yes, that is tlie work of the Ljus Alfar — Lys Alfir they
call them here, — the Elves of Light. All elves work in metals,
and these make a silver filagree so fine that it can onlv be
seen by moonlight on a back-ground of water. It is the floor
of their ball-room, and if we were either of us good enough,
which it seems we are not, we should see the little fairy
beings dancing ou it. When they are tired, they will go to
sleep under the leaves of the limes, which tree belongs to
them especially ; the little spots of light which you see in its
foliage on a moonshiny night are their bright eyes, which
they have not yet closed in sleep."

" Really," said the Parson, " Prospero's Isle ought to have
been placed on the coasts of Norway ; it would seem that the
more scarce the visible inhabitants, the more numerous the

" 0, yes, nature, nature abhors a vacuum, and these Alfar
are by far the most numerous of all the supernatural beings.
The White Elves, or Elves of Light, are seldom found out of
Norway and Sweden, but the Brown Elf you have in Scotland
as well. He works in metals of all sorts, though he delights
most in silver and gold. It is the Brown Elf that is the fitful
capricious being, which gives their meaning to the words elf
and elvish : these are the creatures which pinch untidy
maids, and drink up the milk, and light up their evening
candles as Wills'-o'-the-Wisn, and lead men into bogs and
marshes. When seen, they are dressed in brown jackets
with crimson binding, and wear brown caps on their heads,
whereas the Ljus Alfar wear always the helmet of the
foxglove, and are dressed in white. It is the Black Elves
that are malicious, though they often do good service to
men ; they, too, work in metals, but it is generally in iron
and copper ; they make arms and armour too, and sometimes
filagree work, like the Ljus Alfar, but theirs is always black."

" Berlin iron V suggested the Parson.

" Perhaps so ; at all events the chain armour that they
make is a most valuable present, for, though no heavier than
filagree- work, or, as you say, Berlin iron, it will turn a sword
or a shot."

" The disposition of the elf, then, varies with its colour."


" Yes, but one characteristic runs through all — all are
capricious. All may benefit you, some may hurt you, but
none can be reckoned upon, and that peculiarity, together
with their universal horror of daylight, gives a key to their
allegorical origin.* These elves, or dwarfs, are the incarna-
tion of mining speculations, a very general form of gambling
both in Norway and Sweden. Mines are proverbially capri-
cious ; it is impossible to tell how they may turn out. Occa-
sionally these spirits are beneficent in the highest degree,
and their "proteges become suddenly rich, but this is never
to be relied on ; the best are capricious, and the greater
number are tricksy ; while some — though even these are now
and then capricious benefactors — are positively wicked and
malicious. " There, now you have my theory of the alfs and

" And there is another allegory about them, with a good
Christian moral to it," continued Birger, after a pause spent
in cherishing the fading embers of his pipe ; " these alfs are
not baptised and have no part in salvation, but they are
capable of baptism under certain circumstances ; they are
always anxious for it for themselves in their good moments,
but invariably so for their children, though those instances
in which they succeed are rare. The Icelandic family of
Gudmund are cursed with a disease peculiar to their race,
which originated — so the family tradition goes — in the curse
of an alf frue, whom one of their ancestors had deceived in
this particular. Andreas Gudmund had a child by an alf
frue : at her earnest request, he promised that it should be
taken in the church ; and when the child was old enough, she
duly brought it to the churchyard wall, which was as far as
she might go herself, for no alf may enter consecrated
ground. The sound of the bells was torture to her, but she
bore it, and laid her child on the wall, with a golden cup as
an offering. But Gudmund, fearing the censures ot the

* " We fly from day's dazzling light,

But we joy in the shades of night, —

Though we journey on earth, our home must he

Beneath the shell of the earth and the sea."



Church and the reproaches of his friends, would not fulfil
his promise. The alt frue waited and waited, but the service
was over, and the parting bells began to ring again. So she
snatched up the child and vanished into her hill, and neither
she nor it were ever seen again under the light of day. But
from that time forward, the right hand of every Gudmund
is leprous, in token that their ancestor was forsworn.

" Now all this must be allegory ; what should you say was
the meaning of the spirits of the mine being capable of salva-
tion, and being occasionally, though rarely, seen admitted into
the Church?"

" I suppose," said the Parson, " it must be that wealth,
though a temptation to evil, may be used in God's service,
and that it occasionally, though rarely, is so used. ' Make
to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness,
that when ye fail they may receive you into everlasting
habitations.' "

" I think we may as well top our booms," said the Captain,
whose cigar was finished ; " the people will be all asleep on
board the steamer, and, besides —

" Besides what ?"

" Why we promised to let Marie have the eider down, and
Ullitz's people will be in bed, too. You know we sail at
daybreak ?"

" O-ho, that's the business is it ? Well, then, call the men
together, and see that they leave nothing behind them."

That was soon done, for nothing had been landed beyond
the cooking and dining apparatus, and the boats dashed along
the still fjord, leaving behind them three rippling lines of
sparkling light, as if the Ljus Alfar were dancing in their

In little more than an hour they were alongside the
steamer, where their whole travelling paraphernalia had
been stowed in their respective berths. Of these, the Parson
and Birger, tired with their long day's work, were very
shortly the occupants ; the Captain, more energetic, collected
the ducks, and, accompanied by Tom and Torkel, landed at
the wharf; but what Marie said, on receiving so large an ac-
cession to her stores, and what the Captain said to her, and

AT SEA. 219

how he contrived to say it, are points upon which history is
silent. Certain it is, that when the Parson awoke ironi his
first sleep, which was not till the steamer began to tumble
about on the swell outside, the Captain was snoring loudly
in the next berth, while the three attendants were equally
fast asleep on the cabin deck.

While this book was in the press, the author met with " Lloyd's
Scandinavian Adventures," in which there is not only a description,
but a print of eider duck shooting under sail. It would be presump-
tuous in him to go against- the experience of a sportsman who has
resided in these countries for more years than the author has months.
Possibly in the north, where the birds are less hunted, they may be less
cautious, and may allow a boat to approach them in a breeze. The
author can, however, write only from personal experience. The fore-
going chapter, so far as the facts are concerned, is merely a transcript
from his journal ; and as far as his own experience goes, he would say,
that the setting in of a breeze sufficient to enable the lightest boat to
carry sail, would utterly preclude all chance of success in eider duck





"Now launched once more, the inland sea
They furrow with fair augury.

" So brilliant was the landward view,

The ocean so serene ;
Each puny wave in diamonds rolled
O'er the calm deep, where hues ol gold

With azure strove, and green.
The hill, the vale, the tree, the tower,
Glowed with the tints of evening hour,

The beach was silver sheen.

"The wind breathed soft as lovei''s sigh,
And, oft renewed, seemed oft to die,

With breathless pause between.

" 0, who with speech of war and woes
Would wish to break the soft repose
Of such enchanting scene."

Lord of the Isles.

If an Englishman can ever enter into the feelings of a
Neapolitan, and in any way connect the ideas of the dolce
far niente with those of enjoyment, if he can ever bend that
active, energetic mind of his, and that restless and indus-
trious Anglo-Saxon body, to realize the faintest conception
of the " paradise of rest," in which the Buddhist places the
sum of his felicity, it will be on board ship, after breakfast,
on a calm, warm forenoon, and beyond the influence of the
Post Office.

That these words actually passed through the lips of the
Captain, and escaped, what Homer calls, the protection of
his teeth, we will not take upon ourselves to affirm — as
indolently he reclined on the paddle-box of the Gefjon
steamer, with his eyes shut, his muscles relaxed, his arms
and legs sprawling about in all directions, while the indolent


















smoke of his cigar, that from time to time floated out lazily
from between his lips, afforded the only sign of life about
him ; he seemed as if he was totally incapable of making
any such exertion — but certainly, these ideas passed through
his mind, and pictured themselves on the light grey clouds

Online LibraryHenry [Garrett] 1804-1860 NewlandForest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman → online text (page 19 of 36)