Henry [Garrett] 1804-1860 Newland.

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

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that proceeded from his mouth.

Breakfast, so far as the English portion of the guests was
concerned, had long been over, and though some hardy
Norseman or persevering Swede was still lingering over the
scenes of his departed joys, and dallying with tempting
morsels of raw smoked salmon, or appetizing caviare, the
first great act of Northern daily life might be looked upon
as completed.

" You an artist," said Birger, whose sketching tablet was
already slung round his neck, and who was looking round
him from the bridge, unable to choose, in such a panorama
of beauty, which of all the lovely views he should attempt
to transfer to his paper — " You an artist, and asleep among
scenes like these 1 you are not worthy of them ; as if you
could not smoke your cigar while the rain was falling, and
sleep in the night-time."

" I was not asleep," said the Captain, lazily, " I was

" Thinking," said Birger, " look round you, and you may
think that you are in fairy land, if fairy land, itself, has any-
thing half so lovely. Look at that beautiful lake, which we
are just opening, on the north — see how those wooded capes
partly intercept the view, with their soft outline of birch,
and that long reach of blue water dancing in the sunlight,
and that little island, a single spot of shade, with its three
picturesque fir trees, and that dark red rock that overhangs
it, with its iron stains of brown and yellow starting up from
among the bright green foliage ; and look how the ash
fringes the edge of that precipice : get up, and if you are too
lazy to work, at least admire."

Really, the scene was a scene of fairy land, such as, in our
most poetical of moments, we picture fairy land to be. The
steamer's course lay among the groups of islands that fringe
the southern shore of Norway, and these, in that portion of



the chain, at least, which lies between Hellesund and Lyngor,
are, for the most part, bold rocks, clothed with every variety
of foliage which Norway produces, and, being sheltered from
the sweep of the sea breezes by the outer chain exhibit that
foliage in its fullest perfection. The idea usually connected
in our minds with Norwegian scenery, is that of wild and
desolate grandeur ; and fully is that idea realized in the
mountains of the Hardanger and the Alpine deserts of the
Fille Fjeld — wild, rugged, treeless scenes of utter desolation,
almost beyond the limits of vegetable life. But it is far
otherwise with the coasts — nowhere is seen a colouring
half so vivid as among the sheltered islets of the southern
shores ; the turf with which their glades are clothed is more
brilliantly green than anything that we have in England,
where the grass is invariably interspersed with weeds. Take
a square yard of any English turf whatever, and you will find
in it, from ten to twenty different sorts of plants, all of
which are, more or less, glaucous in their colouring, and
these, though at a little distance undistinguishable in their
forms, yet, blend their hues with the emerald green of the
grass, and present what, side by side with Norwegian turf,
would be but a soiled and faded picture. The foliage, too,
is far more bright and luxuriant than anything in England,
even in the interior of the country, but as different from our
wind-worn and frost-nipt sea- side greenery as can well be

There is no such, thing as early spring in those latitudes,
or those warm, sunny, deceitful days, which tempt forth the
young bud and leaflet, only to be pinched and shrivelled by
the April frosts. Week after week does stern winter bind
up all nature in its iron fetters ; all is still, and cold, and dead ;
and though the sun rises higher and higher, he seems to
shine without power ; and though the days lengthen, and
the empire of night be invaded, winter still holds on, and
the snows look even whiter in the stronger light — the Nor-
way of April, is but the Norway of December : more bright
and more chilly — When all at once, and without preparation,
the scene is changed — the snows are gone, the ice is broken,
the leaves are already green, and the country is in the garb


of full-blown summer. Spring is a season unknown in

The consequence of this is, that the leaf, which has not
begun to spring at all till the frost is thoroughly out of the
ground and the air free from chill, is never blackened, or
nipped, or dwarfed in its proportions, as it is in England,
and therefore preserves, through the short summer, a green-
ness and depth of colouring which with us is unknown.

" There is a beautiful legend about this," said Birger, as
he pointed out this peculiarity, " I do not believe in it myselt,
altogether," added he, smiling, as the recollection of the
Tellemarken legends and the sacrifice to Nyssen came
across his mind ; "I will not vouch, myself, for more than
the allegory, but if we may trust to the fires of Walpurgis
Night, my countrymen believe it implicitly : ' Iduna, the
goddess of youth, is among the iEsir, the guardian of the
apples of immortality — gods, like men, are subject to decay ;
but whenever they feel any symptons of it, they renovate
their existence by the apples of Iduna. The possession of
these apples was, as might be supposed, earnestly coveted
by the Hrimthursar, or Frost Giants, whose territories,
called Uttgard, surrounded on every side the sea that encom-
passes the earth. Time was when the earth enjoyed a per-
petual spring, but Loki, who had not then forfeited his place
among the gods, attacking, one day, the giant Thjassi, the
chief of the Hrimthursar, whom he had taken for an eagle,
found his hands frozen to his plumage.

" ' Thjassi demanded as the price of his liberty that Iduna
should be betrayed into his hands : this Loki agreed to do,
and notwithstanding some secret mis^ivin^s, contrived to
perform his promise ; and thus it was that the goddess of
youth, seduced beyond the influence of Asgarcl, was seized
upon by the eagle giant and imprisoned in his castle among
the rocks of eternal frost.

" ' The gods, who had lost their renovating principle, were
growing grey and wrinkled ; the might of the Thunderer
was paralysed, and the wisdom of Odin himself, the father of
gods and men, was waning ; the whole world was pining
for want of that principle of life which continually restored



the inevitable decay of nature ; Loki himself felt the unj
versal loss which the world had sustained, and being as ye
not entirely lost to shame or callous to rebuke, set kinase!
in earnest to effect the deliverance of Iduna.

" ' This — having borrowed from Freya her falcon plumagi
— he managed to effect, and was bringing back the goclde^l
to Asgard, under the guise of a swallow, the bird of spring
when the eagle wings of Thjassi, who was rushing in pun
suit, darkened the air and blotted out half the sky. Th 1
gods lighted fires round all the walls of Asgard to scar}
away the pursuer, who fell exhausted in the flames am)
perished under their vengeance.

" * But Skadi, his daughter, determined to revenge hej
father's death, declared war on Asgard, and carried it on wit]
such success that the gods were fain to come to a compro»
mise with her, and she consented to peace on condition tha!
she should take for her husband any one of the gods sin!
should choose, and should be admitted into Asgard as ail
equal. From that time forward the earth has felt the in
fluence of the Hrimthursar for a portion of the year ; bu
their power is at an end * on the anniversary of that da]
when Iduna is delivered from her captivity : and mei
kindle their fires on Walpurgis Night, the 30th of April, ii
memory of those which, kindled on the walls of Asgard, hac
baffled and destroyed the chief of the Hrimthursar. ' "t

" Ah ! by the way, I saw them building up a great bon'<

* This legend is taken from the Brage Riidur, which, in the original^
is obscure enough. Finn Magrmssen, however, seems to have hit upoi
the right interpretation of it, which we have followed here. His ex-1
planation, as given in "Blackwell's Northern Antiquities," is this :-
"Iduna, the ever-renovating Spring-being, in the possession of Thjasse,j
the desolating Winter, — all nature languishes until she is delivered fro'
her captivity. On this being effected, her presence again diffuses jo>]
and gladness, and all things revive ; while her pursuer, Winter, witfl
his icy breath, dissolves in the solar rays, indicated by the fires lighted "i
on the walls of Asgard."

f Niord and his wife, Skadi, had naturally some disputes about-
their future i-esidence, — he preferring the brightness of his own palace*
Noatun, she very naturally yearning after Thrymheim, the abode ofl
her chilly father. The dispute was referred to Forseti, the son of
Baldur, the heavenly attorney-general, who decided that they should


fire as we rounded that point of land, coming out of Helle-
sund," said the Captain ; " there was a heap a dozen feet
high, and they had put a whole boat upon the top of it."

" Well, but this is not Walpurgis Night," said the Parson ;
"this is St. John's Eve."

" We do not know much about St. John's Eve in these

oarts," said Berger, laughing. " I am afraid our legends are

i good deal more Pagan than Christian. That which you

jaw was the " Bale-Fire," by which our people commemorate

:he death of Baldur, and the boat was his ship, the Hring-

I'torn. You will see plenty more of them when the night

• Iraws on ; — every town and every village, and almost every

iut will have its bale-fire, and many of them its boat too.

[t is a singular thing that Pagan legends should have so

nuch more hold on the minds of the people than anything

lerived from their Christian history, but so it is."

, t( Not at all singular," said the Parson ; " properly speak-

ng, Norway was never converted; it was conquered by a

Christian faction, and again it was conquered by a court

)arty. The people succumbed to force ; but in their thoughts

tnd feelings — and therefore in their manners and customs—

hey were what they had been in the days of the sea-kings ;

I ind now their minds naturally revert to the time when their

country was most powerful."

"I will give you a Christian legend, then," said Captain
Ijelmar, the Swedish commander of the steamer, who had
»een for some time talking with Birger on the bridge, and
tow came forward -with his hat in his hand, after the
aanner of his country, and told his tale, very fluently, in a
ueer sort of Prench. This was also after the manner of
is country, for, though that language is abominated in

Iternately occupy Noatun for three months and Thrymheim for nine,
-which is about the Norwegian proportion of summer and winter.
"Thrymheim, the land
Where Thjasse abode,
That mightiest of giants, —
But snow-skating Skadi
Now dwells there, I trow,
In her father's old mansion."

Elder Edda.



Norway, in Sweden it is much affected by those who would;
wish it to be supposed that they are habitues of the court a
and thus it was that though — as it afterwards turned out — I
Captain Hjelmar could speak remarkably good English, he
preferred addressing Englishmen in remarkably bad French,
in order to show his court breeding.

" You see that tall rock," said he, "that looks so black and \
distant, in front of that green island? — that rock really is 1
one of the Hrimthursar of whom Lieutenant Birger has been|:
telling you ; and when St. Olaf came to convert the Nor-
wegians, the giant, who had been bribed by Hakon the
Jarl, at the price of his young son Erling, whom he]
sacrificed to him, waded into the sea, and put forth his j
hand to stay the ship, that the saint should not approach;!
the shore : but the saint served a higher Power than the)]
gods of Asgard, and even as he stood, the giant froze into'
stone ; and there he stands to this day, as you see him, with!
one arm advanced, — and there he will stand till the day ofij
Ragnarok, except that once in a hundred years, on Christmas
Eve, he is restored to life, in order to declare to the Hrim-
thursar that on that day their power was broken for ever."

"Well done, St. Olaf," said the Captain; "I thought
that all his conversions were effected by the weight of his.
battle- axe."

" Why, you Englishmen acknowledge him as a saint as
well as we," said Captain Hjelmar. " Have you not, in youi
oreat City of London, a church dedicated to him 3 and is'
there not also a place called Cripplegate V

" There certainly are such places," said the Parson, " but
what they have to do with one another, or with Norway, is
more than I can see."

" There was a man in Walland, so great a cripple that he
was obliged to go on his hands and knees, and it was re-
vealed to him that if he should go to St. Olafs Church, in
London, he should be healed. How he got there, I camn»t
tell you ; but he did, and he was crawling along, and the
boys were laughing at him, as he asked them which was St.
Olafs Church, when a man, dressed in blue and carrying an
axe on his shoulder, said ; ' Come with me, for I have become


a countryman of yours.' So he took up the cripple and
carried him through the streets, and placed him. on the steps
of the church. Much difficulty had the poor man to crawl
up the steps ; but when he arrived at the top he rose up
straight and whole, and walked to the altar to give thanks ;
but the man with the battle-axe had vanished, and was never
seen more ; and the people thought it was the blessed St.
Olaf himself, and they called the place where the cripple was
found ' Cripplegate,' and so they tell me it is called to this
day." *

" Faith ! I can answer for that part of the story myself,"
said the Captain ; " the place is called Cripplegate, sure
enough, but I am afraid St. Olaf has long since ceased to
frequent it, for we have not heard of any miracles done
lately in those parts. But what is your story about the
* bale-fires,' Birger, for I see another in process of erection
on that cape ? — that looks like a remarkably good boat they
are going to burn in it."

" That legend, like most of those from the Ed das, is purely
allegorical, and, unlike most of them, is very intelligible.
Baldur, among the ^Esir, is the PrincijDle of Good, and
everything that is bright, or beautiful, or innocent, is dedi-
cated to him, and among other things, that part of the year
which begins at Walpurgis Night, when the reign of the frost
ceases, and ends at this day, the summer's solstice — that is
to say, the whole of that time in which light and warmth
are getting the mastery over cold and darkness. These
commemorate the happy days of Asgard, before the Principle
of Evil had crept in ; and had they only continued, the
whole world would have been by this time glowing in per-
petual light, and spring, and happiness.

" But Loki himself, one of the twelve of the principal ^Esir,
became envious of this, and was jealous that all the good in
the world should be ascribed to Baldur ; so he resolved to
kill him. This the Nornir revealed to Baldur in a vision,

* A proof of the authenticity of this legend is to be found in the
etymology of the word, " gate," (gatin — the street), being a Norwegian

Q 2


and the goddess Freya took an oath of everything that!
walked on the earth, or swam the waters, or flew in the air,T
or grew from the ground, or was under it, that they would
not hurt Baldur ; and then the gods would laugh at the re-
velation of the Nornir, and would shoot at Baldur with,
stones, and masses of iron, and thrust at him with their;
spears, and cut at him with their swords and axes ; but they
all passed him by for the oath's sake, which all nature had

" So Loki said to the mistletoe, ' Thou dost neither run, nor
fly, nor swim, nor grow from the ground, nor lie under it ;
there is no oath for thee. 1 So he gathered the stem of the
mistletoe, and placed it in the hand of Hodur, the god of
Blindness, and said, ' shoot, like the other gods, and I will
direct thy hand :' and he shot, and Baldur fell dead in the
midst of the gods, and innocence departed from the earth ;
and then the days which had hitherto been getting brighter
and brighter, so that darkness had began to fly from the face
of the earth, now began to close in again, and darkness began
to increase.

" In vain did Hermod, the brother of Baldur,* undertake
the journey to the realms of Hela. So much was accorded, that
if all nature would agree to mourn for the death of Baldur,
he should be restored to earth ; but though everything did
so, as the Edda has it, ' Men and animals, and earth, and
stones, and trees, and all metals, even as thou hast seen
everything weep when it comes forth from the frost into the
warm air, yet the giantess, Thaukt, who it is said was but
Loki in disguise, refused to weep.'

" ' Neither in life, nor yet in death,
Gave he me gladness.
Let Hell keep her prey ! '

" and Hell will keep her prey, as the Noma revealed to Odin,
till the day of restitution of all things ; and then, when the
new sun shall enlighten the new earth, Baldur, restored from

* Hermod and Baldur were both sons of Odin. That is to say, Cou-
rage and Innocence are both children of Heavenly Wisdom.

LAND HO! 229

Hell, and Hodur, no longer blind, shall reign for ever and

"But in the mean time it was necessary to prepare the
funeral pyre of the god : his body was placed in his ship,
the Hringhorn, and the pile was built round it, and his wife,
Nanna, and his dwarf, Litur, and his father's magic ring,
Dropsnir, and his horse, and all his accoutrements, were
placed on it, and amid a weeping concourse of gods and men,
and Hrimthursar, and dwarfs, and witches, the fire
was placed to it, and all nature mourned the departure of

" And in memory of this, so soon as the days cease to
lengthen, and nature feels the loss of its original innocence,
and darkness begins to threaten the earth, men kindle their
fires in memory of the death of Baldur."t

" Hallo ! the Thousand take you ! look where you are
steering," shouted out Hjelmar, in Swedish, to the helmsman,
" are you going to run down the island ?" And in truth it
did seem something like it, for the branches of the overhang-
ing trees rattled against the fore-topsail-yard, bringing clown
a shower of leaves and twigs; and a projecting ash so nearly
brushed the paddle-box on which they were sitting, that the
Parson broke off a branch as they passed.

" Confound those fellows ! they know the water is deep
here, and think they cannot shave the point too closely, I

* The moral of this legend is admirable. The Principle of Evil is of
itself powerless against the Principle of Good, until it is assisted by
well-intentioned, but blind Prejudice ; but that same Prejudice, after
its enlightenment, becomes its partner and ally.

t An attentive reader, who is also a fisherman, will see, by reverting to
the time which the adventures in the Torjedahl and Soberud-dahl must
have taken, that this voyage must have taken place much later in the
year than the 24th of June, and that consequently he could not have seen
the bale-fires he describes. The fact is, the author made two visits to
Christiansand ; he arrived there in June, but, finding the snow-water
still in the river, he made a voyage among the islands, to occupy the
time, and visited the place again at the end of July. To prevent un-
necessary confusion, the incidents of both these visits are told together;
but the fisherman must not conclude from this, that anything is to be
done in any of the Tellemaken rivers before the second week in July.



suspect they wanted to astonish the passengers, and did not
see me among them."

The point which they had rounded was just to the east,
from off Osteriso, at which place they had just touched; and
immediately afterwards they plunged into a deep, dark
chasm of a passage between the two islands, which looked
as if they had been split asunder by some sudden convulsion
of nature, so evidently the projections and indentations of
the opposite walls of rock seemed to fit into each other ;
while far overhead the trees looked as if they were over-
arching the chasm, and shutting out the light of day from
its recesses. The churning sound of the paddles, and the
hissing of the sea beneath their stroke sounded unnaturally
loud, and the two little pop-guns which the Gefjon carried
on her forecastle and took that opportunity for discharging,
rolled and echoed like a peal of thunder.

" There !" said Captain Hjelmar, as the steamer pushed her
way into daylight, and opened out a wide expanse no less
beautiful than those they had been passing through all the
morning ; " there lies the strength of our coast ; the Nor-
wegian navy consists principally of gun-boats, and these
dodge in and out among these islets, just as difficult to catch
as rabbits in a warren ; the great lumbering cruiser of the
enemy watches in vain on the outside, like a terrier at the
rabbit's hole, while the rabbit, meanwhile, has passed out by
a back door, and is taking his pleasure elsewhere


* The whole Norwegian navy consists of one frigate, two corvettes,
two brigs, three schooners, and a hundred and forty of these gun-boats.
The Swedes, who have upon the whole rather a powerful navy, con-'
sidering the poverty of their country, — that is to say, thirteen line-of-
battle ships, fourteen frigates, some of them very heavy ones, and
twenty-two steamers — possess also three hundred of these gun-boats.
They carry generally one long tomer forward, and sometimes a carro-
nade, sometimes a smaller gun aft. They are quite open, except a couple
of bunks for the officers' sleeping places, pull from twenty to thirty
oars, and are generally sent to sea in squadrons, with a frigate or
corvette to take care of them, — like an old duck with a brood of duck-
lings. The frigate forms a rallying point and place of refuge, as well
as a place of rest, for the crews are changed from time to time, and in
their turns enjoy a week's rest and cover on board of her.


"In the days of the last war, I was a cadet on board the
Najaden frigate, the commodore on these coasts : I used to
be lent to the gun-boats, and capital fun we had with your
merchantmen; pretty profitable fun too, for we brought
them in by dozens. There were your big cruisers, every now
and then getting a crack at us, and picking off here and
there a clumsy fellow who let himself get caught outside,
but never doing us much harm. It was glorious fun, cer-
tainly, — at first, I must say, I did not like firing at the old
English flag, that so many of our people had sailed under,
but after exchanging a few shots, and seeing a few of one's
people knocked over, one soon learns to forget all that ; and
I blazed away at the old red rag after a bit, just as readily as
I would at a rascally Russ.

" Your Captain Stuart put an end to all that, though, for
one while ; and before we had recovered from the drubbing
he gave us, there was peace again, and no revenge to be had
for it. I was not sorry for the peace, though ; it is not
natural to be fighting the English."

" Aye," said the Parson, " I have heard something about
Captain Stuart, of the Dictator ; he got some credit for his
services in these waters."

" And well he deserved it," said Hjelmar ; " he was a
thorough sailor, he knew what his ship could do, and he made
her do it. As for fighting, anybody will fight ; but to run
such a chase as he did, requiring skill, and science, and nerve,
and firmness, as well as brute courage, which every man has,
and most beasts besides, is what very few men would have
moral courage to attempt, or seamanship enough to bring to
a successful termination.

" We used to laugh at the old Dictator ; if a corvette could
not catch our gun-boats, it was not very likely a line-of-
battle ship would do the trick ; for this water, for all it is so
deep and looks so open, is studded all over with pointed rocks
at a fathom or so under the surface ; and some of these, not a
yard square at the top, any one of which would bring up a
gun brig, let alone a liner. Well, there was the Dictator
cruising about and doing nothing, as we thought ; we did not
know that he was improving his charts, and getting bearings


Online LibraryHenry [Garrett] 1804-1860 NewlandForest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman → online text (page 20 of 36)