M. A Wyllie.

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has become exceedingly tame at its chief resorts, which
are strictly regarded as property. The eider is rather
clumsy, though it flies fast and dives admirably. The
female is of a dark reddish brown colour barred with
brownish black, the male when young being almost the
same colour. The males keep apart in flocks by them-
selves till the third year, when they change their sober
plumage to a pied plumage of sable beneath and a
creamy white above, and the beautiful patch of sea-
green that makes them eligible. The nest is generally
in some convenient corner among large stones, hollowed
in the soil, and furnished with a few bits of dry grass,
seaweed, or heather, and by the time the five eggs are
laid, the down is added. Then begins the robbing of
the nest. The down and egg-s are taken at intervals of
a few days by the owner of the " eider-fold," and the
birds are thus kept depositing both during the whole
season. The duck is ultimately allowed to hatch an egg
or two to keep up the stock, and the down from the


last nest is gathered after the birds have left the spot.
The drake never goes near the nest, so that our feelings
are not harrowed any longer at the thought of this
sublime parent plucking his own breast. We can with
an easy conscience snuggle under our eidys.


"A great while ago the world begun
With hay, ho, the wind and the rain."


AGES and ages ago, so long indeed that the human
mind can hardly grasp the tremendous abyss which
parts us from that distant time, the restless water rolled
and tumbled. Perhaps it was very hot, for the world
was new and the steam would hang heavy in clouds close
down to the heaving waves. No doubt there were gales
of wind with rain, lashing hail, flying spindrift, and
boiling spume.

For untold thousands of years the old waters rolled
untenanted, breaking on the islands and continents of
those early days, washing them slowly away, and de-
positing the mud and ooze far away from shore in its
secret depths. If you should wish to realise the
enormous duration of this the earliest of geological
periods, you have only to look upward at one of the
great cliffs of Norway in which the lines of rock, which
were once sediment, lie piled one upon the other for
thousands of feet. These tell the long monotonous
story of the eternal ocean slowly but surely washing
away the dry land and storing up the silt, sand, and
gravel in its bosom.

After ages the first simple forms of living creatures
begin to appear in the soft mud. Possibly, only little



lumps of jelly like the protoplasmic atomic globule that
Phoo Bah was so proud of being descended from. Or
perhaps they were radiobes like those discovered by
Mr. Burke. If that is the case, they did not die
bachelors like those that appeared in his bouillon, but
had large families and multiplied exceedingly. Eozoon
is the name given by learned men to a shadowy sort of
foraminifera supposed to have grown in thick sheets
over the ancient sea-bottom that once spread far and
wide where the land of Norway now is.

The water slowly became more shallow, beds of sand
and gravel were laid down over the old ooze, and strange
animals began to be evolved, simple in structure, but
now known by terrible Greek and Latin names. These
were D'lctyonema Nornegkum, annelides (a sort of worm),
brachiopods ! corals ! cnenoids ! and sponges. Then
came seventy-seven sorts of primordial king crabs called
trilobites. One of these has been given the name of
paradoxides. On land there were twelve species of
plants, chiefly fucoids, but including some of higher
grade called Eophyton, and all these went on flourishing
through the long years, some few of them leaving traces
in the mud and sand which afterwards hardened into
solid rock.

By degrees an alteration came. Some of the old
creatures died out, or very slowly changed into new
shapes, and the period called Silurian brought other
forms of life. Stone lilies, encrindes, starfish, and
lamellibrinchs, but there were trilobites in great pro-
fusion still. Gradually the high mountains of the chain
which stretches from the Naze to the North Cape were
forced up into ridges and peaks, as our solid world cooled
and shrunk. Granite and syenitic rocks pushed through
the old sea-bottom, and besides these changes great


volcanoes were pouring thick lava streams and throwing
showers of ashes. Dykes and great cracks in the earth
were filled up with molten rock, and as the world still
went on shrinking, the hard rocks of the earlier periods
were crumpled and thrust into all sorts of contortions.
Strange jagged peaks were forced up taking the most
wild and awful shapes.

Here is Sir Archibald Geikie's description : —
" Enormous slices of the older rocks have been pushed
horizontally over the top of much younger formations.
In the country lying to the south-east of the mountain
Sulitelma, Mr. P. T. Plolmguist has mapped an im-
portant thrust plane over an area of nearly forty Swedish
miles. It is so gently inclined that its outcrop winds
up the valleys, and portions of the thrust rocks have
been left by denudation as outlines. The effect of the
dislocation is to place a series of mica-schists and
granulitic quartzites (so-called Algonkian) above some
of the oldest Cambrian strata which lie immediately on
the Archaean gneiss and granite. If you arrange two
packs of cards with all the aces, kings, and queens at the
bottom to represent the older formations, and the lesser
cards at the top to stand for the newer, you can by
squeezing the packs together make the court cards
override the commoners, and this will illustrate what
took place in the mountains of Norway during Devonian
times millions of years ago."

I daresay the whole face of the country was rather
rough in those old days, but the weather has been acting
on it ever since. The sun has scorched, the frost has
split and chipped great icefields, and glaciers have
ground, and smoothed, and polished, and scratched
rounding mountain tops, and scouped out valleys and
fjords. The ganoid fishes which swam in these old


waters have left scales, teeth, and bones which give us
a notion as to what sort of creatures existed in the
Devonian sea.

Time went on, and after the Old Red Sandstone came
the Carboniferous period. There is only one small
island — Andsen — in Norway which shows any trace of
the great forests of tree-ferns, conifers, and giant horse-
tails which flourished for so long in what is now England,
France, and Germany, We may suppose that Norway
stood up a tableland too high or too bleak for such a

The Trias and the Jurassic times also came and passed
away. All sorts of new creatures were evolved. Great
lizards with fish-like flippers, Plesiosanns, long-necked
and fierce, Megalosaurus, and other dreadful monsters
filled the seas of the south. But there is no sign of
them among the Norwegian mountains, though the
lias of England shows their bones in great numbers.
The rains of these days continued to wear down and
furrow the softer parts of the Norse rocks ; valleys
were slowly eroded and mountain ridges splintered and
sharpened. The age of Pleosau and Iguanodon followed,
and afterwards came the time when the chalk slowly
formed at the bottom of the open sea.

Then, in Eocene times, the last great epoch of
mountain-making took place, and the Alps as we now
know them were forced up and crumpled, flat sediments
becoming huge mountain masses.

The Miocene and Pliocene, like the other ages,
left the Norway rocks still standing high to the
wear and chafe of rain, hail, and scorchins: sun.
But the great Ice Age, which followed after, buried
the whole country under 6000 or 7000 feet of solid
glacier. Only the peaks of the highest mountains stood


like islands in the tremendous dome of solid frozen

The enormous weight of the inland ice forced the
surrounding glaciers outward in all directions. To
understand how the dais and fjords were carved and
worn out of the living rock, we must try to realise
what was taking place all through this dreary period.
Every scrap of ice was on the move. In every little
valley, even in minute crannies between the rocky
walls, the ice was creeping faster in the middle, slower
at the sides. Everything in its way was either
pushed along with the moving mass, or was slowly
worn away, the hardest stone being scratched and

Wherever the rain of old days had worn a chasm, the
ice, with its moving granite boulders, rubbed and scored
it deeper and wider. The under ice only pushed its
way down the dais just as we see the shrunken glaciers
of the present day. The eddies and backwaters in
these races of tide made cataracts tumbling over steep
cliffs or squeezing between narrow gorges. But this
lower ice river was generally covered by another flow,
pushing in quite another direction, sometimes even at
right angles, so that, whilst the valley was being scored
and plained in the direction of its windings, the peaks
were grooved athwart the flow of the undercurrent by
quite another stream. The force of the ice cap, and
the distance it pushed great rocks and stones, seem
almost incredible. At Laurwig there is a kind of
syenite which is quite characteristic. Boulders of this
very stone have been carried as far as Hamburg, right
across Denmark, and even to Holderness in Yorkshire.
Try to fancy the North Sea all packed with great
icebergs breaking away from the giant glaciers of


Norway and drifting over to the country which we
now call England.

The fjords, in some places 5000 feet deep, and the
basins of great lakes, were hollowed in the same way,
the detritus being carried hundreds of miles. All
round the west coast of Norway there is to this day a
long ridge of stone and gravel under the sea, a short
distance from land. This is nothing but a line of
moraine, where the old glaciers terminated in tall ice
cliffs like those of Greenland or Spitzbergen. Indeed,
the ice cap of north-east land, or the glaciers behind
Prince Charles'* foreland give us a very vivid picture
of the appearance presented by Norway during the
great Ice Age.

Some of the fjords have been worn to very great
lengths and depths. Sogne Fjord, 136 miles long,
is 4000 feet deep in places, and the telegraph cable
which is laid across the Faerlands Fjord hangs in a
great bight, instead of resting on the rocks below.
The moving ice has in almost all cases rubbed the
bottom flat with rounded sides, so that a section of
the usual fjord is in the form of a great U. The
pudding-like, smooth rocks called 7'oches moutonnees in
the Alps are common all over Norway. Often these
give a very desolate and forbidding look to the scenery ;
not a blade of grass or sprig of birch is able to find
a foothold in the polished surface ; and the undula-
tions stretch unbroken over many thousand acres.

Besides the great terminal moraine which underlies
the sea all round the coast of Norway, the glaciers
have dropped sand, gravel, and boulders in all sorts
of situations. In some valleys one may meet rows of
regular terraces, neatly sloping ridge behind ridge, for
all the world like the fieldworks of some army of


giants. Often the sand is piled up into what in any
other country might be called a respectable hill ; and
where the streams have washed away the foot, forming
a cliff, one may notice the layers of deposition cutting
in straight lines through the mass.

Then again, among countless clusters of rocky islands
studded round the coasts, one may often find a ridge of
shingle stretching right out as though a Titan had tried
to throw a dam across the lake or fjord. In fact, there
is not a valley in all Scandinavia which does not show
traces of the tremendous forces at work during this
long and dreary period.

There were men in those inclement days, for rude,
stone weapons have been found in the caves they in-
habited, in company with the bones of reindeer, bear,
and woolly rhinoceros. Indeed, the cavemen of the
mountains of Auverne have actually drawn pictures of
the mammoth with his great curved tusks and long
bristles. These have come down to our time, to show
us how much the artist of that distant past could do
merely by scraping his bit of ivory with a sharp stone.
In the late Stone Age, Norway must have had a settled
population, for the places where the old weapons were
hammered and chipped into shape have been discovered.
All along the coast, even far beyond the Arctic Circle,
the great mass of flakes, and fragments of hard stone,
and the numbers of finished and unfinished tools and
scrapers, show that quite a wholesale manufacture was
carried on.

It seems probable that Neolithic man in Norway lived
mostly by hunting and fishing, though in the south, across
the sea, there can be no doubt that cattle-breeding was
also carried on. The stone weapons are in many cases
quite beautiful in shape, and clearly show what skilful


workmen must have fashioned these flakes from the
pebbles of flint sandstone or eruptive rock. In high
latitudes another group of stone implements has been
found. They are almost always of slate, and are also
remarkable for their characteristic shape. The only
kitchen midden from the Stone Age, yet found in
Norway, only contained these so-called arctic stone
implements. It is thought that these were the work
of a different race, perhaps the forefathers of the
Lapps. Indeed, the Lapps continued to use stone
weapons down to quite historic times.

Leaving these, we come to the Vikings, whose weapons,
found with their peculiar northern ornamentation and
superb ring coats-of-mail, show the skill of the people in
working iron. A great many of their early swords,
and other weapons, were damascened, even as far back
as the beginning of the Christian era. This shows
either that this art was practised in the north lono-
before its introduction into the rest of Europe from
Damascus by the Crusaders, or, that the Norsemen
were so far advanced as to be able to appreciate the
artistic manufactures of southern nations.

The remnant of articles of clothing, with graceful
patterns interwoven with threads of gold and silver,
which have fortunately escaped entire destruction, show
the existence of great skill in weaving. Entire suits
of wearing apparel remain to tell us how some of the
people dressed in the beginning of our era.

Beautiful vessels of silver and gold also testify to
the taste and luxury of those early times. The know-
ledge of the art of writing and of gilding is clearly
demonstrated. In some cases, nearly twenty centuries
have not been able to tarnish or obliterate the splendour
of the gilt jewels of the Northmen. We find amono-

276 jOtnar and thursar

their remains, either of their own manufacture or im-
ported, perhaps as spoils of war, repousse work of
gold or silver, bronze, silver, and woodwork covered
with the thinnest sheets of gold ; the filigree work
displays great skill, and some of it could not be sur-
passed now. Many objects are ornamented with niello^
and of so thorough a northern pattern that they
are incontestably of home manufacture. The art of
enamelling seems also to have been known to the
artificers of the period. A splendid collection exists
in the Museum of Christiania and Bergen. And should
anyone bent on visiting Norway first read and study
Du Chaillu's Viking ^ge, he would find his interest
in the country quadrupled.

One may fancy how, in very early days, tales were
told over the fire, during the long winter nights.
Dreadful stories exist of the Jotnar, who lived in the
frost and snow, the giants, and the Thursar, or
monsters. Some personified the most inimical of the
forces of nature. Others, the world before it w^as
formed — a chaos. They were older than the gods —
these giants. The chief god, Odin, seems to have been
nmch like Woden — the German All Father, Many
were the tales of his son Thor, the special god of the
Norsemen, who made war upon the Jotnar with his
terrible hammer — Mjolnir the crusher, otherwise the
thunderbolt. There were tales of Asgaard, the fortified
city of the gods, where was the special home of all
heroes, — Valholl. Odin would ride through the air
on his eight-footed steed Sleipnir the swift. His escort
of maidens, on their white bare-backed horses, would hurry
to the battle to choose the slain.

" Their horses shook themselves, and from their manes fell
Dew in the deep dales, and on the high hills hail."


There were besides these tales of the gods and the
Valkyrie many stories of heroes. Siegfried of the
Nibelungen legend is transplanted to Norway and
called Sigurd. The Volsung Atila the Hun, called
Etzel in German, in the eddas of Norway he becomes

Though songs were composed for hundreds of years
it was not until the Vikings had made settlements in
Ireland and the highlands of Scotland that the real
school of poetry arose among the colonists. Mr.
Powel calls it "a magnificent school which ran its
course apart, and perished before the thirteenth century."
There were dramatic and didactic poetry, dirges and
battle songs, but there was one quality that the authors
ever aimed at — melody of sound.

The Norse settlers in Ireland also spread north to
Iceland, and even to Greenland, where the saga makes
its appearance.

Mr. Powel says : — " The characteristics of this western
school are no doubt the result of the contact of
Scandinavian colonists of the Viking-tide, living lives
of the wildest adventure, tossed by war and storm,
with an imaginative and civilised race, that exercised
upon them a very strong and lasting influence (the
effects of which were also felt in Iceland, but in a
different way). The frequent inter-marriages, which
mingled the best families of either race, are sufficient
proof of the close communion of Northmen and Celts
in the ninth and tenth centuries, while there are in
the poems themselves traces of Celtic mythology,
language, and manners. The first Icelandic poets
were very remarkable men, of good birth (nearly always
too of Celtic blood on one side at least). They leave
Iceland young, and attach themselves to the Kings and


Earls of the north, hving in their courts as their

The custom of having a court poet was of course
taken from the Irish or the Highlanders, who from
the very earliest days used to listen to songs of the
bards. In Norway, about the time of Erik Blodoks, the
son of Harald Fairhair, it was quite the thing to have
a dark-haired, turbulent, adventurous Celt hanging about,
who could dream wonders, and sing divinely.

" The best and earliest of the court poems are written
in the old eddic metre and spirit, the same as those
in which the best of the mythological poems are written,"
says Mr. C. F. Keary.

But the regular race of court bards who began in
the time of King Haakon write in a new metre, and
in a style which, as the ages go on, grows more and
more affected and precieuoc. At last the scalds became
little more than rhyming chroniclers of the deeds of
the Kings. But Hornklof, Glum Geirason, Einar, and
Halfred Vandraedaskald (called the troublesome bard)
were more distinguished.

Some of the eddas give very weird pictures of the
underworld. Sometimes some dead ancestor is summoned
from the funeral mound to answer to questions. The
hero Svipdag (or the daybreak) goes to rescue Menglod,
a fair lady who is guarded by a monster in a hall,
girt round by flickering flames. On his way to the
underworld he passes by the cairn of his mother, and
calls to her —

"Awake thou, Groa, awake, sweet lady,
At the door of death I wake thee,
Rememberest how thy son thou badest
Unto thy cairn to come."

Then after asking him why he has called her who is


come to mould and is gone from the world of men,
she teaches him charms to keep him safe on his

Voluspa is the most tremendous poem — a prophecy
of the end of all things. When all living creatures on
earth have perished of cold, the gods of Asgaard
with the heroes of Valhalla come out to fight in the
last great battle.

" Swart grows the sunshine and no summer after ;
AH the winds are death-winds."

Then the last day dawns. Egdir the grim sits on a
funeral mound striking his harp. Fjalar the red cock
crows, and his summons is answered by another from
beneath the earth, the hell-hound bays fiercely, and
breaks its fetters. Then the Jotunheim roar. How is
it with the ^Esir, How with the Alfar.? and the dwarfs
moan before their stony doors. Know ye what that
betokens ? This is the doomsday Rignavok. Odin
fights with Fenvir the hell-hound ; Thor fights with the
great serpent who encircles the world ; Frey fights the
fire-god Surt, and at last when all gods and hell-hounds
have been killed, then only the Death-flame stalks un-
hindered on the earth.

" The sun darkens ; the earth sinks into the sea.
P^om heaven fall the bright stars.
The fire-wind storms round the all-nourishing tree ;
The flame assails high heaven itself."

Besides the eddas, which were in verse, there were
the sagas. These were at first handed down from father
to son by word of mouth, for runes were only used
for short inscriptions, and some of the sagas are as


long as a three-volume novel is in present day ; like
the best of the eddas, the sagas were produced by a
race half Celtic and half Scandinavian.

About 870 A.D,, Aud, Queen of Dublin, who was the
daughter of a Norse King in the Hebrides, called Ketil
Flatnose, made her way to Iceland with some of her
granddaughters, and at last settled on a large territory.
The doings of these early colonists and their descendants,
who were looked upon as distinguished persons, have
been handed down to us in the Lamlnarna-hok — "The
Book of the Settlement."

Mr. Keary compares these early travellers to the
Mayjlmver emigrants, or the knickerbocker families, for
they afterwards formed a sort of aristocracy in the
island. Many other Irish and Highland settlers came,
and gradually as there grew up in Iceland a race of
story-tellers, saga-making became an art. How such
long stories could be committed to memory alone is a
wonder. They are full of minute details of all the life
of that distant day — of the work on the farm, the
hauling up of the ship, the tending of the herds, of
the forms to be observed at the wooing of maidens, the
casting of spells, or the exposition of the law. The
whole is wrought with a wealth of vivid picturesqueness
quite its own.

Holmsnega Saga — the adventures of a gang of outlaws
in whalesfirth — is one of the earliest. Then there is
Haensa Novis Saga, in which one of two rivals burns
the other in his own house, Vatnsdaela Saga and
Vapnfirdhinga Saga are both stories of blood-feuds.
Indeed, the plot of most sagas turns upon either the
rivalry of two heroes for the love of one woman, or the
story of a blood-feud which is carried on between two
families from generation to generation.


Burnt Njal is said to be the Icelandic Saga in its
very finest development. It is very long-winded, and
begins with the great-grandfathers and grandmothers
of the principal characters ; we hear of the loves and
battles of many uncles and cousins, though the author
is apt to get rid of those which are inconvenient or
tiresome by saying suddenly, " And now, Vigu (or Glum,
or whoever the distant relation happens to be) goes out
of our story." Gunnar and Njal are fast friends, and
have sworn that nothing shall make them quarrel,
and this oath they keep till death ; though Hallgerda,
the wife of Gunnar (who by the way is a virago who
has got rid of her first husband), is in bitter feud
with Bergthora, the wife of Njal, and owing to the
egging on of the two women the servants and herdmen
of both friends are waylaid and killed from time to
time. Whenever there is a fresh murder the crime has
to be wiped out by a forfeit of money. We have a
wonderful picture of this strange period, when in spite
of the wholesale slayings and universal recognition of
the duty of revenge, there is side by side a most intense
love for law and order ; for all crimes have to be
discussed before the Thing or local parliament, and there
the penalty is awarded.

Hallgerda, finding that she cannot stir up her husband
to avenge the slights she supposes herself to have

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Online LibraryM. A WyllieNorway and its fjords → online text (page 20 of 23)