As my contribution to the Halloween Quest 2003
, I continue my Norwegian
fairy tale project with the story "Friends in Life and Death" ("Venner i liv og død"). The story is part of "Norske folkeeventyr", collected in the early 1840s by Asbjørnsen and Moe
. The original, Norwegian story is found at Project Runeberg
and was translated by me
especially for E2. Enjoy!
There were once to guys who were such good friends that they swore to each other that they would never part, neither in life or death. One of them wasn't old before he died, and a while later the other proposed to a farm girl, and they became sweethearts and were going to marry. When they were arranging their marriage, the groom went to the cemetary where the friend was, knocked on the grave and shouted for him. But he didn't turn up. He knocked and yelled again; but no one came. The third time he knocked harder, and shouted out louder that the friend should turn up, so he could talk to him. Finally, he heard a rustle, and then the dead man came out of his grave.
"It was good you came now," said the groom; "I've been here knocking and shouting for you for a while."
"I was far away," said the dead guy, "so I didn't hear it very well before the last time."
"Well, today I'm a groom," said the boy, "and you remember what we talked about, that we would come to each others' weddings."
"I remember," said the dead man, "but you have to wait for a while, so I can get ready; I'm not prepared for a wedding."
The boy didn't have much time, 'cause he was going home to the farm and they were soon going to church; but he had to be patient and let the dead one have a room, like he asked for, so he could get dress up in churchwear like the others, because he had to come to church.
Yes, the dead man followed them to the church and from the church, but when the wedding had come towards its end and they had taken the crown off the bride, he wanted to leave. For old friendship's sake, the groom wanted to go with him back to his grave again. As they went to the cemetary, the groom asked if he had seen many strange things, or anything worth knowing.
"Yes, I have," answered the dead man; "I have seen many and much," he said.
"That would be fun to see," said the groom; "I would like to come with you and see it for myself," he said.
"You can if you want to," said the dead man; "but it will last a while before you come back."
It could, thought the groom, and came with the dead man through the grave. But before they stepped down, the dead man pulled out a piece of turf from the cemetary and put on the boy's head; then they wandered for a long time through utter darkness, brambles and marshes, until they came to a great, large gate. It opened up when the dead man touched it; inside it started getting lighter in a way, first with moonlight, and the further they got, the lighter it got. After a long while they arrived somewhere, where there was such green hills with rich, fat grass, and where a large livestock were grazing; but even though they ate a lot, the cows all looked ugly and empty and pathetic.
"What's this all about?" said the groom, "why are they all so skinny and ugly, even though they eat as if they were paid for it?"
"It's a picture of those who can never get enough, even if they receive and gather as much as they can," said the dead one.
Then they travelled far and further than far, to a mountain grazing area, where there wasn't anything but bare stone and mountains with just a small spot of grass in between here and there. Here, a large flock of animals were grazing, all so fat and healthy that they were shining.
"What?" said the groom; "these have such poor grass, and still they look so well. What's this?"
"It's a picture of those who are satisfied with the little they have," said the dead man.
Then they went far and further than far again, until they came to a large lake. It was so light and so shiny that the groom couldn't look at it.
"Now, you sit down here for a while, until I return," said the dead guy; "I'll be gone for a while."
Then he set off, and the groom sat down, and as he sat, sleep poured over him, and it felt as if everything disappeared for him in a safe, firm sleep.
After a while, the dead man came back.
"It was good that you stayed here, so I could find you again," he said. But when the groom was about to get up, he found he was covered in moss and shrubs. When he managed to get out of it, they went back, and the dead man led him the same way back to the grave. They gave their goodbyes and went seperate ways, and when the groom came out, he went straight back to the farm he got married. But when he came where he thought it should have been, he didn't recognize where he was. He looked around, and he asked everyone he met; but he heard nothing about bride or family or parents. He couldn't even find anyone he knew. Everyone seemed to wonder over this character who walked around scaring people. When he couldn't find anyone he knew, he headed off to the priest and told him about his family, and about the time he was the groom, and that he got lost in the wedding. The priest knew nothing about it, but when he had searched through his church records, he found that the wedding in question had been held a long, long time ago, and that the people he talked about had lived four hundred years ago.
Since that time, a large, huge oak had grown in the priest's farm. When he saw it, he climbed up it to look around; but the old man who had sat sleeping in Heaven for four hundred years and had just returned, didn't come down from there in one piece. He was stiff and sore, as you can imagine, and when he started descending, he fumbled, fell and broke his neck.
Don't blame me for the end. It seems made up afterwards to me... Read another one instead. :)