Imatges de pàgina

it without anxiety; she was not inclined to quit her home, and she attempted to dissuade her husband from the enterprize. My heart misgives me,' said she, and good hap will not attend us: but betide what may, wherever you go I will follow.'

Thorgill placed his property in Iceland under the management of trusty friends, and embarked with his family and followers. Jostein, the foster father of Thorey, with his wife Thorgard, consented to share the dangers of the expedition, and the twelve slaves of Thorgill were destined, as he thought, to assist in the cultivation of the colony which he intended to found, little anticipating the misfortune of which they were to be the authors.

Now it chanced that Thorgill's vessel was forced to lie-to in the firth of Leirvog, waiting for a fair wind; and in the night Thorgill dreamt a dream. There came unto him a mighty mau, who spake with anger,- Ill wilt thou speed on thy voyage unless thou returnest to my faith; but if thou wilt again believe in me, I will yet guard thee from evil.'-' I reck not of thy care,' exclaimed Thorgill my way is in the hand of Almighty God.'-And Thorgill awoke.


A fair wind rose, and the ship sailed out of the firth; but when they had lost sight of land the wind dropped, and they drifted day after day till meat and drink began to fail them; and then Thor appeared again to Thorgill and taunted him, but Thorgill answered with defiance. Thorgill's companions, though they knew nothing of his visions, murmured, and said it would be well to make offerings to the deity of Valhalla. This their leader forbade. But Thor appeared to him for the last time, and promised to bring the vessel into a safe haven within seven days if he would believe in him. That will I never do, was the answer of Thorgill.

After drifting some days longer there came a tempest, and the vessel stranded on the coast of Greenland: Thorgill now felt the deep malignity of the demon. The shipwreck took place at the close of autumn, and the ice-covered mountains rose on each side of the bay into which the vessel had been driven. They succeeded in saving some of their provisions from the wreck, but these were soon exhausted, with the exception of a small portion of meal; and the seals, or sea-dogs, which were caught by Thorgill and his companions in misfortune, constituted their chief food. In this miserable spot, and destitute of all help, Thorey was delivered of a boy, to whom they gave the name of Thorfind.

Yule came on,-the weather was fine on the morning of the cheerless festival:-as the sun rose on Yule-day, it seems they were not within the polar circle.--When Thorgill and his men went out a loud scream was heard from the north-west. The short day closed, and Thorgill and Thorey retired to sleep. Be still and quiet at

night-fall,' was the warning which Thorgill had given to his compauion Jostein and his followers, and keep to your faith.' Much was imported by this counsel; for Thorgill knew of the spectral foes who might assail them. Jostein and the rest came in with noise and merriment, and at length they laid themselves to rest, when a loud knock was heard at the door of the hut. 'Good tidings! exclaimed one, and rushed out of the hut; when he came in again, he was raving mad, and on the following morning he died. On the next day the knock was heard again at the door, and another of Jostein's men went out, and fell stark mad, and died; but just before he gave up the ghost he recovered his wits, and told them how he saw the man who died yestermorn flitting before him. And then a pestilence came amongst Jostein's men, and six of them, together with Jostein himself, died, and were buried in the frozen snow. After Yule-tide the vampire corpses all rose out of their graves. The pestilence broke out afresh, and Thorgerd and all the survivors of Jostein's men fell sick and died before the end of the month Goe. These also became vampires in their turn, and swarmed day and night about Thorgill and his followers; they were mostly seen in that part of the hut where they had dwelt while living. At length Thorgill dug the bodies out of the snow, and burnt them in a bale fire, and the living were then at rest.

Now Thorey dreamt a dream. She saw fair groves and flowery gardens, and glorious shapes clad in bright garments. ' And I hope,' said she, when she told it to Thorgill, that we shall soon be freed from our hardships.' Good indeed is thy dream,' answered Thorgill, for it points thee to that home where good shall alway befal thee, and where, amongst the holy ones, thy spotless life and patient sufferings shall meet with their reward.'

Thorey often besought Thorgill to devise some means of escaping from this land of desolation, but he answered that he could find none. One day, however, he said that he would go up the ice-mountain to see if the ice were loosening itself from the land, which he did with his companions Thorlief, and Kol, and Stackard, leaving Thorey in the care of the slaves. They came back in the afternoon, and as they approached their hut they observed that the boat was no longer drawn up on the land. On entering the rude dwelling it was empty. Thorgill now apprehended that evil had happened. They stood still, and a slight convulsive sob was heard from Thorey's couch. They went up to it in eager haste, but she was breathless, and the little child was still sucking at the breast of the corpse.

Thorgill built himself a canoe; the ice now began to drift away from the land, and he and his men were able to row along the coast to Salone. There they remained during the following

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winter. They continued advancing with caution until they reached a part of the coast bordered by steep icy mountains, and here they drew their canoe on shore and pitched their tent. Fresh trials awaited them. When morning dawned the canoe had disappeared. Thorgill now despaired; but at night he was visited by dreams of joyful import; and he knew that better fortune was near at hand. A loud voice was heard summoning the Icelanders to receive their boat again; and two gigantic women were seen for an instant by the Icelanders, then disappearing: these beings had carried off the canoe, and by them it was restored. And in this frail bark Thorgill and his men coasted along, till at length they reached first some straggling tents, the dwelling-place of one who had forfeited his law,' and then the settlements of Erick the Red, the main Icelandic colony. The remaining adventures of Thorgill, though highly interesting, are beyond our purview, and therefore, to borrow the usual phrase of the Icelandic historians when their personages make their exit, 'he now goes out of the Saga.'

That Thorgill Orrabeen was really wrecked on the coast of Greenland there is little reason to doubt. With respect to the marvels with which the Saga is embellished or disfigured, they are such as, in au age of credulity, arise out of natural causes and the workings of the human mind. Of these none are more credible in their way than the ominous appearances of the thundering deity: they give a lively and strong attestation of the inward struggles with which our hero received the new faith, at the same time that they prove the sincerity of his conversion.

The gigantic women seen by Thorgill are perhaps magnified in no small degree by the mists of Greenland; but they may be conjectured to have been the wives or sisters of the cannibals of Egede, a people akin to the Jatters, so often mentioned in the Icelandic Eddas. By the followers of Odin, the Jatters were represented as a race of savages towering in height above the rest of men. They dwelt in caves, forming no community, but dispersed in single families; they lived by fishing or the chase, but they despised the food thus earned when human flesh could be procured, which they considered as a greater delicacy. Jotunheim, their chief seat, was a large tract situated in the very north of Asia, including the Siberian coasts of the frozen ocean and the adjoining countries, stretching westward as far as Finmark, and bounded on the east by the river Oby; though the Jætters frequently wandered, both to the east and west, far beyond each frontier.

Under the names of Thursi and Hrynthesse they were also found dispersed amidst the mountains of Scandinavia where they long continued the hatred and terror of the more civilized Asi, by whom, like the other primitive inhabitants of the north, they


were invested with a supernatural character. Such was the giant Thrym from whom Thor recovered his hammer; and who, stripped of fable, was probably only a griesly savage.

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High on a mound in haughty state

Thrym the king of the Thursi sate,

For his dogs he was twisting chains of gold,
And trimming the manes of his coursers bold.'

We shall not at present enter into the question of the affinity between the tremendous Jætters and the modern Russians; but it is thought that the people of Jotunheim extended themselves, after passing the Oby, along the north-eastern coasts of Asia, and that they crossed over to America, still keeping on the frozen shores, till at length they reached Labrador, the Hellulland of the Icelandic navigators; and from this country they might cross inte Greenland. This itinerary has been marked out for the giants by Professor Thorlacius, a learned Icelander, descended from Thorgill Orrabeen, and to whom we owe the publication of Thorgill's Saga; but it must be received as mere guess work, perhaps as a learned dream; for the migration of the Jætters can only have taken place when the American continent received its inhabitants from the older portion of the globe. Saabye tells us, almost in the words of his grandfather, that he has known Greenlanders who affirmed that they had been far up the eastern coast where they saw hideous bearded men of uncommon height, who without doubt are cannibals.' Professor Thorlacius is also of opinion that the Jætters have yet a settlement on the coast of Greenland. This is a supposition coinciding in some measure with Egede's accounts, with which the Professor seems to have been unacquainted, and is grounded upon the following facts: implements of wood of unusual magnitude, amongst others a walking staff fit to support the steps of a tottering giant, have, as they say, been cast by the sea on the shores of Iceland; together with fragments of vessels of strange and unusual construction, of which the planks are neither fastened together with whalebone like the boats of the Greenlanders, nor sewed together with sinews according to the custom of the Laplanders, but fastened by wooden pins, and all of which are attributed to these scattered descendants of the ancient foes of the Asi.

These accounts come rather in a questionable shape, yet it is just possible that the northern hemisphere may have its Patagonians as well as the southern one: besides which, nature seems to have sported in gigantic creations in the vicinity of the polar circle. The north pole is the holy mountain of the eastern nations, the fabulous Meru of the Hindoos, the Kaf of the Arabian mythologists, and perhaps the real prototype of the Grecian Olympus. It is in ages anterior to history that we must seek the origin of these opinions.


May not the Hindoos have been induced to give the North Pole to Bramah, god of gods, with four faces, greatest of those who know the Vedas,' in consequence of the awful and unparalleled vividness of the apparitions of the Aurora Borealis on the coasts of the Frozen Ocean between the mouths of the Jenisei and the Lena Gmelin's description of it as seen there is exceedingly remarkable. The shafts and flickering beams of ethereal light run from the north, multiplying themselves around and darting across the heavens with incredible swiftness, till they assemble in the zenith. The entire sky glitters and sparkles with ruby and sapphire and golden fire. Beautiful as the appearance is, no one can see it for the first time without terror. It is accompanied with loud hissing and crackling noises, resembling the discharge of the loudest fireworks. The wild beasts are alarmed, the dogs howl and crouch on the ground, and the Ostiack hunter exclaims, Spolochi chodjat!' The spirits of the air are rushing by!' Gmelin calls this tract 'the very birth-place of the Aurora Borealis.' In other words one of the electric poles of the globe is situated there. Such phenomena may well have led to the belief that Meru was the home of the gods, where they dwelt enthroned in light and power.

Kaf, according to the Arabians, was once inhabited by the preadamite kings, a primeval race of gigantic and monstrous forms who have yielded the world to the sons of man. These traditions were afterwards applied to the Caucasian ranges: but in truth they point us to the North Pole, the centre, as it were, of races of animals of appalling bulk. The whale, the sea-snake, in whom perhaps we recognize the serpent of Midgard, and the kraken, yet encumber its waves; while the adjacent continents are heaped with the bleached bones and frozen carcasses of the mammoth and the megatherion; and the feathers of gigantic birds, the prototypes of the roc, the simorgh, and the garuda, who once soared above the eternal snow. There is no spot on the globe in which these relics of former creation are equally copious as in that portion of Asia which was deemed by the Asi to be the country of the giants the Siberian never sinks a well without discovering the tusks or bones of the arctic elephant or rhinoceros. The islands at the mouth of the Lena are described by Adams as almost composed of the bones and horus of the mammoth; and remains of the same species are very abundant in those latitudes of America into which the Jætters are supposed to have strayed. Without laying

Captain Wilford places Meru in the highlands of Tartary these remarks would be equally applicable if we were to agree with him: we are not satisfied, however, that the abode of the gods is to be removed from the 'pistil' of the worldly lotus, and placed upon one of its petals--although he certainly has maintained his opinion with his usual learning and ingenuity.


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