Icelandic folktales

So I’ve just come back from a little adventure in Iceland! it is an absolutely beautiful and inspiring country, full of stories and myths and magic.
Plus, did you know that the literacy rate there is 99%? Impressive!

So I thought I’d share one little tragic story and another sweeter folktale that I was told there. I’ve tried as well as I can to write it out exactly as I heard it. Enjoy, and as always, happy reading!


The Bishop’s Daughter

Many, many years ago, there lived a bishop from a distant village who had a young daughter. She grew to be a beautiful young woman and was exceptionally intelligent. Though it was uncommon for the time, her father decided that she should be given an education. None of the schools, however, would admit a woman. So, he sought out the cleverest tutor he could find to teach her in secret while he was working away from home.
A few weeks later, however, rumours reached his ears. The villagers whispered about the lights that dimly flickered in the young woman’s room late at night, and the shadows that belonged to more than one. The bishop was urged to investigate and soon began to have his own doubts.
The young woman and the tutor had, indeed, fallen in love, and without listening to her protestations, the bishop brought her into a church, before the priests and all the villagers, and asked her to swear with her hand upon the bible that she had not acted on her feelings towards the tutor.

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30 weeks after that day she bore a son.
Furious, and believing that she had lied to him and the church, the bishop exiled his daughter. She was abandoned in a hut, far up in the mountains, never to see the tutor again.
But some others did not see this as punishment enough and so they found her and tore her newborn child away from her. She desperately pursued him but was lost in the mountains.
It is said that on some nights you can still see her wandering in the distance, calling out for her lost child.

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A Tale of the Golden Falls

Once upon a time,  there were two farms separated by a wide, silver river that flowed into a mighty waterfall. On one side, there was a boy, too young yet to help work on the farm but with no one else his age to play with during the day. A young girl the same age lived on the other farm and she too was not yet old enough to help with the work. Both would wander around their farms, finding ways to amuse themselves, and often they would walk all the way to the riverside.
One day, they spotted each other in the distance. They waved, but could not hear each other’s shouts over the rumbling waters. The next day, the boy came prepared with a scrap of paper and a pencil and he scribbled a message, wrapped the paper around a rock, and threw it as hard as his little arm could. It landed right at the girl’s feet.
For a long time, they met at their opposite sides of the river and threw messages to one another, and a wonderful friendship formed.
But as they grew up, their families decided it was time that they help out on the farms. Both were kept so busy, they could not find time to make the journey to the river anymore.
It was years before the girl, now a beautiful young woman, was allowed the day off. She ran through the fields, skipping over rocks and straight to the edge of the river. She searched the horizon and just as she was about to give up hope, a young man appeared. Although they were both older, they knew each other immediately and were overjoyed.
The man decided that he couldn’t bear to live so distanced from the girl anymore. He leaped into the river and started to swim to where she stood stretching her arms out for him.
But the force of the river was too strong for him and he was swept way, down towards the gushing waterfall.
The fearful girl ran after him and plunged into the cold water. She was strong and able to swim towards him and they held tightly to each other.
The river pushed them further and further to the roaring falls until the girl spotted a tree branch reaching over the water. Together, they grabbed hold of it and dragged themselves to the shore.
And from that day on, they lived happily together on the same side of the water.

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