Medieval Icelandic Sagas

Eyrbyggja Saga

13th century, Old Norse, Iceland.

The fish pile was quickly dismantled but there was no sign of the seal.

A stranger, a lady, arrives at a farm. There occurs a freak and possibly supernatural rainstorm. Shortly afterwards she dies. Her final instructions are that her bedclothes should be burned. But they seem valuable and the landholder’s wife will not let this happen.

People at the farm begin to fall sick and die. One evening, the landholder, Thorod, goes out fishing in a boat with some of his household. An outbuilding is already filled with dried fish for the winter, but strange things are happening within it – fish are being stripped from the skin although nothing alive can be seen in the pile. That same evening, a seal’s head is seen emerging through the floor of the main hall where the fires are burning. It glares up at the bedclothes – in disapproval that they are still there? A woman sees the seal and, grabbing a wooden stake, bashes it over the head, but it rises higher with the blows. A male servant joins in the attack but still the ghostly seal rises higher and higher through the floor. It is only when another man grabs a sledge hammer and beats at the seal that it is driven back down.

Thorod never returns from his fishing trip. His boat goes down with all hands. But the ghosts of he and his men visit the hall for many nights afterwards, dripping wet, to sit by the fires.

Strange noises are still coming from the fish pile, and when men go to collect some of the fish they see the tail of a seal vanishing into the heap. Grabbing at it, they have the skin torn from their hands as they try to catch it. The fish pile is quickly dismantled but there is no sign of the seal, although every fish at the base is found to be torn from its skin.

More people begin to fall sick and die, and more women than men died; and yet six men died in that brunt. But some fled before those hauntings and ghosts.

Story fragment retold from: Eyrbyggja Saga – Saga of the Ere-Dwellers. English translation by William Morris and Eirikr Magnusson. LIV. The Death of Thorod Scat-Catcher; The Dead Walk at Frodis-Water.

See for yourself

Sagas of Icelanders – Wikipedia

Eyrbyggja Saga – Wikipedia

Eyrbyggja Saga – 1892 translation into English by William Morris & Eirikr Magnusson from the original Icelandic 'Eyrbyggja saga'.

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