mardi 24 novembre 2009

The Haunting of Gamli Garður - A new Icelandic Folktale

In the period following the settlement, a man by the name of Sæmundur established a farm near Reykjavík. He could trace his family tree to Ketil Flat-nose and many important people in Norway’s history. He was of no relation to Sæmundur the magician. He named the farm Garður for the word meaning farm and the street Sæmundurgata and it has been known as such ever since. Though he named the street after himself, he was in no way a proud man but was known in the area for his hard work ethic. He soon built himself a beautiful turf house big enough for an entire family. He decided to go to the Alþingi to search for a wife and keep abreast on the law of the land.

Many men had heard of him and thought he would be an excellent husband for their daughters. Sæmundur spoke to many men until he met Bergþóra Egilsdóttir, a fair and majestic woman, and after to speaking her for an entire day, he approached her father to ask her hand in marriage. He consented on the condition that it was acceptable with her but warned that she was quite a free-thinking person. The feast was arranged for seven weeks before the harvest.

Once the festivities were over, Sæmundur and Bergþóra settled into their house and made it a home and she soon knew she would have a child. Fall came and brought with it strong winds and much rain yet Garður stood strong. One day, Bergþóra stood out in front of the house and saw someone near the pond. At this time it was rare to see anyone nearby so she went out to greet him. In her haste, the ring she had worn since her marriage fell off her finger. This man appeared strong and was quite handsome. As she approached, he looked out towards the pond.

When Sæmundur returned from his day of work he noticed a shiny object in front of his home before entering it.

When he picked it up, he realized that it was Bergþóra’s wedding ring. That is why the street in front of Garður is named Hringbraut (Ring way). After looking inside the house, he ran towards the pond where for the first time there was a beautiful swan and its duckling. He understood what this meant and his heart was torn. The Icelandic word for pond, tjörn, comes from this. He never remarried, but continued to work on his farm and live in Garður.

A few years later he was visited by a woman whom he immediately recognized as an elf, though she was very much like a human. He invited her in because Icelanders were known then as now as very charitable and welcoming people. Once she had entered inside, she said her name was Björk and that he had built his home with rocks used for her home. All the Huldufólk in the area were angry with these foreigners taking their things; this explained why the marbendill (merman) had taken his wife. She turned around and killed him and spread a curse on the property forever.

When Háskóli Íslands was established, the founders knew of the curse but no Icelander had been haunted for years. However, when they decided to establish a residence for students they used the old name and called it Gamli Garður. There is nothing to speak about for many years.

Eventually, more foreign students began studying at the university because its reputation was getting better known throughout the world. They needed a place to stay.

It was decided that they would live at Gamli Garður because of the pride and attachment that was brought with it. However, the huldufólk in the area still keep their grudge through all the years. For no reason stoves turn off, windows screech in the night and showers overflow with little water and this continued like this ever since foreigners have lived in the building and it is difficult to convince people to repair the problems because they don’t want to be cursed as well.

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