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Stefan's Florilegium

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Mikal the Ram's book of stories.

 

NOTE: See also these files: story-sources-msg, storytelling-art, storytelling2-art, p-stories-msg, bardic-msg, Bardic-Guide-art.

 

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NOTICE -

 

This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.

 

These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org

 

Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.

 

While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.

 

Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org

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     THE TALES IN THIS COLLECTION

 

BARONY TALES

    THE QUEST FOR THE MISSING BARONESS...............PAGE 2

    A BARDIC APOLOGY..................................... 5

    THE ARMOR RANSOM..................................... 7

    MIKAL'S HEAD RANSOM..................................10

MIKAL'S TALES

    A BOGIE'S LAMENT.....................................13

    A TALE OF THREE MIRACLES.............................17

    SOLUTION TO THE IRISH................................20

    THE PRICE OF A PORK PIE..............................24

THE BAWDY TALES

    THE SHOES OF THE MISER...............................28

    THE INADEQUATE HUSBAND...............................30

    THE TALE OF TWO PERFECT GEESE........................32

TRADITIONAL TALES

    A WISE MULLAH........................................36

    THE CHAMPION OF SCOTLAND.............................38

    THE WICKED BLACKSMITH................................30

    THE THEFT OF THOR'S HAMMER...........................46

      THE POEMS IN THIS COLLECTION

      I CANNOT GO TO WAR TODAY...........................49

IN CALONTIR WE RUST......................................51

THE ONE WISH.............................................52

GATHER YE PIPERS.........................................53

WHERE GO THE MAIDS?......................................54

THE HELMSMAN.............................................55

THE SONG OF THE SLOW HOUND...............................56

THE STRONG AND THE STOUT.................................59

HAVE YOU SEEN  THE ARMY?.................................60

THEY'RE HANGING HIM FOR PAYING HIS TAXES.................61

      AN ANNOYING EPILOGUE BY AN EGOTISTICAL AUTHOR......64


THE BARONY TALES  

THE QUEST FOR THE MISSING BARONESS

     (THIS TALE WAS WRITTEN AS AN ENTRY INTO THE BARDIC COMPETITION AT THE WARLORD TOURNEY.  AT THE KRIS KINDER EVENT BEFORE THEN, THE BARON DAVARO AND BARONESS ELWYN, THEN CORONET OF FORGOTTEN SEA HAD MOVED, AND IN THE MOVE MISPLACED THE BARON'S CORONET.  ALSO THAT DAY ELWYN WAS OVERDUE AT THE AIRPORT FROM A MUNDANE TRIP.  TO EXPLAIN THE FACT THAT HE WAS FORCED TO HOLD COURT WITHOUT HIS BRASS OR HIS BARONESS, DAVARO PROCLAIMED A BARDIC COMPETITION TO BE HELD IN THE FUTURE ABOUT THE QUEST TO FIND THEM.  I KNEW VERY LITTLE ABOUT THEM AT THAT TIME, SO I ELECTED TO TELL THIS TALE.  IT IS A DISTANT RELATIVE TO THE EARLY PERIOD NORSE TALES OF VALOR AGAINST THE TROLLS.)

     LEND AN EAR good gentles to the tale that I tell. Well do I know it for it  was I who suffered these things.  And you know me for an honest man, and  that every word must be true!

    T'was on the eve of Kris Kinder that the good Baron Davaro did come before his people.  And the tale that he told chilled me to the marrow of  my bones.  "My lady Elwyn is gone," he said.  "And my coronet is not to be found."

    Oh my good gentles, the tremor of his voice brought tears to the most   hardened eye.  To see his naked head, t'was more than I could bear!

    "Summon the bravest," he spoke twixt his tears.  "Call out the nobles whose deeds are most daring.  Seek out," my Baron proclaimed, " seek my missing  Baroness, restore my errant coronet."

    Many were the Knights who called to their squires to fetch horse, armor, and sword.  Many were the fair ladies that tied favors to their lords.  Off they scattered into every point of the world, each pledging to the Baron to find  the errant lady and lid.  Many would be the tales of their ventures.

    I, being a bard in the Barony of Forgotten Sea, was not set among the brightest and best in the court of my Baron.  But hidden behind the rest I heard the sad lament of my Baron.  Oh, how could I not wish to ease his  anguish?  I swore on thatvery hour to seek the Baroness myself; to find the dire fiend that would strike so atthe heart of our honor.  I would search for the honor of our Barony, seeking to add luster to the tales of Calontir, (and perhaps get a goodly reward as well...)

    Full of the importance of my quest, I repaired to my stead, planning to  armmyself for the journey.  I selected my second best cloak, a bottle of  spirits for the road, a stout staff, my heaviest boots, a skin of red wine, a goodly belt, a blanket, agallon of beer, a warm tunic, a hogshead of brandy, a tun of mead, a barrel of stout ale, a brace of bottles of small mead, two carbouys of cider, a cask or two ofbrandywine, a few dozen bottles of dark beer, a barrel of sack, and a handful ofdried apples should I become hungry along the way.

    At this time my lady Aurore did come home, and seeing my preparations, realized my intentions to take up the quest.  In her fine and dulcet tones she did inquire:

"WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?"

    I explained my intentions, and good gentles you should have seen the tears well up in her eyes as she perceived the nobility of my quest. She did well to hide it with feigned laughter, though I felt the rolling about the floor a bit overdone.  She was so taken with my desires she would not have anything but that she help me pack.  I could not bear to turn away her offer, for she was so determined.  (Besides which she enforced her request with a rolling pin.)  Thus, more lightly burdened I pursued my quest.

    I began by thoroughly searching the local tavern, and insinuating myself with the townsfolk by drinking with each of them in turn. But with all my work, none of them had information as to the disposition of the Baroness or the coronet.  So I proceeded to the next inn to continue my search. In this manner I traveled the length of the King's highways.  But to no avail.

    At length I found myself over-tired for some mysterious reason, and sought to lay myself down in a grassy knoll beside the road.  After falling face first into the sod, (but it was a graceful, noble fall,) I passed into a strange and deep slumber.

    It was here, my fellow nobles, where I experienced a most amazing dream, for I sensed the earth did move beneath me, and the very turf below me opened up and swallowed me into the very bowels of the earth.  

    I awoke in a strange and darkling chamber, with walls of packed earth.  Above the roof was beamed with the roots of great trees, and within the walls worms and all manner of foul things did crawl each upon the other.

    A strange and baleful l;light did come from the far end of the howe, and there I found a great pile of ruined weapons and foul bones thrown randomly.  There must have been some great battle here, I thought. What bane of warriors must dwell in this place?  What evil troll must have slain these doughty men?

    Then I did feel my bowels move within me, for I perceived the owner of this place stood right behind me!

    I whipped around and faced my tormentor.  He was two fathoms tall and as wide as well.  His skin was rough and green in most places, with varied patches of yellow flaccid hide.  He bore an antler upon his head of five points, and two mismatched eyes of pus-yellow that glared most threateningly.  His mighty paunch was girdled round with the hides of men held up by a belt of live vipers tied heads to tails.

    "Ah," he cried in a most horrible voice. "Here is another to play my game!"

    "Game?" quoth I.  "I am most skilled at gaming.  Would you be interested in a match of knuckle-bones, or a play of chess perhaps?"

    He laughed most evilly.  "My game is not so tame, manling.  All those who come to this place must fight me or die!"

    "And should I lose?" I asked?

    "I eat you."

    Now my lords and ladies you know me.  I am not skilled in the arts of war.  I am far more likely to harm myself with an axe as an opponent.  I feared for my very life.  Yet I remembered if I am nothing else, I am a bard! And the most potent weapon of any bard is his tounge!  I thought up a most potent and effective lie on the spot.

    "Very well," I told him.  "But t'will hardly be a fair contest."

    "True," he bellowed. "But you may serve me some small sport before I eat you."

    "Eat me?" I laughed, "You have little hope of that!  You have no chance 'gainst me.  I am sure to lay you low!"

    "What!  How so?" he cried.

    I pointed towards his feet.  "Tis a simple matter of toes.  You have too few, and must lose.  Look; you have but four on the right and as few as three upon the dexter."

    The monster sought to look where I pointed, but he suffered from a most distressing problem, and one that I see many here also relate too.  You see his girth had grown to such noble proportions that he had not seen his feet in some time.  Nor could he while in an upright position.  He struggled and grunted, but could not gain a single glimpse of them.  

    "Bend farther," I counseled. "Lower...Lower..."  And at that point when he was bent near double I fetched him up such a clout behind his ear with my staff that I laid him out cold!

    Now my lords and ladies you can see that I returned unharmed from that lair, and others did find the Baroness and coronet.  I cannot claim that singular honor.  But instead I offer the defeat of this monster as a favor to the king and my Baron as proof of my singular quest.

    And to those few who might doubt my prowess, or lay some scorn upon my honesty I offer as proof to my tale this staff.  The very staff that did lay out that troll cold!  Lay your hand upon it at your peril, for it still rings with the force of that mighty blow!

 

 

 

 

 

     A BARDIC APOLOGY

     (THIS TALE WAS WRITTEN TO HONOR COUNT SYR VALENS OF FLATROCK,

PATRON OF MINE.  HE WAS KNOWN FOR HIS DEER HIDE ARMOUR AND HIS

RUST COLORED HELM, AS WELL AS FOR HIS SKILL IN BATTLE.  IT WAS

RESENTED AT CROWN TOURNEY AT LOST MOOR, WHEN TOMEKEE WON THE

ROWN.)

    HAVE MERCY UPON me, oh dread King.  For no doubt you have heard the tales of late.  I come to admit my guilt and to seek the mercy you are so richly known for.  The common folk have brought to you wild tales of a  haired warrior dressed in animal hides that assaults helpless women upon the highways of late.  Spare the good Count Syr Valens your anger, for as you shall see he is not totally to blame.

    I have always admired the good Count, and wished dearly to emulate my hero.  It came to me that if I, a common bard of no great standing, could win some small honor by pretending his greatness, I could then begin to garner rewards of my own by unmasking myself.  Knowing the honor with which he is regarded, I felt it would take a week or two to gain such renown.  With this masterful plan, I set about to make myself the very image of the dashing Valens.

    First I set out to find a helm like my idol's.  I searched every armory and fair and at length found one rusting in the midden heap outside an abandoned castle.  It was close to his, but needed a month or two in the moat to achieve the very colorful appearance of his own.

    Then I set out to find the deer with which to model armor like his.  I was told he hunted the stags himself, and I intended to remake myself in his very image.  So I ventured into the forest to slay a beast.

    Much to my surprise I happened upon one of the deer immediately.  Oh, such a struggle it was, my king!  I fought long and hard and took many a grievous wound from the monster.  Imagine my surprise to find the creature did not in the least resemble what I had been told.  True it was grey, but it was possessed of no antlers at all!  Perhaps it was the wrong season for such displays.  But even though it possessed a small white tail, it also possessed huge feet in the rear and long ears upon it's head that gave it a comical appearance, not at all in agreement with the description I had heard. This I decided was a case of misinformation perpetrated by the Heralds to make the beast more suited to the presentation as a device for shields.

    What was worse, it was hardly possessing enough skin to make a goodly glove, let alone armor such as the Count doth wear.  I was forced to slay twenty of the beasts to create a suitable covering.  The good Count Syr Valens must surely have depopulated whole forests to thus clothe himself over the years.

    Seeing the thinness of the hides I realized that tanning them would render them useless as armor.  So I sewed them together raw. The drying of the hides in the sun made them give off a most marvelous odor, and I began to see just how tough Valens must be.  If he could withstand the air of this armor it is little wonder that his opponents flee the field at his approach!

    I then looked to my Count's hair.  My own short, curly head could not match the long and full locks of my idol, yet I hit upon a plan. Finding two pale horses on a field, I availed myself of their tails.  Knotting these upon my head and donning the armor and helm, and possessing myself of a goodly stout stick, I seemed the very model of Syr Valens!  Now, I thought, I am ready to seek adventure!

    My plan, my Liege, was to place myself upon the highway and to challenge any and all knights that passed by to combat.  This I felt would best get the legend of the wild haired warrior to the Royal ear, without endangering my secret being found out.  But as you know, the Barony has a reputation to be wet and stormy in this season.  For days I stood in the mud of the roadway waiting for a passing combat.  Oh how the skies poured scorn upon my endeavors.  The armor I had made grew stiff and gained a rank even greater than the station I hoped to acquire.   The locks I had donned hung low upon my face, and I felt a loss of purpose come overee.  You must imagine my sorrow at this sorry condition I found myself in.  Surely, I consoled myself, my hero had suffered this as well in his early years.

    I had almost given up, when I perceived a figure wrapped in a cloak approaching. Here, I thought, is my chance to begin the long and hard journey to greatness.  I stepped out to confront the foe, shouting my battle cry.     Imagine my embarrassment when I perceived it was no warrior I faced, but a grandmother, hunched over her stick and plodding slowly in the rain.  I was horrified at my mistake! How could anyone in their right mind take advantage of a grandmother by offering her battle?  I made up my mind to aid her by escorting her to the nearest inn.  From such humble good deeds much honor may come.

    But as I approached she cried out.  "Away varlet," she shouted.  "You'll not ravish me!"  And she began to lay about her with the stick most skillfully.  I was sore beset, my King. Never was a noble more humbled.  A hundred, nay a thousand blows I received 'ere she ceased her tirade.

    When at length she was satisfied, she then berated me. "Tell the rest of your Huscarl friends I will give them the same!" And so off she went.

    Your Majesty, I am sure that this tale has come to your ear by now.  I wish to throw myself on your mercy.  I did not mean to terrify the helpless old women of the kingdom.  But above all I wish to clear the name of the Count Syr Valens.  You may have heard he was terrorizing the ladies of the kingdom, and I wish to tell you that this time, it was not his fault!

 

 

 

     THE ARMOUR RANSOM

     (EVERY YEAR THE RENASCENCE FESTIVAL COMES TO KANSAS CITY.  WE IN

HE BARONY OF FORGOTTEN SEA USE THE FESTIVAL AS A DEMO OPPORTUNITY.

I FOUND THE SCA THROUGH THE RENFEST, EVEN THOUGH I HAD SEARCHED FOR IT FOR YEARS BEFORE.

    EVERY YEAR FIGHTERS COME FROM ALL OVER THE KINGDOM TO FIGHT IN

THE ERIC THERE.  AND EVERY YEAR, THEY LEAVE ARMOUR, WEAPONS OR

UNK BEHIND.  SOMETIMES IT'S HARD TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE.

    THIS TALE IS WRITTEN IN THE FORM OF A LEGAL ARGUMENT. THERE IS

PRECEDENT FOR THIS IN NEARLY ALL CULTURES.  BESIDES, IT WAS TOO MUCH

FUN NOT TO DO!)

     MY BARON AND BARONESS, GOOD gentles all; I wish to put a tale of a legal nature before you.  It is a sad and woeful tale I offer to you, and it is a cautionary tale as well, for it tells of loss, and of tragedy, and to the falling into the hands of a wholly just man!  Pay heed, for a tale such as this is a lesson to us all!

    Not long ago there was a Barony bright and fair, built upon the shores of a long Forgotten Sea.  It was populated by a gentle folk, and possessed of various and sundry talented artisans, craftsmen, and a few long winded bards.

    These happy lands were overseen by a gracious Baroness of rare beauty and charm, and a fair-haired Baron who distributed gifts, administered justice, and dealt fairly with all.  But alas, good nobles, he was but mortal, and bound by those temptations that come to us all.

    It was in this time that a great fair was held, about the time of Michaelmas.  And as was the custom, entertainments were held to the delight of the villages around.  Among those entertainments was the fighting of many of the Chivalry an many of the noble warriors in a tourney.

    Now my lords and ladies, you know the habits of warriors at such fairs.  By day they did glorious battle, and by night they did feast.  And it is my own observation that no matter how hard fought the war, a fighter will oft feast and drink with more fervor than he will swing an axe!

    There came then an end to the fair and many of the nobles made ready to depart.  Whether due to the sweetness of mead or the sweetness of maid, many of those brave warriors did leave some bit of armor or some valued weapon behind.  Such a wealth of steel did remain, that should thieves come the Barony could be beggared by the loss of it.  Now as I did mention earlier, it was fortunate that this Barony did have so fair and noble a Baron and Baroness.  For no sooner than they had spied this amassed wealth they took it upon themselves to collect these errant tools of war, and transported them to a safe place.

    But I must remind you my lords and ladies, that this Baron was still only a man after all!  And the Baroness was not possessed with the soul  of a deity!

    So we are faced with a problem of some subtlety.  In the spirit in justice, I offer three possible outcomes to this tale.  I beg your assistance in resolving this case, by giving judgment on each of the three resolutions and thus we may decide of how such a fair, noble, and just Baron might decide this problem:

     First let us consider the nobility of the Baron.  Perhaps the generosity of his heart might overcome the fairness of his spirit.  After all, it could well be that wine, women, and song did woo his warriors into a sense of false security.  So each of his noble fighting men could come before him and he might say, "I forgive your carelessness.  I know that in these times of peace the accouterments of war are little remembered.  Come, take those weapons and armor you forgot."

    Humbled by the generosity of their Baron each noble would then gather his arms, never to leave them unguarded again.  and the peoples of the Barony would be so inspired by this show of nobility and honor that they would live in peace and chivalric deeds for all time.

    What say you good gentles?  is this the ending you would prefer?

     Well then, secondly we should look to the human nature of the Baron and Baroness.  Perhaps they did look at that pile of war-harness and say, "Warriors abroad without weapons are how dragons get fat!  There will be fewer warriors abroad next season, and all those easy victims will gather ogres and trolls and all manner of vile creatures."

    And so, looking toward the safety of their peoples, these paragons of wisdom might gather their Barony and sell each item at auction.  By arming their people they would gain new warriors to replace those who forgot their arms, (as well as using the coin from such sale to enrich the Barony and themselves.)  Of course many of those who left their arms might try to by them back.   But most would have spent all their coin on the wine, women, and song that caused them to forget them in the first place.  So they would not be able to return to their former glory, and be forced to see humble people parading about in the steel they lost.  And they may become so despondent that they give up battle forever and take up embroidery!

    In this way the Barony would raise up new defenders to guard it's people, thanks to the wisdom, (and the greed,) of it's lawful governors.

    What say you to this resolution, good gentles?  Does this seem fair?

 

    Well, there is but one more possibility:     The noble pair, holding all those weapons and armor, could consider all that they might do.  If the Baron gave back all the found items and forgave all the noble's carelessness, the noble warriors might not be humbled by his nobility, and succumb once more to the temptations of wine, women and so forth, forgetting their armaments once again.

    And knowing their wisdom, it would be hard to believe that they should distribute such wealth to the gentry at random, since peace is such a fragile thing.  The defense of the Barony should rest with experienced fighters.  (Besides, I've seen their embroidery!)

    So in their wisdom, the lawful Baron and Baroness could lay quests, duties, and foul geas on each member of their forgetful army, forcing them to be embarrassed by their lack of weapons.  Thus, being chastised heavily, (or in some cases having bribed heavily,) the warriors could be given back their war harness.

    It is hardly fair for me, a humble bard, to decide this.  So I put it to yummy Baron and Baroness, for I am sure you, as just, and as noble, and as fair as you are, will put yourselves in the place of these forlorn fighters.  What then shall be your decision?

 


 

     MIKAL'S HEAD RANSOM

     (THERE IS A LITTLE LITERARY NOTE TO THIS.  IN THE HISTORY OF NORSE       SKALDS, OR MASTER POETS, THERE WAS A PARTICULAR SKALD WHO  ANGERED A KING.  THE NAME OF THE POET WAS LOST IN TIME, BUT SOME AUTHORS SAY HE WAS ERIC, OTHERS SAY IT WAS EGIL.  IN ANY CASE, HIS HEAD WAS ON THE LINE, SO HE COMPOSED A POEM TO BRIBE THE KING INTO NOT EXECUTING HIM.

    THIS POEM WAS COMPOSED TO COMPLETE MY OWN ADVANCEMENT TO  OLAVE IN THE COLLEGE OF BARDS.  SEVERAL OF MY CIRCLE SWORE TO DO  GREAT PHYSICAL HARM IF I DID NOT PASS.  THE WORST PART OF IT FOR ME  WAS TO MEMORIZE THE REQUIRED HISTORY OF CALONTIR IN SUCH A WAY THAT IT MADE SENSE.  THIS IS WHAT RESULTED.)

A BARD, OR so they tell me, should know a few good tales,

poem or two, perhaps a song, and perform them without fail.

It's not enough," they tell me, "You should know some history.

ou live and work in Calontir, can you name it's Baronies?"

There's THREE RIVERS, I can think of, and the famous COER D' ENNUI,

ATAVIA, and LONELY TOWER, and my home FORGOTTEN SEA.

But they're makin' me to memorize the Kings of Calontir!

nd the reasons that they give me are not so very clear;

he list's too long, there is no song, I'm bound to fail I fear,

here's no good way to memorize the Kings of Calontir!

So they smile and tell me, "You must think you're quite a bard,

o name us all the warlords, unless it seems to hard!"

There's BRUMBAR, he was first,

hen TERNON took the band,

RUMBAR again, (we miss him!),

hen CHEPE held the land.

UMPK was our final warlord,

Or was he WILLIAM yet?)

nd wasn't CHRISTOPHER in there,

r did we just forget?

But they're makin' me to memorize the Kings of Calontir!

nd the reasons that they give me are not so very clear;

he list's too long, there is no song, I'm bound to fail I fear,

here's no good way to memorize the Kings of Calontir!

Then they smiled and tell me, "Tis a pleasure to behold,

bard who has such knowledge of the golden days of old.

ut can you name the princes, or would you be so bold?"

TERNON and GHLEANA were the first to hold the crown,

hen HUMPK and MAMMARA had their first go around.

RUMBAR and VALMAI, (we miss the bear some more),

nce more HUMPK and MAMMARA, just as we said before.

IRE and ELISABETH, they round out our list.

lease tell me is that all is there anyone I missed?

So they smiled and nodded.  "We've a proper File' here.

o make yourself an Olave, name the Kings of Calontir!

They're makin' me to memorize the Kings of Calontir!

nd the reasons that they give me are now so very clear;

he list's too long, there is no song, I'm bound to fail I fear,

here's no good way to memorize the Kings of Calontir!

There must be a way to do it, now I think I see;

f there is no tune, then do it mnemonically!

CASE WMEE AMGH WMVS (Case with me am guy William verses)

BLZ SAVI TFGH RBCC (Tables savvy toughguy ribbyk)

M                  (Rum!)

There was:

HEPE and ARWYN, SHADAN and ERZEBET,

ILLIAM and MAMMARA, EDWARD and ELIZABETH,

SGEIR and MERRIAM, GABRIEL and HYWELA,

ILLIAM and MAMMARA once more take the crowna,

hen pass it ona, to VALENS and SUSANNA,

HORVALD and BRANWYN, LORELL and ZENOBIA,

HADAN and ALIX, THEN VOLKMAR and ISADORA,

OMEEKE and FIONA,

ABRIEL and HYWELA,

ODERICK and BRADEN, CONN and CADFAEL, (ah,)

nd RORICK and MORGANA.

Sure, it sounds impressive,

nd I won't admit you're wrong.

ut it's always getting longer,

nd it won't fit any song.

lease help us with this problem,

nd keep the bards in mind;

rom here on in Crown Tourney,

ake sure the winners rhyme!

For they're makin' us to memorize the Kings of Calontir!

nd the reasons that they give us are not so very clear;

he list's too long, there is no song, we're bound to fail I fear,

here's no damn way to memorize the Kings of Calontir!


 

MIKAL'S TALES

EVERY BARD IS ENTITLED TO A LITTLE SELF AGRANDIZING!

     BOGIES' LAMENT

     (THIS LITTLE PIECE OF BARDIC PROPAGANDA WAS WRITTEN IN A HUFF  

BOUT THREE YEARS AGO, WHEN  I  HAD BEEN ASKED TO THE THIRTIETH  

EAST THAT YEAR TO PERFORM, AND OH, BY THE WAY IT COSTS SEVEN

OLLARS!  (OKAY, SO IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN THE TENTH FEAST, A YEAR

ARLIER.)  MY LONG SUFFERING COMPANION AND DEAR FRIEND BARON LORD CORMAC MAC CUMAIL, COUNSELED  ME NOT TO PERFORM THIS PARTICULAR

TALE AT THE FEAST.  IT WOULDN'T BE POLITIC.

    WELL, I'M NOT POLITIC.  BUT I'M NOT DUMB, EITHER! THIS HAS ONLY  BEEN

PERFORMED TWICE; ONCE FOR ROYALTY IN A PRIVATE SETTING, AND ONCE

FOR BARDS IN A CIRCLE AT THE LILIES WAR.  (THE ROYALTY WASN'T OURS,  

S I SAID; I'M NOT DUMB!)

    THIS DOES HAVE A BIT OF REAL HISTORY THOUGH.  SUCH IRONIC TALES

ERE COMMON WHEN BARDS WISHED TO GET THE POINT ACROSS AND NOT  

ET THEIR HEADS LOPPED OFF.  ALSO, A BOGIE IS A CREATURE OF CELTIC MYTHOLOGY, AND THE TALES THEY REFER TO ARE REAL STORIES.)

     GOOD GENTLES, IT has ever been my way to tell the truth in any situation, regardless of damage it might do to my own reputation. True, my heroic exploits, my grand feats of bravery,  my truly awesome  life history has proven daunting to some

and inspired a host of imitators and detractors.

    But I do not wish to deceive any of you. However fantastical and wonderful  my life may seem to be, it is not without those evils that plague the simplest of souls.  In all humility, I cannot say otherwise!

    Long have I dwelt on this "Emerald Isle", and in all this time I have been unable to reconcile the attitudes and activities of the Irish with those of a rational man.  Truly, if any peoples of this known world may be reckoned mad, the Celtic races are among the first. One need only look to their choices of food and drink to see the truth in this!

    One day I was summoned to share bread and ale with a noble of one of your finer houses.  I felt honored and somewhat bound to go, as the noble in question had recognized my superior intellect and breeding.  True, few tales are told of my exploits in this land, but I account that sheer ignorance, and therefore something to be overlooked in less civilized peoples. What I had not counted on was the depths of savagery the Irish were capable of.

    Imagine my horror when my good host proposed to serve me entrails and other innards as a main dish!  Likewise he offered beef soaked in brine to act as an appetizer!  If Odin had intended for good beef to be served in salted waters, then cattle would have gills and swim with the dolphins and hipogriffs!  I

scarce had recovered from the recitation of the repast when my host put forth a cup to pour some libation, perhaps to soften the impact it so obviously had on me.

    I wondered at the small size of the cup, hardly one that could quench the thirst of a true son of the north like myself, but the eager attitude of my host prompted me to drink anyway.  Perhaps he had no better offering.

    The cup was filled with some form of liquid Irish fire!  Yes, ''tis true good gentles!  It choked and burned each inch of my gullet, decided to make a return trip, changed it's mind halfway, changed it again, and finally settled for roaming up and down my windpipe in the hopes of finding the most unpleasant place to reside.  I knew I was poisoned!

    I had not even cleared the tears from my eyes and prepared myself to meet my patron god, when he poured yet another cup for me. This I knew was the true spirit of these Irish.  He had recognized me for the hero I am,and to make my death less painful and lingering, he poured more poison to kill me quicker!  How could I refuse him?  It was an act of true respect.  Thus I drank five full cups of the noxious brew, to insure my speedy demise.  It had it's salutary effect, for the room spun about me and I fell into darkness.

    I was not, as you can see, done to death by this potent drink.  For it seems that by some strange magic I had been transported outside of the house, and was laying face downwards in the dewy grasses.  My belongings were all present, save some gold I had placed in my pouch.  It is well known that gold is a sacred metal and therefore resistant to magics.  Whatever mystic spell that had transported me could hardly have done so to the golden coins as well.

    Thanking my gods for their protection, I began to gather myself to go when I heard a strange sound coming from the now dark woods to my right.  It sounded like the strangulation of some great cat, attended by huge flies.All during this there was the weird chanting accompanied by some form of bowstring sounds from a cracked set of hunter's bows.

    My lords and ladies, you know me.  A puzzle such as this could not but draw my attention.  Perhaps some giant fly assassins were murdering a huge religious cat who was praying for help!  Anxious to see this wonderment I betook myself to the source of this cacophony.

    You may well imagine the state of my mind when I saw two brown men, not two foot in height each, plucking wildly on a harp and chanting, while a similar small greenish wight blew into a set of pipes not unlike those so prized by these Irish and Scots.  Of the harping, I may state that the bogies were poorly schooled and coarsely trained.  Of the pipes I cannot rightly say, for even the best of players sounds to the civilized ear to be scraping live lion cubs against a rooftree in a high wind.

    All around these minstrels whirled a multitude of spirits.  Some were of the same height, some far smaller, like a doll one might give to a child, and one of their number was full ten feet tall.

    I was astounded by the vulgarities and variations of the host around me.  So much so that I did not notice when the largest one caught me by the collar until he had lifted me a good three feet off the ground.

    "A human," he growled. "I've caught meself a human!"     This was hardly the welcome I might have cherished, particularly when the chorus of "Manflesh, manflesh, we want manflesh!" began among the more toothy of my captors.

    Perhaps there are those among you who know of my exploits and wonder as how a giant of merely ten feet could capture and intend to eat a hero such as myself.  I must here admit; I was still suffering from the effects of the poison and my mystical transportation and was therefore not as heroic as I might have been under the circumstances.

    I know it is hard to believe, but I began to feel the faint stirring of fear.  Only the slightest fear.   A mild nothing, you understand.

    Once they had taken their fingers from their ears, where they had placed them to shut out my screams of terror,(but they were manly screams of terror), a very wrinkled gnome drug me aside, slapping me violently at every step.

    "Ay now, you've nowt to do that fer," he told me.  "Don't ye go a'wailin agin, aye?"

    What could I do, save to answer in the affirmative.   I was in the hands of foul creatures beyond the ken of man.  Any second could be my last!

    I was dragged before what I took to be the king of these monsters; a smallish, green wight of great age and impressive paunch. "Why d' ye come here?" he asked me.   "No human has spied upon our revels in many a season.  D' ye come t' take our gold?  Answer quick, man, for we've time afore dawn t' boil ye for stew!"

    Now it was certain, I must find some clever way to free myself.  These beasts meant to eat me!  In times such as these I find my most potent skill is that of my tounge, the prime weapon of the bard.

    "I was lonely," quoth I, "being the most rejected of all peoples upon the earth.  Your music brought me hither, in search of companions.  Eat me if you must, but know that you do me a great service by ending a life so wretched."

    This amazed the old king.  "Y'are a man!" he said.  "Long have I wandered, and longer still I've lived an' I've not seen a man so wretched as to wish me t' eat him!"

    "Nay, you are wrong," I lied, as skillfully as I could.  I am no man, but rather a bard, a most sorrowful creature, for we are misunderstood, shunned and unrecognized."

    The mass of the monsters began to mumble amongst themselves.  "No one can be more misunderstood or put upon than we!" cried the king.  "We are the Bogies, the put-outs of the elven kingdom! No one wants us!   I've a mind to eat you just for claiming to be more wretched than us!"

    "Aye!" cried a brownie, swinging himself over towards me.  "I worked two years in the house of a miller, asking only bread and butter for myopia. Then the ungrateful wretch left a suit of clothing for me!  After two years!"

    A small greenish man pushed past him.  "I've seen worse than that!  For three years I made shoes for the lazy cobbler of cork. Night after night I worked, then that lazy-bones had the nerve to ask my name! Ha!  You would think he could have guessed it by then!"

    "True! boomed the king.  "Now human, all of the bogie kind has a tale like that!  How can you claim to be any more wretched than we?"

    "I am a bard," I told them. "Nothing is lower than that."

    "Tell us how," commanded the king.

    "Good gentle bogies," I began.  "It is true you have given much and received very little in return.  But I have been a bard all my life, and for it have been given nothing at all!  Tales I have told, songs I have sung, poems I have recited, yet all the gentles of the court recall them not.  Kings have fallen asleep in my performances!  Nobles have laughed at my wit, but forgotten my name.  True, I have been asked to spin tales for feasts, but I have had to pay to eat at them!  Oh, I have heard people praise my tales, even ask for my talents to serve them, but my purse has grown no fatter, and my garb grows more ragged each year.  Even the serving wench is praised and awarded.  But my kind is forgot!"

    "Not even bread and butter?" asked the brownie.

    "Not even the crust!" quoth I, wiping a tear from my cheek with my sleeve."

    All the company fell silent, wiping at eyes, and clearing throats uneasily.  At length the king rose.  "It is not meet that we kill one who is so wretched.  Go your way, bard, and know that our fire is always open to ye!  'Tis a marvel that man has lived so long, makin' enemies of the bogies and the bards swell!"

    And so good gentles, I made my way safely from the mystic camp, and at length have found myself here.  Take heed of my warning: Treat well with the bogies and their kind.  Do not fail to pay them and do not seek to treat them ill!  True and awful justice can come of such behavior.

    Of course, I lied about the ill treatment of bards. No one would mistreat a bard, or neglect to give them their fair honor...

    Would they?


 

       A TALE OF THREE MIRACLES

     (THIS TALE IS TAKEN FROM THREE DIFFERENT YULETIDE STORIES.  ONE IS THE

SOURCE FOR A MODERN JOKE, BUT HAS VERY OLD NORSE ROOTS. THE OTHER

TWO ARE BOTH NORSE AND SCOTTISH, AS THEY  ORIGINATE ON THE HEBRIDIES  ISLANDS, AT LEAST AS  FAR AS I COULD TELL.  I COMPOSED THIS STORY FOR A FEAST ENTERTAINMENT AT KRIS KINDER FOR THE THEN BARON OF FORGOTTEN SEA, COUNT SYR VALENS OF FLATROCK.  

     THIS IS ONE OF THOSE STORIES THAT CAUSED SOME CONCERN.  I FOUND SOME PEOPLE THINK IT IS A STORY MAKING FUN OF CHRISTIANITY. OTHERS  FEEL  I AM POKING FUN AT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.  REALLY IT'S JUST ENTERTAINMENT.)

 

     MILORDS AND LADIES, MANY are the tales told of this season of yule.  Oft I have heard tell of feasts held at this time, and truly this is the season of food and drink, of song and dance, and of friendships both old and new.

     But also I have heard tales of miracles that spring impossibly from this season.  And it might sound strange to say that I, (as knowledgeable and well traveled as I am,) had no tale of the miraculous to tell in this season of magic and merriment.  Lend an ear good gentles and I shall tell a tale of not one, but three such events.  All that came on a single yule day!

     As you know, I come from that far north country.  It is a cold and grim land, full to the teeth with rock and ice.  So grey is our country is it any wonder that many of our warriors steer their ships to more southerly lands?  Now due to our wanderings, some of these southerly people arrive on our shores as well,(Though few by choice!)  And it is well known that those who come choose not to stay long.

     Yet some time ago, several priests of this new religion came to our lands, and commenced to wander about the hills spreading their beliefs all about them.

     Now good gentles, my people are a calm and peaceful lot.  Truly, are there any more fair, even, lovable, and truthful people in the world than the Norse?  We who gave you the Vikings, the Danelaw, and the sack of Paris?  We opened our arms to these priests, and welcomed them in true Norse fashion.

     But after a while they began to convert my fellow Norse!  To my amazement they began to raise churches everywhere.  So highly were the priests regarded that at length they did send us a bishop fresh from Ireland.

     Good gentles, you have not lived until you have met an Irish bishop!   Round, he was, and so short that if he fell, I was sure that he would roll!  Now i had heard some of their teachings, but it was plain that his religion did not hinder his appetite!  I have seen him eat as well as any man, and sometimes as well as any two men.  Truly a man after mine own heart! I liked him from the first!

     But as much as I did find cheer in him, he did find fault in me!  "Will you never take the faith?"  He'd ask.  "Will you never give up the Viking life?"  He did worry me sore.

     T'was the beginning of the Yuletide that he did begin again upon me, forever quoting scripture and arguing most pointedly.  At last he did shake his head in sadness, and say, "I would at least see you celebrate the yule with us this year."

     This did cause me to balk all the more.  "Good bishop," I said, " I do not even celebrate the feasts of my own people in this time of year.  What reason is there to celebrate when the cold winds do make a man's joints to ache?  Where is the merriment in a season when the fair maids go cloaked about in so many garments that not even the slightest glimpse of ankle is promised?  The fruits of the harvest are locked away and even the mead lies waiting in the barrels.  There is no reason for a man such as I to make merry in this season!  It would take miracles to convince me otherwise!"

     "Miracles?" quoth the bishop, "I can show you miracles enough to bend your heart."

     A moment, my lords and ladies.  Are there Norsemen in this place?  If so, you would know that we are an argumentative people, and we believe in only what we can see.  I was sure that here I had the perfect opportunity to put his beliefs to the trial.

     "Well," I replied, "If this be the case, then I challenge you.  Your faith puts much stock in the number three, So on the day of the yule feast, if you can show to me three miracles, I will keep this holy day with you each year for the rest of my life.  I will sit beside you this year at the feast table and swear an oath before my people to keep this season all of my days!"

     Then I did set my trap for him;  "Of course, if you cannot produce three miracles for me, you must swear never to trouble me with these arguments again."

     I must say with some pride that the bishop took my bait willingly.  "If it would take as hundred miracles, I would try.  On the morning of the yule feast I shall come to your door!"

     Now, good gentles, do not think me a fool.  I had long ago had priests point to the rising sun and say, "Behold, a miracle! the sun has risen when it could have lain forever in the mountains!"  But the sun did rise before they came, and I have yet to see it fail.  A miracle is by definition something against the rule of nature.  On the day of the feast I took great glee in pointing this out to the bishop.

     Of course he made a great show of argument, and in this way we made ourselves to the south end of the village.  On our route to the inn, there was an old ramshackle hovel wherein did dwell two of the bishop's converts;  A hoary old Viking by the name of Harald, and his wife Notha.  Before we had drawn too close I saw Harald come running out of the house dodging most cunningly.

     Yet no matter how skillful his antics, from out of the house came such a shower of abuse that the air seemed full of crockery and foul words too accurate and too inventive to have come from male lips....

     From  out of the narrow door came Notra, throwing insults and kitchen gear after her running husband.  He was lazy she screamed, he was filthy she cried.  He not only slept in church, he snored!  It looked to be a wonderful chaos and I settled in to enjoy the scene.  

     Just then the bishop stood between them and spoke quietly.  "Good Morn, Notra."

    At that moment my lords, I saw my first miracle.  For no sooner had she seen the bishop, than she shut her jaw with a snap, and ran back into the house.  Milords, you will agree, this is beyond nature:  a woman that shuts her mouth!

     I had little time to stand and wonder though, since the bishop had walked on towards the inn.  Knowing his capacity for drink, I wanted to get a share before he drank it all.

     As we sat at a table drinking good ale, I saw Harald come in the door.  The shards of an old bread bowl were still tangled in his beard.  When I pointed him out to the bishop, he bade the poor man come drink with us.  

     Once fresh jacks were set before us,  the bishop offered a toast.  "To the Yule", he cried.  But before we could drink, he added "and to your wife, friend Harald.  I think I shall visit her today as well, and tell her of our meeting here."  

     A  second miracle!  Even as the bishop spoke I saw Harald set down the ale untasted.  "I must be going" he murmured. "I've work to do about the house", and he ran out the door. M'ladies, this is a miracle that you may agree on: a man who would rather work than drink!

     Two miracles, good gentles!  I was as amazed as you must be!

     I told this to the bishop, and he smiled even wider. "We need but one more," he said, "and your place at the yule feast will be assured."

     It was but a few moments later that I spied a mouse running across the floor.  When I pointed this out to the bishop, he screamed most unmanfully and leaped upon his stool, holding to his skirts.

     The mouse, confused by this action, climbed upon the stool as well.     With a wilder cry the bishop jumped atop the table, and to keep from being lonely, the mouse joined him.  

     Then the bishop began to prance about, as if in the throes of one of those wild Irish dances, screaming in a most womanly contralto I did not know he had in him.  I cannot say I blame the small rodent, for in trying to save itself from certain death it leaped upon the bishop's leg, and began to run upwards.  In his panic, the bishop slammed his knees together most violently, trapping the beast between them.  And it was then that I saw my third miracle:  for I saw him squeeze a quart of water from that single mouse!

     Needless to say, I have since kept the yule faithfully.  In this time may I wish for you a happy season, and may I wish you many such miracles as these!

 


 

     SOLUTION TO THE IRISH

 

     (BEFORE ANYONE WRITES ME A NASTY LETTER, I HAVE ALMOST AS MUCH IRISH BLOOD IN MY VEINS AS SCOT, AND I DO NOT HAVE ANYTHING AGAINST THE IRISH.  I DO HANG AROUND WITH A MAN WHO IS BOTH SCA AND MUNDANELY IRISH, AND THESE  TALES ARE OFTEN A KIND OF GENTLE DIG AT

A VERY GOOD FRIEND.  THIS WAS SUPPOSEDLY WRITTEN FOR THE CELEBRATION  OF BARON CHARLES' BIRTHDAY.  THE REAL REASON  FOR WRITING  IT IS BARON CORMAC  MAC CUMAIL, MY  DEAREST FRIEND IN THE KNOWN WORLD.

     THIS TALE HAS ONLY ONE SOURCE, THE TALE OF ST. PATRICK AND THE  DRAGON, AND  IS  MOSTLY JUST ME RUNNING MY MOUTH.  HEY, IT WAS IMPROMPTU, OKAY?  SHEESH!  BARDS ARE SUCH A TOUGH CROWD!)

 

     THERE ARE MANY things I have seen in my life that defy explanation.  some of these I feel are the great mysteries of life that confound the wise, and against which even the gods contend in vain:

     Why do you feel so good drinking ale, but feel so bad in the morning?

     Why is it blessed to love your neighbor, but wrong to love your neighbor's wife?

     Why do songs about war sound so good, when going to war sounds so bad?

     Why is it stealing when a commoner does it, but when a king does it, it's taxes?

     There are no good answers to these questions.  They delve too far for mere mortals to comprehend.  But this day I have an answer to one problem that has stumped the wisest sages of our time: Why are the Irish "that way".  I cannot claim sole responsibility for this discovery, as all of you know me, and can attest, I am rarely responsible.

 

     Many years ago, a farmer that I know from this Irish land had a habit of fishing in a nearby stream, to the neglect of his farm and cattles.  His lackadaisical attitude

toward his husbandry was inspired by his neighbor's skill in the distilling of certain  spirits prized most highly by the Irish gentry, called whiskey, or so I am told.

     His neighbor was quite happy to keep the farmer supplied, for the well from which the distiller drew his water sat on the farm of the first gentleman.  No water was to be had near the distillery, and the smell of fermenting grain was thought to be too stout for a closer location to be chosen.

     So, on a daily basis the distiller's apprentice would come with a wagon to fetch three barrels of water, for which he would give the farmer a jug of spirits.  Many years past in this fashion, both men feeling quite happy with the arrangement.  Of course there came a time when the well turned dry, but the two were quite happy to dig a new one at another point on the

farm, and striking water, to resume their former agreement.

     My lords and ladies, I am no expert on the art of brewing strong drink.  So I cannot be sure of what indeed the distiller was getting rid of, but I am told that a day came when his vat was so full of this waste that he was compelled to empty it somewhere.

     About this time, the stream in which the farmer fished was losing it's more succulent game fishes.  Most all the larger ones had been caught, and those that remained were to sly to fall prey to such a lazy lout as the farmer.  His distaste for work remained unabated, however, and to find another fishing spot might prove too much like work.  He found that where the fish had once been, now a host of other creatures now dwelt, and began to consider that they might be edible as well.

     This idea seemed quite reasonable to him, having heard tales of the French who devour snails, and of the Arabs who eat all of a creature, including it's eyes!  If these were considered delicacies, how could the small wriggly things in this stream not be equally as desirable?  Gathering handfuls of the assorted newts, frogs, snakes and other crawly things into a bucket, he proceeded home, to cook his bounty for dinner.

     On that particular day, the distiller had sent his apprentice off to dump the leavings of his craft somewhere away from the distillery, and to bring three barrels of water back with him.  The apprentice was an enterprising young lad who knew that this task could take the better part of the day.

         He also knew that the old farmer had put his spent well to no use since it went dry, and took his water from the new one instead.  So, to gain some time, and make his life easier, he proceeded to dump the detritus of his masters art into the dry well.

     The farmer, returning from his fishing, saw the youngster and hailed him.  Not really caring about the well, he had intended to simply show the young man his "catch", and brag about his cleverness in finding a free source of food.

     But the apprentice was unimpressed, having been a student and having read two whole books in his life.  He affected full knowledge of the eating of foul waterlife, and even began to advise the farmer on how it should be prepared.

     Proposing that this one was best eaten with herbs, and this one was to be fried in the grease of sausages, and that certain kings of Siam thought that these were of the finest eating, provided they had been hatched as twins daring the dark of the moon, and were broiled with pears.

     Having come to the end of his information about the eating of grubs, the apprentice looked into the bucket at what was probably the ugliest newt he had ever seen.  All black yellow and orange, the little beastie was snub nosed, splay footed and pigeon toed at the same time!  An all together homely creature with no redeeming faculties.

     "This one,"he intoned, "is under ripe, and must mature for almost a year more.  He is hardly edible, and the best thing you could do is to throw him away."

     The farmer would not normally have done so, thinking it to be a waste of food.  He was tremendously lazy, and to toss away food and then have to get more was to do more work!  However, if you recall I told you about the payment to the farmer for his water.  That jug of strong drink was in his hand, and the cork had been long since pulled out and thrown away. Thinking no more of the waste, he tossed the newt into the well, and went on his sodden way.

     There would have been no more to this tale, if the apprentice had not found the well such a convenient place for disposing his master's wastes.  But as luck would have it he was back with more of the brewer's leavings almost four times each year, bearing three or more barrels. And the potent stuff worked a mighty change on the newt.  Had the apprentice not been so careless, he might have noticed deep gurgling sounds in the well each time he dumped the leavings.  Had the farmer not been so lazy or drunken he might have heard the strange roarings from the old well late at night.

     four years past, until one day the market for whiskey had faltered.  Less was in demand at that time, I think due to the increased production of stout beer.  This meant the apprentice was not to be coming to the old well to dump quite so often.  

     At last, the newt decided to climb out of the well. The brew had done it's work.  He was five foot high at the shoulder, and longer than ten cattle end to end with room to swing their tails.  Once in the light he took to growling and roaring something fierce, frightening cattle and people for miles.  His normal color was gone, his skin now being green with livid red spots, and his small newt-like feet had grown, while not in proportion to his body, to be long talloned claws.  His first actions were to destroy the farmer's hovel and to kill two herds of cattle on the nearest meadow.

     Hue and cry was raised, with men coming from miles around.  Of course he tossed them about like so many toys, roaring all the while.  No one could kill him and after a while no one wanted to try.

     I was there at the time, plying my trade as a bard, singing songs and spinning tales for the local gentry.  The patron I had at that time was an aging knight who loved his brew too well, and to keep him in better humor, it was wise to pour liberal glasses for him in the evening and have headache and stomach powders for him at dawn.  To facilitate this I took to going into town once a week, and buying seven of each.  Of course, there came a holiday, and knowing his family well, I went into town and

purchased ten times as much to satisfy his kin.

     Coming back I was alarmed to hear a bellowing roar from behind me.  The dragon, for the people had taken to calling it such, was hot on my trail!  I ran as fast as I could, but t'was to nought, for he brought me up against a stout oak, and made to eat me.  

     I was without sword or buckler, so I struck out with the only thing I had, the sack of medicines!  Before I could strike the beast snatched it in his jaws and swallowed it whole.

     All at once he stopped, and a most curious expression fell on his lizardine face.  He rumbled a bit, belched once, and then curled up to sleep like a kitten.  

     Needless to say, I was proclaimed a hero.  On my advice a steady diet of medicines were fed to the beast, and not once did he kill maim or plunder again.  It is this very thing that I think causes the Irish to do what they do; you see the poor beast had spent most of his life drunk or hung over, was there any doubt he would be mad?  My advice to England would be this:  Just leave them alone and send them headache powders!

 


 

 

     THE PRICE OF A PORK PIE

 

     (THIS TALE IS LOOSELY BASED ON "THE PRICE OF AN OX" FOUND IN THE ELDER EDDA, OR THE ICLANDIC CODEX IF YOU ARE A STICKLER FOR DETAIL.  THIS IS A TALE OF A LAZY OAF WHO TRADES AN OX OFF AND THROUGH PHENOMENAL GOOD LUCK BECOMES KING.  

     IN MY TALE, IT IS REALLY BAD LUCK AND IT ENDS IN A HORRIBLE MESS FOR THE MAIN CHARACTER.  IT IS ALSO GIVEN AS AN EXCUSE FOR NEVER EATING PORK, SINCE I LOATH THE TASTE OF THE ANIMAL ALMOST AS MUCH AS I LOVE DARK BEER.  (TALK TO ME LATER ABOUT THAT.  I TAKE BRIBES.)

     THIS IS THE SECOND MOST POPULAR OF MY TALES, AND THE ONLY ONE I HAVE HEARD ANOTHER BARD DO.)

 

     KNOW YOU THIS: there are three good things in the world; the taste of good mead, the singing of a good war-song, and the kisses of a good woman.

     But pay heed: there are no things more terrible than these; to wake in the morning after drinking too much mead, to be singing a war-song on your way to battle, and to be wholly in the power of a woman!

     Keep a careful ear on what I say, you young unmarried men, for this tale pertains especially to you!

 

     A long time ago, (and I will not say how long, for this tale concerns me,) I lived in a village with peculiar traditions.  One of those was that the eldest born boy should marry the girl of his choice, the fairest of the lot.  The second eldest would then marry the second most fair, and the third then should have his choice.  Being born quite late, I saw the fairest of the maids married far before I had a chance.  At length it was my turn, and the pickings were poor.  It was between an old maid of sixty winters with no teeth beneath her lips nor hair above her ears, and a sheep.  I must admit the sheep seemed the better of the two.

     I complained to my father that it seemed a bit unfair that I be required to marry with such poor pickings to choose from.  But he told me, "Son, a man is made noble and honorable by marriage, and if you do not marry, you will be fit for nothing but to go a Viking!"  I listened carefully to his words, and realized he was right.  I joined the first Viking ship I could find!

     Oh the life of a Viking!  How I wish you could see the world as I did from the deck of a longship.  Ah, the comrades, the smell of the sea, the rolling of the deck, the crack of the wind in the sails, the singing of the wind in the lines, the rolling of the deck, the pull of the oars, the rolling of the deck, the crash of the sea, the rolling of the deck, the rolling of the deck, and the rolling of the deck...Even now, I feel my spirit rising within me...

     At length we came to the shores of Scotland, a hard place of hard rocks and people with harder hearts.  We decided to split the crew into two groups of twenty, and search the country for booty.

     My own group of men encountered a group of a hundred armed Scotsmen on the road.  Now my lords and ladies, you know me.  I am no coward; but it seemed a bit unfair to me.  After all one hundred Scotsmen are hardly a fair fight for twenty Norsemen.  Why that's only five apiece!  A hero such as I cannot soil my hands with such a paltry brawl.  So I sat myself down, to wait until a few hundred more might show up.

     I sat down not far from the fight, beside the road, which was a short walk to the brush pile, that was a stone's throw from the ditch, which was a spear-cast or two from the fighting.  Fairly near.  Then I found my senses alerted by a most subtle and powerful magic;  Drifting on the air there came the scent of a pork pie.  It was glorious, this wafting perfume. I could not help but follow.  So I quite literally followed my nose to the source of this magic.

     There, in a clearing, I saw a small, blind hovel, with a narrow door, locked solid.  But around the back through a  single narrow window was the origin of the odor.  Inside, on a rude wooden table, lay the most perfect of all pork pies!

     Oh, the crust was a golden brown, with little tiny cuts all along the crest to let the tempting bits of pork peek through.  At the edges the crust was crimped in just such a way to let you see the flaky edge. And there, on one side, you could see just a drop or two of gravy dripping on the side.  It was truly the most perfect pork pie I had ever seen!  I had to have it!  I stuck my arm through the window and...

     And then, good gentles, I suffered the first of the curses the gods had laid upon me:  My arm was too short to reach through the window!  I stretched!  I strained! I cried! I cursed the very heavens!  But not one inch closer did I come to that beautiful pastry!

     Then it occurred to me; If I were to take off my helm, drop my axe, and cast aside my mail shirt, it might be possible to wriggle my way into the window.  Well to think was to do!  I threw aside my helm and axe.  I slid free of my mail shirt, and by turning and struggling and wiggling myself most cunningly I reached a point at which my feet just touched the ground outside and my body rested upon the table inside, and my hands were on that wonderful pork pie.

     Oh, my lords and ladies the crust was so tender!  And the sauce was so fragrant!  The tender cuts of pork were so flavorful!  I could not help myself!  I ate the whole thing right then and there!

     Then it was that the gods visited their second curse upon me; For that pork pie had so ruined my slim and boyish figure that I could not wriggle back out of the window!  I struggled!  I fought!  I scraped skin from my sides!  I strained! I cried! I cursed the very heavens!  But not one inch did I move from that accursed window!  I was trapped like a rabbit in the jaws of a dragon!  Here, I thought, is the worst thing that could happen to me! What could possibly be worse than this?

     Just then, someone began to lay most smartly upon my backside with a heavy stick.  On and on the blows rained down without let or slack.  I cried for mercy, but none was given.  Oh, the pain!  Oh, the indignity!  Oh, the damage to my asssssssssential nobility!

     When at length the blows ceased, I heard a voice say, "There!  And now I shall go fetch the village elders to see you punished as the thief you are!"

     "I am no thief!" I cried.  "I am a Norseman, and a nobleman besides!  I can pay for what I ate!"

     "Pay?" quoth the voice.  "What could a vagabond like you pay?  How much gold?"

     Now good gentles, it is a matter of common knowledge, one goes a-viking to make ones fortune.  Not to carry it about with you!   I had not two coins to rub together nor the purse to put them in.  

     "Take my axe," I cried.  "It is worth a hundred such pies!"

     "Not enough for me!" the voice replied.

     "Then take my mail shirt," I said. "It is worth a hundred such hovels!  A million such pies!  Take it and leave me in peace!"

     "Still not enough!" the voice returned.

     "Then what do you wish," I cried.

     "A husband!" came the reply

          It was then I noticed the voice was of a decidedly feminine nature.  Well, I was hardly in a position to bargain at that point, but I did not know what the lady looked like.  I knew that she could cook..."I am not about to take a pig in a poke," I shouted.  "I must know before I agree;  Are you young?"

     "Oh yes!" cried the voice. "As young a maid as the spring.  And as graceful as a deer!"

     "And are you fair?" I asked.  "And beautiful to behold?"

     "Oh, beautiful as the sunrise, and as lithe as the wind in the grass!"

     Well, I was not too sure she told the truth, but even if she was half as good looking as she said, her cooking would make her a prize.  "Very well," I said.  "I will see you married.

     Just then I was lifted like a babe and pulled, POP! Like a cork from a bottle free of the window, and I beheld the woman with which I had spoken.

     She was six-foot-five by six-foot-five by six-foot-five!  With long black greasy hair that hung down over her warty skinned yellow-grey hide.  Her nose was a misshapen lump above her slash of a mouth that was lined with evil, green teeth.  "A husband!" she cried! "At last I shall have a husband."

     I kicked her hard in what I took to be her chin, and hit the ground running for all I was worth.  All the way back through the forest, back over the roads.  Every step I took I could hear her massive tread, boom, boom, behind me like the hammer of Thor!

     When I reached the shore I saw my ship pulling away, for they thought me dead.  I leaped the last twenty paces from the shore to the deck, and taking the oars in my hands, I pulled us a good two arrow-shots from shore before I stopped.

     I saw her then, standing in the waves, screaming after me.  "YOU PROMISED ME A WEDDING!"

     "AND YOU SHALL HAVE ONE!" I yelled back. "JUST AS SOON AS I FIND YOU A BRIDEGROOM!"

 

     Now my lords and ladies, you know me;  I am an honest man, and my word is as true as any.  I have not been able to eat a pork pie, or even pork itself, since I made that vow.  It must be satisfied.  So I ask you, as a favor to me, is there a young man here who would marry this woman and free

me of this promise?  

           I thought not!


 

 

THE BAWDY TALES

 

     THESE WERE WRITTEN FOR THOSE LONG LONELY NIGHTS AT LILIES, AROUND

THE CAMPFIRE AT TWO A.M.

 

     THE SHOES OF THE MISER

 

     (THIS IS A TALE FOR ADULTS.  BY THIS I MEAN IT'S BAWDY, BUT NOT OBSCENE.  IT IS AN OLD ARABIC TALE THAT PREDATES THE RISE OF ISLAM, AND PROBABLY ORIGINATES NEAR THE BAGHDAD CALIPHATE.  IN FACT, IT''S SHORT SOME OF THE MORE QUESTIONABLE MATERIAL AND IS WORDED A LITTLE MORE LIKE OUR OWN MODERN LANGUAGE.  I COMPOSED THIS VERSION AS A CAMPFIRE TALE FOR LATE NIGHTS.)

 

     THERE WAS A YOUNG girl in the city of Baghdad who was fair beyond comparison.  The gods had blessed her with the grace of the wind and the beauty of a ripe fruit.  Her father was a merchant in the city, widely know n as a miser.  He would not even give curses to beggars!  So most people believed that the beautiful daughter of this miser was never to find a lover. Her father would never let anything from his grasp.

     Also in the city of Baghdad there was a young and handsome man.  He had glimpsed the miser's daughter, and wished to have her for his own.  But he knew what the townsfolk said of her father, and figured if he was going to get into the garden of her delights he would have to fool the gate-keeper.

     So one morning he put on a poor working-man's clothing and went to the market-place where men sit and wait to be hired.  He knew the miser would not pay well, so he would be hiring men most every week. Sure enough, the miser came to the market and began looking at the men for hire.  "Hire me," the young man said.  "I work for little money and eat little food."

     That was all that the miser needed to hear.  He hired him on the spot and led the young man to his home.  "Now," the young man thought, "I am in the house and it is only a matter of time before I will be alone with his daughter.

     But the young man found he had not one, but two problems;  The miser's wife was as fair and desirable as the daughter, making his choice near impossible, and the miser never let the young man out of his sight.  From dawn until late into the night he was always following after him, demanding he work harder.  It seemed the young man would never get to be alone with either of the lovely ladies.

     Then one day the miser heard that a market fair in another city was gathering great crowds.  He made up his mind that he should go and nothing would do but that his new hired man should go as well.  "But who will guard your wife and daughter?" the young man asked.  He hoped to be left at home with them.

     "They can guard themselves," the miser answered.  "Now go and pack for our journey!"

     While he was packing, the young man hit upon an idea. He pulled out the miser's best shoes and hid them under the bed.  Then he finished packing and lashed the packs to the back of a donkey.  They were just a stone's throw from the house, at the top of the hill, when the young man cried out; "Master!  I fear I have left your best shoes behind!"

     "Then check for them, lackwit!" the miser growled.  And of course when the pack was empty, no trace of the shoes was found.  "Go and fetch them!" the miser cried.  "I cannot go without them!  I shall wait here for your return."

     So the young man ran back down the hill, and beat on the door.  When the miser's wife came to the door, he told her; "My master has decided we may be gone for some time and he fears you will be lonely.  So he has commanded me to make love to you and to his daughter as well, to keep you from crying in his absence."  

     The wife was amazed.  "This I cannot believe! My husband asked you to make love to us?  Prove you are telling the truth!"

     So the young man called back up the hill.  "Good master," he cried. "Your wife does not believe me.  She wishes to know if I should just have one."

     "One?" cried the miser, "What good is that?  Both of them, foolish boy!  And be quick about it!"

 


 

 

    THE INADEQUATE HUSBAND

 

     (THIS IS ANOTHER ADULT TALE.  THE ARABS SEEM TO HAVE A REAL FLAIR FOR THE BAWDY.  I CLEANED IT UP A BIT, AND SET IT IN NORWAY FOR A CHANGE OF PACE.  IT HAS BEEN A STAPLE OF THE CAMPFIRE TALES FOR A FEW YEARS AND FITS IN WELL WITH THE OTHER SHORT BAWDY TALES GIVEN HERE.)

 

     A PRIEST CAME TO NORWAY as many had, and worked to establish a church in a village in the west of the country.  He was very successful in that he had converted most of the villagers to the Christian faith.  One day a prominent woman of the Norse came to him and demanded a divorce.  This disturbed the priest, and he tried to explain.  "The church does not allow divorce except in extreme circumstances.  Why do you wish to divorce you husband?"

     "My husband," she said, "does not have what a woman wants.  He is a good man but he is so poorly endowed he cannot give me his husbandly due."

     The priest was aghast.  "This is not a proper reason!  The church cannot give a divorce for that!

     "Then I will leave the church," she cried, "And go back to the old gods!  And more than that I will get the other women in the village to go with me!"

     The priest was frightened at this, and asked her to wait a few days while he searched the holy writ.  But not long after she left, the husband came in.  "Holy father," he cried, "You cannot give my wife a divorce!  If she leaves she will take all the money and goods she brought into our marriage, and I will be a poor man.  Should that happen I will not be able to give the generous gifts to the church you have enjoyed."

     "Now what am I to do?" the priest worried. "I must think on this problem and find a solution."

     The next day he called both the husband and the wife into the church and told them his plan. "It is not meet that the church give a divorce without proof of your husband's lack, so I will call the men of the village and ask them to look at your husband's nakedness and decide if you are justified in asking for a divorce.

     "No!" exclaimed the wife.  "Men do not know what a woman needs!  If any should be called in to judge, it should be the women!"

     "I cannot have your husband stand naked before the women of the village!"  The priest cried.  "There is only one way I could allow this;  I will bore a hole in the door of the church, and we will gather all the women of the village into the church.  Then your husband will go outside and place that part which he inherited from his father through the hole in the door.  All the women will then pass by the door and judge for

themselves if he is lacking in any way.  And to make sure your husband is not tempted into sin by this, I will stand beside him and pray with him."

     The wife agreed, and went to gather the women of the village.  When she was gone, the husband pleaded with the priest. "Holy father, I cannot do this!  My wife is right, I do not have as much of my father's inheritance as other men!"

     "Do not worry," the priest told him. "I will help you in this."

     When all the women were gathered into the church, the priest bored a hole in the door and shut the women inside.  Then he stood himself before the door, lifted his cassock, and placed what he had inherited through the door instead of the husband.

     As the women passed by, the first said, "Well, that is not too bad."

    The next said, "That is more than my husband has!"

     But as the third woman walked by, she cried out; "This is not your husband!  It is a fraud!"

     "What do you mean?"  asked the women around her.

     "It's the priest! I'd know him anywhere!"


 

 

     THE TALE OF TWO PERFECT GEESE

 

     (THIS BAWDY TALE IS AN ARABIC INVENTION OF SUCH QUALITY THAT IT ONLY TAKES A BIT OF CREATIVITY TO IMAGINE IT IN ANY TIME PERIOD.  I FOUND IT IN A BOOK IN THE JUVENILE SECTION OF MY LOCAL LIBRARY. KIDS BOOKS MUST BE A LOT MORE FUN THAN I REMEMBER.

     THIS VERSION IS TAKEN FROM A MUCH OLDER WORK, AND HAS GONE THROUGH SEVERAL REWRITES.  THE PUNCH LINE IS MINE FOR THE MOST PART.  THE ORIGINAL ENDED IN A WITTY BUT VERY DATED POETIC VERSE.

     THIS IS THE MOST REQUESTED OF MY STORIES.)

 

     KNOW OH NOBLES THAT at one time there were two most perfect geese.  And all day long these two geese would wander about a certain house and cry to Allah, "Thanks to you, oh Allah, for making us the two most perfect geese."

     In that house there dwelt a certain merchant who was both blessed and cursed.  He was blessed by living to a ripe old age, but cursed by having a young wife.

     This was not always a curse.  For the first year she was contented to be his wife.  The second year the money that he had was enough of a pleasure for her to stay with him.  But by the third year she began to yearn for the pleasures that a younger man could bring.  That year she began to take to her a young lover.  He was poor but comely, and she was greatly pleased with him.

     In the morning, the old merchant would kiss his young wife goodbye, and go to the haman, or public bath house, and she would welcome her lover from the bushes where he hid.  In the evening She would kiss her young lover goodbye, and bid him hide while she kissed her husband welcome home from his day of work.  And so her days were spent, with the heat of youth in the heat of the day, and the cool of age in the cool of the night.

     One day she said to her lover, "I am so pleased with you, I would give you anything you wanted."  The young man thought about this and replied, "I would like to have one of those geese that wander about this house.  I would love to have a good goose dinner!"

     "You shall have it," she replied,. "In fact I shall cook both geese and you shall have them all, and my husband will not have even one drop of the gravy!"

     That evening she kissed her young lover goodbye, and soon after welcomed her husband home.  She laid out the dinner cloth, and then sat weeping into her veil most piteously.  "Why are you crying?" asked her husband.  "You must think I am the ugliest woman alive.  I must be vile in your sight.  For you have never brought guests into our home." She sobbed harder than before.

     Her husband tried to calm her.  "It is not true. I will bring three guests home tomorrow."

     But this made her cry all the more.  "You must think I am the worst cook in all the world!  My food must be as poison to you! You have never brought anyone home to eat with us!"

     The husband got an idea.  "I will bring three guests to dinner tomorrow, and in the morning I will buy you the finest meats to cook!"

     "Oh," the wife cried, "do not waste the money.  We have the two most perfect geese wandering about the house.  Kill them and give them to me to cook."

     So the next morning the merchant caught the geese and wrung their necks and gave them to his wife.  Then she kissed him goodbye and he went to the haman.

     She took the geese and cleaned them.  Then she stuffed them most cunningly with sweet breads and figs and nuts, and wrapped them in grape leaves.  Just as she put them into the oven, her young lover came, and she told him, "The geese must roast a while.  Perhaps there is something we could do as we wait?"  So as the two geese baked below, the two lovers baked above.

     When the geese were cooked, she gave them both to him, kissed him goodbye, and bid him good eating.  Then she laid out the dinner cloth and waited.

     The old merchant came in with the first guest, and told her, "I must go and meet the other two guests at the end of the street.  Please make this one at home and I will return shortly.

     But as soon as he left, she began to weep into her veil again.  The guest, trying to be polite, asked her what troubled her. "It is not for me I cry," she said, "But for you.  My husband does not trust me and fears I have a lover.  He wishes to get a eunuch  to guard me, but he is a tight-fisted miser, and will not buy one.  So he has lured you to this house, and as soon as he returns with his friends, they will take from you those gifts that you inherited from your father!"

     The guest was horrified.  "What can I do?"

     "I cannot see this happen to you," the young wife said, "I have an idea!  I will go to the kitchen, where there are rags, and make up a bundle of them for you.  When you have them, run out into the alley and put them on.  My husband will search for you, but find only a ragged beggar."  So she took up the dinner cloth and made a great show of wrapping it about the rags.

     When she was near done, and handed the bundle to the guest, her husband came in the door with two more guests.  "Run!" she whispered to the first guest.  "Run to keep your manhood!"

     As soon as the guest heard this he leaped through the window clutching the bundle to his chest.  At that moment the wife ran to her husband shouting, "Thief!  Thief!  That guest you brought home has stolen both the geese, and we shall have nothing for dinner!"

     At this the husband and both the other guests dove out the window as well and began to chase the first guest.  When he saw they chased him he cried out and ran even harder.  "Stop," they shouted at him.  "Never!" he cried.

     At last the husband became weary of running, and he called after him, "All right, we can deal!  We don"t need to take both of them, you can keep one!"

 


 

 

THE TRADITIONAL TALES

      COMPOSED FOR THE AUTHENTICITY POLICE.  (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!)

     A WISE MULLAH

 

     (THIS IS ANOTHER ARABIC TALE, MEMORIZED FOR THE REIGN OF TOMEKEE

AND FIONA.  IT IS TAKEN DIRECTLY FROM THE THOUSAND AND ONE ARABIAN

NIGHTS AND CONTAINS MANY SHORT TALES OF A MULLAH, OR TEACHER OF

HE LAW IN THE ISLAMIC FAITH.  THESE STORIES ARE NOT INTENDED TO BELITTLE THE ISLAMIC PEOPLES, BUT ARE TOLD MUCH THE SAME WAY WE TELL STORIES ABOUT MINISTERS, RABBIS, AND PRIESTS.  THE TALES ARE REWORDED FOR SCA USE, AND WORK WELL TOGETHER OR AS SHORT ANECDOTES.  THEY WERE PRESENTED AS CAMPFIRE TALES.)

 

     THERE WAS A WISE MULLAH in the lands of Allah who taught in the streets and the market place.  He was much respected by the people for his wisdom in the writings and his knowledge of Mohammed.  But he was best known for his wit, which some said was sharper than the headsman's axe and twice as final.

     One day the Mullah and his wife were in the village buying goods for the feast to be held that week.  He saw a man he had counseled to the faith and who had yet to renounce his infidel Christian ways.  He walked up to the man and greeted him with a holy blessing.

     "I thank you" the infidel replied. "And how do you fare, good Mullah?"

     The Mullah answered him.  "I am blessed by Allah with a good wife and many fine children.  You can see how Allah blesses the true believers in this land.  You are still a bachelor, and an infidel.  I am sure that if you took up the true faith Allah would grant you a wife."

     The young man answered, "I am not convinced that getting a wife is enough to make me convert."

     The Mullah had perceived that this young man was quite taken with the fairer sex, and so he explained to him; "Mohammed, in his wisdom, decreed that it was  Allah's will that a man be allowed to have as many wives as he wishes.  I know that your infidel faith does not allow more than one wife."

     This impressed the young man.  "This is true.  I might be persuaded by such an argument."

     At this time the Mullah's wife began to shout after him, calling in a most ungracious way to cease his gossiping and carry her purchases.  This caused the infidel to ask; "If you are allowed many wives, why is it that you, a Mullah have only one wife?"

     "The answer is simple," the Mullah replied. "The prophet said it was allowed, he never said it was a good idea!"

 

 

 

     THE WISE MULLAH was not a rich man, but he lived next door to a wealthy goldsmith who was a Jew.  The fact that he was a Mullah merited him his place in so wealthy a neighborhood, but it did not make him popular with his neighbors.  Every day he would go out on the street in front of his house and spread his prayer rug.  Then in a loud voice he would cry "Allah, I have served you many years.  Oh you are just.  But would that you give me one hundred gold coins, as a reward for my work.  My good neighbor is a Jew and an infidel, yet you have made him rich.  If it is not against your will, let me have one hundred gold pieces."

     For an hour each day he would pray this way.  One morning the goldsmith said to himself, "I will shut him up.  it will be a small price to pay!"  So he took up the purse at his belt, that contained eighty-seven gold pieces, and threw it into the air in such a way that it fell to the earth as if from heaven right in front of the Mullah.  Plop!

     At first the Mullah was overjoyed, and praised Allah, but soon he counted it and resumed his prayers.  "Oh merciful and generous Allah, I did ask for one hundred pieces of gold, and here you have given me eight-seven.  I know that if a faithful man prays you will give him what he asks, so I will not keep this.  Instead I shall give it to my neighbor, who is a Jew and an infidel, that he may see the generosity of Allah, and change his ways."

     Then the Mullah took the purse to the goldsmith and went his way.  The goldsmith was amazed, and said to himself "I must test this further."  So the next day he prepared a purse with one hundred and one pieces of gold, and waited until the Mullah went out to pray.  Once again the Mullah cried, "Allah, I have served you many years.  Oh you are just. But would that you give me one hundred gold coins, as a reward for my work.  My good neighbor is a Jew and an infidel, yet you have made him rich.  If it is not against your will, let me have one hundred gold pieces."

     Then the goldsmith threw this purse into the air as the last one, and it landed in front of the Mullah, plop!  Once again the Mullah seemed overjoyed, but when he counted the coins he said, "Oh Allah, you are indeed merciful, I asked for one hundred pieces of gold, and you have given me one hundred and one.   I know that if a faithful man prays you will give him what he asks, so I will not keep the extra one coin.  Instead I shall give it to my neighbor, who is a Jew and an infidel, that he may see the generosity of Allah, and change his ways."

 

     THE WISE MULLAH was sitting in the market place, teaching, when three boys ran past him in a great rush.  "Get out of our way, old one," they cried.  "We are chasing the sweetmeat seller."

     "Stop that!" cried the students of the Mullah. "Have you no respect for a wise and famed Mullah?"

     "Let it pass," said the Mullah.  In time Allah will deal  with them.

     Soon three young men ran past, upsetting the Mullah's stool.  "Find somewhere else to sit, greybeard!" they cried. "There are girls to be chased!"

     "Immoral!" cried the students.  "Have you no respect for a wise and learned Mullah?"

     "Let it pass," said the Mullah.  In time Allah will deal  with them.

     Then at noon three married men ran up to the Mullah. "Hide us oh wise Mullah!" they cried.  Our wives are chasing after us!"

     "There," said the Mullah.  "Hide yourselves in the camel stalls.  Lay beneath the camels and your wives will not find you."

     Then he turned to his students.  "Allah is wise. If you chase after pleasure, pleasure will chase after you.  If a fool knocks a wise man into the dirt, he ends up in dung."

 

     THE WISE MULLAH AND HIS WIFE heard another Mullah proclaiming wisdom.  "Allah has seen the infidel and has seen they are as many as the seeds on the wind.  Therefore it is good that we all make children to strengthen the faith.  In fact it is said that Allah builds a mansion in heaven every time a man makes love to his wife, as a reward for your faithfulness.

     That evening, the Mullah's wife waked him. "Come," she said, let us build a mansion in heaven.  

     "Very well," he replied, and proceeded to do his duty.

     An hour or so later she awakened him again. "Oh," she cried, "we have a son in the army!  We should build a mansion for him, for he may not live to build his own!"

     "Very well," said the Mullah, and he proceeded again to his husbandly duty.

     Perhaps another hour went by, and she cried again. "Our other son is so young; what if he should die?  We should prepare a mansion for him as well!"

     "Very well," said the Mullah, and he proceeded again to his husbandly duty.

     Then after another hour she cried yet again.  "I have a maiden aunt who is so old she may die at any time.  We should prepare a mansion for her swell!"

     "Wait!" cried the Mullah.  "We must buy torches!"

     "Why?" asked his wife.

     "Tomorrow Allah must make the sun rise.  He will have no time now if he builds all those mansions!"

 


 

 

     THE CHAMPION OF SCOTLAND

 

     (THIS IS A BRAGGING TALE, OR WHAT WE IN THE PRESENT DAY WOULD CALL A LIAR'S TALE.  THE SOURCE FOR THIS STORY WAS A GREAT UNCLE OF MINE WHO DIED IN 1965.  HE WAS WELL KNOWN FOR HIS LIES, AND BEING OF SCOTTISH DESCENT, HE MADE LOCATING THIS STORY'S ORIGIN MUCH EASIER.

I'VE HEARD IT TOLD MANY DIFFERENT WAYS, USING DIFFERENT COUNTRIES OR PLACE-NAMES.  THE COUNTRIES USED HERE ARE WHAT I LIKE TO THINK ARE THE ORIGINALS.  BUT I'M A LITTLE PREJUDICED I THINK.)

 

     THERE WAS A MAN in Ireland who had little luck in farming, and less luck in cutting peat.  He had outright failed in making whiskey, and washed out of the horse-trading at the Dublin fair.  In fact, there were many who would say if he had not been lucky enough to marry, he would have had no luck at all.  (There were a few who might point out his wife and say such luck is no man's joy.)  But to get to the heart of the tale, he was without any redeeming qualities whatsoever.

     There were but two things he did well; fight and brag.  This is not to say he was shunned by his neighbors.  Just the opposite was true.  Since fighting and bragging constitute the two chiefest entertainments in that country,

he was quite popular.  It was just that he had no money, nor had he a method of making any.

     One year the Dublin fair boasted a huge hulk of a man thought to be the champion of Dublin at the fighting bare handed.  So sure were they that a purse of silver was offered to any who could beat him.  The luckless man thought to himself, "What harm could there be in me trying him?  I've so little luck that I would be injured far worse in trying to make that much money any other way."  So he climbed into the circle and quick as a wink he had put the big man down for the counting.  Here he was no longer luckless, for now he was the champion of the Dublin fair.  He took home the silver and his wife was so happy that she told the whole county that her man was the champion of Dublin.

     Now there were those who thought themselves better men than he, and they began to offer him purses to fight them as well.  Before too long he was the champion of two counties, then four, then seven, then eleven.  By the end of two years he had fought every  champion in Ireland and was considered himself to be The Champion of Ireland itself!

     He was so proud that he had his wife sew in large letters on his coat "The Champion of Ireland."  And all the men in all the public houses knew his name.  He had so much money, he no longer fought for purses, but offered them himself if he thought enough of the man.

     Then one day a merchant came to town, and when he was introduced to the Champion he exclaimed; "Now I have seen a great wonder! Two champions of two separate countries in one month!  Not twenty days ago I saw the man who was champion of Scotland!"

     The comment began to gnaw at the champion.  There was a Champion of Scotland.  If he could but go there and win against this man, he could be champion of both Ireland and Scotland.  What a grand thing to be! Perhaps then he could see if there was a champion of England as well...

     His wife agreed, it might be grand to be the champion of two countries.  So she packed him food and clothing and a small hoard of coin and kissed him as he left.  He sailed to Scotland that night.

     After he landed in Scotland, he began to search for the Champion.  everyone he asked pointed him north, into the highlands.  The roads got narrower and narrower, and steeper and steeper, until at last it turned into a squirrel's trail and went up the side of a tree.  But it was well packed every inch of the way!  Beside that tree was a tiny, ramshackle house, and on it's porch was a tiny dried up woman who could scarcely weigh as much as a fat hen.   When he asked her where the champion of Scotland was, she pointed him to the rear of the house.  "He's plowing the field," she said.

     There behind the shack was a field almost straight up and down, a half day's climb in length.  Going up this sheer cliff was a giant of a man, seven foot tall and three foot wide at the shoulder!  He was driving a plow, that was pulled by two wild bulls that he kept in line with cursing and kicks and blows.  Over his shoulder was a mattress tic, filled with thirty bushels of seed that he scattered with his other hand.   When he reached the far end of the field, he reached out and knocked out both bulls with one punch, lifted the plow and bulls together,turned them all around, and then slapped the bulls awake and started back.

     The champion of Ireland watched him come closer, and set his jaw.  He drew himself up and shouted;  "You, man!  I've come seeking the Champion of Scotland!  Are you he?"

     "Aye," the big man growled.  "I am he. What is your business?"

     The Irishman said, "I've just come to tell you you're the Champion of Ireland, too!"

 


 

 

THE WICKED BLACKSMITH

 

     (I LEARNED THIS TALE YEARS AGO FROM A MASTER STORYTELLER IN THE FORM OF AN OLD AMERICAN TALE.  I KNEW IT HAD TO BE OLDER THAN THAT, AS IT GIVES AN EXPLANATION OF THE "JACK O'LANTERN" AT THE END.  IN DOING SOME RESEARCH I FOUND IT ORIGINATES IN THE CELTIC REGION, PERHAPS IN IRELAND.  I HAVE ONLY RECENTLY ADAPTED IT BACK TO AN IRISH TALE, BUT I LEFT IT WITH A CHRISTIAN THEME, AS I CANNOT FIND A PRE-ST. PATRICK VERSION THAT WOULD FIT THE STORY.

     IT REQUIRES MUCH IN THE WAY OF THEATRICS THAT I CANNOT EXPLAIN HERE.  BUT THE MASTER STORYTELLER I SAW DID NONE OF THE OVER ACTING I NORMALLY DO AND HE GOT RAVE REVIEWS ANYWAY.  THIS ONE APPEALS TO THE KID IN ALL OF US.)

 

     THERE WAS IN DUBLIN a very wicked blacksmith by the name of John.  Oh, by Saint Patrick he was a wicked, evil man.  He was never above doing the two things that are sure to send a blacksmith to the infernal regions:  charging too much, and beating cold iron! If it was raining, the man would complain to all how dry it was.  And if you had just washed your cloak, or groomed your horse, he was sure to find a reason to scatter dust about and make a great filth!  There was never a more contrary man!

     One day there came to the town an old dirty beggar-man.  He was so frail that it took four walking-sticks to keep him upright.  He moved so slow and frail that it seemed the wind of a misspoken word might tip him over.  Everyone in the town that came upon him found some reason to walk to the far side of the road, none of them willing to stretch their Christian charity to speak a decent word to him.

     When John saw the old man, and how the townsfolk shunned him, he said to himself; "Now here is a chance to make these holier-than-thou people feel bad!  I shall invite in this wretched man, and treat him as they should have!"  So he invited in the old man and set him in his best chair, the one that was set on rockers.  And he set before him a feast of two hens roasted whole, and a bowl of a dozen apples, and a full pitcher of fresh milk made cool in the stream.

     To his amazement, the old man ate both the hens in one bite!  Then he emptied the bowl as well, and drank the pitcher of milk as if it were a thimble.  John did not know what to say.  The old man seemed not effected by the meal at all, but looked if anything more frail than before!

     At length, John regained his voice.  "Is there anything else you'll be wanting?" he asked.  But before he could rise the old man started to get up, and up, and up, until he was a full ten feet tall! His rags had turned to a shining white robe, and his face was a shining light.

     "I am Saint Michael," the guest said. "Long I wandered looking for a man who would take in a pitiful stranger. Only you, of all the men in the world, took me in.  For that deed of Christian kindness, I will give you three wishes.

     But listen, John;  I have seen the book that Saint Peter keeps at the door of Heaven!  You might want to keep one of those wishes to the saving of your soul!

     But John seemed not to hear.  "Three wishes! Well for the first, do you see that rocking chair?  Not a day goes by but some oaf sits and comes near to breaking it!  I wish that if anyone sits in it but me, it will rock them 'till they wish to die!

     Saint Michael agreed.  "Very well.  It is done. Now remember your soul, and take care with your last two wishes."

     But still John was not listening.  "Do you see those tools?  It has taken me a lifetime to get them all, yet every fool who comes here is trying to borrow them!  I wish that anyone who touches my hammers will find that they will beat their brains out!"

     The angel nodded.  "It will be as you ask.  You have but one last wish, John.  You should take care and see to the rest of your soul!"

     But John would hear none of it.  "And that thorn-bush outside; it is a favorite of mine.  Yet every day some fool drives his horses or oxen over it an near kills it 'neath their hooves!  I wish that if anyone touches it, that it will grab them up and sink every thorn in them until they die!"

     Saint Michael sighed.  "Well, it is done.  That was all your wishes, and not one was for the saving of your soul.  Take care, John.  Repent your ways before the end does come.

     Well, the day did come when John was to die.  The Devil, knowing there was no chance of John going anywhere else, called a small demon to him and said; "Go above and fetch John the blacksmith.  He is a goodly wicked man and I've a fine hot fire for him!"

     The demon was off in a small puff of smoke, and he appeared in the front of John's shop.  "Put down your hammer," he told him.  "Your time is up.  The Devil has sent me to take you below."

     John waved him away.  "I'm not going while I still have work.  These horse-shoes are not yet done.  You can sit and wait!"

     So the little demon looked about and spied the rocking chair.  "I'll just sit here," he said, and sat himself down to rock.  he rocked and rocked, thenWHAM-BAM!  It slammed him to the floor both front and rear!  "Whathappened?" he wondered.  So he began to rock again carefully.  He rocked, and rocked, and WHAM-BAM! it slammed him front and rear again!  And before he could breathe a word, WHAM WHAM WHAM WHAM! it began to slam his head to the floor both before the chair and behind!  

    "Help!  Oh help!" he cried.  "I will die if I get no help!"

     "If I let you go will you swear to leave and never bother me again?" John asked.

     "Oh yes oh yes oh yes!" the little demon sobbed.

     So John said "Let him go!"  And the chair threw the demon up in to the air, and he landed with a plop.  He then vanished in a puff of smoke, reappearing in the infernal regions.

     "Well," said the Devil, "Where's John."

And the little demon sobbed; "IwasgoingtogeddhimbutthechairIsatinwent BAMBMAMBAManithurtsomuchIhaddatellhimIwouldn'tcomebaccause ithurtsooooomuch..."

     "That John isn't going to get away from me," the Devil cried, and he called in a great big demon and said; "Go above and fetch John the blacksmith.  He is a goodly wicked man, and I've a fine hot fire for him."

     "No problem," the demon smiled, and disappeared, whomf! in a great cloud of smoke.  He reappeared outside John's shop, whomf!  "Put down your hammer," he told him.  "Your time is up.  The Devil has sent me to take you below."

     John waved him away.  "I'm not going while I still have work.  These horse-shoes are not yet done.  You can sit and wait!"

     "Nothing doing!" the demon snarled, "I heard about your chair!"

     John thought a moment and said, "As soon as I finish these shoes, I'll go.   But if you help, it would go a lot faster!"

     The demon agreed, but just as soon as he selected a hammer and started to work the iron, something happened.  Tap, tap, tap, he struck the horse-shoe, then BAM! The hammer struck him in the head!  He looked at it carefully, then once again he started.  Tap, tap, tap, he struck the horseshoe, then BAM! The hammer struck him in the head again!  Then before he could move the hammer started pounding him, BAMBAMBAMBAM, right between the eyes!

    "Help!  Oh help!" he cried.  "I will die if I get no help!"

     "If I let you go will you swear to leave and never bother me again?" John asked.

     "Oh yes oh yes oh yes!" the big demon sobbed.

     So John said "Let him go!"  And the hammer hit the demon up in to the air, and he landed with a plop.  He then vanished , WHOMF! In a big cloud of smoke, reappearing in the infernal regions.

     "Well," said the Devil, "Where's John."

     And the big demon bellowed; "IwasgoingtogeddhimbuthesaidIshouldhelpmake theshoesanthehammerwentBAMBMAMBAManithurtsomuchIhaddatellhimIwouldn'tcomebackcauseithurtsooooomuch..."

     The Devil said, "If you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself!"  So he began to climb up out of the pit, to fetch back John.

     John was still working on the horse-shoes when the ground began to shake.  Then the earth cracked open and great clouds of brimstone smoke filled the air.  With a huge gout of fire, the Devil rose out of the ground, his hooves as big around as serving platters and his horns as wide as two men's' shoulders.  "John!" he shouted, "I've come to take you down below!"

     John waved him away.  "I'm not going while I still have work.  These horse-shoes are not yet done.  You can sit and wait!"

     "None of your tricks!  I've heard about your chair, and I've heard about your tools!"  the Devil cried.  "Nothing will stop me!  You're coming now!"

     John set his jaw, and looked the Devil in the eye. "Well then, if you think you can take me, just try!"

     And they fell to fighting and kicking.  Blood was spilled and teeth were lost!  It looked bad for John, for not too far into the fight, he was in the clutches of the Devil, those talon Ed hands wrapped about his throat.  Then he noticed they were next to the thorn-bush.  With the last of his strength he rolled them over until the Devil was right in the middle of the thorns.

     Quick as a wink the thorn bush lashed out and wrapped tighter and tighter around the Devil, squeezing inward until there was no more than a tight little ball of thorns no bigger than a child's fist on the ground.

     John walked up to the ball and he asked, "Devil, are you in there?"

     And a tiny voice replied, "Yes sir."

     "Are you going to go away and never bother me again?"

     "Yes sir.  Oh yes indeedy!"

     "Let him go!" John cried, and the thorn-bush shot the devil up and up like a shooting star.  Then he crashed into the ground with a thundering roar that shook the earth for hours.

     Well, John lived many years past that time, and of course the time came when he would have to die.  All things must die, and it was his time.  Since no one came to take him away, John collected his tools and started off himself, on the long climb into Heaven.  He climbed up and up, and finally came to the gates of Paradise.  He pounded on them, and Saint Peter came running out to see what all the noise was.  "Why it's John the blacksmith!  We weren't expecting you!"

     "Why not?" John asked.  "I've died and I must go somewhere."

     "Well," Saint Peter said, "We must look in the book  and see if you're welcome here."  With that he pulled out a huge book and turned to a page.  "John!  My oh my, this page shows all the good things you've done on earth.  It has only one entry;  You fed an old beggar-man.  That's hardly enough to get you in here."  

     Then Saint Peter turned to the next page.  "This page will list all the bad things you've done."  But before he could continue, the page began to unroll, and rolled out the gates, over two or three clouds, and fell off the edge.  "Oh John!" Saint Peter shook his head.  "This won't do!  we can't let you in Heaven!"

     "Well then, where do I go?"  There was only one place, so John started down, down, down to the infernal regions.  It got darker and hotter and far more evil than he could have imagined.  Out there on a dismal plain some small demons were playing catch with a fireball.  As John approached, one of the little demons caught a glimpse of him.  It was the little one the Devil had sent up first.

     "OH NO!" the demon cried, "JOHN'S A'COMMIN'!"  And he ran up to the gates screaming.  He  ran all the way into the throne room of the pit, crying

"John's a'commin'!  John's a'commin'!"

     And the Devil cried "JOHN?  Lock all the gates! Bar all the windows!  Guard all the walls!  He won't get in here!"

     When John knocked at the gate, the Devil cried out, "Go away!  We don't want you!"     "Let me in!" John called, "I've died, and they won,t let me in Heaven.  I must go somewhere!"

     "Not here!" the Devil replied.  "No room for you in here!"

     "Then where should I go?"

     The Devil thought a bit, then he reached into the hottest part of the pit, and pulled out a glowing, white hot coal.  This he threw over the wall to John.  "Here!" the Devil shouted!  "Go raise some hell of your own!"

 


 

 

     THE THEFT OF THOR'S HAMMER

 

     (MOST ANYONE WHO IS FAMILIAR WITH THE MYTHOLOGY OF THE NORSE WILL RECOGNIZE THIS TALE.  THE VERSION I USE IS FROM THE ICELANDIC CODEX, THE OLDEST EXTANT COLLECTION OF NORSE TALES.  THIS TRANSLATION IS HARDLY FAITHFUL TO THE ORIGINAL, AS I TOOK GREAT LIBERTIES WITH IT TO CREATE THIS VERSION, THAT WAS TOLD THE FIRST TIME TO A GATHERING OF CHILDREN.)

 

 

     GATHER 'ROUND GOOD PEOPLE, for I've a tale to tell, of gods and war and mystery.  This is an old tale, some say older than the mountains, and I did hear it from another bard called Snorri.  He may have heard it from Thor himself.  But knowing how storytellers lie, I very much doubt he did.

     'Tis a tale of old Thor Himself, lord of thunder and guardian of gods and men.  Strong and mighty was he, and honest and brave and simple.  This was his greatest weakness, for he was simple, both of heart and mind.  He was as strong as an ox, they say, and almost as smart.

     But for all that Thor did lack of brains, his strength and courage were second to none!  'Twas he that kept Asgard safe from the marauding giants, slaying hundreds of them with his mighty hammer mjolnir.

     One morning he woke in his war-hall and stretched out a hairy arm to pick up his beloved hammer.  His fingers felt all over the table beside his bed.  Then as the truth did work it's way into his brain, his eyebrows shot up.  Then his mouth turned down at both it's corners.  Then his beard began to shake from it's red roots to it's curling red tips. "WHAAAAAAGH!" her bellowed so loudly that all of Asgard did shake. "SOMEONE HAS STOLEN MY HAMMER!"

     As quick as he could he searched every corner of Asgard, fuming and bellowing. at last he found Loki, the trickster most cunning, god of fire and blacksmiths, the least trustworthy of all the gods. If anyone could have stolen Thor's hammer, Loki could.  

     But Thor remained remarkably calm.  He walked slowly up to Loki and said "Good day, my half-brother.  Have you been busy this day, my half-brother?  HAVE YOU BEEN BUSY STEALING MY HAMMER?  WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH MJOLNIR???"

     (Well, that is calm for Thor...)

     Of course Loki said "I...didn't...see...it..."  And after some serious pleading, Thor put him down.  Loki might lie, cheat, and steal.  But if he was nothing else, he was a coward.  Just looking into Thor's red eyes would

make anyone talk.     But if Loki didn't have it, who did?  And if it wasn't in Asgard, where was it?

     Then Loki hit upon an idea; the two of them went to Freyja, the most beautiful of the goddesses, and queen of the valkiries, (Who chose the best warriors slain upon the field to live in valhall.)  Loki asked her, " Please, good Freyja, would you lend me your white feather cloak, for Thor's hammer is missing, and we must find it."

     Well, Freyja was blessed with eyes that see the truth, and when she heard that mjolnir was indeed lost, she knew that Asgard was in trouble.  "Take my cloak," she said.  "I would give it to you even if it were gold!"

     Loki pulled on the feather cloak and, {CLAP} became a white raven just like that.  Off he flew all around the worlds until he came to the land of the giants, Jontheim.

     In that land, on a huge burial mound sat the king of the giants, Thrym.  He was huge!  Black haired and black bearded with great wide hands.  He was grooming a heard of horses that were no bigger than sheep to him!

     Now there is something you should know;  giants are very big and very strong, but they are not very bright.  You remember how simple I told you Thor was?  Well compared to the giants he was a genius!  But giants have something almost as good as brains:  They know magic!  So when Thrym saw a white raven flying overhead, he saw right through the spell and saw Loki underneath.  The giant king smiled evilly.  "Loki!" he called. "How is everything in Asgard?  Why are you here all alone?"

     Loki stayed high above the giant's reach, and called down.  "Terrible news for the gods.  I'm afraid Thor's hammer is missing."

     Thrym began to laugh.  He laughed so hard that boulders on the nearby mountains started to roll around.  "Oh I know that," he sneered.  "I've buried the thunder-hammer eight leagues beneath the earth.  If you ever want to see it again, bring me the beautiful Freyja to be my bride!"

     Loki flew back to Asgard, and the second he removed the cloak and turned back to himself, Thor grabbed his arm.  "Tell me what you found!"

     Loki was afraid to tell the thunder god what he'd heard, so he put him off.  "Let me rest a minute."  "No," the thunderer growled, his red beard bristling.  "Men who sit down forget what they have to say, and those who lie down lie!"

     "Thrym has your hammer," Loki told him. "He will only get it back if he gets Freyja to be his wife!"

     So Thor took Freyja's cloak back to her.  When he gave it back he told her, "There is only one way to get my hammer; you must come to Jontheim with me and marry Thrym."

     Now how would you feel if I said you must marry the biggest, stupidest, ugliest person in the world.  That's exactly how Freyja felt.  She stamped her foot and screamed.  "ARRRRGH!  I would have to be absolutely man-crazy to marry a stupid, ugly, nasty creature like Thrym!  I won't do it no matter how many hammers he has stolen!"

     All the gods held council, since this was very important.  After all, Thor was all that kept the giants out of Asgard. Without his hammer he wouldn't be able to stop them.

     But over to one side sat Heimdall, the guardian of the rainbow bridge that connects the earth to Asgard.  (His eyes were so keen that he could see the hairs on a cat's head all the way across the world.  And some say he could see into tomorrow.)  Heimdall stood up and said "I have a plan.  Let's get one of Freyja's dresses, some of her jewelry, and a heavy veil.  We could put them on Thor.  Thrym would never know the difference!"

     "WHAT?" Thor bellowed.  "Put me in a dress?  Make me up like a girl?Never!!  I won't stand for it!!"  He ranted and raved so it took most of the gods to hold him down.

     But crafty Loki liked the plan, (besides, seeing Thor in a bridal dress  was too good to miss!)  "We have no choice!" he said.  "If we don't give Thrym a bride, you won't get your hammer back! So hold your tounge.  I too will put on a dress and go as your bride's maid."

     So they put him in a dress, put a veil on his face, and a wig of horsehair on his own red locks.  Loki put on a dress and fetched the thunderer's chariot, pulled by the two great goats.

     When at last they left, Thor drove the magic goats hard, splitting mountaintops left and right.  The wooden wheels rumbled thunder from the very clouds.

     Thrym heard the thunder, and knew it was Thor's chariot.  But when he saw who was driving he was overjoyed.  (Remember, I told you that giants know magic.  But Thor wasn't disguised by spells. It was only dress, powder, and paint.  And since giants are not too bright, Thrym felt sure that the driver had to be his blushing bride.)

     He ran to his mead-hall, kicking his lazy subjects awake.  "Up, you foul ogres! Freyja is come to be my bride!"  Four whole oxen were roasted to make the feast, along with sixteen whole salmon and twenty barrels of ale.

     Once the 'bride' had arrived Thrym took them inside and showed them to the high seat for feast.  He spoke to his 'bride' and teased her, but Thor refused to speak.  This alarmed Thrym, and he turned to Loki and asked, Why does she not talk?"

     Loki answered "Oh, my lord, she was so excited when she heard that she was to be your wife, she shouted for joy for eight whole days.  She has made herself hoarse."

     This seemed to satisfy the giant king, so they started to feast.  Now giants eat quite a lot, but no one ate as much as the 'bride', who ate on whole ox, eight whole salmon, all of the cakes, and washed it down with four barrels

of ale!

     "How can she eat so much?"  Thrym cried. "I have never seen a woman eat so much!"  But crafty Loki answered, "Oh, my lord, she was so happy when she heard she was to be your wife, she couldn't eat a thing in eight days!"

     This seemed to satisfy the giant.  (Well, I told you he was stupid!)  Later in the feast he got the idea to steal a kiss from his 'bride'.  He lifted up the veil just a little, and dropped it again in fear. "Her eyes!" her cried.  "Her eyes are so red and fierce!"

     But crafty Loki replied, "Oh, my lord, she was so excited about being your wife that she hasn't slept in eight days!"

     Thrym looked troubled, but he believed the trickster. "She hasn't slept or eaten and has been rejoicing for eight days!  Let us not delay the wedding!  Let us be married now!"

     Thor almost jumped, but the always plotting Loki interrupted.  "Oh good king Thrym, Shouldn't you bring out Thor's hammer mjolnir to honor your part of the bargain?"

     Thrym thought a bit, (which was hard for him,) and cried, "Bring out the hammer, and lay it across her knees."

     But when the hammer touched Thor's knees, he snatched it up and struck Thrym  in the forehead...{pause, try again striking higher,} he struck Thrym a mighty blow, killing him all at once!  Then he proceeded to clear the mead-hall.  One by one all the giants foolish enough to try him fell. All the others ran away.

     And that is the tale of the theft of Thor's hammer, and how he won it back again.  And there is a moral that all men should remember:  Before you go to wed, look hard behind the wedding veil!  

 


 

 

            POEMS AND SONGS

 

      THE ART OF THE BARD IMPLIES THE ABILITY TO WRITE POETRY, AND SONG ON DEMAND.  THIS WAS ALMOST CONSIDERED A CONTACT SPORT AMONG THE VIKING NORSE.  

 

          I CANNOT GO TO WAR TODAY

      (THIS FIRST POEM WAS WRITTEN IN HONOR OF THE CALONTIR ARMY.  THEY SEEMED TO ALWAYS BE ENTICING ME TO TAKE UP ARMORED COMBAT FOR THE FIRST TWO YEARS I WAS NEW TO THE KINGDOM.  THIS POEM WAS MORE SELF DEFENSE THAN HUMOR)

 

 

          Proud as I am of the banner flying

          High on the field of battle

          Proud as I am of companions stout

          And the armor's warlike rattle

          I cannot go to war today

          I cannot bear a sword

          It grieves me so to disappoint

          The Huscarls and my lord

 

          I would fight if my helm fit right

          But my chainmail I must mend

          My plate's got dents and there's mighty rents

          in my favorite gambezon

          My lady will not let me

          My friends say I'm to dear

          So take my place at the shieldwall

          I'll wait for you right here

 

          Long did I sing of the battle's glories

          Drinking a toast to war

          Long were the tales of those mighty deeds

          That I had done before

          I cannot go to war today

          I cannot bear a sword

          I would don my armor but

          I must keep my word

          I would fight if my helm fit right

          But my chainmail I must mend

          My plate's got dents and there's mighty rents

          in my favorite gambezon

          My lady will not let me

          They just brought in cold beer

          So take my place at the shieldwall

          I'll wait for you right here

 

          Oh how I long to be marching with you

          Out in the noonday sun

          Banging around in that scorching plate

          Feeling the hot sweat run

          I cannot go to war today

          I cannot bear a sword

          I cannot suffer there beside

          The Huscarls and my lord

 

          I would fight if my helm fit right

          But my chainmail I must mend

          My plate's got dents and there's mighty rents

          in my favorite gambezon

          My lady will not let me

          And the feast is very near

          So take my place at the shieldwall

          I'll wait for you right here

 


 

 

          IN CALONTIR WE RUST

      (THIS LITTLE MISSIVE WAS A VAIN ATTEMPT AT HUMOR BY POKING FUN AT THE CALONTIR ARMY.  HOW WAS I TO KNOW THAT ANOTHER BARD WOULD PUT A TUNE TO IT AND TRY TEACHING IT TO THE FIGHTERS AS A WAR-SONG???)

 

          Early in the day not far a way

          I was sleeping in the morning sun

          From deep in the camp came a marching tramp

          And the rhythm of a drum

          Could it be a fire? Could it be foes?

          Could it be the fairy imps?

          No, say's he, ''tis our Chivalry

          You can tell by the way they limp!

 

          (CHORUS)

 

          Here comes the train in rusty chain

          Squeaking on their way to war

          With rattles in their gear and bruises on their

           rears

          And patches by the score

          You can see they fight, they look a fright

          With their helms hanging off their ears

          But you don't get brass by sitting on your ass

          In the Kingdom of Calontir

 

          (REPEAT CHORUS)

 

          Along with fame and the knightly chain

          Comes responsibility

          And several strains and a few odd sprains

          And the option of surgery

          And when you lose you get a bruise

          That's going to keep you up all night

          But you hurry on your way the very next day

          To the closest kingdom fight

 

          (REPEAT CHORUS)

 

          We cheer our side and take great pride

          In their creaking, aching joints

          With their dents and rents and shields all bent

          They're still ahead on points

          There's sweat by the ton in their gambesons

          That haven't been washed since spring

          Their eyes so bright and their knees wrapped tight

          You can here the army sing:

 

          (REPEAT CHORUS)

 

          And so we sing, make the rafters ring

          In praises by the score

          As they win the fight and come home at night

          Dirty, bruised and sore

          Let's raise a glass to lad and lass

          Who take the noble trust

          Of the Knight in Shining Armor

          And mud and blood and rust

 


 

 

         THE ONE WISH

      (HAVE YOU EVER BEEN STUCK FOR A TOAST?  WELL, THE EVENT WAS THE MEMORIAL SERVICE TO A PERSONA, SO THE EULOGY WAS MORE HUMOR THAN TEARS...STILL, WE WERE GONNA MISS THAT OLD VIKING...I WAS ASKED TO GIVE THE TOAST....)  

 

         I've a wish I've been keeping

         Tucked close to my heart

         Borne all my winters

         As I sat by the hearth

         Carried softly each summer

         With the wind in the grain

         If the gods would be willing

         I'd come home again

 


 

 

      GATHER YE PIPERS

      (IN MY OPINION THIS IS MY BEST SONG.  IT BEAT EVERY BARD IN THE CONTEST BUT DUKE SYR CONN MAC NEIL!  (IF I HAVE TO LOSE, IT SHOULD BE TO THE BEST!)  THIS IS A SONG FOR THE SCOTS LIVING ON THE ISLE OF SKYE, MY ANCESTORS...)

 

      Gather ye pipers and long chanters blow

      Beat drum and the tabor, and play a march slow

      I raise my cup

      And I pledge drink to ye

      I raise now my cup towards the dark sea

 

      To these northern island, the HEBRIDIES high

      Where oft landed longships, beneath the grey sky

      Come blow the great horn

      Maids come to the shore

      They blow the great horn but ships come no more

 

      I drink to ye Ian, who sailed with the tide

      And young brother Jamie, the sea steed to ride

      And Eric for gold

      And Sean his keep

      They sailed for the gold, but beneath waves they sleep

 

      I sit by the fire, lost and alone

      Four empty places, and one who stayed home

      I drink to my kin

      Who walked Njord's road

      I drink to my kin who'll drink here no more

 

      Gather ye pipers and long chanters blow

      Beat drum and the tabor, and play a march slow

      I raise my cup

      And I pledge drink to ye

      A cup full of tears towards the dark sea

 


 

 

          WHERE GO THE MAIDS

      (I HANG AROUND A LOT WITH MISTRESS LUCCIANA DE RIDOLFI, COSTUME LAUREL AND HEAD OF THE HOUSEHOLD OF HARPIES REST.  THIS SONG WAS FOR THEM.)

 

 

          Where go the maids on summer's day

          When the Falcon bears their men away

 

          (CHORUS)

          Sing willow a willow away hey hey

          Sing willow a willow away

 

          (CHORUS AGAIN)

 

          Gone to the hall to step a dance

          While their good lovers break a lance

 

          (CHORUS AGAIN)

 

          And drink they mead where it is kept

          While their good lovers drink their sweat

 

          (CHORUS AGAIN)

 

          And trade they kisses with young beaus

          While their good husbands trade at blows

 

          (CHORUS AGAIN)

 

          And when the Falcon comes to nest

          They welcome their good men to rest

 

          (CHORUS AGAIN)

 

          For lords may ken to battle's run

          But a lady too will have her fun

 

         (CHORUS AGAIN)

 

 

 

       THE HELMSMAN

(THIS IS ONE OF THOSE "WRITE ME A VIKING WARSONG OR WE'LL KILL YOU" THINGS.  THE LAST VERSE IS OPTIONAL, BUT I LIKE TO THINK THAT THE HELMSMAN IS THE ONE SINGING THE SONG!)

       To oar, to oar, the helmsman did cry

      We're close to the shore and the tide's running high

  There's gold in this place and we're willing to try And the gods would favor the bold

       These Irish will flee as we come from the sea

       Aye the Norsemen are sailing for gold

       The Norsemen are sailing for gold

 

       To arms, to arms, the helmsman did say

       They've chosen to meet us in battle today

They cannot withstand us, they'll soon run away And the gods would favor the brave

       So let fly the spear, there'll be slaughter here

       Aye the Norse have come over the waves

       The Norse have come over the waves

 

       Stand firm, stand firm, the helmsman did shout

       Though many have fallen our hearts are still stout

Should we retreat it would end in a rout And the gods would favor the strong

       So here we shall stand to the very last man

       Aye the Norse will remember our song

       The Norse will remember our song

 

       Rise up, rise up, the Valkyries cry

       Odin appointed this day you would die

Mount up on our horses, to Valhall we fly And the gods still honor the brave

       Outnumbered you stood as a true hero would

       True Norsemen go such to their graves

       Norsemen go such to their graves

 

       (OPTIONAL LAST VERSE)

       No sound, no sound, save the rush of the sea

       The ravens are feeding, they won't feed on me

For when our line broke, I hid in the trees And the gods have forgotten my name

       I cannot go home, forever I roam

       For the Norse would remember my shame

       The Norse will remember my shame

 

 

 

The Song of the Slow Hound

(THIS IS AN EXCERPT FROM A SAGA I HAVE BEEN WRITING FOR THE LAST TWO YEARS.  THE PLOT LINE IN THE SAGA IS THAT A CHRISTIANIZED NORSE POET, JOHN, HAS RETURNED TO NORWAY AND IS CAUGHT UP IN THE ACTIONS OF THE OLD GODS.  THIS SONG HAS LITTLE TO DO WITH THAT STORY LINE, BUT IT IS SOME GOOD POETRY.  IT IS WRITTEN IN THE STYLE OF NORSE POETRY CIRCA 780, AND HAS A FAIRLY GOOD STORY LINE AS WELL.)

 

High in Halogaland       hidden in hoarfrost,

There was a hunter       who lived by the hides

Of elk and of bear       of otter and badger

To buy his bread         for he had no brothers.

 

But he had his hounds.    They were his helpers

The happiest host        any chief could have.

Loyal and faithful,       his orders were followed

By his true family;      these hounds so fine

 

Each was the son         Of the same sire:

A hound like a stag      the hunter's prize stud.

Their dam was the best   of the villages' beasts;

Dauntless and brave      like all of her blood.

 

The hunter would come    each year to the council.

And in that country      a feast would commence.

Each man would swear     his dogs were supreme.

each telling stories     of their great skills.

 

But in the fighting      his hounds were fiercer.

Driving their foes       well off of the field,

They were the swiftest   the wildest and surest.

All save the slow one    who stayed by his side.

 

When they would hunt,    his marvelous hounds

Would fly over hills     chasing the hind.

Not to be shaken         from the prey they sought.

All save the slow one    who stayed by his side.

 

"All of my hounds        are stout hearted;

Speed like the harpies   and courage like heroes.

All but my Sathi         who runs so slow

And stays by my side.     He cares not for slaying.

 

Are you then fearful     to take to the field?

All of your fellows      run like the fire!

Is your heart weak,       Your courage like water,

That you still wait      to walk where I walk?"

 

Many the season          they hunted the snows.

Ran on the steeps.        Followed the spoor.

Much gold was bought     with hides of the beasts

Brought to their bay     by Sathi's fast brothers.

 

On one cold morning      they hunted the mountains.

Deep in the mists        such music they made!

Hounds on the scent!      Wild hunt singing!

All save the slow one    who stayed by his side.

 

Their prey ran far,      so they ran faster;

Howling so fierce        rang in the forest.

Leaving their master     behind on the mountain,

Much slower moving       than running mastiffs.

 

Only slow Sathi          remained by his side.

Trotting so silent       keeping his speed,

Beside the hunter,        at his right hand.

Ignoring the howls       of the far hunt.

 

Up rose a bear           out of a brook.

A great angry beast      mad with the baying.

The hounds were singing  still far on the scent,

All but the slow one     who stayed by his side.

 

 

The hunter was fearful.     He saw his fate;

Here he would fall       before this huge foe.

He readied his spear,     his chances were spent.

All but slow Sathi       who stayed by his side.

 

The hunter was ready,     the great bear roared,

With his paw reached     the hunter to rend.

Sathi gave a loud bark   and leaped at the beast,

Seeking to bite          and taking the blows.

 

The bear was strong      and wounded good Sathi,

Ripping his shoulder     leaving bone showing.

But Sathi bit deep       even while dying,

Clawing and digging      wounding him dire.

 

The hunter was free      a target to find.

His spear flew           into the fur,

Seeking the blood        of the great bear.

Striking the breast      of the wild beast.

 

When it had fallen,       from the cold field

Came his fair hounds     hearing the fight.

He brushed them aside    away from the slaying,

Away from good Sathi       who'd stayed by his side.

 

"All of my hounds        have stout hearts;

Speed like the harpies   and courage like heroes.

All but my Sathi         who runs so slow,

and stays by my side,     and cares not for slaying.

 

Staying to ward          against all the wild.

Staying to watch.         Willing to wait.

Of all my hounds,         This was the hero!

Knowing his heart        and what he would hold."

 

There in the trees       he raised a tower

Of heavy timbers         stacked by tens.

Laid on that pile        the hunter's protector;

Sathi the proud          upon the high pyre.

 

As were these hounds     servants to hunter,

Bound by the heart       to serve his hand,

Your warriors sing       for glory and slaying.

I'll be the slow one     and stay by your side.

 

              

 


 

       THE  STRONG AND THE STOUT

      (THE BREWER'S AND VINTNER'S GUILD IN CALONTIR INSPIRE A LOT OF BARDS.  IN MY CASE IT'S WHAT THEY MAKE THAT INSPIRES ME!)

 

 

 

       The strong and the stout, with two such about

       All men will be merry and there is no doubt

       The noble and peasant together will shout

       There's no better friends

       Than the strong and the stout

 

       A long time ago when the Romans were here

       Along with their armies they brought over beer

       They passed it along as they went about

       And conquered the world

       With the strong and the stout

 

       When speaking of Vikings you better take heed:

       They're as fond of killing as they are of mead

       But they'll stop their long-ships and turn them about

       If they have run dry

       Of the strong and the stout

 

       Way up in the Highlands they grow men so wild

       That they can wear skirts and nobody will smile

       But there isn't a lad there for miles about

       Who can stand up against

       The good strong and the stout

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

          HAVE YOU SEEN THE ARMY?

            (An entry into the Lilies warpoint)

      (THE FIRST TIME I GOT TO GO TO A LILIES WAR, THEY HAD A WAR POINT  FOR EVERYTHING.  THE BARDIC WARPOINT WAS TO BE A RENDITION OF  WHAT HAPPENED IN THE BATTLE THE DAY BEFORE, A RAID BETWEEN THE GUARDS WHO WERE COLLECTING THE TAXES AND THE "FREE SHIRES" WHO WERE TRYING TO STEAL THE GOLD.  I COULDN'T BE THERE FOR THE BATTLE, BUT BARON CORMAC MAC CUMAIL SPENT A LOT OF TIME INTERVIEWING FIGHTERS AND GETTING ME TO THE PARTICIPANTS THE NEXT DAY.  IT SEEMS IT WAS A RESURRECTION BATTLE THAT RAN FROM A STEEP HILL TO A BRIDGE AND ALL THE SCATTERED AREA BETWEEN....AND THEN THERE WAS...  

      I  WROTE THIS SONG, (YES, IT HAS A TUNE!) IN ABOUT AN HOUR.  IT WON.)

Have ye heard the story from the land of Calontir?

With sword and axe a-swinging fit to make a grown man fear?

The Barons called for taxes, the people answered "Nay!"

"And if you come collecting, there'll be hell to pay!

Have you seen the army, it was here a while ago,

And do you know who's winning, have we struck a mortal blow?

I do not Know your armor, but you seem a friend to me,

Oh have you seen the army marching in Forgotten Sea?

HMMMMMMMMMMMMMM...

 

You should have seen the battle, t'was a glory to be seen,

Conveniently the dead were rolled into a deep ravine,

The bandits followed Halidar into a brushy patch,

If it hadn't been poison ivy they'd have won without a scratch!

Have you seen the army, it was here a while ago,

And do you know who's winning, have we struck a mortal blow?

I've just been resurrected, I'm sure you've heard of me,

Oh have you seen the army marching through Forgotten Sea?

HMMMMMMMMMMMMMM...

 

T'was at the bridge they tell me, that they made their final stand,

But it"s hard to win a battle when you're killed by your own man.

The captain of the guardsmen hit upon a plan so bold,

With a trick used every tax-time, hide your sacks of gold!

Have you seen the army, it was here a while ago,

And do you know who's winning, have we struck a mortal blow?

I forgot to ask which side you're on, would it help me if I said,

I'll give armored combat, and take up crochet instead?

 

       THEY'RE HANGING HIM FOR PAYING HIS TAXES

 

      (THE SHIRES HELD AN EVENT THAT PROTESTED THE EXCESSIVE TAXES OF THE KINGDOM.  (AS I RECALL, THE TAX WAS FIVE COOKIES EACH!)  I LOVE GETTING A CHANCE TO POKE FUN AT THE CROWN.  I STOLE THE TUNE FROM THE IRISH SONG "NANCY HOGAN'S GOOSE."  STEALING SEEMED APPROPRIATE DURING TAX TIME...)

 

Come gather all ye fellows

And lift a cup to memory

Of a common working fellow

Much the same as you and me

 

He was a simple goose-herd

A poor but happy working man

When the King's guard came to see him

And gather taxes in this land

 

(CHORUS)

 

They've got him in the dungeon

They say in duty he's been lax

Oh, they're going to hang the goose-herd

Because he tried to pay his tax

 

When the guards came calling

The goose-herd said he'd try to pay

But he hadn't any money

To send off in the usual way

 

 

 

So he went out to his goose-pens

To choose the finest in his herd

And he told the waiting guardsmen

He'd like to give the King the bird

 

(CHORUS)

 

The captain's face was livid

"You cannot speak so of the king"

So they took him to the Baron

To have Peer explain the thing

 

But the goose-herd was determined

He was a man true to his word

"If I cannot pay in money

Then I shall give the King the bird"

 

(CHORUS)

 

Oh the Baron took to shouting

"A court of nobles should convene

To keep this peasant quiet

And keep such rabble from our king"

 

So they gathered all the peerage

But still the man would not be swerved

"If I cannot pay may taxes

Then I should give the King the bird"

 

(CHORUS)

 

They were ready for a lynching

When in the King's own herald came

He cried out he had the answer

Keep silence in the King's own name

 

He approached the goose-herd kindly

"You see you poorly chose your words

It is not the proper etiquette

To try to give the King the bird"

 

 

Then the goose-herd seemed to brighten

As if a light came to his head

"If I cannot give the king the bird

I'll give the queen a goose instead"

 

 

 


 

 

      WELL, THIS IS HARDLY ALL THE STORIES SONGS AND POEMS I'VE WRITTEN, BUT IT SEEMS A LITTLE STUPID TO TRY TO INCLUDE ALL THE THINGS I'VE DONE IN ONE BOOK. (BESIDES, I WOULD NEVER BE ABLE TO AFFORD THE PRINTING COSTS!)  I HOPE YOU ENJOY THIS LITTLE EXERCISE IN EGOTISM.

 

      BESIDE THE FIRE, AS ALWAYS:

 

                              Mikal the Ram

 

 

 

 

 

AN ANNOYING EPILOGUE BY AN EGOTISTICAL BARD

 

      It is all too common for an author to assume you want to hear about the ins and outs of being a writer. The assumption is you would never be as creative or as brilliant as the idiot who did this, and that you would love to marvel at the feet of the genius. Myself, i have no such illusions.  The gentle who owns this copy is either a: 1) bard who is looking for new material, or 2) a noble who likes to entertain his or herself by reading bardic works.  so this epilogue is useless to the second group.

      But to the first group, I would like to tell you a few things.

     

      These are not my worst work.  each item in this collection has won a contest, been judged superior in an SCA venue, or  has been one of my most requested pieces.  These arent all my best, but it is enough to provide about eight events worth of material for any bard.

      I hereby give permission for any SCA bard to recite, perform, or sing anything in this book.  I wish to only make one reservation:  you must credit the author.  If nothing else, say you heard this of a fat old bard named Mikal the Ram.          

      My only other request is that you memorize anything you perform.  Nothing looks worse to me than a bard that works from a book!  This is an oral tradition!

 

      Now, Ive lectured all Im going to.  Lets have some fun!

 

      BESIDE THE FIRE, AS ALWAYS:

                   

                              Mikal the Ram

 

------

If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in

the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also

appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being

reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.

 

<the end>



Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org