Sunday, September 13, 2020

Lessons in Icelandic (short story) by Leanne Dyck

How do ensure your culture will survive? What songs do you sing? What stories do you tell? 

This short story was inspired by the Icelandic folklore of the After-Walker--which I learned about in Nelson S. Gerrard's book The Icelandic Heritage.

photo by ldyck

Lessons in Icelandic

On the farm, during haying season, my dad, Uncle Steini, my cousins, and I gathered twigs and built a campfire. Over this fire, we cooked our supper of hot dogs and beans. After supper, Uncle Steini played our favourite songs on his guitar as we sang along... 

"Who is the god of mischief?" my dad asked.

"Loki," one of my cousins cheered.

"The god of art?"

"Bragi," another replied.

"The goddess of love?"

All paused so I could answer, "Freya."

"The father of all the gods?"

"Thor," Uncle Steini roared as we giggled. "He was also the god of war. Sometimes he comes down to Earth and walks among us. When he knocks on your door, what will you do? Will you turn him away?"

"No!" We yelled.

"He could be dressed in rags."

"We'll welcome him."

"He could be dirty, smelly."

"We'll give him food to eat and sit him by the fire."

"Good. Thor is very pleased. Remember what Thor said, children. 'Cattle die, kindred die, you yourself must one day die. The only thing that will not die is the verdict over each man dead.' So live a good life, and do well by all. What is praise-worthy, praise; where action is required, act."

"Tell us a story," we asked my dad and leaned in close, hungry for each word. By the warmth of the campfire, he shared ancient sagas...


Children believe in ghosts. As you lay in your bed, on stormy nights, in the rustle of wind through leaves, listen for the voices of the dead. They will speak to you. 

Olafur's saga is whispered by the north wind. Over the waters, over the sky, over the eons, it flies to your ears. The saga tells of a Viking longboat setting sail from Islandia, headed for the new world Vineland. Aboard this boat was Olafur the Bloodthirsty, your ancestor. The world feared his savage taste for blood.

By day, he was a mighty warrior; his ax never hesitated. As eventide drew neigh, he reached for a mug of mead, his sticks, and wool. He wove stitches; he garments. He was a master craftsman.  

The legend of his skill flew from ear to ear, near and far. The finest garment he ever wove was a hooded cloak with long tassels he wrapped around his neck--the Islandia Hood. It was handsome in appearance, warm to wear. 

Many offered him power, wealth, love to possess it, but he refused all offers. 

He told his brother, Jens, "None shall have the hood. When I die, I will be dressed in it."

Jens swore he would uphold this wish. Death comes to all. Olafur died bravely on the battlefield. Freya came to claim him. 

Olafur reached up to adjust his hood. His fingers discovered its absence. "Where is it?"

Freya tried to soothe him, tried to persuade him to release what no longer served him but... 

Olafur did not enter Valhalla. He is doomed forever to walk. Greed will not let him rest until he finds his hood. He is an After-Walker. 

(The book mentioned is no longer available)


Wednesday, September 16

A short story about the grandpa I never knew.

Saturday, September 19

A humourous short story inspired by island life

Next Sunday...

Short Story:  Author reading on the radio by Leanne Dyck

This short story recounts the day I traveled from Mayne Island to Salt Spring Island to read a story I wrote on the radio--a short trip but a huge step.

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The Scotiabank Giller long-list has been announced. 

Sharing my author journey...

Remember back in March when our world got really small? Well, back then, I needed something to get my mind off of things that were beyond my control and so I...
began a huge project. This project was rather demanding. (For example, it required me to search through 25 journals. Yes, that's right 25.) It was so demanding in fact that I started referring to it lovingly as "the monster". I hoped "the monster" would occupy my mind, carrying me forward toward a brighter tomorrow. And it has. This week--Tuesday at 1 pm--I gave the monster to my first (or beta) reader. Know what, I miss it. 

I miss it so much in fact that I've had to come up with another project. Hint:  a "sticks and string" page.