The Book of Wonder Voyages/The Journeyings of Thorkill and of Eric the Far-Traveled
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The Journeyings of Thorkill and of Eric the Far-Traveled
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The Journeyings of Thorkill and of Eric the Far-Traveled
ONCE there was a King who reigned at Drontheim in Norroway. He was named Thrond, and he had a son, Eric, young and handsome and goodly to see. Now it happed at one Yule-Tide there was among the guests a certain Thorkill, a swart and sturdy man that seemed a seafarer and one accustomed to lead men. When the cups had been drunk out and the time for telling of tales had come, Thrond called upon this Thorkill to say his say first of all men. And he spake thus. . . .
Thorkill's Story of how he Fared to the Glittering Plain and to the Halls of Geirrod
"If I have aught, Sir King, that can appear new to you or please your ears, it is what I passed through in my search for Geirrod's Home. For from the days of my youth onward I had heard of the mighty stores of treasure piled up in that land. Yet was the way thither full of terrors and dangers, and few of mortal men had reached it, and still fewer come back from it. For Geirrod's Home, they said, was beyond ocean that lies about all land. It was beyond the ken of sun and stars, far out in the Realm of Darkness.
"Now from the time I had first heard of this, I had a desire to try and reach that land. It was not for the sake of the booty that could be gained, but I hoped for the glory that would come from achieving a task hitherto untried by men. So I went to King Gorm and told him of the land and of my desire to reach it, and asked his help to fit out an expedition. ' Who will go with Thorkill?' asked King Gorm in the Council, and three hundred brave men and true said they would go with me, and foremost among them was the King himself and his trusty archers, Broder and Buchi. Three long ships were built for them, each with fifty banks of oars. Strongly were they made, as I advised, fitted with many knotted cords and with nails close set. And above, they were covered with ox hides sewn together, so that provisions might be kept dry from the salt spray. And so we set sail towards the open sea.
"Now when we came to Halogaland the northern breeze died out, and we passed to and fro on the waves for many days out of sight of land. Soon even our bread gave out, and all we had to keep ourselves alive was a little pottage. At last we heard far off a noise as of waves beating against the rocks with a sound like thunder. We sent a boy of great nimbleness aloft to the masthead to look out, and he called down to us that he could see walls rising out of the sea as if of a fortress. Then we cheered all, and turned the prows of the ships where he pointed, and gazed with thirsty eyes upon the land as we neared it. And when we came close we had to search for many hours before we could find an opening in the walls of the island. At last we saw a steep path that led up to the heights, and anchoring our ships we all began to climb the path till we came out upon the higher ground above. There we found herds of cattle roaming about, and my men were eager to kill them for food. But I said, 'Nay, be wary; no men are here, and these may, perchance, be sacred to some of the gods: if, therefore, we slay the beasts wantonly we shall rouse the anger of the gods and they will not let us depart. Take, therefore, no more of these beasts than will be sufficient to appease our hunger, and then we must depart.' But my men were more eager to fill their bellies than to obey orders, especially when they found the cattle easy to capture, since they were unaccustomed to sight of men and came up to us without fear. So they slew and slew till enough had been slaughtered to fill the holds again with carcasses of meat. But next night we heard a mighty clamor; huge monsters dashed down upon the shore and beset our ships, and one of them, huger than the rest, strode over the waters armed with a mighty club, and running close up to us, bellowed out: 'You shall never sail away till you have atoned for the crime you have committed in slaughtering the flock of the gods, and unless you make good the loss of the herds by giving up one man from each of your ships.' Then I reminded the men that I had warned them against their folly, and said, 'It is all our own fault. Better lose three than three hundred; let us cast lots for the three and so escape in safety.' The men agreed to this; and having cast lots threw into the sea the men upon whom the lots had fallen, and these were seized upon by the monsters, who went again up the path, shouting in triumph but leaving us in peace.
"After this, the wind being favorable, we sailed to further Permland. It is a land that is always cold, and is covered with deep snow which even the summer heat cannot melt. It is full of pathless forests; wheat, barley, oats, and such-like grain are but rarely seen, while strange beasts, seldom found elsewhere, wander hither and thither. The channels of the rivers are covered with reefs, which causes the water to flow as a hissing, foaming flood. Here we brought our ships ashore, and I bade my men pitch their tents on the beach, for we were now within but short distance of Geirrod's Home. 'Speak to no one whom ye may meet,' I said to them, 'for nothing makes these monsters so angry as to have strangers say uncivil words to them. It will, therefore, be better if you keep silent and let me speak, as I alone know the customs and manners of this people.' Now at twilight time a man of tremendous size came towards us, greeting the sailors by their names. My men were terrified, but I told them to be of good cheer and welcome him warmly, as he was Gudmund, Lord of the Glittering Plain, brother of Geirrod and the protector in all dangers of men who landed in this place. And when Gudmund asked why no man answered his greeting, I replied that they did not know his language, or at least but little of it, and so were ashamed of saying anything before him. Then Gudmund invited us to be his guests, and took us away with him in chariots. As we went forward we saw a river and across it a golden bridge. This delighted us so that we wanted to cross it. But Gudmund would not let us. 'By this river,' said he, 'the world of men is divided from the world of monsters. No mortal man may cross the Golden Bridge to enter that other world.' Now by this time we had reached the Big Man's dwelling, but before entering I took my men apart, and warned them to behave like men of good counsel amidst the divers temptations chance might throw in their way. I bid them abstain from the Stranger's food, and partake only of their own. Also to sit apart from the people of that land, and have nothing to do with them at their banquets. I told them further, that if they ate of the Stranger's food they would forget everything they had ever known, their homes, their wives and children, all the good and beautiful things they had ever seen or heard or felt, and would henceforth lead mean wretched lives among these terrible monsters.
"The magnificent hall of Gudmund's palace was thronged with guests, and the tables were covered with delicate meats and costly wines. Twelve tall, handsome sons had he, and as many daughters of surpassing beauty. And he led us to our seats and bade his servants bring us of the best. But when he saw that I barely tasted the food, he was hurt, and reproached me, saying that such behavior was discourteous and ill-bred. But I had my answer ready, and said: 'It often makes men ill to eat food they are not used to; I am far from being ungrateful for your kindness, but am merely taking care of my health by eating my own food to which I am accustomed. You must not be hurt or consider me wanting in courtesy if I act thus for the sake of my own health.' Now, when Gudmund saw that his wicked designs were foiled, and that he could neither make his guests drink his wines nor eat his dainty food, he determined to try and persuade them to take the women of his household as wives. So he offered the King his daughter in marriage, and promised that each of my' men should marry the woman in the house he liked best. Many of my men inclined to accept his offer, but I, happily, by my advice prevented them from giving way to the temptation. Very carefully did I observe my host, lest he should have any suspicions about us, and with equal care I watched over my men lest they should taste the dangerous pleasures he offered them. Four of the Danes, who loved eating and drinking and riches more than anything on earth or in heaven, accepted the wine and the food, and the women of the household as wives. But the pleasures maddened them, and they went out of their minds, and no longer remembered anything or anyone whom they had ever known, and utterly forgot their homes, their own country, and their past lives. Had they controlled themselves they would have equaled the fame of Hercules, become braver than giants, and great and noble servants of their country. But Gudmund, still intent on having his wicked way, went on to praise the beauties and delights of his garden, and did all he could to lure the King thither to eat of its fruit. But I privily begged him not to yield, so he excused himself to his host by saying that he must hasten on his journey. Then Gudmund perceived that I knew his intent, so finding he could not work his will, he took us all to the other side of the river and left us to finish our journey.
"And as we went on, we saw a little way off a gloomy, desolate, neglected town; indeed, it hardly looked like a town, but more like a big black cloud sending forth fog and mist. Around the battlements were stakes, and upon these severed heads of warriors; moreover, we saw fierce dogs watching before the doors to guard the entrance. To still their rage I threw them a horn smeared with fat to lick. The gates to this strange city were built on high, so that we had to climb to them with ladders, and even then we found it difficult of access. Inside, the town was crowded with murky and misshapen phantoms, and it was hard to say whether their shrieking forms were more ghastly to the eye or to the ear. All was foul, and the smell of the loathsome mud was unbearable. Then we found the rocky dwelling which, it was said, Geirrod lived in for his palace. A narrow and horrible rift led inward, but at the very threshold my men stopped in a sort of panic. Seeing they were uncertain what to do, I strove to banish their hesitation by encouraging them to play the man, advising them to keep a strict watch over themselves, lest they be tempted to touch anything in the house they were about to enter, of whatsoever kind it might be, and however delightful or pleasant to look at. Further, I bade them be neither covetous nor fearful; neither desire what was pleasant nor dread what was awful to look upon, though the place might be filled with both that which was delightful and that which was terrible. 'For if you put out your hands to take,' said I, 'they will suddenly become bound fast, and you will be unable to tear them away from the thing you have touched, and they will become knotted up with it, as by bonds that no power on earth may untie.' Then I bade them enter in order, four at a time. Broder and Buchi first tried to go in, the King and I followed them, and the others came behind us in ordered ranks. Inside, the house was but a ruin, desolate, and filled with a strong and horrible reek. It seemed to teem with everything that could disgust the eye or mind; the doorposts were begrimed with the soot of ages, the walls were plastered with dirt, the roof was one mass of spearheads, numberless snakes crawled along the floor. Such an unwonted sight struck terror into us, and the smell that rilled the palace assailed our very brains. Bloodless phantasmal monsters huddled on the iron seats, and on the thresholds hideous doorkeepers stood at watch. Some of these, armed with clubs lashed together, yelled, while others played a gruesome game, tossing a goat's hide from one to the other. Here I again warned my men, and forbade them attempt to touch or take anything. As we went on through the breach in the crag, we saw an old man with his body pierced through, sitting a little way off on a high seat facing that side of the rock which had been broken away. There, too, were three women, whose bodies were covered with wounds, and who seemed to have lost the strength of their backbones. My men wanted to know why all this had happened, so I told them how long, long ago the god Thor had been wroth with the giants, among whom was Geirrod, who had fought with him. So he had hurled a right hot iron at the giant, piercing him, and breaking an issue through the mountain's side. The women, terrified at all this, had tried to take their revenge on the god, who broke their bodies by way of punishment. As my men were leaving the palace, they saw seven big barrels hooped round with golden belts, from which hung large silver rings, fastened to them by means of many links. Near these was the tusk of a strange beast, tipped at both ends with gold. Close by lay a large and beautifully chased stag-horn, decorated with costly gems that sent forth flashes of glittering light, while beside it was a heavy gold bracelet covered with rubies that seemed to send forth showers of red flame. One man longed with all his heart and soul for this bracelet and laid his hands upon it to take it, for he knew not that the brilliant metal could do him deadly harm and was full of a poison which would cause his death. A second man, unable to control his longing, stretched out his trembling hand towards
THORKILL AND THE SERPENT
the horn, while a third made his way towards the tusk. All these things were lovely to look upon, and it seemed as if the possession of them would add to one's happiness. But when the first man laid his hands upon the bracelet it turned into a snake, and pierced his flesh with its poisonous tooth; as the second clutched the horn with his trembling fingers, it lengthened out into a serpent and killed him before he could lift it from the ground; while the tusk turned into a sword and plunged itself into the man who ventured to carry it away. The other men were so terrified at all this that they were in constant fear lest they too should suffer death because of the covetousness of their comrades. Then we came to another room, in which lay a still richer treasure and arms too great and too massive for men of this earth to bear. There, too, was a king's mantle, embroidered with rich and brilliant silks which shone like the colors of the rainbow, a hat adorned with the many-colored feathers of some rare bird, and a marvelously wrought belt intertwined with chains of the most costly jewels. Now, the longing to possess these wonderful things seemed to shake my being to its very center. I, who had so often counseled others, could not, to save my life, master my own desires. So, with no other thought than that of longing to possess, I laid my hand upon the mantle, while my men followed my example and took all that came in their way. Then, all of a sudden, the place began to shake as if with an earthquake, and to reel and totter to and fro. Immediately the women shrieked out that the wicked robbers were staying too long. And those hideous beings which had looked like phantoms, seemed to obey the women's cries, for they all at once leaped from their seats and began to attack us furiously. The other creatures bellowed hoarsely. Broder and Buchi attacked the witches, who ran at them, with a shower of spears from every side, while they crushed the monsters with the missiles from their bows and slings. There could be no more manful or successful way of repulsing them, yet only twenty of all the king's company were rescued, the rest being torn to pieces by the monsters. The survivors returned to the river, over which they were ferried by Gudmund, who invited them to his house. But he could not persuade them to remain long with him, although he did all in his power to make them change their minds. So at last he gave them presents and let them go. But Buchi, during his stay, lost his self-control and fell in love with one of Gudmund's daughters. Yet, after she had become his bride he regretted it deeply, for his brain began to whirl, and he lost his remembrance of all things which had ever happened. Thus, the hero who had overcome monsters and braved perils by land and water, was conquered by his passion for one girl. He set off to accompany the king and us, but as he was about to cross the river in his chariot, the wheels sank deep, he was caught up by the current of the river and destroyed. The king sorrowed for him and hastened on his voyage. At first our journey was prosperous, but when the weather changed we were tossed about on the waves, while the winds blew and the storm raged heavily, and our men perished of hunger. Then we prayed the gods to help us, but the king offered vows and peaceofferings to Utgarda-Loki, who sent the sunshine and calm for which he asked, and the tempest ceased and the winds were still.
"Now, after all these storms and toils, King Gorm felt that it was time he should rest from his labors. So he took a Swedish lady for his queen and spent his time in reading and meditation instead of following those pursuits to which all his life he had been accustomed. And his days were prolonged in peace and quietness. Towards the end thereof, some learned men told him that after death, that is the death of the body, the soul lived on, and went to dwell in some other land. And he thought deeply about all this, and was continually wondering where his soul would go when his body died.
"Now, at this time certain men who wished me ill came and told Gorm that he should ask the gods about such matters, as they were questions too difficult for human minds to answer, and too hard for mortals to find out. And to do this they said that Utgarda-Loki must be appeased, and that none could appease him better than I. Others spoke evil about me and declared I was guilty of treachery and wished to take the king's life. So, seeing that I was obliged to suffer in some way, I asked that my accusers should accompany me on my journey. And when they saw that the dangers they had put in my way had fallen upon them they were exceedingly afraid and tried to alter their plans. But the king would not listen to them, accused them of being cowardly, and forced them to sail with me. It is often, indeed, so, that when one wishes to do another a wrong, the evil one would do falls upon oneself. When the men saw they were obliged to obey the king, and could not in any way get out of it, they covered their ship with ox hides and filled it with provisions.
"In this ship we all sailed away till we came to a land where there was no sun, no stars, no daylight, and over which hung a black cloud that made it like one dark, long night. For a long, long while we sailed under this strange sky, till at last our wood fell short and we were unable to light any fires. So having no place to cook our food we staved off our hunger with raw meat. But those of us who ate of it fell ill, for we could not digest such food. Thus we were in terrible straits; for when we took of the uncooked food it brought on sickness and disease, and if we ate nothing we could but starve. Just as we were about to despair, a gleam of help shone for us in the distance, even as the string breaks most easily when it is stretched tightest, and the daylight begins to break when the night is at its darkest. For we saw the twinkle of a fire a little way off, and we still hoped that our lives might be spared. As for me, I thought that heaven had sent the fire, and made up my mind to go and take some of it. To be surer of getting back to my friends I fastened a jewel on the masthead to enable me easily to recognize my ship. On landing, my eyes fell on a cavern scooped out of the rocks, and which one reached by a narrow path. Telling my men to wait outside, I went in and there saw two swart, very huge men with long horny noses throwing any fuel they could find on their fire. The entrance to this cavern was hideous in the extreme; the doorposts, falling from decay, the walls grimy with mold, the roof dirty, and snakes crawled along the floor. All this disgusted the eye as well as the mind. One of the giants greeted me, and I said I had begun a most difficult quest, fain as I was to visit a strange god and to explore a region that lay beyond the world, and upon which the foot of man had never trod. Then he promised to tell me the different paths I must take for my journey if I would make three true judgments in the form of sayings. So I
THE HORN-SNOUTED GIANTS
replied; 'Truly, I do not think I have ever visited a household full of so many uncomely noses; nor have I ever come to any other place where I had less mind to live.' My second remark was: 'It is, I think, my best foot which can get out of this foremost.' The giant was delighted with my shrewdness and praised the truth of my sayings. And he told me that I must first travel to a land where the grass never grew, and upon which no light ever shone. The lightless and grassless land, he called it. But to reach this land I must row across water for four days. In this grim country I might visit Utgarda-Loki, whose filthy dwelling-place was a hideous and grisly cave. I was terrified at being told to take such a long and dangerous journey, but the wretchedness of my present condition was uppermost in my mind, and I asked him if he could give us some firing. 'If thou needest fire, ' said he, 'thou must make three more witty remarks.' To which I replied: 'Good advice is to be followed, even though a mean fellow give it.' Likewise: 'I have gone so far in rashness, that if I can get back I shall owe my safety to no one but my own legs.' And again: 'If I could go away at this moment I would take good care never to come back.'
"And the giant was pleased with my sayings and gave me some fire, which I took back to my comrades; he also sent us a favorable wind, so that on the fourth day we reached the place for which we were bound. It was a land of everlasting night, unbroken by the happy change of light and darkness. So black and thick was the gloom that we could hardly see before us, though we managed to make out a huge towering rock. As I wished to explore it I told my men to strike a fire from flints as a safeguard against demons, ghosts, and goblins, and to place it in the entrance. I bade the others bear a light before me as I entered the narrow passage of the cavern. So narrow and small was the entrance that I had to stoop low down to crawl in. There I beheld a number of iron seats, among which glided a swarm of serpents. Next I beheld a mass of sluggish water that flowed gently over a stretch of sand. This water we crossed, and came to a cavern yet steeper than the first. Then we entered a dim, gloomy room, where lay Utgarda-Loki, bound hand and foot with enormous chains. Every hair of his head was as large and stiff as an iron spear, indeed, his hair looked like a mass of spears. These spears grew on his face in the form of a beard as well as on his head, and I, in order to win yet greater renown, plucked one from his chin, my comrades helping me. Straightway a most noisome smell overcame us so that we could scarce breathe and had to bury our noses in our mantles. We could hardly make our way out, for the snakes crowded round about us, crawled on us, clung to us, twisted round us, and seemed to be doing their best to hinder our departure.
"So horrible was all this, that only five of my men embarked with me; the rest were killed by the poison. The demons followed them and threw their poison at them. The sailors covered themselves with their hides and threw the venom back. One man, wishing to peep out of the hide, was touched by the poison, and his head was taken off as if it had been severed by a sword. Another who looked out of his hide was blinded by the poison which touched his eyes. Another had his arm withered as he thrust it out while unfolding the hide. We besought our gods to be kinder to us, but they took no notice, until I prayed to the Great God of the world, who sent us a clear sky and a peaceful voyage.
"Then we came to another world, the world of living men. For we landed in a country where the people loved and worshiped God. But as for my poor men, they were all but dead, because of the fearful air they had breathed; and I returned to my own country with but two who had escaped these perils. Yet even I was not free from the taint of all we had gone through, for the uncleanly matter that was still on my face so disguised me, and so altered the very shape of my features, that even my most intimate friends did not know me. When I had removed it I was again recognized, and the king was most anxious to hear all that had befallen me. But my enemies still cherished unkindly feelings against me, and even pretended that the king would die suddenly if I told him what had happened to me. The king, too, was inclined to believe them because of a dream he had had, in which it had been falsely told him that such an event would come to pass. And so, for this reason, men were hired by the king to kill me in the night. Now, I was not supposed to know of this wicked intent; nevertheless, I got wind of it, and thus, unknown to all, I slept not in my bed that night, but placed a big log of wood therein. So the men who had come to kill me plunged their swords into a mass of timber. On the morrow I went to the king as he sat at meat, and said: 'I forgive thy cruelty and pardon thy sin, in that thou hast rewarded with punishment and not with thanks him who brought thee good tidings of his journey. For thy sake I willingly endured all these trials, and wore myself out in all these perils. I hoped thou wouldst reward my services with gratitude, and behold, I found thou didst but punish me for my bravery, thou more than all others. But I withhold all vengeance, and content myself with knowing that down in thy heart thou art bitterly ashamed of thyself—that is, if the ungrateful are ever ashamed of themselves—and art thus punished for thy wrong-doing towards me. I hesitate not to say that thou art worse than all demons in fury, and all beasts in cruelty, if, after having escaped the snares of all these monsters, I have failed to be safe from thine.'
"Now the king wished to hear everything from my own lips, and bade me tell him all that had happened, right from the very beginning. He listened eagerly to everything, but could not endure to have his own god unfavorably spoken of. So terribly did it distress him to hear Utgarda-Loki reproached because of his uncleanly surroundings, and so indignant was he to hear of the god's misfortunes that he fell down dead then and there even as I proceeded with my tale. Thus while he was so zealous in the worship of a false god, he came to the gates of the true prison of sorrows. And many of the bystanders died from the effects of the hair I had plucked from the Giant's beard by way of gaining renown."
All men wondered at the marvels told by Thorkill the Stranger, and many said that even greater marvels were to be seen in Odainsakr, the Land of the Undying; none of the heroes in their time had dared to seek this, they said, but Eric the Thrond sprang up and said with a mighty oath he would travel south over the world until he discovered Odainsakr, the Land of the Undying. "Who will go with me?" he cried. And eleven of the king's nobles swore the same vow as he. And when spring came he sailed south with them to the Court of Denmark. Now the Danish king's son was also named Eric, and the two young men became close friends, for they were like one another in character. And in the springtime Eric the Dane accompanied his friend to the realm of Gardar and thence to Micklegarth, where the Emperor of Greece holds sway, and they took with them four-and-twenty men, great, tall, strong fellows, famed for valor and hardihood and skill in fighting.
At that time the Emperor of Greece was gathering an army to war against his foes, and he invited the two Erics to join him. He entertained them with all honors, and through an interpreter asked who they were, whence they had come, and what was the purpose of their journey. When he was told that they came from the North, and that their purpose was to see the wide world, he treated them with great kindness and courtesy, and they on their part were of much service to him in his enterprise. And when the Emperor saw that each Northman surpassed two or three Greeks in fighting, and that they were men who might thoroughly be trusted, he gave to them more gold than to his other men and made them his beloved liegemen. And they were the first Northmen who rose to honor among the Greeks.
Now one day Eric the Thrond asked the Emperor, "O Emperor, tell me if you know how far the earth extends?"
And the Emperor made answer: "You ask about things that it is useless to know. I will, however, tell you. It is one hundred and eighty thousand millions of miles round. It is not held in its place by pillars; God holds it firm."
"How far is it," asked Eric, "from heaven to earth?"
"One hundred and eighty-five thousand miles."
"What is there round about the earth?"
"The great sea, which is called the ocean."
"Which land is furthest from us in the southern half of the world?"
"We consider India the end of the earth on the southern side."
"Where is Odainsakr, of which we have heard tell in our country?"
"It lies in the East, not far from India. We call it Paradise. Northmen call it the 'Land of Living Men.' That, I believe, is the Odainsakr you mean."
"Is it possible to reach it?"
"Most certainly not, for it is surrounded by a wall of fire which stretches from the floor of earth to the ceiling of heaven."
Now when the Emperor had answered these and many other questions, Eric fell at his feet, and said: "I believe, O best and wisest Emperor, that for your own honor's sake you will help me on the journey for which I am bound in order to fulfil my vow. I am in search of Odainsakr, but I shall never reach it unless you help me."
"Stay with me for the next three years," replied the Emperor, "you and Eric the Dane, then you shall proceed on your journey. It will do you good to stay. After that time I will help you."
And the two promised they would stay.
Afterwards Eric the Thrond asked the Emperor about the different countries he would pass through, the manners and customs of the inhabitants, the seas and rivers. He also asked about the Eastern and Southern parts of the world, the forests, the islands, the deserts; the ways of the different people; the huge serpents, beasts, and birds; the quantity of gold, jewels, and precious stones to be found. And to all his questions the Emperor gave wise, kind, clever answers.
Now when Eric's three years' stay with the Emperor had come to an end, and when he had gained from his sovereign much knowledge about many things, he set off with a company of men for the Land of Syria. And the Emperor of Greece gave him letters sealed with his own seal that the monarchs of other lands might read and welcome and hospitably entertain him. And from Syria he sailed with stranger men on their way eastwards. From there he continued his journey, sometimes on horseback, oftener on foot, until he and his men came to India. The great chiefs of the foreign lands he visited gave him a kindly welcome. Every one helped him on his way, and all to whom he showed the letters of the Greek Emperor received him courteously and were hospitable. No one cheated them, nor did any do them harm.
When they had passed beyond the confines of India, a journey lasting more than forty-five days, they came to lands where it was ever dark, and where the stars alone shone through the livelong day. Here they saw a golden rock and many other marvelous things. And when they had wandered for many days over forests and lofty mountains, questioning one another as to which way they should go, they came to a river called Pison, which flows from the Land of Paradise. Over the river and high above them was a stone bridge, across which lay a marvelous huge dragon, which terrified them by its wide-open mouth, that seemed gaping to devour them. Beyond this they saw a land from whence the breeze wafted the most exquisite scents. They could see that it was full of flowers of all kinds and of honey in abundance. And it seemed to them that they had reached the borders of the land they sought.
Then Eric the Thrond went towards the bridge to pass over the river, but Eric the Dane forbade him, saying:
'Beware! Do not go near. See, the dragon is ready to swallow you."
But Eric the Thrond answered: "I do not fear the dragon, and he shall not hinder my journey."
"I beg you, dearest of friends," said Eric the Dane, "do not give yourself to death. Turn back: if you go any farther you will surely be killed."
But Eric the Thrond would not listen, and determined to go onward. So the two Erics bade one another farewell, and parted.
Eric the Thrond now drew his sword, and holding it in his right hand, took one of his companions by the left hand. Thus the two men went forwards towards the dragon's mouth. And as Eric the Dane looked on, it seemed to him that the dragon at once swallowed the two men up. But it did not really happen so, for as Eric the Thrond and his companion rushed into the dragon's mouth they found themselves journeying onwards in the midst of great darkness. But Eric the Dane turned away and began his journey home. After many years he reached his native land, where he told of the fate of Eric the Thrond to all who asked him about it, how he had been swallowed up by a dragon in trying to cross the Golden Bridge that led to the Land of Paradise. And there is nothing further told of Eric the Dane.
Now, when Eric the Thrond had passed out of the darkness, he found himself in a land of glorious delight, where every herb was beautiful and covered with flowers, and where streams of honey flowed through every field. It was a low country, flat like a plain; not a mountain was to be seen, nor even a hill. It was lit up by perpetual sunshine, and there was neither cloud, nor night, nor darkness. A perfect calm seemed to touch all things; only when the breeze stirred lightly did the scents of the flowers seem stronger than before. And Eric and his companion walked over the fields for a long way to see if they could find any house or building, and to learn how far the land extended. At last they saw what seemed like a hood-shaped building hanging in the air, and they turned to examine it. As they approached they saw that it was a tower unsupported by any pillars, while to the south of it a high ladder was fixed. As they came quite close they wondered greatly as to how the ladder could be supported against a tower hanging in the air. Then they climbed the ladder, which led them to a room all hung round with rich curtains. Inside was a silver table, upon which lay exceeding white bread of a delicious fragrance. Upon a golden plate were placed all kinds of meats and delicious fruits. There were, too, a tankard adorned with precious stones, and a golden goblet, both filled with a delightful drink. Beds covered with costly velvet might be seen in another part of the room. And they marveled greatly at all these wonderful things.
"Behold," said Eric, "here is Odainsakr, the land I have sought for many years with great toil and difficulty. "
And they praised God, saying: "Great is Almighty God, and glorious in all things; for He hath helped us to discover this land." Then they ate and drank and lay down to sleep.
And as Eric slept there appeared to him a young man clothed in white, who thus addressed him: "Great is your faith, Eric, for you have shown it by persevering in your search. Tell me how the land pleases you."
"It is all I could wish," he replied, "and better than any other land. But tell me, who are you? Your knowledge must be greater than mine, for you are acquainted with my name, while I know you not."
And the young man smiled upon him, and said: "I am an angel, one of those who watch over Paradise. I was standing by you when you made the solemn vow to travel south over the world. By God's command I made you think of sailing to Micklegarth, where, through me, you believed the truth and were baptized. It was a blessed thing that you listened to the Greek Emperor's advice, received his letters, and afterwards bathed in the Jordan. God made me your guardian angel, and I have taken care of you on land and sea and through every danger of your journey. I have kept you from all evil. Many things happen according to God's will that men cannot understand, but we are spirits of the heavenly country. The beautiful land you have seen is but a bare desert compared with Paradise, where the first created humans live, and the souls of the patriarchs and prophets. It is but a little way from here, and the river you crossed flows from it. Before you came here, God told us to water it and make the flowers bloom, so that in it you might see a land somewhat like Paradise, wherein you might rest and be rewarded after your toil."
"Where do you live?" asked Eric of the angel.
"In the heavens, where we look upon God, who is a spirit. We are often sent into the world in time of need to help men, as I have been sent to you."
"How is this building kept up? It seems to me to be hanging in the air."
"God holds it. By this you may believe that God created all things from nothing."
Then the angel asked Eric: "Do you wish to stay here, or to return to your own country?"
"I would rather return."
"Why do you wish to go back to your own wretched native land?"
"That I may tell my friends about my journey and all the wonderful things I have seen and heard. If I do not return they will think I have died an evil death."
Then the angel said: "Though the people in your land still worship idols, and though the time has not yet come when they shall leave their idols and return to God, yet it will come, and God in His mercy shall free them. You may return to tell of God's greatness, which you have seen in Eastern lands. Perhaps they will be more ready to believe in God when they hear what you have to say. Ten years after you reach home I will visit you, as I visited Habakkuk and Daniel, whom I took over many lands. I will then bring you to this place, chosen of God, that your bones may be guarded here till the Judgment-Day. Remain here for seven days, then take with you food for your journey, and return to the North."
In the morning, when Eric awoke, he thanked God, and did all the angel had told him. We do not know anything about his return North, until four years afterwards, when he reached Micklegarth, and gave an account of his journey to the Greek Emperor.
"God has protected you wonderfully," said the Emperor, "and shown you His secret things—a sight you cannot repay."
Eric stayed two years with the Emperor, and in the seventh of his homeward travel he came to Throndheim, where he dwelt ten years. And at the dawn of day, when the ten years had come to an end, as Eric was kneeling down to pray, God took him, and he was seen no more on earth.
So ends the Saga of Eric the Far-Traveled.