Artwork for podcast Saga Kraft
Episode 230th December 2020 • Saga Kraft • Betsy Bergstrom, Gabriela Sarna, Sea Gabriel: Saga Kraft
00:00:00 00:52:33

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Sea: Welcome to Saga Kraft. Myths, fairytales, legends. Stories comfort us, inspire us, and heal us. Please join us as we share stories both old and new. More than anything, we are open to the story and it's unfolding. At times it may be one story told by one person. At times it's the same story told through three different voices. In the end, we go where the story takes us, and we invite you to follow. 

I'm Sea a writer, artist, and storyteller.

Betsy:  I'm Betsy, a medium and teacher of mystery traditions.

Gabriela:  I'm Gabriella, an artist and practitioner of folk magic. 

Saga Kraft: We are magical fairy godmothers in training. 

Betsy: Our stories today are about elves and elf land. We hope you enjoy them. 

Sea: I will go if it's okay. 

Once upon a time, there was an elf who wanted to fly and every night he would dream of soaring through the air. One morning, after such a dream, he was brushing his teeth and just out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw a horrible blackness rotting away at his teeth in the back.

He jumped up and gasped, first choking on then spitting his toothpaste. After rinsing out his mouth and changing his shirt he went to see his grandparent, as one never knows the gender of the elves in his family until one sees him or her, since they change it. Well today he was a grandfather. The elf told him what happened.

"Not to worry," the grandfather said "it was a waking dream. They happen to the best of us." 

So the next day the elf had his teeth cleaned and everything was fine. But, a while later, the elf was looking into the mirror again when he thought he saw a king galloping up behind him. To be clear, the king himself was not galloping. The horse he was riding on was. In any event, the elf went running to his neighbor and excitedly told her about it. "What a nice dream!" The neighbor exclaimed, and called to some friends passing by. She told them all about the elves vision of a King coming through town. They laughed and cajoled. Someone brought a cake and they all told tales of the beautiful things they wished would happen, and on the way home, the elf made a game of walking through the fresh hoof prints that led through town, laughing at himself because he actually thought he might see a king .

And one season turned into the next before the elf was fixing his hair, when he saw a golden pen in the mirror. He recognized it as the prize at the elvin poetry contest. He was so excited that he immediately went running to his grandparents' house. "Grandmother!" He said to the old elf who was feeling feminine, but then stopped. "I hope you are doing well today. I just wanted to thank you for the other day. My teeth are great."

" That's wonderful, but did you really come all that way to tell me that?" The old elf asked.

"I just thought it would be nice to see you" the young elf said, as he scurried home to write a few poems, which he immediately entered into the contest.

On the day of the poetry reading the elf stared deeply into the mirror, hoping to see the golden pen, but nothing appeared. He went to the contes ,and, when it was his turn, hesitantly took the stage. He read his poem about flying and falling and flying again. In the end, he probably took first place, but writing poems about flying wasn't the same as actually doing it.

The next day, the elf looked into the mirror and searched out of the corner of his eye for an image of flight. He tried jumping up, suddenly and erratically twisting in the air, attempting to create a flight like image. When it wasn't working, he tried flicking his hair back and forth to see if he could create a flying scene with that.

No luck. Finally, in desperation, he drew a picture of flight onto the mirror itself. Then he went into his craft area and began to sew himself a set of wings. He had to make them perfect. Both potentially wind altering, he billowed the fabric in the air to test this ,and beautiful. He drew intricate lacy feathers on the wings.

When he finally had them perfected, he crept into the forest telling no one. There, he climbed up onto a large boulder. He avoided the cliffs as he was not a fool, and gently put them on. He looked like a blow up of a normal bird on a reasonable sized stone, only huge. Thinking of the mirror and psyching himself up into his most bird likes state of mind, he took a flight inducing leap off the rock and plummeted into the soft dirt and leaves below, significantly muddying his beautiful new wings. 

Bitterly, he returned home and began to scream at his mirror. 

"I did everything!" He said." Everything I could to fly!" 

 but as he was yelling, a bird flew by his window and cast a shadow onto the top of the mirror. Straightening himself up, he smiled and went to work.

The earth took a trip and a half around the sun before he tested passed, and earned his elven pilot license. 

Gabriela: Thank you, Sea. That was absolutely lovely. 

Sea: Thank you. 

Gabriela: I'm very curious about the teeth.

Sea: About the teeth?

Gabriela:  About the teeth. What were the teeth? Or his illusion of the teeth? Something that was a place setting for a different shift in reality for him? I don't know. It just really struck me, like, the teeth scared me because there's such an entrance into communication, or into that sort of other worldliness. Or losing something of this world to gain something of another. 

Sea: I think that you're right. So, to be honest, this is the first time I am thinking about the teeth, but I absolutely think you're right. To me, the teeth mean, you know, to sink one's teeth into something or to be willing to defend and protect. And yeah, I think the teeth were a call for him to show up to something that was calling out to him. 

Betsy: I was struck by him seeing the darkness in the mirror around the teeth, too. And then just seeing that that became a mirror that allowed him to get information or to perceive something. And so, was he seeing that mirror as kind of a magic mirror that gave him direction? 

Sea: Yes, he was, he was seeing it as a magic mirror. And in fact, I had that line in it and I read it differently.

Betsy: The gender changing aspects of the elves too, and that type of fluidity, that could be part of their transformational abilities. 

Sea: Yeah. Strangely on the transformative note, I was so aware that it was not my voice. I was so aware that the voice I was speaking in was so not my own voice. 

Gabriela: Yeah, to me, the whole story, it was so beautifully written and it felt like such a riddle. Like, it felt from beginning to end that this process that the elf was going through and the earning, the yearning to fly, you know, and I caught myself thinking, are elves, supposed to fly? Can they fly? Why does he want to fly? You know, it was so multilayered and I realized that so much lore, and just the nature of elves, is about magic and being able to manifest anything out of nothing. So he was trying to do something that has already been done. Because him yearning for it, if we're thinking in elf language and magic language, flight has already happened, he was already able to do it.

Sea:  Right. Yeah, I liked that he had to sort of tell the story of it before he could actually begin to encounter it, too. 

Betsy: And also gaining that confidence in seeing that he could enter that contest and win the contest, I think possibly built his confidence into, you know, that step by step of what it takes to actually transform and change. Not only our capabilities, but what we think is really possible too. So, that was a lovely touch.

Sea:  Yeah, both in the story and at least in my life, it feels like the, the middle things are off topic. Like I want this thing and then I'd have to go do these weird things. And then I get that thing I wanted. And it feels like it was a total different journey, but still a necessary one.

Gabriela: I have to say, I secretly appreciate the fact that he had to brush his teeth.

Sea: There just aren't enough tooth brushing stories, right? 

Gabriela: It certainly brings the magic into our world. And we try to separate our mundane from the non mundane realities, but it is all together. It exists together. So I appreciate that very much. 

Betsy: Well and it helps us to understand more things about elves, that they have some of the similar things that we have in life, that they must deal with. But what else is possible? Flight, apparently. Thank you. 

Sea: Next step?

Betsy:  I'll do it. My story about the elves is a continuation also of a story about Tess and the goblin cat.

Tess and the goblin cat were settling in together. She was still finding it hard to discover the true name of the cat. She called it a different name every few days. She had received a lot of advice from her relatives about the cat. The first advice was to find out whether it was male or female. The next, was to give it some time to discover its temperament. It's temperament didn't change much though. It was devoted to her, suspicious of her mother, and seemed to watch everything with the cynical air.

It wasn't going to let anyone but Tess touch it. Tess supposed that may have been the result of living with goblins for the first weeks of its life, and tried to make up to the cat for that. 

"Oh cat, I wish the goblin boy hadn't kicked you so hard."

 Then there was the problem of its long leggedness, that had necessitated a visit to her great aunt Hulda. Hulda, an aged, bent, crone of a lady, with sharp but faded blue eyes, had laughed one loud "HAHA" when she saw the cat.

" I haven't seen one of these since I was a child."

 She touched cat on the head with a gnarled finger, pulling it onto her aprons lap. To Tess's surprise, the cat went limp, curling in her lap and purring.

"I'll work on its size and legs" Hulda said, while stroking the cat. "Gudrun is in the kitchen making tea, Gudrun!" She called

 Tess's relative Gudrun came out of the kitchen, drying her hands on a nearly identical apron. Her hair was in platinum braids. Her eyes a violet blue and her cheeks rosy. Her smile lit up the room.

" Come into the kitchen and have tea and let Hulda do her work."

 Her accent was Scandinavian and lilting. Tess followed her into the kitchen.

"Sit down and eat" said Gudrun, " I will join you. Your mother will assist Hulda.". 

She sat Tess down in the window embrasure seat and the two girls drank tea and ate sublime pastries. Tess could feel herself relaxing and realizing the weeks with Cat had been wonderful. To finally have a familiar, after looking for it for years, but stressful because the cat was not usual in any sort of way.

"What do you suppose she's doing to it?" Tess asked Gudrun.

"She's concealing its appearance so it can pass for normal." Gudrun said matter of factly. "Shape-shifting is a gift."

" Oh, I'd love to watch that."

" She won't let you. Your presence would pull the cat's awareness to you. Best to let them do their work in peace. Drink, eat," She said with Icelandic persistence " then I will tell you a story. Hulda says I'm to practice my storytelling with you."

 "I'd love that!" Tess was fascinated by her older cousin. 

"Good, would you rather hear about the trolls of stickies, or Hildr the queen of the elves?"

 "Hildr, please." 

"All right. A long time ago in a part of Iceland, that was part pasture and part mountains, lived an unmarried farmer named Lars. He had quite a few workers to help with the farm, and they were all cared for by a young woman named Hildr, who was quiet, fastidious and hardworking. She kept to herself and worked from dawn long into the evening. 

Though a prosperous farm, Lars had a hard time keeping herdsman for his sheep because, for the past years, on each Christmas morning, his herdsman would be found dead in his bed, having died in the night. The farmer and other workers would spend Christmas Eve at the local church as was the custom. The herdsman would not attend because gathering the sheep took so much time in the early dark of the afternoon that the herdsman would have to stay at the house. Hildr also refrained from going to the church. She had to make the food for Christmas day dinner, when everyone returned.

 For a time, the farmer tried to manage without a herdsman, losing sheep and income, but at least not losing any more human lives. The herdsmen had all died without a mark on them, so no suspicion fell on anyone at the farm. It was a troubling situation and a dark blot on the farm.

Then a day came when a man came knocking, asking for the job of herdsman. He was strong, bold, somewhat handsome, and quite full of self-confidence. The farmer didn't want to hire him and told him why. The man said he wasn't afraid, and he needed the job and a place to live. The man added that fear of what might happen wouldn't interfere with him doing his job and he would take good care of the sheep. Reluctantly, the farmer hired him, which was an answer to the man's urgent prayer and need, for he had skills, but nowhere to live and needed the work. He was a hard worker that everyone came to like, and the farm began to feel almost like normal.

Then the days before Christmas came. The farmer told the man he could come to church with them and let the sheep fend for themselves in the night. The man declined, saying he wasn't afraid and would do his job. The party of workers and the farmer left in the daylight hours to get to the church for the all night Christmas Eve vigil. The farmer left with a heavy heart fearing, the worst.

 Hildr, finishing her preparations for tomorrow's dinner, fed the man his supper, who went right to bed afterwards. The man was tired, but he knew he could only sleep lightly as he remembered what had happened to all those other herdsman who had been as desperate as he for work. He resolved to stay awake, but found a strange drowsiness coming over him. Fighting this worrying sleepiness, he resolved to stay awake.

He was half dozing when he heard the door to his room open and quiet steps coming towards his bed, he saw through the dark of the room that it was Hildr. Her small warm hand touched his face, inserting something into his mouth, which he instinctively knew was a magic bridle. With the bridal attached, he was powerless to resist as Hildr dragged him from the bed to the front door and out into the snowy night. She climbed onto his back and, twitching the rein, she caused him to rise into the air and rode him through the dark winter night under the stars, under the snow, until they came to a high mountain which had a yawning cavernous opening.

She dismounted, tied the reins to the rock, and leaped into the opening. The herdsman tried to move, not wanting to stay tied out in the cold of the night. He couldn't move at all , until he finally struggled three from the bridle. When he leaped into the cavern opening following Hildr, he found himself falling, falling, falling into another world, and eventually landing in a landscape unlike the snowy one he had left behind. Green meadows with flowers were all around him. 

He saw Hildr moving swiftly in a direction and he followed as fast as he could. He knew now she was not an ordinary mortal and, for protection, he pulled a magic star stone from his pouch given to him by his grandmother long ago. The stone kept him invisible and he followed Hildr until he could see a lovely building in the distance with a great crowd of people waiting in front. Hildr made her way there, straight into the arms of a man who seemed to be the king of this place. Two small children were there with him. Hildr, her face glowing, smiling with happiness, scooped up the children, holding them close to her heart.

The whole crowd swept in through the gates of the building and made their way to the banqueting hall where a vast feast was laid out. The festivities, which had nothing to do with Christmas, commenced, with music and speeches of welcome, when Hildr entered, now dressed in silks and golden jewels. This great welcome was for Hildr, ,their queen, able to be home for this one night only.

She sat on the high seat with her husband and presided over the feast. Everyone was happy to see her except one. This one sat like a dark toad in the corner glaring at her. The banquet continued merrily. The herdsman, invisible thanks to his magic stone, stayed hidden under the table in front of the high seat. He was trying to take in everything at once, determined to survive this night and not knowing where danger lay. Though longing to taste the food and drink, he held back. At one point, the two children growing tired, began to fret, and Hildr took off her rings and bangles and let the smaller child play with their golden jingling beauty.

One ring fell to the floor and the herdsman quickly scooped it up into his pouch. The children and the servants looked for it, but to no avail. The herdsman remained undetected. Hours passed this way, and then suddenly Hildr hugged her family, said goodbye to the throngs of people and swiftly left the home.

The herdsman hurried out, passing her as she was saying her goodbyes. Just before she'd change back into her ordinary clothes, he was able to hurry across the meadows and up the sides of the cavern with the help of his magic ring and thus was waiting, bridle on, when Hildr came. She mounted him, riding him back to the farm, where Hildr placed him back in bed, removing the bridle and retiring to her own chamber.

 The man slept. The next morning, the farmer came home, expecting the herdsmen to be dead. He was amazed to find the man still sleeping, still breathing and praise god for his deliverance. At length, the man woke and the farmer asked him if anything untoward had happened. 

The herdsman said " Well, I had a strange dream."

 And he told the farmer what had happened with Hildr, and the people that he now knew where elves. All of the residents of the farmstead were gathered around this sitting, including Hildr. 

At the end of his story Hildr said hotly, "I declare you a liar. I will only believe you if you can prove it as true."

 The man, not in the least fearful of her, picked up his pouch from the pile of discarded clothes and pulled out the golden ring.

" I pick this ring up from the floor when your child dropped it at the banquet, don't you recognize it, Queen Hilder?"

" It is my ring. Thank you. You have broken the spell put on me by my husband's horrid mother. May you prosper all the days of your life. You have released me from the awful yoke of murder, which was the only way that I could spend one day a year with my husband and children. I was cursed that...