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The Magician's Daughter

Source: Folk-lore And Legends Scandinavian

Just on the Finland frontiers there is situated a high mountain, which,
on the Swedish side, is covered with beautiful copsewood, and on the
other with dark pine-trees, so closely ranked together, and so luxuriant
in shade, that one might almost say the smallest bird could not find its
way through the thickets. Below the copsewood there stands a chapel with
the image of St. George, as guardian of the land and as a defence
against dragons, if there be such, and other monsters of paganism,
while, on the other side, on the borders of the dark firwood, are
certain cottages inhabited by wicked sorcerers, who have, moreover, a
cave cut so deep into the mountain that it joins with the bottomless
abyss, whence come all the demons that assist them. The Swedish
Christians who dwelt in the neighbourhood of this mountain thought it
would be necessary, besides the chapel and statue of St. George, to
choose some living protector, and therefore selected an ancient warrior,
highly renowned for his prowess in the battle-field, who had, in his old
age, become a monk. When this man went to take up his abode upon the
mountains, his only son (for he had formerly lived as a married man in
the world) would on no account leave him, but lived there also,
assisting his father in his duties as watcher, and in the exercises of
prayer and penitence, fully equalling the example that was now afforded
him as he had formerly done his example as a soldier.

The life led by those two valiant champions is said to have been most
admirable and pious.

Once on a time it happened that the young hero went out to cut wood in
the forest. He bore a sharp axe on his shoulders, and was besides girded
with a great sword; for as the woods were not only full of wild beasts,
but also haunted by wicked men, the pious hermits took the precaution of
always going armed. While the good youth was forcing his way through the
thickest of the copsewood, and already beheld over it the pointed tops
of the fir-trees (for he was close on the Finland frontier), there
rushed out against him a great white wolf, so that he had only just time
enough to leap to one side, and not being able immediately to draw his
sword, he flung his axe at his assailant. The blow was so well aimed
that it struck one of the wolf's fore-legs, and the animal, being sorely
wounded, limped back, with a yell of anguish, into the wood. The young
hermit warrior, however, thought to himself--

"It is not enough that I am rescued, but I must take such measures that
no one else may in future be injured, or even terrified by this wild

So he rushed in as fast as possible among the fir-trees, and inflicted
such a vehement blow with his sword on the wolf's head, that the animal,
groaning piteously, fell to the ground. Hereupon there came over the
young man all at once a strange mood of regret and compassion for his
poor victim. Instead of putting it immediately to death, he bound up the
wounds as well as he could with moss and twigs of trees, placed it on a
sort of canvas sling on which he was in the habit of carrying great
fagots, and with much labour brought it home, in hopes that he might be
able at last to cure and tame his fallen adversary. He did not find his
father in the cottage, and it was not without some fear and anxiety that
he laid the wolf on his own bed, which was made of moss and rushes, and
over which he had nailed St. George and the Dragon. He then turned to
the fire-place of the small hut, in order to prepare a healing salve for
the wounds. While he was thus occupied, how much was he astonished to
hear the moanings and lamentations of a human voice from the bed on
which he had just before deposited the wolf. On returning thither his
wonder was inexpressible on perceiving, instead of the frightful wild
beast, a most beautiful damsel, on whose head the wound which he had
inflicted was bleeding through her fine golden hair, and whose right
arm, in all its grace and snow-white luxuriance, was stretched out
motionless, for it had been broken by the blow from his axe.

"Pray," said she, "have pity, and do not kill me outright. The little
life that I have still left is, indeed, painful enough, and may not
last long; yet, sad as my condition is, it is yet tenfold better than

The young man then sat down weeping beside her, and she explained to him
that she was the daughter of a magician, on the other side of the
mountain, who had sent her out in the shape of a wolf to collect plants
from places which, in her own proper form, she could not have reached.
It was but in terror she had made that violent spring which the youth
had mistaken for an attack on him, when her only wish had been to pass
by him.

"But you directly broke my right arm," said she, "though I had no evil
design against you."

How she had now regained her proper shape she could not imagine, but to
the youth it was quite clear that the picture of St. George and the
Dragon had broken the spell by which the poor girl had been transformed.

While the son was thus occupied, the old man returned home, and soon
heard all that had occurred, perceiving, at the same time, that if the
young pagan wanderer had been released from the spells by which she had
been bound, the youth was, in his turn, enchanted and spellbound by her
beauty and amiable behaviour.

From that moment he exerted himself to the utmost for the welfare of her
soul, endeavouring to convert her to Christianity, while his son
attended to the cure of her wounds; and, as their endeavours were on
both sides successful, it was resolved that the lovers should be united
in marriage, for the youth had not restricted himself by any monastic

The magician's daughter was now restored to perfect health. A day had
been appointed for her baptism and marriage. It happened that one
evening the bride and bridegroom went to take a pleasure walk through
the woods. The sun was yet high in the west, and shone so fervently
through the beech-trees on the green turf that they could never resolve
on turning home, but went still deeper and deeper into the forest. Then
the bride told him stories of her early life, and sang old songs which
she had learned when a child, and which sounded beautifully amid the
woodland solitude. Though the words were such that they could not be
agreeable to the youth's ears (for she had learned them among her pagan
and wicked relations), yet he could not interrupt her, first, because he
loved her so dearly, and, secondly, because she sang in a voice so clear
and sweet that the whole forest seemed to rejoice in her music. At last,
however, the pointed heads of the pine-trees again became visible, and
the youth wished to turn back, in order that he might not come again too
near the hated Finnish frontier. His bride, however, said to him--

"Dearest Conrad, why should we not walk on a little further? I would
gladly see the very place where you so cruelly wounded me on the head
and arm, and made me prisoner, all which has, in the end contributed to
my happiness. Methinks we are now very near the spot."

Accordingly they sought about here and there until at last the twilight
fell dim and heavy on the dense woods. The sun had long since set. The
moon, however, had risen, and, as a light broke forth, the lovers stood
on the Finland frontier, or rather they must have gone already some
distance beyond it, for the bridegroom was exceedingly terrified when he
found his cap lifted from his head, as if by human hand, though he saw
only the branch of a fir-tree. Immediately thereafter the whole air
around them was filled with strange and supernatural beings--witches,
devils, dwarfs, horned-owls, fire-eyed cats, and a thousand other
wretches that could not be named and described, whirled around them as
if dancing to rapid music. When the bride had looked on for a while, she
broke out into loud laughter, and at last began to dance furiously along
with them. The poor bridegroom might shout and pray as much and as
earnestly as he would, for she never attended to him, but at last
transformed herself in a manner so extraordinary that he could not
distinguish her from the other dancers. He thought, however, that he had
kept his eyes upon her, and seized on one of the dancers; but alas! it
was only a horrible spectre which held him fast, and threw its wide
waving shroud around him, so that he could not make his escape, while,
at the same time, some of the subterraneous black demons pulled at his
legs, and wanted to bear him down along with them into their bottomless

Fortunately he happened at that moment to cross himself and call on the
name of the Saviour, upon which the whole of this vile assembly fell
into confusion. They howled aloud and ran off in all directions, while
Conrad in the meantime saved himself by recrossing the frontier, and
getting under the protection of the Swedish copsewood. His beautiful
bride, however, was completely lost; and by no endeavours could he ever
obtain her again, though he often came to the Finland border, called out
her name aloud, wept and prayed, but all in vain. Many times, it is
true, he saw her floating about through the pine-trees, as if in chase,
but she was always accompanied by a train of frightful creatures, and
she herself also looked wild and disfigured. For the most part she never
noticed Conrad, but if she could not help fixing her eyes upon him, she
laughed so immoderately, and in a mood of merriment so strange and
unnatural, that he was terrified and made the sign of the cross,
whereupon she always fled away, howling, into one of the thickets.

Conrad fell more and more into melancholy abstraction, hardly ever
spoke, and though he had given over his vain walks into the forest, yet
if one asked him a question, the only answer he returned was--

"Ay, she is gone away beyond the mountains," so little did he know or
remember of any other object in the world but the lost beauty.

At last he died of grief; and according to a request which he had once
made, his father prepared a grave for him on the place where the bride
was found and lost, though during the fulfilment of this duty he had
enough to do--one while in contending with his crucifix against evil
spirits, and at another, with his sword against wild beasts, which were
no doubt sent thither by the magicians to attack and annoy him. At
length, however, he brought his task to an end, and thereafter it seemed
as if the bride mourned for the youth's untimely death, for there was
heard often a sound of howling and lamentation at the grave. For the
most part, indeed, this voice is like the voices of wolves, yet, at the
same time, human accents are to be distinguished, and I myself have
often listened thereto on dark winter nights.

Alas! that the poor maiden should have ventured again so near the
accursed paths she had once renounced. A few steps in the backward
course, and all is lost!

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