THE KINGS MIRROR
WRITTEN IN NORWAY 1250 AD
King's Mirror / Speculum Regale / Konungs Skugga / Kongsspeilet is a learning book for young Princes and
Princesses as well as for candidates for De Håndgangne Menn as well as
as for all others interested in learning about the practicalities of
It was written around 1250 AD in Norway. It contains the wisdom taught through the dialogue of a wise fathter and his son. The work was written to be a source for knowledge and wisdom for all the generations to follow. The Kings Mirror was translated from the Old Norwegian to English by Laurence Marcellus Larson in 1917.
This year we hereby present the work in full and in English as part of the celebration of our 1000th anniversary as the Nobility of Norway: 1020 AD -2020 AD.
our audience will find Part I.
Part II concerns the relationship between the King and his Court and can be found here
but we reccomend everyone to read the book from page to page.
THE KINGS MIRROR - 1250 AD - I:
I INTRODUCTION: NAME AND PURPOSE OF THE WORK
I PASSED all the crafts before my mind's eye and studied intently all
the practices belonging to each craft; and I saw a vast multitude walking
wearily along the paths that slope downward from the highways of virtue
into error and vice.
Some of these were very steep, and those who followed them perished in desolate ravines; for the long, wearisome road had fatigued them, and they had not enough strength left to climb up the hillside, nor were they able to find the by-paths that led back to the highways of virtue.
The destruction of this multitude was due, it seemed to me, to various causes: some perished through igno-rance, for the ways of error were trodden so generally that they appeared to be the most convenient to follow, and ignorant men mistook them for highways, since the majority seemed to walk in them; some perished be-cause of laziness and carelessness; others feared that they would suffer derision and contumely, if they walked the highroad alone; while still others were led astray by perversity, wickedness, and the various passions.
But when I had observed how good morals were scorned and how the scorners perished, I began to won-der how to find a road where I should not be traveling entirely alone and yet would not have to choose one of those paths where the crowd were exhausting their strength, lest the steep climb should weary me, if I were to make an effort to get back up again.
Inasmuch as my father was still living and loved me well, I thought it would be better to seek his counsel than after a slight consideration to reach a decision which might displease him. So I hastened to my father and laid the whole problem before him. He was a wise and kind man, and I found that he was pleased when he heard that my errand was to learn right conduct. He permitted me to ask whatever I wished about the prac-tices of the various crafts, and how they differed. He also promised to make known to me all the usages that are most properly observed by each craft that I might ask about. He further promised to point out, as a warn-ing, the paths of error which most men enter upon when they leave the highways of virtue. Finally he promised to show me the by-paths that those may take who wish to return from wrong roads to the highway.
Thereupon I began my inquiry by asking about the activities of merchants and their methods. At the close of the first discussion, when my questions had all been answered, I became bolder in speech and mounted to a higher point in our review of the conditions of men; for next I began to inquire into the customs of kings and other princes and of the men who follow and serve them. Nor did I wholly omit to ask about the doings of the clergy and their mode of life. And I closed by inquiring into the activities of the peasants and husbandmen, who till the soil, and into their habits and occupation.
But when my father had given wise and sufficient re-plies to all the questions that I had asked, certain wise and worthy men, who, being present, had heard my questions and his wise and truthful answers, requested me to note down all our conversations and set them in a book, so that our discussions should not perish as soon as we ceased speaking, but prove useful and enjoyable to many who could derive no pastime from us who were present at these conversations.
So I did as they advised and requested. I searched my memory and pondered deeply upon the speeches and set them all in a book, not only for the amusement or the fleeting pastime of those who may hear them, but for the help which the book will offer in many ways to all who read it with proper attention and observe care-fully everything that it prescribes. It is written in such a way as to furnish information and entertainment, as well as much practical knowledge, if the contents are carefully learned and remembered. But whoever has clear and proper insight will realize that, if a book is to develop these subjects fully, it will have to be a much larger work than this one.
The book has been given a handsome title: it is called Speculum Regale, not because of pride in him who wrote it, but because the title ought to make those who hear it more eager to know the work itself; and for this rea-son, too, that if any one wishes to be informed as to proper conduct, courtesy, or comely and precise forms of speech, he will find and see these therein along with many illustrations and all manner of patterns, as in a bright mirror. And it is called King's Mirror, because in it one may read of the manners of kings as well as of other men. A king, moreover, holds the highest title and ought, with his court and all his servants, to observe the most proper customs, so that in them his subjects may see good examples of proper conduct, uprightness, and all other courtly virtues. Besides, every king should look frequently into this mirror and observe first his own con-duct and next that of the men who are subject to him. He should reward all whose conduct is good, but should discipline and compel those to observe good morals who cannot learn without threats. Although the book is first and foremost a king's mirror, yet it is intended for every one as a common possession; since whoever wishes is free to look into it and to seek information, as he may desire, about his own conduct, or any other type of manners which he may find discussed in the book. And I believe that no man will be considered unwise or un-mannerly who carefully observes everything that he finds in this work which is suited to his mode of living, no matter what his rank or title may be.
If any one desires or is curious to hear or study this book, he need not inquire about the name or the stand-ing of the man who composed and wrote it, lest per-chance he should reject what may be found useful in it because of contempt, envy, or hostile feeling of some sort for the author.
This request, however, which surely may be granted to any man, we should like to make: we ask all good men who hear this book to give it careful thought and study; and if there should be aught which seems neces-sary to the work but has not been included, whether concerning morals and conduct or discreet and proper forms of speech, let them insert it in proper form and connection. And if they find any matters which seem to impair the work or to have been discussed at too great length, let them discreetly remove all such and thus, amending our ignorance in kindness, help our work to be appreciated in proper spirit. For it was not pride that impelled us to labor but good-will toward all who seemed to need and desire knowledge of this sort.
When I went to my father with these inquiries that I have now mentioned,
I learned in the very first words that I addressed to him, how every one
ought to salute or address one's father.
Son. Good day, sire! I have come to see you as it be-hooves a humble and obedient son to approach a loving and renowned father; and I pray you to listen with patience to the questions that I have in mind to ask and kindly to vouchsafe an answer to each one.
Father. Inasmuch as you are my only son, I am pleased to have you come often to see me, for there are many subjects which we ought to discuss. I shall be glad to hear what you wish to inquire about and to answer such questions as are discreetly asked.
Son. I have heard the common report (which I be-lieve is true) as to your wisdom, that in all the land it would be difficult to find a man who has greater insight into every form of knowledge than you have; for all those who have difficult matters to settle are eager to get your decision. I have also been told that the same was true when you were at the royal court, and that the entire government, lawmaking, treaty making, and every other sort of business, seemed to be guided by your opinion. Now as I am the lawful heir to your worldly possessions, I should also like to share some-what in the heritage of your wisdom. Wherefore I wish to have you point out to me the beginnings and the al-phabet of wisdom, as far as I am able to learn them from you, so that I may later be able to read all your learned writings, and thus follow in your footsteps. For I am sure that after your decease many will rely on your hav-ing trained me after your own ways.
Father. It pleases me to hear you speak in this wise, and I shall be glad to answer; for it is a great comfort to me that I shall leave much wealth for my own true son to enjoy after my days; but I should scarcely regard him as a son, though I had begotten him, if he were a fool. Now if you seek understanding, I will show you the basis and the beginning of all wisdom, as a great and wise man once expressed it: to fear Almighty God, this is the be-ginning of wisdom. But He is not to be feared as an enemy, but rather with the fear of love, as the Son of God taught the man who asked him what the substance of the law was. For the Son of God referred him to the Scripture that reads as follows: Thou shalt love God with all thy heart and with all thy strength and with all thy might. Now one should love God above everything else and fear Him at all times when evil desires arise; he should banish evil longings for God's sake, though he were bold enough to cherish them for men's sake. Now if you wish to know what are the beginnings and the first steps in the pursuit of wisdom, this is the true be-ginning, and there is none other. And whoever learns this and observes it shall not be wanting in true knowl-edge or in any form of goodness.
Son. This is indeed loving counsel, such as one might expect from you; besides, it is good and easily learned by every one whom fortune follows. Still, if one is to be reputed a wise man, it will surely be necessary to take up many things that pertain to the various crafts.
Father. This is the beginning and the alphabet of every good
thing. But through the alphabet one learns to read books, and in the same
way it is always better the more crafts are added to this art. For through
the crafts a man gains wisdom whatever the calling that he intends to follow,
whether that of kingsman, yeo-man, or merchant.
Son. I am now in my most vigorous years and have a desire to travel abroad; for I would not venture to seek employment at court before I had observed the customs of other men. Such is my intention at present, unless you should give me other advice.
Father. Although I have been a kingsman rather than a merchant, I have no fault to find with that calling, for often the best of men are chosen for it. But much de-pends on whether the man is more like those who are true merchants, or those who take the merchant's name but are mere frauds and foisterers, buying and selling wrongfully.
Son. It would be more seemly for me to be like the rightful ones; for it would be worse than one might think likely, if your son were to imitate those who are not as they ought. But whatever my fate is to be, I de-sire to have you inform me as to the practices of such men as seem to be capable in that business.
Father. The man who is to be a trader will have to brave many perils, sometimes at sea and sometimes in heathen lands, but nearly always among alien peoples; and it must be his constant purpose to act discreetly wherever he happens to be. On the sea he must be alert and fearless.
When you are in a market town, or wherever you are, be polite and agreeable; then you will secure the friend-ship of all good men. Make it a habit to rise early in the morning, and go first and immediately to church wher-ever it seems most convenient to hear the canonical hours, and hear all the hours and mass from matins on. Join in the worship, repeating such psalms and prayers as you have learned. When the services are over, go out to look after your business affairs. If you are unac-quainted with the traffic of the town, observe carefully how those who are reputed the best and most prominent merchants conduct their business. You must also be careful to examine the wares that you buy before the purchase is finally made to make sure that they are sound and flawless. And whenever you make a purchase, call in a few trusty men to serve as witnesses as to how the bargain was made.
You should keep occupied with your business till breakfast or, if necessity demands it, till midday; after that you should eat your meal. Keep your table well provided and set with a white cloth, clean victuals, and good drinks. Serve enjoyable meals, if you can afford it. After the meal you may either take a nap or stroll about a little while for pastime and to see what other good merchants are employed with, or whether any new wares have come to the borough which you ought to buy. On returning to your lodgings examine your wares, lest they suffer damage after coming into your hands. If they are found to be injured and you are about to dispose of them, do not conceal the flaws from the purchaser: show him what the defects are and make such a bargain as you can; then you cannot be called a deceiver. Also put a good price on your wares, though not too high, and yet very near what you see can be obtained; then you can-not be called a foister.
Finally, remember this, that whenever you have an hour to spare you should give thought to your studies, especially to the law books; for it is clear that those who gain knowledge from books have keener wits than others, since those who are the most learned have the best proofs for their knowledge. Make a study of all the laws, but while you remain a merchant there is no law that you will need to know more thoroughly than the Bjarkey code. If you are acquainted with the law, you will not be annoyed by quibbles when you have suits to bring against men of your own class, but will be able to plead according to law in every case.
But although I have most to say about laws, I regard no man perfect
in knowledge unless he has thoroughly learned and mastered the customs
of the place where he is sojourning. And if you wish to become perfect
in knowledge, you must learn all the languages, first of all Latin and
French, for these idioms are most widely used; and yet, do not neglect
your native tongue or speech.
Son. May God reward you, sire, for the love of kin-ship that you show in pointing out so many things that I may find needful, - if I have the good fortune to learn them and to remember them after they are learned. And if you think there are any other important matters that ought to be taken up in this discussion, I shall be glad to listen attentively.
Father. There are, indeed, certain matters which should not be omitted from this discourse, but they can be stated in a few words, if that seems best. Train your-self to be as active as possible, though not so as to injure your health. Strive never to be downcast, for a downcast mind is always morbid; try rather to be friendly and genial at all times, of an even temper and never moody. Be upright and teach the right to every man who wishes to learn from you; and always associate with the best men. Guard your tongue carefully; this is good counsel, for your tongue may honor you, but it may also con-demn you. Though you be angry speak few words and never in passion; for unless one is careful, he may utter words in wrath that he would later give gold to have unspoken. On the whole, I know of no revenge, though many employ it, that profits a man less than to bandy heated words with another, even though he has a quarrel to settle with him. You shall know of a truth that no virtue is higher or stronger than the power to keep one's tongue from foul or profane speech, tattling, or slander-ous talk in any form. If children be given to you, let them not grow up without learning a trade; for we may expect a man to keep closer to knowledge and business when he comes of age, if he is trained in youth while under control.
And further, there are certain things which you must beware of and shun like the devil himself: these are drinking, chess, harlots, quarreling, and throwing dice for stakes. For upon such foundations the greatest calamities are built; and unless they strive to avoid these things, few only are able to live long without blame or sin.
Observe carefully how the sky is lighted, the course of the heavenly bodies, the grouping of the hours, and the points of the horizon. Learn also how to mark the movements of the ocean and to discern how its turmoil ebbs and swells; for that is knowledge which all must possess who wish to trade abroad. Learn arithmetic thoroughly, for merchants have great need of that.
If you come to a place where the king or some other chief who is in authority has his officials, seek to win their friendship; and if they demand any necessary fees on the ruler's behalf, be prompt to render all such pay-ments, lest by holding too tightly to little things you lose the greater. Also beware lest the king's belongings find their way into your purse; for you cannot know but that he may be covetous who has those things in charge, and it is easier to be cautious beforehand than to crave pardon afterwards. If you can dispose of your wares at suitable prices, do not hold them long; for it is the wont of merchants to buy constantly and to sell rapidly.
If you are preparing to carry on trade beyond the seas and you sail your own ship, have it thoroughly coated with tar in the autumn and, if possible, keep it tarred all winter. But if the ship is placed on timbers too late to be coated in the fall, tar it when spring opens and let it dry thoroughly afterwards. Always buy shares in good vessels or in none at all. Keep your ship attractive, for then capable men will join you and it will be well manned. Be sure to have your ship ready when summer begins and do your traveling while the season is best. Keep reliable tackle on shipboard at all times, and never remain out at sea in late autumn, if you can avoid it. If you attend carefully to all these things, with God's mercy you may hope for success. This, too, you must keep constantly in mind, if you wish to be counted a wise man, that you ought never to let a day pass with-out learning something that will profit you. Be not like those who think it beneath their dignity to hear or learn from others such things even as might avail them much if they knew them. For a man must regard it as great an honor to learn as to teach, if he wishes to be con-sidered thoroughly informed.
There remain a few minor matters that ought to be mentioned. Whenever you travel at sea, keep on board two or three hundred ells of wadmal of a sort suitable for mending sails, if that should be necessary, a large number of needles, and a supply of thread and cord. It may seem trivial to mention these things, but it is often necessary to have them on hand. You will always need to carry a supply of nails, both spikes and rivets, of such sizes as your ship demands; also good boat hooks and broadaxes, gouges and augers, and all such other tools as ship carpenters make use of. All these things that I have now named you must remember to carry with you on shipboard, whenever you sail on a trading voyage and the ship is your own. When you come to a market town where you expect to tarry, seek lodgings from the innkeeper who is reputed the most discreet and the most popular among both kingsmen and boroughmen. Always buy good clothes and eat good fare if your means permit; and never keep unruly or quarrelsome men as attendants or messmates. Keep your temper calm though not to the point of suffering abuse or bringing upon yourself the reproach of cowardice. Though neces-sity may force you into strife, be not in a hurry to take revenge; first make sure that your effort will succeed and strike where it ought. Never display a heated tem-per when you see that you are likely to fail, but be sure to maintain your honor at some later time, unless your opponent should offer a satisfactory atonement.
If your wealth takes on rapid growth, divide it and invest it in a partnership
trade in fields where you do not yourself travel; but be cautious in selecting
partners. Always let Almighty God, the holy Virgin Mary, and the saint
whom you have most frequently called upon to intercede for you be counted
among your partners. Watch with care over the property which the saints
to share with you and always bring it faithfully to the place to which it was originally promised.
If you have much capital invested in trade, divide it into three parts:
put one-third into partnerships with men who are permanently located in
market boroughs, are trustworthy, and are experienced in business. Place
the other two parts in various business ventures; for if your capital is
invested in different places, it is not likely that you will suffer losses
in all your wealth at one time: more likely it will be secure in some localities,
though frequent losses be suffered. But if you find that the profits of
trade bring a decided increase to your funds, draw out the two-thirds and
invest them in good farm land, for such property is generally thought the
most secure, whether the enjoyment of it falls to one's self or to one's
kinsmen. With the remaining third you say do as seems best, - continue
to keep it in business or place it all in land. However, though you decide
to keep your funds invested in trade, discontinue your own journeys at
sea or as a trader in foreign fields, as soon as your means have attained
sufficient growth and you have studied foreign customs as much as you like.
Keep all that you see in careful memory, the evil with the good; remember
evil practices as a warning, and the good customs as useful to yourself
and to others who may wish to learn from you.
Son. It is evident that whoever wishes to become in-formed on such matters as those which you have now discussed must first try to determine what is most worth learning and afterwards to keep in mind all that he has heard. But in your discussion just recently you men-tioned several things the nature of which I do not under-stand, though I have reflected upon your statements, namely, the lights of the sky and the movements of the ocean. Moreover, you urged me to learn these things and stated that there is knowledge in learning them. But I cannot comprehend them unless I shall hear them ex-plained; and I know of no other wise master with so kind a will to teach me these matters as yourself. There-fore, with your permission, I will ask you to continue this discussion, so that I may become somewhat better informed on these subjects: how the lights of the sky and the course of the heavenly bodies wax and wane; how the time of the day is told and the hours are grouped; but especially how the ocean moves and what causes its restlessness. For sometimes the ocean appears so blithe and cheerful that one would like to sport with it through an entire season; but soon it displays such fierce wrath and ill-nature that the life and property of those who have anything to do with it are endangered. Now I have thought that, although the sun completes its course ac-cording to an established law, that fact cannot produce the unquiet of the sea. If you are disposed to explain these things further, I shall listen gladly and attentively.
Father. I can indeed give such an explanation, just as I have heard it from the lips of well-informed men, and as seems most reasonable according to the insight that God has given me. The sun has received divers offices: for it brings light and warmth to all the earth, and the various parts of the world rejoice in its approaching; but its course is planned in such a way that it sometimes withdraws from those regions that it approaches at other times. When it first comes to visit the east with warmth and bright beams, the day begins to lift up silvery brows and a pleasant face to the east wind. Soon the east wind is crowned with a golden glory and robed in all his rai-ments of joy. He eases griefs and regretful sighs and turns a bright countenance toward his neighbors on either side, bidding them rejoice with him in his delight and cast away their winter like sorrows. He also sends blazing rays into the face of the west wind to inform him of his joy and happiness. He advises the west wind, too, that in the evening he shall be clad in garments similar to those which the east wind wore in the morn-ing. Later in the day and at the proper hour the south-east wind displays the glory of his newly-gotten robes and sends warming rays with friendly messages into the face of the northwest wind. But at midday the south wind reveals how he has been endowed with riches of heat, sends warm gifts of friendship across to the north wind, warms his cool face, and invites all the neighbor-ing winds to share in the abundance of his wealth. As the day declines the southwest wind with glad face re-ceives the gentle sheen and genial beams. Having put away wrath, he reveals his desire for peace and concord; he commands the mighty billows and steep wave-crests to subside with waning power and calls forth quickening dews in a wish to be fully reconciled with all his neigh-bors. Gently he blows a refreshing breath into the face of the northeast wind, warms his wind-chilled lips, and thaws his frosty brow and frozen cheeks. But when even-ing begins, the west wind, clad in splendor and sunset beauty as if robed for a festal eve, lifts a gleaming brow above a blithe countenance, and sends a message on darting beams across to the east wind telling him to prepare for the festive morrow to come.
At sunset the northwest wind begins to raise his fair brows and with lifted eyelids betokens to all his neighbors that the dazzling radiance is now in his keeping. Thereupon he sends forth a shadow over the face of the earth proclaiming to all that now come the hours of rest after the toil of day. But at midnight the north wind goes forth to meet the coursing sun and leads him through rocky deserts toward the sparse-built shores. He calls forth heavy shadows, covers his face with a broad-brimmed helmet, and informs all that he is ar-rayed for the night watch to keep guard over his neigh-bors that they may have comfort and untroubled rest after the heat of day. With cool lips he gently blows upon the face of the south wind, that he may be better able to resist the violent heat of the coming day. He also scatters the dark clouds and clears up the face of heaven in order that the sun, when light appears, may be easily able to send forth his warm and radiant beams in all directions. But on the coming of morn the north-east wind begins to open his closed eyelids and blinks to both sides as if to determine whether it is time to rise. Then he opens quickly his clear eyes as if sated with sleep after ended rest. Soon he leads forth the gleaming day into all the homesteads like a fair youth and fitting herald, to give sure knowledge that the radiant sphere and shining sun follows close behind and to command all to be arrayed for his coming. Soon the sun rises and shoots forth his beams in all directions to watch over the covenant made by the winds; and after that he goes on through his ordained course as we have already told.
When peace has been established among these chiefs that we have just named, it is safe to travel wherever you may wish through the realms of any one of them. Then the sea begins to bar out all violent storms and make smooth highways where earlier the route was im-passable because of broad billows and mighty waves; and the shores offer harbors in many places which for-merly gave no shelter. Now, while this covenant holds, there will be fair sailing for you or any others who wish to travel to foreign shores or steer their ships over the perils of the ocean. It is, therefore, the duty of every man, indeed it is a necessary one, to learn thoroughly when one may look for dangerous seasons and bad routes, or when times come when one may risk everything. For even unwitting beasts observe the seasons, though by instinct, since they have no intellect. Even the fishes, though lacking human insight, know how to find secu-rity in the deep seas, while the winter storms are most violent; but when winter wanes, they move nearer the shores and find enjoyment as after a sorrow suffered and past. Later in the spring after the roe has come, they lay the spawn and bring forth a vast multitude of young fishes and in this way increase their race, each after its kind and class. It does, indeed, show great forethought for unintelligent creatures to provide so carefully against the coming winter storms, and to bring forth their off-spring at the opening of spring, so that they may enjoy the calm weather of summer and search for food in peace and quiet along the wide shores; for thus they gather strength enough in summer against the ensuing winter to sustain themselves among other fishes in the chilly deep.
The covenant brings joy to the sky as well as to the sea; for as spring advances the birds soaring high into the air rejoice with beautiful songs in the newly made treaty of these lords as in a coming festival. Their joy is as great as if they have escaped great and terrible dangers which might arise from the strife of these chieftains. Soon they build nests upon the earth and lead birdlings forth from them, each after its kind. Thus they increase their species and care for their young in the summer that these may be able to find their own sus-tenance in the winter following. Even the earth rejoices in this peace-making, for as soon as the sun begins to pour out its warming rays over the face of the earth, the ice begins to thaw around the frozen grass roots; soon fragrant and fair-hued herbs sprout forth, and the earth shows that she finds gladness and festive joy in the fresh beauty of her emerald robes. She gladly offers to all her offspring the sustenance which she had to re-fuse them earlier because of the dearth in winter. The trees that stood with dripping branches and frozen roots put forth green leaves, thus showing their joy that the sorrow and distress of winter are past.
Unclean and repulsive beasts display insight and un-derstanding
in their ability to determine the proper time to increase their kind and
to come out of their dens. They also observe the season when it is necessary
to flee the cold and stormy distress of winter and seek shelter under rocks,
in large crags, or in the deep scar of the landslide till the time to come
forth is at hand. Wild beasts that seek their food in woods or on the mountains
know well how to discern the seasons; for they bear the begotten offspring
while winter is most severe, so that they may bring forth their young when
the grass is fresh and the summer is warm. There is a little creeping thing
called the ant, which can teach thoughtful men much practical wisdom, whether
they be merchants or husbandmen, kings or lesser men. It teaches kings
how to build castles and fortresses; in the same way it teaches the merchants
and the husbandmen with what industry and at what seasons they ought to
pursue their callings; for he who has proper insight and observes carefully
the activities of the ant will note many things and derive much profit
from them. All other creatures, too, whether clean or unclean, rejoice
in this season, and with vigilant eyes seek their food in the warm summer
time so as to be able to endure more confidently the perils of a desti-tute
winter season. Now it is this covenant between these eight winds that calls
forth all the delights of earth and sky and the calm stirring of the sea
accord-ing to the command and mysterious skill of Him Who ordained in the
beginning that thus should all nature remain until He should change the
order of things. Now if you feel that some of these matters have not yet
been fully cleared up, you may continue your inquiries and ask what questions
Son. It was a wise thought, it seems to me, to ask those questions to which I have just received such fair replies; and I am encouraged to inquire into certain other matters, namely the waxing of the sun, the moon, and the streams or tides of the ocean, - how much and how rapidly these things wax and wane. Now these things that I have brought up for discussion are subjects which especially touch the welfare of seafaring men, and it looks to me as if they would profit much from a knowl-edge of these matters, since it gives insight into the right conduct of their profession. And since I intend to labor diligently in the trader's calling, I should like very much, if it can be done, to have you explain further some of those things that I have just mentioned.
Father. Those things that you have now asked about do not all wax or wane with equal rapidity; for the tide, when it rises, completes its course in seven days plus half an hour of the eighth day; and every seventh day there is flood tide in place of ebb. For the tide rises one seventh part daily from the time when the rise begins; and after it turns and begins to fall, it ebbs in the same way during the next seven days but is retarded as much as half an hour of the eighth day, which must be added to the seven days. As to how long an hour should be I can give you definite information; for there should be twenty-four hours in two days, that is, a night and a day, while the sun courses through the eight chief points of the sky: and according to right reckoning the sun will pass through each division in three hours of the day. On the other hand, the moon, while it waxes, completes its course in fifteen days less six hours; and in a like period it wanes until the course is complete and another comes. And it is always true that at this time the flood tide is highest and the ebb strongest. But when the moon has waxed to half, the flood tide is lowest and the ebb, too, is quite low. At full moon the flood tide is again very high and the ebb is strong. But when it has waned to half, both ebb and flood are quite low. Merchants are, however, scarcely able to note these changes, as the course is too swift; for the moon takes such long strides both in waxing and waning that men, on that account, find it difficult to determine the divisions of its course. The sun, on the other hand, completes its course more slowly both in ascending and declining, so that one may easily mark all the stages of its course. The sun moves upward one hundred and eighty-two and one-half days and three hours and for a like period it recedes again; it has then completed its entire course, both as-cent and decline, in three hundred days, by the twelve-count , plus five days and six hours. Every fourth year this becomes three hundred by the twelve-count and six days more; this is called leap year, for it has one day more than the preceding twelvemonth, the additional hours being gathered into twenty-four, a night and a day. In Latin all hundreds are counted by tens, and there are, therefore, properly computed three hundred by the ten-count plus sixty-six days whenever leap year occurs, while the intervening years have only five days and six hours with as many additional days by the other reckoning as I have just stated.
But to your question concerning the growth of the sun's path, how one can most clearly discern it, I can scarcely give an answer so precise as not to be wrong in part; for the sun's path does not wax at the same rate in all parts of the earth. I can, of course, answer according to what I have found in the writings of men who have treated the subject thoroughly, and it is generally believed that their words come very near the truth. I have already told you how many hours there are in a night and day and gave the number as twenty-four. I have indicated the length of each hour in stat-ing that three hours pass while the sun moves across one division of the sky. Now there are some other little hours called ostensa, sixty of which make one of those that I mentioned earlier. It seems to me quite likely that, as far north as we are, the sun's path waxes five of these little hours in a day and as much less than six as a twelfth part of a little hour. And as to the growth of the sun's path it seems most reasonable to me that it waxes three-fourths of these hours toward the east and the west and the remaining fourth in height toward the zenith. South of us, however, this reckoning will fail; for north of us the increase is greater and to the south less than we have just stated; and the farther south, the greater is the difference, and the sun more nearly overhead.
Son. With your permission I wish to inquire some-what more fully into this subject, for I do not quite un-derstand it. You have said that the sun's ascent is more rapid to the north of us, where summer is almost want-ing, while the strength of winter is so overpowering that summer seems like a mere shadow, and where in many places both snow and ice lie all through summer just as in winter, as is true of Iceland and particularly of Green-land. But I have heard that in the southlands there are no severe winters, the sun being as hot in winter as it is with us in summer; and that in winter, when the sun has less power, both grain and other crops grow, while in summer the earth cannot endure the fervent heat of the sun and consequently yields neither grass nor grain; so that in regions like Apulia and even more so in the land of Jerusalem the heat of summer causes as great distress as the cold of winter with us. Now when you tell me that the sun's path waxes faster here in the north than yonder in the south, I cannot see the reason why; for there the sun's heat is as great in winter as it is with us in summer; and it is so much greater in summer that all vegetation on the earth is scorched by it. Therefore it seems to me more likely that the sun's path waxes most rapidly where the heat is most intense. Now if you can and will clear this up for me so that I can grasp it, I shall listen gladly and attentively.
Father. I shall begin my talk on the subject that I am now to take up with a little illustration, which may help you to a clearer insight, since you find it so difficult to believe the facts as stated. If you take a lighted candle and set it in a room, you may expect it to light up the entire interior, unless something should hinder, though the room be quite large. But if you take an apple and hang it close to the flame, so near that it is heated, the apple will darken nearly half the room or even more. However, if you hang the apple near the wall, it will not get hot; the candle will light up the whole house; and the shadow on the wall where the apple hangs will be scarcely half as large as the apple itself. From this you may infer that the earth-circle is round like a ball and not equally near the sun at every point. But where the curved surface lies nearest the sun's path, there will the greatest heat be; and some of the lands that lie contin-uously under the unbroken rays cannot be inhabited. On the other hand, those lands which the sun approaches with slanting rays may readily be occupied; and yet, some of these are hotter than others according as they lie nearer the sun's path. But when the curved and steep slope of the sphere-shaped wheel moves up before the light and the beams of the sun, it will cast the deepest shadow where its curved surface lies nearest the sun; and yet, the lands nearest the sun are always hottest. Now I agree with you that Apulia and Jerusalem are hotter than our own country; but you must know that there are places where the heat is greater than in either of those just mentioned, for some countries are unin-habitable on account of the heat. And I have heard it stated as a fact, that even when the sun mounts highest, the night in those regions is very dark and quite long. From this you must conclude that where the strength and power of the sun are greater, since it is nearer, it must ascend and decline more slowly; for the night is long in summer when the sun mounts highest, and the day is long in winter when it sinks lowest. Now I shall explain this SO clearly that you will understand it fully.
You know that here with us in winter the day and the course of the sun are brief; for so short is the sun's path that it passes through but a single region of the sky, and then only where the sun has considerable strength. But in many places the sun is not to be seen during a large part of winter, for example in Halogaland, as we have not only heard tell but have often and constantly learned and observed with our own eyes. For we know definitely that from about November 10 to January 10 there never comes a day so bright up north in Vaag or at Andenes tin Halogaland but that the stars in the sky are visible at midday as at midnight. And although the days have so much light that the stars cannot be seen, nevertheless, in most of the places that we have mentioned the sun remains invisible till January ~3. But after that date the days lengthen and the sun mounts so rapidly, that beginning with April 6 day-light does not disappear before September 17, all the in-tervening time being one continuous day, for daylight never fails in all that while. From this you may safely conclude that, though the sun is hotter in the southern lands that we spoke of earlier, its course waxes and mounts more slowly where the night, even at mid-sum-mer, is deep and long and dark, and where there is never a time in the whole twelvemonth when day does not fail. But in Halogaland, as I have just said, there is no day in winter and stars are visible at midday when the day should be brightest; later, however, when the days be-gin to lengthen, they grow so rapidly that early in spring daylight begins to tarry all the night and continues till much of the autumn is past.
There remains one more proof which will seem very clear to you. You
know that in those localities in Halogaland that we have just mentioned
the sun about May 15 begins to shine with the same brightness by night
as by day, never setting either at night or during the day but shining
continuously in this manner and with this brightness, except when its light
is obscured by clouds, even to July 25. Now you know that the sun is only
moderately warm in Halogaland, and that there is but a little time in summer
when it gives sufficient warmth. Still, there it is with its blazing disk
about as long as we have just stated, and it maintains the daylight about
as long as we have just computed. But neither fact is true of the southlands,
though the sun is hotter there. Now these facts give evidence that the
sun is more distant here, for it gives less heat. They also testify to
the wax-ing of its course, for, since its light is as bright by night as
by day, its path must lengthen more rapidly here. But yonder it waxes less
and more slowly, for there the night has its prescribed period both for
length and dark-ness in summer as well as in winter.
Son. I see this so clearly now that I can no longer gainsay that the sun mounts higher and more rapidly up the sky where there is almost no day in winter and the sunlight is so abundant in summer that it shines by night as well as by day throughout almost the entire season. I also see that its course changes much less yon-der where it rises high in winter and gives long days with much heat and sunshine, though the night in summer is long and dark. Seafaring traders ought t6 note the dif-ferences precisely so as to be able to determine what seas they are upon, whether they lie to the north or to the south. And it seems unnecessary to inquire any fur-ther into these matters, for I believe that I have had correct and sufficient answers. Now since we are wearied with profound questions and thoughtful discourse, let us rest from these for a while and turn our conversation to matters of a lighter sort. And even though I should in-quire about things that are not so useful as those others, which are of the highest utility, I pray you for the sake of our intimacy to vouchsafe replies to such questions as I may ask; for my mind is often as eager for amuse-ment as for things of useful intent. And it may seem restful in a long talk, if a few questions come up that can stir the mind to gentle mirth. I do not wish, how-ever, to bring such themes into our talk unless you give me permission.
Father. I take it that you will ask no stupid questions, seeing that you have thus far inquired into such matters only as seem very pertinent; and you are therefore free to ask whatever you wish; for if the questions do not seem appropriate, we are at liberty to drop them as soon as we like.
Son. Now that I am permitted to choose a topic for entertainment, it occurs to me that I have asked too little about Ireland, Iceland, and Greenland, and all the wonders of those lands, such as fire and strange bodies of water, or the various kinds of fish and the monsters that dash about in the ocean, or the boundless ice both in the sea and on the land, or what the Greenlanders call the "northern lights," or the "sea-hedges " that are found in the waters of Greenland.
Father. I am not much disposed to discuss the won-ders that exist among us here in the North, though my reason may be rather trivial: many a man is inclined to be suspicious and think everything fiction that he has not seen with his own eyes; and therefore I do not like to discuss such topics, if my statements are to be called fabrications later on, even though I know them to be true beyond doubt, inasmuch as I have seen some of these things with mine own eyes and have had daily opportunity to inquire about the others from men whom we know to be trustworthy and who have actually seen and examined them, and therefore know them to be genuine beyond question. My reason for bringing up this objection is that a little book has recently come into our country, which is said to have been written in India and recounts the wonders of that country. The book states that it was sent to Emmanuel, emperor of the Greeks. Now it is the belief of most men who have heard the book read, that such wonders are impossible, and that what is told in the book is mere falsehood. But if our own country were carefully searched, there would be found no fewer things here than are numbered in that book which would seem as wonderful, or even more so, to men of other lands who have not seen or heard anything like them. Now we call those things fiction because we had not seen them here or heard of them before the coming of that book which I have just men-tioned. That little book has, however, been widely circu-lated, though it has always been questioned and charged with falsehood; and it seems to me that no one has de-rived honor from it, neither those who have doubted it nor the one who wrote it, even though his work has been widely distributed and has served to amuse and tickle the ear, seeing that what is written in it has always been called fiction.
Father. Both such and many other tales are told in that book which seem so marvelous that many express their doubts about them; but it seems to me that there is no need to compare the wonders that are described there with those that we have in our own country, which would seem as strange to men yonder as those that you have just mentioned seem to us. For it must be possible to tame wild beasts and other animals, though they be fierce and difficult to manage. But it would seem a greater marvel to hear about men who are able to tame trees and boards, so that by fastening boards seven or eight ells long under his feet, a man, who is no fleeter than other men when he is barefooted or shod merely with shoes, is made able to pass the bird on the wing, or the fleetest greyhound that runs in the race, or the reindeer which leaps twice as fast as the hart. For there is a large number of men who run so well on skis that they can strike down nine reindeer with a spear, or even more, in a single run. Now such things must seem incred-ible, unlikely, and marvelous in all those lands where men do not know with what skill and cleverness it is possible to train the board to such great fleetness that on the mountain side nothing of all that walks the earth can escape the swift movements of the man who is shod with such boards. But as soon as he removes the boards from his feet, he is no more agile than any other man. In other places, where men are not trained to such arts, it would be difficult to find a man, no matter how swift, who would not lose all his fleetness if such pieces of wood as we have talked about were bound to his feet. We, however, have sure information and, when snow lies in winter, have opportunity to see men in plenty who are expert in this art.
Not long since, we mentioned a certain fact which must be thought exceedingly strange elsewhere, as it runs wholly counter to the order which holds good in most places with respect to the change from night to day, namely, that here the sun shines as bright and fair and with as much warmth by night as by day through a large part of the summer.
In our own country, in More, there is a bog called the Bjarkudal bog, which must also seem wonderful: for every sort of wood that is thrown into it and left there three winters loses its nature as wood and turns into stone. If it is thrown upon the fire, it will glow like stone, though before it would have burned like wood. I have seen and handled many such stones of which the half that rose above the mire was wooden, while the part submerged in the bog was wholly petrified. Now we must call that a marvel, for the bog is located in a forest which is heavily wooded with young trees of all sorts; and these are not injured so long as they are green and growing, but as soon as one is hewn down and, hav-ing begun to decay, is thrown into the bog, it turns into stone.
Father. Those lands, if we are to speak more fully about them, differ much in character and are not all of the same appearance. For the wonders of Iceland and Greenland consist in great frost and boundless ice, or in unusual display of flame and fire, or in large fishes and other sea monsters. And these countries are every where barren and unfruitful and consequently almost unfit for habitation. But Ireland comes near being the best land that is known to man, though the grape vine does not grow there. And there are many marvels in Ireland, some of which are of such a character that this country may be called holier than all others.
The country lies on that side of the world where heat and cold are so well tempered that the weather is never hot or very cold. For all through the winter the find their feed in the open, and the inhabitants wear almost no clothes there either in winter or in sum-mer. And so holy is this land beyond all others that no venomous animal can exist there, either snake or toad. When such animals are brought in from other countries, they die as soon as they touch the bare earth or rock. And if wood, earth, or sand is taken from that country and brought to a land where venomous beasts are found, and the sand or earth is strewn around them where they lie, they will never be able to cross the circle but must remain within it and perish. In the same way, if you take a stick of wood which has come from the country of which we now speak and trace a circle around them with it by scratching the soil with the stick, they will soon all lie dead within the circle. It is told of Ireland that men scarcely know of another island of equal size where there are so many holy men. We are also told that the inhabitants of the country are by nature fierce and murderous and very immoral. But bloodthirsty though they be, they have never slain any of the saints who are so numerous in the land; the holy men Who have dwelt there have all died in sick bed. For the Irish have been kindly disposed toward all good and holy men, though they have dealt savagely with each other.
There is a lake in that country concerning the nature of which strange tales are told; it is called Logechag in the native speech. It is quite an extensive lake and has this property, that if you take a stick of the wood that some call holm and others holly but is called acri-folium in Latin and fix it in the lake so that part of it is in the earth, a part in the water, and a part rising above, the part in the earth will turn into iron, the part in the water into stone, while that which stands out above will remain as before. But if you set any other sort of wood in the lake, its nature will not change.
Again, there are two springs on a mountain called Blandina, which is almost a desert mountain; these have a peculiar nature. One of them has this property that if you take either a white sheep, cow, or horse, or a man with white hair, and wash any one of these with the water, the white will immediately turn to coal black. And such is the nature of the other spring in that place that if a man washes himself in its water, his hair will turn to a snowy white as if he were an aged man, no matter what its color be before, whether red or white or black.
There is also a lake in that country which the natives call Loycha. In that lake there is what appears to be a little floating island; for it floats about in the lake, here and there approaching the shore sometimes so near that one may step out upon it; and this occurs most fre-quently on Sundays. And such is the property of this islet that if one who is ill steps out upon it and partakes of the herbs that grow there, he is healed at once, no matter what his ailment may be. Another singular fact is this, that never more than one can come upon it at one time, though many may wish to do so; for as soon as one has landed, the island immediately floats away. It also has this peculiarity that it floats constantly about in the lake for seven winters; but as soon as the seventh winter is past, it floats to the shore somewhere and unites with the other land, as if it had always been joined to it. But when that moment has come, a crash like a peal of thunder is heard, and, when the din is past, another island can be seen in the lake of the same size and character as the earlier one. Thus it happens regu-larly every seventh year that, as soon as the one island has joined the mainland, another appears, though no one knows whence it comes.
There is another little island in that country, which the natives call Inhisgluer. There is a large village on this island and also a church; for the population is about large enough for a parish. But when people die there, they are not buried in the earth but are set up around the church along the churchyard fence, and there they stand like living men with their limbs all shriveled but their hair and nails unmarred. They never decay and birds never light on them. And every one who is living is able to recognize his father or grandfather and all the successive ancestors from whom he has descended.
There is still another quite extensive lake that is called Logri. In that lake is an islet inhabited by men who live a celibate life and may be called, as one likes, either monks or hermits; they live there in such num-bers that they fill the island, though at times they are fewer. It is said concerning this isle that it is healthful and quite free from diseases, so that people grow aged more slowly there than elsewhere in the land. But when one does grow very old and sickly and can see the end of the days allotted by the Lord, he has to be carried to some place on the mainland to die; for no one can die of disease on the island. One may sicken and suffer there, but his spirit cannot depart from the body before he has been removed from the island.
There is another large lake which the natives call Logherne. In this lake there is a great abundance of fish of the sort that we call salmon; and the fish is sent into all the Country about in such quantities that all have plenty for table use. In this lake there are also many islands, one of which is called Kertinagh by the natives. This island might very well be inhabited, as far as size is concerned, if men dared occupy it. But it is reported about this island that the powers of evil have as great authority over one-half of it as they have in hell itself. Venturesome men who have tried to settle there have said that they suffered as great trouble and torment as souls are believed to suffer in hell. But on the other half of the island there is a church with a churchyard about it. Both halves are now deserted, however, though we are told that over the half where the church is the demons have no power.
It once happened in that country (and this seems in-deed strange) that
a living creature was caught in the forest as to which no one could say
definitely whether it was a man or some other animal; for no one could
get a word from it or be sure that it understood human speech. It had the
human shape, however, in every de-tail, both as to hands and face and feet;
but the entire body was covered with hair as the beasts are, and down the
back it had a long coarse mane like that of a horse, which fell to both
sides and trailed along the ground when the creature stooped in walking.
I believe I have now recounted most of the marvels that have their ori-gin
in the nature of the land itself, so far as we seem to have sure knowledge
Father. There still remain certain things that may be thought marvelous; these, however, are not native to the land but have originated in the miraculous powers of holy men, and we know of a truth that these do exist. Certain things are told, too, of which we cannot be sure whether they are credible or merely the talk of men, though they are common rumor in that country; but what follows we know to be true beyond a doubt.
In that same lake that I mentioned earlier which is called Logri, lies a little island named Inisclodran. Once there was a holy man named Diermicius who had a church on the isle near which he lived. Into this church and churchyard of which he is the patron no female creature is allowed to enter. All beasts are aware of this, for both birds and other animals which are without human reason avoid it as carefully as humans do. And no creature of the female sex ever ventures into that churchyard, nor could it enter if it tried.
Once there was a holy man in that country named Kevinus, who lived in a place called Glumelaga. At the time he lived almost as a hermit, and the event which we shall now relate occurred in his day. It so befell that a young man was living with him, a kinsman of his who was his servant, and the saint loved the youth very much. But the lad fell ill before his eyes, and the malady grew so heavy and severe that death seemed imminent. It was in the spring time, in the month of March, when the man's illness was at the worst. Then it happened that the youth asked his kinsman Kevinus to give him an apple, saying that he would find relief from his illness if he got what he asked for. It seemed unlikely, however, that apples could be gotten in that season, as the buds had only just begun to swell and sprout forth leaves on the fruit trees. But because the holy Kevinus grieved sorely over the illness of his kinsman, and also because he was unable to procure what he had requested, he knelt down in prayer and implored God to send him somewhat of those things, so that his kinsman might find the relief that he yearned for. Having risen from prayer, he stepped outside and looked around. Near the house stood a willow of large growth. Kevinus looked up among the branches of the willow as if expecting to find help and comfort there; then he saw that apples had grown upon the willow, just as there would be on an apple tree in the proper season. He picked three apples and gave them to the youth, and after the lad had eaten of these, his illness began to leave him and he was cured of the malady. But the willow has ever since continued to keep the gift that God gave it on that occasion, for every year it bears apples like an apple tree; and since that day these have always been called Saint Kevinus' apples. They have been carried into all parts of Ire-land in order that those who are ill may partake of them; and they seem to have virtue in all human ailments, for those who eat of them appear to get relief. But they are not sweet in taste and would not be wanted if men did not prize them for their healing properties. Many won-derful things have come to pass in Ireland which certain highly endowed saints have brought about in an in-stant; and these, too, must seem very marvelous. Thus far, however, we have spoken only of such things as have been achieved through a holiness so great that they re-main as a testimony to this day and seem as wonderful now as on the day when they first occurred. But those other matters that men regard as surely genuine and speak of as actual facts we may now proceed to point out.
In that country there is also a place called Themar, which in olden times was apparently a capital or royal borough; now, however, it is deserted, for no one dares to dwell there. It was this event that caused the place to be abandoned: all the people in the land believed that the king who resided at Themar would always ren-der just decisions and never do otherwise; although they were heathen in other respects and did not have the true faith concerning God, they held firmly to their be-lief that every case would be decided properly if that king passed upon it; and never, they thought, could an unrighteous decision come from his throne. On what seems to have been the highest point of the borough, the king had a handsome and well built castle in which was a large and beautiful hall, where he was accustomed to sit in judgment. But once it happened that certain lawsuits came before the king for decision in which his friends and acquaintances were interested on the one side, and he was anxious to support their contentions in every way. But those who were interested in the suits on the other side were hostile toward him, and he was their enemy. So the outcome was that the king shaped his decision more according to his own wish than to justice. But because an unrighteous judgment had come whence all people expected just decisions and because of this popular belief, the judgment seat was overturned and the hall and the castle likewise, even to their very foundations. The site, too, was overturned, so that those parts of the earth which had formerly pointed down-ward were now turned upward; and all the houses and halls were turned down into the earth and thus it has been ever since. But because such a great miracle hap-pened there, no one has since dared to inhabit the place, nor has any king ventured to set up his throne there; and yet, it is the loveliest place known in all that coun-try. It is also thought that if men should attempt to re-build the town, not a single day would pass without the appearance of some new marvel.
There is still another wonder in that country which must seem quite incredible; nevertheless, those who dwell in the land affirm the truth of it and ascribe it to the anger of a holy man. It is told that when the holy Patricius preached Christianity in that country, there was one clan which opposed him more stubbornly than any other people in the land; and these people strove to do insult in many ways both to God and to the holy man. And when he was preaching the faith to them as to others and came to confer with them where they held their assemblies; they adopted the plan of howling at him like wolves. When he saw that he could do very little to promote his mission among these people, he grew very wroth and prayed God to send some form of affliction upon them to be shared by their posterity as a constant reminder of their disobedience. Later these clansmen did suffer a fitting and severe though very marvelous punishment, for it is told that all the mem-bers of that clan are changed into wolves for a period and roam through the woods feeding upon the same food as wolves; but they are worse than wolves, for in all their wiles they have the wit of men, though they are as eager to devour men as to destroy other creatures. It is reported that to some this affliction comes every seventh winter, while in the intervening years they are men; others suffer it continuously for seven winters all told and are never stricken again.
There is still another matter, that about the men who are called "gels," which must seem wonderful. Men appear to become gels in this way: when hostile forces meet and are drawn up in two lines and both set up a terrifying battle-cry, it happens that timid and youth-ful men who have never been in the host before are sometimes seized with such fear and terror that they lose their wits and run away from the rest into the for-est, where they seek food like beasts and shun the meeting of men like wild animals. It is also told that if these people live in the woods for twenty winters in this ways feathers will grow upon their bodies as on birds; these serve to protect them from frost and cold, but they have no large feathers to use in flight as birds have. But so great is their fleetness said to be that it is not possible for other men or even for greyhounds to come near them; for those men can dash up into a tree almost as swiftly as apes or squirrels.
There happened something once in the borough called Cloena, which will also seem marvelous. In this town there is a church dedicated to the memory of a saint named Kiranus. One Sunday while the populace was at church hearing mass, it befell that an anchor was dropped from the sky as if thrown from a ship; for a rope was attached to it, and one of the flukes of the anchor got caught in the arch above the church door. The people all rushed out of the church and marveled much as their eyes followed the rope upward. They saw a ship with men on board floating before the anchor cable; and soon they saw a man leap overboard and dive down to the anchor as if to release it. The movements of his hands and feet and all his actions appeared like those of a man swimming in the water. When he came down to the anchor, he tried to loosen it, but the people imme-diately rushed up and attempted to seize him. In this church where the anchor was caught, there is a bishop's throne. The bishop was present when this occurred and forbade his people to hold the man; for, said he, it might prove fatal as when one is held under water. As soon as the man was released, he hurried back up to the ship; and when he was up the crew cut the rope and the ship sailed away out of sight. But the anchor has remained in the church since then as a testimony to this event.
I believe we have now mentioned all the features of this country that
are most worth discussing. But there is one other matter that I can tell
about, if you wish, for the sport or amusement of it. Long time ago a clownish
fellow lived in that country; he was a Christian, how-ever, and his name
was Klefsan. It is told of this one that there never was a man who, when
he saw Klefsan, was not compelled to laugh at his amusing and absurd remarks.
Even though a man was heavy at heart, he could not restrain his laughter,
we are told, when he heard that man talk. But Klefsan fell ill and died
and was buried in the churchyard like other men. He lay long in the earth
until the flesh had decayed from his bones, and his bones, too, were largely
crumbled. Then it came to pass that other corpses were buried in the same
churchyard, and graves were dug so near the place where Klefsan lay that
his skull was unearthed, and it was whole. They set it up on a high rock
in the church-yard, where it has remained ever since. But whoever comes
to that place and sees that skull and looks into the opening where the
mouth and tongue once were immediately begins to laugh, even though he
were in a sorrowful mood before he caught sight of that skull. Thus his
dead bones make almost as many people laugh as he himself did when alive.
Now I know of no further facts about that country which appear to be suitable
materials with which to lengthen a talk like this.
Son. Now since we have discussed everything in Ire-land that may be counted marvelous, let us have a talk about Iceland and the wonders that are found in the Icelandic seas.
Father. Aside from the whales in the ocean, there are, I should say, but few things in the Icelandic waters which are worth mentioning or discussing. The whales vary much both in kind and size. Those that are called blubber-cutters and they are the most numerous grow to a length of twenty ells; a great many of them are, however, so small that they measure only ten ells; the rest are in between, each having its own size. These fishes have neither teeth nor whalebone, nor are they dangerous either to ships or men, but are rather disposed to avoid the fishermen. Nevertheless, they are con-stantly being caught and driven to land by the hun-dreds, and where many are caught, they provide much food for men. There are also other varieties of small whales, such as the porpoise, which is never longer than five ells, and the caaing whale, which has a length of seven ells only.
There is another kind of whales called the grampus, which grow no longer than twelve ells and have teeth in proportion to their size very much as dogs have. They are also ravenous for other whales just as dogs are for other beasts. They gather in flocks and attack large whales, and, when a large one is caught alone, they worry and bite it till it succumbs. It is likely, how-ever, that this one, while defending itself with mighty blows, kills a large number of them before it perishes.
There are two other varieties, the beaked whale and the "hog whale," the largest of which are not more than twenty-five ells in length. These are not fit to be eaten, for the fat that is drawn from them cannot be digested either by man or by any beast that may partake of it. For it runs through them and even through wood; and after it has stood a while, scarcely any vessel can con-tain it, even if made of horn. There are certain other types which are worth a passing mention only, namely the "raven whale" and the white whale. The white whales are so named because of their snow white color, while most other varieties are black, except that some of them have spots, such as the "shield whale," the spear whale," and the baleen whale. All these kinds that I have just mentioned may be freely eaten and many other kinds too.
There is another sort of whales called the "fish driver," which is perhaps the most useful of all to men; for it drives the herring and all other kinds of fish in toward the land from the ocean outside, as if appointed and sent by the Lord for this purpose. This is its duty and office as long as the fishermen keep the peace on the fishing grounds. Its nature is also peculiar in this, that it seemingly knows how to spare both ships and men. But when the fishermen fail to quarreling and fighting, so that blood is spilt, this whale seems able to perceive it; for it moves in between the land and the fish and chases the shoals back into the ocean, just as it earlier had driven them in toward the men. These whales are not more than thirty ells in length, or forty at the very largest. They would provide good food, if men were allowed to hunt them, but no one is permitted to catch or harm them, since they are of such great and constant service to men.
Another kind is called the sperm whale. These are toothed whales, though the teeth are barely large enough to be carved into fair-sized knife handles or chess men. They are neither fierce nor savage, but rather of a gentle nature, and so far as possible they avoid the fishermen. In size they are about like those that I men-tioned last. Their teeth are so numerous that more than seventy can be found in the head of a single whale of this sort.
Still another species is called the right whale; ~ this has no fins along the spine and is about as large as the sort that we mentioned last. Sea-faring men fear it very much, for it is by nature disposed to sport with ships.
There is another kind called the Greenland shark, which is peculiar in this, that it has caul and fat in the abdomen like cattle. The largest of these whales grow to a length of thirty ells at most.
There are certain varieties that are fierce and savage toward men and are constantly seeking to destroy them at every chance. One of these is called the "horse whale," and another the "red comb." They are very voracious and malicious and never grow tired of slaying men. They roam about in all the seas looking for ships, and when they find one they leap up, for in that way they are able to sink and destroy it the more quickly. These fishes are unfit for human food; being the natural enemies of mankind, they are, in fact, loathsome. The largest of this type never grow more than thirty or forty ells in length.
There is still another sort called the narwhal, which may not be eaten for fear of disease, for men fall ill and die if they eat of it. This whale is not large in size; it never grows longer than twenty ells. It is not at all savage but rather tries to avoid fishermen. It has teeth in its head, all small but one which projects from the front of the upper jaw. This tooth is handsome, well formed, and straight as an onion stem. It may grow to a length of seven ells and is as even and smooth as if shaped with a tool. It projects straight forward from the head when the whale is traveling; but sharp and straight though it is, it is of no service as a defensive weapon; for the whale is so fond and careful of its tusk that it allows nothing to come near it. I know of no other varieties of whales that are unfit for human food, only these five that I have now enumerated: the two that I mentioned first were the beaked whale and the "hog whale; "the three mentioned later were the "horse whale," the "red comb," and the narwhal.
There are certain varieties of even greater size which I have not yet described; and all those that I shall now discuss may be eaten by men. Some of them are dangerous for men to meet, while others are gentle and peace-able. One of these is called humpback; this fish is large and very dangerous to ships. It has a habit of striking at the vessel with its fins and of lying and floating just in front of the prow where sailors travel. Though the ship turn aside, the whale will continue to keep in front, so there is no choice but to sail upon it; but if a ship does sail upon it, the whale will throw the vessel and destroy all on board. The largest of these fishes grow to a length of seventy or eighty ells; they are good to eat.
Then there is that kind which is called the Greenland whale. This fish grows to a length of eighty or even ninety ells and is as large around as it is long; for a rope that is stretched the length of one will just reach around it where it is bulkiest. Its head is so large that it comprises fully a third of the entire bulk. This fish is very cleanly in choice of food; for people say that it subsists wholly on mist and rain and whatever falls into the sea from the air above. When one is caught and its entrails are examined, nothing is found in its abdomen like what is found in other fishes that take food, for the abdomen is empty and clean. It cannot readily open and close its mouth, for the whalebone which grows in it will rise and stand upright in the mouth when it is opened wide; and consequently whales of this type often perish because of their inability to close the mouth. This whale rarely gives trouble to ships. It has no teeth and is fat and good to eat.
Then there is a kind of whale called the rorqual, and this fish is the best of all for food. It is of a peaceful dis-position and does not bother ships, though it may swim very close to them. This fish is of great size and length; it is reported that the largest thus far caught have meas-ured thirteen times ten ells, that is, one hundred and thirty ells by the ten-count. Because of its quiet and peaceful behavior it often falls a prey to whale fishers. It is better for eating and smells better than any of the other fishes that we have talked about, though it is said to be very fat; it has no teeth. It has been asserted, too, that if one can get some of the sperm of this whale and be perfectly sure that it came from this sort and no other, it will be found a most effective remedy for eye troubles, leprosy, ague, headache, and for every other ill that afflicts mankind. Sperm from other whales also makes good medicine, though not so good as this sort. And now I have enumerated nearly all the varieties of whales that are hunted by men.
There is a fish not yet mentioned which it is scarcely advisable to speak about on account of its size, which to most men will seem incredible. There are, moreover, but very few who can tell anything definite about it, inasmuch as it is rarely seen by men; for it almost never approaches the shore or appears where fishermen can see it, and I doubt that this sort of fish is very plentiful in the sea. In our language it is usually called the "kra-ken." I can say nothing definite as to its length in ells, for on those occasions when men have seen it, it has appeared more like an island than a fish. Nor have I heard that one has ever been caught or found dead. It seems likely that there are but two in all the ocean and that these beget no offspring, for I believe it is always the same ones that appear. Nor would it be well for other fishes if they were as numerous as the other whales, seeing that they are so immense and need so much food. It is said, that when these fishes Want something to eat, they are in the habit of giving forth a violent belch, which brings up so much food that all sorts of fish in the neighborhood, both large and small, will rush up in the hope of getting nourishment and good fare. Meanwhile the monster keeps it mouth open, and inasmuch as its opening is about as wide as a sound or fjord, the fishes cannot help crowding in great numbers. But as soon as its mouth and belly are full, the monster closes its mouth and thus catches and shuts in all the fishes that just previously had rushed in eagerly to seek food.
Now we have mentioned and described most of those things in the
Icelandic waters that would be counted wonderful, and among them a few
that are more plenti-ful in other seas than in those which we have just
Father. As to the ice that is found in Iceland, I am inclined to believe that it is a penalty which the land suffers for lying so close to Greenland; for it is to be expected that severe cold would come thence, since Greenland is ice-clad beyond all other lands. Now since Iceland gets so much cold from that side and receives but little heat from the sun, it necessarily has an over-abundance of ice on the mountain ridges. But concern-ing the extraordinary fires which burn there, I scarcely know what to say, for they possess a strange nature. I have heard that in Sicily there is an immense fire of un-usual power which consumes both earth and wood. I have also heard that Saint Gregory has stated in his Dialogues that there are places of torment in the fires of Sicily. But men are much more inclined to be-lieve that there must be such places of torment in those fires in Iceland. For the fires in Sicily feed on living things, as they consume both earth and wood. Trees live; they grow and put forth green leaves; but they dry up and wither when they begin to die; therefore, since they die when they wither, they must be called living while they are green. The earth, too, must be called living, inasmuch as it sometimes yields much fruitage; and as soon as one crop is fallen into decay, it gives new growth. All living creatures, too, are formed of earth, and therefore it surely must be called living. Both these things, earth and wood, the fires of Sicily can burn and consume as nourishment. The fire of Ice-land, however, will burn neither earth nor wood, though these be cast upon it; but it feeds upon stone and hard rock and draws vigor from these as other fires do from dry wood. And never is rock or stone so hard but that this fire will melt it like wax and then burn it like fat oil. But when a tree is cast upon the fire, it will not burn but be scorched only. Now since this fire feeds on dead things only and rejects everything that other fires de-vour, it must surely be said that it is a dead fire; and it seems most likely that it is the fire of hell, for in hell all things are dead.
I am also disposed to believe that certain bodies of water in Iceland must be of the same dead nature as the fire that we have described. For there are springs which boil furiously all the time both winter and summer. At times the boiling is so violent that the heated water is thrown high into the air. But whatever is laid near the spring at the time of spouting, whether it be cloth or wood or anything else that the water may touch when it falls down again, will turn to stone. This seems to lead to the conclusion that this water must be dead, seeing that it gives a dead character to whatever it sprinkles and moistens; for the nature of stone is dead. But if the fire should not be dead but have its origin in some peculiarity of the country, the most reasonable theory as to the formation of the land seems to be that there must be many veins, empty passages, and wide cavities in its foundations. At times it may happen that these passages and cavities will be so completely packed with air, either by the winds or by the power of the, roar-ing breakers, that the pressure of the blast cannot be confined, and this may be the origin of those great earth-quakes that occur in that country. Now if this should seem a reasonable or plausible explanation, it may be that the great and powerful activity of the air within the foundations of the earth also causes those great fires to be lit and to appear, which burst forth in various parts of the land.
Now it must not be regarded as settled that the facts are as
we have just said; we have merely tried to bring together and compare various
opinions in order to de-termine what seems most reasonable. For we see
that all fire originates in force. If a hard stone is stricken against
hard iron, fire comes out of the iron and out of the energy of the stroke
when they clash. You can also rub pieces of wood against each other in
such a way that their antagonism will produce fire. It also happens fre-quently
that two winds rising at the same time will go against each other; and
when they meet in the air, heavy blows fall, and these blows give forth
a great fire which spreads widely over the sky. At times it also happens
that this fire is driven to the earth where it causes much damage by burning
houses and sometimes forests and ships at sea. But all the fires that I
have now named, whether they come from iron, or winds colliding in the
air, or any of those mighty forces which can produce fire, will consume
trees, forests, and earth: while the fire which we discussed earlier and
which appears in Iceland refuses all these things, as I have already shown.
Now these facts lead to this conclusion as to its nature, that it is more
likely to have arisen from dead things or from like sources, than those
other fires that we have now discussed. And in case it is as we have imagined,
it is likely that the great earthquakes of that country origi-nate in the
power of those mighty fires that well through the bowels of the land.
Father. I have no doubt that there are places of tor-ment in Iceland even in places where there is no burning; for in that country the power of frost and ice is as boundless as that of fire. There are those springs of boil-ing water which we have mentioned earlier. There are also ice-cold streams which flow out of the glaciers with such violence that the earth and the neighboring moun-tains tremble; for when water flows with such a swift and furious current, mountains will shake because of its vast mass and overpowering strength. And no men can go out upon those river banks to view them unless they bring long ropes to be tied around those who wish to explore, while farther away others sit holding fast the rope, so that they may be ready and able to pull them back if the turbulence of the current should make them dizzy. Now it seems evident to me that wherever such great violence appears and in such terrible forms, there surely must be places of torment. And God has made such great and terrifying things manifest upon earth to man, not only that men may be the more vigilant, and may reflect that these tortures are indeed heavy to think upon, although after they depart this life they will have to suffer those that they see while still on earth; but even more to make them reflect that greater still are the things invisible, which they are not per-mitted to see. But these things are a testimony, that it is not untrue what we have been told, that those men who will not beware of evil deeds and unrighteousness, while they live on earth, may expect to suffer torment when they leave this world. For many a simple-minded man might think that all this was mere deception un-worthy of notice and told merely to terrify, if there were no such evidence as what we have now pointed out. But now no one can deny what he sees before his own eyes, since we hear exactly the same things about the tor-tures of hell as those which one can see on the island called Iceland: for there are vast and boundless fire, overpowering frost and glaciers, boiling springs, and violent ice-cold streams.
But what you suggested just now, namely that this fire is likely to melt and consume the mountains and the foundations of the earth, so that the entire land will be destroyed, that cannot come to pass before the time that God has appointed. For neither this created force nor any other governs itself; but all things are compelled to move as God's providence has ordained from the be-ginning. And you will understand this better if I take up certain events that can be used to illustrate these things.
When the lord of death wished to tempt Job, he had no power to do so before he had asked permission; and when this had been granted, he did not have power to carry out his will farther than the permission extended; for he would gladly have slain Job at once, if that had been allowed. He was allowed to take away Job's wealth and he took it all at the first stroke; but he was not per-mitted to destroy the man himself. As he yearned for permission to tempt him even more severely than he had already, he was suffered to carry out his will upon Job's body and upon all the possessions that belonged to him. But he was not permitted to separate soul from body, before the hour should come that He had fixed, Who has all power over life and destiny. But as soon as Satan had received permission to carry out his desires upon Job, he showed immediately how eager he was to act in such matters as were within his power. For it is written that Satan took away from Job his abundant wealth and his seven sons and three daughters, and smote his body with terrible leprosy from the crown to the sole of his feet.
Now the meaning of this (which ought to be noted carefully in our minds)
is that the Lord of life has power over all things and is kindly disposed;
while the lord of death has an evil will, but has power over nothing, ex-cept
as he receives authority beforehand from Him Who rules over all, Who is
Almighty God. The devil can, therefore, injure no one to such an extent
that he is consumed either by the fires of death which he has kindled and
continues to maintain by means of dread-ful earthquakes, or by such other
fiendish enmity or malignity as he delights in. For he is allowed to do
nothing more than the task at hand, as is evident from what I have just
related about the case of Job. And if it should be thought necessary to
cite several examples in one speech, it will be found that instances of
this sort are both plentiful and convincing.
Son. It seems evident that the more examples I can hear you cite of the sort that leads to knowledge, the better it will be; and from the instance that you have just given I can see clearly that if Satan was not able to carry out his will against one man, except as far as he was permitted, he will surely have even less power to carry out his desires against many thousands, either by his own effort or through a servant, except as far as per-mission has been given. Now if we are to go on with this entertaining conversation, as we have been doing, I should like to know, whether there are any other things about this island which you think are worth discussing or which seem remarkable.
Father. We have already mentioned nearly every-thing in Iceland
that is really worth noticing; but there are a few other things which I
may discuss, if you wish. In that country there is an abundance of the
ore that iron is made of: it is called " swamp-ore " in the speech of the
people there, and the same term is used among ourselves. It has happened
at times that great deposits of this ore have been found, and men have
prepared to go thither the next day to smelt it and make iron of it, only
to find it gone, and none can tell what becomes of it. This is called
the " ore-marvel" in that country. There is still another marvel that men
wonder at. It is reported that in Iceland there are springs which men call
ale-springs. They are so called because the water that runs from them smells
more like ale than water; and when one drinks of it, it does not fill as
other water does, but is easily digested and goes into the system like
ale. There are several springs in that country that are called ale-springs;
but one is the best and most famous of all; this one is found in the valley
called Hiterdale. It is told about this spring, or the water flowing from
it, that it tastes exactly like ale and is very abundant. It is also said
that if drunk to excess, it goes into one's head. If a house is built over
the spring it will turn aside from the building and break forth somewhere
outside. It is fur-ther held that people may drink as much as they like
at the spring; but if they carry the water away, it will soon lose its
virtue and is then no better than other water, or not so good. Now we have
discussed many and even trifling things, because in that country they are
thought marvelous; and I cannot recall anything else in Iceland that is
Son. Now that we have entered upon this interesting conversation and have spoken of the marvels that are found in Iceland and the Icelandic seas, let us close it by calling to mind what is worth noting in the waters of Greenland or in the land itself and the wonders that are to be seen there.
Father. It is reported that the waters about Green-land are infested with monsters, though I do not believe that they have been seen very frequently. Still, people have stories to tell about them, so men must have seen or caught sight of them. It is reported that the monster called merman is found in the seas of Greenland. This monster is tall and of great size and rises straight out of the water. It appears to have shoulders, neck and head, eyes and mouth, and nose and chin like those of a hu-man being; but above the eyes and the eyebrows it looks more like a man with a peaked helmet on his head. It has shoulders like a man's but no hands. Its body ap-parently grows narrower from the shoulders down, so that the lower down it has been observed, the more slender it has seemed to be. But no one has ever seen how the lower end is shaped, whether it terminates in a fin like a fish or is pointed like a pole. The form of this prodigy has, therefore, looked much like an icicle. No one has ever observed it closely enough to determine whether its body has scales like a fish or skin like a man Whenever the monster has shown itself, men have al-ways been sure that a storm would follow. They have also noted how it has turned when about to plunge into the waves and in what direction it has fallen; if it has turned toward the ship and has plunged in that direc-tion, the sailors have felt sure that lives would be lost on that ship; but whenever it has turned away from the vessel and has plunged in that direction, they have felt confident that their lives would be spared, even though they should encounter rough waters and severe storms.
Another prodigy called mermaid has also been seen there. This appears to have the form of a woman from the waist upward, for it has large nipples on its breast like a woman, long hands and heavy hair, and its neck and head are formed in every respect like those of a human being. The monster is said to have large hands and its fingers are not parted but bound together by a web like that which joins the toes of water fowls. Below the waist line it has the shape of a fish with scales and tail and fins. It is said to have this in common with the one mentioned before, that it rarely appears except be-fore violent storms. Its behavior is often somewhat like this: it will plunge into the waves and will always re-appear with fish in its hands; if it then turns toward the ship, playing with the fishes or throwing them at the ship, the men have fears that they will suffer great loss of life. The monster is described as having a large and terrifying face, a sloping forehead and wide brows, a large mouth and wrinkled cheeks. But if it eats the fishes or throws them into the sea away from the ship, the crews have good hopes that their lives will be spared, even though they should meet severe storms.
Now there is still another marvel in the seas of Green-land, the facts of which I do not know precisely. It is called "sea hedges," and it has the appearance as if all the waves and tempests of the ocean have been col-lected into three heaps, out of which three billows are formed. These hedge in the entire sea, so that no open-ing can be seen anywhere; they are higher than lofty mountains and resemble steep, overhanging cliffs. In a few cases only have the men been known to escape who were upon the seas when such a thing occurred. But the stories of these happenings must have arisen from the fact that God has always preserved some of those who have been placed in these perils, and their accounts have afterwards spread abroad, passing from man to man. It may be that the tales are told as the first ones related them, or the stories may have grown larger or shrunk somewhat. Consequently, we have to speak cautiously about this matter, for of late we have met but very few who have escaped this peril and are able to give us tid-ings about it.
In that same ocean there are many other marvels, though they cannot be reckoned among the prodigies. As soon as one has passed over the deepest part of the ocean, he will encounter such masses of ice in the sea, that I know no equal of it anywhere else in all the earth. Sometimes these ice fields are as flat as if they were frozen on the sea itself. They are about four or five ells thick and extend so far out from the land that it may mean a journey of four days or more to travel across them. There is more ice to the northeast and north of the land than to the south, southwest, and west; con-sequently, whoever wishes to make the land should sail around it to the southwest and west, till he has come past all those places where ice may be looked for, and approach the land on that side. It has frequently hap-pened that men have sought to make the land too soon and, as a result, have been caught in the ice floes. Some of those who have been caught have perished; but others have got out again, and we have met some of these and have heard their accounts and tales. but all those who have been caught in these ice drifts have adopted the same plan: they have taken their small boats and have dragged them up on the ice with them, and in this way have sought to reach land; but the ship and everything else of value had to be abandoned and was lost. Some have had to spend four days or five upon the ice before reaching land, and some even longer.
These ice floes have peculiar habits. Sometimes they lie as quiet as can be, though cut apart by creeks or large fjords; at other times they travel with a speed so swift and violent that a ship with a fair wind behind is not more speedy; and when once in motion, they travel as often against the wind as with it. There is also ice of a different shape which the Greenlanders call icebergs. In appearance these resemble high mountains rising out of the sea; they never mingle with other ice but stand by themselves.
In those waters there are also many of those species of whales which we have already described. It is claimed that there are all sorts of seals, too, in those seas, and that they have a habit of following the ice, as if abun-dant food would never be wanting there. These are the species of seals that are found there. One is called the corse seal; " its length is never more than four ells. There is another sort called the "erken-seal," which grows to a length of five ells or six at the very longest. Then there is a third kind which is called the "flett seal," which grows to about the same length as those mentioned above. There is still a fourth kind, called the bearded seal, which occasionally grows to a length of six ells or even seven. In addition there are various smaller species, one of which is called the saddleback; it has this name because it does not swim on the belly like other seals but on the back or side; its length is never more than four ells. There remains the smallest kind, which is called the "shori seal " and is not more than two ells in length. It has a peculiar nature; for it is reported that these seals can pass under flat ice masses four or even five ells thick and can blow up through them; consequently they can have large openings where-ever they want them.
There still remains another species which the Green-landers count among
the whales, but which, it seems to me, ought rather to be classed with
the seals. These are called walrus and grow to a length of fourteen ells
or fifteen at the very highest. In shape this fish resembles the seal both
as to hair, head, skin, and the webbed feet behind; it also has the swimming
feet in front like the seal. Its flesh like that of other seals must not
be eaten on fast days. Its appearance is distinguished from that of other
seals in that it has, in addition to the other small teeth, two large and
long tusks, which are placed in the front part of the upper jaw and sometimes
grow to a length of nearly an ell and a half. Its hide is thick and good
to make ropes of; it can be cut into leather strips of such strength that
sixty or more men may pull at one rope without breaking it. The seals that
we have just discussed are called fish because they find their food in
the sea and subsist upon other fishes. They may be freely eaten, though
not like the whales, for whale flesh may be eaten on fast days like other
fish food, while these fishes may be eaten only on the days when flesh
food is allowed. Now I know of nothing else in the waters of Greenland
which seems worth mentioning or reporting,
- only those things that we have just discussed.
Father. The answer to your query as to what people go to seek in that country and why they fare thither through such great perils is to be sought in man's three-fold nature. One motive is fame and rivalry, for it is in the nature of man to seek places where great dangers may be met, and thus to win fame. A second motive is curiosity, for it is also in man's nature to wish to see and experience the things that he has heard about, and thus to learn whether the facts are as told or not. The third is desire for gain; for men seek wealth wherever they have heard that gain is to be gotten, though, on the other hand, there may be great dangers too. But in Greenland it is this way, as you probably know, that whatever comes from other lands is high in price, for this land lies so distant from other countries that men seldom visit it. And everything that is needed to im-prove the land must be purchased abroad, both iron and all the timber used in building houses. In return for their wares the merchants bring back the following products: buckskin, or hides, sealskins, and rope of the kind that we talked about earlier which is called "leather rope and is cut from the fish called walrus, and also the teeth of the walrus.
As to whether any sort of grain can grow there, my belief is that the country draws but little profit from that source. And yet there are men among those who are counted the wealthiest and most prominent who have tried to sow grain as an experiment; but the great majority in that country do not know what bread is, having never seen it. You have also asked about the ex-tent of the land and whether it is mainland or an island; but I believe that few know the size of the land, though all believe that it is continental and connected with some mainland, inasmuch as it evidently contains a number of such animals as are known to live on the mainland but rarely on islands. Hares and wolves are very plenti-ful and there are multitudes of reindeer. It seems to be generally held, however, that these animals do not in-habit islands, except where men have brought them in; and everybody seems to feel sure that no one has brought them to Greenland, but that they must have run thither from other mainlands. There are bears, too, in that region; they are white, and people think they are native to the country, for they differ very much in their habits from the black bears that roam the forests. These kill horses, cattle, and other beasts to feed upon; but the white bear of Greenland wanders most of the time about on the ice in the sea, hunting seals and whales and feeding upon them. It is also as skillful a swimmer as any seal or whale.
In reply to your question whether the land thaws out or remains icebound like the sea, I can state definitely that only a small part of the land thaws out, while all the rest remains under the ice. But nobody knows whether the land is large or small, because all the moun-tain ranges and all the valleys are covered with ice, and no opening has been found anywhere. But it is quite evident that there are such openings, either along the shore or in the valleys that lie between the mountains, through which beasts can find a way; for they could not run thither from other lands, unless they should find open roads through the ice and the soil thawed out. Men have often tried to go up into the country and climb the highest mountains in various places to look about and learn whether any land could be found that was free from ice and habitable. But nowhere have they found such a place, except what is now occupied, which is a little strip along the water's edge.
There is much marble in those parts that are inhab-ited; it is variously colored, both red and blue and streaked with green. There are also many large hawks in the land, which in other countries would be counted very precious, - white falcons, and they are more numerous there than in any other country; but the natives do not know how to make any use of them.
Father. The people in that country are few, for only a small part is sufficiently free from ice to be habitable; but the people are all Christians and have churches and priests. If the land lay near to some other country it might be reckoned a third of a bishopric; but the Greenlanders now have their own bishop, as no other ar-rangement is possible on account of the great distance from other people. You ask what the inhabitants live on in that country since they sow no grain; but men can live on other food than bread. It is reported that the pasturage is good and that there are large and fine farms in Greenland. The farmers raise cattle and sheep in large numbers and make butter and cheese in great quantities. The people subsist chiefly on these foods and on beef; but they also eat the flesh of various kinds of game, such as reindeer, whales, seals, and bears. That is what men live on in that country.
Now since the land is constantly frozen over in both winter and summer, I wish to ask you to tell me exactly how the climate is in Greenland: whether there is any warmth or fair sunshine as in other lands, or if the weather is always unpleasant, and whether that is what causes the excessive ice and frost. I should like to have you clear this matter up for me along with those things that I asked about earlier in our conversation, and what that thing is which the Greenlanders call the northern lights. All these questions I should like to have you answer, and also this, in what part of the world you be-lieve that country to be located: whether it lies some-where on the edge of the world or about some large bend in the ocean like other extensive lands, seeing that you think it is joined to other mainlands.
Father. The matters about which you have now in-quired I cannot wholly clear up for you, inasmuch as I have not yet found any one who has knowledge of the entire "home-circle" and its dimensions and who has explored the whole earth on all its sides, or the nature of the lands and the landmarks located there. If I had ever met such a man, one who had seen and examined these things, I should have been able to give you full informa-tion about them. But I can at least tell you what those men have conjectured who have formed the most rea-sonable opinions.
The men who have written best concerning the nature of the earth, following the guidance of Isidore and other learned men, state that there are certain zones on the heavens under which men cannot live. One is very hot and, because of the glowing heat which burns every-thing that comes beneath it, people cannot exist under this zone. It seems reasonable that this is the broad path of the sun, and I believe it is because this zone is per-vaded with the sun's flaming rays that no one who wishes only a moderately warm dwelling place can live beneath it. These writers have also said concerning two other zones in the sky that under them too the land is uninhabitable; because, on account of their frigidity, it Is no more comfortable to dwell under them than under the first mentioned where the heat is torrid. For there the cold has developed such a power that water casts aside its nature and turns into ice masses; in this way all those lands become ice-cold, and the seas too, that lie under either of these two zones. From this I conclude that there are five zones in the heavens: two under which the earth is habitable, and three under which it is uninhabitable.
Now all the land that lies under the zones between the hot and the cold belts can be occupied; but it is likely that owing to location the lands differ somewhat, so that some are hotter than others; the hottest being those that are nearest the torrid belt. But lands that are cold, like ours, lie nearer the frigid zones, where the frost is able to use its chilling powers.. Now in my opinion it seems most probable that the hot zone extends from east to west in a curved ring like a flaming girdle around the entire sphere. On the other hand, it is quite probable that the cold zones lie on the outer edges of the world to the north and south: and in case I have thought this out correctly, it is not unlikely that Greenland lies under the frigid belt; for most of those who have visited Green-land testify that there the cold has received its greatest strength. Moreover, both sea and land bear testimony in their very selves that there the frost and the overpower-ing cold have become dominant, for both are frozen and covered with ice in summer as well as in winter.
It has been stated as a fact that Greenland lies on the outermost edge of the earth toward the north; and I do not believe there is any land in the home-circle beyond Greenland, only the great ocean that runs around the earth. And we are told by men who are informed that alongside Greenland the channel is cut through which the wide ocean rushes into the gap that lies between the land masses and finally branches out into fjords and in-lets which cut in between the lands wherever the sea is allowed to flow out upon the earth's surface.
You asked whether the sun shines in Greenland and whether there ever happens to be fair weather there as in other countries; and you shall know of a truth that the land has beautiful sunshine and is said to have a rather pleasant climate. The sun's course varies greatly, however; when winter is on, the night is almost contin-uous; but when it is summer, there is almost constant day. When the sun rises highest, it has abundant power to shine and give light, but very little to give warmth and heat; still, it has sufficient strength, where the -ground is free from ice, to warm the soil so that the earth yields good and fragrant grass. Consequently, people may easily till the land where the frost leaves, but that is a very small part.
But as to that matter which you have often inquired a bout, what those lights can be which the Greenlanders call the northern lights, I have no clear knowledge. I have often met men who have spent a long time in Greenland, but they do not seem to know definitely what those lights are. However, it is true of that subject as of many others of which we have no sure knowledge, that thoughtful men will form opinions and conjec-tures about it and will make such guesses as seem rea-sonable and likely to be true. But these northern lights have this peculiar nature, that the darker the night is, the brighter they seem; and they always appear at night but never by day, most frequently in the dens-est darkness and rarely by moonlight. In appearance they resemble a vast flame of fire viewed from a great distance. It also looks as if sharp points were shot from this flame up into the sky; these are of uneven height and in constant motion, now one, now another darting highest; and the light appears to blaze like a living flame. While these rays are at their highest and bright-est, they give forth so much light that people out of doors can easily find their way about and can even go hunting, if need be. Where people sit in houses that have windows, it is so light inside that all within the room can see each other's faces. The light is very change-able. Sometimes it appears to grow dim, as if a black smoke or a dark fog were blown up among the rays; and then it looks very much as if the light were overcome by this smoke and about to be quenched. But as soon as the smoke begins to grow thinner, the light begins to brighten again; and it happens at times that people think they see large sparks shooting out of it as from glowing iron which has just been taken from the forge. But as night declines and day approaches, the light be-gins to fade; and when daylight appears, it seems to vanish entirely.
The men who have thought about and discussed these lights have guessed ~t three sources, one of which, it seems, ought to be the true one. Some hold that fire circles about the ocean and all the bodies of water that stream about on the outer sides of the globe; and since Greenland lies on the outermost edge of the earth to the north, they think it possible that these lights shine forth from the fires that encircle the outer ocean. Others have suggested that during the hours of night, when the sun's course is beneath the earth, an occasional gleam of its light may shoot up into the sky; for they insist that Greenland lies so far out on the earth's edge that the curved surface which shuts out the sunlight must be less prominent there. But there are still others who be-lieve (and it seems to me not unlikely) that the frost and the glaciers have become so powerful there that they are able to radiate forth these flames. I know nothing further that has been conjectured on this sub-ject, only these three theories that I have presented; as to their correctness I do not decide, though the last mentioned looks quite plausible to me. I know of no other facts about Greenland that seem worth discussing or mentioning, only those that we have talked about and what we have noted as the opinions of well-informed men.
Father. When you say, in asking about the smoke that sometimes appears to accompany the northern lights, that you think it more likely that the smoke comes from heat than from cold, I agree with you. But you must also know that wherever the earth is thawed under the ice, it always retains some heat down in the depths. In the same way the ocean under the ice re-tains some warmth in its depths. But if the earth were wholly without warmth or heat, it would be one mass of ice from the surface down to its lowest foundations. Likewise, if the ocean were without any heat, it would be solid ice from the surface to the bottom. Now large rifts may appear in the ice that covers the land as well as openings in the ice upon the sea. But wherever the earth thaws out and lies bare, whether in places where there is no ice or under the yawning rifts in the glacier, and wherever the sea lies bare in the openings that have formed in the ice, there steam is emitted from the lower depths; and it may be that this vapor collects and ap-pears like smoke or dark fog; and that, whenever it looks as if the lights are about to be quenched by smoke or fog, it is this vapor that collects before them.
In reply to your remark about the climate of Green-land, that you think it strange that it is called a good climate, I shall tell you something about the nature of the land. When storms do come, they are more severe than in most other places, both with respect to keen winds and vast masses of ice and snow. But usually these spells of rough weather last only a short while and come at long intervals only. In the meantime the weather is fair, though the cold is intense. For it is in the nature of the glacier to emit a cold and continuous breath which drives the storm clouds away from its face so that the sky above is usually clear. But the neighboring lands often have to suffer because of this; for all the regions that lie near get severe weather from this ice, inasmuch as all the storms that the glacier drives away from itself come upon others with keen blasts. Now if this is clear to you, I believe there is no need of giving any further explanation of the subject than what you have now heard.
Father. When I told you that in the skies three belts are traced under which it is difficult to cross, one torrid and two frigid, I added that the hot belt curves from east to west. But if I have stated this correctly, it will be evident that the cold must be as severe in the southern parts as in the northern. I believe, however, that all the regions lying near the hot belt, whether on the south side or on the north, are also hot; but I believe those lands to be frigid which lie very far in either direction. You have stated that all men tell us that the farther south one travels, the greater the heat; but that, I believe, is due to the fact that you have never found any one who has traveled as far south of the hot belt as those lands which we have now talked of lie to the north. You have also said that the winds which come from a southerly direction are warmer than the rest. But it is reasonable that the south wind should be warm when it reaches us, even though it comes from the frozen south side of the earth, for it blows through the curved ring of the torrid belt. Consequently, though it blows cold from the south, it is warm when it emerges on the north-ern side. And if people live as near the cold belt on the southern side as the Greenlanders do on the northern, I firmly believe that the north wind blows as warm to them as the south wind to us. For they must look north to see the midday and the sun's whole course, just as we, who dwell north of the sun, must look to the south.
We have said earlier that in winter the sun's course here is short, but of such extraordinary length in sum-mer that we then have day nearly all the time. From this you may conclude that the sun's path is quite broad and that its course 15 not narrow and straight as if it were always following a certain line. As soon as it reaches the outer edge of its sloping circuit toward the south, those who live on the extreme side of the world to the south have summer and long sun paths, while we have winter and little sunlight. And when the sun comes to the extreme edge of its circuit to the north, we have long-continued sunshine, while they have cold winter. For it is always this way, that the sun rises higher in the north when its path declines in the south: and when its course begins to decline in the north, it begins to wax on the southern side.
You should also know that the change from day to night is due to the movements of the sun. For some places have midday when others have midnight; and the day dawns and brightens in some places just when darkness begins and night falls in other places. For the day and the light always follow the sun, while the shadows flee from it; still they follow after it as it moves away; and there is always night where the shadows are, but always day where the light is. Now if you under-stand all these things that we have discussed in these hours, the change in day and night, the course of the sun, and all the other matters that we have talked about, you may count yourself thoroughly prepared for the trader's calling, inasmuch as few only have had more instruction in these subjects than you have had.
Son. I should indeed consider it highly informing, if I could remember all the things that you have now told me. I gather from your remarks, however, that you seem to think that I have asked about too many things in these our talks. But if you are not wearied with my questions, there still remains a little matter which, with your permission, I should like to ask about, one that also seems to belong to the knowledge of seafarers.
In a talk some time ago you said that whoever wishes to be a merchant ought to be prepared early in spring, and be careful not to remain out at sea too late in the autumn; but you did not indicate the earliest time in the spring when you think one may risk a journey over-seas to other countries, nor how late you consider it safe to sail the seas in autumn. You told how the ocean manages to quiet its storms, but you did not show un-der what circumstances it begins to grow restless. There-fore I would fain ask you again to answer this question, even if it does annoy you, for I think that a time may come when it will seem both needful to know this and instructive to understand it.
Father. The matters to which you are now referring can scarcely be grouped under one head; for the seas are not all alike, nor are they all of equal extent. Small seas have no great perils, and one may risk crossing them at almost any time; for one has to make sure of fair winds to last a day or two only, which is not diffi-cult for men who understand the weather. And there are many lands where harbors are plentiful as soon as the shore is reached. If the circumstances are such that a man can wait for winds in a good haven or may confi-dently expect to find good harbors as soon as he has crossed, or if the sea is so narrow that he needs to pro-vide for a journey of only a day or two, then he may ven-ture to sail over such waters almost whenever he wishes. But where travel is beset with greater perils, whether because the sea is wide and full of dangerous currents, or because the prow points toward shores where the harbors are rendered insecure by rocks, breakers, shal-lows, or sand bars, - wherever the situation is such, one needs to use great caution; and no one should ven-ture to travel over such waters when the season is late.
Now as to the time that you asked about, it seems to me most correct to say that one should hardly venture over-seas later than the beginning of October. For at that time the sea begins to grow very restless, and the tempests always increase in violence as autumn passes and winter approaches. And about the time when we date the sixteenth of October, the east wind begins to look sorrowful and thinks himself disgraced, now that his headgear, the golden crown, is taken away. He puts a cloud-covered hat on his head and breathes heavily and violently, as if mourning a recent loss. But when the southeast wind sees how vexed his neighbor is, he is stricken with a double grief: the one sorrow is that he fears the same deprivation as the east wind has suf-fered; the other is grief over the misfortunes of his good and estimable neighbor. Stirred by the distress of a re-sentful mind, he knits his brows under the hiding clouds and blows the froth violently about him. When the south wind sees the wrath of his near neighbors, he wraps him-self in a cloud-lined mantle in which he conceals his treas-ures and his wealth of warm rays and blows vigorously as if in terrifying defence. And when the southwest wind observes how friendship has cooled, now that the truce is broken, he sobs forth his soul's grief in heavy showers, rolls his eyes above his tear-moistened beard, puffs his cheeks under the cloudy helmet, blows the chilling scud violently forward, leads forth huge billows, wide-breasted waves, and breakers that yearn for ships, and orders all the tempests to dash forward in angry contest.
But when the west wind observes that a wrathful blast and a sorrowful sighing are coming across to him from the east, whence formerly he was accustomed to receive shining beams with festive gifts, he understands clearly that the covenant is broken and that all treaties are renounced. Deeply grieved and pained because of the unpeace, he puts on a black robe of mourning over which he pulls a cloud-gray cloak, and, sitting with wrinkled nose and pouting lips, he breathes heavily with regretful care. And when the ill-tempered northwest wind observes how sorrowful his neighbors look, and sees how he himself has suffered the loss of the evening beauty which he was formerly accustomed to display, he shows at once his temper in stern wrath: he knits his brows fiercely, throws rattling hail violently about, and sends forth the rolling thunder with terrifying gleams of lightning, thus displaying on his part a fearful and merciless anger. But when the north wind misses the friendliness and the kind gifts which he was wont to get from the south wind, he seeks out his hidden treasures and displays the wealth that he has most of: he brings out a dim sheen which glitters with frost, places an ice-cold helmet on his head above his frozen beard, and blows hard against the hail-bearing cloud-heaps. But the chill northeast wind sits wrathful with snowy beard and breathes coldly through his wind-swollen nostrils. Glaring fiercely under his rimy brows, he wrinkles his cheeks beneath his cold and cloudy temples, puffs his jowl with his icy tongue, and blows the piercing drift-snow vigorously forth.
But since peace has been broken among these eight chiefs and the winds are stirred to stormy violence, it is no longer advisable for men to travel over-seas from shore to shore because of great perils: the days shorten; the nights grow darker; the sea becomes rest-less; the waves grow stronger and the surf is colder; showers increase and storms arise; the breakers swell and the shores refuse good harbors; the sailors become exhausted, the lading is lost, and there is great and con-stant destruction of life due to a too great venturesome-ness; souls are placed in perils of judgment because of recklessness and sudden death. Therefore all sensible men should beware and not venture upon the sea too late in the season; for there are many dangers to look out for and not one alone, if a man dares too much at such times. Consequently, the better plan is to sail while summer is at its best; for one is not likely to meet misfortune if there has been careful and wise forethought. But it would surely pass all expectations if that were to succeed which was foolishly advised and planned at the beginning, though sometimes the outcome may be favorable. I consider it a more sensible plan for a man to remain quiet as long as much danger may be looked for, and to enjoy during the winter in proper style and in restful leisure what he labored to win during the sum-mer, than to risk in a little while through his own ob-stinate contriving the loss of all the profit which he strove to gain in the summer. But first of all a man must have care for his own person; for he can have no further profit, if it fares so ill that he himself goes under.XXIII THE PROPER SEASON FOR NAVIGATION. END OF THE FIRST PART
Son. I did wisely to continue my inquiries when we had our last talk; for you have given replies which will be useful as well as instructive for all who have the sense to understand and profit by such matters as we have discussed. but I wish to ask you again to tell me briefly how early in the spring and at what stated time you think one may venture to travel over-seas to other shores, just as I asked in my earlier inquiries.
Father. Men may venture out upon almost any sea except the largest as early as the beginning of April. For at the time when we date the sixteenth of March, the days lengthen, the sun rises higher, and the nights grow shorter. The north wind gently clears up the face of heaven with a light and cool breeze, brushes away the restless and storm-laden clouds, and with blithe per-suasiveness asks for a new covenant. Then peace is re-newed among the winds, for they all yearn for rest after the season of violent wrath and wearisome blasts; so they make a covenant once more in the way that we told earlier when we described the peace making. The showers cease, the waves sink to rest, the breakers flag, the swell of the noisy ocean dies away, all the storms Weaken, and quiet follows upon restless turmoil.
Now I have done as you requested: I have pointed out the seasons with definite dates both in spring and fall, when it seems most advisable to brave the perils of the sea. I have also informed you as to the times that seem more suitable for rest than for travel. I have like-wise described briefly the sources of light in the sky and the belts that are drawn across the heaven, those under which travel is difficult and those which allow travel. And if you keep carefully in mind all these things that I have discussed with you, you will never be counted among the ignorant navigators, if you shall decide to try the trader's calling. My advice, therefore, is first to fix in your mind all the facts which you have now heard; and later you shall have a chance to ask further questions, if you should wish to do so.