Words: Mikal Hrafspa (Mikal the Ram)
Notes from Mikal:
This tale is taken from three different Yuletide stories. One is the source for a modern joke, but has very old Norse roots.The other two are both Norse and Scottish, as they originate on the Hebridies Islands, at least as far as I could tell. I composed this story for a feast entertainment at Kris Kinder for the then-Baron of Forgotten Sea, Count Syr Valens of Flatrock.
This is one of those stories that caused some concern. I found some people think it is a story making fun of Christianity. Others feel I am poking fun at the Catholic Church. Really, it's just entertainment.
MILORDS AND LADIES, MANY are the tales told of this season of yule. Oft I have heard tell of feasts held at this time, and truly this is the season of food and drink, of song and dance, and of friendships both old and new.
But also I have heard tales of miracles that spring impossibly from this season. And it might sound strange to say that I, (as knowledgeable and well traveled as I am,) had no tale of the miraculous to tell in this season of magic and merriment. Lend an ear good gentles and I shall tell a tale of not one, but three such events. All that came on a single yule day!
As you know, I come from that far north country. It is a cold and grim land, full to the teeth with rock and ice. So gray is our country is it any wonder that many of our warriors steer their ships to more southerly lands? Now due to our wanderings, some of these southerly people arrive on our shores as well,(Though few by choice!) And it is well known that those who come choose not to stay long. Yet some time ago, several priests of this new religion came to our lands, and commenced to wander about the hills spreading their beliefs all about them.
Now good gentles, my people are a calm and peaceful lot. Truly, are there any more fair, even, lovable, and truthful people in the world than the Norse? We who gave you the Vikings, the Danelaw, and the sack of Paris? We opened our arms to these priests, and welcomed them in true Norse fashion. But after a while they began to convert my fellow Norse! To my amazement they began to raise churches everywhere. So highly were the priests regarded that at length they did send us a bishop fresh from Ireland.
Good gentles, you have not lived until you have met an Irish bishop! Round, he was, and so short that if he fell, I was sure that he would roll! Now I had heard some of their teachings, but it was plain that his religion did not hinder his appetite! I have seen him eat as well as any man, and sometimes as well as any two men. Truly a man after mine own heart! I liked him from the first!
But as much as I did find cheer in him, he did find fault in me! "Will you never take the faith?" He'd ask. "Will you never give up the Viking life?" He did worry me sore.
'Twas the beginning of the Yuletide that he did begin again upon me, forever quoting scripture and arguing most pointedly. At last he did shake his head in sadness, and say, "I would at least see you celebrate the yule with us this year."
This did cause me to balk all the more. "Good bishop," I said, " I do not even celebrate the feasts of my own people in this time of year. What reason is there to celebrate when the cold winds do make a man's joints to ache? Where is the merriment in a season when the fair maids go cloaked about in so many garments that not even the slightest glimpse of ankle is promised? The fruits of the harvest are locked away and even the mead lies waiting in the barrels. There is no reason for a man such as I to make merry in this season! It would take miracles to convince me otherwise!"
"Miracles?" quoth the bishop, "I can show you miracles enough to bend your heart."
A moment, my lords and ladies. Are there Norsemen in this place? If so, you would know that we are an argumentative people, and we believe in only what we can see. I was sure that here I had the perfect opportunity to put his beliefs to the trial.
"Well," I replied, "If this be the case, then I challenge you. Your faith puts much stock in the number three, So on the day of the yule feast, if you can show to me three miracles, I will keep this holy day with you each year for the rest of my life. I will sit beside you this year at the feast table and swear an oath before my people to keep this season all of my days!"
Then I did set my trap for him; "Of course, if you cannot produce three miracles for me, you must swear never to trouble me with these arguments again.
I must say with some pride that the bishop took my bait willingly. "If it would take as hundred miracles, I would try. On the morning of the yule feast I shall come to your door!"
Now, good gentles, do not think me a fool. I had long ago had priests point to the rising sun and say, "Behold, a miracle! the sun has risen when it could have lain forever in the mountains!" But the sun did rise before they came, and I have yet to see it fail. A miracle is by definition something against the rule of nature. On the day of the feast I took great glee in pointing this out to the bishop.
Of course he made a great show of argument, and in this way we made ourselves to the south end of the village. On our route to the inn, there was an old ramshackle hovel wherein did dwell two of the bishop's converts; A hoary old Viking by the name of Harald, and his wife Notha. Before we had drawn too close I saw Harald come running out of the house dodging most cunningly.
Yet no matter how skillful his antics, from out of the house came such a shower of abuse that the air seemed full of crockery and foul words too accurate and too inventive to have come from male lips....
From out of the narrow door came Notra, throwing insults and kitchen gear after her running husband. He was lazy she screamed, he was filthy she cried. He not only slept in church, he snored! It looked to be a wonderful chaos and I settled in to enjoy the scene. Just then the bishop stood between them and spoke quietly. "Good Morn, Notra."
At that moment my lords, I saw my first miracle. For no sooner had she seen the bishop, than she shut her jaw with a snap, and ran back into the house. Milords, you will agree, this is beyond nature: a woman that shuts her mouth!
I had little time to stand and wonder though, since the bishop had walked on towards the inn. Knowing his capacity for drink, I wanted to get a share before he drank it all. As we sat at a table drinking good ale, I saw Harald come in the door. The shards of an old bread bowl were still tangled in his beard. When I pointed him out to the bishop, he bade the poor man come drink with us.
Once fresh jacks were set before us, the bishop offered a toast. "To the Yule", he cried. But before we could drink, he added "and to your wife, friend Harald. I think I shall visit her today as well, and tell her of our meeting here."
A second miracle! Even as the bishop spoke I saw Harald set down the ale untasted. "I must be going" he murmured. "I've work to do about the house", and he ran out the door. M'ladies, this is a miracle that you may agree on: a man who would rather work than drink!
Two miracles, good gentles! I was as amazed as you must be.
I told this to the bishop, and he smiled even wider. "We need but one more," he said, "and your place at the yule feast will be assured."
It was but a few moments later that I spied a mouse running across the floor. When I pointed this out to the bishop, he screamed most unmanfully and leaped upon his stool, holding to his skirts.
The mouse, confused by this action, climbed upon the stool as well. With a wilder cry the bishop jumped atop the table, and to keep from being lonely, the mouse joined him. Then the bishop began to prance about, as if in the throes of one of those wild Irish dances, screaming in a most womanly contralto I did not know he had in him. I cannot say I blame the small rodent, for in trying to save itself from certain death it leaped upon the bishop's leg, and began to run upwards. In his panic, the bishop slammed his knees together most violently, trapping the beast between them. And it was then that I saw my third miracle: for I saw him squeeze a quart of water from that single mouse!
Needless to say, I have since kept the yule faithfully. In this time may I wish for you a happy season, and may I wish you many such miracles as these!
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