Apologue

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    "Freyja's Gift" is foremost an adaptation of Norse mythology. As such it includes references to the authentic Norse myths, references that may not be familiar to many readers. To those readers I recommend reading "The Norse Myths" by Kevin Crossley-Holland (Andre' Deutsch Ltd., London, 1980), as much for the author's notes on Norse culture and beliefs as for his beautiful retelling of the myths. Reading "The Norse Myths" or some similar collection of tales is not essential to understanding "Freyja's Gift", but a familiarity with the authentic myths adds to my narrative a depth that diminishes the possibility that the keel of the reader's imagination will scrape against some shoal of misunderstanding.

    "Freyja's Gift" is also an experiment in reconstructive mythology. It is the fruit of my effort to create a pseudomyth similar to a myth that I believe is clearly missing from the collection of myths that we possess today.

    Many myths were lost when the Norsefolk accepted Christianity and abandoned their old religion, lost simply because few of them were ever written down. The myths, expressed in the sacred poetry of the Eddas, were memorized by skalds, professional storytellers who would recite the myths on appropriate occasions to entertain, to teach, to admonish, and to inspire. As the Norsefolk were steeped in Christianity the skalds died out and the myths died with them. Among those myths was surely one that consecrated the Norsemen's ability to hitch a wind to a boat as a horse to a wagon and to ride safely far out to sea.

    Every ethnos possesses myths that explain and elevate the importance of characteristic features of the associated culture by presenting those features as gifts from divine beings. Whether it's the cultivation of maize in Northeastern America, the calendar in Central Mexico, writing in Ancient Egypt, or the oceangoing longboat familiar from Viking epics and the excavations at Gokstad, Oseberg, and Sutton Hoo, there's a myth that tells how the Gods came to bestow such gifts upon humans and, by implication, how humans can gain the favor of the Gods by using and enjoying those gifts. In the Norselands the ability to carry out great ocean voyages was the divine commission. Enchanted by the myth of the seagoing knarr, a myth singing in their imaginations since childhood, the Norsefolk took wind and tide as partners and danced upon the great waters to the beat of the swell. Though now long vanished, that myth, the story that may have inspired Erik Thorvaldsson and his son, Leif Eriksson, to extend the Norse reach to its westernmost, engendered a special love of the sea that endures in the Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish soul to this day. It is the ghost of that long dead myth that I hope the reader will see reflected in the stream of my narrative.

    But of all the world's mythologies, why did I choose the Norse for this experimental reconstruction? Actually, the choice was made for me. My aunt Roberta married into a Norwegian-American family and of all the families into which my aunts and uncle married, I seem to have been most familiar with and closest to that of the Markussens. It is for them that I conceived, developed, and wrote "Freyja's Gift" in the affectionate hope that the story would evoke for them the flavor of their Norse heritage. Thus I dedicate this work

to the honored memory of

ANTON BIE MARKUSSEN

who came to America from Norway in 1918

and

RUTH NICOLAYSEN

who came from Norway in that same year



to their children

ARNE, BORGNY, and RALPH,

to their grandchildren

KAREN, KARI, KATHY, KIMBERLY, and MARK,

to their great-grandchildren

KELSEY and KYLA, KIRSTEN, and MATTHEW,

and to their daughter-in-law

ROBERTA,

wife of Arne, mother of Kari, disciple of Terpsichore, whose devotion to the poetry of graceful movement has inspired certain flights of fancy.

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