Thursday, July 18, 2013

Norwegian Ghost Tale

A good collection of ghost folktales from Norway were first written down over 200 years ago. 

Several of these originated after the Black Plague had devastated the country. This disease hit Norway harder than the rest of Europe. The result was many of the tales that came out of this period of Norway's history were still being told in the 1800s. 

The following tale, The Midnight Mass of the Dead * is one of these stories.

It was late one Christmas Eve as Adelina sat by her fire; she hoped the firelight would help keep her awake. She wanted to attend the Midnight Mass. But the fire’s warmth had the opposite effect--it lulled her to sleep. She did not wake until she heard the village’s church bells ringing for the start of Mass.

In a panic she ran out of house and down the snow-laden hill. She arrived at the church just as the Mass started. She took a seat and focused upon the priest who stood on the altar.  

She had trouble concentrating as a feeling that something was amiss overtook her. With every breath she exhaled the church seemed to become colder and colder. She noticed that the other parishioners that sat near her seemed pale and motionless.

She wondered at the quiet joyless responses they gave the priest. At Christmas normally people were happy. Halfway through the Mass a feeling of horror clouded her thoughts as she realized what was wrong. 

Everyone that she had recognized in the various pews were villagers who had died. Now she sat frozen afraid to move looking neither left or right.

She felt several sets of eyes glaring at her as many of the dead around her started to grumble under their breath. Shortly before the priest gave his last blessing a neighbor she recognized approached her. This lady had died a few weeks before. 

She took Adelina by the arm and whispered frantically, “You must leave.” Terrified Adelina stayed frozen in place. The neighbor shook her and said, “Go now, before the priest ends his prayer.” “They will kill you.”

Coming to her senses she fled the church and ran up the hill quickly as ghostly footfalls seemed to pursue her. She had no trouble staying awake till sunrise. The next day as she entered the village church only the living were inside and she was able to stay until the Mass ended.

*  Scandinavian Folktales, translated by Jacqueline Simpson

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