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Month: October 2017

Ása the norsk elghund: a story written in persona

Ása the norsk elghund: a story written in persona

The year is 913. My name is Ásny, and I am a farm wife living in the north of the island called Iceland. I am in my early 40s, and I was born in Norway, but many years ago, when I was newly a woman, my husband and I packed up our belongings and set out to seek a new life. We sailed west with some other folk, and after a short voyage, thanks to favorable winds, set our feet on land again near the place called Husavik. We built a farm near where our ship landed, and we have lived there ever since. We make our living raising sheep and goats, and I make beads from glass, and every summer, my husband Bjorn joins a group of other men to go a-Viking.

Caring for our farm is hard work, especially because the gods did not see fit to bless us with children. Every other woman around seems to have given her husband least a few sons to be his heirs, but I was not blessed the same way. My mother always said I was very sick as a little baby, so maybe that’s the reason. I certainly have made all the appropriate offerings to the gods, so I can’t imagine they are mad at me. I suppose it was a blessing in disguise, since it meant fewer mouths to feed, and we did not have to watch any children die when they were babies, but with just two of us to work our farm, and Bjorn often gone for the summer months, it made for much more work for me. Fortunately one of our closest neighbours had many, many children, and we were able to get a bit of help from them in exchange for wool and milk.

Ever since I was a little girl, I have always loved animals. My mother would often find me in the fields with the sheep and the goats, and at night our farm cats and hounds would all pile into my bed with me, as I was an only child. So it was to no one’s surprise that when Bjorn and I left for Iceland, we brought many animals with us. In addition to the sheep and the goats, we of course have many cats around our farm to keep away the mice and the rats, and I keep chickens for the eggs and meat, and we have always had a dog or two around as well. I have found that with many animals around, the heartache from never having children of my own has lessened over the years, and I dote on my animals like others would a child. Of course, as a husfreyja I was given cats when we first established our household, as any good farm wife would want cats to keep the mice away, but I always seem to have more around me than most other women around.

This year, Bjorn and his friends that he would usually spend the summer a-viking with, decided that instead of going raiding, that this summer they would venture back to Norway, to visit friends and family there. Word had passed to us Bjorn’s father was getting very old and sick, and it might not be long before he made the passage to Valhalla. He had never died in battle, but had survived many of them and would surely be chosen to join Odin when he passes. Bjorn decided he wanted to make the journey to try and see his father one last time. And besides, there are no bees in Iceland, and our kegs of mead were all but depleted, and what would the men do without their beloved mead? Of course, as someone needed to stay to take care of the farm, I wasn’t able to join him on his journey.

Shortly before Bjorn’s ship set sail, we suffered a great loss here on the farm too. Our old dog, Snorri, who we knew was not a young pup anymore, as he had been with us for many years, had been slowing down, and had been making sounds that told us his joints were stiff and hurting, for a while now. Finally the time came where his body just couldn’t keep going, and he went to wait for us in the afterlife. It was a very sad time for us, and hard, but time stops for no one and so we had to continue on with our lives, taking care of our farm and our other animals. But the loss of our close shadow, for Snorri always seemed to be no more than a few feet away from one of us at all times, left a vast hole in our hearts.

So as I said earlier, Bjorn made the trip back to Norway, and by his telling, the trip was as easy as ours was when we first came to Iceland. He was able to see his father, and be there for him when he passed, and give his mother comfort, and of course replenish our mead supply. He also did return with supplies for the farm, and gifts for me, as he often does when he is gone for a period of time. This time he returned with a little green stone, carved in the shape of a dog just like our Snorri, with a loop so that it can be hung around one’s neck, and a beautiful white fox fur, and some grains for planting next spring… but none of those compare to the final gift he gave me.

While he was visiting his family, Bjorn happened on a local man who greatly enjoys hunting with a bow and arrow, who also raises dogs to hunt with him. It just happened that one of this man’s bitches had recently had a litter of puppies, and my husband thought that would be a suitable gift to bring home for me. He certainly knows me well, my husband does. It was the best present he could have possibly brought me. I named her Ása, and she’s been with us for a month now. She’s just three months old, and a little bundle of mischief. But when she finally stops jumping at my side and nipping at my heels, she’s her Mama’s little baby.

(((Out of persona aside: we lost our old dog, Cody, to old age and arthritis in mid-August, and we miss him dearly. As luck would have it, someone in our area posted a litter of Norwegian Elkhound puppies on the local classifieds that would be ready to go in early September. Well, being one of our top choices for dog breed, and pretty much perfect for my persona, there was not much hesitation in putting a deposit on a new puppy to join our family. She turned 8 weeks on September 4th, and came home on September 6th. And her name really is Ása, which is a name which can be documented to the Viking era, as it was found in the Landnámabók, the Icelandic Book of Names. Documentation is available here: http://www.ellipsis.cx/~liana/names/norse/landnamabok.html. We pronounce it Ay-sa, and it means Goddess.)))