Bernadette at Haddon Musings asked if I would like to post a short excerpt from one of the Tales from the Northlands, so I will. This piece is from In the Hall of the Mountain King. Jussi, youngest son of a fisherman despairs of marrying Solveig, the blacksmith’s daughter.
Jussi knew perfectly well that he had been foolish to set his heart on Solveig. Her father, the blacksmith, was hoping for a rich son-in-law. But Jussi was counting on Mundi Iron-Hands’ indulgence—that he would never marry off his daughter without her consent. Jussi had always hoped that Solveig liked him enough to insist with her father. But he could never tell with her. He knew she liked him, but she liked other things too. Things Jussi couldn’t give her.
He’d taken his black humour with him to meet Solveig, knew she’d have taken the cows up to the high pasture, out of sight of the blacksmith, his forge and her nosy brothers. He needed to hear her say she would have him whatever fate his father had reserved for him, just to see the light in her eyes and know that she saw deeper than the callouses on his hands and the tears in his kyrtill. He had caught up with her and the red cows but she wouldn’t sit and talk. She was often like that though, always on the move, picking daft flowers or watching the way an amber bead glinted in the sun.
“A fisherman? Don’t make me laugh. You’re a nice boy, Jussi, but you’ll never be more than a poor man, and your wife will spend her life in the stink of fish guts. Her clothes will never be free of the smell, and nor will her husband.
“Is that all you care about? How things smell?” Jussi had asked angrily.
Solveig had laughed, that infuriating, silvery laugh that made the hair at the back of his neck stand on end. “I care about how things smell, and how they look and how they taste. I care about the touch of fine linen against my skin and thick furs to wrap me up warm in winter.” She had spun round, her short cloak flying about her like a banner and revealing the tight corn-coloured plaits wound round her head. “I care about having combs for my hair and necklaces of amber and garnets.” Her face was suddenly serious. “But most of all I care about having a man who will look after me and stay with me, and not leave me a widow with bairns to feed and a cold bed to cry in.”
“But I wouldn’t leave you!” Jussi’s indignation had spilled out on the verge of anger.
“And how many fishermen are swallowed up by the sea? And how many raiders never come home to hear the songs of their exploits?”
“I’d be careful, I’d never take risks.”
Solveig had looked at him with sadness welling up in her eyes. She had reached out and taken his hands in hers. “But you would, because you would have no choice. A fisherman’s life is hard. He must go where the fish shoal. Even when the sea is wild and the winter cold bites, his bairns will need feeding. I won’t love a man to lose him, Jussi. I want to keep him for always.”
If you’d like to read what happens to Jussi and Solveig, Tales from the Northlands is available at
at only 99c/p. A steal 🙂