Fiction Feature—The Saga of Jón

An Icelandic Tale

It happened that Ólaf the farmer had two daughters, Freyja and Bryndís.  Freyja grew to be slender and comely and she had many suitors.  Bryndís grew to be stout and plain and she had many chores.

One of Freyja’s most earnest suitors was Jón.  He made excuses to walk to Ólaf’s farm near Þingvellir every week.  Ólaf, eager that his beautiful but useless daughter should marry, often invited Jón to stay for supper.  Jón enjoyed the meals put before him, although he scarcely tasted them for gazing at Freyja’s beauty.

“Your daughter is a good cook!” Jón told Ólaf, after several visits.

“Yes,” Ólaf replied, carefully avoiding mention of which daughter did the cooking.  “She will make some man a good wife.”

“I would like to be that man,” said Jón.  “I want to marry your daughter, Freyja.”

Ólaf nodded.  “Good.  Yes.  You can marry Freyja.”

Jón and Freyja married the next day.  Jón hastened in fear that Ólaf would change his mind.  Ólaf hastened in fear that Jón would discover Freyja could not cook.

Ólaf gave Jón a few sheep to get him started with married life.

“How generous is my father-in-law,” thought Jón.  Jón took his wife and his sheep and started his farm barely a half-day’s walk away.

It was not long before Jón realized his father-in-law’s deception.  Freyja could not cook at all! Nor could she clean, nor spin wool, nor perform any other useful wifely task in the house or the barn.

Jón, instead of being happily married, was unhappily hungry.  To satisfy his gnawing hunger, he visited Ólaf’s farm again.  Ólaf tried to turn him away, but plain Bryndís felt sorry for Jón.  She made him a meal, and Jón later returned to his own farm.

Soon, Jón visited Bryndís whenever he needed his appetite sated.  And soon, Freyja suspected where Jón was going.

Freyja stormed toward her father’s farm to confront Bryndís.  Halfway to the farm, she met Bryndís and Jón, who were trying to escape the disapproving eyes of Ólaf.

Freyja stomped up to Bryndís.  She pushed Bryndís with both hands.  Bryndís pushed her back.  Soon, Freyja and Bryndís were pushing and grunting, locked shoulder to shoulder.

Bryndís dug her heels in the ground.  Freyja was determined not to give way and so she dug her heels in the ground.  They pushed and screamed and screamed and pushed.  Suddenly, a great crack rent the earth.  Freyja and Bryndís continued pushing, and the crack got wider and the earth trembled.

While Freyja and Bryndís struggled, Jón snuck back to his farm.  He gathered his sheep and herded them far away to Húnaþing Vestra.  He made a farm there, away from the troublesome sisters and their deceitful father.  Jón found a new wife, Dóra, who was not beautiful, nor could she cook.  Dóra, however, could spin wool, and she could weave and knit.  Which is as much as a man with sheep could want.