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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Fisherman of Götur
By Jón Árnason (1819–1888)
 
From ‘Icelandic Legends’: Translation of George E. J. Powell and Eiríkr Magnússon

IT is told that long ago a peasant living at Götur in Myrdalur went out fishing round the island of Dyrhólar. In returning from the sea, he had to cross a morass. It happened once that on his way home after nightfall, he came to a place where a man had lost his horse in the bog, and was unable to recover it without help. The fisherman, to whom this man was a stranger, aided him in freeing his horse from the peat.  1
  When the animal stood again safe and sound upon the dry earth, the stranger said to the fisherman, “I am your neighbor, for I live in Hvammsgil, and am returning from the sea, like you. But I am so poor that I cannot pay you for this service as you ought to be paid. I will promise you, however, this much: that you shall never go to sea without catching fish, nor ever, if you will take my advice, return with empty hands. But you must never put to sea without having first seen me pass your house, as if going toward the shore. Obey me in this matter, and I promise you that you shall never launch your boat in vain.”  2
  The fisherman thanked him for this advice; and sure enough it was that for three years afterward, never putting to sea till he had first seen his neighbor pass his door, he always launched his boat safely, and always came home full-handed.  3
  But at the end of the three years it fell out that one day in the early morning, the fisherman, looking out from his house, saw the wind and weather favorable, and all other fishers hurrying down to the sea to make the best of so good a time. But though he waited hour after hour in the hope of seeing his neighbor pass, the man of Hvammsgil never came. At last, losing his patience, he started out without having seen him go by. When he came down to the shore, he found that all the boats were launched and far away.  4
  Before night the wind rose and became a storm, and every boat that had that day put to sea was wrecked, and every fisher drowned; the peasant of Götur alone escaping, for he had been unable to go out fishing. The next night he had a strange dream, in which his neighbor from Hvammsgil came to him and said, “Although you did not yesterday follow my advice, I yet so far felt kindly toward you that I hindered you from going out to sea, and saved you thus from drowning; but look no more forth to see me pass, for we have met for the last time.” And never again did the peasant see his neighbor pass his door.  5
 
 
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