The Sower Girl

Once upon a time there lived a pastor who had brought up a girl. High up between the mountains was the seed farm [1]of the parsonage, to which the pastor liked to send his cows and sheep in the summer under the supervision of a sower girl and a shepherd. When his foster-daughter grew older she had to preside over housekeeping on the sower, and she did that as well as any other job; for she was a clever woman, pretty to look at, and quick in many things. She had no equal in this part of the country. That is why many rich men wooed her hand; but she rejected them all together. The pastor once spoke to his foster daughter about this chapter and advised her to get married because, he said, he was an old man now and therefore could not always be of help to her. But she would not hear of it; her mind was far removed from such things, she said; she would be very happy as it is and not everyone finds happiness in marriage. Nothing further has been said about this for the time being.

As part of the winter had passed, it seemed to people that the sower girl was beginning to plump up a little below the belt, and as spring approached, the plumper she became. in the[17] In the spring her foster father spoke to her again; he now asked her to tell him openly and honestly how things were with her; she was definitely expecting a child, he said, and so it would be best if she didn’t go after the sower this summer. She denied, however, that she was expecting a child, that there was nothing wrong with her, and that she would do her work on the sower this summer exactly as she would have done before. The pastor saw that he couldn’t get anything out of her and therefore let her have her way; but he instructed the men who accompanied them to the sower not to leave them alone, and they promised him solemnly.

Up on the sower the girl was merry and happy, and a while passed without anything happening. People watched her very closely and never left her alone.

Then it happened one evening that the shepherd missed all the sheep and cows, and everyone who could use his legs had to leave the sower, only the sower girl stayed behind alone. The search of the people went slowly, a dense fog was descending, and therefore they did not find the cattle until morning. When they got home again, the sower girl was up and unusually quick and light on her feet. After a while you could see that it wasn’t as round as it used to be; but no one knew how it had happened, nor did they now find that hers[18] plumpness had been like when a woman is expecting a child.

In the autumn they went home from the sower, men and cattle, and then the pastor saw that the girl was slimmer than she had been the previous winter. He pressed the rest of the sowers and asked them if they had acted against his orders and left the sower girl alone. But they told him what it would have been like if they had only left it once to look for the missing dairy cattle. Then the pastor got angry and wished them the hardship they had because they had acted against his orders; besides, he would have suspected that in the spring, when the sower girl went after the sower.

The next winter a man came who wanted to marry the pastor’s foster daughter; but she would have nothing to do with his wife; the vicar, however, said that nothing prevented her from marrying him; for all were agreed to praise him, and he was of a good family. He would have taken over his father’s farm last spring, and his mother would have her old age with him. So this suitor was not turned down, whether with the girl’s will or without him. Their marriage was celebrated at the priest’s in the spring. But before the bride was put on her wedding dress, she said to her bridegroom: “Since you are marrying me against my will, I make you promise that you will never[19] accommodate a winter guest without notifying me beforehand, otherwise you will fare badly!’ The man promised her that.

So then the wedding was celebrated, and she went home with her master and took over the household, but without any particular desire; for she was never happy, and her face was always somber, although the man carried her on his hands and scarcely permitted her to put her hand in cold water. Every summer she sat at home while the others were busy with the hay in the meadow, and her mother-in-law always stayed with her to cheer her up and help her prepare the food. Sometimes they sat and knitted and spun, and the old woman would tell stories to amuse her daughter-in-law.

Once, when she had finished telling her story, the old woman said to her daughter-in-law that she had to tell something now. But the other replied that she knew no legends; however, when the old woman pressed her further, she finally promised to tell the only tale she knew, and she began thus:

»Once there lived a sower girl on a farm. Not far from the sower lay large rocks, which she often passed. There lived a handsome young Huldremann, whom she soon met, and love arose between the two. He was so good and nice to the girls that he never refused anything[20] and always submitted to her will in everything. The end of the song was that when some time had passed the sower girl was expecting a child. When she was due to go to the sower next summer, her master pressed her to know if she were in blessed circumstances; but she denied this and went up to the sower as she was accustomed to do. However, their master asked those who were on the sower never to leave them alone, and they promised him that. Even so, once they left her to look for the cattle, and she felt labor pangs. Then her lover came to her, sat with her and helped her give birth, and then he washed and swaddled the child. But before he went away with the boy, he made her drink from a glass, and it was the sweetest drink I ever . she stooped for it and corrected herself – ‘that she had ever tasted, I meant to say, and then she became whole and free from all consequences. From then on Huldremann and the girl never saw each other again; against her will she was married to another man; but her mind was always on her first love, and from that time on she never saw a happy day. And now the tale is over.”

Her mother-in-law thanked her for telling the story and kept it in her memory. So time passed again without anything happening; the woman went about as usual, carrying her sorrows,[21] but she was always kind and loving to her master.

One summer, when it was well into the hay harvest, two men, one taller and one shorter, came to the farmer in the field. They both had wide-brimmed hats on their heads, so it was difficult to see their faces clearly. The larger one took the floor and asked the farmer for shelter for the winter. The farmer replied that he didn’t take anyone without his wife knowing, and said he wanted to talk to her about the matter first. The husband begged him not to speak so awkwardly as if such a resolute man were so under his wife’s slipper that he shouldn’t decide for himself on such trifles as feeding two people for a winter. The end was that the farmer promised them winter shelter without first asking his wife about it.

In the evening the strangers came home with the farmer; he let her enter a chamber and asked her to stay there. Then he went to his wife and told her how things were. The woman became very indignant at this and said it was her first request and would probably be her last. But since he would have taken in the strangers alone, it must also be his business what followed from their stay in the winter; and then the matter was no longer discussed.


Now everything was quiet until the couple wanted to go to communion in the fall. It was the custom then, as it is still the case in various parts of Iceland today, that those who want to go to the Lord’s table should go to all the people in the courtyard, kiss them and ask their forgiveness for their offenses against them. The housewife had avoided the winter guests up to this day and had never been seen by them, and this time she did not go to them to say goodbye either.

The couple left. But when they were outside the fence of the home field, the farmer asked his wife, “You said goodbye to our winter guests, too?” She replied, “No.” to say goodbye to them. ‘In most things you show me little respect, first in having received these men without asking me, and now in wanting to force me to kiss them. However, I want to obey you, but you must take the consequences yourself; for my life is at stake, and in all probability yours as well.”

She was now returning home, and because it was so long before she returned, the farmer also turned back and went to where he expected to find his winter guests, and found them in their chamber too.

Then he saw how the taller winter guest had embraced his wife and was lying with her on the ground;[23] and both hearts were broken with grief. But the other guest was standing weeping next to them when the farmer entered; a moment later he disappeared without anyone knowing where he had gone.

But everyone now knew from what the wife had told her mother-in-law, that the taller stranger had been Huldremann, whom she had met on the Säter, but that the other one who had disappeared was her son.