Tuesday, 21 July 2009

A ghost

Inspired by the brothers Grimm, Danish author and art historian Just Mathias Thiele (1795-1894) collected and published all sorts of tales, including some about ghosts, werewolves, and mares. Here is an example in my translation:

There lived a wealthy man in Ebeltoft by that alleyway which leads to the beach. He had commerce with prohibited goods, but he behaved himself so cleverly that no one noticed while he was still alive. But when he had died, he got his punishment; for every night he was seen walking from his house to the beach dressed in a tunic with many silver buttons. At long last a priest was called for, who laid him in the meadow and drove a stake in the earth at the place where he had been laid. This stake still stands there, and when one rocks it at winter, he is clearly heard saying: “Tug up! Tug up!”


Anthony Hogg said...

The Danish - and by extension, Scandinavian - practice of staking the dead, or "ghosts" seems to have interesting ties to vampire lore.

But I wonder what the exact connection is?

Was there a mingling between them and the Slavs? Is the vampire belief somehow tied with it?

Not sure if this possible connection has been explored in depth, before...

Niels K. Petersen said...

I find it hard to believe that these practices should have been influenced by Slavs. There are a number of tales about ghosts/revenants being laid by priests or other people who knew how to do this, from Denmark, Germany and other countries. These tales can be found in various books published in the 19th and
20th centuries, most of them just collections of folklore.

Obviously in this tale the stake is used to fix the ghost/revenant in the ground as part of the laying, but it is stuck into the earth, and not into the corpse. It isn't even said that the corpse was reburied in the meadows far away from the consecrated ground of the churchyard, only that the ghost is laid there.

Here, by the way, I find it hard to be sure of what words to use. In Danish the word used for the ghost is 'genfærd' which has a meaning similar to revenant.

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