The Yule Gift
The Yule Tree
Gangleri ate silently enjoying the food Katla had provided for him. When he finished he thanked her for such a delicious breakfast, and then he looked around the shack.
" Your dwelling would be warmer if the wall boards were caulked with mud or clay. " he told Katla.
Katla gazed about the shack, and everywhere she looked her eyes saw the morning light filtering in through the tiny cracks between the boards. Embarrassed, she lowered her eyes before replying.
" I am but a frail woman trying to provide for myself and my daughter. I am not sure that I know the proper way to fill the many cracks in this tiny shack. " she replied.
Gangleri shook his head and rubbed his belly.
" If you will allow me to stay another night, I would be more than happy to insulate your home against the cold. " he told her with a broad smile.
Katla was astonished by his offer, and at first did not know quite what to say. When she finally found her voice she spoke softly.
" A meal and a place to sleep seems like little compensation for such hard work. " she replied sheepishly.
" Nonsense ! " Gangleri replied.
The old wanderer rubbed his belly again and chuckled.
" Ho, ho, ho ! I could use a little exercise after such a hearty meal anyway ! " he told her happily.
Katla was amazed at how fast a heavy set old man like Gangleri could work. Sunna had barely made half of her trip across the sky when the old man finished sealing the hut against the weather. Then she watched in horror as the old man walked away into the forest.
" Where was he going, and why was he leaving without even saying goodbye ! ? " she asked herself.
Katla waited patiently until Sunna began to ride over the horizon, and then she decided to go looking for the old man. All sorts of terrible images flooded through her mind as she headed for the woods that surrounded her shack. He left without taking his walking stick ! Was he injured ? Did he lose his way ? Katla simply did not understand !
Katla was about to enter the forest when Gangleri suddenly appeared out of a clump of thick foliage on the other side of the hut dragging an evergreen tree behind him. Katla ran after him, and when he reached the front door she grabbed his arm and stopped him.
" What is the tree for, and why are you bringing it into my house ? " she asked nervously.
Gangleri laughed heartily.
" Ho, ho, ho ! Please tell me that you have not forgotten what day it is today ! " he replied.
Since her husband died Katla had lost track of time and days. She knew it was cold and that the season must be getting close to winter, but she had no idea what specific day it was.
" I am afraid I do not know . " she told Gangleri sadly.
" Ho, ho, ho ! " Gangleri laughed so hard he almost dropped the trunk of the tree he was carrying.
" The winter solstice begins this evening when Sunna reaches the western horizon. It is the beginning of Yule my dear ! " he told her as he chuckled some more.
Hildi, who was sitting by the fire, heard something being dragged into the hut, and turned in the direction of the scraping sounds.
" What is that ? " she asked in a perplexed tone.
" It is your Yule tree, of course ! " he answered happily.
" Yule tree !? " she asked.
Gangleri stopped for a moment and put his free hand upon his hip.
" How can you celebrate the Yule without an evergreen tree ? " Gangleri questioned.
" Why does it have to be an evergreen tree ? " she asked.
Gangleri bent down and began to make a stand for the tree out of pieces of wood he had collected. As he nailed the wood together he answered the little girl's question.
" Because child ", he told her in a gentle voice, " while the rest of the forest has gone cold and dead, and the world becomes white and colorless, the evergreen reminds us that the forest is only sleeping. It is a living symbol that winter is only temporary and will soon pass into spring. Even its beautiful pine scent, which will soon fill this room, reminds us that life is something to be cherished, no matter how cold, dark, and bleak things may seem to be. "
Hildi smiled and clapped her hands.
" That is a wonderful reason ! " she told him joyfully.
When Gangleri finished the stand he got up and walked towards the door.
" Where are you going now ? " Hildi yelled after him in a disappointed voice.
" Why to gather up boughs of holly to decorate your walls for good luck and protection, and some pine branches to make a wreath for your door to invite in the Yule spirits ! " he replied.
Katla did not know what to make of this old man. He was strange, and yet somehow he had the ability to make everyone around him feel at ease no matter what he did. At first Katla was going to stop Gangleri, but when she saw how happy her daughter was with the Yule tree she decided to allow the old man to decorate her humble little abode. Then she took in a deep breath, and smiled.
" The pine scent does remind me of the spring ! " she whispered to herself.
- End Chapter 3
- Next : Chapter 4 : The Ancient Tale
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2015.