The Yule Gift
The Ancient Tale
After dinner they sat around the tree with a raging fire crackling in the fireplace. Katla, who was exhausted from her daily chores and helping Gangleri put up the decorations, fell fast asleep while watching the hypnotizing flames. Hildi could smell the sweet fragrance of the evergreen tree, but she could not remember what they looked like.
" I have forgotten what an evergreen tree looks like. Would you be so kind as to describe the tree to me ? " she asked Gangleri.
Gangleri placed his arm around the child and in a slow calm voice began to describe the tree in great detail.
" The main stem rises up from a gnarly trunk, and ends at its top. The branches, of which there are many, grow out of the main body of the tree, and divide into three or more sub- branches. All of the branches, large and small, are covered with tiny green needles at their ends which spread out like a human of great faith reaching out to honor their Gods. " he told her.
" It sounds wonderful ! I wish I could see green and other colors, but all I can do is imagine them now. " she sad sadly.
Gangleri patted the girl gently on the shoulder and continued.
" I was very lucky my dear. I found a tree that still had many of its pine cones hanging from its branches. These cones are green when they first develop, but now they are dark brown with overlapping shingle like structures that hold in the seeds. " he explained to her.
" You are wonderful at describing things Gangleri ! " she exclaimed .
" Can you tell me what the boughs of holly look like ? " she asked.
Gangleri chuckled quietly, as not to wake up Hildi's sleeping mother.
" Of course child . " he told her with great patience.
" Holly has shiny green leaves with sharp pointy needle like ends. In the center of each cluster of leaves there are beautiful little round bright red berries. " he explained.
Hildi smiled and placed her head upon the old man's chest.
" What a beautiful decoration they must make ! " she replied.
Gangleri lifted her chin off of his chest and tapped his finger playfully on her nose.
" They are much more than decorations little one. These sprigs of holly ward off evil spirits that tend to walk here in Midgard during the Yule season ! " he told Hildi in a serious tone.
Hildi was startled by what Gangleri had told her and turned her head to where she heard his voice.
" There are evil things that can harm you during the Yule ritual days ! " she asked with a hint of fear in her voice.
Gangleri chuckled at her innocence.
" Do not dwell on that child, for there are many good things that roam Midgard during Yule as well my dear ! " he assured her.
Hildi gave Gangleri a little pout before asking:
" Tell me about them . Please ! " she pleaded.
Gangleri stroked his grey - white beard, and thought for a moment.
" Have you ever heard the tale of the great gift giver ? " he asked.
" No ! Tell me ! Tell me, please ! " she exclaimed.
Gangleri gave a restrained Ho, ho, ho, when he heard the excitement in her voice.
" Well ! Every year during the Yule, a kindly spirit comes to every home that is decorated for the celebration, ..... if it is protected against evil spirits of course ! " he told her.
" Why does this spirit visit people's homes !? " Hildi interrupted.
Gangleri looked to the left, and then quickly to the right, as if he did not want anyone else to hear what he was about to say.
" This kindly old spirit comes at night to deliver presents to those who are good and honorable. " he told her in a whisper.
Hildi looked up at where she perceived Gangleri's face to be, and asked with a frown.
" Does the spirit knock upon the door ? "
" No ! He comes down the chimney, and places the presents under the tree ! " he told her once again in a whisper.
Hildi giggled !
" But won't the spirit get burned up in the fire ? " she asked mimicking the old man's whispers.
" No child ! Because he is a spirit he cannot be touched by the elements of this world. " he explained.
Hildi lowered her head .
" The spirits will not come to our house. My mother has not been very good this year, and being that I am blind I do not have the ability to do honorable things. " she told Gangleri sadly.
Gangleri raised the child's face up with his hand and spoke with a hint of pride.
" The Gods..... I mean spirits.... know the struggles that Midgardians have to endure. They take into consideration every person's good points and bad points, and then, and only then, do they decide to visit or pass by a home. I believe that your mother is a very good person who has been placed in a bad situation by the fates weaved by the Norns. " he told her.
Gangleri kissed Hildi on the forehead, and carefully placed a loose strand of hair behind her ear.
" And you my dear do ' honorable things ' every day ! Your struggle to overcome the handicap of blindness has not left you bitter, nor has it stopped you from enjoying life. I am sure the spirits will take great pride in leaving a very special present for you. " he told her reassuringly.
Gangleri took a deep breath and yawned.
" It is late little one. If you are not asleep when the gift giver comes you will scare him away, and it will pass your house by. " he told the child.
" Well.... I am a little sleepy. " she told Gangleri.
Gangleri picked up Hildi and placed her next to the fire. He covered the child with a blanket, and waited for her to fall asleep. When he was sure that Hildi was sleeping he went to his bag, which was laying by the fire, and pulled out a handful of runes that he had carved onto little pieces of wood. He then carefully placed them on the branches, and then gathered up his things.
Before he left he placed a small present under the tree, and then walked over and kissed the sleeping child on the head.
" My wife would never forgive me if I did not give a special gift to a child as wonderful as you ! " he whispered.
Gangleri then walked over to the fireplace and in a puff of smoke rose up the chimney to the roof. Moments later the old man turned into his true form, that of the God Odin, and called to his eight legged horse Sleipnir, who landed on the roof. In a blink of an eye his great white horse was airborne and Odin was off to his next house.
Hildi , in her fog of sleep, thought she heard the hoofs of many reindeer on the roof, at least that is the way she would remember it. The child quickly fell back asleep before the waking thought could take hold, and returned to her dreamworld.
End Chapter 4
Next : Chapter 5 : The Yule Gift
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2015.