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  The Sorcerous Finfolk

The freeing of Eynhallow

Thorodale and his bag of salt: Illustration by Sigurd TowrieThe Goodman of Thorodale hailed from the Mainland parish of Evie.

He married a wife and she bore him three sons. After her death, he married another, the bonniest lass in Evie, and Thorodale loved the girl dearly.

One day, he and his wife were down on the ebb and Thorodale sat on a rock to tie his shoestring. Turning his back to his wife, who was nearer the sea, he was startled to hear her scream.

Thorodale turned and saw a tall dark man dragging his wife roughly towards a boat. Thorodale rushed down to the water's edge and waded into the sea but the dark man already had the young woman in the boat and was rowing out to sea.

Long before Thorodale reached his own little boat, the accursed Finman was out of sight - by their sorcery, the Finfolk can make their vessels invisible and propel them more swiftly than a bird in flight.

Thorodale was not a man to take such a blow quietly.

There in the ebb he knelt down and he swore that, living or dead, he would have his revenge on the Finfolk.

Many a long night and day thereafter Thorodale thought on his vengeance, but no way could he see how this could be done..

Then one day he was fishing in the sound between Rousay and Evie. There, fishing at slack tide, near the middle of the Eynhallow Sound, Thorodale heard a female voice singing.

The voice belonged to his lost wife, though he could not see her.

"Goodman, grieve no more for me,"
"For me again you'll never see;
If you would have of vengeance joy
Go ask the wise Spae-wife of Hoy."

Thorodale returned to shore and staff in his hand, took his silver in a stocking and set off for the island of Hoy.

What passed between him and the wise woman of Hoy, is not written, but it is certain that she told him how to get the power of seeing Hildaland, the home of the Finfolk.

She also told him how he was to act when he saw any of those hidden isles; and she said that nothing could punish the Finfolk more than taking any part of their Hildaland from them.

And so Thorodale went home.

For nine moons, at midnight when the moon was full, he went nine times on his bare knees around the great Odin Stone of Stenness.

For nine moons, at full moon, he looked through the hole in the Odin Stone and wished that he might get the power of seeing Hildaland. And after doing this for nine months on the days when the moon was full he bought a great quantity of salt. He filled a meal chest with salt, and set three large kaesies (straw baskets) beside it.

His three sons were now well-grown young men so Thorodale explained to them what they should do when he gave the word.

Then one beautiful summer morning, just after sunrise, Thorodale looked out on the sea and in the middle of Eynhallow Sound, lay a pretty little island, where never land was seen before.

Without taking his eyes from the island Thorodale roared out to his three sons in the house: "Fill the kaesies and hold for the boat."

Down came the sons carrying the kaesies of salt, which they set in the boat. The four men jumped in and rowed straight for the new island.

The sons were perplexed at their father's instructions for only he could see the magical island. In a moment, the boat was surrounded by whales. The three sons wanted to try to drive the whales, but their father knew better.

"Pull for your lives," he cried, "and Deil [the Devil] catch the delayer!"

Then a great monster of a whale raised its head right in the boat's course, opening a mouth huge enough to swallow men and boat at a single gulp.

But Thorodale bade his sons bend to the oars and he rose to his feet in the bow. Then, right into the terrible jaws, he threw a double handful of salt and instantly the monster vanished. The creature was only an apparition, a trick of the Finmen's sorcery, and the salt, a consecrated substance, destroyed their evil magic.

The boat was now fast nearing Hildaland.

Two most beautiful mermaids stood waist-deep at the shore, their long golden hair fluttering over their white shoulders. So melodious was their song that it went straight to the hearts of the rowers, causing the young men to row slowly.

But Thorodale, without turning his head or taking his eyes off the magical island, kicked the two sons nearest him and the boys mended their stroke.

Then he cried to the mermaids: "Begone, ye unholy limmers! Here's yer warning!"

At that he hurled a cross made of twisted tangles on each of them. The mermaids plunged beneath the waves with pitiful shrieks and bow of the boat touched the enchanted shore.

But on the beach awaiting them was a huge and horrible monster.

Its tusks were as long as a man's two arms, its feet as broad as quernstones, and with blazing eyes it spat fire from its mouth. Seemingly ignoring the threat of this unholy beast, Thorodale leaped boldly on to the land and threw a handful of salt between the creature's eyes.

With a terrible growl, the monster vanished but in its place stood a tall and mighty man. The man was dark and scowling and in his hand he held a drawn sword.

"Go back!" he roared.

"Go back you human thief! You that come to rob the Finfolk's land. Begone! Or by my father's head, I'll defile Hildaland with your nasty blood."

When the three sons heard that, they trembled and begged their father to return to the boat and make their way back home.

Thorodale ignored his sons' pleas and kept his eye on the Finman.

At that the Finman made a sudden thrust at Thorodale's breast with his glistening sword. But Thorodale sprang lightly to the side, and with a flick of his wrist threw a cross into the face of the dark stranger.

The cross was made of a sticky grass called "cloggirs" and when it struck the face of the Finman it clung tightly and would not fall off.

With a howl the dark man turned and fled, roaring as he ran with pain, grief and fury.

You must understand that the Finman was afraid to pull the cross from his face because to touch it with his hand should have caused him more pain - the blessed symbols are agony to those under the Devil's rule!

At that Thorodale knew him for the very Finman that had dragged his young wife away from the beach. Turning to his cowering sons Thorodale cried to to them: "Come oot o' dat ye duffers! Bring da salt ashore!"

The three sons came on shore, each bearing a big kaesie of salt. Their father lined them up and bade them walk abreast around the island, each son scattering salt as he went. And when they began sowing the salt there arose a terrible rumpus among the Finfolk and their beasts.

Out of the houses and byres, down to the sea they all ran, helter-skelter like a flock of sheep with mad dogs at their heels. The Finmen roared, the mermaids screamed and the cattle bellowed so that it was harmful to hear them.

The end of it was that every last mother's son of them and every hair of their beasts took to the sea, never again to set foot on the island. Their homes, steadings and their crops too, all disappeared.

Satisfied, Thorodale cut nine crosses on the turf of the island and his three sons went three times around Hildaland sowing their salt - nine rings of salt in all.

And so the Finfolk's Hildaland was cleared of all enchantment and lay bare.

Empty and clean to the sight of man and heaven. Then it was called Eynhallow - the Holy Isle - and a church was raised there.

And that is how the Goodman of Thorodale took revenge on the Finfolk.