There he saw a splendid horse, all ready saddled, and just above it hung a richly ornamented sword on the handle of which were engraved these words: ‘He who rides this horse and wears this sword will find happiness.’
At the sight of the horse Sigurd was so filled with wonder that he was not able to speak, but at last he gasped out: ‘Oh, do let me mount him and ride him round the house! Just once; I promise not to ask any more.’
‘Ride him round the house!’ cried Helga, growing pale at the mere idea. ‘Ride Gullfaxi! Why father would never, never forgive me, if I let you do that.’
‘But it can’t do him any harm,’ argued Sigurd; ‘you don’t know how careful I will be. I have ridden all sorts of horses at home, and have never fallen off not once. Oh, Helga, do!’
‘Well, perhaps, if you come back directly,’ replied Helga, doubtfully; ‘but you must be very quick, or father will find out!’
But, instead of mounting Gullfaxi, as she expected, Sigurd stood still.
‘And the sword,’ he said, looking fondly up to the place where it hung. ‘My father is a king, but he has not got any sword so beautiful as that. Why, the jewels in the scabbard are more splendid than the big ruby in his crown! Has it got a name? Some swords have, you know.’
‘It is called “Gunnfjoder,” the “Battle Plume,”‘ answered Helga, ‘and “Gullfaxi” means “Golden Mane.” I don’t suppose, if you are to get on the horse at all, it would matter your taking the sword too. And if you take the sword you will have to carry the stick and the stone and the twig as well.’
‘They are easily carried,’ said Sigurd, gazing at them with scorn; ‘what wretched dried-up things! Why in the world do you keep them?’
‘Father says that he would rather lose Gullfaxi than lose them,’ replied Helga, ‘for if the man who rides the horse is pursued he has only to throw the twig behind him and it will turn into a forest, so thick that even a bird could hardly fly through. But if his enemy happens to know magic, and can throw down the forest, the man has only to strike the stone with the stick, and hailstones as large as pigeons’ eggs will rain down from the sky and will kill every one for twenty miles round.’
-an Icelandic fairy tale from The Crimson Fairy Book-

Illustration: Pauwels van Hillegaert


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