by Les Simpson
because the Vestenmannavnjar cannot see the spirit world around them does
not mean they doubt its existence. There is a specific tale within the Grumfather
Cycle that illustrates the danger of disbelieving something just because
has never been seen or experienced before.
According to the story, a mother once took her infant son down to a river so that she could wash her family's clothes. She placed him in a little nest of pine needles and dried grass and soon he was asleep.
The mother went into the water and began to scrub the dirty clothes against the rocks. In no time, her baby awoke and began to scream and cry. She could tell he wasn't going to stop, and reluctantly she walked back to the shore to comfort him. It took a while, but she managed to get him back to sleep. But, no sooner had she re-entered the water than he began to cry again. She returned to his side and soothed him to sleep once more, wondering how she would ever get her chore finished.
The baby finally went back to sleep, and the mother waded into the river. As she had feared, he was soon crying again. Just as she was about to return to the bank, a giant owl landed on top of the baby, silencing him immediately. The mother was terrified. She knew how an owl's sharp claws and beak could make quick work of its prey, and this owl was bigger than any she had ever seen. At last she was able to shake off her fear and ran at the animal, shaking her arms and yelling at the top of her voice. The owl flew away and she was surprised to find her baby sleeping and unharmed. He rested quietly for the rest of the day.
That night, the mother wanted to tell her husband of what had happened. However, she knew he would doubt what she had seen, and decided to keep it to herself.
Soon, it was time to wash her family's clothes again, so the mother took her baby down to the river and placed him in the same nest of pine needles and dried grass. As before, the infant was soon asleep, and the satisfied mother went out into the water and began her work. She had just started when she heard the baby's cries.
When she turned to go and comfort him, the giant owl returned. Once again, it landed on top of the baby and he was instantly silenced. The mother watched closely and could tell the bird meant no harm and was, in fact, helping her. Pleased, she finished her work faster than ever before.
That night, she could not resist telling her husband. As she had suspected, he did not believe her. He, too, knew how an owl's sharp claws and beak could make quick work of its prey. The next time his wife was to wash the family's clothes, he demanded to go with her.
When the day finally came, the father brought his bow and arrows with him. The mother placed their son into the same little nest of pine needles and dried grass, comforted him to sleep, and went into the river with their dirty clothes. The father kept a strict watch and soon the baby began crying.
The giant owl returned, landing on top of the baby. As before, the baby was silenced. The father panicked and quickly notched an arrow. It soared straight and true from his bow, but the owl flew away at the last possible moment. The arrow went deep into his son's body, killing him instantly.
The giant owl landed before the grieving father and turned into the almighty Grey Wanderer. He shook his giant fist in the man's face and said, "You have slain your own child because you refused to believe in something you had never seen or experienced. As your punishment, people will forevermore kill one another."
From one tragic act of disbelief, murder was brought into the world.