Alternate History

Vinlandic Folklore (The Kalmar Union)

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Folklore in Vinland is generally a hold-over from the old Norse religion though the 'high' gods have been demoted and the lesser spirits or Huldrfolk (hidden people) are much more prevalent. Whilst true veneration of the old Gods was arguably (and this point is argued vehemently by historians) never that widespread, their hold on the general imagination of medieval Vinland waxed and waned until it finally disappeared in the 17th century. Meanwhile belief in the Huldrfolk was continually reinforced by immigration from Iceland and Scandinavia. The stories associated with the supernatural reward those who are brave or clever enough to stay true to their morals, while greedy or violent people are regularly punished in horrible fashions. It is rare to find any part of Vinland not associated with a certain creature, good or bad. As the cultural historian Pjetur Stéfansson has said:

The medieval Vinlanders were few in number and lived in largely isolated communities. Is it any wonder that they filled the empty forests and mountains with life?

Nowadays the 'high' Norse sagas are joined by a wealth of fables and fairy stories. Many of the most famous were first collected together during the reign of Greta I who deliberately tried to collate the myths of Vinland.

For the most part the stories are all that remain of the folklore. The pagan festivals have largely been dispensed with, at least nationally, apart from at Júl. Some towns still celebrate the seasonal blots but in the same way others celebrate midsummer or the harvest, rather than in a conscious effort to gain favour from the gods.

Supernatural Creatures

  • Odinist Deities - While these are certainly not venerated in any way any more they are still thought of as spirits associated with the weather or seasons. Violent and destructive storms are usually blamed on bad-tempered Thor hunting trolls. Good harvests are attributed to Freyja, though she also gets blamed for broken farming equipment.

While mortals are no strictly longer bound by their laws the other huldrfolk are and can be warded off or called with amulets recalling the god's familiars, such as a hammer or a raven.

  • Nýx - Water spirits, nýx take the form of bathing men and women who inhabit waterfalls, pools and rivers. Generally good, they help lost travellers or point the way to fortune or good luck. In another form they appear as bákkhest (brook-ponies) who are most definitely bad, luring children to a watery death.
  • Hýldrár - Once apparently widespread in Markland and the island of Vinland, the Hýldrár, or the Ladies of the Forest, took the form of peasant girls though could be readily identified by their fox-tails peeking out from under their petticoats. They would lure unsuspecting farmers and foresters into the deepest forests and usually kill them. However they were well-liked by charcoal burners as they 'guarded the charcoal fires' and more generally they would bestow good luck on those who were polite enough not to challenge their other-worldliness. The maiden on the coat of arms of Markland is traditionally a hýldrá, though with her tail hidden for 'politeness sake'.
  • Lake and Sea Serpents - Monsterous serpents are said to inhabit many of the lakes of Vinland including Ontario Vatni. Belief in these creatures is widespread throughout the Fraeburt Votnum nations and probably pre-dates the Norse arrival. The Abernaki certainly believe in such monsters and call various lake creatures by the name 'Tatoskok'.
  • Hadokwe - The Sauk and other Hafsvaedaland tribes, whilst giving up the majority of their original religion on conversion to Christianity in the 13th - 17th centuries still retain a great deal of their old myths. One of the most enduring features is that of 'trickster' spirits capable of changing their shape that can either help or hinder those they decide to target.
  • Qalupalik & Qallupilluit - The native tribes of Norrland and Greenland retain a great respect for their surroundings knowing without it certain death followed in the icy wastes. As a result several fearsome spirits such as the Qalupalik and Qallupilluit keep young Inuit on their toes.

If those creatures are usually confined to tales then the following are more part of everyday life. Most Vinlanders in the more rural areas believe absolutely in the existence of trolls and álvr and take great care around those features of the landscape most associated with them. While it should follow that those in towns would be less willing to believe, repeated surveys show they do anyway and this is sometimes ascribed to 'urban guilt'; that they are not closer to the land as they once were.

  • Trolls - These large, hairy, slow and stupid creatures appear frequently in tales of youngsters, or even animals, who prove their courage by outwitting them. Apparently afraid of church bells they tend to live in the most isolated parts of forests or at the bottom of lakes.
  • Álvr - The beautiful and seductive magical álvr are happy to assist villages against trolls, or even be rescued from them by brave heroes. Commonly associated with wild meadows or forest clearings their most visible manifestations are rings of mushrooms. Some half-jokingly blame the continued costly bureaucratic nightmare of the Ontario-Karegnondí canal on not respecting the álvr stones at Lítilletjaug.

Legendary Figures

Away from the supernatural, many human figures have passed into Vinlandic legend thanks to repeated retellings, plays and now films of their supposed careers.

  • Ragnheidur Kristjánsdottír - A camp follower during the Isanyathimark Revolutionary War Ragnheidur Kristjánsdottír is said to have foiled a night attack by the by single-handedly manning the cannons, severely maiming the Isanyathimark force and waking the sleeping Vinlandic army. Ragnheidur was probably invented by the St. Katrinsstjárna newspaper who were critical of the way the war had been conducted, implying a single woman could do a better job than half the Vinlandic generals.

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