The Northern Way

The Saga of Eirek the Traveler - Translation by Peter Tunstall

3. India

When three years had passed, and Eirek had received such information and much more besides, they headed with their crew to Syria with the seal of the Greek king, and after that they go by ship and horse--but mostly they walked--journeying some years till they came to furthest India. And wherever they go in strange lands, they were welcomed, and everyone helped them on their way, because they had with them the letter and seal of the Greek king and the patriarch from Miklagard, which was written too on the tongues of all those people they expected to meet on the way. It was also said that wherever they were, or wherever they chose to travel, it was apparent how much God's grace was with them and what a friend of God the Greek king was, for wherever his letter was seen, honours were bestowed upon them, and they suffered no harm, for God's mercy protected Eirek and his companions, and the luck of the Greek king was with them, and his wise advice saved them much trouble on the way.

And when they'd travelled as much as forty-four miles through the regions of India, they came at last to dark regions, where they saw stars as clearly by day as by night. All over the land they found great lumps of gold. They saw many wonders besides in that land, and when they'd gone a long way through thick woods, incredibly tall, they come at last out of the forest. Then it got light and became bright and they saw before them a great river. Over it was a bridge of stone. On the far bank of the river they saw a beautiful country with tall flowers and plenty of honey, and from it they smelt a sweet scent. That direction was bright to look at. They saw neither hill nor height nor mountain in that country. Eirek realises these must be the lands the Greek king spoke of. It dawned on him that this must be the river called Phison that flows from Paradise. But as they neared the bridge, they saw a terrible dragon lying on it with gaping jaws, and it let out a savage-sounding roar. Then Eirek began to make his way towards it, and he meant to get across the river somehow. But when Danish Eirek saw that, he told his namesake not to go, and he said the dragon would swallow him in no time. But Eirek the Norwegian said he wasn't going to be scared of the dragon, “and he won't stop my journey.”

Danish Eirek said, “I beg you, best friend, don't throw your life away, come back with us instead, because you'll surely die if you go on.”

Eirek said he wouldn't turn back, and they both wished each other good luck. Now Eirek of Norway draws his sword and grasps it in his right hand, and takes one of his companions by the left hand. They rush up and leap into the mouth of the dragon, and it looked to Danish Eirek as if the dragon swallowed them both. He turns back now with his companions, back the way they came, and after many years he comes home to his own land. Then he said what was the last he'd seen of Eirek the Norwegian, what had happened, as it seemed to him. Now this man gets to be famous because of his travels, and he was regarded as a splendid man, and that's the end of his story.

4. Beyond the Dragon

But when Eirek the Norwegian and his companion had leapt into the dragon's mouth, it seemed like they were wading through smoke, and when they came out of the smoke, they saw a beautiful land, lush and bright as satin, with sweet scents and tall flowers, and streams of honey ran all over the land, in every direction. That country was broad and flat. There was constant sunshine there, so that it never got dark and never cast so much as a shadow. The air was calm, but with just a little breeze on the earth, so that they smelt the sweet scent even more than before. They walked a long time and wondered if they would see any habitations or populated districts, or how far it went on.

They saw then what looked like a steeple hanging in the air with nothing to hold it up. They approach it. Then they a tower hanging from the steeple in the sky, with no support. A ladder stood against the south side of the tower. They were amazed at the strength of whatever power was making this possible, and it all seemed very strange to them. Then they went up the ladder and into the tower.

They saw that it was furnished with the most beautiful and opulent satins and velvet. There was a table standing there, beautifully prepared, and on it stood a silver dish. On that there were all sorts of tasty treats, and it was loaded with white sweet-scented bread. There was a jug set with gold and gemstones. There was a goblet full of wine. There were beds, well made and spread with cloth of gold and fine velvet.

Then Eirek said, “See here is The Deathless Acre, that we travelled so many roads, and faced such trials and troubles, to see.”

They praised God and said, “Great and good is God for letting us see all this.”

And after that they enjoyed the food and then went to sleep.

And as Eirek slept, there appeared to him a youth, bright and handsome, who said to him, “Great is the firmness of your faith, Eirek. Tell me, how do you like this land?”

“Very well--it's all I could have wished for. And of all the lands I've seen, this is the one I like the best. But who are you? And there's a big difference between your knowledge and mine, because you know me and call me by my name, but I don't know who you are.”

Then the young man smiled and said, “I'm God's angel, one of those who guard the gates of Paradise. I was standing nearby when you vowed to go south through the world in search of The Deathless Acre. I prompted you to sail to Miklagard, and through God's foresight and my will, you took baptism, and for that I call you blessed, for you heeded the good advice and warnings of the Greek king and took his seal and bathed in the holy Jordan. But as for me, the Lord sent me to you. I am your guardian angel and I've shielded you on land and sea, from all the dangers of the journey, and guarded you against all bad things. And we are not human, but rather spirits dwelling in our heavenly homeland. But this place which you see here is like a wilderness compared to Paradise, though that's not so far from here, and that's where that river comes from, which you saw. No one gets there alive, but the souls of the righteous are to live there. And this place you've found is called the Land of Living Folk. And before you arrived, God commanded us to watch this place and to show you the Land of Living Folk in some form, and make a feast for you, and pay you back for your troubles.”

Then Eirek asked the angel, “Where do you live?”

The angel says, “We live in heaven, where we gaze on the face of God, but out of necessity we are sent to earth to offer our service to humans, as you can well believe.”

Eirek said, “What holds up this tower which seems to hang in the air?”

The angel says, “God's strength alone holds it up. From signs like this you should have no doubt that God made the world from nothing.”

Eirek said, “I'll not doubt that.”

The angel asked Eirek, “Which would you rather: stay here, or go back to your own country?”

Eirek answers, “I want to go back.”

The angel said, “Why so?”

Eirek says, “Because I want to tell the people I know about these glorious demonstrations of God's power, and because if I don't come back, they'll be sure I died a horrible death.”

The angel said, “Although there is now worship of heathen gods in the northern lands, the time will come when those people will be freed from delusion, and God will call them to his faith. Now I give you leave to go back to your own land and tell your friends about God's grace, what you saw and heard of it, because they'll believe in God's word and his commandments sooner when they hear such tales as this. Pray often. I will come after you some years hence and bear your soul into bliss, and I will guard your bones in that place where they are to await the Judgment. Stay here six days and rest yourselves and then take provisions for the journey and head back north at last.”

Now the angel seemed to vanish from his sight. Eirek did just as the angel said, regarding his stay and departure.

5. Eirek's Return

After resting as long as the angel said, they climbed down from the tower and go on till they reach the river. Then a great darkness comes over them. They come up out of the dragon's mouth and resume their journey and see many wonders, but even so, no harm befalls them, and they become enlightened with much wisdom, and after four years they come to Miklagard. And Eirek tells the king of his travels, and the king is amazed he made it back, and has him stay for three years. After that Eirek gets ready and leaves Miklagard and goes north to Norway, and everyone was glad to see him. He was there ten years. And in the eleventh winter, there was one day he went early to pray. Then the Spirit of God took him, and they looked for Eirek, but he wasn't found. Eirek had told his dream to his companion, the one that he dreamt in the tower, and this man passed it on, and he believed that the angel of God must have taken Eirek and kept him safe. This Eirek was called Eirek the Traveller. This story has been confirmed by many witnesses from his own words. Now we'll leave the story there.

And he who set this adventure down first in this book, which he wrote, did so because he wants everyone to know that there is no real help except through God, because though heathen men may get great fame by their deeds and feats of valour, there's a big difference, when they get to the end of this temporary life, since they've had their reward from human praise for their courage, but they can expect nothing but punishments for their sins and lack of faith, as they didn't recognise their maker. But those who have loved God and put all their faith in Him and acted according to the spirit of holy Christianity, they will get more praise from the wisest men, and also--what's more--when they've gone forth through the universal door of death, from which no flesh may save itself, then they'll have their reward. That is the difference: everlasting life with almighty God without end, just like this Eirek, of whom we have just now said.

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