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The Son of a Ghost - Jón Árnason

Portrait of Jón Árnason
Jón Árnason

From the folklore collection of Jón Árnason (IR I39045)

Translated by Bryndís Víglundsdóttir

Edited by Natalie Gutttormsson

Once there was a minister and as is customary he lived at the rectory. He had a young and fair daughter. A young man from the district asked for her hand but the minister denied his request as he thought the girl was too young for marriage and he didn't like the man either. This angered the man and he vowed that he would have his way.

A little later he died and was buried.

It happened that just before this took place, a stranger had arrived at the rectory and asked to be allowed to stay a while and work as a farmhand. The minister allowed it. The stranger was a fine and hardworking young man and the minister was very fond of him.

One night the farmhand saw that something was moving in the bed where the girl was sleeping. He had heard what the rejected suitor had said and suspected that something evil was going on. So he put on his clothes and went out to the graveyard. There he saw that the grave of the dead suitor was open. He found a rope, tied it around a rock and let it fall into the grave, but he held on to the end of the rope. Then he waited until the dead suitor returned.

When the ghost of the dead suitor returned, he stood by his grave and said to the farmhand: “What are you doing here in the middle of the night?”

The farmhand baited the ghost of the suitor and answered “If a man like you can stand here, then can't I too?”

“You would think so,” said the ghost of the suitor, “I surely was a man but now I am more a spirit, than a man. Allow me into my grave.”

“No,” said the farmhand, “not unless you tell where you have been.”

“So be it,” said the ghost, “I was enjoying the minister's daughter. I promised I would have my way.”

“Are there any consequences?” said the farmhand.

“She is with child,” said the ghost, “and she will bear a boy.”

“Tell me what will be the fate of her and the baby” said the farmhand. “You will not return to your grave until you have told me.”

“So be it,” said the ghost. “No harm will come to the girl and later she will become your wife.”

“I am not happy," said the farmhand, “to accept the leftovers from a ghost.”

“That will have to be” said the ghost and it will not harm you.”

“What will be the fate of the child?” asks the farmhand.

“He will be,” said the ghost, “the most talented man ever to live in the country. He takes after me for I am a spirit and know much more than humans do. He will be educated and learning will be easy for him and he will become a minister, but when he turns to the altar for the first time the church and everyone in it will disappear into the ground unless there is someone present who is courageous enough to walk up to him and stab him when he is about to turn around. He will then disappear altogether except one shoulder blade and a few drops of blood. Those are the only parts he has from his mother. You must not tell anyone what I have told you until it has come to pass. Your life depends on it.”

The farmhand promised to do so and then allowed the ghost into the grave asking him never to roam again. The grave closed over the ghost and the farmhand went back to bed, not saying anything about the events of the night. When people were up in the morning they saw that the farmhand had left during the night and thought that was rather strange.

In due time the girl delivered a boy and said the stranger was the father. The minister cared for the boy and his good intellect was soon quite evident. He was sent to school, graduated with the highest grades and became an assistant to his grandfather, the minister.

Everyone was looking forward to hearing the outstanding young man sing mass and when he was supposed to do so for the first time, people flocked to church. His mother

sat at the front of the church along with the farmhand, who hadn't been seen since before his alleged son had been born, and looked rather strange.

When the young minister was about to turn to the altar the farmhand rushed to him, swung a knife and stabbed him. The young minister fell and was dead.

There was much commotion, some restrained the farmhand while others turned to the dead man and took off the vestments. It was as if the man dissolved in their hands and when they looked closer they found only the left shoulder blade and three drops of blood.

Everyone was surprised and there was total silence in the church. Then the farmhand began to talk and tell the congregation clearly the whole story of his encounter with the ghost.

There were some people in the church who had heard when the rejected suitor had declared that he would have his way. So people concluded the farmhand was telling the truth.

The old minister thanked the farmhand for his help to the entire congregation and loved him better than even before this happened. Soon after this he gave his daughter to him in matrimony. They owned a stately farm, enjoyed good fortune and loved each other well, until their death.

The end.


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