(An Icelandic Tale)
Once upon a time long ago, there was a farmer in northern Iceland who lived on a farm called Bakki. He had three sons named Gisli, Eirikur and Helgi. The boys were so foolish that they never remembered who was who, so they always called each other Gisli-Eirikur-Helgi. They were known as the Bakki Brothers, and wherever one went, the other two tagged along.
Everyone in Iceland had heard the tales of the Bakki Brothers, the greatest fools the country had ever known.
One day, when they were older, they rowed out to sea with their father to go fishing. Their father had brought along a keg of whey and water for refreshment.
When he began to feel seasick, he lay down in the boat and called, “Boys, I’m not well. Bring me the keg!”
“Gisli-Eirikur-Helgi,” Gisli said. “Our father is calling for the keg.”
Eirikur then repeated the call: “Gisli-Eirikur-Helgi, our father calls for the keg.”
Helgi echoed the cry: “Gisli-Eirikur-Helgi, father needs the keg.”
But none of the brothers brought the keg to their father. They just kept calling for the keg until their father breathed his last breath and died right there in the boat.
When the boys understood their father had died, they headed back toward land and covered their father’s body. They didn’t know what to do with the body, so they placed him on the back of their old brown mare, Brownie.
“Gisli-Eirikur-Helgi, Brownie will know where to go,” Gisli said. Eirikur and Helgi repeated this.
Later that night, old Brownie returned with no body on his back.
“You see, Gisli-Eirikur-Helgi, he has taken father where he was meant to be,” Gisli explained, and the boys never worried for another moment.
The farm was theirs now, and they worked the land.One day, Gisli had to travel to Hofn, and naturally all three brothers decided to go. “The journey will take three days,” he said, but after the first two days, he suddenly remembered that he had intended to borrow a horse for the trip.
“I forgot the horse,” Gisli said, so they all returned home for the horse and set off once again.
“The trip is far longer than three days, Gisli-Eirikur-Helgi,” Gisli said, but no one was sure what to do about that, so they simply traveled on. By the time they returned home, they learned their rent was late.
They visited the widow who owned the farm and paid her the money they owed her. That night they stayed at her place, and they departed the next day at dawn.
When they were halfway home, Gisli said, “Gisli-Eirikur-Helgi, we forgot to ask the widow to send us off in peace,” and the others agreed that was a mistake. They turned back, and when they reached the widow’s place, they said, “Please, send us off in peace.”
The widow rolled her eyes at their request but said, “Go in peace, boys.”
And off they set. But when they were halfway home, Eirikur said, “Gisli-Eirikur-Helgi, we didn’t thank the widow. We don’t want her to spread the word that the Bakki Brothers are rude!”
The others agreed, so they returned to the widow’s place. Bowed low, they said, “We wish your forgiveness. We did not say thank you for your blessings. We thank you, we do!”
Then they headed home, satisfied that all was well.
By the time they reached home, it was mid-winter and they noticed that their house was freezing.
“Did you ever notice,” said Helgi, “that houses with windows are always so cold?”
Gisli-Eirikur-Helgi agreed and decided it was the windows that made the house cold. So they thought it made sense to build a house with no windows. Right away, they set to work.
When they had finished building their new house, they noticed it was completely dark inside. “At least it’s warm, Gisli-Eirikur-Helgi,” Gisli said, “but we need some light.”
They waited for a sunny day, when Eirikur said, “I know! We will carry light inside in our caps.”
But Helgi disagreed, saying, “Buckets are bigger than caps!” and they all nodded their heads.
So they carried bucket after bucket outside, captured the sunlight, carried those buckets back inside and set the light free. They walked outside to collect more.
Helgi said, “It will be lovely sitting in our lighted, warm house, Gisli-Eirikur-Helgi.”
But after the sun had set and they walked inside, they were sad to see the house was still dark.
Then the bright, full moon rose, and Gisli said, “Gisli-Eirikur-Helgi, what is that big ball in the sky? Is that all our light?”
“Gisli-Eirikur-Helgi, I’ve no idea,” Eirikur said.
“Gisli-Eirikur-Helgi, I wish I knew what that was,” Helgi agreed.
The brothers walked to their neighbor’s farmhouse to ask him what that shining thing in the sky was.
This farmer, familiar with the brothers’ mischief, teased them: “That’s a battleship, boys! It’s come to attack us, no doubt.”
This terrified the brothers, and they ran home. They were so afraid of the battle to come that they hid in their windowless home, barring the door. This way, the enemy soldiers would never find them. There they stayed all those nights that the moon shone bright.
Strangely enough, no one ever saw the foolish Bakki Brothers again.