Ola Nilsson

the journals of ola nilsson

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October 5th 1782.

Two days ago I made the bold decision to move into the cave. If these peasants are to believe I stand between the world of men and the world of trolls then what better place to live than at the very boundary of the two, and also a place that they fear so profoundly. Of course, I am no mountain dwelling hermit, and have ensured a fine degree of personal comfort, given the circumstances. Since the villagers were unwilling to go within half a mile of the cave, poor Sjöblom had to do all the work, carrying the great wooden door (purchased from the carpenter who had been making it for the church) and other materials. Once he had installed the door he dismantled and carried all the furniture from our hut (that had been bought from the landlord) together with a stock of supplies, and a number of oil lamps. I don’t believe these peasants had ever seen so much gold in their lives, and they suddenly became most ingratiating, though none were brave enough to approach the cave itself. With the further addition of a carpet and some drapes, cleverly mounted on poles by Sjöblom, it has become a veritable home from home, and though Sjöblom has much of the look of fear in his eyes, he seems to feel safe enough so long as I remain with him. When the fire is roaring it is really very snug in here, and the Illvilja adds an internal warmth that almost takes me back to Stockholm.
October 8th 1782.

Sjöblom, being by nature a common sort of fellow, and nervous of the cave, likes to spend time at the inn at Harstad where the villagers believe him to be both dumb and deaf, and therefore happily talk around him without reservations. In this way he has leaned much about their character and superstitions, which he then reports back to me. I have told him to listen particularly for any talk of their fears, as it is a man’s fears that make him most irrational, and therefore willing to believe most anything that soothes the fright within. If I can place my Art at the disposal of their fears, then I will have every chance of success in my mission.


October 10th 1782.

I am beginning to understand the hermit philosophers of old, for a week spent alone in a cave, even as winter closes in, does indeed do strange things to the mind, and certainly helps to sharpen the subtle art of contemplation. Like Jesus in the wilderness, I see the Devil come forth to tempt me in his many guises, dressing my thoughts in a shroud of shame for past crimes and a hundred ill-advised decisions. It is easy to be all too honest with oneself when there is nobody to overhear, and it is only by repeating my vision over and over that I have retained the dignity that has always been so dear to me. My dream: to weald the power of the Heart and Soul with all the might and majesty that I saw that first time in Vienna: and when I feel the weakness rising from my belly, it is all that I can do to take up my violin and lose myself in those wondrous and mysterious works that He placed in my hand with the memorable words “take my music North and I will offer you my blessing”. How many times have I wondered what this truly meant, and why it was I who was chosen? How many times have I felt the creeping despair of doubt at my own abilities to fulfil this task? And yet when I play the music all that blackness falls away as if cast asunder by the bright light of Clarity and Faith. Oh, how I am impatient for the first great test. When oh when will there be a death for me to honour and command? For whilst I remain here, that is my only purpose, without which I am as a bird without flight! a river without water! a beast without teeth!


October 13th 1782.

Sjöblom returned this evening full of fantastical tales of the Trolls. As an educated man, and having travelled much in Europe I know these mountain monsters to be nothing but wild flights of fancy, conjured by these peasant’s own lack of Philosophy and the many mental benefits of Civilisation. And yet I must concede a growing fascination for the workings of the peasant mind. For it seems that not only do they believe in these childish fairy tales of goblins, elves and trolls, but that at least half the village claim to have seen them with their own eyes; and I am sure that they believe it. And they hold up the most questionable of hearsays and wheretofores as if they constituted concrete and unquestionable evidence. And yet this all plays nicely to my plan, for Sjöblom tells me that I have already become a part of these Folkeric stories. They call me “the man between two worlds” which I feel is an apt title, even if not as they intend it. For truly I do stand between two worlds: the world of civilised Europe and this damnable northern wilderness; and, of course, through my music, the world of the living and the world of the Dead. For them, the only other world imaginable is the magic realm of goblins, elves and trolls, and so they cast me in that light. That I have chosen to live in this cave, a place that they avoid and fear, only adds to the magical broth, and when they hear the distant strains of my violin they believe me to be playing for Geirröður himself! And who am I to disappoint?!

Sjöblom also tells me that they believe that the Trolls have many tunnels running through the hill and on, down into the fjord, passing underneath their very village; and that sometimes at night they dig their way up into the barns and store huts to steal the fish and grain from under their noses. But even that is not their greatest fear, for they know that what trolls like best is human flesh, and though they feel themselves to be safe in their beds, they fear greatly for the bodies of their dead. To protect against this their graveyard is surrounded by a ring of fence poles hammered a full 20 ft into the ground, and each newly dug grave is lined with stones: of course trolls eat stones also, but that is of no matter when dealing with the irrational. Twice weekly Laurentius Johannis blesses the graveyard as a charm against this appalling eventuality, and they also place miniature statues of Thor inside the graves as a further defence, in a peculiar mismatch of christain and pagan beliefs. And it is in this role that I see my future, for where’er I play, it stands as a warning from Geirröður to others of the magical realm to leave well alone: for I have Geirröður’s favour, and those whom I favour shall share in the favour of Geirröður. Perhaps I am spending too much time alone here, for, despite my profound rationality, I am beginning to believe it myself.

Will all patrons please remain seated
Whilst I belittle myself to amuse you
For I've tried pretty metaphors and sensitive rhymes
But the effort just seemed to confuse you
Rev. Rohan K.

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