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on the surface, and they had been able to obtain some curious information with regard to it. One morning, the farmer and his household had observed something unusual in the lake, and presently they were able to descry a large head like that of a seal rising above the water, behind this appeared a back or hump, and after an interval of water, a second hump. The creature moved slowly, and seemed to be enjoying itself in the sun.
The following account of the skrimsl has been sent me by one of the party who visited Skoradalsvatn. "The skrimsl measures forty-six feet long; the head and neck are six feet, the body twenty-two feet, and the tail eighteen feet long, according to the estimate of the farmers on the shores of the lake. The monster was seen the day before we arrived at Grand, by the farmer of the place. His story and description of the fish were so very remarkable, that we instituted inquiries, which resulted in our hunting out several individuals who had seen the monster. On one occasion it was observed by three farmers who reside on the banks of the lake, two of whom I met and questioned on the subject. One of these men produced a sketch of the creature, which he had made whilst it was floating and playing on the surface of the water for half an hour.
"I should have been inclined to set the whole story down as a myth, were it not that the accounts of all witnesses tallied with remarkable minuteness, and that the monster is said to have been seen not in one portion of the lake only but at different points. The annexed sketch is taken from the drawing alluded to."
I beg to call the attention of the reader to the remarkable coincidence between the description of the creature seen in the Skoradalsvatn with that of one or more observed in the Lagarfljot, which is on the farther side of Iceland, as given in the following accounts.
In the Icelandic Annals there is mention of the appearance of a similar monster during the summer of 1345, in these words,—" There appeared a wonderful thing in the Lagarfljot, which is believed to have been a living animal. At some times it seemed like a great island, and at others, there appeared humps several hundred fathoms apart, with water between them. No one knows the dimensions of the creature, for none saw its head or tail, consequently there is no certainty as to what it was." There is a curious description of the animal given in Jon Arnason's Thjoth-Sogur, Vol. I., taken from the accounts of eye-witnesses. The skrimsl is there said to have appeared in the same lake during the years 1749-1750. It was seen by Peter the lawyer and two other men; they described it as having been the size of a large vessel, and to have been moving rapidly. These men, after having watched it for some time, came at dusk to Arneithar-stede, where they mentioned what they had seen. Whilst they were speaking the monster rose to the surface, in front of the farm, and seemed to be thirty or forty fathoms long with a large hump on its back. One of the men present believed that he could distinguish a line or filament from behind the animal, as though there were a tail submerged. All the farm people without exception, at Arneithar-stede, saw the creature.
After this, the inhabitants of Hrafngerthi saw three humps rise out of the water, and remain above it all day, with a hundred fathoms of water between each. One morning Hans Wium was at Arneithar-stede with the priests Hjorleif, Magnus and Grimr, when they observed rising out of the water jets like those thrown up by a whale, when blowing off. After that the monster seemed to have advanced to the lake head, and was there observed by several persons. It again appeared in 1819. Dr. Hjaltalin, at Reykjavik, told me that for many years he had believed the story of the skrimsl to be a fable, till he had been shown a mass of skeleton and monstrous bones which had been washed up on the beach of the Lagarfljot; these bones, he said, were very different from those of the whale, and he was unable to identify them with the bones of any marine animal frequenting the northern seas.
The Grimsey fishermen are very positive that the skrimsl frequents the shores of their lone isle, and that it comes ashore and leaves traces on the turf where it has reposed.
It is said that a skrimsl haunts the Thorska-fjord, and is often dangerous to vessels, as it swims at them, staves them in and sinks them. It is frequently seen in that frith, rocking on the surface of the water, like a large boat floating keel uppermost.
Now that I am on the subject of monsters, let me give the reader an account of a merman, which was found on the north-west coast in the belly of a shark. Wernhard Guthmund's son, priest of Ottrar dale, gives the following description of it:—
"The lower part of the animal was entirely eaten away, whilst the upper part, from the epigastric and hypogastric region, was in some places partially eaten, in others completely devoured. The sternum, or breast bone, was perfect. This animal appeared to be about the size of a boy of eight or nine years old, and its head was formed like that of a man. The anterior surface of the occiput was very protuberant, and the nape of the neck had a considerable indentation or sinking. The apse of the ears were very large, and extended a good way back. It had front teeth, which were long and pointed, as were also the larger teeth. The eyes were lustreless, and resembled those of a cod fish. It had on its head long, black, coarse hair, very similar to the Fucus filiformis; this hair hung over the shoulders. Its forehead was large and round. The skin above the eyelids was much wrinkled, scanty, and of a bright olive colour, which was indeed the tint of the whole body. The chin was cloven, the shoulders were high, and the neck uncommonly short. The arms were of their natural size, and each hand had a thumb and fore fingers covered with flesh. Its breast was formed exactly like that of a man, and there were to be seen on it something like nipples. The back was also like that of a man; the ribs were very cartilaginous. In places where the skin had been rubbed off, a black coarse flesh was seen, very similar to that of the seal. The animal, after having been exposed about a week on the shore, was again thrown into the sea."
In the Korungs-skuggsja, or King's mirror, an Icelandic or Norse work of the twelfth century, is the following description of a mermaid :—
"A monster is seen also near Greenland, which people call the Margygr. This creature appears like a woman as far down as the waist, with breast and bosom like a woman, long hands, and soft hair; the neck and head in all respects like those of a human being. The hands seem to people to be long, and the fingers not to be parted, but united by a web like that on the feet of water birds. From the waist downwards, this monster resembles a fish, with scales, tail and fins. This prodigy, along with that already mentioned (the Hafstramba), is believed to show itself especially before heavy storms. The habit of this creature is to dive frequently and rise again to the surface with fishes in its hands. When sailors see it playing with the fish, or throwing them towards (he ship, they fear that they are doomed to lose several of the crew; but when it eats the fish, or turning from the vessel flings them away from her, then the sailors take it as a good omen that they will not suffer loss in the impending storm. This monster has a very horrible face, with broad brow and piercing eyes, a wide mouth and double chin."
The Landnama speaks of a marmennill, or merman, having been caught off the island of Grimsey. The Icelandic annals relate that a margygr was seen off the East Friths in 1305, and 1329.
With regard to the appearance of the merfolk in other countries, I may state that one was fished up on the coast of Suffolk in 1187, and was kept by the governor for six months. It closely resembled a man, but was not gifted with speech. One day when it had an opportunity for escape, it fled to the sea, plunged in, and was never seen again. In 1430, after a violent tempest which broke down the dikes in Holland and flooded the low land, some girls of the town of Edam in West Fruzeland, going in a boat to milk their cows, observed a mermaid in shallow water and embarrassed in the mud. They took it into their boat, and brought it into Edam, dressed it in female attire, and taught it to spin. It fed with them, but never could be taught to speak. It was afterwards brought to Haerlem, where it lived for several years, though still showing a strong inclination for water. Parival relates that it was instructed in its duty to God, and that it made reverences before a crucifix (Delias de Hollande). In 1560, near the island Manar on the west of Ceylon, some fishermen entrapped in their net seven mermen and mermaids, of which several Jesuits and Father Henriques, and Bosquez, physician to the Viceroy of Goa, were witnesses. The physician examined them with a great deal of care, and dissected them. He asserts that the internal and external structure resembled that of human beings. We have another account of a merman seen near the great rock called Diamon, on the coast of Martinique. The persons who saw it gave a precise description of it before a notary; they affirmed that they saw it wipe its hands over its face, and even heard it blow its nose. Another creature of the same species was captured in the Baltic in 1531, and sent as a present to Sigismond, King of Poland, with whom it lived three days, and was seen by all the Court. Another was taken near Eocca de Sintra, as related by Damian Goes. The King of Portugal and the Grandmaster of the order of St. James, are said to have had a suit at law to determine which party the creature belonged to.