Midsummer Madness


Midsummer Bonfire by Nikolai Astrup, 1909

It is the end of June and school is finally out. Kids and parents pack their picnic baskets and head for the nearest meadow or beach, or as the last resort; a gravel football court, where a huge bonfire has been standing tall, composed of old branches and throw-away furniture, since the first day of summer. For some, this is the day they pack their cars or boats, and head for their summer getaways. But the bonfire is certainly not to be missed. Will the witch adorning the top of the driftwood tower fall over before she is licked clean by the building flames this year, or will she collapse at the first touch of smoke like last year?

The witch is the main character of this suspiciously pagan Nordic holiday. She, and her sisters, will be on the prowl on midsummer night, looking for eligible bachelors to kidnap, and god help the girl who tries to stand up for her lover! So the inhabitants of each village try to scare her away by burning replicas of her on a huge bonfire. Since the witches normally fly quite high in the sky, this tend to work fine. At least it has for centuries now, with a few exceptions, so do NOT forget the witch on top of the bonfire tonight!

Since this is a night steeped in magic, more than just witches may be heard from or even seen. The fairies will be out and about too. And it is said that, because of this, if a young girl picks seven different types of flowers from a meadow at midnight and puts them under her pillow when she sleeps, she will dream about the man she is going to marry!

When I was little, midsummers were spent at sea with my family. There would be a huge bonfire on a rock in the sea close to land, and it would burn far into the night. We would grill sausages on a smaller fire and tell each other stories about ghosts and witches. With me always being the main narrator. Sometimes I would scare my two younger siblings half to death!

If you want to learn more about our Nordic Midsummer Madness, you can read the beautiful book which is the inspiration for this post: ” Moominsummer Madness” by the Finnish author Tove Jansson. In this delightful children’s book you will encounter a floating theatre, electric ghosts, private property protests, and wild orphans who dream of seeing a real play.

Midsummer is a time for fairy magic, for fun and for family and friends. It is one of those delicious festivals that dates back to ancient times when it was the turning of the sun that marked the passing of the year, and gave cause for celebration. So no matter where you are, please have a magical Midsummer, and be sure to sprinkle a bit of Midsummer Madness in there.

Happy Midsummer!

Her Majesty

Her Majesty is a New Zealand family/children’s film from 2001. The story is set in the 1950s and is about a young girl who loves Queen Elisabeth and dreams about meeting her, and an elderly Maori woman who is passionate about keeping her Maori legacy alive. When the two meet a magical friendship starts to blossom.

This film, which is inspired by true events, is a beautiful story about identity, belongingness, loyalty and friendship. It is about learning to appreciate our earth and the people who came before us.

I absolutely loved this sweet movie! I loved learning a bit about the Maori traditions, and I loved the way the story and the characters evolved. I could easily identify with the 12 year old Elisabeth and her courage and big heart when she stands up for her Maori friend Hira. I could also relate to the curiosity Elisabeth has for the deeply spiritual ways of the Maori people and how she learns to appreciate and even adopt some of these traditions. love the friendship between the two, and how genuine and respectful it is, despite the age difference.

I absolutely recommend this magical film to children, teenagers and adults alike! It is rare to come upon such a gem of a movie in these highly commercial times.

Of course, five out of five stars! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Call of the Nighter

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If you hold your breath amongst the leaves
And trees a’hushing by
A quiet whiff of lover’s smoke
Somewhat misty-eyed.
A wild wind rushing in your sleep
And you, a little girl upon the moor
Enchanted by the twisted chimes
Pulling at your feet.
Step then upon the trail
Follow the allure, a lass
A’ wreathed by burning sprigs
And a handsome troubadour.
But the gloom still deepens as we speak
And the lilies hastily swim ashore
And the innocence of Summer
Must hearken to the fall.
Stop then your tread, little girl, and
Observe, you’re drowning in his pond
For straying maids must always heed
To the Nighter’s loving call.

* Note: The Nighter, or the Nykk/Nøkk as he is called in Norway, is a dark faerie creature from Norwegian folklore. He is said to live in woodsy ponds and lakes and his aim is to find a bride as he is very lonely. He takes on the form of a handsome young man and sings and plays music to lure young unmarried girls into his domain, of course, to the Nighter’s great frustration, the girl drowns as soon as she has entered the water. The Nighter is the Irish “translation” of the word Nykk, the English one is Nix.

The Faerie Faith

I have always believed in fairies, yes, even today when I’m all grown up! I don’t think fairies look like the Disney version (even though I have nothing against Disney!): young women with long legs, skimpy dresses and perfectly styled hair. No, I think fairies are something quite different…maybe not always so sweet and pretty, but far more mysterious and interesting. This documentary will show you people who still believe in the Faeries and even some who have claimed to see them. I highly recommend it! 😊😊👍🏻

The Art of Storytelling

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Art by Albert Anker

I have always been fascinated with the art of storytelling. I was a storyteller before I was a writer. My favorite thing to do when I was little was to go on walkabouts with my two younger cousins making up stories about oddly shaped rocks, twining trees and little lakes, as we wandered through changing landscapes of forests and mountains. Perhaps this talent came from my mother. I will never forget the storm-torn tree with the roots reaching for the skies. It was a magical gateway to another world. A world only my mother knew about. And now me. A miniature world of trolls and elves. And I, with the magical eyes of childhood, saw it all. Or perhaps it was my grandmother who taught me to tell stories. I could not get enough of the stories she told about a wonderful land called Yesteryear. Or her folktales, always with a wicked modern twist to make me laugh.

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Art by Theodor Kittelsen

When I learned how to write, my writing was first and foremost a way to record my stories. Whenever I wasn’t busy playing you could always find me scribbling something in a notepad or sketching odd characters and fantastical sceneries in a drawing book.
Some of the stories turned into movies which my big brother shot with my father’s old fashioned video camera.

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Art by Theodor Kittlsen

When I was eight I started writing poetry. I learned the magic of words. Poems were little stories about emotions. And these stories outshone the longer narratives in my teens. Today my writing is a mixture of storytelling and creative poetic writing.

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The tradition of storytelling is old. Older than recorded history. Storytelling was the way to record history in ancient times. It was a way to teach moral, explain natural phenomena, carry on culture and traditions, and of course, to entertain. In the Norse part of the world, we had the Skald. The skald was a poetic storyteller, often working for the king. He composed actual events into epic heroic sagas, creating heroes and adding valor to kings. Our most famous Skald is Snorri Sturluson, an Icelandic poet who composed the epic Prose Edda. This Prose is still taught in schools today, and is a valuable source to understand ancient history and traditions in the Norse world.

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Art by Theodor Kittlsen

Other famous storytellers in Norway are Asbjørnsen and Moe. During the National Romanticism in Norway in the late 18th century, there was a general revival and interest for the old Norwegian traditions and culture. This was also true for the Norwegian folk tales and fairy tales. These tales had been told on farms and around bonfires for many many years, but had never been written down. Asbjørnsen and Moe took it upon themselves to collect these folk tales and publish them in two volumes. They traveled around the country from farm to farm listening to stories and writing them down. They were also known for re-telling the different stories to the children they met on their journeys. The two volume of folk tales collected by Asbjørnsen and Moe have never been out of print since they were first published in 1841, and rarely will you find a Norwegian home without one version or the other of this Fairytale collection.

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The Iron Age Farm, Stavanger, Norway

I was so lucky as to meet one of the more modern storytellers in Norway, on the Iron Age farm in Stavanger. Nina Næsheim is a professional storyteller who specializes in Norse myths and legends. It was a very special moment sitting inside the ancient stone farmhouse with the rain tapping on the roof and candles swaying in the draft listening to Nina Næsheim telling stories about the Jotne, Thor, Freya and Odin’s Ravens. Seeing a professional storyteller performing a narrative is something completely different than listening to a book being read out loud. It is then you understand that storytelling truly is an art.

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Inside the Iron Age Farmhouse, Stavanger, Norway.

I met another such contemporary storyteller in Galway, Ireland. Ireland, with its Celtic heritage, has a rich tradition of storytellers, or seanchaí as they are called in Ireland.
The stories often include the mythical Fey Folk, or faeries as we call them today. But these faeries are very far from the Disney fairies we see on screen today. The Irish Faeries were cunning and mischievous and often downright wicked, stealing babies and luring bachelors into Faerierings.
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Eddie (Edmund) Lenihan is a famous contemporary Irish storyteller who specializes in tales about the Faerie folk. Eddie is featured in the film ” The Faerie Faith”, and claims that the Faeries actually exist. His stories are often modern and stars people who have actually had encounters with this mythical folk. I met Eddie Lenihan in Galway during the yearly storytelling festival. His performance was exceptional, and he captivated his audience, young and old, with his dreamy deep voice, his shape shifting facial expressions and his faerie like body language.

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Eddie Lenihan by Valerie O’Sullivan

The Irish seanchas were not only the bearers of Faerie Lore, they were also essential in the Druid tradition. Druids were Celtic priests, or wise men, who were called upon to perform weddings and funerals. They were also the holders of the secret knowledge and were considered to be wise and knowledgeable. They often shared and distributed this knowledge in the telling of stories, symbolic tales conveying hidden messages for the listeners.
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I met a Druid priest on the island of Inish Mor in Ireland. He was a former catholic monk, but had converted to the old faith in recent times. He spent his days studying ancient knowledge and mysteries, and some of this knowledge he shared with me,standing in the stone ruin of an old monastery facing the boisterous Atlantic Ocean, his tales came alive before my very eyes as the skies and seas shifted and roared and spat out the secrets the Druid called upon.

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Inish Mor, Ireland

We all tell stories. Perhaps funny anecdotes from our own lives, or perhaps stories we’ve heard told about someone else’s misfortune or success. We are made up of stories, memories, moments of learning, experiences, our stories make us who we are. Humanity has always had a fondness for gossip, for eavesdropping, just look at today’s reality shows and social networking. Sharing our story becomes important, it is how we leave our mark on this world, it is how we prevent the sea from washing out our footprints.

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Art by the brothers Hildebrandt

Whenever I go through something difficult, as we all must do in life, I think of my life as a story, a quest, a heroic tale, something that will grow in interest, excitement and richness, the more adversary I go through. For after all, what is a story without a plot, what is a tale without a quest, what is a saga without a hero? Or in the words of Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings:

“It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. ”

* All the images have been sourced from Wikimedia or Wikipedia

Further reading:

Nina Næsheim: http://fortellernina.no/node/1
Eddie Lenihan: http://eddielenihan.weebly.com/

The Secret of Roan Inish

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The Secret of Roan Inish is an Irish adventure/ family film from 1994 about a girl who has lost her little brother at sea. He is believed to be drowned, but when our little heroine Fiona hears the legend of the Selkies, she is convinced otherwise.

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The abandoned island of Inish Roan holds a secret, it is where the Selkies (half human half seal) is believed to live. One day Fiona and her cousin Eamon borrow their grandfather’s rowing boat and they head out to sea to investigate the mysterious island. And they are not disappointed…

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I loved this quiet introverted film, the pace is slow and there are no flashy colors or special effects, but that is exactly the charm of the movie! It tells a fairy story, but it makes it look so real and every-day-like that you can’t help believe in the legend of the Selkies. I love the “Irishness” of the film, and all the actors are just wonderful!

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The Secret of Roan Inish is filmed in beautiful Donegal in Ireland, and the landscape is a calming treat for the eye as well. 😊

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I don’t know if this is characterized as a children’s movie, but adults might even love it more. As I mentioned, the pace is slow, so I don’t know if today’s children will enjoy it, but you can always give it a go! 😊😊

I highly recommend this beautiful film!

White Bear King Valemon

TheodorKittelsen-KvitebjørnKongValemon(1912)
Art by Theodor Kittelsen

This is a traditional Norwegian Folk Tale also known as The Polar Bear King in English. It was written down by Asbjoernsen and Moe.

There was once, as well could be, a king. He had two daughters, who were mean and ugly, but the third was as fair as sweet as the bright day, and the king and all were fond of her. She once dreamed about a golden wreath, which was so lovely that she couldn’t live unless she got it. But as she couldn’t get it, she began to pine and could not speak for sorrow. And when the king found out it was the wreath she was grieving for, he had one made almost like the one the princess had dreamed of, and sent it out to goldsmiths in every land and asked them to make one like it.

They worked both day and night, but some of the wreaths she threw away, and others she wouldn’t even look at. Then one day, when she was in the forest, she caught sight of a white bear, which had the wreath she had dreamed of between its paws and was playing with it. And she wanted to buy it.

No! It wasn’t to be had for money, but only in return for herself. Well, life wasn’t worth living without it, she said; it didn’t matter where she went or who she got, if only she got the wreath. And so they agreed that he was to fetch her in three day’s time, and that would be a Thursday.

When she came home with the wreath, everyone was glad because she was happy again, and the king felt sure that it would be a simple matter to keep a white beat at bay. On the third day, the whole army was posted round the castle with him. But when the white bear came, there was no one who could hold him against him, for no weapon could make any effect on him. He knocked them down right and left until they were lying in heaps. This, thought the king, was proving downright disastrous; so he sent out his eldest daughter, and the white bear took her on his back and rushed off with her.

When they had traveled far, and farther than far, the white bear asked, “Have you ever sat softer, have you ever seen clearer?” “Yes, on my mother’s lap I sat softer, in my father’s court I saw clearer,” she said. “Well, you’re not the right one then,” said the white bear, and chased her home again. The next Thursday he came again, and did just as he had done before. The army was out with orders to deal with the white bear. But neither iron nor steel bit on him, so he mowed them down like grass until the king had to ask him to stop. And then he sent out his next eldest daughter, and the white bear took her up on his back and rushed off with her.

When they had traveled far, and farther than far, the white bear asked, “Have you ever sat softer, have you ever seen clearer?” “Yes, on my mother’s lap I sat softer, in my father’s court I saw clearer,” she said. “Well, you’re not the right one then,” said the white bear, and chased her home again. On the third Thursday he came again. This time he fought even harder than before, until the king thought he couldn’t let him knock down the whole army, and so he gave him his third daughter. Then he took her on his back and traveled away, far, and farther than far, and when they had reached the forest, he asked her, as he had asked the others, if she had ever sat softer and seen clearer. “No never,» she said. “Well, you’re the right one,” he said.

So they came to a castle which was so fine that the castle her father lived in was like the meanest cottage in comparison. There she was to stay, and live well, and she was to have nothing else to do but see to it that the fire never went out. The bear was away during the day, but at night he was with her, and then he was a man. For three years all went as well as could be. But each year she had a child, which he took and rushed away with as soon as it had come into the world. So she became more and more downcast, and asked if she couldn’t be allowed to go home and see her parents. Yes, there was no objection to that; but first she must promise that she would listen to what her father said, but not to what her mother wanted her to do. So she went home, and when they were alone with her, and she had told them how she was getting on, her mother wanted to give her a candle to take with her so she could see what the bear was like when he turned into a man at night. But her father said no, she shouldn’t do that. “It will only do more harm than good”.

But no matter how it was or was not, she took the candle stub with her when she left. The first thing she did, when he had fallen asleep, was to light it and shine it on him. He was so handsome that she thought she could never gaze her fill at him, as she shone the light, a drop of hot tallow dripped onto his forehead, and so he awoke. “What have you done? He said. “Now you have brought misfortune on us both. There was no more than a month left; if you had only held out I would have been freed, for a Troll-hag bewitched me, so that I’m a white bear during the day. But now it’s over with us. Now I have to go there and take her.”

She cried and carried on, but he had to go and go he would. So she asked if she could go with him. That was out of the question, he said, but when he rushed off in his bearskin, she seized hold of the fur all the same, flung she up on his back and held of fast. Then they were off over mountain and hill, through groove and thicket, until her clothes were torn off, and she was so dead tired that she let go her hold, and knew no more. When she awoke, she was in a great forest, and so she set out on her way again, but she didn’t know where her path led. At last she came to a cottage where there were two womenfolk, an old crone and a pretty little girl.

The king’s daughter asked if they had seen anything of White-Bear-King Valemon. “Yes, he rushed by here early today, but he was going so fast that you won’t catch up with him again,” they said. The little girl scampered about, and clipped and played with a pair of golden scissors, which were such that pieces of silk and strips of velvet flew about her if she but clipped in the air. Wherever the scissors were, clothes were never lacking.

“But this poor woman, who has to journey so far and on such rough roads, she’ll have to toil hard,” said the little girl. “She has more need of these scissors than I; to cut clothes for herself,” she said, and then she asked if she could give her the scissors. Yes that she could. So the king’s daughter set off through the forest which never came to an end, all that day and night. And the next morning she came to another cottage. Here there were also two womenfolk, and old crone and a little girl. “Good day,” said the king’s daughter. “Have you seen anything of White-Bear-King Valemon?” she asked. “Were you to have had him, maybe?” said the old woman. That it was. «Why, yes, he rushed by here yesterday, but he went so fast that you won’t catch up with him,” she said. The little girl was playing about on the floor with a flask, which was such that it poured out whatever they wanted, and wherever the flask was, drink was never lacking. “But this poor woman, who has to journey so far and on such rough roads, she’ll be thirsty and suffer many other hardships,” said the little girl, and then she asked if she could give her the flask. Why, yes that she could.

So the king’s daughter got the flask, said her thanks, and set out again, walking through the same forest, all that day and night. ON the third morning she came to a cottage, and there were an old woman and a little girl.

“Good day,” said the king’s daughter. “Have you seen anything of White-Bear-King Valemon?” she asked. “Were you to have had him, maybe?” said the old woman. That it was. «Why, yes, he rushed by here yesterday, but he went so fast that you won’t catch up with him,” she said. The little girl was playing on the floor with a cloth that was such that whenever they said to it, “Cloth, spread thyself, and deck thyself with every good dish!” it did so. And wherever the cloth was, good food was never Lacking. “But this poor old woman, who had to journey so far and on such rough roads, said the little girl,” she may well both starve and suffer many other hardships, so she’ll have more need of this cloth than I,” she said, and then she asked if she could give her the cloth. That she could.

So the king’s daughter took her cloth and said her thanks, and set off. Far, farther than far, through the forest all that day and night she went. In the morning she came to a mountain spur which was as steep as a wall, and so high and so wide that so end could she see. There was a cottage there too, and, when she came in, the first thing she said was, “Good day, have you seen whether White-Bear-King Valemon has traveled this way?” “Were you to have had him, maybe?” said the old woman. That it was. “Yes, he rushed by here yesterday, but he went so fast that you won’t catch up with him,” she said. The cottage was full of little children, and they all clung to their mother’s apron strings and cried for food. The old woman put a kettle full of pebbles on the fire. The king’s daughter asked what was the good of that. They were so poor said the old woman, that they could afford neither food nor clothes, and it was so hard to hear the children crying for a bit to eat. But when she put the kettle on the fire, and said,” Now the apples will soon be done,” it seemed to deaden their hunger, and they were patient for a while. It wasn’t long before the king’s daughter got out the cloth and the flask, as you can imagine, and when the children were fed and happy, she clipped out clothing for them with the golden scissors.

“Well, said the old woman of the house, “since you’ve been so heartily kind to me and my children, it would be a shame not to do what we can do to try to help you up the mountain. My husband is really a master smith. Now you just rest until he comes back, and I’ll get him to forge claws for your hands and feet, and then you can try to crawl up”:

When the smith came, he started on the claws right away, and the next morning they were ready. She had no time to wait, but said her thanks, fastened the claws on her hands and crept and crawled up the mountainside the whole day and night, and, just when she was so tired that she didn’t think she could lift her hand again, but felt she would sink to the ground, she got to the top. There was a plain, with fields and meadows so big and wide that she had never imagined anything so broad and so smooth, and close by there was a castle filled with workers of every kind who toiled like ants in an anthill. “What is going on here?” asked the king’s daughter.

Well, this was where she lived, the Troll-hag, who had bewitched White-Bear-King Valemon and in three days she was to wed him. The king’s daughter asked if she could talk with her. No, not likely! That was out-and-out impossible. So she sat down outside the window, and started clipping with the golden scissors, and velvet and silken clothing flew about like a snowflurry. When the Troll-hag caught sight of that, she wanted to buy the scissors. “For no matter how the tailors toil, it’s no use,” she said. “There are too many to be clothed.”

The scissors weren’t for sale, said the king’s daughter. But the Troll-hag could have them, if she would let her sleep with her sweetheart tonight. She could certainly do that, said the Troll-hag, but she would lull him to sleep herself, and wake her up herself. When he had gone to bed, she gave him a sleeping potion, so he was in no condition to wake up, for all the king’s daughter shouted and cried.

The next day the king’s daughter went outside the windows again, sat down and started pouring from the flask; it flowed like a brook, both beer and wine, and it never ran dry. When the Troll-hag laid eyes on that, she wanted to buy it; for “no matter how much they toil at the brewing and distilling, it’s no use. There are too many to drink,” she said. It wasn’t for sale for money, said the king’s daughter, but if she would let her sleep with her sweetheart tonight, she would give it to her. Yes, that she could certainly do, said the Troll-hag, but she would lull him to sleep herself, and wake him up herself. When he had gone to bed, she gave him a sleeping potion again, so the King’s daughter had no better luck that night either. He couldn’t be awakened, for all she cried and shouted. But that night one of the artisans was working in the room next door. He heard her cry in there, and he guessed what had really happened, and the next day he told the prince that she must have come, the king’s daughter who was to have freed him.

The next day just like the others – with the cloth as with the scissors and the flask. When is was dinner time, the king’s daughter went outside the castle, pulled out the cloth, and said,” Cloth, spread thyself and deck thyself with every good dish!” Then there was enough food for a hundred men, but the king’s daughter sat down alone. When the Troll-hag caught sight of the cloth, she wanted to buy it, for “no matter how much they cock and bake, its no use. There are too many mouths to feed,” she said It wasn’t for sale for money, said the king’s daughter, but if she would let her sleep with her sweetheart tonight, she could have it. She could certainly do that, said the Troll-hag, but she would lull him to sleep herself, and wake him up herself. When he had gone to bed, she came with a sleeping potion, but this time he was on his guard, and fooled her. The Troll-hag didn’t trust him any more than just so far, she didn’t, for she took a darning needle and stuck it right through his arm, to see if he were sleeping soundly enough. But no matter how much it hurt, he didn’t move, and then the king’s daughter was allowed to come in to him.

Now this was all very well, but they must get rid of the Troll-hag before he would be free. So he got the carpenters to make a trap door on the bridge which the bridal procession was to cross, for it was the custom there that the bridge should ride first in the procession. When the Troll-hag started across the bridge with all her Troll-hag bridesmaids, the planks under them dropped open and they fell through. Then King Valemon and the king’s daughter and all the wedding guests rushed back to the castle, and took as much of the Troll-hag’s gold and money as they could carry, and then rushed off to his country to hold the real wedding. But on the way, King Valemon stopped in and fetched the three little girls, and now she found out why he had taken the children from her – it was so that they could help her find him. So they caroused at the wedding both lustily and long.