The Folk-Lore Journal/Volume 5/Folk-Tales of North Friesland

The Folk-Lore Journal, Volume 5
Folk-Tales of North Friesland


How Inge of Rantum escaped marriage with Ekke Nekkepenn.

THIS North Friesland tale, of a secret name, is in some respects similar to the German story of Rumpelstilz, the Swedish tale of King Olaf and the giant called "Vind och Veder" (see Grimm's Deutsche Mythologie, Stallybrass's translation, vol. ii. p. 584; Simrock's Handbuch des Deutschen Mythologie, p. 56), and the Scottish legend of the green fairy who sings "like ony precentor;"

"Little kens our guid dame at hame
That Whuppity Stoorie is my name.*'

(Chambers, Popular Rhymes of Scotland, p. 74).

The Frisian tale has its scene in Sylt, a singular and weird island interesting to Englishmen above all others because thence Hengist and Horsa sailed to the conquest of England. Ekke the sea-god, or giant merman, fell in love with and captured a girl of Rantum to be his bride. She did not know who he was, and in answer to her entreaties he promised that if she discovered his name he would let her free. Long she wondered over this. At last one night as she wandered sadly over the grey sand, she heard a voice as if under one of the sand-mounds, singing:

"^Delling well]ik bruu;
Miaren well ik'baak;
Aurmiarn well ik Brollep maak.
Ik jit Ekke Nekkepenn;
Min Brid es][Inge fan Raantem
En dit weet nemmen iis ik alliining."

Or in English:

"To-day I shall brew,
To-morrow I shall bake,
The next day is my wedding;
I am called Ekke Nekkepenn;
My bride is Inge of Rantum;
And nobody knows this but myself."

Right joyfully jumped up the girl, and called out "Thou art Ekke Nekkepenn, and I remain Inge of Rantum." Never came Ekke to her again as wooer, but from that day to this, by storms and floods, he has unceasedly laboured to destroy Inge's country. And Rantum now lies a mile under the sea, and still he labours on at lonely Hornum.

A stranger and probably more ancient version of Ekke's wooing is also preserved in Sylt. Long, long ago, when the Frisians first came to Sylt, they found there a race of little people, whom they drove to the empty waste to the north of the island. There these little folk, who wore red caps and had stone axes, who had no money but were always merry, who worked none and stole all they could, lived in hills and holes. They danced by moonlight on the mounds and sang. Their head was King Finn. His traditional home was an underground dwelling of the late stone age, which I visited a few days ago although I had no idea then that I was in so eerie a place. It is reached by a trap-door from the roof, but the ancient approach is by a passage twenty-seven feet long, through which a man could just crawl and no more. The dwelling is about fifteen feet long by ten wide, with a roof of irregular height, nowhere exceeding six feet. It is lined by twelve enormous blocks of Swedish granite. Such is the Denghoog, and here Ekke came to visit King Finn, who entertained him most hospitably and told him how he won his own bride, who now sat beside him in finest raiment, crowned with wild flowers and diamonds and with rings on every finger. Thus encouraged Ekke made sure he would get a bride from Braderup, a neighbouring village,—a long way from Rantum. Up he rose early in the morning and sat on his hill and saw the dawn in the east, and the moon in the west, and thought of such things as a love-sick sea-god may. And then there passed him a bright youth, Dorret Bundis of Braderup, one of three who had crossed on the ice from the continent some time before, and went to bathe in the bay beneath. Ekke had been himself so long out of the water that he felt he must bathe too; perhaps, says the Sylt tale, he wanted to make the lad's acquaintance or to teach him to swim. But sea-gods are "kittle-cattle," and Dorret seeing Ekke coming, ran away crying out. For this there was a particularly excellent reason, since Dorret was no boy at all, but a girl, who wore men's clothes to prevent King Finn and his underground folk taking a fancy to her. However Ekke caught her; she begged to get away and that he would keep her secret. At last Ekke promised this, if she would wed him in a year and a day. Dorret had no choice. She was in a peculiarly literal sense " between the devil and the deep sea," and she plighted her troth to Ekke. His joy knew no bounds, and he sang gaily on his lonely sand-hills,—

"Ekke must brew,
And Ekke must bake,
For Ekke will married be;
Dorte Bundis is my bride,
I am Ekke Nekkepenn;
And this knows no man but myself."

But this song by-and-bye all the Braderup people heard, and other people, too, and so they learnt that Dorret was a maid, and Ekke's sweetheart. At this Dorret was very angry, and indeed played Ekke so many tricks—some of them ugly enough—as would suffice to rile the most patient lover, and Ekke was fain to consult Finn again. Finn was greatly annoyed, particularly at Ekke's irrepressible singing, and told him he was ever so much too stupid to be an earth-man. He bade Ekke swim off to Harnum and trouble the plain no more. At this the friends quarrelled, and Ekke seating himself on Finn's throne declared that so long as he sat there he was king of Finn and all his folk. The story here is abundantly interesting, but suffice it to say that Finn at last brings a tremendous sea-monster on the scene. "Oho!" cried Ekke. "It is my sea-wife, Ran. Come no nearer." Ajttd as she approached, he took a great leap into the sea, and was never more seen. So ends the tale of Ekke's wooing. The legends of Sylt are numerous and very interesting. My authority for the above is Sagen und Erzählungen des Sylter Friesen, by the late C. P. Hansen, of Keitum. I bought the book at Westerland, in Sylt. I have not seen it elsewhere. There is a kindred tale quoted in a note by Nork in his Mythologie der Volkssacen und Folksmärchen^ p. 169, from Mullenhof's Schlesweg-Holst. und Lauenb., p. 578. In Depenau dwelt a servant-maid who had a lover betrothed to her who visited her from time to time, but never said where he lived or what his name was. One morning as she was going amilking, she heard some one singing jollily. So she peeped through a hedge, and there was a dwarf dancing and singing,

"And Margreit Dat never knows
That I am Jack o' Thursday!"

(Hans Donnerstag.) Then knew the maid that her lover was really a dwarf. So when he came next to visit her, she said she would have no more to do with him, for he was one of the Underground Folks,—like Finn and his subjects in the Sylt legend I have given above.