Note: Originally published on Facebook on June 14.
Tens of thousands of years ago, the region beyond the Arctic Circle had the same cycle of day and night as the rest of the world. However, the day was only one hour long, and the night lasted for 23 hours. And it was in such a night that Stephan was born. Cheeks as red as the summer sun, hair white as the winter snow, he was the bonniest of lads, and the pride and joy of his mother Martha, and his father Gunnar.
Seven years had now passed since Stephan was born, seven years of bliss for his parents, and peace and prosperity for his entire clan. It was almost like he was the son of the entire village, and everyone believed that he was the village’s lucky charm, if anything happened to him, the village was doomed.
On Stephan’s seventh birthday, his parents had hosted a grand feast at their home, and the entire village was invited. The feast was a grand success, and the highlight of the evening was Martha’s legendary smoked Salmon with roe, and nobody went back without a second helping, and for some, a third.
Now all the guests had gone, and Martha and Gunnar were cleaning up when there was a knock at the door. They were surprised, because all the expected guests had already eaten their fill and gone back. Gunnar opened the door, to find three old women standing outside.
It was cold, so he invited them in, and politely asked them about the purpose of their visit. One of the ladies replied, “We were on our way to Tromso, and got lost in a storm. Will you be kind enough to feed us something?” Martha happily said, “Of course, it is my son’s birthday today, so I will get you something nice to eat, and you can bless him also.”
So saying, she made them sit in front of the fire in the kitchen, and went to the kitchen. But she was horrified to see that the villagers, in their enthusiasm, had polished off everything edible, down to the very last morsel. She desperately started looking for anything that she could feed the women, and finally found, in a large barrel, her famous Salmon dish, but barely enough to feed three people.
But something was better than nothing, so she filled three bowls with the Salmon, and told young Stephan to serve the women with his own hands and take their blessings.
Stephan carried out the first bowl, looking longingly at the food, for it was his favorite, and he was still hungry. But he didn’t give in to the temptation, and handed the bowl over to the first woman. The same happened with the second woman. But while carrying the bowl for the third woman, Stephan could no longer stick to his resolve, and thought that he would just eat one spoon on the way, who would notice that? But one spoon led to another, and very soon, the dish was empty. Stephan got scared and quietly went off to sleep, in line with the eternal optimism of children, that their parents would handle everything. And Martha, finding the bowl, assumed that Stephan forgot to give it to the third woman, and without checking, promptly went amd gave the bowl to her.
The woman excitedly removed the lid from the bowl, and was shocked to find it empty. Martha was mortified at this faux pas, and apologized to her profusely on behalf of her son.
But the woman was no ordinary woman, in fact, she was not even human. For she was the Goddess Kreya, who along with her sister goddesses Freya and Threya, had come to try out Martha’s famous dish, and to bless her son on his seventh birthday.
But being denied what she had come for, while her sisters were happily fed, caused Kreya to fly into a roaring rage. Her sisters tried to placate her, Martha and Gunnar prostrated themselves before her and begged for mercy, but Kreya would not listen to anyone, and in her anger, did the unthinkable. She cursed Stephan, and said, “Since you went off to sleep instead of owning up to your guilt, you will stay asleep for six months as soon as you fall asleep tomorrow night. ”
Everyone was stunned on hearing this terrible curse. Little Stephan’s body would definitely not be able to manage for six months without eating, which meant that he had very little time left to live.
By now, the rest of the village too had collected in front of their home. Everyone started crying on hearing of the curse and begged the goddesses for mercy. Kreya finally realized the graveness of her curse, but she could not take it back. So she got into a long discussion with her sisters, and finally spoke, ” I cannot take back my curse, but each of my sisters has one blessing pending for the Bowl of food that you gave them. So we have come up with a plan. But mind you, once done, it will change your lives forever, and those of your future generations.”
And such was the love for Stephan in everyone’s heart, that no one hesitated even for a second before agreeing.
Now Freya said, “I bless you that from now on, the day will last for six months, and the night for six months after that. So there will be no night for the next six months. And Stephan need not sleep. ”
And Threya said, ” Whatever you eat in those six months of daylight, will last you for the six months of night time. So you won’t have to worry about nutrition in that period.”
The villagers rejoiced, and thanked the goddesses from the bottom of their hearts. And that is how, my dear readers, the Land of the Midnight Sun came to be, and that is also how Polar Bears came to hibernate for six months every year.
Narrator’s Note : The above story is entirely a figment of my imagination, and has no basis in any Norwegian legend or mythological fable.