This is the tale of three brothers who live in Honningsvag, near North Cape, beyond the Arctic Circle, the northernmost town in Europe. Their parents named them Magnus, Markus, and Marius. They spend their time building things, as dwarfs are very good with their hands, and when they get tired, they sit on a table, have a beer, and then back to work it is. But it was not always like that. The three brothers do not belong here, not really. They came here a long time ago, and they just could not leave.
It all started on a warm Sunday afternoon, when Magnus, Markus, and Marius were playing by the sea shore in their village. It was a small village of dwarfs, only 50 families lived there, helping each other out when needed, giving each other company on the lazy summer afternoons and the harsh winter evenings. And of course, fighting and bickering at the drop of a pointed hat, for dwarfs just love to quarrel. When they don’t find a valid reason for fighting, they just go ahead and invent one. No big deal.
This morning, the three brothers had a huge fight with their mother. She wanted them to stay at home and finish their homework, while they wanted to enjoy the afternoon sun while it lasted. Soon, it would be winters, and the sun would not appear for the next six months. So they begged and pleaded with her, but their grades had been falling too low to give them any leverage on this front, so they had to resort to throwing tantrums, and when even that didn’t work on their battle-hardened mother, they just ran away in a huff, while she kept shouting after them to come back.
While playing on the beach, Magnus suddenly saw a strange structure appear in the water. He excitedly called out to his brothers to come and have a look. The object kept coming towards the shore, and very soon, it was on the beach. The three dwarfs rushed towards it, and upon reaching it, realized that it was a cute little boat, and of just the right size for them.
Now dwarfs are land creatures, no dwarf in their village had ever set foot on a boat. This was because dwarfs and the sea were traditional enemies, their fight going back generations. They’d forgotten the reason behind the enmity of course, but having an enemy slightly bigger than their neighbour Alex helped lend some purpose to the existence of the dwarfs in this small village. As for the sea, she never forgets! It was believed that if any dwarf ever goes into the water, the sea will just throw him back on the land. But this theory had never been tested on a boat, where there was a barrier between the dwarfs and the sea. So the three brothers decided to test it out.
They sat in the boat, tied themselves to the mast, and waited for high tide to come and take the boat back into the water. They were nervous, but also thrilled, for they were going where no dwarf had gone before- Into the water (Narrator’s Note: Should I ask Paula Hawkins for a cut for this subtle promotion of her latest book?)
The high tide finally came, and did what it always does, carried the small boat back with it, and the three brothers were off! The boat was bobbing up and down wildly, for the sea was rough and choppy that day, almost as if it could sense the presence of the three dwarfs on it, despite the wooden barrier of the boat.
The brothers untied themselves a few hours later, when they had kind of gotten over their fear, and saw a fascinating but horrific sight- There was water all around them, and they could not see any land at all. And it was not the calm and gentle water of the duck pond in their village, it was the tempestuous water of a sea which is angry because she does not realize why she is so angry!
The brothers started crying on seeing this, but then decided that this was definitely better than attending school, where their class teacher was sure to make them stand outside the class with their hands as well as their legs raised, for they had been prancing around on the beach instead of doing their homework.
So they started to enjoy their little adventure. They started pointing at various whales and dolphins in the water, and started building stories around them. They saw a solitary seagull take shelter on their boat, and helped repair its wing, for they were so good at mechanical stuff.
And so, two days and two nights passed happily, when they finally saw a large mass of land. And it was also then that Markus realized that he was thirsty, for they had not had a drop to drink since they left their village. So he asked his brothers if they should drink some water from the sea.
His brothers told him to be patient till they reached the land, for there was sure to be some well or stream there from which they could have their fill of water. But Markus was going crazy with thirst now, so he waited for his brothers to turn their backs towards him, and quickly thrust a hand into the sea to take out some water and drink it quickly.
Two things happened in quick succession as a result:
- Markus threw up violently upon drinking the sea water; and
- The sea realized that there were dwarfs on the boat, and threw up violently with so much pressure that the boat flew into the air, burst through the roof of the town church, and got stuck in the air, its ropes entangled with the pillars of the church.
The rattled dwarfs untangled themselves from each other, and then looked around them to see that they were still in the boat, but now they were hanging in the air instead of being on the water.
They panicked for an instant, but then their happy-go-lucky attitude took over. They got down somehow, and started walking towards the sea, to see if they could find another boat to take them home.
But the church into which they had fallen was a long abandoned one, and they could not find a single soul living in that place, no boats, no houses, no shops, absolutely nothing. So they decided to build a new town for themselves.
And which is what they did. They built cute, colourful cottages, and people came from other parts of Norway to come and live in those houses. They then built a market, and trading started to bring prosperity to the town. And they then built a huge boat, so that they could go back. But the minute they came near the sea, it sensed their presence, and started a tsunami which almost destroyed the town that they had built with so much love and patience.
And so, they decided to stay on in Honningsvag. And if you turn left from the town church and climb slightly up the hill, you will find them still building things to make the town even more beautiful. Occasionally, they think that they can hear their mother calling out to them, to come back and complete their homework, and their eyes tear up.
But at those times, the seagull that they’d saved on the sea comes and sits with them, and they start smiling again, for they know that they were born to do something bigger, bigger than their homework, bigger than their tiny size. They were born to give birth to the northernmost town in Europe.