Fugl Dam (The Dragon Bird)
Let us take a closer look at the Norwegian fairy tale Fugl Dam, written down by Asbjørnsen & Moe;
There was once a king who had twelve daughters, and he loved them so much that they always had to be around him. But every dinner, when the king was asleep, the princesses went out and walked.
Once, when the king took his dinner sleep and the princesses were out, they immediately disappeared and did not return. Then there was great grief all over the country, but the king was the most sorrowful of all. He made a proclamation both in his own kingdom and in strangers, and rang to them at every church, and called after them with all bells throughout the land. But the king's daughters were gone, and no one knew where they had gone, so they now knew that they had been «taken to the mountains». (Norwegian: “Bergtatt” which means that you enter the mountains (the realm of death), the mound, the cave or the womb, if you will).
It was not long before this was spread far and wide both in the towns and in the countryside, yes over many villages and foreign lands, and then the word about it also came to a king far beyond the lands, who had twelve sons.
When they heard about the twelve princesses, they asked their father to leave and look for them. He wouldn't let them go; he was afraid he would never see them again. But they did kneel to the king and begged for so long, so he eventually had to let them go anyway. He equipped them with a ship, and put «Knight Red» as the steersman, for he was well known on the sea.
They sailed around for long periods of time, and were up in every country they came to, looking for and asking for the princesses, but neither heard nor asked them.
Now only a few days left, they had sailed for seven years. Then there was a strong storm one day, and such a weather that they thought they would never come ashore anymore, and they all had to hang in so they could not sleep as long as the storm lasted. But on the third day, the wind subsided, and all at once it glared. They were all so tired after the wear and tear that they fell asleep at the moment, but the youngest son of the king did not rest and could not sleep at all.
Now as he was going back and forth on the deck, the ship came to a small island, and on the island a small dog ran and moaned and whined against the ship, as it would board it.
The King's son walked on the deck and lured and lured and whistled at the dog, the more it barked and whined. He thought it was a shame to just leave it there, he thought it might have come from a ship lost in the storm, but he didn't think he could help it either. He didn't think he was capable of putting the boat out again alone, and the others slept so well that he wouldn't wake them just for the sake of a dog. But the weather was shiny and calm, so he thought: You still get ashore and save the dog.
Then he tried to put the boat out and it went easier than he had thought. He rowed ashore and went up to the dog, but every time he tried to grab it, the dog ran aside, and so it continued until he entered a large beautiful castle.
There, the dog turned into a lovely princess, and on the bench sat a man so big and ugly that the king's son became terrified.
"You don't have to be scared," the man said - even more fearful the king's son became when he heard his voice - "because I know what you want. There are twelve princes of you, and you are looking for the twelve princesses who were gone. I probably know where they are. They are with my hubby. There they sit on each one's golden chair and groom him, because he has twelve heads.
Now you have sailed for seven years, but you will sail for another seven years before you find them. You might like to stay here, he said, and get my daughter, but first you have to kill him, because he is a stern master to us, as we are all sorry, and when he is dead I will become king in his place. But try now if you can swing the sword, "said the troll.
The King's son took hold of an old rusty sword that hung on the wall, but he could barely hold it.
"Then you get a sip of this bottle," said the troll.
When he had done that, he could rug it, and when he had taken one more, he could lift it, and when he had taken another, he could swing the sword easily.
"When you come on board," said the troll prince, "you must hide the sword well in your bunk, so Knight Red does not see it, he is not good at swinging it, but he will still be angry with you and stand you for life.
When seven years are gone, in three days, he went on, it goes just as it does now: a fierce storm is coming upon you, and when it is over, you all become sleepy. Then you must take the sword and row ashore, then you will come to a castle, and there are all kinds of guards, both wolves and bears and lions, but you shall not be afraid of them, they will fall at your feet.
But when you enter the castle, you see him sitting in a stately chamber, guild and growl, but he has twelve heads, and the princesses sit on their respective golden chairs, grooming each of his heads. And you probably know that such work they don't like. Then you must hurry and chop one head off after another. If he wakes up and sees you, he swallows you alive. "
The King's son went onboard with the sword, and what he had learned he remembered well. The others were still sleeping, and he hid the sword in the bunk, so neither Knight Red nor any of the others saw it.
Now it started to blow again, and he woke them up and said that he thought it was about time to wake up, now that there was such a good wind. No one noticed that he had been gone.
Now that the seven years were over in three days, so it went the way the troll said it would. There were severe storms lasting for three days, and when it was over, they got sleepy after all, and went to sleep all together. But the youngest son of the king rowed ashore, and the guards fell at his feet for his arrival at the castle.
As he entered the chamber, the great troll sat asleep, as the troll prince had said, and the twelve princesses each sat on their chairs, grooming each of its heads. The king's son waived to the princesses to move out of the way, but they pointed at the troll and waived to him that he should get out. But he kept reminding them to move away, and then they realized that he wanted to save them, and moved away as quietly as they could one after the other, and just as quickly the king's son cut off the heads of the troll king, so the blood finally flowed like a large stream.
When the troll was killed, he rowed aboard again and hid the sword. Now he had done enough, he thought, and when he couldn't manage to get the body out of the way alone, it wasn't too much, he thought, if they helped a little the others as well. He woke them up and said it was shame that they just laid sleeping, now that he had found the king's daughters and saved them from the troll.
The others just laughed at him and said that he had probably slept as well as they did, and probably had dreamed that he was such a guy. If anyone were to save the princesses, it was probably more reasonable that one of them had done so. But the youngest son of the king said how everything had went by, and then they came ashore. First, they saw the blood stream, and then the castle and the troll and the twelve heads, and the princesses. Then they saw what he had said was true, and now they helped throw the heads and the body in the sea.
They were all happy now, but no one was happier than the king´s daughters who didn't have to sit and groom the troll all day. Of all the gold and silver and all the precious things that were there, they took as much as the ship could carry, and then they boarded everyone, both the princes and the princesses.
But when they got out on the sea, the king's daughters said that they had forgotten their gold crowns. They were in a closet, and they would like to bring them. When none of the others would fetch them, the youngest son of the king said:
"Oh… I've dared so much before, so I can probably go after the gold crowns too, when you want to take down the sails and wait until I come again."
Yes, they did. But when he had come so far away that they no longer saw him, Knight Red, who would like to be the most distinguished and have the youngest daughter of the king, said that it was useless to lie still and wait for him, for they could know enough that he would never come again. They knew, he said, that the king had given him - Knight Red - power and authority, so he sailed whenever he wanted, and they would say that he had saved the princesses, and if anyone else said anything else, he would lose his life. The princes did not dare to do anything other than what Knight Red wanted, and then they sailed.
Meanwhile, the youngest king's son rowed ashore and entered the castle. He found the closet with the gold crowns in it and struggled and pulled on it until he got it into the boat, but when he got there where he was to see the ship, it was gone. Now that he didn't see it at all, he understood what happened. To row after them would not help, so he turned and rowed ashore again.
He was probably afraid to be alone at night in the castle, but there was no other house to get, so he pushed his heart up in his waist, locked all doors and gates, and lay in a room where there was a made up bed. But he was afraid, and he became more afraid when he had been lying down for a while, and it started cracking and braking in walls and ceilings as if the whole castle were to be torn. Suddenly, it dumped down next to the bed like a high load. Then it was silence again, but he heard a voice asking him not to be afraid, saying:
«I am Fugl Dam,
and I will help you forward.
But the first thing you will have to do when you are awake tomorrow is to fetch four barrels of rye for me, I have to eat for breakfast, if not I can do nothing. »
When he woke up, he saw an unreasonably large bird, which had a feather in its neck as thick as a half-grown log. The king's son now went after four barrels of rye to Fugl Dam, and when he had eaten those he asked the king's son to hang the closet with the gold crowns on one side of its neck, and take as much gold and silver as he could weigh for balance, and hang on the other side, and then he had to put himself on its back and hold firmly to its neck feathers.
Then they went off, so it rushed through the air, and it wasn't long before they passed the ship. The King's son wanted to get on board and get the sword, because he was afraid that someone would see it, and the troll had said no one had to, but Fugl Dam said he should leave it.
"Knight Red may not see it," said the bird, "but if you come aboard, he will kill you, because he would like to have the youngest princess. But towards her you can be safe, she puts a naked sword in front of her in bed every night. "
After a long time, they came to the troll prince, and there the king's son was so well received that there was no comparison. The prince did not know all the good he would do for him because he had killed his master and made him king. He would have gladly given him his daughter and half land and kingdom. But he had now received such goodness for the youngest of the twelve daughters of the king that he never rested but would leave one time after the other. The troll asked him to remain calm for a another while and said they had almost seven years to sail before returning home. About the princess, the troll said the same as Fugl Dam:
"For her, you can probably be safe. She puts a naked sword in front of her in bed. And if you don't believe me, said the Troll, then you can board as they sail by here, and look for yourself and retrieve the sword. I still must get it back anyway. "
When they sailed past, there had again been storms, and when the king's son came on board, they all slept, and each of the princesses laid with their prince. But the youngest laid alone, with a naked sword in front of her in bed, and on the floor in front of the bed lay Knight Red. The King's son took the sword and rowed ashore again, without any of them noticing that he had been on board.
But still the king's son was not calm, and he would often leave, and when it finally went towards the end of the seven years, and it was only three weeks left, said the Troll king:
"Now you can prepare yourself for traveling, since you do not want to stay with us. You will have to borrow my iron boat, which goes by itself, only you say: Boat go forward! In the boat there is an iron club, and that iron club you should look for when you see the ship in front of you, so they get such a wind that they forget to look after you. When you get to the side of the ship, you must raise the iron club again, and it will be such a storm that they will probably do everything else than looking after you. And when you are past them, you should raise the club the third time, but you always have to put it down carefully, otherwise it will be such a weather that they perish, both you and them. When you have arrived ashore, you do not have to worry about the boat. Just push it out again and turn it around and say, Boat, go the way home as you sailed it forward!”
When he travelled, he got so much gold and silver, so much else precious, and clothes and linen that the princess had sewn to him all this time, so he was much richer than any of his brothers. He had not sat down in the boat before he said, "Boat, go forward," so the boat went, and when he saw the ship in front of him, he raised the club. Then they got so much wind that they forgot to look after him.
When he was on the side of the ship he raised the iron club again, and then there was such a storm and such a weather that the white foam stood around the ship and the seas hit the deck, so that they had everything else to do but to look for him. And when he came in front of them, he raised the club the third time, and then they got more than enough to do that they had no time at all to look for what kind he was.
He arrived ashore, long before the ship, and when he had got all out of his boat, he pushed it out again, turned it around, and said, "Boat, go the way home, as you passed it!" And then the boat went.
He himself dressed as a sailor and went up into a lousy hut to an old lady. He imagined that he was a poor sailor, that he had been on a large ship that had been lost, and that he was the only one who had been saved. And then he asked if she would lend him a house for him and the things he had saved.
"Oh dear," said the old, "I can't house anyone here. You see how it is here. I have nothing to lie on myself, and even less to let others lie on. "
"Yes, it does not matter," said the sailor, when he could only have roof over his head, it would be the same how he was lying. Then she couldn't refuse him a house when he accepted her conditions.
In the evening he moved in his things, and he had not gotten them in before the old lady, who would like to hear something new, started asking who he was, where he was from, where he had been, where he was going, what he was carrying, what errand he was traveling in, and whether he had heard anything of the twelve princesses who had disappeared many years ago, and much more, as it would take long time to talk and figure it out.
But he said he was so frail and had a headache from the bad weather that had been, so he didn't know a thing. She finally had to let him rest for a few days, until he had recovered from everything, then she would know everything she wanted and more.
The next day the old lady again started to inquire and dig, but the sailor still had such ache in his head after the weather, that he did not know anything. But he still dropped a word that he probably knew a little about the princesses. Immediately the old lady departed with what she had known, to all the gossip ladies who were around, and now came one after another and asked again about the princesses, if he had seen them, if they were coming soon, if they were on the road, and more. He even pretended that he had a headache after the weather, and that he couldn't handle everything. But this much he said, if they had not gotten away in the harsh weather that had been, they would arrive in about fourteen days, or perhaps sooner. But he couldn't say for certain if they were alive yet, because he had seen them, but it could have been that they had gone to the bottom since.
One of the ladies went to the royal court with this, and said that there was a sailor in the cabin with the old lady, and that he had seen the princesses, and they probably arrived in about fourteen days, or maybe in about eight. When the king heard this, he sent a message to the sailor to come and tell him himself.
"I don't look like that," said the sailor, "I don't have clothes so I can come forward for him."
But the king's messenger said he had to come. The king wanted and had to speak to him, whether he was such or such, for as yet no one had been able to give him any notice of the princesses.
Yes, then he had to make his way to the royal court, and came before the king, who asked him if it was true that he had seen the princesses.
"Yes, I have," said the sailor, "but I cannot tell if they are still alive, for when I saw them it was such a weather that we lost. But if they exist yet, they'll probably come in about fourteen days, and maybe sooner. "
When the king heard that, he was almost out of joy, and as it was about the time the sailor had said they should come, the king had them run down to the beach, and there was great joy all over the country when the ship came with the princesses and princes and Knight Red. But no one was happier than the old king who had regained his daughters.
All the older princesses were also happy and cheerful, but the youngest, who was supposed to have Knight Red, she cried and was sad. The king disliked this, and asked why she was not cheerful and glad, she, like the other princesses. She had nothing to be upset about, now that she had escaped the Troll and was to get a man like Knight Red. But she dared not say anything, because Knight Red had said that he would kill the one who told how things had gone.
But one day as they were sewing on the wedding gear, one came in with a big sailor's dress, and with a closet on his back, and asked if the princesses would not buy anything from him for the wedding. He had so many strange and precious things, both of gold and silver. Yes, they probably could. They looked at the goods, and they looked at him, because they thought they could recognize him and many of the things he had.
"The one who has so much precious," said the youngest princess, "has something even more precious and that could suit us even better."
That could be, said the sailor.
But the others told her to keep quiet and reminded her of what Knight Red had threatened with.
Sometime afterwards the princesses sat by the window a day, and then the king's son returned with the big sailor's dress and the closet with the gold crowns on his back. When he entered the king's hall, he opened the closet for the princesses, and when they now recognized each one their gold crown, the youngest said:
"I think it's right that the one who saved us gets the wages he deserves, and it's not Knight Red, but he who came with our gold crowns - he saved us."
Then the king's son threw off the sailor's dress and stood there much more gilded than all the others. And then the old King let Knight Red be killed. Now, at first, it was real joy at the royal estate. Each one took their own, and then there was a wedding, so it was heard and asked about in all twelve kingdoms.
Well, that was the version of the fairy tale Fugl Dam, at the time when Asbjørnsen & Moe wrote it down. So, what is this story about? What is all this symbolism? Let us dissect the different components, and later accumulate them together in a process and a pattern;
The Dragon Bird
Fugl Dam is translated as «Bird Dragon». Yes, it is a dragon, and as we know from our myths; a dragon guards the ancestral treasures, like birds also represent our ancestors. We can see the same pattern in our myths as well – where dragons and birds all connect to ancestors and re-birth.
The famous poem of Sigurd the Dragon slayer in Sigurðarkviða Fáfnisbana is only one. Another is when Óðinn flies out of Nítbjörg after he acquired the poetic mead – in the proud shape of a falcon. On top of the tree of life itself – Yggdrasíll – sits a glorious falcon, and over the hall of the fallen and chosen ones – Valhöll – we find the proud eagle. These are only a few examples, and we see that the symbolism always is the same.
Fugl Dam is all of this. It is the symbol of the re-incarnated, the re-born. Flying out accumulated from the realm of death, like Óðinn in the shape of a falcon – like the youngest prince flies out the same way. He is Óðinn. He is his ancestors accumulated, re-born.
The twelve princes and princesses
As always, they all represent a cycle. They all represent the twelve solar months of a year. They represent a complete cycle, a life, death, birth…, the sun wheel, the complete process – eternity!
On a micro level, we would recognize the princes by the fact that they go up in every part of the countries, searching for their female counterpart. They are “equipped” with a ship and the steersman Knight Red. Well, the same pattern we find with the spermatozoon, also equipped with “a ship” stemming from the male ancestor, namely the placenta /the steersman/Knight Red (which we will elaborate on below). When it comes to the princesses, they perfectly well correlate to the female egg, and there is only one victorious among the princes…
In our mythology we recognize the male and female seeds in the same context as Frey and Freya.
He devours the youngest princess; he is connected to blood and fire. He is dangerous, he steers the ship. Knight Red represents an obstacle – just like the witches, the evil stepmothers etc.). On the contrary, you are dependent on them, they «feed you». The witches are also always connected to blood/fire, stirring their pots, with their long noses. They are the guardians of the ancestral spirit. Those you must overcome, those who invite to struggle.
A Knight is known by his sword or spear. He is connected to the horse – in this case the ship. In Norse we have a word for a ship, namely «Sea Horse». In other words, a horse and a ship are symbolically the same. It is «the vessel of the spirit». At a micro level – the umbilical Cord – connected to the placenta and the child.
The sea and the seven years trip
The sea (water) is always represented by the spirit. Water is always connected to Önd, the Elves, our ancestors. The sea in this context is no different – it is a passage from one state to another. Mythologically it always represents the state between the realms of life and death. Depending on the context, it thus also represents the amniotic fluid in the womb, which the Sea Horse, Knight Red and the young prince reside in on their travels.
There is in other words no coincidence that the sea travels in this fairy tale take seven years – your child years, and the number of years between the three cycles of a new-born to an adult (7, 14, 21 years of age summed up in three cycles). There is no coincidence that there are three times the sail, like there are three stages of a pregnancy and three cycles of re-incarnation – both on a micro human level, and on a macro level in nature and cosmos.
This symbolism is also related to the different initiation stages, and the youngest son of the «dinner sleeping king» (dead) is the chosen one.
The barking dog at the shore and the man on the bench
The dog always represents the passage to the realm of death, it guards the bridges, as Garmr at Gnipahellir in our mythology, and numerous other examples. The dog also represents the female side, being the guard – and the entrance to the other realm as well.
The man on the bench, well, this is obviously the ancestor – or the placenta if you will. Like Geirrøðr in the Norse myths and numerous other examples. He is the «terrible horse», also known as Yggdrasíll, the tree of life. He is in fact the old king.
We find the classic animals as guardians here as well; after seven years the young prince must face wolves, bears and lions. They guard the castle, tells the old king. This symbolism is recognized throughout not only our fairy tales, but extensively in our mythology and even ballads and songs. They stem from pagan initiation processes at the age of 7, 14 and 21, the more known wild hunt, the Norse term berserkr and ulfheðnar – which all relates to the ancient bear cult, re-birth and re-incarnation.
The young prince has to be able to swing an old rusty sword, belonging to the old king. There is no coincidence that he must try three times, with the help of a “power drink” from the old king. Everything good is three. There are three cycles in nature, three main high festivals, three stages of a pregnancy and so on, and so on. It is a sacred and symbolic number, that accumulates in eternity.
The old rusty sword of an old king is found in many other fairy tales as well. The more famous tale of king Arthur holds such symbolism. It is a story of our ancestors May king rites. That the young sacrifice the old. It is a symbol of a re-birth, and a natural process.
The Troll with twelve heads
Yes, twelve equals symbolically the number of solar months (like the number of princes and princesses).
The Troll itself is the slain one, just like the Trolls in all our fairy tales – residing in a castle, a mountain cave (the womb) etc. The Troll is thus the avatar of the placenta as well, it is the ogre that needs to be slain and killed – to access the princess, to close the sacred marriage – to be re-born!
The stolen gold and treasures
The young prince does not only chop all the twelve heads off the Troll, making a stream of blood go through the castle, but he also takes all its gold and treasures. As you probably know by now, these treasures of eternal metals that reflect the sun represent – you guessed it – your ancestral memory. The Elven wisdom. The reflection of your ancestors. This is equivalent to the acquirement of the poetic mead, when Óðinn flies out of Nítbjörg, with the “best extract of all the gods” – your honourable ancestors.
Alone in the castle
The young prince finds himself alone in the castle, after he went after the princess’s gold crowns. He gets a visit from Fugl Dam. As mentioned earlier, this is a symbol of him (his ancestor), alone in the womb, ready to emerge re-born – accompanied by the proud dragon bird (the symbol for re-birth itself).
The whole castle is even making noises and it seems like its going to collapse…
The flight from the ship and the iron hammer/club
The young prince flies past the ship and is advised not to board it to get his sword. He raises the iron hammer of the Troll, to keep the ship occupied in the stormy weather. Well, the ship is the placenta – and you better not board it in such a state…
The youngest princess is actually in the same state, because she is also connected to the ship, and the sword in “her bed”.
The Troll said that his rusty (namely red, bloody) sword would have to be returned to him either way. Of course, it would, it’s the property of the ship/Troll/placenta – and the young prince must be detached from it. He also is, when Knight Red is executed at the end.
The iron hammer of the Troll, used by the young prince, carries the same attributes as Mjǫlnir (the hammer of Þórr). In the tale, it controls the weather, like it does literally in our mythology. But more important, the hammer is a symbol of your life force. Your heart. The life force and pounding heart of the young prince travelling through the stormy waters, to descend.
Again, it is repeated three times. If you know anything about physical births, you will also recognize that there are three phases.
The iron boat is a symbol we recognize from other fairy tales and our mythology as well. These boats are often told to go as well on water as in the air and on land. They have “magical” attributes, because they are symbols of “the wessel of the spirit”. Such a ship is Skíðblaðnir, owned by the deity Freyr (the deity for ancestors, the seed etc.). Likewise, it is said in Heimskringla that the ship is attributed to the magic of Óðinn (the spirit, the accumulated ancestors).
The old lady in the hut
She is the witch in the mound, or the bear in the cave, or the sorceress. She is symbolically all of them, as earlier mentioned. The hut is the mound, the womb, the mountain, the castle etc.
The gold crowns
They are the avatar of the sun, the sun rays, the Sky-God. Such a crown is the symbol of the re-born, the new king. The young prince finally gets them after the third time in the castle, and re-unite them with his princess, his female counterpart.
The killing of Knight Red
Then, of course, Knight Red is killed. The young prince is detached from the old state, he is re-born. The King slays him, like the cord is slain from a child.
The sacred marriage
The young prince and his princess are married, so it was told and heard over the twelve kingdoms. They are married in eternity!
Is there any moral in this tale? Well, one could argue that the young prince has courage – but a person of high morals? He is determined. He brutally kills to gain a princess and get away with all of the precious wealth himself, whilst leaving the other princes to sleep. All this in the literal sense, of course. No, there is no moral per se here either.
The time frames
When you read the fairy tales, it is of outmost importance to be aware that there is no timeline from start to finish. Our fairy tales are pagan. Thus, you must read them with pagan eyes. Time is circular and eternal, like the tale itself.
With this in mind, you can understand that the old king is the same as the new king. The young prince is his ancestors! He sacrifices himself, to himself. Likewise, the three visits to the castle and the struggle to get there, could be three lifes and deaths, or three phases of a pregnancy, or even the three seven years cycles before you truly are yourself – in a never ending cycle of accumulating honour.