The Golden Birch Tree: A Norse Tale
Once upon a time in Mediaeval Norway, goes the story, there was a wise ruler, Harald, who was loved and respected by his people. He was celebrated for his military skill, through which he brought peace to all the Scandinavian kingdoms.
King Harald had two sons: Olav, his firstborn, and Magnus. Olav was a handsome and noble warrior. His fighting skill and bravery on the battlefield had earned him the respect and admiration of his soldiers. Magnus, his brother, was known throughout the land for his unwavering loyalty to his family.
Freya, Olav’s wife, was praised for her generosity and compassion. During many seasons of war, Freya supported the families of fallen soldiers. She fed many of their children from the palace’s kitchen. She had earned her place in the hearts of the people.
Despite the love the royal family received, however, they were not immune to the destructive power of jealousy.
Ingrid, the woman who Magnus married, was once a lowly dishwasher in the palace kitchen. Magnus was captivated by Ingrid’s self-confidence. Her grand ideas reminded him of his childhood idealism. Ingrid understood his desire to escape the horrors of war, and she encouraged him to indulge his fantasies.
Truth be told, Ingrid was infatuated with Magnus’ older brother, Olav, and longed to be with him. But he never noticed her. Olav was already married with two children by the time Magnus started courting Ingrid. Naturally, she was overjoyed to be welcomed into this legendary family. When she and Magnus married in a lavish ceremony, it was attended by all the nobles of Scandinavia.
But soon, the princess was consumed by hatred for Freya, her sister-in-law. She felt that she deserved Olav’s affectiom and that she should be queen when Harald died. She grew to resent being married to the second son of the King.
One fateful winter, Ingrid’s jealousy reached a high point. She threw her niece, a young girl of seven, outside on a cold, rainy night. The child fell ill and later died. King Harald was horrified by Ingrid’s actions but still felt compassion for his second son. He sent Ingrid and Magnus southward to Maitheland to live out their days in exile.
But Ingrid refused to make amends and once settled in at court, she started to spread lies about the King hating her for having been a lowly kitchen servant.
Such was her anger, that she alienated the people around her. King Harald, his son Olav, and daughter-in-law, Freya, said nothing to defend themselves. They chose to mourn quietly. Eventually, however, news spread overseas that the King’s grandchild had died because of Ingrid’s actions. She was stripped of all honours and privileges she received in Maitheland, and banished from court.
After enjoying much adoration and respect as Magnus’ wife, Ingrid was humiliated to find herself living in a forest hovel. She blamed her husband for marrying her so his family could treat her like a peasant.
One day, Ingrid made her way deep into the forest to search for a cottage. She had heard about a witch who lived there. After telling the witch more lies about her husband’s family, Ingrid was granted one wish. Her wish was for Harald and his family to disappear so that their memories would be turned into dust.
The witch was kind and patient, and she warned Ingrid that as a member of the royal family, she would also be forgotten once the wish was granted. But Ingrid did not care about what it would cost her.
After the witch cast the spell, a triumphant Ingrid stomped out of the cottage. If she couldn’t be queen, neither could Freya. But as she made her way back home, she stumbled. She tried to get up but found herself firmly rooted in the ground. She had turned into a birch tree, adorned with bright yellow leaves.
Magnus searched everywhere for his wife, but could not find her. She was deep in the forest, hidden from the world. Sensing his despair, the kind witch transformed Magnus into a white fox so he could keep searching for his wife.
Weeks later, some game hunters noticed the sudden appearance of the beautiful birch tree with its golden leaves. They whispered that it was Ingrid, finally making amends for her actions. But people soon forgot about the woman who had caused such chaos and devastation.
Years went by, and stories of King Harald and his family were passed on through generations. Today, as promised by the witch, they remain a distant memory.
The story of Ingrid and her tragic fate reminds us that our choices have consequences that can reverberate long after we are gone. Ingrid’s jealousy and greed caused her to act impulsively and hurt others. But her inability to take responsibility for those actions led to her own downfall. After turning into a tree, she became a symbol of the dangers of unchecked envy. We should always strive to live a life of peace and contentment. And as we do, let us leave positive examples for those who come after us.
Thank you for reading this folk tale featuring the nature goddess, Frigg. I created this story as the epilogue to my WIP, How to be rich by Hurricane Nisto. The protagonist, Hurricane, names her company ‘What the Frigg’ and I was inspired to create a bedtime story she would have heard about this goddess in her childhood.
7 replies on “The Golden Birch Tree: A Norse Tale”
[…] familiar? Perhaps there is someone you know who like Midas, got exactly what they wished for. Then, you might have seen them suffer the unintended effects of their wish. We can draw valuable lessons from a new cast of characters whose quest for external validation has […]
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Interesting read. I’m often fascinated by medieval tales.
Thank you. After read a lot of them the formula is apparent. I’m sure you’ll have fun creating one.
Superb. I enjoyed this tale very much, Nicole!
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Sean, thank you so much 🙏
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Christine thank you ❤️