Far out in the North sea among the islands of Røst rises this mountain called ‘Stavfjell’. Long ago vast colonies of birds
nested here among the nooks and crannies. Puffins burrowing their long tunnels into the turf. Kittiwakes wheeling above in
their thousands. Cormerants diving and fishing in the turquoise waters.
Here there lived a fisherman and one day he rowed his boat over to the mainland to fetch himself a wife. And he found a pretty girl who could milk a cow, brew beer and a hundred other jobs he had need of and he asked her to marry him.
The girl had a sister and the sister said: ‘Poor girl. A miserable life awaits you on Røst. Forget this fisherman. Out there in the stormy sea you’ll find nothing but hard work and starvation.’ But it was too late. The girl had given her heart already and she jumped into the fishing boat and was gone.
It wasn’t til a full year had passed that the sister came out to visit. And from the moment she stepped on shore her mouth was hanging open. Great barrels of salted fish of many sizes and flavours. Birds of all colours and shapes, underground stores filled with hundreds of bird eggs, rich earth and a mild winter bearing a generous harvest of vegetables, and both cattle and sheep grazing in the meadows. And as the meals were set out on the table, each one more tasty and lavish than the last, a stinging jealously burnt deeper into the sisters heart.
One bright midsummer evening she went out onto the mountain. Among the rocks she saw a plump glossy puffin, sitting and warming itself in the midnight sun. The sister seized the bird. She took flint and tinder and dashed a spark onto its wings until the feathers caught alight, and as the fire caught into the feathers the sister spat chants out into the night air. Evil words poured from her mouth as the smoke billowed and the birds horrible cry of pain echoed around the mountain. And in their thousands the birds alighted and flew upwards. Since that time the mountain has been empty of birds, home only to the Raven and the sea Eagle.
Røst has been kind to me. Doors have opened, and I’ve watched the birds around the house calling and flying and I’ve wondered what they are saying to one another or to us.