M A N O R
by Karl Heinrich Ulrichs
Dead center of the Norwegian Sea lies a group of thirty-five solitary and desolate islands. Located equidistantly from Scotland, Iceland and Norway, the Faeroe Islands are barren, rocky and covered by fog. The melancholy cry of restless seagulls resounds everywhere. As far as the eye can see, everything is intoxicated by the billowing waves that surge out from under a heavy mist. The mountains reach to heights between 1800 and 3000 feet above sea level. Rugged cliffs loom above, and gorges wane below. There are dense pine tree forests, and thousands of waterfalls pour from great heights, crashing from boulder to boulder. The river banks, deeply engraved by brooks and fjords, are made almost inaccessible by towering cliffs. The sea, constrained by rocks and reefs and completely blocked up here and there, is tossed wildly into whirlpools and rapids along its downward path.
Seventeen of the Faeroe Islands are inhabited. Two of them, Stroemoe and Wagoe, are separated only by a narrow strait calm enough for a brave swimmer to cross. Many place names recall the distant past, before the Church had been established. For example, Thorshavn, on the shore of Stroemoe, was named in honor of the god of thunder in Norse mythology represented as armed with a hammer.
Once upon a time a fisherman and his 15-year-old son left Thorshavn in a rowboat. The boat capsized off the coast of Wagoe during a storm, and the boy was thrown among the reefs. A young sailor spotted him, dived into the waves and swam between the reefs. After rescuing the boy, he laid him across a boulder. He lifted the semiconscious body onto his lap and held him in his arms. Then the boy opened his eyes.
The sailor asked, "What's your name?"
"Har. I'm from Stroemoe," the boy replied.
The sailor rowed him back across the strait to Stroemoe and brought him to Lara, Har's mother. Thankfully, the boy threw his arms around his rescuer, who was about to leave. The lifeless body of the boy's father was later washed ashore.
The sailor's name was Manor. He was an orphan four years older than Har. Manor grew fond of him. He longed to see him again. Now and then he would row across to Stroemoe, or, on summer evenings after work, he would swim across in the warm water. Har would wait for him at the shore, climb over the reef and wave his kerchief when he would see Manor's skiff approaching from afar. They would spend an hour or two together on the boat singing sailors' songs, then row out into the calm sea. Or, they would undress, dive into the waves and swim to the nearest sandy beach to watch the seals. Sometimes they would go into the dark, green forest of tall pine trees, whose rustling tops heralded Thor's voice, they say. Other times they would find a rock beneath some
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