In this, the final book in the Icelandic Folktales series, we leave behind the ghosts, ghouls, and goblins of the previous books. As the title might suggest, the stories are generally longer than in the first two books, and humans are the only characters.
Magic still plays a role at times. In one story, the poor friend of two princes follows them as they seek fame and fortune. At each royal house where they winter-over, the poor boy makes himself useful to the royal family, and earns a magical boon as his reward, while the princes do nothing, but have to pay handsomely for their room and board. Finally, the three adventurers arrive at the castle of a harridan virgin queen. She allows only eunuchs in her court, and any man who refuses is banished to a desert island. The princes decide that no price is too high to be a member of the court. The boy declines, but uses his magical gifts to keep not only himself but the other men on the island healthy and whole. Despite her threats to his life, he finally wins the queen’s heart and the throne next to hers. The princes come out all right in the end too. The new king keeps one to be his advisor, and sends the other home to succeed his father.
This story is typical of the length and complexity of the tales in this volume, although not all, such as the story of the outlaw Axlar-Bjorn and his wife Steinunn doesn’t end so happily, at least not for the outlaws.
The book ends with an odd collection of sayings and jokes, like the two men complaining about how things were better in the olden days, when there were frequent fights in church! Spoken like the true descendants of Vikings, I guess. As I have for the first two books, I’ll recommend this one especially for readers looking for folk tales from new places.