Anecdotes From The Latin Of M. Huet, Bishop Of Avranches
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
In the middle of Lake Vetter is an island in which the Swedes assert there is a cave of a wonderful depth, where a certain magician named Gilbert has been confined for many years, being bound in massy fetters by another magician, his preceptor, with whom he had dared to stand in competition. They also affirm that many who have entered that den, either with a view of rescuing Gilbert or out of curiosity, have been punished for their rashness by being detained there by some secret force. It is worth observing that Olaus Magnus tells us in his History* that this story has been believed for many years by that credulous and superstitious nation. And this, it is observed, is generally the case with those who, being born in a cold climate and being less sensible of the genial influences of the sun, are dull in their intellect, and very incapable of developing truth and detecting falsehood. Such also, we are told, are the Laplanders bordering on Sweden, the Icelanders, and the Greenlanders.t The people of Stockholm report that a great dragon, named Necker, infests the neighbouring lakes, and seizes and devours such boys as go into the water to wash ; and on this account they greatly dissuaded M. Huet from swimming, when he was desirous of refreshing him-self on account of the heat. These idle phantoms, however, did not deter him ; and they were greatly surprised when they saw him return safe from such an imminent danger. He, however, advised them to keep their children from the lakes till they had learned to swim, as otherwise they might indeed be swallowed up, not by the dragon, but by the deep whirlpools, which, being covered with unequal rocks, might easily deceive the unwary.
Another relic of Swedish superstition is seen in the cathedral at Stockholm, viz., a picture representing the face of the heavens, such as they appeared on the day when King Gustavus Adolphus set out from that city on his German expedition. Three suns were seen in the sky, surrounded by some luminous circles, which signs the nation thought prognosticated those exploits which that great monarch so heroically performed, little mindful of what has been remarked concerning these parhelia by their countryman, Olaus Magnus, viz., that they frequently happen towards the north, and probably for no other reason than that those clouds, being composed of a denser water, supply the place of a mirror, and easily receive and retain the representation of objects.