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Manuscript

Fires of the Earth©Translation from Icelandic into English by Keneva KunzText excerpts for the radio version by Bettina ObrechtPart1The value of all dreamsThis may come on time, from the heavens in the form of fiery bolts and flashes of lightning;another time as the flame of war, which has consumed whole cities and settlements.#A thick cloud piled up here above the cloister, or above the edge of the slope beyond. It was not unlike a work of sculpture, forming a wreath that was not round but rather oval in shape, like the ones often set on the stems of ocean ships.The bulge in the middle was light blue with branches, curls and spheres, extending out into the wreath itself. These were coloured dark red, bright red, black, reddish black, yellow, pink and saffron, with other colours mixed in as well, which I know not the words to describe.A great number of people observed this strange cloud or portent which hung there in the skywithout moving, until it disappeared instantaneously just before sunset.Around midmorn , in clear and calm weather, a black haze of sand appeared to the north of the mountains. The cloud was so extensive that in a short time it had spread over the entire area, and so thick that it caused darkness indoors and coated the earth so that tracks could be seen.A light drizzle, which fell from that black cloud that day, turned this powder into black, inky liquid.In a stream, which was later covered by lava, were seen a great number of monsters of various shapes.Fireballs lay in heaps like foxfire. A bolt of lightning struck a lambshed, killing lambs and splitting one of the supports from end to end, leaving its inner sides blackened as if scorched by red-hot iron. And just as God in this way gave various signs to men while they were awake, so also did He speak to many in their sleep, so that they dreamt of events which later came to pass. It would also be poorly received by those people who scorn and belittle the value of all dreams.### Song 1Red ball of fireIron turned rust-red, timber lost its colour and turned grey from the downpour of salty and sulphurous rain. When it could be seen,the sun appeared as a red ball of fire, the moon was as red as blood,and when rays of their light fell upon the earth it took on the same colour.###Part 2This sad weekA great rain poured down through the dark cloud, even though the wind was from the southeast. It was the colour of bilge, or had a bluish tinge, and was so strongly odorous that people suffering from chest ailments could hardly breathe and nearly lost consciousness.All the migratory birds and other nesting birds fled and the eggs which they left behind were scarcely edible because of their ill odour and sulphurous taste.This sad week, more poison fell from the sky than words can describe: ash, volcanic hairs, rain full of sulphur and salpetre, all of it mixed with sand. The snouts, nostrils and feet of livestock grazing or walking on the grass turned bright yellow and raw.All water went tepid and light blue in colour and rocks and gravel slides turned grey. All the earth’s plants burned, withered and turned grey, one after another. The first to wither were those plants which bore leaves, then the sedges were checked,and the horsetails were the last to go, and would later be the first to return.All of this was caused by the lack of sunshine, clean air and fresh winds. The foul smell of the air, bitter as seaweed and reeking of rot for days on end, was such that many people, especially those with chest ailments, could no more than half-fill their lungs of this air, particularly if the sun was no longer in the sky. #Sounds were heard underground like a whine in some places, or the growl of a dog in others. Even though I had heard these sorts of sounds described when a glacier surged, I had been reluctant to believe the stories, as, under the influenceof old superstitions, people believed and said many things like this. I once happened to be out in my storehouse with two other men. Both they and I heard a sound like that of an ox bellowing far in the distance, although we did not expect any to be in the area. We disagreed as to where the bellowing was, and while we were comparing our views on this there came another howl, many hundred yards down under the ground, and gradually rising up under the house, its strength ebbing as it came closer until it came to an end just under the floor on which I was standing.A sound like the trill of a whimbrel was often heard in the buildings there. The farm house stands on a porous hill of lava and when the wind blows through the lava from a certain direction thee sounds are heard.They were merely the sounds of the wind, of pushing and rearranging in the veins and cracks of the earth after the emptying that had taken place, or of the storms which had recently swept over and blown into the canyons in such great measure.Now I realised that all these sounds were of natural origin, and were not the crying of the „hidden people“.### Part 3LavaSong 2The crying of the hidden peopleThe convulsions of the underground fires began with the earth heaving upwards, with a great screamingand noise of windfrom its depths,then splitting asunder,ripping and tearing,as if a crazed animal were tearing something apart.Flames and fire soon stretched upwardsfrom each of the hillocks.Great slabs of rock and greenswards were cast up indescribablyhigh into the air,backwards and forwards,with great crashes,flares of fire and spouts of sand,smoke and fumes.#The liquid fire poured forth over the land so that everything became mixed together. It dammed up the river, so that the valley filled with water, after which it crossed the river bed to burn down the farmstead and continued east along the slopes.Song 3On a spring day.The flood of fire flowed with the speed of a great river swollen with meltwater on a spring day.In the middle of the flood of fire great cliffs and slabs of rock were swept along, tumbling about like large whales swimming, red-hot and glowing. When they struck something solid in their path or to the side of it,or if two of these great masses struck each other or were crushed together, they cast up such great sparks and bursts of flames hither and thither that it was terrifying to watch.But it went even farther: as the fire poured and tumbled into the water it was turned into fuel and began itself to combust as if it were the purest of oils.#The waters rose more quickly than they had expected and flooded church, house and cowshed alike. The water which flooded the farm bubbled and boiled in the heat. On its surface the farmers and their households saw two dark grey birds swimming.The fire went over the falls, the fourth and final terrible surge of lava poured forth from the canyon with boiling sounds, cracking and smashing and such quaking underground, as if everything were likely to break apart. This brought on so much thunder and lightning, that scarcely a moment passed between bolts for days on end.All that week it rained water or brine, with fog and smoke, thunder and lightning. There was such a mass of fire beyond the mountains that it dried up and combusted all the lakes and streams which had previously coursed the gravel flats, so that I was able to make a completely dry crossing to the eastern regionSong 4Until the end of the worldAll that day and night the thunderous crashing was so great that everything shuttered and shook,and the earthquakes made every timber crack again and again.Omniscient and Almighty God directed its flow between the flows of lava which had preceded it and had now cooled and were like stone walls on both sides .and the clear signs of this will stand until the end of the world.Unless transformed once again### Part 4The beautiful bell.All the ornaments of the church, its books and burial implements burned as well, as did the beautiful bell.The weather was quiet with a light wind from the south. Far into the winter, when the moon sailed through the cloudsthose surrounding it would appear bright yellow. The bluish colour remained on the ground for some time.The weather was quiet. There was a light wind from the north and so great were the showers of ash and sand which blew down from every ridge that we could just make out the outlines of the farm and church, even though they stand on high ground.The clouds rose so high that the zenith there was seldom more than a quarter of the sky to be seen, and sometimes none of it. When two clouds came together and the humours in them became too heavy, a putrid-smelling sandy downpour fell from them with lightning accompanied by claps of thunder, even though the surrounding weather was clear and fine.The intolerable reek and odour from the western canyon was such that from its cloud the smell was as if burning coal had been doused with urine or other acrid substance. From the eastern canyon the smell was like burning wet weeds or some such slimy material, all of this mixed together.Song 5And the sheep wandered off The farmers could no longer keep their flocks togetherand the sheep wandered off hither and thither, into all sorts of straits and byways.Foxes made their homes on the deserted farms,One vixen gave birth to her kits in the hayshedwhere she was killedalong with her broodby travellers### Part 5Some simply lay downOnce a whole pint bottle of communion wine which stood on the altar during the service that day turned into slush.Things were quiet in the spring, but late in the spring the sounds of much thundering were heard from the clouds of smoke.On the first day of summer and again on the first day of winter water monsters were seen in the waters, which took various forms, large and small. They struggled there against a strong current, certainly 60 fathoms in length, during a good part of the day. They were seen once again later, but after the waters had subsided and turned elsewhere there has been no further trace of them.All the wetlands were so soaked in poison that no animal would graze there. Everything was covered with sand.There are hardly words to describe how the sheep just withered away.No one could take their milking sheep with them, as the animals fled in all directions. Any remaining animals huddled together in small groups, numbed by the terrors which hung over them, or darted about calling piteously;Some of them met their fates in the rivers, the ocean, the fire, or in the barren sands an impassable places.some simply lay down and died in their tracks.SONG 6 They dug the earth out They dug the earth out from under the frozen top layer, placed the coffins side by side and on top of one another, and then placed a good covering of sod over these gravesites,Because of the manner of the snowfall that winter bodies could not be drawn to church, and after midwinter there was not a horse left which was capable of bearing them there, with the exception of one animal which I had purchased in the autumn. I lent him to bear many bodies, whether I went along or not. He was an old, stout riding horse who never failed all that winter, no matter how much contaminated hay he ate, as he got a good deal of grazing along with it.Many a man wondered at his strength and not without cause, but God showed in this as in other things His power and care, by His concern for the bodies of His children.#As the winter wore on None of the few remaining horses could have borne either a man or a body to church. They died in such numbers, that one Sunday morning, 20 horses dropped dead in their tracks.#CHORThe poisoning effects of the fires thus affected and killed horses, sheep and cattle; the horses lost all their flesh, the skin began to rot off along the spines of some of them, the hair of the tail and mane rotted and came off if pulled sharply. Hard, swollen lumps appeared at joints, especially the fetlocks. Their heads became swollen and disfigured, and their jaws so weak they could hardly bite off or eat grass, as what little they could chew fell out of their mouths again. Their innards decayed, the bones shrank and lost all marrow. Some of those which had hanks set in their hide soon enough from their head all the way back past the shoulders did manage to survive.The sheep were affected even more wretchedly. There was hardly a part on them free of swellings, especially their jaws, so large that they protruded from the skin where it lay close to the bone. Large growths appeared on their rip joints at the chest, on their hips and legs, bowing the legs or making them look bowed because the swellings grew on alternating sides. Both bones and gristle were as soft as if they had been chewed. In some of them the lungs, liver and heart bloated, in others they shrank; all the innards were mouldering and flabby, full of sand and worms, one of flesh there were only remnants, as could only be expected.What passed for meat was both foul-smelling and bitter and full of poison, so that many a person died as the result of eating it. People nevertheless tried to dress it, clean it and salt it as best they knew how or could afford to.Cattle suffered from the same scourge. Large growths appeared on their jaws and shoulders, the legs of some split in two, others sprouted growths, alternating from one side to the other, which both hands could hardly encompass. The same was true of hips and other joints, they were disfigured, grew together and became immovable. Their tail ends fell off, sometimes half, sometimes less. Hooves fell off, some split apart in the middle. Ribs became disfigured or grew together all along the sides and fell apart in the middle, as they could not bear the weight of the animal when it had to lay on its side. The animal’s hair fell off in patches, the inner parts were soft and flabby.Those people who did not have enough older and undiseased supplies of food to last them through these times of pestilence also suffered great pain. Ridges, growths and bristle appeared on their rib joints, ribs, the backs of their hands, their feet, legs and joints. Their bodies became bloated, the insides of their mouths and their gums swelled and cracked, causing excruciating pains and toothaches. Sinews contracted, especially at the back of the knee.The inner functionsand organs were affected by feebleness, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, excessive urination and lack of control of those parts. This caused diarrhoea, dysentery, worms and sore growths on necks and thighs, and both young and old were especially plagued by loss of hair.#A few cows which were not terribly crippled were saved by giving them to drink the same milk which had been drawn from them. Calves born in this miserable time had fine marrow in their bones, though little bone sponge, even if marrow had been starved from every bone in the mothers.Any fishbones found on the farm or half buried in sand on the seashore were collected and cleaned, boiled and crushed in a little milk and eaten as nourishment.Some people took hay, which they cut finely and mixed with meal to make porridge or bread. Some began to eat horsemeat; most of them died.Others would rather die than eat it.Song 7Cinquefoil and dandelionWhen spring came and plants began to sprout, roots were dug up for food. By far the best and healthiest of them were the caraway roots, plenty of which were found here, and I would say that, with God’s help, they saved the lives of numerous people.Next came silverweed and mountain avens roots, but they were most unhealthy if there was no good milk to accompany them. Both cinquefoil and dandelion leaves, along with moss campions, wherever they could be found, were chopped finely and used in broth together with chickweed, but the sea sandwort was both healthier and more filling. Thyme was also used as food wherever it was found.### Part 6The MiceAs the all-knowing Lord could see that both myself and others were far too poorly prepared to be called up in haste, in His mercy He sent a cure, in the sweet smells which arose from the earth and smothered the foul ones. The home fields emitted an appetising smell of hay, to which the dwarf birch, meadowsweet, wild thyme and each herb added accordingly to its nature, so that anyone who travelled across the barren sands and paid attention to his surroundings noticed the sudden change.The steam and vapours which rose up from the earth here were so unusual that during the entire summer after the fire broke out, no rainbow was seen whatever direction the sun shone on the clouds and falling rain, until one day, when it appeared for a long time.However little the rainbow had been valued before, it was now welcomed warmly by many, who in their hour of need gained support from the promise that God would no longer allow either fire or water to destroy the settlement here.All the mice in this country and the next one to the west, which had often caused great damage to our lyme grass grain and other stores, were killed and there has been no sign of them here since. In the eastern part of the district no mouse has been seen nor made its presence felt for a long period of time, so they may well have been killed off there in like fashion although there are no tales of such.#####