(Essentials of European Literature)

When Kristaver Myran brought home his own Lofoten boat, his oldest son Lars was tall and strong enough to join the next fishing trip to the islands off the coast of Norway. Lofoten men thought of their boats as descendants of dragon-prowed Viking ships, and Lars dreamed that he was an early Norseman who would do battle when the time came to sail north.

Kristaver had bought the Seal cheaply at auction, though even that low price was more than he could pay without guarantors. People said he must want to die early to have bought that boat which had capsized during the last three winters. Kristaver was sure he could tame her.

His crew consisted of Lars; Elezeus Hylla, a brother-in-law; Henry Rabben, who was always combing his beard; Kaneles Gomon, boyish except for his yellow mustache; and Arnt Awson, a shoreman who had never before sailed on a Lofoten boat. The boats to travel with them were Peter Suzansa’s Sea-fire, Andreas Ekra’s Storm-bird, and Jacob Damnit-all-with-a-limp’s Sea-bird. Kristaver had some trouble keeping the Seal up with the other boats as they sailed through the fjord to the open sea. As he and the rest lay in the long bunk on deck after their first day’s sailing, he slept, but even in sleep he was working on his problem. Half-awake, he got up and moved some of the cargo back a few yards. The next day the boat, in better humor, pleased Kristaver’s crew as she plowed steadily past the other boats. For days they sailed through the snow and anchored at night. The men began to look alike, snow-covered, and to learn to stand wind and cold.

As they passed Helgeland, the Nordland boats came out to join them. Soon the waters were covered with sailing ships and a few steamers. Held over by the weather at Bodo, Jacob was nearly killed in a fight. Henry Rabben carried him on board, and the next day Jacob was sailing along with the rest. Whenever the Southlanders met the Nordlanders, there was likely to be a fight in which everybody joined.

One day, across the West Fjord, they sighted Lofoten, a long chain of snow-streaked mountains. At the foot of the mountain wall lay the fishing station from which rose the odor of fish-oil pitch, and fish. Peter’s and Kristaver’s crew were to share a hut there for the winter.

When the Inspector raised the signal flag for the first sea-going day, everybody was ready to head for the banks. It was a great day when they first put out the nets. Each man knew that only plenty of cod in those nets could make it worthwhile to bear the wind, snow, and sea for months in that frozen place. The first day’s catch was poor, and the men were discouraged when bad weather kept them imprisoned at the station. They slept all day. When it was time for supper, each man went to his own chest to take out the flat bread, cheese, and butter his own wife or mother had put in for him; the fishermen felt that they were paying a short visit home....

(The entire section is 1199 words.)