(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Berg, a handsome well-built man, the strongest and tallest man in the country, kills a monk and flees to the woods. Living in the forest so increases his strength that he is eventually called a giant by the villagers, who cannot capture and punish him for the murder. Another outlaw, Tord—accused of stealing a fishing net—escapes to the forest, where he and Berg share a cave. Berg, the giant, comes from a respected Christian family, the wealthiest peasant family in the area, but Tord, a slight boy of sixteen, has a pagan thief for a father. Tord’s mother is a witch who eats parts of human bodies that she finds in the sea. When the outlaws first meet, Tord serves and honors Berg as a god, but Berg merely ignores Tord, considering him a weak, petty thief.

Each man survives in the wilderness by fishing, hunting, and gathering. After Berg learns that Tord’s father, not Tord himself, stole the fishing net, he begins to appreciate Tord’s services. When Tord falls ill, Berg nurses him to health; afterward, they become friends. On a fishing expedition, they travel to a swampy lake high in the mountains, where steep walls of rock encircle the water, from whose surface pine roots emerge like snakes. On an island in this lake, the men fish, but they show no interest in their catch; instead, they daydream. A green light enters their brains, allowing them to imagine a Nixie, a half-human, half-fish creature sleeping in the water. While the men are lost in reverie, Unn, a beautiful young woman, rows past—her...

(The entire section is 622 words.)