LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 28, No. 2 - Summer 1982
Editor of this issue: Antanas Klimas
Copyright © 1982 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
BANGUOLĖ, THE FISHERMAN'S DAUGHTER
by ANTANAS VAIČIULAITIS
In the old days, by the sea not far from the harbor of Šventoji, there lived a fisherman. He had four sons and a daughter, whom he named Banguolė. The girl ran about the dunes and through the forests picking raspberries, and frolicked in the waves of the sea. She grew beautiful and happy, and the old fishermen enjoyed looking at her and letting her sit in their laps.
When the large, red sun was setting in the west, Banguolė waited by the pine trees for her returning brothers. Years later, her heart began to flutter anxiously. Leaning against the rowan trees, the girl waited for a boat to appear and the neighbor's son Meldutis to sail home. The two talked about the fish in the depths of the sea, about storms which sink the boats, and the pleasure of walking together over the dunes, and listening to the murmur of the sea.
One day merchants from the land of the Vikings sailed into the harbor of Šventoji. Their boat was large and as it ran along the shore its sails fluttered high in the wind.
"I have a piece of amber and in its center is caught an insect with small red legs. I will trade it for a silk scarf or a ring for this finger."
"When you step over the threshold of my home, my ring will sparkle on your hand."
The two walked along the sea and the waters sang to them.
The next day she went to the merchants' boat with the daughters of the other fishermen. The merchants uncovered trunks packed full of silks and velvets, and rings and earrings and brooches sparkled. The men were attentive and obliging, and spoke politely to them. And when Banguolė showed the amber with the insect, they shook their heads in wonder and said: "Let us take it to the master of the boat."
"1 am a simple girl, I will be in the way . . ."
The Vikings swore that they had never in their lives seen such a piece of amber; the master of these treasures would surely wonder at it!
Thus they enticed her as a young man, tall and splendid, stepped out onto the deck.
Seeing Banguolė and her amber he spoke and said:
"I have traveled in many lands and I have seen many beautiful things, but never have I encountered amber such as this."
He turned it over in his hands and he said:
"Let us go below, where the most precious of things are. There you may choose whatever pleases you."
He led Banguolė below and showed her his treasures which were so splendid, that one's eyes were dazzled at the sight of them.
"This boat is mine, and these riches; tall are the castles of my island home," he said. "Choose whatever you will a bronze pitcher to pour mead for your guests, or a scarf of silk: I had it made in a far-off land, or this ring: its eye sparkles like a star in the night."
As he spoke he gazed at Banguolė and finally he asked her:
"Are all the girls of your land so beautiful? . ."
She blushed and murmured:
"The sun is already setting and it is time for me to return. My mother awaits me and will worry."
"And where is your home and where is your mother?" asked the Viking.
"There, by the edge of the sea, grow three pines. Beyond them stands our farmstead."
With these words she exchanged the amber for a silken scarf and returned home.
The gulls screeched at her as she walked along the sea, and the dune grass softly droned.
A few days slipped by. By the pines Banguolė waited for a white sail to rise from the sea and for the black boat of Meldutis to appear.
She saw a horseman riding up and recognized the young Viking merchant.
He stopped his steed and said:
"For whom do you long, as you stand here by the sea? Are you waiting for a young man from a foreign land?"
"No, not for a young man from a foreign land. I only watch how the white foam is running to the shore and how the waves leap as they break."
He dismounted from his horse and he began to tell her about his boats and his city, and about far-off shores. The Viking spoke gracefully. At last he ended:
"Climb into my boat and I will carry you to my castle and I will seat you in the halls of my father."
"These are strange words, sailor from a foreign land," she fearfully said, "and I am not used to such talk."
Looking into her eyes he spoke and said:
"Am I to blame that from the hour in which you set foot on my boat I have not been able to forget you? Day and night I have thought of you. I have seen many lands and known many people, but to me you are the most fair and the most perfect. I want you to come into my father's house, to sit at the hearth of my forefathers, to be the mother of my children and the lady of all my treasures."
"My home and my parents are on these shores, and here, in the shade of these woods, dwell our ancient gods who defend and protect us."
"I will be lonely without you for in my dreams I would always see you, so precious and so good, standing here by the murmuring sea."
"I hear the words of your heart, and it grieves me that you return to your land sad and alone . . ."
At these words the face of the Viking darkened and he looked wrathfully at the girl.
But, taking hold of himself, he again spoke graciously and said:
"I see that this place is dear to your soul and that it is here the fire of your home burns. Be happy, and do not speak ill of the wanderer in the swift boat who visited you and your land."
Banguolė answered and said:
"I will ask the gods of my fathers that your days may be beautiful and bright and I will speak kindly of you, though I do not know your name."
"I am called Sigurdas, and my boats sail the length and breadth of the waters of the world. Tomorrow we depart. I will stand on the boat and wait for you to bid you farewell. And now I return what was cast to you by the waves." He leaned down, hung a chain around Banguolė's neck, and rode away.
On the chain there hung her piece of amber, set in a gold shell.
Banguolė walked down with the crowd who went to take leave of the Vikings. From a distance she could see how high the sails were raised, and how they fluttered. At the stern of the boat Sigurdas stood and waited.
He called out gaily:
"Soon we will pull up anchor and go out to sea! We will sing with the winds!"
The girl answered him and said:
"May your hearts be merry, and may you return safely to your land and to your home."
"Thank you for the kindness of your words. Come and choose whatever your heart desires so that you will remember us and our ship."
"I want nothing more. You have already given me gifts, and I will never forget you," said Banguolė.
The young Viking continued to speak so graciously and was so pleasant, that the girl finally agreed and went down to the hold of the boat where the treasures lay in trunks.
Sigurdas showed her his riches and related to her where he had bought each one of them. He told her to unfurl the scarves, each more beautiful than the next, and to try on bracelets which jingled when they were shaken. He never stopped talking about his city and its wonders, about his journeys, and about the sea storms which rise up and pound the boats. He went on talking until the girl became uneasy. She began to notice that the walls of the boat creaked and the floor seemed to be swinging and swaying. She laid aside the scarves and rings and began to speak and said:
"Thank you for these beautiful things. Let them lie in the bottom of your trunks. Let me go home now to my parents and my brothers."
"A long time will they wait for you."
"Your words frighten me and make me sad. Tell me," Banguolė asked, "why does the boat creak so, and why does it seem to swing and to sway . . ."
The Viking took her by the hand and led her up onto the deck. The blue waters were rocking all around and far away, in the mist, the shore was disappearing. The merchants' ship sailed quickly, cutting the waves, and a fresh wind blew the sails.
Banguolė glanced at the disappearing dunes in the distance, and at her parents' home. The trees and the huts seemed to run along the sea, as if pursuing her and calling her back to them.
The girl began to plead:
"Return the boat to the harbor and let me go!"
"I will neither turn the wheel nor direct the boat back," answered Sigurdas, "You are going to the island of the merchants and to my city."
"Oh, let me go home to my mother . . ."
"My home will be your home and you will be the mother of my children."
When Banguolė heard these words she began to cry and grieve and she said:
"I ask you again: let me go back, but if you will not, I will never reach your home alive. I will not be able to survive without my gray-haired mother and without the swaying of my pines."
"You shall not jump out of the boat nor sink into the waters of the sea; I have set the sailors to be on guard everywhere. I will seat you, wearing a wimple, in the hall of my parents and you will make my heart happy all the days of our lives."
"My soul will grieve without my land and without my parents."
Sigurdas became angry:
"If you will be good to me, Banguolė, I also will be good to you. If not, there is a dungeon in my castle into which I will throw you and there will I keep you until you come to your senses."
He led her bellow and shut her up in the hold of the boat, and stood a Viking by the door to guard her.
She cried and lamented, calling to her mother and her brothers to come and help her. Day and night did she moan, and no one came to her, nor did anyone console her. But always she saw her homeland and the dunes and the black boat in which the young fisherman went out to sea. Then she felt sadder and cried and sobbed even more, because she was alone.
A few years had gone by. Banguolė had borne two sons and a daughter. The children were growing up, and were beautiful and full of spirit, but Banguolė was fading, and no one ever saw her happy. She often sat on the sea cliffs and looked out over the expanse of the waters. Sigurdas' people came and visited her and asked why her cheeks were so pale and her blue eyes stared sadly into the distance. Was there something that pained her? At first her husband was with her every day and recounted the deeds of his forefathers, and described his land, and the mountains whose snow-topped crests supported the sky. He dressed Banguolė in silk and gold, surrounded her with servants, and he marveled at her sadness.
Then, Sigurdas boarded his boat and sailed off to foreign lands.
It was a clear autumn day. Banguolė took her two sons and daughter and went down to the edge of the sea, where they watched the waves run to the shore and break on the rocky cliffs. A flock of wild geese appeared in the sky, calling as they flew on to southern lands. They were flying straight across the sea toward the spot where the city of Šventoji and the village of the fishermen stand and where swayed the three tall pines under which Banguolė had stood in the evenings. Again she beheld the dunes, the garden gate at the cottage of her birth, and the blossoms of the red dahlias. As she sat there and heard the sounds of the wild geese in the sky drift and fade, it seemed to her that the door of the cottage opened and her gray-haired mother was coming out, and with her hand over her eyes, looked toward the dunes and the woods to see if her only daughter might be running home. And again she seemed to see her brothers striding along the seashore with her father among them and they were all very anxious. She understood that her mother, her father, and her brothers all missed their Banguolė. The sound of the wild geese died in the clear skies and her soul was overcome with a great sorrow. She looked at the expanse of the sea, and her spirit wept and grieved for those places where she had run as a child and where the old gods still dwelt in the forests.
A tear rolled down her cheeks and her oldest son asked:
"Mother, is something hurting you that you cry so?"
"Nothing hurts me," she answered. "Only my heart aches because I am without my land and my people, and because I sit here alone with you by these foreign shores."
And she told her sons and her daughter about the land of her birth, where the berries of the rowan trees were turning red now and where beautiful songs echoed by the lakes and rivers, and where her old mother waited at the gate, looking westward.
As she talked to them, night came and a large, bright moon rose. Its rays sparkled on the waves of the sea, laying a golden bridge across the waters. The bridge stretched on and on across the sea, ending in a dark void that looked like the gate to a new land.
Banguolė said to her children:
"A small fishermen's village lies at the place where this golden path ends. There was I born and there 1 grew up and was happy running over the dunes."
Again her oldest son spoke:
"Mother, when we grow up and get big, we will take you by the hand and lead you over this golden bridge to visit your home and your parents."
She gathered the children to her and turned toward home, glancing once more at the sea and at the waters, stretching like a golden sash.
When Sigurdas returned, she said to him:
"You sail to visit foreign lands. Would you not take me and my children in a boat and carry us to the harbor of Šventoji so that I may visit my father and mother and show my people our sons and our small daughter? . ."
"You yourself are now a mother," he said angrily. "Tell me, is there anything you lack in my castles and my halls? . ."
She pondered in her heart: Yes, I lack the three pines at the edge of the sea, and the evening song of the fishermen, and the gentle caress of my mother, and the sands of my homeland which quietly sigh, softly blown by the wind. Then she raised her eyes to her husband Sigurdas and asked:
"Do you understand that it would do my heart good to know if my mother still sits at her spinning wheel, and to hear the songs she sings?"
Having spoken, Banguolė turned and walked away by herself to grieve.
The days passed, and she grew even weaker and weaker. Her husband called together all of the famous doctors, but none of them knew how to cure Banguolė. All of Sigurdas' people visited her and wondered why she wilted, like a grass when it is cut by the blade of a scythe. He called together his wise men and wizards. They boiled roots and grasses, spoke the words of sorcery, but Banguolė languished: her face was wan, her eyes sunken, and her gaze wandered somewhere far away, very far away.
The day came when she took to her bed, never to rise again. In the quiet house where everyone spoke in whispers, she rested among laces and silks, looking at the window through which she could see the ocean, and sometimes she moved her lips as if to say something. But no one heard what she whispered. She brightened only when they brought her two sons and her daughter. She would seat the children on her bed, stroke their hair and their little cheeks, and tell them how, when she was little, she would run in the forests of her homeland to pick raspberries, about the bees that carried honey to the hollows of trees, and how in the evenings the nymphs bathed in the waters of the rivers. She spoke to them for a long time about clouds and thunder, and about the blossom of the violet, which is the first to break through the ground after the winter frost. And she told them how sweet and good it was to listen in the evenings to the creaking of the well, and how the cows return from the meadow lowing and how the whole fishermen's village would be fragrant with the smell of milk. Fragrant, too, was the hay, when it was bound into a stack, and above your head, a lark sang. Banguolė told them the story of her parents and sang the songs she had learned from her mother as she sat at the spinning wheel, pulling the thread.
One day, as she was talking to her little daughter and to her sons, a song rang out in the air. Banguolė sat up in her bed and listened as if bewitched: there were men in the street, singing the songs of her homeland about a black boat which sailed from the fishermen's village, about the foam of the sea and the sea calf, about the young girl and her green rue growing beneath the cottage windows.
The song was coming closer and closer, becoming louder and more beautiful. Banguolės heart leaped with joy: she recognized her brothers, the friends of her younger days, walking and singing. Happily, they entered the house and called out and said:
"We have come to visit our sister Banguolė. Many lands have we traveled until we learned, it is here she is living, in this tall castle, with her sons and a daughter."
The brave and cheerful brothers walked down the halls to their sister, but when they entered her room they stopped, and were greatly amazed.
After a moment they asked:
"What is ailing you, Banguolė dear sister? We thought we would find you happy and fair of face, but you lie like withered grass . . ."
She answered: "I have longed for you day and night and have asked the birds, when they return in the spring, whether they have flown over the city of Šventoji and over the village of the fishermen, and whether my mother has not given any message to bring to her daughter Banguolė, who speaks her precious name in a strange land."
"Our mother is no more. She no longer climbs the dunes to watch for her sons' return from the sea. We have covered her eyes with the golden sands she died of grief when the Vikings stole you away."
Banguolė sighed and said to her brothers:
"Who will comfort me now, when not even in thought can I run to my mother and listen to her words . . . For me there is neither mother nor the sands of the dunes . . ."
Her brothers answered:
"She took this handful of earth from our dunes and asked us to give it to you if we ever find you."
Banguolė pressed the earth of her homeland to her breast and whispered:
"Oh, handful of earth from the forests of home, it will be easier for me to die with you near my heart."
"You will not die, but live," her brothers soothed her, "and we will take you, you and your children, and we will carry you to the fishermen's village where you ran as a child and where the marsh grass in the dunes quietly rustles."
"Gladly would I sit in your black boat and sail across the seas to the threshold of my birthplace, if only I had the strength. Oh, if when I am dead at least someone would lay me in the land of my fathers there, where the sea murmurs and sings by day and night, and where our ancient gods dwell under the oak trees."
Seven days and seven nights the brothers were guests of their sister Banguolė and told her of the fishermen's village, about the people, and about the way the pines sway and their sweet perfume, when the summer sun caresses them. She listened to their words, and her spirit seemed to revive, and her heart was happy and beat more strongly in her breast.
When the eighth morning dawned, they said farewell to their sister:
"We are leaving you healthier than we found you. Our dear sister, rise from your bed, and sail with your husband and children to visit your mother's grave, and your old father, and the brothers who wait for you and long for you."
She bowed her head and said in answer:
"Yes, I will visit my people and my land."
The brothers took their places in the boat, and, singing the songs of the sea, they returned to their land.
For a time after they left, Banguolė was happy and bright, though she felt that her days were burning low.
Then Sigurdas, having driven all the wise men, sorcerers and doctors away, came to Banguolė full of grief and cried out:
"Tell me if I have been cruel to you, that you want to leave me, your sons and your daughter?"
"No, you were good to me; you have loved me and cared for me," answered Banguolė.
"Why then are you leaving us and preparing yourself to go to the land of paradise!"
"My husband Sigurdas, I do not know why the gods are calling me to their land, nor why they want me at the seat of spirits, where my mother sits. I only know that my days have ended."
"Banguolė, you were dear and good to me. Tell me what I must do that you would stay with me and our children."
"If you want to please me," she said, "when I am no more, gather your noble people, place me in a black boat, and when you have taken me across, bury me in the fishermen's village, beside my mother."
Sigurdas cried out in grief:
"You will neither die nor go to the land of spirits! I swear to the gods and all the people that you will stay in my home and gladden my heart and the hearts of the children you, whom I stole from a far-off land and carried across the seas and through the storms to my home and to these halls."
And he left, threatening the gods and the people.
When spring returned and the flowers bloomed in the fields Banguolė died. Until her last hour she looked out at the sea and the sky and waited.
One day, when she was waiting, the wild geese had called, slowly flapping their wings as they returned from the south, from the dunes of Šventoji and its shores. Their cry was sad, full of longing, and they seemed to be calling into the distance. Gradually their voices faded and finally died, and Banguolė listened until the last echo faded somewhere in the clouds.
As she listened to these voices of the sky, her lips smiled in peaceful joy, and she closed her eyes. She did not wake again, and no one could say why she had smiled.
Sigurdas called his people together and said:
"We will lay my wife Banguolė on a black boat and take her to the fishermen's village, where her mother sleeps. She was good to me and she was beautiful, and we will do all that her heart longed for.
And so the black boat sailed out into the waters of the sea, and the sails high on the masts fluttered sadly when the Viking men carried the fisherman's daughter Banguolė to her land and to her people.
As they were coming close to Šventoji and the beloved shores of the homeland, a great storm arose. The winds whipped about the whole night, and lightning and thunder struck. Out of the clouds, Perkūnas, the risen god of thunder, struck the boat and cast it to the bottom of the sea. When morning dawned and the storm had quieted, there was nothing to be seen in the place where the boat had been, not the smallest splinter on which a seagull could have landed.
And to this day there is nothing to be found there. But when storms arise and waves beat wave, fishermen can hear a weeping and a calling deep in the waters of the sea. They say that it is the fisherman's daughter Banguolė mourning, longing for her land and her people, the fire of her hearth, and her gods.
Translated by Kristina Bukaveckas-Vaičikonis