Doug Mathewson returns to cavalcadeofstars with an interesting story of a family Tomten.
Stories about our family’s Tomten were told to me by my Great Grandfather. He spent many nights drinking homemade potato vodka out in the barn with Our Tomten. But drinking or not, Our Tomten guarded the farm and watched over the children and livestock. He was only three feet tall (sometimes less), and his crazy grey beard made him look all of his two or three or who knows how many thousands of years old, but to cross him could cost you your life. When my branch of the family moved to America in the 1880s, being bound to the land, Our Tomten stayed behind.
Orbital Retirement Community # 23-C
Our Tomten and The Fox
Was Our Tomten really as unpredictable and cranky as my Great Grandfather says?
My Great Grandfather drinks more than he should and says lots of things I’m not sure about. Since I was “old enough” my Great Grandfather has been telling me stories about back home in Sweden and life there on our family’s farm. Some stories have a moral, or a dirty joke, but the ones I like best are the ones about Our Tomten.
Tomtes are old beyond time and appear to be small bearded old men wearing red caps. Please do not mistake a tomte for some Christian sanitized version of a gnome or one of Santa’s Elves. They are ancient sprits of the earth and date back to before Odin, or Thor, or Loki, and Frida. Older still to before the very first Gods who predated humans in the North. My Great Grandfather says this story was just the way it happened, except for the parts he made up or forgot, and should be a lesson to us all about being polite and considerate to old men. Considerate like buying them a drink for example.
Very late one clear night, just a bit before the moon was full, Our Tomten was sitting in the farmyard smoking his pipe, trying to clear his head after drinking with my Great Grandfather since dusk. He was watching the sky for the next days weather when he heard quick and nearly silent paws run behind him. His pipe smoke formed a fox, and he knew who had come. “Good evening, my young red sir. Whatever could bring you here? ”
The fox was amused. Who was this ancient little shriveled man to ask? “Oh Grandfather, it seems I can not sleep, and have come looking for a late night snack.”
Our Tomten was never very patient and a night of heavy drinking had given him a terrible headache. So back and forth they chatted, each trying trip-up the other with seemingly polite conversation. The fox was clever as is the way of his kin, and Our Tomten was happy enough for the conversation, even if the fox’s motives were transparent. Finally Our Tomten yawned and said, “It is late my red tailed friend, and I am tired. You are far too clever for me to outwit. I wonder if I were to eat you would I become as nimble of speech as you.”
The fox made a rude noise through his nose and said “You old fool! The only eating there shall be tonight is of chickens. I have sat with you long enough and I too have become tired. Go on your way old man, and leave me to my meal.”
Our Tomten thought this was perhaps the most arrogant, condescendingly inconsiderate rude fox in all of Sweden! Our Tomten had been polite. He’d even gone out of his way to speak the common forest language, and not that of man. What little patience Our Tomten ever had was gone. With a snarl he turned himself into a thirty foot tall mountain troll, grabbed the fox and swallowed him whole. Our Tomten screamed his rage to forest and roared his anger into the sky so that all creatures might hear; so that all creatures would know you must be polite to old men in red caps who you chance upon in farmyards or risk being eaten. Tails both red and grey where quite low as the brothers and the sisters both fox and wolf quietly moved on.
“Such a night,” said Our Tomten as shaking his head, he changed back into the form of a three foot tall (or less) breaded old man. “Such a night.” With a smile and a chuckle he added, “Well I may feel no wiser after my snack, but I must thank that fox for giving me a full belly.”
My Great Grandfather said Our Tomten laughed at his own joke every time he told the story and eventually was so delighted with his own wit that he did credit the Fox for the improvement.
Doug Mathewson is a writer who spent his formative years turning over brook stones, looking for new friends or a means of escape. As a writer he is best known for his for his painting and mixed-media sculptures. The art-world has been unimpressed with the exception of his “Head-of-Goliath-a-Day” Series. Since 1937 he has created daily a self portrait using the famous image of young David with the severed head of the giant Goliath. The more famous pictures portray men or women from all ages and walks of life as David. Some days they are robots, space squids, media pop-stars, or household objects. The artist is always the head.
Gratefully none of this can be seen at Full of Crow Press and Distribution where he is a collaborator or at Blink-Ink which he edits.