Pages 2 and 3 translated


By Vilhelm Moberg

Original Title: “Brudarnas Källa, Legend om de bofasta”

Translated from the Swedish by Gudrun Brunot

Bonnier’s Publishing House 1974 edition




Every Midsummer's Eve, I play my fiddle on the hill where the oak tree stands and where the villagers have raised their pole to see Midsummer's Day in. My place is inside this old hollow oak, where a board has been nailed up to serve as a seat for the spelman. Here I sit with my fiddle, deep within the ancientness of the rotting oak, playing so the young can dance.

For over forty years, I've played on Midsummer's Night at the oak hill. In my younger days, I would allow myself to act hard-to-get when they would ask me to bring my fiddle to play for them all through the night as they awaited Midsummer's Day. I was the only spelman then—there was no one else they could ask. Now, I get asked out of habit, and only at Midsummer. Other spelmen have cropped up, able to play other instruments. Now, it's the accordion they want. The fiddle is no longer the undisputed master. My fiddle is too old, my tunes are too old, I myself am too old now; I'm over sixty. There are younger spelmen. Now, all they want me for is to relieve some young stripling accordion player. So, once a year, at Midsummer, they'll put up with a bit of fiddling. I dare not play hard-to-get any more. I'm no longer indispensable. I am soon to be discarded, no longer the obvious king of the spelman's throne in the hollow oak tree.

Here on the hill of the oak tree, in our old cutting field, we have welcomed Midsummer for as long as anyone can remember. A better gathering spot than this haying field of ours is not to be found in our land. The soil is rich and fertile with all the flowers and grasses you could imagine, and all around stand the old oaks, forever unchanging as I've known them to be for as long as I've lived. These trees are stationary, patient, ponderous, slow to grow up and just as slow to wither. The same hollow wherein I sit and play tonight is where I used to crawl in as a boy for a game of hide and seek; that's how long the oak's old age lasts. And here, among the big oak trees, at the summit of the hill, the ground is even and flat, the floor spread there by God for the feet of the dancers. In the field at the bottom of the hill, there flows a spring where the dancers can drink their fill after working up a sweat and a thirst from their twirling. When I cease playing, and if people's merrymaking stops for just one single moment, I can hear the purling of the spring.

Still, I'd rather take myself and my fiddle to other dances. Here, on the hill of the Oak tree, I've never felt that real fiddler's joy. I've played at crossroads, in barns, at open-air dance floors and playgrounds, and experienced that perfect sense of everything working in harmony. But here, in our mowing field, my hands feel clumsy; the fiddle strings feel harsh and uncooperative. Maybe it's something I'm imagining—I'm often fooled by my tendency to imagine things. Maybe the truth is that I simply know too much about this place. I know the truth about the soil where the young are dancing tonight. I know the secret of the hill with its oak tree.