“Once upon a time, in a land of heroes and warriors, in a land of battles and berserkers and in a land of learning and discoveries, there lived a man called..?” Olaf began, starting another bedtime tale.
“Magnus the Magnificently Bearded!” shouted out the five year old Morag, who knew this story as well as the story of her own beginnings.
“That’s right, my darling one – Magnus the Magnificently Bearded!
Magnus wasn’t always so blessed with a wonderful beard though. As a young man, he’d been teased by all the other young warriors. All he could grow were three wispy strands of sandy blonde hair, erupting forth from his chin. Hardly the beard worthy of a formidable berserker.
One by one, his peers grew thick, luscious, wiry, curly beards. Some were so long and so thick in such a relatively short time that by their eighteenth year, they were able to plait and braid their beards into intricate patterns and designs.”
“But Magnus wasn’t going to be defeated!” squealed Morag, not showing any signs of weariness.
“He most certainly was not!” agreed Olaf, pleased to see his daughter embracing her history so excitedly, “Magnus was convinced that having a magnificent beard was the key to being a magnificent warrior. Each day Magnus would train for two hours before his peers rose…”
“And then he’d train another five hours with them…” continued Morag.
“And after they all retired to fish and eat, what would Magnus do, Morag?” tested Olaf.
“He’d take offerings to Thor and pray for his blessings.”
Olaf was delighted that Morag had remembered this story so quickly and was happy to keep her awake long enough to get to the end.
He cuddled her close and went on, “Then, one day…”
“Magnus awoke to find his face was finally home to a full-grown beard, filled with all of the colours of fire. It had striking reds and oranges and glowing gold strands. And all of the hair was styled and shaped with plaits and braids and knots.”
“Good girl, Morag! You know the whole story already! It seems you don’t need me to finish it then. You can tell yourself the bedtime story today.”
Olaf grinned to himself as he felt his daughter wriggle around in protest.
“No, Daddy! No! You have to finish it!” Morag cried.
“I’m sooooo tired, I can’t finish it by myself…” she lied, as she pretended to yawn.
“Ok, my little shield princess. You cuddle up here and I’ll tell you about Magnus.”
Morag did as she was told, closing her eyes with determination and lying very still within Olaf’s large embrace.
“Magnus was so astounded and overcome with joy at the sight of his beard, that he ran out into the village to show it to all. ‘Come! Come!’ he shouted. ‘Come and see the blessings Thor has bestowed upon my face!’ and all the village came to see and admire.
‘Thor gave you the most magnificent of beards!’ they gushed.
‘Thor truly is the most magnificent of Gods!’ they proclaimed.
‘Thor truly is the most magnificent!’
That day, Magnus didn’t train any longer than anyone else, nor did he offer sacrifices or prayers to Thor while everyone else was fishing and eating.
But Magnus was able to fight better than he’d ever fought in his life.
For the next few months, Magnus trained like all the others. He enjoyed sleeping in the mornings, eating and fishing in the afternoons and being the best warrior in training.
One day, as he was walking along the coast, trying to spot new fishing spots, Magnus was startled by a voice…”
Olaf trailed off as he heard a gentle snore issuing forth from his lap.
Morag’s body had relaxed and her eyelids fluttered as she entered a deep sleep.
Her father lovingly put her to bed, tucked in with furs and pillows and kissed her forehead gently.
“Dream of Magnus and his magnificent beard, my darling. Tell me all that you see when you awake.”