Short Story | ‘Bjorn Noordvidarvdervarn and the Shape-Shifters’ by Erich Earl Forschler, Illustration by James Brown
Bjorn Noordvidarvdervarn was a legendary hunter in the days of the long winters on the northern isles. He hunted the whales, the seals, the foxes, wolves, and every bird in the sky. He wore the skins from the wolves and foxes, made weapons from the whale bones and burning oils from their fat, blankets and boots from the seals and pillows from the feathers of all the birds. He lived to hunt and hunted to live.
Bjorn liked to kill the whales with his bare hands, the seals with a whale-bone club, and he devised clever traps for the foxes and wolves, and he used a bow and arrow to hunt the birds. Bjorn was very proud of how he killed so many animals, and he was often warned by others from his village that he killed too many. Bjorn would tell them, “But I am so strong and fast and smart! What else should I do?”
One day, Bjorn was hunting the whales, and as he swam in the cold, dark waters between the fjords that separated the northern isles he came upon a mermaid village at the bottom of the sea. The mermaids, with beautiful faces and bright smiles, welcomed Bjorn into their village, and they fed him air bubbles they had trapped in their hair, and also seaweed that the mermaids had steamed in the hot vents at the ocean floor. When they asked Bjorn who he was and what he was doing in the sea, he told them about hunting the whales with his bare hands.
“And how do you catch the whales?” asked a mermaid.
“I swim behind them and grab them by the tails, and then I pull the head close and bash the skull like this!” Bjorn replied, swinging a massive fist through the air.
The mermaids were intrigued by this, and they whispered to each other for a while before shifting and changing right before the great hunter’s eyes, all but one of the mermaids morphing into a whale.
“Deceivers!” Bjorn cried out.
“Listen to me, great hunter,” said the mermaid who remained a mermaid, “You have killed many of us in your time, and you must find something new to hunt now. You will return to land too slow and heavy to ever enter the water and hunt the whales again!”
And with that, Bjorn was propelled out of the sea like an arrow and he landed on a glacier. When Bjorn stood and tried to move, he realized that he was suddenly incredibly fat, and he suddenly moved incredibly slowly. But he still had his brain, and he still had his whale-bone club in his belt, and he still had his bow and arrows on his back, so Bjorn set out across the glacier to find some seals.
The great hunter soon came across a village on the glacier, and the only inhabitants there were children. The children ran and played games together until they saw Bjorn, and then they ran to him and surrounded him and cried out in tiny voices for “Toys! We want toys!”
“I have no toys,” Bjorn told them, “but you can play with my whale-bone club for a while.”
The children were impressed with the club and they asked the great hunter what the club was for. “For killing seals,” he answered. The children all then whispered together for a while, until they all nodded their heads and then began climbing atop one another, forming a giant pile of children that then morphed into one giant seal that blocked the light from the sun above. The giant seal swallowed the whale-bone club and bobbed Bjorn on his head with its giant flipper, saying, “Great hunter, many seals have died from your club, and you must never hunt them again! You will return to the land without hands now!” And then the giant seal swatted Bjorn with its flipper, sending him flying across the glacier until he crashed down in a forest.
When Bjorn stood and walked around the forest he noticed that he now wore flippers instead of hands. But he still had his brain and he still had his bow and arrows, so Bjorn set out to check the traps he had set for the foxes and wolves.
As the fat, flippered Bjorn strolled through the forest, he was suddenly taken by a net that was hidden under the leaves. The line went taut and the net closed around him and lifted him high into the air between the trees. The forest below the trapped hunter soon filled with other hunters who celebrated the great capture until they realized it was another hunter.
“Who are you?” a hunter asked.
“I am Bjorn!” he replied. “Cut me down friends!”
The hunters all whispered together for a while, and then they changed into foxes and wolves, and they howled and yipped for several hours without stopping, and Bjorn was afraid. Then the animals took a nap for several more hours, as Bjorn remained in the hanging net. When they woke, the foxes and wolves told Bjorn that he could never hunt them again, because they would give him the brain of a rabbit and send him home. Next, the animals pulled the net until the tree that held it bent like a bow string, and when they released it, Bjorn went flying out and over the trees and over the northern isles until he crashed through the roof of his house by a small pond.
Then Bjorn, the great hunter, was now a fat, handless, slow, rabbit-brained creature that hopped awkwardly around his home, eating the frozen plants out of the snow. He still had his bow and arrows, but he no longer knew what they were for. He lived happily, though often fearfully, until the day a great eagle swooped from the sky and plucked him up. And that was the end of the great hunter.
Illustration by: James Brown