Not Interested in Love

It wasn't so long ago that an Alf King still came to dine at our table. The Alfar are such beautiful people, if people is what you think they are. They have eyes like a clear winter night's sky, assuming you happen to live much closer to the stars, and their voices sing to you a song of cool and misty places, even when they are discussing the mundane, which they don't often do. They can tell you the news of Alfheim and of Vanaheim, and of places even more exotic now and then.

I was surprised when, one day, the Alf King asked me to sell him four of my oxen. I thought this was strange, as there are stronger and nobler beasts to be found in his own land, but he told me none of them consents to toil all day as my oxen do. So I sold them to him, and he paid me very well. He paid me more than they were worth, which made me wealthy, and still he seemed quite happy with his purchase and the price. I asked him what he planned to do with his new oxen, and what he told me surprised me very much indeed:

"I intend to yoke them to turnstile, and then stake that to the sky, so it will turn more rapidly. You see, my wife is very beautiful, but time with her is tedious. I hope to make time go faster this way when I am with her."

He took his oxen, and I suppose he did what he described with them, for things like this and even more mysterious are possible, and even common, in his land. Still, it seems this did not help his marriage much: a year or so later he traded his beautiful wife to the chieftain of our tribe in exchange for two good saddle horses. I know that he has better at his home, and probably with wings or such, but he said he was sure he had the better of the deal. I asked him how, and this is what he said:

"She does not know how to turn barleycorns to emeralds, and neither can she teach our butterflies to dance in fine parades, and neither will she learn. She will not even help me polish up the moon. She is not interested in love. Besides, she knows no stories. Or, if she does, she will not tell."

I told my wife of this, and she told me to tell our frequent guest that he may dine in Alfheim from now on, if he goes trading wives away like horses. This seemed most unwise to me, but she insisted.

But now the Alf Queen lived with our own chieftain, and very beautiful she was, even for an Alf. She lived in our high hall, and we saw her often.

I was surprised when, one day not long after, our chieftain came to me and asked me if I had a drill, one hard enough to drill through glass without breaking it. I said I thought I did, and asked him what it was for. He said:

"Do you remember that hourglass I brought back from our little trip to Paris? You laughed, but it has its uses. I want to make the hole between the two parts larger. You see, my wife is very beautiful, but time with her is tedious. I hope to make time go faster this way when I am with her."

So I sold him my drill, and he paid me very well for it, which made me wealthier still. I suppose it did for him what he desired, as I didn't hear about it again. Still, it seems this did not help his marriage much: a year or so later he traded his beautiful wife to my neighbor, a young farmer, in exchange for a milk cow. I know for a fact that our chieftain already had better in his herd, but he said he was sure he had the better of the deal. I asked him how, and this is what he said:

"She does not know how to sing or play the harp, and neither will she learn. She will not welcome guests into our hall, or even hold the horn at sumbel. She is not interested in love. Besides, she knows no stories. Or, if she does, she will not tell."

I told my wife of this, and she told me to tell our chieftain he may dine at home or elsewhere from now on, if he goes trading wives away like cattle. This also seemed unwise to me, but she insisted.

So our neighbor, a fine young man, took his new Alf Queen wife to house. When he went off to work his fields, my wife went over to be pleasant with the woman. She did this for three days. When she came home from her third visit, she said I should invite the Alf King and our chieftain back to dine whenever it pleased them to do so.

And then I wondered how much time would pass before my neighbor came to me, and what he'd want to buy that would enrich me yet again. He never came, or not for that. Perhaps it's that he's used to plowing fields and pulling oars, and his idea of tedium is not the same as that of any of the Alf Queen's previous husbands. But still, about a year had passed when he traded her away to a passing mountebank on the promise of two chickens and a pig. I doubt the mountebank had ever even thought of making good on his end of the trade, but my neighbor said he was sure he had the better of the deal. I asked him how, and this is what he said:

"She does not know how to cook, or spin, or sew, and neither will she learn. She will not even sweep. She is not interested in love. Besides, she knows no stories. Or, if she does, she will not tell."