CARL BLUVEN AND THE STRANGE MARINER (1833) – By Henry David Inglis. Halloween month continues! This story from Norway would likely appeal to fans of the recent Pirates of the Caribbean movies with its combination of marine lore and supernatural doings.
One evening Carl Bluven, a poor fisherman, is given a gift for his upcoming wedding. That gift is a cask of butter washed back up from a merchant ship that was sucked into the legendary Maelstrom off the coast near Bergen and Stavenger. The gift is from Kahlbranner, the undead and supernaturally-powered mariner who rules the whirlpool called the Maelstrom and owns all the booty from the ships sucked into it.
After his honeymoon Bluven is settling into married life with his bride Uldewallas and one evening the tide, commanded by Kahlbranner, withdraws prematurely, grounding Carl’s fishing boat amid rocks. The strange mariner rises up from his home at the bottom of the Maelstrom in a sailboat that moves with no wind in its sails. Pointing to a ship on the horizon Kahlbranner informs Bluven that the whirlpool he controls will suck that ship down to the bottom of the sea and he will send along another gift.
Kahlbranner was as good as his word, letting a cask full of dried hams and white puddings wash ashore for Carl and Uldewallas. His greed piqued by these two tastes of finer dining than he was used to, Carl Bluven goes on to make a dark bargain with the tall, hulking enchanted old sea captain. That bargain is struck on the sandy seabottom beneath the Maelstrom, the whirlpool commanded by Kahlbranner. That whirlpool separated the waters, allowing Bluven to walk the seabottom with the huge, undead mariner.
Amid the countless sunken ships from over the course of a few thousand years Carl also sees the skeletons of the countless sailors to have died in the Maelstrom. He also sees all the gold, silver, alcohol, furs, fine foods and other riches that the whirlpool had claimed. His eyes gleaming with greed Carl accepts the deal offered by Kahlbranner: in exchange for a generous cut of all the food and plunder that the strange mariner will send his way, Bluven will marry his yet unborn daughter to Kahlbranner’s monstrous son when she turns sixteen.
Carl Bluven prospers off the scavenged freight of the shipwrecked craft of the Maelstrom, becoming a wealthy tradesman with the best-stocked warehouse in Bergenhuus and the fattest bank account of pure gold coins, many going back to Cluff Kyrre, the first King of Norway.
Once a month a mysterious ship pulls in at Bluven’s dock and, to the whispers of the townspeople, the cargo is unloaded to the warehouse by dozens of crewmen, all of whom look exactly like Kahlbranner, except that they dress as regular crewmen and not in Kahlbranner’s Captain’s outfit. (This bit reminds me of the crew of “All Johnny Depps” in one of the Pirates of the Caribbean films)
Carl and Uldewalla’s daughter Carintha nears her sixteenth birthday and Carl, in spite of his bargain, marries her off to the son of the Governor of Bergenhuus. Kahlbranner is furious and begins to wage war against Carl Bluven. When the strange mariner’s campaign of terror finally reaches its climax Carl Bluven understands the horrific fate in store for those who go back on a bargain with the dreaded Kahlbranner.
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