The Moon Glides, Death Rides: Pejoration and Aborted Otherworldly Journeys in "The Dead Bridegroom Carries Off His Bride" (ATU 365)


The nineteenth-century Icelandic folktale "The Deacon of Myrká" is not a love story, but neither is it right to call it a ghost story. It is a tragic, irreverent, and mysterious blend of the two. In it, a beautiful girl is courted by a wellrespected young man—a deacon at the local church, in fact. They seem happy, in love, and destined for a good life together, until the young man dies in a tragic accident on his way home from visiting his beloved. Inexplicably, this young man, who was so well liked in life, will not rest easy in his grave. He returns from the dead to terrorize the one person he loved most in life: the beautiful girl whom he had once hoped to marry. One question cannot be ignored: why would such a good man in life become such a monster after death? This essay seeks to answer this question by recognizing "The Deacon of Myrká" as one of many versions of the tale throughout Europe, and as a story that has its origins in the pre-Christian past. This essay argues that, in its earliest, pre-Christian manifestations, the story was seen as one of romance and honor, whereas later versions of the story were transformed to depict the narrative events as horrific. The reasons why and how this change occurred can tell us a great deal about the relationship between Church theology and (sometimes heterodox) folk beliefs.


English and Technical Communication

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

1547-0474; 1547-0873

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


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