Natan Ketilsson Quotes in Burial Rites
He built his church from wives’ tales and the secret language of weather; saw the blinking eye of God in the habits of the sea, the swooping merlin, the gnashing teeth of his ewes. When he caught me knitting on the doorstep he accused me of lengthening the winter. “Do not think nature is not watchful of us,” he warned me. “She is as awake as you and I.” He smiled at me. Passed the smooth breadth of his palm over my forehead. “And as secretive.”
“Why not Sigga?” Tóti asked in a small voice.
Blöndal shook his head. “The maid of sixteen who burst into tears as soon as I summoned her? Sigga didn’t even attempt to lie—she is too simple-minded, too young to know how. She told me everything. How Agnes hated Natan, how Agnes was jealous of his attentions to her. Sigga is not bright, but she saw that much.”
She said Natan had started giving himself some airs, calling himself Lyngdal, not Ketilsson, though neither of us could work out why—it was a strange sort of name to have, not Icelandic in the slightest. María thought it was probably to make himself out to be a Dane, and I wondered that he was allowed to change his name at all. María told me that men might do as they please, and that they are all Adams, naming everything under the sun.
“What’s the name for the space between stars?”
“No such name.”
“Make one up.”
I thought about it. “The soul asylum.”
“That’s another way of saying heaven, Agnes.”
“No, Natan. It’s not.”
“What do you do with the kit after you kill its parents?”
“Some hunters leave it there to die. They are no use for market— the skins are too small.”
“What do you do?”
“I stove their heads in with a rock.”
“That is the only decent thing to do.”
“Yes. To leave them is cruelty.”
What else is God good for other than a distraction from the mire we’re all stranded in? We’re all shipwrecked. All beached in a peat bog of poverty. When was the last time I even attended church? Not while I was at Illugastadir…Perhaps things would have been different if Natan had let me go to church at Tjörn. I might have made friends there. I might have met a family to turn to when it all became twisted…But he didn’t let me go, and there was no other friend, no light to head towards in that wintered landscape.
Where would I have gone? I knew only the valley of Vatnsdalur; knew where it was scabbed with rock, knew the white-headed mountains and the lake alive with swans, and the wrinkled skins of turf by the river. And the ravens, the constant, circling ravens. But Illugastadir was different. I had no friends. I didn’t understand the landscape. Only the outlying tongues of rock scarred the perfect kiss of sea and sky— there was no one and nothing else. There was nowhere else to go.
“Admit it. You want this too, Agnes.”
At that point…I saw what Fridrik held in his hands. It was a hammer and a knife.
What do I remember? I didn’t believe him. I went back to my bed on the floor of the cowshed, suddenly weary. I wanted nothing to do with him. What happened?