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Old Tønsberg: The Castle Hill, publ. By Vestfold College, 2001. 
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The Bagler Well 

by Kåre Holt

Many and strange are the faces which have stared down the well through the ages. Nameless is the bondsman who at his lord's behest took a wooden spade in his hand and trudged up the mountain to dig in the hollow where the water used to collect. In the evening when he came down - with an empty, belly and rheumatism in his joints - the water was cloudy and did not reflect his grimy face, with knocked out teeth, and a sharp and clever look concealed behind a beard. During the night the mud sank to the bottom. The stars came up the fjord shone, women laughed, a child slept, three men fought over a silver coin which daring robbers had brought back from a far away country. Then morning came, and the well  gleamed beneath the sky which was reflected in it.

Since then it has reflected the faces of many people who came in anguish and left in peace. They have no names. The young woman who felt milk stir in her breast for the first time; the young boy who had killed his enemy according to Odin's law and yet lead a nagging pain in his heart. The one face so happy, the other so sad, and the nights roll over the hill, and a new generation stretches out its hand to fetch water from the well.

A monk from the Franks' fair land was walking up on the hill one day. He must have sinned in his far distant youth and severe judges said that he should either enter the premonstratensians' strict order or die: He chose the former. With a lash in one hand and a bundle in the other; he wandered far and wide and made the leather thongs whistle over his own bare back on the hour. He must have been on the road often. Where was the town and the spot where he could let his feet rest; drink from the well, kneel before his humble cross and erect the church which
was to be his last offering for the sin he had committed? One day he stood at the bottom of a remarkably steep hill; a path winds its way up there; his throat is parched; one of his feet is bleeding.

Then he finds the well and drinks; and knows that this is  the place where he and his are to build  the church which is to stand beneath the stars, until the end of time. Both those who built the church and those who pulled it down drank from the well. The well was also without a name for a long time.

But one autumn - it felt like the end of an era for those who lived there - one group of soldiers encircled the mountain and another was under cover on the top. The well was the great hope of them both. Those at the bottom of the mountain, was hoping that the water would freeze, those on the top must have felt that their last hope was for the water not to freeze. Perhaps they took off their wretched scraps of hide and picked them over the well at night but the water froze and the water level sank. Finally one day that had nothing but pieces of ice to suck. There the name must have come to one of the Birchlegs: The Bagler Well, the well which is empty, the well which gave us victory in the struggle ...

Then they came down from the mountain. They had to wait a long time before they got water to drink. A young priest fetched christening water from the well and consecrated it with the words and  ritual from the far-off bastion in Rome. A woman walked up from the town with her child in her arms and had it christened in water from the well which froze empty so that strong men died. But the night before - no one suspected that she had once had a suitor who knelt in vain before her sweet body, the rejected one had gone up there and looked down into the well. He  knew that day that her child would be christened by up there: in the water from the well which he and the woman who forsook him had once drunk together: Now he drinks alone. And the  water returns to the well, here in the dark on the mountain, only the wind hears it on its way past.. No one must ever find out.

Kristina once stood here. We do not know  if she always drank from a silver, cup  or whether she was humble enough to bend over the well and drink from her royal hand. I think that when she was approaching her final hour in Couvarrubias - if she died there - the Spanish wine tasted bitter in her mouth and she  longed for Tunsberg's cool water.  Maybe she did not call the well the Bagler Well. That would be to bestow too great an honour on the men who once  resisted her great grandfather.  I think that she called it the Juggler's Well - after the man in her life  who may have danced around the well one night and sung his songs in a low voice while the wind brushed though her hair before it filled the sails and carried a princess away.

A foreign mercenary also once looked into the well on the hill. He had sold his services for fifteen dollars to a buyer with the promise of a horse and sword and the right to keep half of what ever the could steal. Perhaps he travelled far and wide through the lands from Saxony to Scania, through great forests, with the smell of burning in his nostrils and carcasses of cows which lay stabbed to death rotting in the courtyards. There were not as many women to rape as he would  have wished. He was often hungry; lost am ear, had a finger and bridge of his nose cut off. One day they came to a little town and  burnt down most of it. Up on the mountain they tore down a castle and burnt a church. He did not know why exactly. But when it had been done - and his throat was sore from the smoke from the fires, he leant out over the well and dank deeply.

Then the weeds grew over the well and it was lost. It was eventually dug up again and the Arctic visitors came and so did we.

But the blue lady still goes to the well at night and drinks because she has a thirst none can quench, and an injustice which still burns. All throats are sore and all hearts heavy, but for a short time there is still water in the well which is no longer.
 
 

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