Jonathan Stroud HOME

This was the first bit of writing for what turned into the Heroes project. It's strongly inspired by a sequence in the medieval Grettir's Saga, from Iceland, in which a nasty ghost causes trouble in a farm. I like this fragment because it's nice and creepy, but it hasn't got much to do with the way the book turned out, except that it also features the hero's uncle meeting a nasty end. And 'Hetti', of course, eventually became 'Halli'.

Hetti came of unlucky stock – that much was obvious from the first. His uncle Krom had been killed by a neighbour in a dispute about land. Seven nights later he pushed his way out of his grave on the hill and returned to his farm, blue-faced and terrible. For almost a week he wrought disruption during the hours of darkness, souring the milk, strangling the livestock and staring in at the windows with sightless eyes and purpled cheeks. As Hetti's father said, it would have been a better choice for Krom to haunt his neighbour's farm, since it was he who had actually put the axe in his back. But the judgement of ghosts is notoriously unreliable and the family had to make the best of it. No one wanted to face Krom by night, and by day he retired to the safety of his grave; in the end a group of men from across the valley climbed the hill at dawn and waited by the mound of earth. When Krom returned, a hulking shadow lurching through the heather, they blocked his way, cornered him with dogs and, with some difficulty, cut off his head. The body was taken to a crossroads up on the moors, burned, buried and fixed with a metal stake. And so the nuisance ceased.

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