Once upon a time there lived two peasants who had three daughters, and, as generally happens, the youngest was the most beautiful and the best tempered, and when her sisters wanted to go out she was always ready to stay at home and do their work.
Years passed quickly with the whole family, and one day the parents suddenly perceived that all three girls were grown up, and that very soon they would be thinking of marriage.
‘Have you decided what your husband’s name is to be?’ said the father, laughingly, to his eldest daughter, one evening when they were all sitting at the door of their cottage. ‘You know that is a very important point!’
‘Yes; I will never wed any man who is not called Sigmund,’ answered she.
‘Well, it is lucky for you that there are a great many Sigmunds in this part of the world,’ replied her father, ‘so that you can take your choice! And what do YOU say?’ he added, turning to the second.
‘Oh, I think that there is no name so beautiful as Sigurd,’ cried she.
‘Then you won’t be an old maid either,’ answered he. ‘There are seven Sigurds in the next village alone! And you, Helga?’
Helga, who was still the prettiest of the three, looked up. She also had her favourite name, but, just as she was going to say it, she seemed to hear a voice whisper: ‘Marry no one who is not called Habogi.’
The girl had never heard of such a name, and did not like it, so she determined to pay no attention; but as she opened her mouth to tell her father that her husband must be called Njal, she found herself answering instead: ‘If I do marry it will be to no one except Habogi.’
‘Who IS Habogi?’ asked her father and sisters; ‘We never heard of such a person.’
‘All I can tell you is that he will be my husband, if ever I have one,’ returned Helga; and that was all she would say.
Before very long the young men who lived in the neighbouring villages or on the sides of the mountains, had heard of this talk of the three girls, and Sigmunds and Sigurds in scores came to visit the little cottage. There were other young men too, who bore different names, though not one of them was called ‘Habogi,’ and these thought that they might perhaps gain the heart of the youngest. But though there was more than one ‘Njal’ amongst them, Helga’s eyes seemed always turned another way.
At length the two elder sisters made their choice from out of the Sigurds and the Sigmunds, and it was decided that both weddings should take place at the same time. Invitations were sent out to the friends and relations, and when, on the morning of the great day, they were all assembled, a rough, coarse old peasant left the crowd and came up to the brides’ father.
‘My name is Habogi, and Helga must be my wife,’ was all he said. And though Helga stood pale and trembling with surprise, she did not try to run away.