by Nicholas Roerich
Grímr the Viking has grown very old. In previous years he had a reputation of being the best leader — even people in faraway countries knew about him. But now the Viking no longer goes out to sea on his swift-sailing dragon ship. And for ten years he has not even drawn his sword. On the wall hangs a long leather-lined shield, and the eagle wings on his helmet are covered with cobwebs and grey dust.
Grímr is a notable person. During the day, the Viking sits on a high porch, executing righteousness and judgement, and looks at people’s quarrels through his eyes of wisdom. At night the Viking makes a feast for friends — on large oak tables adorned with the finest crockery. Viands of goose, venison, swan, and other savoury dishes are steaming in their huge bowls.
Grímr spends the dark hours of the day with friends. Different friends have come to visit. Olaf Haki has arrived with his two sons from Bear Valley. Harald of the Mings has come from the Cape of Stones. Eirik, whom people call “Red” for his ginger hair, is there. Many brave people have come, and now they are feasting at the Viking’s house.
Grímr pours mead into a horn and serves it up for everyone to drink and tell of their best desires. All express different wishes. The rich want honour. The poor want to be rich. Those who have been stupid ask to start their life anew, while the wise peer beyond the borders of death. The young desire to distinguish themselves in battle; they are scared that their life will pass in silence, without a victory.
Grímr is the last to take the horn, as befits the host. He wants to speak, but grows thoughtful and keeps looking down at the floor for the longest time, while his hair graces his forehead like a white hat. Then the Viking says:
“I would like to have a friend, at least one faithful friend!”
His guests start moving around the room. Tables creak, and everyone begins to talk at once, vying with each other for attention.
“Grímr,” says Olaf from Bear Valley. “Haven’t I been your friend? When you were in a hurry to save your life in exile, who was the first to offer you a helping hand, asking the king to bring you back? Remember your friend!”
On the other hand, the Viking Harald tries to look into his eyes and says, even while threatening him with his hand:
“Hey, listen, Grímr! When your enemies burnt your mansion and plundered your treasury, where did you live at that time? Who helped you build a new house for yourself? Remember your friend!”
Nearby the ageing Eirik, nicknamed “Red,” is croaking like a raven:
“Grímr! Who held a shield over your head in the battle at Midnight Mountain? Who took a blow for you? Remember your friend!”
“Grímr! Who saved your wife from your enemies? Remember your friend!”
“Listen, Grímr! Who was the first to come to your side after the terrible battle at Seal Gulf? Remember your friend!”
“Grímr! When your enemies slandered you, who refused to believe them? Remember! Remember!”
“Grímr, what you said doesn’t make any sense! You’re already grey and old, you’ve seen a lot in life! It pains me to hear how you’ve forgotten about your friends — friends who have stayed loyal to you even during times of grief and misfortunes.”
Then Grímr stands up and begins to speak:
“I want to tell you: I do remember everything that you have done for me; the Gods are witnesses to this. I love you, but just now I remembered a thought that came to me a long time ago, and that is why I said the impossible word. You, my comrades, have indeed been friends in my misfortunes, and for that I thank you. But let me tell you the truth: I’ve never had friends in happiness. They’ve been totally absent; and, moreover, they do not exist on the Earth at all. Very rarely have I been happy, and it’s not even hard to recall the circumstances.
“I was happy after the battle with the Danes when we sank a hundred of Danish ships at Swan Cape. The horns were really loud; all of my warriors started to sing a holy song and to carry me on a shield. I was happy. And people were saying nice words to me, but the hearts of my friends were silent.
“I have had no friends in happiness.
“I was happy when the king invited me to go hunting with him. I killed twelve bears and rescued the king when an elk was about to butt him. Then the king kissed me and called me his best warrior. Everybody was saying pleasant things to me, only the hearts of my friends weren’t pleased.
“I don’t remember any friends in happiness.
“All called Ingerda, the daughter of Ming, the best maiden. There were even fights over her, and many people died. And I brought her into my house as a wife. I was honoured, and I felt good, but the words of my friends didn’t come from the heart.
“I don’t believe there are any friends in happiness.
“In Gol, Odin once sent me a useful word at a popular assembly. I said this word to the people, and they considered me their saviour, but even then the hearts of my friends were silent.
“There are no friends in happiness, never.
“I don’t remember my mother, and my wife didn’t live long. I don’t know whether they were such friends.
“One time I had a chance to see this. A woman was feeding a pale and poor child, and next to them was sitting another, a healthy child, and he also wanted to eat. I asked the woman why she didn’t pay attention to the healthy child, who, incidentally, was quite good-looking. The woman answered me: ‘I love them both, but this one is sick and unhappy.’
“In times of unhappiness, I, poor soul, cling to my friends. But in happiness I stand alone, as though on a high mountain. In times of happiness people may be very high, while our hearts look only downwards. In my unhappiness you, my comrades, were living just for yourselves.
“And I’ll say, too, that these words of mine were impossible: there is no friend in happiness; otherwise we are not talking about a human being.”
All his hearers find the words of Grímr the Viking strange, and many don’t believe him.
During his lifetime, Nicholas Roerich (1874–1947) created approximately 7,000 paintings, some of which are now stored in the Nicholas Roerich Museum in New York. All of his paintings are prophetic, but they are coded. The creation of these masterpieces of art, which conceal the mystery of Colour, Light, and Sound, involved the participation of the four Greatest Spirits of the Hierarchy of Light. The colours in his paintings, radiating invisible and inaudible sound, have a direct influence on the higher centres of a person’s thought and awaken their creativity. It is no accident that some people are healed just by looking at them, or that later they start to write or draw. Being well acquainted with Oriental philosophy and with the same sacred sources from which Helena Blavatsky obtained her knowledge, Nicholas Roerich also left a literary legacy.