All English speaking children know the story of Jack and Jill. It was probably one of the first stories that you ever learned to say, and to read. Jack and Jill is one of the oldest nursery rhymes, and has been known by English children throughout the centuries.
But this is about the Legends of the Northmen! How does it come about that our first story is about these two old favorites of English-speaking children everywhere? More than a thousand years ago in the cold lands of the North, children used to listen to the same story, though the children in the story then were not called Jack and Jill.
In the homes of the Vikings1, of whom you would have read in your history books, in those far-away days when the great sea-raiders were at home by the fire in the long winter evenings, they often told stories to their children just as your father and mother told you "bed-time" stories when you were young. Perhaps the father would be mending his fishing nets, or perhaps he would be making things for use for when next he sailed the seas for plunder. As he worked by the fire he would talk to the children; or perhaps the mother, as she sat spinning, would tell the stories. But whoever was the story teller in those little wooden houses by the side of the fiord, the stories would nearly always be about the old Norse gods.
The story of Jack and Jill as we call them, was always a favourite just as it is today. But in those days of centuries ago, in Norway or Denmark as we now know these countries, instead of being called Jack and Jill the names of the children were Hyuki2 and Bil3, the moon maid. Strange names to you but these were the original names of the little boy and girl who went "to fetch the pail of water".

               Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water,
               Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after.

               Up Jack got and home did trot as fast as he could caper,
               He went to bed to mend his head with vinegar and brown paper.

These people of the Northlands believed that the moon was a chariot driven across the sky by one of the gods. They could not explain the passing of the moon, or for that matter the sun, in any other way. The name of the moon god was Mani4.
Day and night the people said Mani was always driving his great silver chariot, only sometimes they could not see him for he was at the other side of the world. In the same way Sol the Sun god drove his golden chariot.
This story is about the moon god, Mani. As you will understand, Mani was often lonely, away there up in the sky, away from the other gods and even from human beings.
Often he was very sad, for like you he wanted to talk to people, and all that he could see were the people on earth going about their work. Unfortunately Mani drove his chariot across the sky when most people had gone to bed, so he was always very interested when he saw people still at work, or walking across the hillsides. He often wondered what the people he saw were doing and talking about, and he was always interested in what was going on5.

One house especially interested Mani for two children lived there and whenever Mani passed over their home, he always made a special point of seeing what was going on.
Sometimes in the long summer evenings he would see Hyuki and Bil playing, but more often they were busy working for their father who was poor and very strict. In the cold lands of the North everybody had to work, even if it was only gathering in the haycrop, cutting wood, dragging timber from the forest, or fishing in the deep waters of the fiord.
The father of Hyuki and Bil was called Vidfinner, and his house, built of wood of course, was only a small one. It was built at the foot of a steep hill and except for a few tiny fields, was in the midst of a great forest. But high on the hillside away from the trees, was a spring. It was a magic spring, not of water but of a wonderful drink called mead. So valuable was this spring that a wall had to be built around it and the well was famous for miles around. Anyone who drank the mead from this magic well was given the gift of saying wonderful things and of making up marvellous songs and poems6.It was Vidfinner's most valuable possession.
One dark night, when the moon's light was almost hidden from the earth by dark clouds, Vidfinner sent Hyuki and Bil up the hillside to fetch him a bucket full of the magic mead. Hyuki and Bil hurried off to do what their father had told them, taking with them a wooden bucket, and a long pole so that they could carry the load between them. Although it was such a dark night, the children hurried up the hillside to fetch the bucketful of mead for their father. At last they came to the well, and the clouds had lifted a bit so that they could see the Moon Chariot of Mani shining down upon them.

Hyuki very carefuly lowered the empty bucket down the well, and then very carefully tried to pull it up again. But, oh it was heavy, far too heavy for Hyuki to pull  to the top and far too heavy even when Bil also took hold of the rope and pulled as well as her brother.They both pulled as hard as they could, but the bucket scarcely seemed to be moving up from the well at all. They had both been busy all the day, and the bucket full of mead was really far too heavy a load for their young muscles to pull to the top of the well. All this time just when Hyuki and Bil were struggling so valiantly Mani was high overhead in his great silver chariot. He watched them for a time and he felt very sorry for them, and he also felt he would like to talk to these two young children who had always been favourites with him.
So Mani hurried from the sky to help the young people you now know as Jack and Jill. When Hyuki and Bil saw this strange young man hurrying towards them, they did not know who it could possibly be. They did not see many strangers on their lonely farm by the sea, but they were not frightened for they could see Mani was a friend for he looked so kind and gentle. Mani took hold of the rope fastened to the bucket, and together they soon had the full bucket, standing on the coarse grass around the top of the well. They were very thankful to have such a strong helper for they knew how cross their father, Vidfinner, would be if they were too long a time taking back the bucket full of mead to their home.
Mani  was watching Hyuki and Bil from the moon chariot They thanked Mani who stood smiling gently at them, and Hyuki placed the bucket carefully in the middle of the long pole. Then he and Bil began to carry their heavy load down the hill. Hyuki was a very thoughtful boy and he did not want Bil to carry too much of the load, so he was perhaps a bit too careful to take more than his full shareof the weight. The two children had only gone a little way down the slippery hillside when they turned to wave goodbye to Mani. By doing this a dreadful thing happened. Hyuki slipped, the bucket fell off the pole, and he and Bil and the bucket of mead went tumbling down the mountain side. Both of the children tried to keep on their feet, but on the short, dew-wet grass it was impossible. Down they went, Hyuki and Bil tumbling after him.

Before much of the valuable mead was spilled, Mani came hurrying after them. When he reached the children, he picked up the bucket and dried Bil's tears. But he knew how stern their father was, and how cross he would be at the accident. So, partly because he was sorry for the children, and partly because he was so lonely, Mani placed the two children in his moon chariot and drove them across the sky, far, far away from their little home in the cold Northland. They were in the chariot and away above the clouds before they knew what was happening. At first of course they felt very strange but Mani was so kind to them and their father had been so strict, that they were quite happy to be in the strange silvery chariot.
That is the story the old Northmen used to tell their children,and of course, they said that Hyuki and Bil were still with Mani the Moon god. perhaps they told the story to make their children be careful when they had work to do, or perhaps it was just one way of keeping them interested during the long winter evenings. So, according to this old legend of the Northmen, you can still see Hyuki and Bil, or Jack and Jill as you know them, on a moonlit night, away there in the moon-the old Moon Chariot of the Norse legends. All the time the two children walk up and down across the moon, carrying their bucket in which their mead is still left. They may be trying to find their way home, but time and time again they slip; down falls Hyuki, and down falls Bil after him! Mani will never let them go home for he is too fond of them and they are very good company.

Bil looks after the magic mead in the bucket , and every now and then she lets a few drops of the magic song-mead fall down to earth. If any mortal receives even a drop of this magic mead, then he or she becomes the kind of person who can make up wonderful songs and verses. Perhaps someday you will have some of the song-mead falling on you , and you will be able to write verses and songs which people will enjoy.. perhaps you can see Hyuki and Bil  in the moon next time you are out of doors on a moonlit night! Look out for them, and remember this old story, going back to hundreds of years ago- the story of Jack and Jill, of Hyuki and Bil, the brother and sister in the cold Northlands who set out that night so long ago to collect that bucket full of magic mead. Don't you think it interesting that such a simple story as Jack and Jill has come to us over the centuries? The Northmen settled in many parts of Britain and it is quite likely that some of your ancestors of a thousand years ago and more told to their children that old nursery rhyme you once learned-of how Jack and Jill went to fetch the pail of water!

 Chapter 2.....Sif's golden hair and the gift of the dwarfs.

 Home                        Previous 

1. Anglian and Danish settlers to Britain settled lands most like their own flat or rolling countryside as in Yorkshire, Northumberland, Lincolnshire and East Anglia, whereas the Vikings of todays Sweden and Norway chose the more mountainous or hilly lands of  The North Yorkshire Wolds, Lincolnshire Wolds, Pennines and Cumbria.

2.Ioke is a first name found today in the Netherlands and Denmark.

3.It is ironic that Bil could be Jill and is used as a diminutive of William today

4.Mani today is moon, the moon cycles many times, and we use the word  many. Would "many moons ago" be a tautology?

5.The moon of course is also observable during the day  during and either side of a full moon.

6. The effects of ethanol  on human behaviour are well known

Copyright ©  K.and T. Midgley 1999 Links revised July 2023.