Talking and listening are the best ways to prevent suicide. Ask Ivar.
There was once a famous poet and storyteller from Iceland who won fame in the court of the king of Norway, the court of king Eystein.
Now the king thought much of young Ivar and did many favors for him and for his brother Thorfinn, who also lived in the court of the king.
But Thorfinn was jealous and unhappy. For he thought that his brother was getting all the glory and that his gifts were going unnoticed. So Thorfinn decided to return home to his native country of Iceland.
Before Thorfinn left Ivar asked him to carry a message to a young woman called Oddny. The message was that Oddny was to marry no one until Ivar returned in the spring.
Well Thorfinn left and had a good journey. He returned to Iceland and met Oddny, and he himself asked Oddny for her hand in marriage.
So when Ivar returned in the spring, he found that his own brother had married the woman he loved. Ivar was filled with sadness as he returned to the court of the king, brokenhearted and bitter with thoughts of ending his life.
Everyone in the court, and especially the king, noticed the change in young Ivar. The joy in his singing had disappeared. The enthusiasm in his stories had waned. Ivar was a sad person. One night after the meal was over, the king called Ivar to his seat and said in a low voice, “Ivar, Ivar, tell me, what troubles you so?”
“I’m sorry, my lord, but I am unable to discuss it,” came the reply.
The king knew something was deeply troubling Ivar, so he said, “All right, Ivar, I will guess, for I know something troubles you and I want to get to the bottom of it, Tell me, Ivar, is there someone in the court whose presence offends you in some way?”
Ivar looked at the king and shook his head, saying, “No, my lord.”
“Well then,” the king demanded, “do you think you are not given enough honor?”
Again Ivar shook his head no.
The king continued with his questions. “Tell me, Ivar, is there something in my land you desire?”
“No, my lord,” came the reply yet again.
The king pressed further asking, “Is there a house or and estate that you long for?” This time when Ivar shook his head the king saw that the issue was a woman. He looked Ivar in the eyes and asked, “Is there a woman, perhaps in your country, that you long for?”
Ivar fell silent, and the king knew he had asked the right question even before Ivar nodded yes.
“Well then, Ivar, there is no problem with that. I am the mightiest king in this part of the world, and no one would dare interfere with my wishes. The next ship that leaves for Iceland will have you on board, and you shall carry a message from me to the young girl’s parents stating that it is my wish for the two of you to be married. No one in Iceland or anywhere else in the world would dare interfere with the wishes of King Eystein!”
Ivar looked at the king and said, “My lord, even that will not help.”
“Do you mean she is already married?” the king asked.
“Yes, my lord,” Ivar replied simply.
“Well then, Ivar, we’ll have to think of something else. The next time I make my rounds of the countryside and visit the villages and towns and castles, I’ll take you with me. In our travels we will meet many beautiful women and perhaps your heart will find one to meet its deepest longings.”
Ivar’s eyes filled with tears as he said, “Oh no, my lord, not that! Every time I see a beautiful woman, she reminds me of Oddny and my grief. I cannot bear it.”
“All right, ” said the king, “let’s try something else. I know! I’ll give you land, a huge estate. It will keep you busy farming, taking care of the livestock, and tending to business matters. With your hands full of the work to be done, you’ll soon forget about the woman, and your old joy will return to you.”
“But, my lord, I have no ability to farm,” said Ivar.
“Hmm,” said the king, “then I’ll give you money! I’ll give you a huge some of money so you may travel wherever your heart wishes, to the farthest corners of Europe if you wish. In your travels you’ll have many adventures. When you’ve experienced some new things, you will forget about your troubles and be happy again.”
Ivar only shook his head.
The king fell silent. He was unable to come up with anything to help Ivar in all his sorrow. After a time, he said, “Ivar, there’s one last thing I can think of. It’s a weak suggestions compared to the others I’ve made, but perhaps it will be of some help to you.
“Ivar, each night after the meal is over and the tables have been cleared and the business matters of state have been taken care of, I invite you to come here to my throne and tell me the story of your feelings of love for this woman Oddny. I will be here to listen to you for as long as you need.”
Ivar thought for a moment, and then he agreed to the king’s proposal. That night and each night afterward, Ivar came to the throne of King Eystein, and there he told him his story.
He told the king his story for days and weeks, and for many months. Each night after Ivar finished telling part of his story, the king would not let him leave without a small token of his love and care for Ivar. So each night after his story had been told the king would give Ivar a handshake, a hug, and a small but meaningful gift.
As the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months, Ivar found that he had told his story. And when he had told it, his old joy returned and his thoughts of suicide left. So Ivar began to sing again and to tell stories, the ancient stories that the Scandinavians love so dearly. Ivar became once again not only a famous poet and storyteller, but also a happy man.
In the year that followed, Ivar met a young woman from Norway. The two fell in love and became one. Ivar and his wife spent the rest of their days in the court of King Eystein, happy and telling stories.
If we take the time to listen to each other we can prevent the despair and hopelessness that leads to suicide.