Episode 66 - A Goat-Based Trust Exercise (Scandinavia Week)
Tom's Notes; Flateyjarbok
Tang from Australia, “Top of the morning to you”:
“Yeah, ok, so its not Hardcore History. They typically only use a couple of sources, but they don't let that get in the way of a good story, and it will have you in tears in parts. Not very PC at all, maybe not appropriate if your easily offended (but com'on, live a little, have a bit of perspective ya snowflake) or for little kiddies.”
And that source is The Usborne Illustrated First History of the World. Yep, we are to Dan Carlin what Coronavirus is to Tinder spread super-gonorrhoea; a bit of light relief.
Sean Phillips, gunning for a mug.
I’m not ashamed to say it; I selfishly chose this topic this week because I fancied some Icelandic Sagas. Back in episode 3, way back when we were young and carefree, without a subscription in the world, I read the Saga of Erik the Red. And twas good.
This week, I’d like to introduce people to the (pirate voice) Flateyjarbok. It hasn’t got anything to do with pirates, well, other than the fact that Icelanders were often seafaring criminals, but I said that in a pirate voice because it’s a work that looks very piratey.
Flateyjarbok basically means “book from Flatey”, Flatey being a tiny island, amongst other islands, on the west coast of a tiny Island called Iceland, which is a bit bigger than Ireland, an island to the south east of the island called Iceland.
Quote from Wikipedia; “the island also inhabits the oldest and smallest library in Iceland, established in 1864”. That just gives you some idea of the scale of this island, it fits in the library that is on the island, that is the smallest library in the whole of Iceland.
Anyhow, this library is also the oldest Library in Iceland and once contained the wonderful manuscript, Flateyjarbok, which is incidentally the largest collection of Icelandic sagas; so a very important document. The document is mostly concerned with the lives of Norwegian kings.
It’s probably worth noting at this point that Icelandic Sagas are fantastic for many reasons, one of which, in my opinion, is that they describe a North Sea world (and also further north into the Norwegian Sea and Atlantic). It’s a view of the United Kingdom that is very different to mine and most other people. I picture the UK as an entity at the centre of a map. And my focus with the UK is very southern. Whereas the world of the Vikings had its epicentre in the North Sea, not Berkshire. The UK and Ireland are west of centre, Norway, Denmark and Sweden are east, the Nederlands are South. And in these Sagas, Vikings visit the court of England, and raid Ireland for slaves, and stop by in Normandy, and chat Christianity with the Norwegian Kings; it’s a fascinatingly different way of viewing our corner of the world.
From the Flateyjarbok, I came across a short story about a cock which satisfied me on a number of levels. Firstly, it’s short and I’ve spent the week unloading boxes as our belongings from NZ arrived. Secondly, it’s about a cock. So I don’t have to work too hard with the humour side of things. Thirdly, you messaged me this week saying you’d struggled to find any rude sagas, so I feel like I’ve got one over on you.
Let me introduce you to the story of Volsi. As some background, King Olaf II Haraldsson, son of (Steptoe voice) Harald (Steptoe and Son voice). Not quite as well known to us Brits as his predecessor Svein Forkbeard, a King whose appetite for cutlery was only matched by his clumsy eating, and his successor King Canute, who famously sat with his flute, down by the waterside. Presumably practicing hard to get into the primary school orchestra in readiness for the school nativity. He was later canonised and became St Olaf, because of his efforts to convert the people of the North Sea to Christianity, the proselytising, self-assured, self-righteous Scandinavian twat.
Right, that’s enough history. Let’s talk cock. Here’s the story:
It starts with us being told that an old farmer and his wife live on the coast in Norway, hear a good harbour for warships, because as a Viking, this is like a double garage. It’s worth noting in a Saga.
They had a daughter who, quote, “was quite intelligent”, because as a Viking, this is like a double garage. It’s worth noting in a Saga.
Quote “In late autumn the farmer's horse died. Heathen men ate horse-meat, and since the horse was fat, it was utilized as meat. While skinning it, the slave cut off that member, which nature has given to all animals that multiply by intercourse, and which is named "dangler" on horses, according to the ancient poets.”
Those ancient poets had a way with words didn’t they? That’s real wordsmithery. It’s also worth mention that many of the land mammals in Norway multiply by binary fission. Cows just split in two occasionally.
The farmer’s son, who was a cheeky monkey, picked up the dangler, as you do, and ran towards the women of the household shouting:
“Here you may see
a vigourous phallus
a father of horses.
For you, slave-woman,
is not at all dull
between your thighs.”
Of course, they start cracking up. Great laugh. The old waggling a dangler chestnut.
The old farmer’s wife, being resourceful, decided that the dangler might be useful, so she took a hold of it, dried it and wrapped it up carefully with herbs and, I’m not making this up, a leek. Apparently this was a preservative measure.
For the rest of Autumn, the farmer’s wife would take the dangler out every evening, she’d say a pagan prayer to it and insist that everyone else do the same. She became quite the puppet master because she could make it erect on her command.
Anyway, old St Olaf arrives in this neck of the wood, knocking on doors with his glorious smile, dark red cardigan, sanctimonious glow and bible under the arm. He’s got a few mates with him, one of whom is called Thormod Kolbrunarskald. Apparently this chap’s surname refers to a lover called Kolbrun who he had a fling with, so it presumably translates as something like Thormod Korlbrun-gave-me-super-gonorrhoea-the-lose-tinder-abusing-bitch.
Olaf and his mates knock on the door of the farmer’s house in disguise and are invited in. They all sit down with the farmer’s family and low and behold, the farmer’s wife pulls out her dangler.
Anyway, the family members recite their lines. The wife is her enthusiastic self, the husband isn’t so keen, his verse starts:
Were I in charge,
this object of worship
would not be presented
on this evening.
The son, has his own unique verse:
May your bridesmaids
bring you a cock.
They will make the prick
accept this holy object,
but now, farmer's daughter,
pull Völsi into your embrace.
The daughter says her piece, so does the slave, then the slave’s wife says her bit:
Surely I would not be able
to overcome the temptation
of thrusting you into myself,
if we were lying alone,
pleasuring one another.
accept this holy object,
but you, Grímur, our guest,
get a hold on Völsi.
Eventually the dangler reaches the king and his chums. The King takes the dangler, throws it to the dog and in a dramatic revelation, removes his warm Cashmere cardigan from M&S, and shows himself to be King St Olaf. Everyone converts to Christianity when he cracks out the tea and nice biscuits, the husband rather easily, presumably because it doesn’t involve a decomposing horse’s nob with a leek tied to it, the wife more reluctantly.