Monday, 30 March 2009

Regnar Lodbrog i Götaland

Richard Wilcocks writes:
Rory McTurk     Photo by Richard Wilcocks
In spite of the rawly violent storyline (the Vikings were, like us, very fond of rawly violent storylines), Rory McTurk's lecture last Friday was highly academic, based on a lifetime of research, as befits an Emeritus Professor of Icelandic Studies in the School of English of the University of Leeds. He began by looking at a couple of cartoons which were , he explained, clipped from a corn flakes packet in Denmark twenty years ago and which were translated very efficiently for the audience's enlightenment by the speaker, and progressed to speculation about the identity of one Healfdene, or Halbden, or Haldene, who may or may not have had his name incorporated into the name Headingley. The -ley part may or may not have derived from lowe, or hill: it might have derived from lea, meaning a clearing in the forest, the forest of Knaresborough which once covered this area before exploitative charcoal burners and property developers arrived. We were given a list of references which might prove handy, including Annals of St Bertin, Abbo of Fleury's Passio Sancti Eadmundi, Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh, Geffrei Gaimar's L'estoire des Engleis and the Icelandic Knútsdrápa. That last one includes a little poem about the infliction of the blood eagle upon the captured King Ella by Ivor the Boneless:

Auk Ellv bak/ at lét hinn's sat,/ Ívarr, ara,/Jórvík, skorit

'And Ívarr, the one who dwelt in York, had Ella's back cut with an eagle.'

It was breathtakingly impressive. We were left pondering many questions at various levels of sublimity. Has Headingley really got a hill? Did they call him Boneless to his face? Do the Danes really eat corn flakes? Could a hairy fertility goddess really be confused with a man who wore hairy breeches?

The cartoon from the corn flakes packet

No comments:

Post a Comment