Monday, 8 November 2010

The One-Eyed Viking Viper

I have to admit it - I'm flummoxed, despite the fact that my feline eyes have been opened to that bizarre human charade called 'politics'.

It hasn't taken me too long to work out that the 3-faction system in the Witangemot was created by the wealthy nobles to make the gullible Anglo-Saxon majority think that they're actually participating in the day-to-day running of the Northumbrian kingdom. That's straightforward enough - even a missing lynx could work that out.

I've also figured out that the hidden rulers are perfectly happy to use all kinds of tricks to keep the majority of people in a state of uncertainty; the financial cutbacks and the terror threat from the Viking hordes are sufficient to keep the people preoccupied with illusionary crises rather than thinking about how they can make things better for themselves. They also resort to using entertainments like 'The Ð Factor' to keep the people distracted; it's the old Roman 'bread and circuses' trick that Caedmon told me about. All this makes perfect sense to me.

So why am I so puzzled? Well, it all started with a troublesome Viking priest who settled here in Northumbria some years ago. He sailed the sea from Norway and married one of the local Anglo-Saxon girls. As he settled in to life on this side of the North Sea, he started to cause trouble among members of the Viking community over here. Vikings are very zealous for their old Norse gods and legends, and at present, very few of them have adopted the Christian faith of the Anglo-Saxons. While there are minor rumblings of resentment by the local Anglo-Saxon people about them, most local people are quite happy to let them follow their ancestral religion - as long as they don't try to enforce it on the host community. But there are small factions among the Vikings who believe that it is their responsibility before Odin to bring the entire world under the yoke of the Valhalla religion, and this particular man has been very much at the heart of this. He has been thrown out of his religious community and subsequently has set up his own, and is surrounded with a coterie of wild-eyed fly agaric-munching followers. They breathe fire and slaughter against all the Christian Anglo-Saxons, and their rhetoric is as high as the midden dump in midsummer.

He's a strange man; for a start, his name is Erik Bloodhook, which is weird enough as it is. He has a long black beard and only has one hand and one eye; his missing hand is replaced by a sharp hook - hence his name. Legend has it - according to the soothsayers - that he lost his sight and his hand in a bloody battle with the Bulgars, but I've heard that his hand was actually removed by executioners as a punishment for theft of ladies' undergarments from washing lines. Those Vikings are known to dispense rough justice.

Erik has been renowned as an orator among his friends, and he frequently whips them up into a state of religious fervour by his fiery rhetoric. I'm sure that the sacred mushroom and mead have their part to play in this, but they would strenuously deny this. The consequence of his ravings is that young Vikings are inspired by him to take violent action against the Anglo-Saxons, who they refer to as 'infidels'. Boats were burned at quaysides, and various houses were torched in the name of Odin, Loki at alia.

The local authorities decided that he was too much of a nuisance, and so they seized him and threw him into a prison cell. They decided to strip him of his adopted Northumbrian nationality and send him back to Norway in a longboat. The problem was that the Norwegian Vikings didn't want him either, so he has to remain over here - where he can continue his religious ravings unhindered.

What puzzles me is why the Northumbrian authorities have let him get away with his rabble-rousing and bloodthirsty rhetoric for so long. They could have solved the problem a long time ago – but they didn’t. I’m forced to the conclusion that they need him – and his kind – to provide them with some excuse to  get away with things they couldn’t otherwise do. I’ll watch with interest…

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