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The Icelandic Sagas

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The most recent torture victim to have suffered at the hands of academics is the Icelandic Sagas. Spread-eagled and pinned to the dissecting table, its agonised screams rend the air. Deaf to shrieks of excruciating pain, with one long, deft, but slow,slicing cut, the academic scalpels the torso, pushes wide its lips in a leering rictus. She pokes about the blood-spattered entrails and pulls them out, spreading the steaming, slithering cords of viscera on the table beside their owner who, fighting against the ties pinning it to the metal table, finally subsides into a dead faint, a prelude to a welcome death.

The academic smiles triumphantly: this torture session finally forced the victim to divulge its secrets! Delirious with excitement, the academic rushes off to begin writing her next paper for publication. Understanding nothing, however, she fails to realise that torture victims never tell the truth; torture victims only ever tell their tormentors what they want to hear………

………………..and that is the scene that came to mind when I listened to a radio programme in which a bunch of academics failed yet again to offer any insight or understanding of their academic field of study, the sagas of Iceland.

“Do not all charms fly

At the mere touch of cold philosophy?”

Of course, these academics knew a lot about the sagas. For example, the sagas have been thoroughly categorised and these were recited during the programme --- family sagas, sagas with a supernatural theme, sagas about heroes etc, etc.

“There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:

We know her woof, her texture; she is given

In the dull catalogue of common things.”

Needless to say, the sagas have been pulled apart, dissected, their innards found to contain evidence of Christian influence. One episode in a saga was linked to the story of Eve being tempted by the snake in the Garden of Eden:

An Icelandic chief had a horse that no one was allowed to ride on pain of death. His shepherd was forced to ride his master’s horse to gather up his sheep after being scattered by wolves. The shepherd was killed by his master.

The link to Christianity is spurious, to say the least. Do academics not realise that stories are crammed full of people doing what they have been expressly told not to do?!?!! It is human nature! To suggest this is evidence of the influence of Christianity is utterly ridiculous.

Utterly ridiculous or not, this is what academics do. They pull apart and dissect their victim, forcing it to tell them WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR, “killing” it in the process.

So, a friend of mine who studied music at university spent a year studying Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Whereas previously she had loved this music, after a year of dissection, of pulling it apart and scrutinising its entrails, she came to loathe it. Thirty years later she still loathes it.

The above is what NOT to do if you have an interest in Icelandic sagas. Approach them in this manner and soon you will grow to loathe them, if you do not “kill” them first. What, then, do you do?

The key is communication. Therefore do not STUDY the sagas --- do not indulge in vivisection. Just READ them. Think of them as people. Let them COMMUNICATE with you. Let them SPEAK to you.

They will reveal their secrets, but only if you ask them nicely!

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Daughter of the Nine Moons

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