I am the very model of a modern major general, I’ve information vegetable, animal and mineral, I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical, from Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical;
*pause for breath*
I’m very well acquainted too, with matters mathematical, I understand equations, both simple and quadratical, about binomial theorem I’m teeming with a lot of news, with many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse.
Welcome everybody to another edition of Otters Weird Shit.....I mean Otters Oddities. Looking up at the lead picture you might be confused as to why I posted the opening of the Major Generals Song from The Pirates Of Penzance. That man is not a pirate. And I’m sure he holds no rank in the British military.
In reality, his name is Olaf Timandahaf, and he’s a Norman. Or, Norse-man. You know, a viking? In actual reality, Olaf isn’t real. He’s the creation of Goscinny and Uderzo. The two geniuses behind the Asterix comics. I’m using him because todays post is about my ancestors; the vikings.
Back in the late 70's and early 80's, my mom’s family commissioned an extensive genealogy of their family. It’s a 300 page book, and it read’s like a Who’s Who from historical Norway. (I’m Norwegian on my moms side. German on my dads). Anyway, reading the book as a young otter I was amazed to find out how many cool people I am descended from. Like, when the vikings were raiding England and Ireland regularly, they would make themselves kings and queens. And I’m descended from them! I’m even directly descended from Erik Thorvaldsson, (Erik the Red), and Leif Erikson! (Discoverer of North America). How cool is that?
Well, not as cool as you’d think. About 99% of people with more than 20% Norwegian heritage can claim the same thing.
But wait! I’m 16th cousins to the king of Norway!
Yep. And so is virtually every other person with at least 25% Norwegian heritage.
If you do the math, looking at strictly genetics, everyone in the world are 16th cousins. (separated by 16 generations). Now, that’s actually misleading. Genetic cousins and actual cousins aren’t the same thing. Everyone in the world are actually closer to being 50th cousins with everyone else.
I won’t go into the details about all this, but if you really want to figure it out, it takes a lot of math, knowledge of shared DNA and understanding pedigree collapse. But I digress......My post is about an actual viking, not a fake one.
And yes, I can trace my direct lineage back to this guy as well.
And so can all the other Norwegians out there.....
I want to tell you about a viking named Hastein.
He lived with the Dursley’s in their cupboard under the stairs. He was a fierce 9th century Viking raider. He terrorized England and France primarily. But in 859 he teamed up with Bjorn Ironside, (one of Ragnar’s sons), and they led a fleet of 62 longboats into the Mediterranean to rape, plunder and pillage. Because that’s what viking raiders did.* After losing a couple of battles against the Austrians and the Muslims, they had better luck against Algeciras, (in Algeria), and other towns in North Africa.
Then Hastein set his sights on Rome.
Even though the Western Roman Empire had fallen centuries before, Rome was still a very wealthy city. Being a prime target, Rome had very good defenses. Hastein knew he’d never be able to penetrate the walls. Even with 62 longboats of troops, he was far undermanned to take on a city the size of Rome.
So he decided to steal an idea from history. (The Iliad), and came up with a devious plan.
Hastein wrapped himself in linen and had several of his men carry him on a stretcher. Accompanied by 50 men in dark, hooded robes, Hastein was presented before the gates of Rome.
“Behold our leader, the fearsome Hastein.” they said. “He is ill and dying. He sorely repents the misguided actions of his past and wishes for redemption.”
The elders of the city spoke amongst themselves. Hadn’t they just seen 60 plus longboats sail up the river? Didn’t the raider Hastein have a very nasty reputation? Don’t you think it’s a trick?
They had to answer ‘yes’ to all those questions. But then they also knew that they were men of God, and it would be a sin to deny the man redemption in the eyes of the Lord if he truly wished it.
After discussing it for a while, the decision was made to let the stretcher bearing Hastein and his 50 followers in.
He was led to the main church where he was baptized. When asked to repent for his sins, Hastein jumped off the stretcher and shook off the linen. Using his sword he then killed all the religious leaders by beheading them.
The 50, led by Hastein, then charged the main gates of the city and let the rest of his men in, and they proceeded to murder, loot, rape and pillage the city.
After all was said and done, Hastein was proud of what his men had done. it wasn’t every raider that was able to sack Rome, after all.
Except, as he soon discovered, this wasn’t Rome.
It turns out that the city they sacked was called Luna. Rome was a good 250 miles farther upstream. And there was no way he could get his men there before the Romans found out he was coming. Without the element of surprise, Hastein and his men would be slaughtered.
So they went home.
They fought with a muslim fleet in the Straits of Gibraltar and lost. But they still managed to loot and pillage Pamplona before they got home. Of course, their 62 longboats had dwindles to 20 by then but, more loot for the survivors, right?
Maybe if they had GPS they could have actually reached Rome.
As a footnote to the story, history doesn’t really know what happened to Hastein. He just faded from the record around 896. Some think he gave his name to the Hastings area of Sussex in England, but no one knows for sure.
* Not all vikings were raiders. Some made their way in life as honest traders, while others were explorers. Some were quite content to be farmers. I’ll allow you all to come up with your own Vikings/Raiders football jokes because I’m just too dang lazy to do it myself.