March 17, 2011
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
My best friend Curt and I went to college together at Concordia in Moorhead, MN. Now, one thing everyone who meets Curt quickly learns is that he is very proud of his Irish heritage. Curt even looks and acts Irish with his red hair and jolly demeanor. Curt will never let you forget about the contributions Ireland and its citizens have made to civilization as a whole such as U2, Guinness beer, and Lucky Charms. I, on the other hand, am a proud Norwegian. I also look and act the part with my 6' 5" frame, blond hair, and razor sharp wit (just kidding). Of course, I always remind Curt of great Norwegians of the past such as Leif Ericsson, Henrik Ibsen, and the great rock band A-Ha. As you can probably guess, as roomates Curt and I got into a fair number of arguments concerning which culture was superior.
One thing I was always quick to point out was the fact that the Vikings dominated the Emerald Isle for centuries. Ireland was a cog in the mighty Viking trading and pillaging empire. The famous saying, "From the fury of the Northmen, O Lord, save us!" comes from a monastary in Ireland. Curt, however, always had the perfect comeback: The Battle of Clontarf. Curses on the Battle of Clontarf!
The Battle of Clontarf took place on Good Friday in 1014. Supposedly this battle signaled the end of Viking dominance in Ireland as the Irish vanquished the Vikings in an all-day fight. Please. Nobody vanquishes the Vikings today or yesterday! I am of the opinion that the Irish embellished certain details of this battle in their own history books which has skewed our knowledge of what really happened. So, I offer you an alternate and more likely scenario.
The Vikings were sick of being in Ireland. I mean, how many potatoes could the Vikings eat? So, after bringing civilization to the savages on the island, teaching them a thing or two about being real men, bedding all their women, and performing other important services in a typical Viking "goodwill" tour of a foreign land, the Vikings decided to leave. They packed up their long boats and started to sail away. Meanwhile, along the coast, two Irishmen were having a drink at the local pub:
Seamus: Patrick, would you mind passing the cabbage? I need something to help my beer go down.
Patrick: Here you go lad. Say, look out the window. It seems the Vikings are sailing away from our island! Could they finally be leaving?
Seamus: Glory be, Patrick, I think you are correct! They seem to be pretty far off shore. Let's go throw some rocks at them. That will teach them to never come back!
Patrick: That is a grand idea! Let me finish my pint first, though.
Two hours later...
Seamus and Patrick [singing]: 'Tis I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow, Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you sooooo.
Seamus: Patrick, those Viking ships are but wee specks on the horizon! Let's get out there and show those Vikings a thing or two about Irish might!
So, Patrick and Seamus stumbled out of the pub, walked to the shore, and started throwing rocks at the Viking ships as they sailed away. Some monks passing by saw what they were doing and became so overwhelmed by their patriotism that they went back to the monastary to record the event for posterity. Well, the monks must have had a few pints themselves because the story obviously became the "Battle of Clontarf" that we all know about today, and the bravery of Seamus and Patrick has been lost to history. Until today.
Curt does not care for my version of this "epic" battle. However, we have agreed to go together to Ireland in the year 2014 to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf with a re-enactment (using my version of events, of course). I will venture off-shore a little ways in a small boat, a dinghy perhaps, and Curt will throw rocks at me. It will be a grand spectacle that I'm sure the natives will enjoy. And of course, anyone is welcome to join us, especially if you have Irish or Scandinavian heritage. I don't want to be alone on the boat, and I'm sure Curt would appreciate having some help throwing rocks.
Anyway, Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone! I must also admit that my great-grandmother was 100% Irish. So, even though my Norwegian heritage usually takes precedence, today I proudly wear green. Erin Go Bragh, my friends!