Never Too Late!

Never Too Late!
any resemblance to anyone real or imaginary is mere bad luck
we are all lying in the gutter, but some of us are trying to get up


Notes on my Wikipedia addiction

I am lost on Wikipedia again and I tell the little Danish girl about Ivar the Boneless, the feared Viking war chief and prince, when the Danes ravaged England and the Saxon kingdoms paid the Danegeld, and even Alfred the Great marched against him but avoided a full battle and couldn’t stop the Great Heathen Army.

She is gratified. Matter of national pride. I occasionally like to remind the English they were colonised by Scandinavia too.

Colonised. Like colon. Like fucked in the ass. Like we have the swords and the steel and this is our land now and you must pay us rent, one way or another, and you will still be slaves to our descendants and still have a monarchy in 2014.

The first organised tax system in Western Europe since the fall of the Roman Empire was born from the Danegeld, which was originally paid to the Danes by the people of London to make them go away. Taxes began to be raised to pay off the Norsemen, or to pay for the armies to fight against them.

Thanks, I tell her.

 Ivar the Boneless. Reputedly a berserker. What names these people have! Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, Sweyn Forkbeard. The Boneless. I picture an implacable rubbery fiend hacking bishops and dodging arrows. I can’t even believe Ivar the Boneless 
exists! Someone has just been tripping out and inventing stuff. Some Wikipedia troll far advanced in hashish watching too much Game of Thrones or something.
 But here he is: Ivar Benløs, hinn beinlausi. 
I ask the Danish girl, who is basking in a patriotic glow, to help me interpret the Old Norse/Old Danish. She looks at it and says it's Icelandic.

The Danish Wikipedia has this to say: at han var den værste af alle de grusomme vikinger, som lod de kristne torturere til døde under ofringen til hedenske afguder [kilde mangler]. 

You can understand that, can’t you? That's plain Scandinavian. Danish is alright, until they actually start speaking it... Gruesome Viking, torturing Christians to death as offerings to the heathen gods [source needed]. It is said he killed King Ella with the ‘blood eagle’, perhaps familiar from Conan the Barbarian stories or something like that? Where the ribs are cut away from the spine down the back and the rib-cage pulled back and the lungs pulled out like bloody wings.

English Wikipedia has a very different and of course much more comprehensive (a billion English-speakers vs 5.5 million Danish) entry:

There is some disagreement as to the meaning of Ivar's epithet "the Boneless" (inn Beinlausi) in the sagas. Some have suggested it was a euphemism for impotence or even a snake metaphor (he had a brother named Snake-in-the-Eye). It may have referred to an incredible physical flexibility; Ivar was a renowned warrior, and perhaps this limberness gave rise to the popular notion that he was "boneless". The poem "Háttalykill inn forni" describes Ivar as being "without any bones at all".

... another interpretation of the nickname involves Scandinavian sources as describing a condition that is sometimes understood as similar to a form of osteogenesis imperfecta. The disease is more commonly known as "brittle bone disease." In 1949, the Dane Knud Seedorf wrote:

Of historical personages the author knows of only one of whom we have a vague suspicion that he suffered from osteogenesis imperfecta, namely Ivar Benløs, eldest son of the Danish legendary king Regnar Lodbrog. He is reported to have had legs as soft as cartilage ('he lacked bones'), so that he was unable to walk and had to be carried about on a shield.

...  In 2003 Nabil Shaban, a disability rights advocate with osteogenesis imperfecta, made the documentary The Strangest Viking for Channel 4's Secret History,... also demonstrated that someone with the condition was quite capable of using a longbow, such that Ivar could have taken part in battle, as Viking society would have expected a leader to do...

Does this somehow tie in to the way he martyred St Edmund of East Anglia (869) by having him tied to a tree and shot full of arrows, I wonder?
There are many interpretations and variations in these stories from the 9th century AD. Differing documentary sources and sagas and legends.

For example, Danish Wikipedia suggests: "Benløs" betyder omkringfarende og hentyder vistnok til, at han sejlede rundt om Europa bl.a. via de russiske floder[Kilde mangler]" - that is to say Ivar Benløs (which in modern Danish sounds more like 'Ivar the Legless') alluded to someone who rushes around and refers to him moving around a lot, sailing from the Atlantic to the depths of Russia. Meaning then something, maybe, like Ivar the Rootless?

Kilde mangler.

Ah, but what a Wikipedia-er I am! Not only do I check Wikipedia entries in multiple languages, not only do I occasionally edit entries to correct obvious mistakes (as long as it’s not too much work), but I even check the sources, and find the text of the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ on project Gutenberg.

A.D. 869. This year the army went back to York, and sat there a year.

13 words for all of the year 869.

The ‘army’ referred to is the Great Heathen Army of the Danes; of Ivar the Boneless, and his brothers Halfdan and Ubba.; no longer were the Vikings raiding the coast; they were here to invade:

A.D. 870. This year the army rode over Mercia into East-Anglia, and there fixed their winter-quarters at Thetford. And in the winter King Edmund fought with them; but the Danes gained the victory, and slew the king; whereupon they overran all that land, and destroyed all the monasteries to which they came. The names of the leaders who slew the king were Hingwar [Ivar, also Ingvar and Hinguar in other sources] and Hubba. At the same time came they to Medhamsted, burning and breaking, and slaying abbot and monks, and all that they there found. They made such havoc there, that a monastery, which was before full rich, was now reduced to nothing. The same year died Archbishop Ceolnoth; and Ethered, Bishop of Witshire, was chosen Archbishop of Canterbury.

It seems Ivar died soon after this; according to the Fragmentary Annals of Ireland in 873, “of a sudden hideous disease. Thus it pleased God.” Some hideous disease afflicting the boneless, perhaps. One Wikipedia author also points out that deaths from sudden, hideous diseases were probably rather common in the late 9th century.

The Viking army stayed in England for 14 years, slaying kings and bishops and looting churches and burning monasteries and extorting tribute.

A.D. 879. This year went the army from Chippenham to Cirencester, and sat there a year. The same year assembled a band of pirates, and sat at Fulham by the Thames. The same year also the sun was eclipsed one hour of the day.
A.D. 880. This year went the army from Cirencester into
East-Anglia, where they settled, and divided the land....

Then they appeared to have moved on to France:

The same year
went the army over sea, that before sat at Fulham, to Ghent in
Frankland, and sat there a year.
A.D. 881. This year went the army higher up into Frankland, and the Franks fought with them; and there was the army horsed after the battle.
A.D. 882. This year went the army up along the Maese far into Frankland, and there sat a year; and the same year went King Alfred out to sea with a fleet; and fought with four ship-rovers of the Danes, and took two of their ships; wherein all the men were slain; and the other two surrendered; but the men were severely cut and wounded ere they surrendered.

42 words for 879.

The comparison with the insane flood of words and stories and counter-stories of record that our world generates these days, daily, hourly, is almost vertiginous. 

There is an IRC channel I think that just live dumps all the changes being made to Wikipedia, in real time, but I can't find it right now... I want to use it for a screensaver, rather than the Matrix code rain type things I've usually had. (If you can be bothered to find it for me, put it in the comments!)

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