Hail and farewell to Steve the Viking

I only watched Steve Irwin’s program once, and that was because I was visiting my dad and stepmother in Florida, watching what they watched. Their television consumption was limited, since she was uncomfortable with the immoral fare on television nowadays. But she didn’t object, apparently, to watching predators tear their prey limb from limb, and so they watched a lot of animal shows.

Even when I had cable I never watched animal shows. Animals, to be blunt, bore me. I don’t hate them, and the idea of owning a dog has its charms, but animal programs just make me uncomfortable. When the lion hunts down the zebra, I identify with the zebra. When only one male seal out of a hundred gets to have a harem and reproduce himself, I identify with the ninety-nine. When the wolves turn on a wounded pack member, guess which wolf gets my sympathy?

In other words, animals in general aren’t very nice. I prefer people. And I don’t even like people much.

The main thing I remember about Irwin was that stunt a few years back when he held his baby son in one hand while feeding a croc with the other. That just gave me the heeby-jeebies.

Still, I just read this report that says that his last action in life was to pull the stingray barb that killed him out of his heart.

That’s style. That puts him in the Viking league.

I quote from St. Olaf’s Saga in Heimskringla, the sagas of the kings of Norway (Samuel Laing’s translation). This excerpt concerns Thormod Kolbrunnarskald, an Icelandic poet who was fatally wounded by an arrow in the chest at the battle of Stiklestad, where St. Olaf died:

Then [the nurse-woman] took a large pair of tongs, and tried to pull out the iron; but it sat too fast, and would in no way come out, and as the wound was swelled, little of it stood out to lay hold of it. Now said Thormod, “Cut so deep in that thou canst get at the iron with the tongs, and give me the tongs and let me pull.” She did as he said…. Then Thormod took the tongs, and pulled the iron out; but on the iron there was a hook, at which there hung some morsels of flesh from the heart,—some white, some red. When he saw that, he said, “The king has fed us well. I am fat even at the heart-roots:” and so saying he leant back, and was dead.

One could die worse.

7 thoughts on “Hail and farewell to Steve the Viking”

  1. That bit about the heart didn’t make it into Longfellow’s verse version of King Olaf’s saga, in TALES OF A WAYSIDE INN. I wonder if this work was an imporatnt way into Norse things for a lot of people at one time. C. S. Lewis does mention it somewhere, I believe.

    I just read it, pretty casually, recently, and having met some of the personnel in your Erling series, Lars, it was kind of a nice literary reunion.

  2. Note for if you enter battle and sustain such a wound:

    Don’t pull out the offending agent.

    My physician wife says it’s plugging a would-be hole from which you are likely to bleed buckets.

    I like the style of it, too, though.

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