Having been sent home for Reading Week with orders to rest (long story), I can turn my attention to things in my life besides essays which have been somewhat neglected lately, ie. my writing, my friends and, of course, this blog. I wanted to do a Valentine's entry, which was impossible at the time, so I'm doing it now. Happy Valentine's Day.
I've never thought of the Vikings as a particularly romantic bunch. The little bits of Viking literature I've read have always been war, war, war, killing, drinking, silly names, more war, lots more war, etc. So I was quite surprised a few years ago when a friend, or "friend" of mine gave me a little Penguin book to borrow, entitled Two Viking Romances. When I thought about it, though, of course they'd have had romances. Any culture will have romance of some sort, because love is fairly universal. Furthermore, I read on the back that these are medieval romances, so then I started thinking courtly love and all that.
Boy, was I wrong. Never mind courtly love, these are not romances. This is typical Viking saga, except instead of war, war, war, war, war it's war, war, sex, war, war. It's also fairly hilarious. An extract:
In the evening they were shown to their beds, but as soon as the light had been put out, Bosi went over to the girl and lifted the bedclothes off her. She asked who was there, and Bosi told her.
"What do you want?" she asked.
"I'd like to water my colt at your wine-spring," he said.
"Do you think you can manage it, my lad?" she asked. "He's hardly used to a well like mine."
"I'll lead him right to the edge, then push him if there's no other way to make him drink," said Bosi.
"Where is your colt, sweetheart?" she asked.
"Between my legs, love," he said. "You can touch him, but do it gently, he's terribly shy."
She took hold of his prick, and stroked it and said, "It's a lively colt, though his neck is far too straight."
"His head isn't all that well set," agreed Bosi, "but his neck curves much better once he's had a drink."
"Well, it's all up to you now," she said.
"Lie as open as you can," said Bosi, "and keep calm."
Then he watered his colt generously, completely immersing him. This pleased the girl so much she was hardly able to speak. "Are you sure you're not drowning the colt?" she asked.
"He has to be given all he can possibly take," said Bosi, "he often gives me a lot of trouble when he isn't allowed to drink his fill."
Bosi kept at it for as long as he wanted, then took a rest. The girl was wondering where all the fluid between her legs had come from, for the whole bed was lathering under her.
"Could it be that your colt's drunk more than was good for him," she asked, "and then vomited up more than he's drunk?"
"Something's the matter with him," said Bosi, "he's as soft as a lung."
"He's probably ale-sick," she said, "like any drunkard."
"Could be," he said.
So they entertained themselves to their satisfaction, the girl being now under him and now on top. She said she'd never ridden a more even-paced colt than this.
After many an entertaining turn, she asked him who he was. He told her and in turn asked her what was the latest news in the land. The very latest news, she replied, was that the brother Siggeir and Hraerek had got back the King's sister, Hleid, from Gotaland and killed Hring.
Not only is the sex loveless and, let's face it, fairly crude, and not only is it only a brief interlude in a very bloody war saga, but it's also only a means to an end. It's actually a war tactic: Bosi gets a whole lot more of this information from the girl, the girl so important that she's nameless, then goes and uses it to his advantage. I can't think of anything more unromantic. But very entertaining, I'll admit - they came up with some wonderfully creative extended metaphors for sex.
The men in Viking "romance" are all out for military victory, and the women are all out for jewellery. A somewhat cynical view, but, considering the absence of post in my pigeon hole this week, one that I'm quite tempted to adopt.