Friday, August 3, 2012

Saint Olaf


‘The conscript fathers of Jarlshof, having settled their own matters, took next under their consideration the case of Swertha, the banished matron who had been expelled from the castle, whom, as an experienced and useful ally, they were highly desirous to restore to her office of housekeeper, should that be found possible. But as their wisdom here failed them, Swertha, in despair, had recourse to the good offices of Mordaunt Mertoun, with whom she had acquired some favour by her knowledge in old Norwegian ballads, and dismal tales concerning the Trows, or Drows (the dwarfs of the Scalds), with whom superstitious eld had peopled many a lonely cavern and brown dale in Dunrossness, as in every other district of Zetland. 'Swertha,' said the youth, 'I can do but little for you, but you may do something for yourself. My father's passion resembles the fury of those ancient champions — those Berserkars, you sing songs about.'

'Ay — ay, fish of my heart,' replied the old woman, with a pathetic whine; 'the Berserkars were champions who lived before the blessed days of St. Olave, and who used to run like madmen on swords, and spears, and harpoons, and muskets, and snap them all into pieces, as a finner* would go through a herring-net, and then, when the fury went off, they were as weak and unstable as water.'…’

Walter Scott managed to bring a saint into a book on piracy.  Saint Olaf was King of Norway from 1015 to 1030.  His influence on Orkney and the Faroes, where ”The Pirate” was set  is remembered still.  Olaf's historical range is wide, from the Baltic countries to England and Normandy (at least).  Samuel Pepys, a frequent source for this blog, is buried at Saint Olave's Chuch Hart Street, in London. King Olaf II Haroldsson’s beatification took place on August 3rd, 1031, about a year after his death at the Battle of Stiklestad.

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