Friday, May 28, 2010

Outlaws and Viking Metal

I've been making my way through Robert Ferguson's book on the Viking period in European history, which talks about the common legal custom of turning people convicted of murder into outlaws. Being an outlaw in this case didn't mean you were put into a prison; instead, you were expected to leave the area for a certain period of time, and during that time, the relatives of the person you killed were allowed to hunt you down and kill you without being outlawed themselves. This view on enforcement led to some pretty interesting situations, where men who had been outlawed in one area became colonists somewhere else...and sometimes moved on to a third area, because they'd killed someone else.

To bring it back to the metal - because it's all about the metal - Erik the Red, the guy who led the European settlement of Greenland, was one such person; he had to leave Norway because of some killings, and settled in Iceland. Later on, he was outlawed in Iceland for killing a few other people in various disputes, and took the opportunity to set up a colony in Greenland while fleeing for his life. After reading about his journeys, I had to give Tyr's Eric the Red a listen, and that brought the story full circle back to violence with the song "Raymund Hin Unge," about a bad ass named Young Raymond who cares not for fancy garb and kills giants all by his lonesome:
Raymond walked along the salty beach
There he saw seven giants standing
“I will take Raymond on my smallest hand.
And throw him far offshore”
“You will not do that alone,” said Raymond
“You must come all seven of you,” said the young

Raymond took his dear sword
The one he called the red Dimling
He hew the seven giants simultaneously
So that they bled to death
“There they lie, all seven of them,” said Raymond
“And I still stand here,” said the young Raymond

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