(Well, I guess this is a 180 degree turn from my last posting.)
I’m writing today to sort of apologize to my class this afternoon — No. No, maybe to tweak their noses a little bit. (Humor, guys, humor!) You know how one things lead to another . . .
It all started with Gideon. Of the Bible. And after he became a mighty warrior, because he was a little wimpy at first.
He won one battle after another and finally saved his people from the Midianite army that was threatening to wipe out the Israelites altogether. Just one more mopping up excursion – and the last two enemy kings were captured.
Brought to camp. Tied to a post. Ready for execution, which they expected. And then — Gideon called his very young son over and said. “You do it! You have honors. Pick up the sword and kill them.”
The Bible reports that the young boy refused. He was afraid. Now “afraid” covers a lot of reasons, and not necessarily cowardice. I explained to my class that it’s not as easy as you’d think to kill a man, even if the strong warrior prisoner has been tied to a post and can’t hurt you.
And once you have killed a man, even the youth would understand this, you’ve crossed some line; it changes you. So why did Gideon think of asking his son to do the killing?
A little over a thousand years later, a man named Tacitus wrote the history of ancient times all the way up to his times. Through him we have a pretty good understanding of warfare and all the necessary practices of war.
Tacitus explains that young boys had to be trained how to be warriors – for their own safety, for their own self-protection. Their training included running, strength-training, “target” practicing, and then learning how to kill the enemy — that is, how to actually kill a man, because that’s what warriors have to do.
The young warriors-in-training were given live prisoners to practice on. How to thrust your sword between the bones; how to hit a vital organ . . . the best way to cut off . . . you know, anything. These “practice” kills harden the young boys, in their skills, in their consciences, in their hearts.
This is what Gideon was offering to his young son, training. That’s what every nation who takes seriously its own self-defense must do for its young men: train them, just in case. You’d need to know how to use your sword or your javelin or your (heh heh) I added for my class, your battle-axe (if you’re a Viking) and need to learn how to crack a skull . . .
. . . Yes, well, I must have sounded too enthused because someone gently spoke up to remind me that “we are Christians, we’re supposed to be people of peace . . .”
Who ever said history was dull?
My enthusiasm may have been a bit pumped up because I’m studying the Merovingians, right now, and the Carolingians, whose reign was cut short by the Vikings at the very end of the 8th century on through the next almost two hundred years. Great stuff!
I’m listening to several lecturers, one from The Great Courses –
– and today in my car I heard an off-the-cuff comment about the Viking named Thorfinn Turf-Einarsson Hauskaluif — Thorfinn Skull Splitter, for short. The lecturer dryly commented that their names often indicated Viking “procedures.”
We don’t know too much about him. We don’t need to know; we can guess.
Fast forward to today – a century I don’t understand too well. I have a few questions about the warrior spirit.
But at least Thorfinn Skull Splitter lives on – or, at least in name:
Yes. There he is.
On a beer bottle. Apparently it’s a good Viking-strong beer, a dark ale that is 8.2 alcohol by , um, weight, I think. A hefty punch!
You can get it from anywhere in the world, but the brewery is in the Orkneys – that Viking stronghold now under the control of Scotland.
But, see? I have a few questions about today’s warriors. Today’s men, under the influence – of socialism, such as Scotland and the whole of Great Britain. Europe actually.
Skull Splitter beer has become quite popular, and it attracted the attention of the socialist thought-police, or whatever. They had apparently discovered the name of this beer and they contacted the brewery. Well, let me give a quotation from some reporter about this incident:
. . . the brewery was forced to defend Skull Splitter back in 2009 when it came under investigation from a British drinks industry “watchdog” called the Portman Group (which has the power to issue a nationwide ban against the sale of any alcohol product that steps afoul of its guidelines), who commissioned a report that concluded the beer’s name and labels were too aggressive. Apparently they felt that drinkers would read the name and then enter into an uncontrolled primal enthusiasm for drunkenness leading to the loss of all faculties except fervent engagement in all manner of ribald, reckless, and destructive behavior. And some good ol’ medieval axe-swingin’ violence, of course.
See? I have a few questions about this current century . . . .