Weird night last night. The spouse and child were away on an overnight trip to the in-laws in Rochester. I had the whole day to myself and spent it partying like a rock star. You know, doing laundry, picking up toys, buying groceries and scrubbing walls. Woot.
The thing I most looked forward to, however, was getting a decent night's sleep. I figured I'd sleep like the dead, given that I didn't have to keep one ear cocked for sounds of mischief from the Diva's room. No such luck. Every couple of hours my eyes would pop open briefly, just long enough to assure myself that I was being pawed by a cat and not by some crazed lunatic who wanted to use my thighs as a pillow.
It was during one of these that two words pushed into that tenuous space between awake and not. I couldn't shake them and almost got up to get a pencil to write them down, simply because I was certain that I wouldn't remember by morning and because I was convinced these two words were genius. Hell, everything seems genius at 4 a.m.
My brilliance consisted of "knitted norns." I'm certain you are as amazed as I was. And, surprisingly, I did remember them in the morning. By dawn's crack, I could only recall that a norn (that's N-O-R-N, in case this font is kerning too tightly on your monitor) was some kind of Norse troll-like critter. Why one would knit one was beyond me.
And, so, to the internet I turned. Whereupon I discovered that I was sort of right about Norns. There are three meanings of the word.
First, "Norn" is the ancient language (derived from Old Norse) of the Orkney Islands, a place I've been fantasizing about visiting ever since I first read Iain Banks' The Wasp Factory. Oddly enough, I'd been idlely finding maps of the islands during a gap between classes on Friday, planning the route that I'd take to get there. I also had been reading about their knitting habits.
Norn the language looks like this, which is a sample of the Lord's Prayer:
Matthew 6:9-13, Orkney Norn (Wallace transcription; 1700)
Favor i ir i chimrie, Helleur ir i nam thite,
gilla cosdum thite cumma, veya thine mota vara gort
o yurn sinna gort i chimrie,
ga vus da on da dalight brow vora
Firgive vus sinna vora sin vee Firgive sindara mutha vus,
lyv vus ye i tumtation, min delivera vus fro olt ilt, Amen.
While I can see a loose connection between Norn and knitting in the clear light of day, I would swear on the holy book of your choice that I had no idea that Norn was also a language spoken on an island know for its knitting. Odd.
What I thought was a "norn" was this, sort of. The Norns of Norse mythology were what Shakespeare would explore in Macbeth with the three weird sisters of "Double, Double" fame. The Old Norse Norns were Urd (fate), Skuld (necessity) and Verdani (being). Skuld, for what its worth, was also a Valkyrie.
In the above image, stolen from Wikipedia, you'll note that the Norns are spinning yarn. Like so many female trios in mythology, these three weave each person's life string in a loom. Only they know how long each string will be, as well as what each threads destiny will hold.
Again, I knew none of this -- on a conscious level, at least -- until this morning.
A delightfully absurd adoption of this myth can be pinned on the Japanese.The full story is here and involves anime and some take-out noodles. Suffice to say that it there was a TV series called "Oh My Goodness" that involved bits of Norse mythology folded into an episodic story.
But the norniverse has a third wacky component. Turns out that there was a game called Creation, which was big in the early 90s. Critters called Norns had to protect themselves against the Grendels against a fantasy background. It was one of the first games to use a crude form of AI and Douglas Adams was a fan.
These Norns still live. here, for instance, and here and here. Dang cute, these norns are, in that big-eyed way so popular in computer games.
So the big question you may currently be asking yourself is why I am mentioning all of this. And to you I say: fuck if I know. Struck me as interesting on a Sunday morning, one which is quiet enough with the Hub and Child away that I can actually sit at the computer for more than minutes at a time. There is, of course, real work I should be doing and I shall do it very soon. I promise. But there is just something hypnotic about poking about on the web, which increasingly feels like some big cultural subconscious, and I couldn't tear myself away. It could be that I've spent most of my morning trapped in our tiny bathroom where I was scrubbing the walls with hallucination-inducing bleach products. Perhaps I should simply get another cup of coffee and have a bit of a lie-down.
Knitted norns. The next big thing. Genius, I tell you. Genius.