Sunday, March 30, 2014

'Green' Vikings and the Green Knight?

The early-10th-century Muslim envoy Ibn Fadlán, writing in a travel account often referred to as In the Land of Darkness -- which I suppose refers to the north's long winter nights but perhaps refers to the darkness of ignorance -- describes Vikings (whom he calls "the Rūs") as follows:
I saw the Rūs, who had come for trade and had camped by the river Itil. I have never seen bodies more perfect than theirs. They were like palm trees. They are fair and ruddy. They wear neither coats nor caftans, but a garment which covers one side of the body and leaves one hand free. Each of them carries an axe, a sword and a knife and is never parted from any of the arms we have mentioned. Their swords are broad bladed and grooved like the Frankish ones. From the tips of his toes to his neck, each man is tattooed in dark green with designs, and so forth.
What interests me is that the Vikings are tattooed in dark green designs from toes to the neck, and I wonder if there is a memory of these 'green' men by the author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, though there are differences, the Green Knight being solid green from toes to top of head.

Probably not . . .

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