Saturday, December 1, 2007


Dear Friends,

   The Hard Taco song for December is called "Oslo." This song is a tribute to the noble Viking berserker.

  The berserkers were the double espresso version of regular Vikings. When a certain mood hit them, they would throw off their armor and fight with an uncontrollable, trance-like rage. They savaged people and animals indiscriminately and fought with no regard for their own lives.  If the berserk fury overtook them when they were on a boat, they would quickly row to shore and wrestle with trees and rocks to prevent them from slaying their own friends.

  If a berserker was walking alone through a field and felt the berserk fury welling up, he would bury his arms in the ground as quickly as possible to prevent him from scratching through his abdominal wall and pulling out his own beating stomach. (Not as dramatic as a beating heart, but easier to remove without tools, especially when one's dexterity is compromised by hysterical anger.)

  In addition to setting an unreachable standard for the magnitude of human rage, berserkers have been credited with innovations in a number of loosely related spheres. It is thought that they pioneered the use of upside-down lampshades around the neck, a practice employed in modern veterinary care. In their case it was to keep them from frenetically chewing into their wives' carotid arteries during a berserk tantrum.

  There are few historical accounts of berserker life. Perhaps the best known is from the Icelandic epic, Hrndgiljob's Saga.

One of the berserkergang, who had the name Lfgeiril, wore a swatch of bearskin tightly around his scalp, for often his forehead veins would explode in the course of berserk conniption. On one such day, he set upon King Thjorb with hands bear. Lfgeiril did lift him bodily and dash him upon the precipice. He next set upon the king's wives and daughters and dashed them upon the same. With much ire, he did step on their necks and shatter them. After the berserk fury passed, Lfgeiril was self-reproachful and did not want to talk on it. There shall be no distraction of the gladdening lute, for the berserker knows he has banished much joy from the kingdom with his poor temper. (Hrndgiljob's Saga, c. 1035)

  In another work, a berserker is briefly mentioned by a dying King Hranjob as he recaps his life:

I have few regrets, but entrusting a berserker to carry my porcelain tureen collection up two flights of stairs was clearly a mistake. (Hervarar Oord, c. 1036) 

  I researched this song extensively, and at this point, I feel fairly qualified to answer any of your questions about how berserkers would react in a certain situation. Please ask! Usually, if you have a question about berserkers, everyone else has the same question!

With warmest regards,