From Iceland — The Year of the Ox

The Year of the Ox

Published June 18, 2010

God Returns To Iceland Part 4

Photo by
Megan Herbert

God Returns To Iceland Part 4

The Lord had his heart set on destroying first Iceland, then the world, in punishment for man’s ignorance and greed. The four guardian spirits of Iceland had but a moment to convince the mad Creator that both were worth saving.

    The four spirits looked at one another. The artists worked in advertising, the products that they spoke of did not exist. Now a vengeful God wanted to know if the Icelanders had ever created anything.

    “They managed to co-co-convince each other, and the world, that they had boundless riches, when in fact they had none,” stuttered the dragon. “Surely, this took some creativity?”

    “True creativity calls forth something that can last,” quoth the Lord. “All else are houses built on sand. What here still stands?”

    When the Dragon realised the futility of his argument, he erupted into flames.

    “They may be deceivers,” the eagle screeched, “but look at the quality of the deception. Did this not have a certain, inherent beauty in itself? It may not have been truth, but was truth necessarily beauty? Was it not better to create a land free of class struggle, where every man was king, where everyone could have all they wanted merely by going to the bank teller and signing an X in the dotted line? It may have been an illusion, but what an illusion it was! Such was the art of the athafnaskáld.”

    Poets of Entrepreneurship! This self-assumed title had long angered the Lord. It was one thing when people mistook avarice for intelligence, but when those who hoarded gold referred to themselves as poets, he took this as a personal insult. He was the God of Creation, and this denigrated his profession.

    He did not care to answer, but instead gave the bird of prey a look which could melt ice or turn fire to rock. The Eagle lost its feathers, without which it did not survive for longer than an instant in the harsh land.

    “Now you,” the Lord said as he looked menacingly to the giant.

    The giant stood dumb. But somewhere deep inside, a rumble began and started to take the form of words. It was not often he spoke, but when he did, he liked to believe that it carried an impact.

    “You say that the Icelanders created nothing,” he said, as if addressing an equal. “Look around you; have the people of this country not left their mark upon it? Did they not take a desolate place and here build their dams and their smelters. There is barely a spot untouched, in a country hardly suited to men. Surely, this must attest to their ingenuity?”

    The Lord looked around at the scarred land. “You put a slab of rock on top of the Mona Lisa, and you dare call it art!” he bellowed.

    The giant dared say no more, and no more he ever did say. For at that very moment he began turning to stone, until he could no longer be singled out from the scenery.

    The Lord of Creation was never lacking for inspiration and so a new idea took form in the Godhead. As soon as daylight broke, he would turn the entire population to stone. It would be the world’s first, and last, Sculpture Museum of Economic Collapse. There would be no one to admire it, but at least the point would be made.   

    It would not be long now. The sun was about to rise and the Lord lifted his hand in the direction of Reykjavik. This was, in fact, not really necessary. All it took was a mental command for an idea to take the shape of reality. But he felt that the destruction of mankind should be accompanied by an appropriate gesture.

    So, all for effect, the following happened in succession: His eyes turned a blood red. His beard, which he had let grow for the occasion, received a darker hue. His toga, unchanged by the dictates of fashion, swayed in the wind. He felt there was something that needed to be said in this, mankind’s last hour. Something that would echo around the world in its final moment.  But before he could think of the exact thing, he was distracted by a sound right beside him.

    There was nothing in the scriptures about God being interrupted as he was about to unleash the Apocalypse. Perhaps the prophets had that part edited out, as it would detract from the overall effect. In any case, it would soon be put to an end. The sound was not loud, merely the clearing of a throat. But there was something about it that indicated it needed to be heard.

    The Lord’s eyes momentarily lost their fire as he looked around. Beside him were the ashes of the Dragon, the carcass of the Eagle and the rubble that had been the Giant. Next to these was yet another creature, the last of the guardian spirits.

    The stout ox did not stand as tall as the giant, was not as colourful as the dragon or as brazen and loud as the eagle. Yet, there was something headstrong about him. He did not blow back and forth in the breeze like the others, but stood firmly where he had marked his ground. He had the patience of someone who understood that his time would eventually come, when everyone else had worn themselves out.

    The Lord had set the rules himself and it was only very occasionally, at the speed of light or in a moment of sheer inspiration, that he broke his own rules. He knew that the ox must be heard out.

    “Be brief,” said the Lord, impatient as he was. It was only when he saw his own ideas set in stone that he could really determine whether they had any significance.   

    But the ox said nothing.

    “And so history ends, first with a whimper, then with a bang,” said the Lord. “Not bad,” he thought to himself, as his eyes again assumed the red glow of genocide.

    The ox said nothing. Instead, a book appeared from his side. It was of Biblical proportions and written, it seemed, in his own hide. This aroused God’s interest. Though more of a visual artist himself, he still enjoyed a good read, particularly since so many of the books were about him. Even if the unauthorised biographers, gossipers and sycophants never managed to get him quite right, he enjoyed seeing them stretching their imagination to the limit.  

    The Lord picked up the volume and leafed through it. The ox looked on with silent, deep eyes which seemed to say more than an eagle’s shrieks or the puffing of a dragon ever could.

    Most of the stories were set over a thousand years ago, before the dullness of Christianity had infected the land with mediocrity. The characters were in turns vicious and kind, spiteful or loving, but always so very human. They fought, they loved, they betrayed each other and they strove to find the best way to conduct their lives. In fact, human beings in all their exasperating complexity were better represented here than in all the myriad tomes that had been written in his honour.

    Perhaps none of this was true. Perhaps it had all been made up. But what kind of people could create such wonderful stories?  

    He closed the book and looked into the eyes of the bull. God understood that the people the bovine creature represented were the same as those who had once told the greatest stories of their, or perhaps any, time. Such a people did not, for all their mistakes, deserve destruction. They could learn from their mistakes, and if not, then at least compose masterworks out of the follies of their compatriots. He looked forward to reading them.

    And so it was that yet again history was saved by the Icelandic Sagas. The Lord left Iceland, and promised never again to intervene in the affairs of its inhabitants. It was so much more amusing to watch them try to find their way on their own.

God Returns to Iceland pt. 3 

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