From Iceland — Recap: The Tale of the Earl’s Poet Þorleifur

Recap: The Tale of the Earl’s Poet Þorleifur

Published July 31, 2017

Grayson Del Faro
Photo by
Inga María

You know this is going to be a good story when the author begins by telling you that it ends with some rich dude who “drowns in a dark dungeon of wretched torments, in misery and subjection without end.” We’ve all been there, right? It kind of sounds like the average trip to the dentist or Sunday dinner with your conservative extended family, doesn’t it? So let’s find out what Earl Hákon’s personal dungeon includes.

No means “no, but don’t kill everyone”

So there is this guy named Þorleifur. He grows up at his uncle’s house learning hella magic. When he’s eighteen, he moves back in with his dad and inexplicably kills some dude but this dude’s nickname is “The Mauler” so let’s just give him the benefit of the doubt on this one. The thing is that Parliament isn’t quite as chill, so Þorleifur becomes outlawed and eventually ditches Iceland.

When he arrives in Norway, Earl Hákon is like, “Yo, beez. Let’s trade some shit.” But Hákon is like, “Naw, dawg. Let’s not.” Then he proceeds to trade with the townsfolk instead like the cheeky fucker that he is. Naturally Hákon gets his rich dude panties in a rich dude twist, so he steals Þorleifur’s shit, burns his ship, and then murders all of his men and has their corpses hung up around the market. Talk about a fucking drama Q-U-E-E-N. When Þorleifur hears about it, he recites a poem. You’d think it’d be some kind of elegy for his bros, but no. It’s more like:

I am so sad
About my boat
Anything but my boat
Srsly so sad
Also, revenge!

Throwing literal shade

So Þorleifur pops down to Denmark and starts hanging around the king of Denmark. One day the king asks him, “Dude, y u so sad?” Þorleifur says he is bummed out because he wrote a poem about Earl Hákon called “Woman Poem.” This is a medieval way of calling Hákon a bitch. Since he insists that he’ll continue to wallow in misery until he can read the poem to Hákon, the king sends him off to diss a bitch.

“When Þorleifur arrives, he disguises himself as a beggar and causes a huge racket by whacking the other beggars with his crutches.”

When Þorleifur arrives, he disguises himself as a beggar and causes a huge racket by whacking the other beggars with his crutches. This gets the attention of Hákon, who asks why he’s being such a dick. Þorleifur says it’s because he used to hang around earls but now he’s a beggar, and eventually proposes to recite a poem in Hákon’s (dis)honor.

So as Þorleifur starts reciting the Bitch Poem, Hákon’s thighs start to itch mysteriously. This gets so bad that he makes his servants tie a rope in knots and rub it between his thighs. The middle section is called Fog Verse, but I call it Shade Verse, because it’s like:

It’s gettin’ shady in here
Cuz I am so sad
About my boat

As he recites the poem, the room begins to darken and the weapons rise on their own and kill their owners. Hákon falls unconscious and Þorleifur escapes in the din. When Hákon awakens, his hair and beard are suddenly missing from half his face and it never grows back. It takes him months to recover from his itchy dick burns.

Straw man “argument”

Þorleifur eventually returns to Iceland, where apparently everybody has forgotten about his outlawry because he gets married and becomes consequently boring and happy. Earl Hákon finds some witches to help him build a man out of wood, kill a real man, rip his heart out, shove it in the wooden man, magically bring this golem-like assassin to life, name him Þorgarður, and send it to Iceland to murder Þorleifur. You know, a typical Thursday night drama queen drama.

So Þorgarður shows up and stabs Þorleifur in the stomach. When he retaliates, Þorgarður just disappears into the earth leaving behind only footprints. Þorleifur responds with a poem:

Just happened?

Then he goes home to tell everyone what happened. When he takes his shirt off, all his organs fall out of his stomach hole and he dies. He’s buried in a mound and later visits a stupid man in a dream to give him the gift of composing Bitch Poems. Þorleifur’s brothers go to Norway for vengeance. At this point the tale says they don’t get revenge but they burn down a couple temples. Are you fucking kidding me? We were promised misery without end! This is either an epic literary cocktease or some very very proto-post-modern bullshit because that is just unsatisfying.

Morals of the story:
1. Poor people who commit crimes are punished harshly while rich people who commit crimes always get away. This has apparently not changed in 1000 years.
2. Life is unfair.

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