The eyes of the world were on Norway today. Not one but two international stories focused on that small country, something that doesn’t happen very often.
It isn’t every blogger who’s up to the job of tying the sentencing of mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik together with the opening of a mysterious, 100-year-old package, but I am prepared to take on that challenge.
First of all, there’s the sentencing of the semi-human terrorist, Breivik. Early reporting made it sound as if his 21-year sentence, absurd enough in the eyes of most Americans (and plenty of Norwegians, to judge by my own contacts), might actually end up being only ten years. That doesn’t appear likely. He’ll be evaluated in a sort of parole protocol after ten years, but unless he alters the cut of his jib drastically he’s not likely to be released at that time. He has, after all, made himself hated particularly by his country’s bleeding heart class, and the law-and-order people don’t love him any better. When the 21-year sentence is finished, the authorities have the power to recycle the sentence as many times as it takes, for the rest of his life.
So it’s not as bad as it originally sounded. It is true, however, that he will get to live at public expense in a pretty comfortable prison.
The other Norwegian story involves the opening of a mysterious 100-year-old parcel, which has been sitting in a museum in the town of Otta for some time now (Otta is in Gudbrandsdal, the site of Kristin’s home in Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter novels, if you’re lucky enough to be familiar with them). The package was entrusted to the mayor back in 1920, with instructions not to open it until 2012.
After all the hoopla, it turned out to be a rather unromantic bundle of red, white, and blue cloth, wrapped around a number of documents relating to the raising of a monument in 1912 to mark the 300th anniversary of the Battle of Kringen (which I wrote about here a few months ago), in which an army of Norwegian peasant farmers massacred a force of Scottish mercenaries attempting to march across Norway to Sweden.
One thing I recently learned, which I didn’t know when I wrote that blog post, is that modern scholars now question the traditional account of the battle, which says the farmers killed the Scotsmen by avalanche, setting up great piles of rocks held in place by log frameworks, which could be knocked apart when the signal was given.
Today many scholars believe that the victory was in fact due to the fact that the Norwegians had equipped themselves with firearms, which they used for hunting and were prepared to use against invaders.
Armed peasantry was a relatively new idea in Europe at the time, one the Scots were unprepared for.
It seems to me the lesson of that battle is one that might have been profitably applied by the citizens of Oslo on that terrible day, more than a year ago, when a single punk found his enemies arrayed before him like sheep for slaughter.
Lars Walker is the author of several published novels, the latest of which is an e-book, Troll Valley.