What troubles me, is the absolute finality of death. I feel so powerless towards it. Death somehow belittles my existence.
I’ve come to the conclusion, that I must somehow cheat death. Like artists do. They live on through their art. And the same goes for politicians. They will always be remembered in history books.
But there is another way to become immortal, I’ve discovered. And it is so much easier.
The trick is, according to the Icelandic Sagas, to say something incredibly witty, right before you die. It doesn’t matter who you are.
The joke will live forever.
Every Icelander knows this example from The Saga of Njáll:
Prior to the assassination of Gunnar Hámundarson, a messenger was sent to check if he was home. The messenger’s name was Þorgrímur austmaður and this is his only mention in the book.
On his return, the assassin team asked: “Was Gunnar home?”
Þorgrímur replied swiftly: “You’ll have to find that out for yourself. I do know his halberd was home.”
And then he died.
Let’s look at few more examples:
Vésteinn Vésteinsson, when impaled through the chest by a spear in The Saga of Gísli Súrsson.
“Ah! It seems that broad spears have become fashionable.”
Atli Ásmundarson, when hit by a broad spear in The Saga of Grettir
“The king has fed us well.”
Þormóður Kolbrúnarskáld, when looking inside his own stomach, after being disemboweled in a battle in The Saga of the Sworn Brothers.
The lesson here is obvious: Death is inevitable, but a good farewell-joke will live forever.
Jóhannes Benediktsson – firstname.lastname@example.org
Jóhannes is filling in for Katharina.