On Friday, a very medieval thing happened here on my corner: a car skidded on some ice, jumped the curb, smashed the fence and flowerbeds in front of the public library, and ran over a defenseless sign.
What’s so medieval about that? Well, for one thing, it reminded me of the ice-borne derring-do of Skarp-Hedin in Njal’s Saga:
Skarp-Hedin jumped up as soon as he had tied his shoe, and hoisted his axe. He raced down straight towards the river, which was much too deep to be forded anywhere along that stretch. A huge sheet of ice had formed a low hump on the other side of the channel. It was as smooth as glass, and Thrain and his men had stopped on the middle of this hump. Skarp-Hedin made a leap and cleared the channel between the ice-banks, steadied himself, and at once went into a slide: the ice was glassy-smooth, and he skimmed along as fast as a bird.
Thrain was then about to put on his helmet. Skarp-Hedin came swooping down on him and swung at him with his axe. The axe crashed down on his head and split it down to the jaw-bone, spilling the back-teeth onto the ice. It all happened so quickly that no one had time to land a blow on Skarp-Hedin as he skimmed past at great speed. Tjorvi threw a shield into his path, but Skarp-Hedin cleared it with a jump without losing his balance and slid to the other end of the sheet-ice.
Kari and the others came running up.
“That was man’s work,” said Kari.
Think I’m stretching things to draw a medieval connection? Just wait until the kin of that library sign and the foster-brothers of those murdered azaleas decide to seek revenge. My genteel neighborhood will erupt into hot-blooded discord. They’ll be burning down mead-halls (or at least shooting burning glances at the local California Tortilla), carving rune-spells into their enemies’ yoga mats, pitting book club against book club…I tell you, sometimes the foreknowledge provided by medieval literature is little more than a curse.