There was a man named Ozzie Headbangerson. He was the son of Headbanger Gamblerson the Silent, the son of Gambler Drinkerson, the son of Drinker Barflyson, who took his mother Barfly’s name since his father Gambler could not marry her. Barfly was Gambler’s slave captured young in battle, an Irish Princess of the line that is royal as often as it can be, even in the daytime, even when others are looking.
Princess Barfly was Gambler’s concubine, and he swived her often, but she kept her Irish nobility a secret. Gambler had a wife named Poura Lagersdaughter, who grumbled that Gambler kept Barfly and Drinker in their home. But Gambler kept Barfly. Since Gambler had a wife, his neighbors would not accept it when Gambler tried to call Drinker by the name of Gamblerson. So Drinker called himself Barflyson.
There is a story about Poura Lagersdaughter. One day she fell behind the other women coming home from the stony pasture that is beyond the smooth pasture, after the women had been milking the cows. Poura was carrying some whey in a bucket from the barn to the house when she tripped on the hilt of a sword left in the stony field after some battle or other. The edge of the bucket of whey fell onto a stone and cracked, but she held it closed with a rag she kept in her belt behind her dress, and in this way she kept the whey. After that she was sometimes called Poura Ragbucket, or Poura Ragbehind. Her father Lager was very angry about this name. That is the story about Poura, who is now out of this saga.
One day when Drinker was not yet fully grown, Gambler took him riding in the desert. They came to a tree, the only tree in the desert. They used the tree for everything they needed. They gave the name of Everything to the place of that tree in the desert. That is how the place all men call Everything got its name. As everyone knows, the people of the island actually had it made into their grand meeting place, though some thought it too much bother.
Headbanger Gamblerson was a peculiar man. An example of his peculiar nature is that whenever he could, he always faced South. If you were conversing with him on a doorstep, he would face South while he spoke with you; or when he plowed a field, he would do the plowing on the southerly furrows, but if he could, he would pass the plow to a partner, and he would thus not plow the northerly furrows. He was not your usual family man. He was convicted of the Lesser Outlawry for passing false silver, the kind that is made with silver colors but which is not true silver. He learned this technique from a stranger who spoke about another stranger from beyond the Other Sea. His wife and daughter were very ashamed that Headbanger passed false silver. His wife would always say, why can’t you be a true man, like other men, instead of passing false silver, like a man who is false?
Headbanger lived across the sea for a time to make a name for himself as a Voider, which he did, but he still passed false silver. Since to pass false silver, or even go a-Voiding, is forbidden at home on the island, Headbanger was outlawed. He gathered many followers around him, and they all passed false silver, or encouraged others to do so. He told them all to be silent about their doings, so he was called the Silent. But everyone knew his doings. He was not silent like a man who does not speak, he was silent like a man who says much that is of no use. Thus his words were like his false silver. But everyone who was of no use thought he was very wise, and when anyone accused him of passing false silver, he would respond as though they did not like his sayings, not as though they were talking about his false silver. He would then speak more sayings. Since everybody knew his doings and it was strange that he told everyone to be silent, but that he was not in fact silent, everybody who was of no use talked about him constantly, so he became known throughout this land, and across the sea. His sayings were not Renderings, they were of no use. There could be no agreement about what his sayings meant, except that it was evident he used them to pass false silver.
Headbanger’s wife was Harda Herringsdaughter. It was thought that Ozzie was not really Headbanger’s son, since Headbanger and Harda were never known to stay together in the same house. Harda lived in the loft in the barn with her daughter and a man called Karer and a horse called Groan, and refused to live in the house with Headbanger. She said she preferred the loft. Anyway everyone knew well that Harda was fond of Bigger Diggerson. But Harda was silent about this whenever asked. When she was asked about it, she acted as though she did not hear. So, Headbanger and Harda both were silent, but only Headbanger was called the Silent. Harda was called “of the Deep Womb,” since she always did her woman’s household chores with great wisdom, and the girls in her quarter looked up to her as a paragon of how to achieve womanly wisdom and satisfaction. Girls who did not want to go unmarried even for a day would ask Harda for her advice and Harda would give it. The story of Harda of the Deep Womb and Bigger Diggerson is told in the Saga of Bigger and Harda.
Eventually, Headbanger Gamblerson died. He was still passing false silver, and still went a-Voiding to the end. He went a-Voiding as far as the Little Islands on this side of the Sea, and as far as over the ocean, on the other side of the Other Sea. Some say he went further east still. He was said by some to be the greatest Voider of the ones who pass false silver, though this is not saying very much. Certainly he was one of the first that anyone can remember to make a name for himself passing false silver. He was thus a great outlaw, even though he was never convicted of the Greater Outlawry. This was because with his sayings of no use, he kept people from understanding. He also got his followers to say similar things, so it was often impossible to determine where the sayings of no use came from. Some people said that the way you could tell Headbanger was an outlaw and not a true Voider was that none of his followers made any good Renderings.
Ozzie tried to be different from his father Headbanger, who liked councils and keeping council, especially councils about how to pass false silver and go a-Voiding. Ozzie did not prefer the usual councils. He preferred to talk alone. He liked to talk alone when others would ask questions of him, in the manner of a council, but not in the usual manner of a council. He did not want to make sayings that would be of use, but he wanted to be known for his wisdom anyway. He also talked alone with his wife and children, in the same manner which he liked. And if no one were around, then Ozzie would talk alone. Ozzie felt he was in this way different from his father, but he was not so very different. It is thought that Ozzie passed no false silver, but he was fond of sayings that were of no use. So he was like his father in this way, and unlike him in another, in that even though he passed no false silver, he made sayings that were of no use.
Sometimes Ozzie’s Voiding ways were in the manner of conquest, and sometimes they were in the trading manner. Usually, especially after he married and had a family, they were in the trading manner. But he could not gain councils alone in front of others for this, only for his Voiding that was for conquest. His father Headbanger was a mighty conquering Voider who often held great councils about his many journeys a-Voiding. Ozzie would go a-Voiding in the manner of a trader, but then try to hold councils in the manner of a conquering Voider. But the questions people want to ask of a conquering Voider who talks in open council are different from the questions they ask of a trading Voider who talks alone, and so the answers are different, and people do not value the council so much. Often Ozzie could hold no councils of the kind he preferred to make. He began to feel that his Voiding was not as good and great as his father’s, and so he would try to justify his Voiding, saying that it was better than it really was. Before long Ozzie began to use the method of saying the same things over and over, and he began to have many followers, who thought his sayings were very wise, because everyone could understand them. Ozzie’s followers thought that all good wisdom was easy to understand, and if it was hard to understand then the wisdom was bad. Ozzie encouraged this view.
One day Ozzie decided to go a-Voiding in the conquering manner, in a way that would gain him much profit. He got a ship, and sailed around to another part of the island. Here he brought together a full crew, including Snake Figgson the Strong, who was on his first journey a-Voiding, after his grandfather Newton Bosunson had died very old and there was no one to keep him working on the family farm. Bosunson had made more Renderings than any other Voider before him. Snake did not like farm work. Snake’s father Figg was also a great Voider who made Renderings, which he taught to Snake when Snake was still a boy. He was very strong and kept the Old Ways and made very many good Renderings. When he was young he did not even particularly try to keep the Old Ways, everything simply happened to him according to them. He was one of the bravest of fighters but also very lazy and preferred to do nothing except the Old Ways or fighting or swiving or making Renderings. Snake’s ancestor was Bosun Tightson, the son of Tight Johnson. Also in the crew was Thordbar Barnsdorson, Olver Vetterson, and Dirt Dreamerson.
Ozzie took all the honey he had and loaded it on his boat, together with some food and water. He also loaded many of the weapons of the kind that are needed for a great Voiding party. On the journey the crew ate all the food and drank all the water, and began to grumble that there was no more to eat and nothing to do. Ozzie told Thordbar to show the men the trouble they were going to get into if they did not do as he wished. This was a good duty for Thordbar to be asked to do, since his family included many men skilled in the task of lookout. But Thordbar did not like this work, even though it was his family business, and said that anyway his family did not do this sort of work on board ship. Even though he did not say so, he wished to get the other men into trouble, so he would achieve greater esteem in the Master’s eyes. This was before, when Thordbar had not yet made the decision that he did not like Ozzie very well. So he said to Ozzie that he did not wish to tell the men the trouble they should see. Instead Ozzie told Snake to do this, so Snake just knocked the men over for ignoring the Master’s wishes. After this the men did as Ozzie wanted. Snake made this Rendering:
Fall by the ship’s
Fall to steeds
When he heard this, Ozzie too made a Rendering:
Hide in the way
With head down
Is above you.”
Then the men understood that Snake had completed Thordbar’s task in his own way.
Then the ship got to the mainland and Ozzie went to the nearest town, called Nearton, which was by the ocean side. He traded the honey for provisions and then went on up the coast to find towns in which to go a-Voiding. He had many men and weapons and was well-provisioned.
They came to a village and attacked it, holding the people in a house, and telling them that if they did not give them their valuables they would burn the house down, with them inside. Thordbar had the duty of putting to the sword anyone who tried to escape. He devised a plan whereby anyone wishing to escape would be prevented from doing so. It was a good plan.
This is how Thordbar prevented the people from escaping the house. He set hot faggots on the ground in places where they could not easily be seen, and where they would not start a fire. When the people tried to run away, they would step on the faggots and clutch at their feet and scream. The hot faggots caused much suffering, and the people could not flee very far. By their screaming Thordbar knew where the people were who were trying to escape. They would hop about in agony and clutch their feet and could not escape. Snake would knock down any who tried to leave. The entire village was in the house. The village elders agreed amongst themselves to give Ozzie and his men all of their silver, and all of their gold. Ozzie took the gold and silver, and left the village. He did not take any slaves.
Next Ozzie sailed to a city farther up the coast of the mainland. He came to a town in a small bay, and pulled his ship onto the beach. He left some men with the ship to guard it.
Snake and Olver took some men and went behind the town and up a hill, where they found a lake the townspeople had made, in which to store water for their farms. They smashed down part of the dike holding back the lake and the water came down into the town. Then Ozzie and some more men attacked the town and began burning houses and taking silver and gold and everything they could carry. The houses were on fire and the streets were flooded with muddy water but there was no water to put out the fires so the whole town burned down with water everywhere and again the people could not escape, and many were killed. This time Ozzie took some slaves, several women and girls. Ozzie spoke this Rendering:
Of future harvest
The lake held.
Safe from flame
Was the town.
Ozzie wanted to begin the return trip to the island but the weather was bad so he did not. Instead he left the ship on the beach and went to a nearby wood and began dividing up the loot and the women the men had taken. This was not the usual way, usually there was no division until the men were paid in loot at the end, except, of course, they would share women and food. This was so if a man died a-Voiding the Master would get the man’s loot instead of whoever was near the man when he died. Instead Ozzie took most of the loot, but every man got something. Each of his captains also got a girl slave, and the oarsman got two. Ozzie told the oarsman that he got one girl for each hand with which he steered the ship. The men were not farseeing so they were glad Ozzie did not keep the Old Ways. They asked him why he did not distribute the loot in the usual way and he said it was because if the ship went down or was captured while the men were ever ashore, this way the entire treasure would not be lost all at the same time, because every man would have what was with him. This was one time everybody thought Ozzie was truly wise. But actually Ozzie was just trying to win their favor, and he kept a much larger share of the loot. As usual, Ozzie enjoyed answering their questions with sayings that were of no use. He made the Rendering:
“The bigger the capture
Kept all together
The bigger the loss
If that is the fate.
The fodder goes further
When the horses
Carry their own.
Now the women
Will carry our children.”
When he heard this Rendering, Snake Figgson the Strong said:
“The Old Ones
Were wiser still
In early days
They taught us to share.
We lived alone
Whichever we pleased.”
The men did not understand this Rendering until Snake used it again later, after he went a-Voiding when he had his own ship and crew.
The weather cleared but in the early morning before Ozzie and his men sailed off, some of the townspeople returned and attacked Ozzie and his men while most of them were still in the woods. Ozzie was wounded on the hand while trying to give orders to his men. Snake just stood in one place and knocked people down, when anyone attacked him he just knocked them down. Olver and some men surrounded the townspeople and killed many, but some escaped. Then Ozzie sailed back south in the direction of home.
Ozzie was very famous and rich after this Voiding. He came home and held many councils in the conquering manner, and his followers asked many questions, and thought him very wise, because they could all understand him. He said the same things over and over, in the manner that is preferred by people of no use.
Ozzie and Snake never really got on together. Snake did not like that Ozzie’s father Headbanger had passed false silver, and he knew that Ozzie’s ways were very like those of a passer of false silver. Since he already knew the Old Ways, Snake did not care about whether anyone thought he was wise, and besides he did not like to repeat himself, which was Ozzie’s manner. Snake preferred to go along with each day his own way, rather than according to the meetings of Ozzie’s followers. Except for his women, Snake preferred the company of older men. And Snake never passed false silver.
After he got back from his last Voiding Ozzie began to tell different stories about the Old Ways than anyone had ever told before. They were stories that Snake knew were not true, and many of them were from the passers of false silver. Now Ozzie said that the Old Ways were never any good, and that was why people did not understand them. Ozzie also said that everybody knew these things were true, and he tried to make it seem that if you did not say something many times, your words would not come true. Sometimes his followers would ask how this could be, that things they knew from old were supposedly not true, as if Ozzie’s new stories about the Old Ways not being any good were the only good stories to tell. These other followers would stand in the meeting place and say, the Old Way worked. Often they stood near Snake. Ozzie would just repeat himself, and the follower with the question would eventually sit down. But his question only made a difference to himself. Ozzie did not think it strange that the Old Ways really had worked. He talked to people in a way that used words, but by which he ignored them. His speeches were always of no use. He could not imagine that others could know something, since he was at the front of the meeting, speaking sayings in the manner of a conqueror. Only a few of the followers noticed that sometimes somebody thought Ozzie’s sayings were strange. Snake was especially displeased when Ozzie began to speak ill about his, Snake’s, ancestors Bosun Tightson and Tight Johnson. They were among the ones whom Ozzie said plainly that everybody knew they were no good. This was partly because their wisdom was supposedly bad, since no one liked it.
Snake could not find a way to tell Ozzie that his new stories were not good, and that he did not like what he was saying about his family. So, he made a Rendering:
“Singers of Old
Knew good ways.
Saying the old
Singing’s no good
You wish to seem wise.
In new flying
The Eagle’s cries
Speak to the skies
All that flies
Know his skrying.”
This was not Snake’s most famous Rendering, but for those who noticed, it was a good one. But Ozzie just kept saying the same things, and after that he would not let even the followers ask questions. All Snake would do was sit or stand in the meeting place. Then later he was at the meal in the Common House, after Olver Vetterson had spoken some Renderings he had made. Some of Olver’s Renderings were in the manner of those who pass false silver. So Snake knew those in the Common House would not care about his Renderings, although Olver, a younger man than Snake, had been courteous to him, and had listened to some of them. Snake saw Ozzie in the Common House. Ozzie just stood there, talking to another. And Snake did not want to talk to Ozzie.
It was all different after that. Snake began to make more Renderings, and he began to keep track of all the Renderings he could, so the Old Ways would be preserved.
Thus Snake invented a new way of doing the Old Ways. He decided he would go a-Voiding, and this would be a Voiding that would show the Old Ways were still good, and that wisdom you could not understand could be good wisdom and not bad wisdom. And the men would share according to the Old Ways. He knew he would need a collaborator, so Snake appealed to Thordbar Barnsdorson in the following way. He asked Thordbar to help him by being the lookout, since this was Thordbar’s family’s business. Thordbar said it was good they collaborate, since his family’s business was the same as the work Snake’s ancestor Bosun Tightson, who was also a lookout, used to do. Snake told him that they needed to remember as many of the Renderings of the Old Ways as they could and that this would be their way of being lookouts after the Old Ways for everyone. Their Voiding would be one with many new Renderings and much of the Old Ways, and there would be no false silver of any kind, not the kind of the wrong color, not the kind of the wrong silvers, not the kind of those who pass false silver. Thordbar liked all this. He thought this was a way of making the Old Ways a Voiding way, but one that would be all right to do at home on the island, all the time, and not cause anyone to invoke an Outlawry against them. Thordbar made the famous Rendering about Renderings:
Safe at sea.
See also waves
Of home waters.
Snake liked this new way, but he was still unhappy because Ozzie was saying his bad stories over and over, including often about his ancestors.
Some months passed. Snake and Thordbar began to assemble a crew, and they built their own ship. The crew came along because they were all interested in a Voiding according to the Old Ways. They were glad to make their own ship, and used a new plan, but one which was based on the ways of Bosunson’s shipwright Grogg Drinkerson, the brother of Gambler, and because Grogg was an ancestor of Ozzie Headbangerson, Ozzie thought at first that this meant that Snake was becoming one of his followers after all. But now, because he was learned in all of the Renderings, Snake knew a Rendering of Grogg’s, which he spoke:
All who laugh
Know geese are daft.”
So Ozzie knew Snake was going to prove that not only were the Old Ways good, but he, Ozzie, did not even really belong in his own family. He went away without speaking to Snake.
Snake set out for his Voiding and had a fair wind. He and his men went to Nearton and without being recognized traded some honey, and beach stones of just the right size, for some cloth and then they went on. They came to the landing place of the king of Allby, and they landed, and met with the king, who told them that there was a great and terrible Voiding party ravaging the countryside not far off, in which his people were being attacked by strange Voiders and their homes and ships were being ransacked, and that much treasure, and many women, were being taken. The king asked Snake whether he would help him put down the Voiders who were causing his people great sorrow. The king told him in front of many others that he would gladly give him a share of any booty he recovered.
Snake agreed to help, and sailed to the place the king had told him about. The strange Voiders were already gone but he followed them. After sacking one village they had landed near a swamp by the sea and, because they had arrived at night, they were eating and drinking on board the ship. Snake saw they had a fire on board their ship, which had a fine bottom with storage and very firm benches.
At first Snake wanted to simply fire the ship but then he thought better of it, and decided on a different plan. He told Thordbar to shove over in a small boat using a long pole, since he thought a pole would be quieter than oars, and approach near to the other ship on its swamp side, and at the same time he would bring their ship in from the open sea. Thordbar was to suddenly and loudly challenge these unknown Voiders, and chide them for not beaching at night, saying they were cowards, and also stupid to have a fire on board their ship. Thordbar agreed that anyone would be angry to be spoken to in this way. Snake told him to then row away, toward the swamp and to pretend to be ready to get out of their boat at a place that seemed to be too close to the land, and to splash the water on the side of their boat away from the Voiders so they could not see what they were really doing, and say things that sounded as though they were landing on the marsh beach, even though it was not a proper landing place, and to be sure not to make any sounds such as those of men diving into deeper water, only the sounds of men stepping into shallow water. Thordbar was enthusiastic about this plan because he could see it was the new way of making a Voiding that was like this new manner of Rendering. He understood that he was to try to get the Voiders to follow, and leave their ship in the same way, into water which was not shallow, which would lead to their ruin. Meanwhile Snake would sail up quietly and attack the ship from the ocean side. He was hoping that the Voiders would be paying no attention and would be swiving their captive women.
It was a good plan but things did not quite turn out this way. Thordbar’s boat did get near to the Voider’s ship, and he succeeded in challenging them, but they easily heard Thordbar’s boat coming, because the pole was not quiet enough, and also they saw Snake’s ship coming when it was still a ways off. Furthermore the Voiders already knew the swamp was not too shallow, so they did not hesitate to sail toward it to get away from Snake’s approaching ship. They ignored Thordbar’s boat, since they did not think it was a threat to them, which, in fact, it wasn’t. This is when Thordbar showed how clever he was.
Thordbar could tell from the way they sailed straight into the swamp that the Voiders knew the swamp was not a problem for their ship. So he rowed away to the side in his boat and then told his men to stop rowing all at once, using the long pole as a way to stop suddenly in deeper water than boats can usually make such a sudden stop in, and then pretend to be getting out of the boat. In this way Thordbar used the pole to deceive any of the Voiders who were watching them in the dark, to make a few of the Voiders think they had suddenly beached their boat, and make the sounds they had planned to make, that would be the sounds of landing in shallow water, with no sounds of diving. They did this, and a few of the Voiders shouted to the others to stop, which they did. So although the Voiders did not really need to stop, they thought they had to because there was a danger they would beach their ship, because Thordbar’s ruse made them think the swamp was not of even depth, and contained some shallows.
When the strange Voiders halted their ship Snake then caught up with them and did battle by night. The numbers were about even but the Voiders were very tipsy and could not fight very well. Also, the women made things crazy on the strange Voider’s ship. It was a crazy fight with screaming naked women and men with swords hacking each other. During the fight the strange Voider’s fire got out of control and as they put it out Snake and his men boarded the ship and killed many of them, but not the women, who did not fight, rather only screamed and tried to cover themselves. Snake and his men threw some of the Voiders over the side and Thordbar and his men killed some of them, and some of them swam away.
Snake now had two ships, and the Voiders ship was a great prize, since it had very good benches. It had prows on both ends so it could go forward or backward as easily as the direction of the oars could be changed. It had a fair amount of treasure which the Voiders had plundered from the people of the king of Allby. It did not have as much treasure as the king of Allby made it sound there would be. But the ship was the best part.
Snake told the men that they should not divide the loot, because the old way was to wait until the Voiding was accomplished, and only then divide the loot. The men had known all along that this would be one of the things Snake would want to do, and it turned out well. Snake sailed back to the king of Allby but only approached in his own ship, and he left the strange Voiders ship, with the women on it, out of sight with some of his men aboard to guard it, but he took most of the loot with him.
The king asked him how it was with him, and Snake said that they had caught a Voider and burned his ship, but it was not the Voider the king had said, because there were no women and there was not very much loot. The king did not believe this and grew very angry and challenged Snake in the name of the god of battle to give him all the loot he had taken. Snake acted as though he was quite pleased to give the king what loot he had, but he kept some of it anyway, saying he kept some of it because the king acted as though Snake had had to do his bidding, which he hadn’t. Snake was only doing these things because he was trying to show the value of the Old Ways. Since the king did not himself know whether the loot was from any particular raid on his people, he could not accuse Snake of lying to him.
Thus by not sharing the loot until later, Snake still had it with him to deceive the king of Allby into believing he could be trusted, and this was the beginning of much trade between Snake and the king of Allby, which soon made Snake very rich. From the captive women Snake’s captains each got a girl slave, but Snake gave Thordbar two girls, and this made Thordbar laugh in surprise. Thordbar asked why he, a lookout, had gotten two girls, when Ozzie Headbangerson had given two girls to his oarsman, not to his lookout. Thordbar said this was because he knew that Ozzie Headbangerson had told the oarsman that he got one girl for each hand with which he steered the ship. Snake told Thordbar that he got one girl for each eye with which he had manned the lookout. When he heard this, Thordbar’s eyes went wide and he laughed even louder. This way Ozzie’s ways were ignored and improved upon, since by now Thordbar was Snake’s friend for life. Snake then spoke again the Rendering that few had earlier understood, but now was clearer to everyone:
“The Old Ones
Were wiser still
In early days
They taught us to share.
We lived alone
Whichever we pleased.”
From then on everyone called Snake’s first ship the “Alone,” and the prize ship, the “Or not.” Snake lived on both these ships as he pleased, and sometimes both. Because the men were farseeing they were glad Snake kept the Old Ways.
There was much swiving on the ships after that, and this is why Snake was often called Snake the Swiver, though he was also still called Snake the Strong. Snake’s adventures were so famous that the popular game we play was named after him. And what many people here on the island do not know is that even people on this side of the other side of the Other Sea knew of him, that the game is so great and famous abroad, that even a great emperor of not so very long ago, who reigned over the near side of the Other Sea, made it part of his will to be played in his honor.
This is the end of the saga of Snake Figgson, called the Swiver, also called Snake the Strong.
Snake son of
Figg son of
Newton son of
Bosun son of
Tight son of
Ozzie son of
Headbanger son of
Gambler son of
C Copyright 2010 by Christopher Fulkerson. All Rights Reserved.