Thursday, August 30, 2007

Roberta Frank, Baseball, Ratatosk

Though it may appear from that subject line that I've become what many late career medievalists seem destined to become (an odd person wandering the hallways muttering unconnected and often alien words to no particular audience), the three nouns do in fact have something in common: Teddy Kider's sports column in today's NYT. A squirrel was seen scampering up and down the foul pole during the Tuesday evening Yankees-Sox game. This omen indicates that the Yankees will not prevail over the Red Sox this season. I for one did not need a squirrel to intuit that fact, but there is more:

Believe it or not, the squirrel’s actions closely resembled those of Ratatosk, or “gnawing tooth,” a squirrel in Norse mythology that climbed up and down a tree that represented the world. Snorri Sturluson, an Icelandic scholar and poet, recorded the story in his 13th-century work “Prose Edda.”

As the story goes, Ratatosk carried insults as it traveled to opposite ends of the tree, fueling a rivalry between the evil dragon residing at the bottom of the tree and the eagle perched at the top.

“Oh, that’s perfect,” said Roberta Frank, a professor of Old Norse and Old English at Yale University, when told of the squirrel’s antics at the stadium.

Frank was born in the Bronx and is a Yankees fan. She said in a telephone interview yesterday that in the Bronx version of this myth, the Yankees would probably represent the eagle and the rival Red Sox would represent the dragon. The Yankees, after all, are the home team this week, more or less making them the good guys. And if there were a sports team identified with an eagle, it has to be the Yankees, who have begun any number of postseason games with a visit from Challenger, the bald eagle who swoops in from center field.

But being the eagle is not such a good thing, Frank noted.

“The dragon will destroy the world in Norse mythology,” she said, adding that the eagle would be on the losing end of a battle that was only made worse by the malicious squirrel.

The Red Sox will destroy the world?! Well, portentousness aside, it's always good to see a medievalist quoted in an unlikely place ... even if she thereby admits that she is a fan of an evil team. Excuse me now while I ceremonially incinerate my copy of Verbal Encounters.

1 comment:

Matthew Gabriele said...

About freaking time somebody realized the Red Sox will bring about the world's downfall.