The annual Medieval Festival at Horsens.
A few years back, while I was in school, I did an independent project
with my teacher and mentor in cultural anthropology, Dr. Fred Strange.
My focus was on Greenland (Gronland) in the 19th century. I wanted to
look at a culture long-term, in the main because looking at a culture
over a number of years allows you to gauge cultural changes better. To
an anthropologist, the interplay and influence of cultures across time
is known as acculturation. And the study of culture by way of history
is the new sub-field of anthropology called historical anthropology.
Technically, then, that is what I was doing — historical anthropology.
In this study my central text was Heinrich J. Rink's Danish Greenland:
Its People and Its Products, which originally was published in 1877.
Rink was one of the administrators in Greenland for Denmark, which at
that time (and to a certain degree still) held Greenland as a colony.
Rink was an amazing man; although he was a geologist, some of his views
on culture presaged those of anthropologist Franz Boas in the early 20th
century. Rink was also an avid photographer, and a very good one. Following
Rink's photography led me to the Danish Polar Center. The DPC is a fairly
large library containing thousands of books on the arctic. They also have
what is certainly the best collection of photographs of Greenland in the
world. The people at the DPC were very friendly. I e-mailed the center
once with a question relating to some of the photos, and they were good
enough to respond and answered my question fully.
Denmark. Perhaps not a country very well known to most Americans. But it
is the second oldest kingdom in Europe, going back some 1200 years. At
one time it encompassed all of what are today known as the Scandinavian
countries — Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Greenland (eventually), and the
Faroe Islands. I'm sure they had colonies during the age of exploration,
but about this I am ignorant and you will have to check elsewhere.
For Americans, who tend to be bad at
geography, here's a map.
In any case, if Denmark could produce a man like H.J. Rink, then it
certainly was a great country in my book. It was also the home of Hans
Christian Anderson, Soren Kierkegaard, and Niels Bohr, among others.
There is a lot of talk about the "Danish temperament." I don't know
what that is, exactly. But I am reminded of the old saying: The optimist
is most always disappointed; the pessimist is sometimes delightfully
Here on the Opera community I have now met several Danes. Back in the
early days of the blog I met Allan (ricewood). You probably know Allan
already if you come to Opera at all. Recently I have met Nicolas (nopanic)
and Martin (Aqualion). A great group. I am privileged to know them
— even if that knowledge isn't of the normal way of sitting across the
table. From Allan I almost would think that I had been to his town
of Aarhus. Nicolas works in Copenhagen, but lives in Elsinore — the
legendary home of Shakespeare's Hamlet. And I'm not sure, but I think
that Martin is from Horsens, who are about to hold their wild (by all
reports) annual Medieval Festival.
Here in America we have what is called a "Danish," a breakfast pastry
that almost seems more like a dessert than a breakfast food.
We also have Great Danes. They are a dog breed.
I knew a Great Dane once. When I was a kid, we lived in suburb south of
Indianapolis. The people about six houses down from us had a Great Dane
named Bismark. For a child he seemed huge — like a horse — and I had
to look up a bit at this head.
Bismark was very friendly. He loved kids. Which, for a dog his size,
could sometimes be a problem as he could get a bit rambunctious. One day
I took a walk on the path edging my back yard and walked down behind all
the houses. I came to Bismark's house. He was out in the back yard. Glad
to see me, he charged at me. I became frightened and turned and ran. But
of course he soon caught up with me and, quite unintentionally, knocked
me down on my stomach. Then, he started giving me kisses. My fear
turned to laughter as he licked my face with his big wet tongue.
Here's what the American Kennel Club says about the Great Dane:
The Great Dane is one of the most elegant and distinguished of the
giant breeds. It is believed that the breed's origins can be traced to
Irish Wolfhound with mixture of old English Mastiff. The breed itself
having existed for over 400 years to serve as a Boar Hound in Germany.
Europe's erstwhile boar was one of the most savage, swift, powerful and
well armed, requiring a superdog to hunt it.
It sounds like the Great Dane is just as German as Danish. But given the
geographic proximity, that is not surprising.
They are magnificent dogs.
The Great Dane.