by Ole de Pompadour

France has deep Scandinavian roots, for Vikings founded the province of Normandy, which is named after them, the "Normans." Duke William of Normany, the Conqueror of England in 1066, came from this province, so England has Francophone Scandinavians and Normany to thank for the Norman Conquest. Yet you could not have identified the Duke of Normandy as Scandinavian at the time, he had adopted so much French culture that he did not know lefse from lutefisk! Poor fellow! Cuppy, an historian who wrote "The Rise and Fall of Practically Everybody," says he died from injuries sustained when his trusty horse up and threw him to the ground. If only this had happened before the Norman Conquest, history would have been greatly different. As it happened, the Normans invaded England, tried to teach their stubborn, Anglo-Saxon subjects French and Latin for two centuries and failed, and spoken and written English came back stronger than ever. We see Scandinavian culture doing the same thing, rising against all odds and persisting to the present day practically unchanged, as we take this tour of France to show how much modern France and her civilization owe to Scandinavian immigrants such as the Normans.

Scandinavian influence is seen here in the typical provincial French roadside refreshment stand. Note the elegance and good taste displayed! We are not sure how much Scandinavia has of those two items, to be sure, but the French more than made up for barbarous manners of the old Normans, who were said to have hated Kool-Aid, preferring their fermented, honey-based mead, an early form of anti-freeze that when accidently poured in the bottom of their seagoing longboats was found to keep the bilge water from freezing around the mariners' ankles.

Scandinavians are a very sociable, warm, even affectionate people, except in public. The Scandinavian influence is shown here on a typical French boulevard in Paris where you see empty park benches, and everybody going on foot as they walk their dogs, deliberately avoiding each other like the plague. The main thing for the French is to be seen in the best places, dressed in haute couture fashion. Even their doggies cannot be distinguished apart from their owners, unless you see who is holding the leash.

The Eiffel Tower, Paris's most outstanding landmark erected in the 19th century, is made entirely of petrified crepe pastry that is stronger than iron (which gives it strength equal to aged lefse or krumkaka). Monsieur Eclair Eiffel, the tower's architect, took his inspiration, it is said, from a Scandinavian almond cake of the same shape and consistency. Such cakes, now only seen at weddings, are known to have lasted centuries, even when exposed to the elements. No wonder that Viking explorers on long sea voyages took along kegs stuffed with almond cake so they would be sure not to run out of anything remotely edible. They not only served as ballast but they were virtually impervious to mold and decay. Mice wouldn't touch it either! As for almond cake's nutritional value, no one knows what it could be, though almond cake dug up on archeological sites round Oslo, Copenhagen, and Stockhom, has carbon dated to 4,000 B.C., furnishing solid evidence that people have been gnawing on such hard tack for a very long time (which explains why so few teeth are found in Scandinavian skulls dug on these sites)

French shepherds who are known not only for their pom pons, pantaloons, and berets as well as for their distinctive footwear are survivals of the time when Scandinavian shepherds in Normandy, who were quite a bit shorter as a general rule from their French sweethearts, took to stilts in order to do their courting properly. You see, marriageable Norman girls were in short supply, and French girls were not only plentiful but prettier. But no one knows why French girls of the 9th to the 11th century were so long-legged in comparison with their Norman suitors! Since that time the French and Norman populations have equalized in height, so that the stilts are no longer needed, but the custom lives on, at least in the countryside.

During cold winters and freezing temperatures, Norman oarsmen while at sea duty in their open boats customarily kept one hand employed with the oar and the other hand warm inside their thick, woolen vests in order to fold their lefse at lunch break (a task that required deft handling to get it right). This pose taken by Napoleon, the most famous French military man of the 19th century, owes its dramatic quality to the ordinary Norman seaman. He may not be keeping his hand warm for the traditional Scandinavian lefse break, but the habit persists, since it is in his DNA and bloodline obviously

The Lemon Festival at Nice in the south of France reflects the early Viking Norman love for the lemon, which they thought was the most delicious sweet fruit after a lifetime of bland diets consisting of papery flodbread, rye bread, and flour porridge called rommegrot. To transport the Lemon Queen (chosen from among fifty or so local Prune Princesses in previous qualifying contests), an Edsel from the Ford Motor Company's museum in Dearborn, Michigan, has been donated every year just to get the car out of sight of laughing Americans at the museum, who all think its grill looks like someone sucking a lemon.

Love or romance is probably about the last thing any cold-blooded Scandinavian would leap for, but the old Normans were used to taking high dives to get away from tax collectors--who oppressed the people so much they had to sell their best cows and even prized vintage year lutefisk sometimes to pay them. This finds its modern counterpart in the famed Lovers' Leap, which costs anything upwards from five francs to 5,000 depending on how big a splash you want to make.

Socialite Parisian ladies of high fashion are known for holding their noses rather high in public (some even had stints put in, surgically, to heighten their noses!). This habit is not so much snobbery but a throwback to the days when the streets of Paris, and particularly those of Norman towns, reeked of stale lefse and lutefisk. They say the French perfume industry got its start in those days, as the only means of escape from the odors of Scandinavian cuisine being cooked outside Paris's city walls by besieging Viking armies.

France would not be France without its world-acclaimed sidewalk cafes! At these places the art of conversation with many a sparkling bon mot is cultivated to the highest degree. At any hour of the day you will find the local raconteurs gathered for convivial times at their favorite tables, packed back to back, because--the Scandinavian and Norman influence again!--they wouldn't dream of facing and speaking to each other in public!

Ron's Directory: Scandinavia: Duck Heaven Toons Central

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