MORE Family History

My Ancestor Thor Knudsen,
Looking Stupid
Very few people know this, but there were Norwegians on my mother’s side of the family tree.  This included one of the most famous Vikings of the early Middle Ages, Thor Knudsen.

If you don’t recognize that name, it’s because once the Viking Era was over everyone forgot about Thor Knudsen.  If you happen to know someone named Thor Knudsen, he wasn’t named after my ancestor.

As a young boy on his family’s part of the fjord, Thor was bullied by other kids, who thought his name was funny.  Thor was the name of one of the gods.  Nobody ever dared to name a kid after a god because they thought the god would be insulted and get even.  Thor’s father, Knut the Hairy, who liked to be different, thought Thor would be flattered.  Everyone was wrong, of course, because the god Thor never existed and could, therefore, not feel anything.

The other kids used to gang up on Thor, corner him and tease him.  “Hey, Thor, where’s your hammer?” one kid would say.  “Hey, make it thunder for us,” another one would add.  This went on until the day Thor realized that he had grown to be six feet tall and muscular, while the rest of the gang were the usual puny medieval types.  Thor didn’t have a hammer, but he had two super-sized fists.  He soon sent the gang flying – literally – right off a cliff.  That taught them a lesson.

Everyone was afraid of Thor after that, which made him the perfect choice to send on raiding and pillaging expeditions.  This meant he had to learn to sail.  The problem was he got seasick and he was afraid of water.  Knut the Hairy solved the problem by threatening to have Thor buried in that damned boat if he didn’t get into it and stay there.  Thor obeyed.

Thor led many expeditions, and his name soon evoked terror throughout northern and western Europe.  Only his crew knew that he spent his time at sea lying in the middle of the ship, vomiting into a bucket, and they weren’t telling.  Once he landed, his raiding and pillaging skills made him very successful and very rich.

After ten years of this, Thor had accumulated enough ill-gotten booty to retire.  He gave up the sea forever, remarking that he never wanted to see another ship so long as he lived and the only water he wanted to see was in a bathtub.  He bought some land, as far inland as he could go, and set up business making the great Norwegian delicacy, lutefisk.


The next time you come across the stinking, horrible tasting concoction, remember Thor Knudsen and the anguish he had to go through to get rich enough to make the stuff.


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