The Subtle Play Of Lord Shiva’s Wit

There is a saying, in English – “Man Plans, Fate Laughs”; and it has … somewhat ‘darker’ counterparts in Old Norse, with tales of the intent of this or that narrative agonist (“protagonist”, he may also be – although agonist (the “agon” as “struggle”) is probably much more apt, not least due to the less … weighty expectations of modern-morally-virtuous-conduct which it thence entails as compared to the more ‘positively’, ‘successfully’ connoted term we customarily apply to the Designated Hero of a piece, instead of one amidst many potentially competing narrative Actors within the f(r)ame of a drama), which similarly wind up running into ‘strife’ when a supra-human entity or entities choose to Doom [in the sense of ‘judging’] his plans as an ‘amusement’ or otherwise subvert them within the span of some greater, overarching design.

This, surely, is the underlying sentiment behind Haakon of Norway’s statement that : “Methinks,’ said he, great Odin’s will Is harsh, and bodes me further ill”.

An understandable apprehension, given the bloody battle that had just lain Hakon low … a situation compounded by a psychopompic retinue of Odin’s turning up to greet Hakon in death.

Yet examining the next lines of the Haokonarmal, we see that this initial trepidation is proven to be misdirected. Even despite the terrifying visages of the equerries to the Sky-Father that have just appeared, and Hakon’s life-blood pooling amidst his crushed armour, it is in fact treated as a joyous occasion – whereupon a notionally Christian king is accepted into the Heavens’ Heer/Harja/Her, as one of Odin’s Own.

[Although as a bit of a counterpoint to this … you may, perhaps, consider the fate of Geirroth, the somewhat misdirected antagonist of the Grimnismal … also something of a fostered son of the Spear-God … and who wound up lain low, nominally at his own hand, through a ‘close encounter’ with (guised) Divinity]

Still, for myself, I am rather keen on the Sanskrit concept of शङ्करचेतोविलास – that is to say, the “play of Lord Shiva’s Wit”; the manifestation of Mahadev’s sense of humour.

It seems more good-natured; albeit frequently no less ‘enigmatic’, from those of us forming the ‘moving parts’ of such a joke.

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