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Saga of Torvald Longtooth

by James Graham 

Posted: 03 September 2012
Word Count: 1685

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The Saga of Torvald Longtooth

Part the First

This is the tale of Torvald Longtooth, otter,
mighty, memorable, hero of the hard shoulder,
sung in stupendous style, stirring and sorrowful,
and aptly alliterated, according to ancient modes.

Hear how mighty Torvald made his marathon,
and saved so many otters from the old oppressor.

In times now gone, in the time of tears, our comrades,
those comely, long-bodied, bewhiskered beasts,
were victims of vehicles, ruined by roadkill.
Along the hard highway thundered the thoughtless;
poor creatures left flat by those fearful contraptions.

One terrible Thursday, when three had been thumped,
a drove of young daredevils, rough and ill-disciplined,
raised a cry of rebellion: ‘Humans to Hell’,
‘Revenge on the Roadkillers’, ‘Juggernaut Genocide’;

captured the carriageway, foolish young fellows,
rose on their hind legs and roared ‘Revolution!’
An inside-lane person, an elderly person, soon saw them,
squinted and peered, perturbed, and then stopped.
But O woe and alas! their folly was futile, their wildness
a wellspring of tears; for a terrible tanker, gas giant, grim dragon
growling and greedy, put paid to a score.

Much mourning there was, day and daily; but much
debate also, how death could be daunted.
An idea most ingenious was proudly proposed
by old Snorri Shortears, worthy and wise.
‘Advance over the asphalt,’ he sagely advised,
‘then, so long as there’s silence, it’s safe to proceed.
But if you should hear the honk of a horn,
or the whine of anything wheeled, however far off,
then stop in the centre, not an inch left or right; and remember
they all whizz one way, between the white lines.
If you’re well positioned, the wheels will pass by.
We can test it with turf!’ - and he set down a sod
in the halfway haven, the magical midpoint.

Wide-eyed they watched as the turf was traversed
time after time, and suffered no trauma.
The grass stood tall, and the turf was untouched.

‘We have the solution’, cried Snorri with pride.
‘If we sharpen our skill, we’ll be safe and secure.
Now I will go first; have faith, follow me.’

But sad was the passing of Snorri; evil his fate;
the greatest ill fortune a fiend could devise.
The very first vehicle - devilish destiny! -
was a wobbly three-wheeler, with one centre crusher.

Then up spoke our saint, great Torvald the true:
‘In the name of our hero of old, Otr Hreidmarsson,
hear me! Let this foolishness carry no further!
There’s but one bold measure we must undertake.

‘We must plot a peace pact with our brothers the beavers,
brave brainy beavers now dwelling in Badenoch,
brought by some humans in big crates from Canada,
set free in the forest to fend for themselves.
And fend they do nobly, nothing will faze them.
Let us not be too proud to pursue this peace treaty;
let us send to the beavers a bold eager envoy.
I am willing myself, since I know the way;
I will not break faith, this I solemnly swear.’

And so it was settled, and Longtooth the Great,
mighty Longtooth our leader, was bound far away.

Part the Second

And so brave Torvald, without trepidation,
went forth into wilderness, windswept moor,
by rambling rivers replete with trout,
through bracken ways towards the beavers’domain.

This was no joyful journey, no joke for our hero.
Soon at evening a swirling of snow, early winter,
drove Torvald to hide among heather, out of the wind.

By morning the moor was well clothed in white.
Yet sturdily Longtooth strove towards the river,
to break his fast, be replete and ready to go.
But alas! Fickle fortune! the water was frozen.

Hungry, he hastened out on the hard surface,
pounding with forepaws in polar bear style,
but the cruel art of Nature he could not conquer.
Scarce daunted, no coward, he cast his eyes round,
and beheld a great boulder on high among heath;
it stood on the edge of a steep rocky outcrop,
as if a soft blow or strong breath would unbalance it.
Up the steep bank he scrambled; reaching the rock,
he anchored his hind-paws and gave it a heave,
and drew a deep breath and fought with the boulder.
No motion it made, the frost held it fast.

Now, though headstrong action was never his habit
bold Longtooth saw red and his blood was aroused.
He swore several oaths and his hackles rose high;
hauled himself, huffing and puffing, still higher,
and launched himself out from a ledge like a leopard.

Like Thor’s very thunder, thumping and clattering,
down went the rock, rolling down the ravine,
Torvald right after it, twisting and tumbling.

On the level he landed, bruised but unbroken,
found a gaping gap in the irksome ice,
and five fine fish on the surface, slapping.
He scoffed them all promptly, and went on his way.

Much refreshed, our hero resumed his quest
by hawthorn and heather, mountain and moor,
by pathways and passes and patches of snow,
whiles taking a few fat fish where he found them,
whiles stalking and springing on rabbits and hares.

His way led at last to the first forest trees,
and at once his sharp ears heard a wonderful sound:
a scraping and sawing, a sure sign of labour,
the labour of beavers incessantly building.

Part the Third

Soon Torvald caught sight of a seven-strong party
of spoon-tailed sappers felling some fir-trees.
Two machos manhandled a chattering chainsaw,
while the others took over the trunks that had fallen,
gnawing and trimming the twigs with their teeth.

‘Hail, cousins!’ cried Torvald in midst of the clamour,
‘I am Torvald the trusty, and far I have tavelled.
I greet you in friendship, a favour to seek.’

‘I’ll speak to you shortly’, said one of the sawyers,
‘for it’s TIMBER! my comrades, keep carefully back!’
With a creak and a crack the old tree came tumbling.

In a second the sawyer stepped forward and said
In Canadian cadence, ‘Noo, hoo can we help, eh?’

‘Take me to your leader, your mighty Chief Lumberjack’,
softly said Torvald, and made a small bow.

‘It’s MacMurdo you mean, Sir Jock, known as Bigmooth?’

‘I have heard his great name, far and wide it is famous’.

So they went, guide and guest, to the Grand Lodge of Beavers,
the password was given, and proudly our hero
passed into the Presence, and paid his respects;
then, accorded a hearing, without hesitation
explained to the eminent Bigmouth, great Beaver,
succinctly and shortly the poor otters’ plight.

MacMurdo was moved, and spoke with great sympathy:

‘You are a First Nation, your needs must be met;
your homeland is sacred, and must not be stolen
for murderous roadways, vile cars carboniferous.
I will send with you soothward a bevy of sappers,
a daring detachment to deal with your problem.’

Part the Fourth

MacMurdo first summoned MacIain his messenger,
delivered his orders right down to fine detail,
then summoned his chef: ‘Now sear us a salmon!’
Soon, regaled with the red flesh, and fine heather ale,
Our hero was happy and hopeful at last.

Promptly, as ordered, a party was ready,
a band of young beavers all full of bravado,
a proper platoon, under Captain MacCandlish,
hauling behind them a broad sturdy barrow.

Longtooth took his leave of the noble Chief Lumberjack;
his heart was not heavy, the way home not weary.

One stroke of good fortune befell them that day.
Someone spotted a sign, ruby-red, in a hedgerow:
ROAD CLOSED, left behind for the lorry to lift,
and beneath it another ROAD CLOSED, even redder.
‘It’s a gift from the gods’, cried the otter. ‘An omen’.
Four beavers bundled the signs in the barrow.

To cut short a long story, for two days they travelled,
and Torvald in triumph returned to his clan.
Their greetings were joyful, but no jubilation,
for Captain MacCandlish was keen to get cracking.
He climbed to a crag, scanned the country around,
soon spotted a treasure, a tract of wild woodland,
with trees tall and bulky, the biggest he’d seen.

Before you could blink, or say pinus sylvestris,
a vanguard of beavers and volunteer otters
were there in a twinkling, surveying the scene.
‘Ten beeches, ten birches, ten ash and ten alder!’
commanded the Captain. ‘To work with a will!’

Soon chainsaws were clattering, tall trees were tumbling.
Otters were told to take care of the transport,
hauled the huge trunks to the side of the highway.

When all was to hand, four comrades commissioned
to plant the red signs, stood them up by the roadside.
Then ‘twas all paws on deck, precision and timing:
every beech, every birch, built up into barricades.

At first there was screeching and honking and hubbub
as drivers and passengers cursed and asked questions,
for this grand operation concealed a small oversight -
ROAD CLOSED left no doubt...but where was DIVERSION?

As was later reported, all records were broken:
they’d lined up a tailback two hundred miles long!

‘Twas a horrible day for the hapless humans,
but for dispossessed otters, a bright dawn of Liberty!
Convoys of otters crossed over, and recrossed;
girl-pups did pirouettes, boy-pups played dead;
and frolics and laughter filled the fast lane.

Next day there flew over, by Council ‘copter,
the Fat Inspector of Infrastructure,
and Charlie, a man from an animal charity.

They had to agree - the belligerent beavers
had won the battle and won the war.
Now, Charlie was very in tune and had insight,
the motives of mammals his serious study;
he knew what they wanted was not unwarranted:

a system of subways safe and salubrious,
with steps down and up, otter-sized, and good drainage,
to tame the rogue roadway, the terrible tarmac
with its Jags and its juggernauts, tankers and Tesco vans.

And so it was done, and the Golden Age dawned.
Noble Longtooth was loath to accept an award,
but consented at last that the first crossing finished
be christened and known as the Tunnel of Torvald.

Long life to Longtooth, good luck to his folks!
Sing praise to their saviours, the beavers of Badenoch!

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