Jan Unvorsagen en de Eynhorn / Jan Unvorsagen and the Unicorn

Sassisk

Ach, upskeppers, ik heb my der al en mål üm karmejakked. Nowdestyds geit et üm, tja, ‘gewoane’ såken, lykas how as eyn twey anvallers avweard hev, of chineesk eaten et sekenhuus inkreaged hev, dår hee gode vründen is med eyn van de restaurantholders (ja wårlik, ik denk et neet sülv uut, myn Nimweegske nåber kwam der sülv med).

Now was der en bült beater vrugger, mor neet alles. Ouk in tydstyden haer gav et disse ard snakkerds, dee gaern siksülv pråten höyren, üm al dee sköyne såken dee see dån hebben. Neavens enkelen kümt et döär höär eygen kloukheyd of künde, mor neavens anderen geit et döär toval. Eyn dårvan is Jan Unvorsagen. Leas en mål syn åventuren:

“Do is maol ‘n Snieder wäen, de harr Jan Unverzagen hett. Un do is hei in’n ärmlicken Zustand wäen, do häff hei up’n Diß säten, un do häbbt öm de Müggen plaoget. Do häff he nao de Müggen slagen, un häff säwen in äinen Slag slagen.

“Do häff hei dacht: ‘Nu kann’t gout waren!’ Do lätt hei in de Zeitung setten: ‘Jan Unverzagen hat Sieben in einem Schlag geschlagen un die andern alle in die Flucht gejagen.’

“Do is de Schrift uk an’n kaiserlicken Hoff kaomen. Do häff dei ‘n Deiner henschicket: in’n Wald do wör ‘n Einhöörn, dat mök ales Veih unsicher. Do denkt hei: ‘Du nimms din Paßiesen mit!’

“Do geiht hei in’n Wald. Do häff dat Einhöön öm stoten wollt un stöt dör’n Boom. He nimp sin Paßiesen und haut faste …”

Gottfried Henßen, Volkserzählungen aus dem westlichen Niedersachsen (1963), s. 66-67

Et geit wat vlug, mor dit passeart: dee eynhorn wul dee nüvere kearl Jan Unvorsagen syn wald uut hebben. Eynhorn klammert an, en geit recht up Jan of. Jan weyt sik net, vöärdat dee skarpe horn hum döärboren sel, uut eynhorn syn pad to springen. Eynhorn stuuvt, horn eyrst, recht en boum in. Now sit e vast, en vöärdat e sik löstrekken kin, hauwt Jan gauw de andre kant van de horn krom med et pasysder. Sou, eynhorn-perbleam uplösd en keyser blyde!

“Do denkt de Kaiser: ‘Nu häß ‘n feinen Mann!’ un will Krieg anfangen. Do möß de Snieder mit, anners geiht’t nich. He mott up’t Pärd. Do har hei in sin Läwen noch nich up säten. Do bindt se’n mit’n Strohsäil up faste, up dat Pärd.

“He mott an de Spitze. Hei sett vörut un haut dat Pärd mit de Sporen: dat schall Stillhaollen. Do dat Pärd in’n vullen Hau up’n Feind hen. Un do wait he sück mich mehr to redden – o Gott, o Gott! – hei häff all Schreck genoug. Do steith ‘n Krüüß an’n Wäg, un do will hei sück an fasthaollen, un dat Krüüß dat bräck aof un do nao’n Feind hen mit’n Degen in’n Mund. Un do ropp de Feind: ‘Pardonn, pardon, de Düwel kump mit’t Krüüß deran!’ Do is Friede slaoten worden …”

Gottfried Henßen, Volkserzählungen aus dem westlichen Niedersachsen (1963), s. 67

Now is et seakers en künde, söyven neavkes in eyn slag to slågen. Mor med al dee andre situatsionen har Jan Unvorsagen doch barre glük, seakers in dee krig. Wår de snakker et geit üm seen to låten, how good of e sülv is, dår geit et by disse vortellings üm heyl wat anners: neet üm snakerye, mor üm humor. Eyn neavke in de lucht doudhauwen is al wat, mor söyven! Dat is heyl wat anners. En din, en unervåren ruuter, dee hum an en krüüs holden wil, umreaden hee angst har, syn paerd af to dunderen, trekket et krüüs de grund uut en weyt de feand to vorjågen, dår hee up de Düvel sülv lek.

En dan dee eynhorn: wårüm is dat bist sou aggressyv? Eynhorns binnen gewounlik doch al skyr en leev en sükswat meyr? Now, dat is net wel of ju et vrågen. De kerkvåders (wichtige vruge teologen uut de eyrste eywen van et kristendum) haren höär al swår ambivalente ideaen üm disse kreatuur. Up et eyne momint was de eynhorn en symbool vöär Jesus sülv, of vöär et gelouf an de Drey-Eynheyd, of et Krüüs, of as en symbool vöär alle glöyvigen. Din, up andre mominten, was et doch en symbool vöär de kwåje machten of see dee to groutsk up siksülv binnen (Jürgen Einhorn (ja wårlik), Spiritalis Unicornis: Das Einhorn als Bedeutungsträger in Literatur und Kunst des Mittelalters (1998), s. 365).

Tja, wat is dee eynhorn in disse vortelling? Is syn aggressioon en parody, dår et gewounlike bild van en eynhorn as en vreadig weasen now döärchbrükked wurdet? Of villicht is et en bült subtyler. De eynhorn steit symbool vöär de sünde van groutsikheyd. Jan Unvorsagen is hyr en groute rivål in van de eynhorn, üm twey readenen. Eyrstens müt hee de eynhörn vurdjågen, en tweydens steit hee in de krant med syn söyven neavkes (wat in et nåricht likt up söyven lüde, wat doch was sünderliker is). Et wold is neet grout genug vöär höär beident, düs eyn müt vurdgån. Eynhorn kykt düs skeav når Jan Unvorsagen, en wil hum an syn horn hebben. Mor dat geit skeav, en now sit eynhorn vaste an en boum.

Mor sou subtyl is disse vortelling neet, dünkt my. Et likt my to, as dat disse vortelling hard geit up slapstick-humor. Disse vortelling is neet up syn starkst up skrivt, mor kin beater gewoun uutvöyrd wurden. Vorglyk et byvübbeld med how of en folkloristisk andoond nysnåricht dramatisk vorteld wurdet in de leste scene van de nymoudske Western-film New of the World (2020). In süksen situatsioon is disse vortelling ouk vöäle målen witsiger as how hee now up papyr is. En bült volksvortellingen binnen meyst effektyv in höär vortelsituatsioon, neet up skrivt. Up dat momint is et geinig to seen how as dee nobele eynhorn med syn horn in de boum vast to sitten kümt, en sik neet löstrekken kin, dår Jan Unvorsagen de horn syn pünkt umhauwd hev. Eyn kan dat heyl komisk in woord en dåd uutbilden in süksen vortelsituatsioon. Dan geit de vortelling neet um deypere symbolen, mor üm et slapstick-element. Süms is en eynhorn geyn kompleks symbool, mor gewoun en grealsk bist med en groute horn dee stöten kin.

English

Yeah, braggers, I’ve complained about them some other time already. Nowadays people will brag about, well, ‘normal’ stuff, like how one repelled two attackers, or was able to smuggle in Chinese takeout into a hospital, because they are friends with the owner of said restaurant (yeah really, I ain’t making this up: my neighbour in Nijmegen thought it up himself).

It is clear that things in the past were better, but not everything. Even in aeons gone there were these braggards, who like to hear themself speak about all those wonderful things they have accomplished. Some claim it is due to their own knowledge or know-how, but others stress the role of coincidence. One of those is Jan Unvorsagen. Read about his adventures:

“Once upon a time there was a cutter named Jan Unvorsagen. Once he found himself in a miserable condition, being seated upon a table, while mosquitos were bothering him. He struck out to the mosquitos, and killed seven of them with one hit.

“Then he thought: ‘Now everything will be all right!’ He even had it printed in the newspaper: ‘Jan Unvorsagen has killed seven with one stone, and all others he drove off.’

“The writing also came to the imperial court. The emperor sent out a servant, [with the message that] there was a unicorn in the forest, upsetting all cattle. Jan considers: ‘I’ll bring my right-angled scale!’

“Thus, he enters the forest. The unicorn wants to pierce him, but hits a tree instead. He takes his right-angled scale and hews it until it’s stuck …”

Gottfried Henßen, Volkserzählungen aus dem westlichen Niedersachsen (1963), p. 66-67

This goes by a little fast, but this is what happens: that unicorn wants that stranger Jan Unvorsagen out of his woods. The unicorn braces itself and then runs straight for Jan. Jan manages to barely jump out of its path before that sharp horn pierces him. The unicorn runs into a tree, horn first. Now it’s stuck, and Jan before it manages to pull loose Jan strikes the tip with the right-angled scale. Now the unicorn-problem is solved, and the emperor is happy!

“Then the emperor thinks: ‘I’ve got a fine man in him!’ and wants to start a war. The cutter has to tag along, otherwise it just won’t do. He has to get upon a horse, which he hasn’t done ever in his life. They tie him with a straw rope on that horse.

“He has to ride up front. He moves ahead and spurs the horse to stand still; so the horse accelerates onwards to the enemy. Jan doesn’t know how to save his own skin – oh God, oh God! – he is scared out of his mind. There is a cross along the road, and he tries to grab a hold onto it. The cross breaks off, and he storms onwards to the enemy with a knife in his mouth. The enemy shouts ‘get away, get away, the Devil is approaching with the cross!’ There was agreed on peace then …”

Gottfried Henßen, Volkserzählungen aus dem westlichen Niedersachsen (1963), p. 67

It surely is an art to kill seven mosquitos with one stone. In all other situations Jan Unvorsagen was incredibly lucky, however, especially in the war. The braggard wants to show how skilled he is, but this story places the priority at something else: not at bragging, but at humour. Killing a mosquito in mid-air is something, but seven! That is something else completely. And then, an inexperienced cavalier holding onto a cross for fear of falling off his horse, pulls out that cross and manages to scare off the enemy, since he seems to be the Devil.

And then that unicorn: why is it so aggressive? Unicorns are normally pure goodness and sweetness and such? Well, that depends on whom you ask. The Church Fathers (important early theologians from the first centuries of Christianity) were quite ambivalent about this creature. Sometimes the unicorn was a symbol for Jesus Himself, or for faith in the Trinity, or the Cross, or a symbol for all faithful. At other times it was a symbol for the powers of evil or people filled with pride (Jürgen Einhorn (yes really), Spiritalis Unicornis: Das Einhorn als Bedeutungsträger in Literatur und Kunst des Mittelalters (1998), p. 365).

Well, what is the unicorn in this story? Is its aggression a parody, since the common image of a unicorn as a peaceful creature is transgressed? Or perhaps it is more subtle. The unicorn is a symbol for the sin of pride. Jan Unvorsagen is a great rival of the unicorn in two aspects. First of all he must expel the unicorn, and secondly he appeared in the newspaper with his seven mosquitos (which in the article seems to appear as seven people, which is even more extraordinary). That forest ain’t big enough for the both of them, so one has to leave. The unicorn is jealous of Jan Unvorsagen, and wants to pierce him with his horn. This goes wrong, however, and now the unicorn is stuck to a tree.

But I don’t reckon this story is that subtle. I think this story relies heavily on slapstick humour. This story does not peak in writing, but in its performance. Compare it, for example, with how a folkloric-like news article is dramatically enacted in the last scene of the neo-Western movie News of the World (2020). In such a situation, this story would be way funnier than how it appears on paper. Many stories are better in their told form, not in writing. At such a performance it is funny to see how that noble unicorn gets stuck in that tree with its horn, and is unable to pull loose, for Jan Unvorsagen has crooked the tip of his horn. That can be quite comically enacted in such a performance. Then the story is not about its deeper symbolism, but about its slapstick element. Sometimes a unicorn is not a complex symbol, but just an angry critter with a big horn that can pierce someone.

Jan Unvorsagen en de Eynhorn / Jan Unvorsagen and the Unicorn. Model: Gringo

Spookplåtkepråt

Üm et maken van de foto

Ditmål noch eynmål eyn nåber syn paerd Gringo as model. Ik har de farven umdreyd vöär en spookachtig effekt, en ik har wat glöyen üm Gringo hentomåked. Üm en horn to vinden was neet maklik, mor glükkig hebben wy en olde kark in’t dörp med en skyre pünt up de toren!

Spooky Spectral Speculations

About creating the picture

This time another village horse, Gringo, is to be the model. I flipped the colors for a spooky effect and added some glow to Gringo. Finding a horn was hard, but luckily we have an old medieval church with a nice pointy tip on the tower!

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