While having drinks with a friend last night, the subject of the British author Roald Dahl came up. None of us at the pub could remember the specifics of when he wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, so naturally we all dove for iPhones and Wikipedia. Scrolling through his Wikipedia entry, though, we came across this bit:
Roald Dahl died on 23 November 1990, at the age of 74 of a blood disease, myelodysplastic syndrome, in Oxford, and was buried in the cemetery at St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, England. According to his granddaughter, the family gave him a “sort of Viking funeral”. He was buried with his snooker cues, some very good burgundy, chocolates, HB pencils and a power saw.
No, really. The man was buried with a power saw.
Or at least that’s what Wikipedia claims his granddaughter said, along with the fact that he was given a “sort of Viking funeral.” The article didn’t speculate on what that means, but we certainly did. Following the Wikipedia link, we learned that Norse funerals often entail laying the dead “in a boat, or on a stone ship” where “they were given grave offerings in accordance with [their] earthly status and profession. … Afterwards, piles of stone and soil were usually laid on top of the remains in order to create a tumulus.”
A “tumulus,” by the way, is just a fancy way of saying “pile of dirt or stones.” You know, like in Beowulf.
Maybe it was just the Smithwick’s talking when we all decided that going out on a big funeral pyre with The Who screaming over big-ass speakers seemed like a better funeral plan, but we all loved the inclusion of a favorite power tool in the grave. One drawback, though: Isn’t it best to leave tools for the living?
(Thanks, John Picken, for the CC-licensed photo. The photo I took last night was, um, a little blurry.)