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The Heathen Chicken: an Old Punchline Revisited

Most of you have probably seen a joke circulating on Usenet and e-mail lists, about how various pagan faiths would answer the classic riddle "Why did the chicken cross the road?" The original Asatru answer began:

First, we don't believe in a "One Chicken" or a "Hen and Rooster." We believe in many chickens.

Second, "crossing the road" is probably a later Christian contamination of the original Norse riddle--in which the chicken "trod the road to Hel", a standard expression for death. Hail the Chickens!

I've also composed my own fundamentalist Asatru response to that riddle:

Anyone who's bothered to read the Eddas knows that the lore contains only TWO references to chickens...[Insert lengthy discussion of Svípdagsmál stanzas describing Vidofnir the rooster's perching in a tree and guarding the only weapon that can kill it; quote and analyze the original Old Norse if possible. Insert similar lengthy discussion of Prose Edda excerpts describing three roosters crowing to wake armies at Ragnarok.]

Neither of those passages imply that the chickens did anything but stay where they were and make noise. In addition, all the chickens mentioned there were roosters -- which proves that our gods want hens to stay in the coop quietly and lay eggs. Obviously, anyone who lets his chickens cross a road is a dangerous, politically correct neo-Heathen eclectic: if the gods had meant for chickens to cross roads, the lore would have described it happening in the first place.

© 2003 Ingeborg S. Nordén

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