Irish Culture...[was Re: REPOST: Re: The politics of Tolkien

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Michael O'Neill

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Feb 8, 2002, 5:53:10 AM2/8/02
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Adrian Ratnapala wrote:
>
> In article <3C56B0B1...@indigo.ie>, Michael O'Neill wrote:
>
> > The basic problem in prosecuting the idea that Tolkien favoured Anarchy
> > in any forms in the hierarchal nature of his conceived world and the
> > underwritten "Divine Right of Kings" philosophy which contributes so
> > much to the primary motovations of many of the characters. The Edain won
> > their ascendancy because they helped the Elves. The Edain's royalty were
> > all descended from an Elvish-Mannish crossbreed called Elros. The Elvish
> > side of that Union was partly descended from a Maiar of the Blessed
> > Realm, i.e. a divine being.
> >
> > You cannot then turn around and claim Tolkien was for Anarchy because he
> > said he was - it just doesn't sound convincing to me.
>
> But rember Tolkien was a wirter of fiction. Fiction which was never
> indended to have an (direct) political message. This means he could
> easily have positively potrayed political institions which he was really
> against. A lot of lameness comes to modern fantasy when people don't
> have the guts do this. Star Wars is the worst example.

I find I cannot easily agree. Fiction was the original vehicle of
getting political messages across. Its a lot easier to portray a
political ideal in fiction than it is to live you life to communicate
it.

> I will agree with you to some extent. He certainly had a sort of
> attatchment to the romance and granduer of these kinds of kings.
> But hell, I think a lot of people do, that doesn't mean they would
> advocate them in the real world.

Agreed. I think some of Tolkien's work was escapist, a kind of
formulation of a grand mythic past which England, unlike say Greece of
Rome, never had. Unfortunately he just didn't accept his Celtic
Heritage. Irish people have always had a grand mythic past, the Táin and
Cú Chulainn and Fianna Cycles, Diarmuid and Gráinne, etc, etc.

Fuck it, we *invented* the land of the *ever young* where it was
perilous for mirtals to set foot. Viewed in this context, Tolkien has
fallen victim to the regime of the conquering Dane/Angle/Saxon/Norman
who supresses the existing rich traditions of the country they invade
then invent their own.

Irish people have never had these problems of English people. England
has always been a culture overlain, one culture on top of another until
its quest for identity becomes confused. Ireland IMO, and to some degree
Scotland and Wales have always subverted the incoming culture to Irish
attitudes. The basic indomitability of the people and the land itself
lends itself to this suborning.

Ulster Unionists, being descendants of Scots planters, trading on
English largesse, combine the worst of both worlds. An indomitable
people: uprooted, trading on a culture without roots or identity with
only their regard for their sovereign holding them together, forever
divorced from the indigenous land and culture, never belonging,
despising the southern Irish whilst at the same time forgetting that
more of them died in the two World Wars fighting for the English
sovereign than did Unionists.

> > Mere backpedaling after the fact also cannot change the fact that the
> > books are incredibly biased towards "white" peoples. Yes, this is

> The race issue is orthogonal to the discussions about forms of
> government.

Define *orthogonal* in this context please. Ta.

M.

David Flood

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Feb 8, 2002, 7:55:32 AM2/8/02
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"Michael O'Neill" <o...@indigo.ie> wrote in message
news:3C63AE16...@indigo.ie...
> Adrian Ratnapala wrote:
<snip>

> Fuck it, we *invented* the land of the *ever young* where it was
> perilous for mirtals to set foot. Viewed in this context, Tolkien has
> fallen victim to the regime of the conquering Dane/Angle/Saxon/Norman
> who supresses the existing rich traditions of the country they invade
> then invent their own.

King Arthur = Fenian Cycle, anyone?

D.


Chic McGregor

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Feb 8, 2002, 12:37:39 PM2/8/02
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The parallels are compelling and are at last making serious ground in
'scholarly' circles.

e.g. Diarmaid and Grainne vs Lancelot and Guinevere

regards
chic

Chic McGregor

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Feb 8, 2002, 12:37:38 PM2/8/02
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On Fri, 08 Feb 2002 10:53:10 +0000, Michael O'Neill <o...@indigo.ie>
wrote:

Much of Tolkien's stuff is Celtic based in ethos whether he admitted
it or not.

Besides I don't think he was anti-Celtic. He loved Old Welsh but
didn't like gaelic.

He and his Irish pal CS Lewis certainly utilised Celtic Free
Will/personal responsibility/Dualist ethos in their writings.


>Cú Chulainn and Fianna Cycles, Diarmuid and Gráinne, etc, etc.
>
> Fuck it, we *invented* the land of the *ever young* where it was
>perilous for mirtals to set foot. Viewed in this context, Tolkien has
>fallen victim to the regime of the conquering Dane/Angle/Saxon/Norman
>who supresses the existing rich traditions of the country they invade
>then invent their own.
>

Old Germanic fatelism, like the other predestinational pan cultural
area in Europe, Meditterania, lost out against the Central European
Free Will cultural ethos latterly known as Celtica.

>Irish people have never had these problems of English people. England
>has always been a culture overlain, one culture on top of another until
>its quest for identity becomes confused. Ireland IMO, and to some degree
>Scotland and Wales have always subverted the incoming culture to Irish
>attitudes. The basic indomitability of the people and the land itself
>lends itself to this suborning.

Scotland, Ireland and Wales are not the sole legatees of Celtic ethos,
the whole Western World is.

regards
chic

David Flood

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Feb 8, 2002, 12:51:00 PM2/8/02
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"Chic McGregor" <charles....@ntlworld.com> wrote in message
news:3c6408d3...@news.ntlworld.com...

This sounds interesting - could you post some references or URL's, Chic?

> e.g. Diarmaid and Grainne vs Lancelot and Guinevere

It's been an impossible task to get my hands on any texts dealing with the
original (i.e. pre-Christianised) mythologies (and I have little enthusiasm
for learning Old Irish). Perhaps you could recommend a decent treatment?

slán,
D.


Rich

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Feb 8, 2002, 4:51:46 PM2/8/02
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charles....@ntlworld.com (Chic McGregor) wrote in message news:<3c6405a6...@news.ntlworld.com>...

> On Fri, 08 Feb 2002 10:53:10 +0000, Michael O'Neill <o...@indigo.ie>
> wrote:

> >Agreed. I think some of Tolkien's work was escapist, a kind of
> >formulation of a grand mythic past which England, unlike say Greece of
> >Rome, never had. Unfortunately he just didn't accept his Celtic

> >Heritage. Irish people have always had a grand mythic past, the Tįin and


> Much of Tolkien's stuff is Celtic based in ethos whether he admitted
> it or not.
>
> Besides I don't think he was anti-Celtic. He loved Old Welsh but
> didn't like gaelic.
>
> He and his Irish pal CS Lewis certainly utilised Celtic Free
> Will/personal responsibility/Dualist ethos in their writings.

I think Tolkien was anti-Celtic to a certain extent. In his letters,
he tells a fan he thinks Celtic culture is "mad" and doesn't care for
it. And when critical of Lewis, he'd describe him as having the worst
traits of the Irish, or words to that effect. It surprised me when I
read that, because I would have assumed otherwise based on his use of
myths like Tir-Nan-Og. So there may be something to the idea that he
was "taming" or "civilizing" Irish myth in LoTR.
--Rich

Öjevind Lång

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Feb 9, 2002, 8:54:19 AM2/9/02
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Rich wrote:

>charles....@ntlworld.com (Chic McGregor) wrote in message
news:<3c6405a6...@news.ntlworld.com>...
>> On Fri, 08 Feb 2002 10:53:10 +0000, Michael O'Neill <o...@indigo.ie>
>> wrote:
>
>> >Agreed. I think some of Tolkien's work was escapist, a kind of
>> >formulation of a grand mythic past which England, unlike say Greece of
>> >Rome, never had. Unfortunately he just didn't accept his Celtic

>> >Heritage. Irish people have always had a grand mythic past, the Táin and


>> Much of Tolkien's stuff is Celtic based in ethos whether he admitted
>> it or not.

Rome did not have a grand mythic past. They had to steal wholesale from the
Greeks to get one. And of course, England does not have a "Celtic Heritage"
just because there was a period when people spoke a Celtic language in what
was to become England. It should perhaps also be mentioned that other
languages were spoken (successively) in England (and Ireland) for millennia
before Celtic languages, indeed before the arrival of the first
Indo-European language in the British Isles.

[snip]

>I think Tolkien was anti-Celtic to a certain extent. In his letters,
>he tells a fan he thinks Celtic culture is "mad" and doesn't care for
>it. And when critical of Lewis, he'd describe him as having the worst
>traits of the Irish, or words to that effect. It surprised me when I
>read that, because I would have assumed otherwise based on his use of
>myths like Tir-Nan-Og. So there may be something to the idea that he
>was "taming" or "civilizing" Irish myth in LoTR.


Tolkien was not "anti-Celtic", whatever that may be. He did point out the
obvious in one of his linguistic essays, saying that "at the risk of being
accused of flogging a dead horse" he had to mention that there was no such
thing as a Celtic "people" or "race", since "Celtic" is exclusively a
linguistic concept. (Incidentally, the same is of course true of "Germanic"
or "Nordic".) He had excellent relations with Ireland, participating in
examinations at the University of Dublin and receiving an Honorary Doctorate
of Literature there. He loved Welsh but declared that although he by and
large liked Ireland and its people, he did no care for Gaelic, which he
found "mushy".
He did use some Welsh and Irish mythological elements in his works. He
also used Old English, Old Norse, Old Germanic, Finnish and Medieval Romance
material, and was influenced by the writings of Rider Haggard. However, the
most remarkable thing about his works are their originality - how he
developed quite new things. (Though he did lean a bit too hevaily on the
Finnish "Kalevala" in some parts of "The Silmarillion".)
As for the critical comment on Lewis, you have misquoted it and taken it
completely out of context. When the Inklings (Tolkien, Lewis and their
friends) on one occasion entertained Roy Campbell, the South African-born,
Fascist poet, Tolkien was much taken with him but Lewis was disgusted,
something which annoyed Tolkien. Tolkien, like Campbell, was a Catholic,
whereas Lewis was a Belfast-born Protestant. After the meeting, Lewis'
comment was:"I loathed and loathe Campbell's particular blend of Catholicism
and Fascism, and told him so", whereas Tolkien wrote to his son Christopher:
"C.S.L.'s reactions were odd... But hatred of our church is after all the
real only final foundation of the C. of E." and: "There is a good deal of
Ulster still left in C.S.L."

Öjevind


Rich

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Feb 9, 2002, 3:39:23 PM2/9/02
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"?evind L?g" <ojevin...@swipnet.se> wrote in message news:<_P998.8901$O5.2...@nntpserver.swip.net>...
> Rich wrote:

> >I think Tolkien was anti-Celtic to a certain extent. In his letters,
> >he tells a fan he thinks Celtic culture is "mad" and doesn't care for
> >it. And when critical of Lewis, he'd describe him as having the worst
> >traits of the Irish, or words to that effect. It surprised me when I
> >read that, because I would have assumed otherwise based on his use of
> >myths like Tir-Nan-Og. So there may be something to the idea that he
> >was "taming" or "civilizing" Irish myth in LoTR.
>
>
> Tolkien was not "anti-Celtic", whatever that may be. He did point out the
> obvious in one of his linguistic essays, saying that "at the risk of being
> accused of flogging a dead horse" he had to mention that there was no such
> thing as a Celtic "people" or "race", since "Celtic" is exclusively a
> linguistic concept. (Incidentally, the same is of course true of "Germanic"
> or "Nordic".) He had excellent relations with Ireland, participating in
> examinations at the University of Dublin and receiving an Honorary Doctorate
> of Literature there. He loved Welsh but declared that although he by and
> large liked Ireland and its people, he did no care for Gaelic, which he
> found "mushy".

> As for the critical comment on Lewis, you have misquoted it and taken it
> completely out of context. When the Inklings (Tolkien, Lewis and their
> friends) on one occasion entertained Roy Campbell, the South African-born,
> Fascist poet, Tolkien was much taken with him but Lewis was disgusted,
> something which annoyed Tolkien. Tolkien, like Campbell, was a Catholic,
> whereas Lewis was a Belfast-born Protestant. After the meeting, Lewis'
> comment was:"I loathed and loathe Campbell's particular blend of Catholicism
> and Fascism, and told him so", whereas Tolkien wrote to his son Christopher:
> "C.S.L.'s reactions were odd... But hatred of our church is after all the
> real only final foundation of the C. of E." and: "There is a good deal of
> Ulster still left in C.S.L."
>
> Öjevind

I vaguely recall the passage above, but it's not the one I'm referring
to. Tolkien made another comment or two, later on about Lewis while
talking about his writing, but I don't have the letters anthology in
front of me to check. Regarding "celtic" culture, that's my word
choice. In the passage I'm thinking of, he may have said "Irish"
instead. But the context had to do with a fan (I believe) wondering if
LoTR was heavily influenced by, or an homage to, Ireland or Irish
culture (my words), and he wrote back eager to correct that notion,
describing it as "mad" or "crazy", or words to that effect. I'm an
Ulsterman by heritage, so those passages stood out for me. I'm aware
that Tolkien studied Irish myth, travelled to Ireland frequently, and
probably had many good things to say of the Irish people, but on their
cultural heritage his scholarly opinion, or perhaps, aesthetic
preference, seemed to indicate a not entirely positive slant. I don't
consider Tolkien's views racist, more like a familiar
characterization, and I'm sure he could be equally blunt about his
people.
--Rich

Alan Smaill

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Feb 9, 2002, 9:42:07 PM2/9/02
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Féachadóir <Féach@d.óir> writes:

> Scríobh Chic McGregor :

> 'At last'? Arthur is a Welsh cognate to everyone from Fionn to Cormac
> Mac Art, I've have thought that was obvious. Why is this news to
> anyone?

Indeed -- Arthur was British and opposed to the Anglo-Saxon
invaders, as I thought we all knew.

> >e.g. Diarmaid and Grainne vs Lancelot and Guinevere
>

> Not to mention the same story with minor variations in Deirdre Of The
> Sorrows and Tristan and Isoude.
>
> --
> An Féachadóir - Lig futh agus cluinfidh na clocha thú!
> Read the SCI FAQ: http://www.geocities.com/welisc/ifaq

Alan Smaill email: A.Sm...@ed.ac.uk
Division of Informatics tel: 44-131-650-2710
Edinburgh University

Alan Smaill

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Feb 9, 2002, 9:43:47 PM2/9/02
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charles....@ntlworld.com (Chic McGregor) writes:

> >Agreed. I think some of Tolkien's work was escapist, a kind of
> >formulation of a grand mythic past which England, unlike say Greece of
> >Rome, never had. Unfortunately he just didn't accept his Celtic
> >Heritage. Irish people have always had a grand mythic past, the Táin and
> Much of Tolkien's stuff is Celtic based in ethos whether he admitted
> it or not.
>
> Besides I don't think he was anti-Celtic. He loved Old Welsh but
> didn't like gaelic.

Where do you get that from?
I'm curious both ways round.

> regards
> chic

Alan Smaill

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Feb 9, 2002, 9:46:19 PM2/9/02
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"Öjevind Lång" <ojevin...@swipnet.se> writes:

> Rome did not have a grand mythic past. They had to steal wholesale from the
> Greeks to get one.

That's how you get a mythic past -- invent it.
Where did the Greeks get it from?

Chic McGregor

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Feb 10, 2002, 4:07:03 AM2/10/02
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On 10 Feb 2002 02:42:07 +0000, Alan Smaill <sma...@dai.ed.ac.uk>
wrote:

>F=E9achad=F3ir <F=E9ach@d.=F3ir> writes:
>
>> Scr=EDobh Chic McGregor :
>> =


>
>> >On Fri, 8 Feb 2002 12:55:32 -0000, "David Flood"
>> ><NOSPAMm...@utvinternet.ie> wrote:
>> >
>> >>"Michael O'Neill" <o...@indigo.ie> wrote in message
>> >>news:3C63AE16...@indigo.ie...
>> >>> Adrian Ratnapala wrote:
>> >><snip>
>> >>> Fuck it, we *invented* the land of the *ever young* where it was

>> >>> perilous for mirtals to set foot. Viewed in this context, Tolkien h=
>as
>> >>> fallen victim to the regime of the conquering Dane/Angle/Saxon/Norm=
>an
>> >>> who supresses the existing rich traditions of the country they inva=


>de
>> >>> then invent their own.
>> >>

>> >>King Arthur =3D Fenian Cycle, anyone?


>> >>
>> >>D.
>> >>
>> >>
>> >The parallels are compelling and are at last making serious ground in
>> >'scholarly' circles.

>> =


>
>> 'At last'? Arthur is a Welsh cognate to everyone from Fionn to Cormac
>> Mac Art, I've have thought that was obvious. Why is this news to
>> anyone?
>

Sorry I missed your post.

I didn't say it was new or not obvious. It always seemed the most
likely scenario to me even when I first started studying Celtic
culture and culture in general decades ago.

What I am saying is that it must have been a couple of years before I
found anyone else with the same thoughts on it. it is an idea that has
met with resistance in Britain.

Recently I have seen papers with it at least as a possibility, even in
those with all the other usual A-S slants, e.g. suggesting the
reference to Arthur in Y Gododdin may have been inserted later,
he fought against the Scots etc.


>Indeed -- Arthur was British and opposed to the Anglo-Saxon
>invaders, as I thought we all knew.
>

Well actually everything is possible from him being a Dalriadic prince
to fighting against the Picts and Scots, Sarmation cavalry commander,
non-existant etc. etc.

>> >e.g. Diarmaid and Grainne vs Lancelot and Guinevere

>> =


>
>> Not to mention the same story with minor variations in Deirdre Of The
>> Sorrows and Tristan and Isoude.

>> =

Some think T&I was Pictish in origin.


regards
chic

Chic McGregor

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Feb 10, 2002, 4:07:07 AM2/10/02
to
On 10 Feb 2002 02:43:47 +0000, Alan Smaill <sma...@dai.ed.ac.uk>
wrote:

>charles....@ntlworld.com (Chic McGregor) writes:


>
>> >Agreed. I think some of Tolkien's work was escapist, a kind of
>> >formulation of a grand mythic past which England, unlike say Greece of
>> >Rome, never had. Unfortunately he just didn't accept his Celtic

>> >Heritage. Irish people have always had a grand mythic past, the T=E1in a=


>nd
>> Much of Tolkien's stuff is Celtic based in ethos whether he admitted
>> it or not.

>> =


>
>> Besides I don't think he was anti-Celtic. He loved Old Welsh but
>> didn't like gaelic.
>
>Where do you get that from?
>I'm curious both ways round.
>

To be honest, I can't remember even if I read it or was told it or saw
it on TV, it's just something 'I know'.

However, I noticed someone else mentioned it in this group recently,
since my post in fact, and probably on this thread.

regards
chic

Öjevind Lång

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Feb 10, 2002, 9:32:45 AM2/10/02
to
Chic McGregor wrote:

>On 10 Feb 2002 02:43:47 +0000, Alan Smaill <sma...@dai.ed.ac.uk>
>wrote:
>
>>charles....@ntlworld.com (Chic McGregor) writes:

[snip]

>>> Besides I don't think he was anti-Celtic. He loved Old Welsh but
>>> didn't like gaelic.
>>
>>Where do you get that from?
>>I'm curious both ways round.
>>
>To be honest, I can't remember even if I read it or was told it or saw
>it on TV, it's just something 'I know'.
>
>However, I noticed someone else mentioned it in this group recently,
>since my post in fact, and probably on this thread.


The fact is mentioned both in Humphrey Carpenter's biography and in
Tolkien's Letters.

Öjevind


Alan Smaill

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Feb 13, 2002, 9:54:53 PM2/13/02
to
"Öjevind Lång" <ojevin...@swipnet.se> writes:

thanks for the pointer.

Any hints on the basis for his attitude?

Adrian Ratnapala

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Feb 14, 2002, 4:56:59 AM2/14/02
to
In article <3C63AE16...@indigo.ie>, Michael O'Neill wrote:
> Adrian Ratnapala wrote:

>> > You cannot then turn around and claim Tolkien was for Anarchy because he
>> > said he was - it just doesn't sound convincing to me.
>>
>> But rember Tolkien was a wirter of fiction. Fiction which was never
>> indended to have an (direct) political message. This means he could

<snipping myself>

> I find I cannot easily agree. Fiction was the original vehicle of
> getting political messages across. Its a lot easier to portray a
> political ideal in fiction than it is to live you life to communicate
> it.

True enough. Fiction has long been a vehicle of political expression,
but that is not all of it is, certainly I would say Tolkeins mythology
was never intended as such fiction.

>> > Mere backpedaling after the fact also cannot change the fact that the
>> > books are incredibly biased towards "white" peoples. Yes, this is
>
>> The race issue is orthogonal to the discussions about forms of
>> government.
>
> Define *orthogonal* in this context please. Ta.

Sorry I spend far too much time talking to people who understand this
particular nuance of the word. I mean `independent of', `irrelevent
to'? But not quite. To draw the connection to the mathmatical meaning
of orthogonality, I mean the race issue is one axis while the
forms-of-government is a seperate axis.

Öjevind Lång

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Feb 14, 2002, 5:08:12 PM2/14/02
to
Alan Smaill wrote:

"Öjevind Lång" <ojevin...@swipnet.se> writes:

[snip]

>> >>> Besides I don't think he was anti-Celtic. He loved Old Welsh but
>> >>> didn't like gaelic.
>> >>
>> >>Where do you get that from?
>> >>I'm curious both ways round.
>> >>
>> >To be honest, I can't remember even if I read it or was told it or saw
>> >it on TV, it's just something 'I know'.
>> >
>> >However, I noticed someone else mentioned it in this group recently,
>> >since my post in fact, and probably on this thread.
>>
>> The fact is mentioned both in Humphrey Carpenter's biography and in
>> Tolkien's Letters.
>>
>> Öjevind
>
>thanks for the pointer.
>
>Any hints on the basis for his attitude?


I belive somehting about its grammatical structure annoyed him.

Öjevind

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