Oliver Postgate’s world of Norse folklore The Saga of Noggin The Nog, which aired on BBC One in the mid sixties, featured crude animation, diddy Norse folk with names like Noggin, Nooka, Knut and Graculus, and a hypnotically-voiced narrator. It was brilliant!
Why was it so memorable?
Charmed a generation with its fantastical tales of heroism, danger, magic and adventure in a world of quaint folklore.
What do you get if you cross Noggin with Knut?
You’d have to ask his dad, King Knut, about the time and place. But the character was created by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin.
Scholars of Norse were they?
Hardly. Firmin became fascinated by chess pieces from the Isle of Lewis in the British Museum while an art student. He became obsessed with what he described as Nogmania.
So how did one man’s Nogmania make it to TV?
Peter Firmin wrote an adventure about a prince who travelled to claim his Eskimo bride. He showed it to Oliver Postgate and together they wangled a commission from the BBC.
Come off it, bunged them a few hundred quid. Firmin and Postgate initially cobbled together six 10-minute animated films using basic materials and animation techniques. Postgate provided the hypnotic voice of the narrator.
What was it all about?
An elaborate folklore set in the fictional land of Nog. For imagination it could be compared to Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings, but lacked the depth and complexity.
It focused on the deeds of Noggin, King of the Nogs. He was a peace-loving man but had a variety of challenges to cope with including an encounter with an Ice Dragon. There was also his nemesis Nogbad The Bad, his uncle who’d been exiled to Finland, but was hellbent on usurping him.
Tell me more about Noggin?
“He is the antithesis of the decisive, bloodthirsty Vikings of history, in that he is gentle, friendly and very often doesn’t know what to do next,” explains creator Oliver Postgate.
Noggin had seen her face in his knife, as you do, and travelled to the end of the world to bring her back from the land of the midnight sun. Together they had a son called Knut.
And Nogbad The Bad?
A sort of Terry-Thomas villain whom Oliver Postgate said was “the vilest of all wicked uncles”. He was out to nobble Noggin but his plans always backfired.
Amassive green bird, Graculus, that had been raised by Nooka and became a sage and devoted servant to Noggin, saving him during many an adventure. There was also the dragon Grollife who breathed ice rather than fire, Olaf the Lofty and strongman Thor Nogson.
In all, 30 episodes were made with two being remade in colour in 1982. Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin also dreamed up cult classics Ivor The Engine, Bagpuss and the The Clangers.
A dynamic duo?
Indeed, but their style of film-making went out of fashion in the mid ’80s and the commissions dried up — much to Postgate’s anger.
“In the Lands of the North, where the black rocks stand guard against the cold sea, in the dark night that is very long, the men of the Northlands sit by their great log fires and they tell a tale…”
How about some Nooka darlin’? Anyone for a piece of fruit and Knut?
Not to be confused with?
Curious yellow drink egg-nog