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Primary School Students in Scotland Gave Dead Goldfish a Viking Burial

Farewell, Bubbles and Freddy

One of the longships built by students at Papdale Primary School. (Papdale Primary School)
smithsonian.com

This past Christmas, class P3/4S at the Papdale Primary School in Kirkwall, Scotland, received two class pets: a pair of goldfish named Bubbles and Freddy. Alas, Bubbles and Freddy were not long for this world, and they recently passed away. When confronted by the merciless hand of Mother Nature, the students did not resort to the preferred method of dead goldfish disposal—which is to say flushing the critters down to a mucky grave in the public sewage system. Instead, the BBC reports, they gave Bubbles and Freddy a more dignified send-off, in the form of a Viking funeral.

The class had been learning about the Vikings and their belief system when Bubbles and Freddy departed from this Earth, and (if you subscribe to Viking lore) were carried off by Valkyries into Odin’s Hall of the Slain. “We decided to send our fish to Valhalla with a Viking-style burial in a Long Ship we made that day,” Papdale’s blog explains.

Working in teams, students made longships out of household items like egg cartons and tea boxes. Then they walked to a riverbank and read tributes to the deceased fish. (Sample: “Freddy had bright orange scales. He was very fat. This is because he nearly always was quickest to the pellets”.) When the eulogies concluded, a teacher waded into the water and set the goldfish’s resting place alight.

Funeral rites for noble Norsemen like Bubbles and Freddy were indeed grand affairs, replete with maritime symbolism. The most impressive example in this regard is arguably a large, 9th-century C.E. ship found buried in Oseberg, Norway. According to the Museum of Cultural History in Norway, the bodies of two women were discovered inside the ship, surrounded by luxurious gifts in 1903. Their identities remain unknown. Other longship burials have been discovered over the years, among them an 8.5-meter boat interred in Oslofjord, Norway. Professor of archaeology Neil Price writes on the British Museum blog that the remains of a man, two women, an infant, and several animals were laid to rest inside the boat. 

Rather than inhume Bubbles and Freddy, Papdale students opted for a funeral at sea. The egg carton longship floated best, the school writes in its blog. The one carrying the goldfish tipped over mid-funeral, but at least the children “enjoyed giving them a good send off to Valhalla,” according to the blog.

Rest in peace, Bubbles and Freddy. Rest in peace.

About Brigit Katz

Brigit Katz is a journalist based in New York City. Her work has appeared in New York magazine, Flavorwire, and Women in the World, a property of The New York Times.

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