Case A & B: Noggin the Nog
In the introduction, we hear of “how a Prince built a long ship and sailed in it beyond the black ice at the edge of the world to bring home his bride from the land of the midnight sun”. Here, Postgate and Firmin seek to evoke a range of influences. The undertaking of such a voyage draws parallels with The Vinland Sagas, which centred on the settling of Greenland and the exploration of landmasses around Newfoundland, Baffin Island, and Labrador.1
Firmin was certainly aware of Erik the Red’s story, referring to it as an early source of inspiration, alongside the Lewis Chessmen, for his Noggin synopsis.2 Postgate, by identifying the destination of Noggin’s quest as “the land of the midnight sun”, further extends the correspondence between these formative plotlines in The Saga of Noggin the Nog and the voyage to Greenland – and beyond – in the Vinland Sagas.
Furthermore, the process by which the exact details of Noggin’s bride-to-be are revealed, courtesy of the walrus-tusk blade carried by Graculus, which bears an image of Nooka, daughter of Nan of the Nooks, offers additional associations with the Inuit culture. While the association of the walrus-tusk blade with ancient Inuit culture is more straightforward, with such items being useful tools and commodities for trade, the significance of Nooka’s name is perhaps less obvious.3 Postgate recalls how this part of the plot was suggested by Hannah Firmin, Peter and Joan’s four year old daughter, as she “had seen the famous film Nanook of the North  which was about the home life of Eskimos and had decided she was a Nook and could not therefore be expected to wear pyjamas in bed”.4
Nanook is a much discussed film, in so much as it represents an early keystone for the documentary form, yet the filmmaker Robert Flaherty, through his uncompromising efforts to secure a record of ethnographic fact, frequently takes Nanook into the territory of fiction.5 Ultimately, while generated by a myriad of inspirational forces, this predicament – the need to voyage the seas to unite with Nooka – establishes the overriding narrative tension that runs through the first saga: will Nogbad prevent the union of Noggin and Nooka?
Dr Chris Pallant
Reader, School of Creative Arts and Industries
Faculty Director of Enterprise (Arts, Humanities and Education)
Canterbury Christ Church University
Chapter 3: Building Worlds – The Sagas of Noggin the Nog in Chris Pallant, Beyond Bagpuss: A History of Smallfilms Animation Studio (London: BFI, 2022), pp X – X
2. Peter Firmin, interviewed by Chris Pallant, Canterbury, UK, 31 August 2016.
3. Christine Hatt, The Peoples of North America before Columbus (Milwaukee, WI: Raintree, 1999), p. 50.
4. Oliver Postgate, Seeing Things: An Autobiography, p. 220.
5. See: John W. Burton and Caitlin W. Thompson, “Nanook and the Kirwinians: Deception, Authenticity, and the Birth of Modern Ethnographic Representation,” Film History 14, no. 1 (Jan 1, 2002), 74-86.