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Tóvó’s Flies

That morning Tóvó was awakened by his mother. She had

been up a few times during the last two days, but she did

not speak. She was not her usual self, and now that the

measles and its after effects had lost their grip, she would

break into sobs so heartrending that Tóvó had to cover his

ears; he went outside, even though it did not help. He had

no idea that these crying spells were a burgeoning insanity,

and that in the coming years his mother would earn the

nickname Crazy Betta.



, or


, Panum wrote:

there is

hardly any other country, or indeed any metropolis, in which

mental diseases are so frequent in proportion to the number

of people as on the Faroes.

Tóvó’s brother, L


ar, and his sister, Ebba, were still

confined to their bunks, and their grandfather had placed a

spittoon on the bench between him. An old household

remedy said seawater had curative powers, and therefore

grandfather often made the trip to the little promontory of

Bursatanga to rinse out the spittoon. He covered it with a

lid to keep the flies away, but nonetheless they buzzed

around this interesting wooden container. Sometimes they

sat on the rim, and while they cleaned their shiny legs,

Tóvó struck. Most he killed as soon as he caught them, but

some he tortured to death. He would place the prisoner on

its back and sense the faint buzzing of the fly body as a