Noggin the Nog
Noggin the Nog is a popular British children's character appearing in his own TV series (of the same name) and series of illustrated books, the brainchild of Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin. The TV series is considered a cult classic from the golden age of British children's television. Noggin himself is a simple, kind and unassuming King of the Northmen in a roughly Viking-age setting, with various fantastic elements such as dragons, flying machines and talking birds.
Some of the original artwork for the series is on display at the Rupert Bear Museum. The appearance of the characters was influenced by Peter Firmin seeing the Lewis chessmen in the British Museum.
Plot and characters
The stories were based around the central character of Noggin, the rather simple but good-natured son of Knut, King of the Nogs, and his queen Grunhilda. When King Knut dies, Noggin must find a queen to rule beside him or else forfeit the crown to his uncle, Nogbad the Bad. Noggin meets and marries Nooka of the Nooks, (an Eskimo princess), and becomes the new king. Noggin and Nooka have a son, Knut, who comes to the fore in later storylines. Other regular characters include:
- Thor Nogson – Noggin's closest friend and Captain of the Royal Guard. Nogson portrays himself as "fierce", but is actually anything but fierce. Nevertheless, he is unfailingly loyal, and never hesitates to defend the honour of his king.
- Olaf the Lofty – An eccentric and occasionally arrogant, but well-meaning, inventor. Olaf's inventions rarely work out exactly as he intends them to, although his most notable success is the Flying Machine.
- Graculus – A big green bird who arrives as Nooka's messenger in the first episode. Later by chance they return to the place of his birth and meet his family, who unlike him are incapable of human speech.
- Grolliffe – A friendly ice dragon who Noggin befriends, and who helps Noggin and his friends in a later episode.
Although the individual stories vary, any trouble encountered by the heroes is usually caused by Nogbad the Bad, who never gives up trying to claim Noggin's throne for himself. Nogbad always loses in the end, though not always through the intervention of Noggin himself.
The original television series was first broadcast, starting on 11 September 1959, by the BBC in the United Kingdom, and continued to 1965. Twenty-one programmes were made in black and white, and six in colour, each with a running time of ten minutes, by a company called Smallfilms.
When the programme made a comeback in 1979 it ran for just six episodes and was made in colour. The new series comprised one new two-part story and a colour remake of the second saga, originally a six-parter, "Noggin and the Ice Dragon". This colour series of Noggin the Nog ran until mid-1980. The level of stop-motion animation was basic, but did not detract from the popularity of the series.
The on-screen title is "The Saga of Noggin the Nog", since the stories were based on the principle of a Norse saga, and episodes began with the words, "Listen to me and I will tell you the story of Noggin the Nog, as it was told in the days of old", or "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 ... and those tales they tell are the stories of a kind and wise king and his people; they are the Sagas of Noggin the Nog. Welcome to Northlands, a tribute to Noggin, King of the Nogs and the People of the Northlands." These opening lines were accompanied by Vernon Elliott's bassoon score.
A new series was rumoured in the late 1990s, but nothing came of it.
The complete series was released on DVD in 2005, in a package that also included DVD versions of the short story books.
1 The Saga of Noggin the Nog (a.k.a. The King of the Nogs) (6 episodes) (b/w)
- episode 1 – The King
- episode 2 – The Ship
- episode 3 – The Journey
- episode 4 – The Island
- episode 5 – Nogbad the Bad
- episode 6 – The King of the Nogs
2 The Ice Dragon (6 episodes) (b/w)
- 1 – The Little Man
- 2 – The Journey
- 3 – The Hot Water Valley
- 4 – The Dragon
- 5 – The Treasure
- 6 – Nogbad the Bad
3 The Flying Machine (3 episodes) (b/w)
- 1 – The Jar
- 2 – The Birds
- 3 – The City
4 The Omruds (3 episodes) (b/w)
- 1 – The Great Invention
- 2 – Under the Hill
- 3 – The Challenge
5 The Firecake (3 episodes) (b/w)
- 1 – The Crown of Flowers
- 2 – The Dream
- 3 – The Sorcerer's Sword
6 Noggin and the Ice Dragon (4 episodes) (colour) (remake of 2nd saga)
7 Noggin and the Pie (2 episodes) (colour) (based on the book published in 1971)
Narrated by Oliver Postgate.
Character voices by Oliver Postgate and Ronnie Stevens.
Stories by Oliver Postgate, Pictures by Peter Firmin.
Music by Vernon Elliott.
Various Noggin short stories were also published, and a visitor in one of them, Noggin and the Moon Mouse, provided the basis for the characters in the popular Clangers TV series. All the books were written by Oliver Postgate, illustrated in full colour by Peter Firmin, and published by Kaye & Ward.
Edmund Ward Starting to Read books:
- Noggin The King (1965)
- Noggin and The Whale (1965)
- Noggin and The Dragon (1966)
- Nogbad Comes Back! (1966)
- Noggin and The Moon Mouse (1967)
- Nogbad and The Elephants (1967)
- Noggin and The Money (1973)
- Noggin and The Storks (1973)
There was also a standard book series published in the 1960s and 1970s consisting of 12 illustrated hardback books:
- King of the Nogs (1968)
- The Ice Dragon (1968)
- The Flying Machine (1968)
- The Omruds (1968)
- The Island (1969)
- The Firecake (1969)
- The Pie (1971)
- The Flowers (1971)
- The Game (1972)
- The Monster (1972)
- The Black-Wash (1975)
- The Icebergs (1975)
A large book about Nog's life, illustrated in black and white, was also published:
- Nogmania (1977) (reprinted by The Dragon's Friendly Society in 2000)
Two omnibus books were published to tie in with the colour TV series:
- Three Tales of Noggin Volume 1 (1981) (Noggin the King/Noggin and The Whale/Noggin and the Moon Mouse)
- Three Tales of Noggin Volume 2 (1981) (Noggin and the Dragon/Nogbad and the Elephant/Noggin and the Storks)
In 1992 a fully illustrated 96-page colour book, The Sagas of Noggin the Nog, was published by HarperCollins. This volume contains four tales: King of the Nogs, The Ice Dragon, The Flying Machine, and The Omruds.
VHS and DVD Releases
Between 8 May 1990 and 5 August 1991. Two Noggin the Nog videos were released by the BBC.
- The Saga of Noggin the Nog: Tales of the Northlands (BBCV 4359). Released: 8 May 1990.
Two episodes: "Noggin and the Ice Dragon" (colour), Noggin and The Flying Machine (black & white).
- The Saga of Noggin the Nog: The Omruds/The Firecake (BBCV 4651). Released: 5 August 1991
Two episodes: "Noggin and the Omruds" (black & white), "Noggin and the Firecake" (black & white).
Recognition with a Noggin stamp
Noggin has received an accolade achieved by very few Norse characters – he appeared with the Ice Dragon reading him a note from Nogbad, on a British commemorative postage stamp (SG1804) in January 1994. The art work for the stamp was drawn by Peter Firmin, who also produced a series of illustrations for the advertising campaign to publicize the new stamps. The stamp was one of a set of ten on the theme of "messages", featuring characters from British children's literature. All the characters were pictured holding a letter, note or message. Noggin's note reads: "I, Nogbad 'the Bad' do hereby promise to be 'the Good'."
- 'Noggin rides again' Arts Guardian 28 July 2014; An interview with Peter Firmin by Julia Raeside. Firmin also recalled how his children helped him name some of the characters (eg Nooka of the Nooks came from his daughter talking about the film 'Nannook of the North')
- "Postgate's genius lives on at museum". Canterbury City Counci l. 16 December 2008. Retrieved 20 October 2010.
- 'Noggin rides again' Arts Guardian 28 July 2014
- "The BBC Story – September anniversaries". BBC. Retrieved 31 July 2010.
- "The Saga of Noggin the Nog". BFI Screenonline. Retrieved 31 July 2010.
- Fontaine, Rex (21 June 1998). "In a spirit of animation". The Independent. Retrieved 20 May 2010.
- "Stamps and First Day Cover". Smallfilms. Retrieved 23 September 2009.
- "Noggin the Nog Memorabilia – stamps". Northlands (Neil Jones). 1997–2003. Retrieved 23 September 2009.