The knife has always been the most important tool of the Faroese. This is signified by the old saying: “A knifeless man is a lifeless man” which indicates the need in everyday life to have a knife handy at all times.
To underline the importance of this tool in the history of the Faroese people, Faroe Islands Post has released a special SEPAC stamp that is highly recommended to our readers by StampNews.com. Let’s appreciate this philatelic item together!
The knife was used as an eating utensil - almost all traditional Faroese foods require a sharp knife – and it was used for everyday chores as well. It was used to slaughter sheep, cattle and whales, and for the subsequent gutting. It was utterly indispensable at sea – the fisherman who forgot his knife at home inevitably became the butt end of teasing and sarcastic remarks from his mates. It was used to fashion daily tools and repair things, for construction, processing of leather and the manufacture of clothing and shoes. The knife, in short, was the Faroese universal tool.
The traditional Faroe knife is a utility knife used for general purposes which is why it has a relatively short blade. In addition, the Faroese knife is known by the characteristic bend on the blade’s spine, causing the blade to slope slightly down towards the point. This slope is probably the result of ages of experiences, indicating that the knife was used for stabbing at the time of slaughter. The balance point is at the centre of the blade, so that it does not slip sideways during work.
The knife that is featured on the stamp has the same proportions as a common utility knife, but the beautifully decorated knife handle and scabbard, with boats, pilot whales and whale hunting tools of brass, suggests that it has served as an ornamental knife. According to its pedigree it was supposed to have belonged to the Faroese national hero, Nólsoyar Páll (1766 - 1808/09).
This places it at an earlier period than has traditionally been associated with ornamental knives of this kind. Whether it has been fitted with a new handle at a later time, or, as the knife’s pedigree suggests, was made by a contemporary of Nolsøe, a blacksmith in the village of Porkeri - remains a mystery. It is certainly one of the oldest and best preserved ornamental knives in the Faroe Islands today.