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Use your noggin!

Noggin the Nog

Noggin the Nog was a popular British children's television series shown by the BBC in the United Kingdom from 1959 to 1965. Thirty-six programmes were made, originally in black and white and running for ten minutes, by a company called Smallfilms, the brainchild of Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin. When the programme made a comeback in 1979, it ran for just six episodes. The series was also colourised and one of the stories is a remake of the earlier version of Noggin The Nog: Noggin and the Ice Dragon. The second instalment of Noggin the Nog ran until the summer of 1980. The level of stop-motion animation was basic, but this did not detract from the popularity of the series.

Strictly speaking, the title is "The Saga of Noggin the Nog", since the stories were based on the principle of a Norse saga, and every episode 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..." This, combined with Vernon Elliot's haunting bassoon score, conveyed a slightly "creepy" atmosphere, which children found a little frightening and consequently even more exciting.

Visually, it was primarily inspired by the Lewis chessmen (of Norse origin), in fact one story is about Noggin playing Chess with Nogbad the Bad. Linguistically, the hero's name is from 'noggin', one of the very few surviving words of the ancient Celtic Brythonic language of pre-Roman Britain, which survives in the common phrase "use your noggin" (i.e.: 'use your head, think about a problem in order to solve it').

The stories were based around the central character of Noggin, a rather simple, good-natured prince. In the early episodes, he married an Eskimo princess, Nooka, and they had a son, Knut, who came to the fore in some of the later episodes. Other regular characters were: Noggin's friend and Captain of the Royal Guard, 'the fierce' Thor Nogson (who in fact is anything but fierce); an eccentric inventor, Olaf the Lofty; and a big green bird called Graculus who randomly arrives in the first episode. Later by chance they return to the place of his birth and they meet his family, who unlike him are not capable of human speech. Although the individual stories varied, any trouble encountered by the heroes was usually caused by Nogbad the Bad, Noggin's wicked uncle who wanted the throne for himself.

Various Noggin short stories were also published, and a visitor in one of them, Noggin and the Moon Mouse, later provided the basis for the characters in the popular Clangers TV series.

Noggin has received an accolade achieved by very few Norse characters - he appeared with the Ice Dragon on a British 'greetings' stamp (SG1804) in 1994!

The complete series was released on DVD in 2005, in a package which also included DVD versions of the short story books.

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