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. The tell of Noggin, prince of the Nogs...
Thus began pretty much every instalment of the saga of Noggin the Nog, a much-loved British cartoon made by Smallfilms, a company consisting of Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin. The series ran from 1959 to 1965, on the BBC, and have been periodically repeated ever since. Predictably, the current wave of nostalgia for such series has been met with their complete absence from the airwaves. From 1961 onwards, various books have been published too.
Noggin the Nog is the young king of the Nogs, a peace-loving Scandinavian people, whose life would be one of pale sunshine and rather small sub-arctic roses if it were not for the machinations of his wicked uncle Nogbad the Bad. In pretty much every episode, Nogbad tries by some new devious means to wrest the crown from his altogether too innocent and trusting nephew, only to be foiled in the nick of time by his own bad luck, or possibly even a good idea from one of the Nogs.
- Noggin: King of the Nogs and a jolly nice chap. He wears a helmet with a crown on and is terribly heroic in a sedentary, peace-loving sort of way.
- Nooka: Princess of the Nogs. She is the beautiful daughter of Nan of the Nooks (a people across the sea who do a good impression of being Inuits), and seems to have a deal more common sense than the native Nogs.
- Prince Knut: The young son of Noggin and Nooka, Knut is probably more intelligent than his father (though not, of course, more brave), and of course, he's jolly nice too.
- Nogbad the Bad: Noggin's wicked uncle is not nice at all. In fact, he's a typical wicked uncle, complete with long, waxed moustache (presumably for twirling) and a sparkling line in evil repartee. He desperately wants the crown of the Land of Nog (which we may presume he doesn't get because of primogeniture), and will sink to any depths to try and get it. Nogbad lives in a delapidated dark castle infested with crows. The crows may be the only people who like him.
- Thor Nogson is the Captain of the Royal Guard, and finds the peace and tranquliy of the Land of Nog boring. His thirst for adventure is not, shall we say, moderated by any intellectual promptings, but he's often on hand to stand up bravely and oppose the wicked Nogbad.
- Olaf the Lofty: The Court Inventor is skinny and brainy, which are unusual traits for a Nog, but he's reassuringly lacking in common sense, just like the rest of them. His inventions are pretty much guaranteed disasters.
- Graculus: Graculus is described as a great green bird, and appears to be a colossal cormorant or something. He first came to the Land of Nog bearing the bone-handled knife which bore a portrait of Nooka, thus inspiring Noggin to undertake his great quest to the Land of the Nooks. Afterwards, the loyal bird became a counsellor to Noggin. Not being a Nog (or even a human), Graculus is more reliably sensible than pretty much anyone else in the kingdom.
- Ronf: This mighty hero is the tallest and strongest of his people. However, as he's not a Nog but one of the little people from the Hot Water Valley, he's still only knee-high to the Nogs he comes to ask for help with a dragon.
- Groliffe is the dragon in question - the treasurer of the Dragons' Friendly Society, responsible for sleeping on a large heap of treasure. He doesn't mean any harm, of course - rather the reverse - but is himself having trouble with a certain well-known moustache-twirling Nog.
- The Moon Mouse is, well, a mouse from the Moon. This tiny lunar astronaut lands in the Land of Nog and is regarded (initially at least) with suspicion. Eventually helped to return home with the aid of some young Nogs, the Moon Mouse (as a concept) would later reappear as the Clangers.
Episodes and books:
- King of the Nogs - Book and TV episode - The first episode, in which Noggin journeys to the land of the Nooks to claim his bride.
- The Ice Dragon - Book and TV episode
- The Flying Machine - Book and TV episode
- The Omruds - Book and TV episode
- The Island - Book and TV episode
- The Firecake - Book and TV episode
- The Pie - Book and TV episode
- The Flowers - Book
- The Game - Book - featuring the genuine Viking game of Hnefetafl
- The Monster - Book
- The Blackwash - Book
- The Icebergs - Book
- Noggin the King - 'Starting to Read' book
- Noggin and the Whale - 'Starting to Read' book
- Noggin and the Dragon - 'Starting to Read' book
- Nogbad Comes Back - 'Starting to Read' book
- Noggin and the Moon Mouse - 'Starting to Read' book - with that Clanger
- Nogbad and the Elephants - 'Starting to Read' book
- Noggin and the Money - 'Starting to Read' book
- Noggin and the Storks - 'Starting to Read' book
Background: Apparently Peter Firmin had the idea for Noggin after seeing the Lewis Chessmen in the British Museum. Oliver Postgate, too, was rather taken with the apprehensive expressions on the viking chess pieces. Most Noggin materials are no longer produced by the BBC, but some are available from the Dragons' Friendly Society at www.dragons-friendly-society.co.uk. My source for pretty much all this information (apart from my own memory) was the very lovely site www.smallfilms.co.uk.