How to Become a Skater

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Excerpt from How to Become a Skater: Containing Full Instructions for Excelling at Figure and Speed Skating; Illustrated

The use of skates in some one form or another has been popular for almost a thousand years. They had their origin in Continental Europe and were later introduced into England. The old-time Norse, Swedes and Dutch were pioneers in the art of propelling one's self over ice on improvised runners, and they have left latter-day humanity a legacy that has increased to wondrous value. Like that of many other pastimes, the exact origin of skating it is impossible to ascertain, and consequently those who would speak of its early state must generalize to a considerable extent. In the "Edda" or "Elder Edda," a collection of Icelandic literature gathered by Saemund the Wise, supposedly in 1056-1133, skating is mentioned. This is probably the earliest known source from which record of the facinating pastime can be obtained. The god Uller is represented as being remarkable for his beauty, arrows and skates. Friedrich Klop-stock, the celebrated German poet and author, in speaking of skating two hundred years ago, said that man, "like the Homeric gods, strides with winged feet over the sea transmuted into solid ground." Goethe, Herder and other German poets have also sung its praises.

Fitzstephen, a writer in the twelfth century, is undoubtedly the most reliable authority on the remote past of skating. He states that the art was imported into England from the Low Countries. He also describes in detail features of the sport in its elementary state.

The style of skate then in use was the brisket bone of an ox, which was fastened to the sole of the foot and around the ankle like the talares or winged sandals of Mercury.

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