Bear away the palm

Posted by TheFallen on October 11, 2004

In Reply to: Bear away the palm posted by Eddie on October 11, 2004

: I was reading a book on Norse mythology, and came across a phrase I was not sure the meaning of. The phrase is "Bearing away the palm (of wit)". It had no meaning I could derive from it's use, and on the Google link, there were only 53 listings for "Palm". One of them linked to these boards (several actually, but only one had the correct reference, bulletin_board 35/index.html).

: This explains the meaning of the phrase, but I am still not able to find it's origin, it's original reason for being.

: My source relates to why bears have no tails. The phrase is used: "In Europe the fox bears away the palm of wit from all other animals, so it is he who persuades the bear in Norse tales to sit with his tail in a hole in the ice till it is fast frozen in, and snaps short off when he tries to tug it out." Now I understand the phrase, but I don't know the origin.

: Can anyone help?

: Thanks!

The more usual phrase is "to carry off the palm". This from the American Heritage Dictionary Online and NB senses 2 and 3...

"NOUN: 1. Any of various chiefly tropical evergreen trees, shrubs, or woody vines of the family Palmae (or Arecaceae), characteristically having unbranched trunks with a crown of large pinnate or palmate leaves having conspicuous parallel venation. 2. A leaf of a palm tree, carried as an emblem of victory, success, or joy. 3. Triumph; victory. 4. A small metallic representation of a palm leaf added to a military decoration that has been awarded more than one time."

I believe that in classical/biblical times, to be awarded a palm leaf carried much the same symbolic significance as getting a crown of laurels. To this day, the palm is still used as an emblem of reward - the winning film at the Cannes Film Festival (Europe's premier movie awards) receives the "Palme d'Or" or golden palm leaf.