And tons of other random drivel having to do with Vikings and Scandinavia. Thanks for stopping by.
I skål to your health,
För er som är svenska eller kan svenska/norska/danska: denna är INTE nån politisk eller rasist webbsida. Den handlar bara om vikingar och en sorts deprimerad humör. Jag hoppas att ni kan hitta något att skratta åt!
Iceland is undisputedly the most Viking place on the planet. In some cases, the coefficient of Viking discrepancy between Iceland and a comparative test sample is dramatic and severe (Ethiopia, China, most of the U.S. – particularly Florida) while in much rarer cases the coefficient begins to approach zero (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and perhaps most notably, the Faroes).
Proof of Iceland’s status as the Vikingest of them all abounds: its language resembles Old Norse, the events of the local sagas are tied to specific places in its landscapes and still remembered today, and Reykjavik is slated to receive the world’s first Ásatrú temple in a millennium later this year (see the rendering below and visit Magnús Jensson’s website for more about the architecture).
And last, but not least, Iceland produces special hard liquor in honor of the gods. Certainly, Iceland is not the only place to boast such an honor, but the Icelanders naturally take it to a higher level with their true, authentic Viking Schnaps, like the one devoted to Loki shown at the the top of the page. And in Iceland it’s not enough to just name some hard liquor after Loki, Freyja, or Thor, but the drinks praising their glory must also contain special all-natural ingredients such as dulse, golden root, and angelica root (yeah, might have to look some of those up…) and be produced by a health-oriented herbal supplement company called Íslensk Fjallagrös. Sadly, Íslensk Fjallagrös’ website is a bit underwhelming and does not include any information about their Viking Schnaps products, but you can still learn about cool things like their Icelandic lava booze or their moss-infused alcoholic concoction.
So, should you be lucky enough to acquire some mossy Icelandic liquor, then raise a glass and skål to the deceiver of the gods!
It’s 2017 now and there’s a lot of uncertainty in the world, which means it’s high time to address the crucial and critically important question: what would happen if you combined a corporate office environment with a diehard black metal dude? The topic is a mystery for the ages and a clear deviation from my usual, unhealthy obsession with Vikings, but it’s one that’s still aggressive and still Scandinavian. Read more about it here on McSweeney’s:
And while we’re on the topic of true metal, I recently had the chance to visit Trve Brewing in Denver, where they combine tasty craft brews with the ambience and ethos of metal. What’s not to like about that? Check out the photo that I took of their beer menu and the two graphic images of their labels that I pilfered off their own website:
Yuletide’s once again upon us and what better way to celebrate the season than by admiring Þorgerðr Hǫlgabrúðr’s rain of death and destruction upon the Jomsvikings in an epic medieval sea battle as is shown in the image below?
Or how about this one, in which King Hrolf Kraki spreads gold upon the fields of Fyrisvellir to distract and escape the dastardly Swedes in Uppsala?
These scenes of pivotal moments from the Norse sagas were drawn by Jenny Nyström, who interestingly, was also responsible for popularizing the prevailing imagery of the Jultomte, the notorious gnome of Scandinavian folklore who demanded to be appeased with a bowl of porridge during the month of December or else he would start conducting some serious mischief, like tying cows’ tails together or knocking shit over.
So this one’s deviating a little from the strictly Norse theme, but how can you not like a painting like this? Even if they’re aren’t technically Vikings, these guys are still hardcore. They’re skiing across Norway in medieval times in the dead of winter to save the baby infant king, being followed by assassins who just killed the little guy’s dad in a diabolical plot to steal the throne. Plus it’s just a cool looking painting.
This one was done by good ole Knud Bergslien, who painted many, many portraits of well-to-do Norwegians back in the 1800s, as well as a few landscapes and scenes from the country’s past, such as the one of the birkebeiner above (the birkebeiner were a group vying for political control of Norway and take their name from an insult in the day–that they were so poor they could only afford to make their shoes out of birch, and if that isn’t degrading, then I don’t know what is.)
The mad dash across the country on skis is one of Norway’s special historical moments and has been commemorated over the years, not just in the painting by Bergslien, but in a recent, full-length Norwegian film named “Birkebeinerne.” There are also races every year honoring the event in Norway and in Wisconsin (since they got lots ‘o Norskies up there too). The film is currently available on Netflix, under the title “The Last King” (since a movie with an accurately translated title like “The Birch-Legs” or “The Birch-Shoe-Wearing-Guys” apparently isn’t sexy enough for English-speaking audiences):
And, last but not least, here’s one of Bergslien’s majestic landscape paintings to end on an scenic note:
The Scandinavian countries are known first and foremost throughout the rest of the world for their achievement of producing Vikings 1200-900 years ago. While this was an undeniably badass achievement, the rate by which they have been producing Vikings since the year 1066 has really taken a nose dive. Thanks to the centuries of stagnation within the Viking-producing industry that have since followed, the region now produces other things instead, such as edible rotten fish, extreme death metal, ice hockey superstars, grim and frostbitten mystery novelists, large public sectors, North Sea oil, cheap furniture, toy building blocks, and last but not least, sleek modern design. It is this last item that is the point of my blathering online today, because the ancient burial mounds of Jelling in Denmark recently got an extreme modern design makeover.
In 2013 a major landscape face-lift was given to the site. New discoveries had been made by archaeologists in preceding years, including a palisade fence and ship burial formation. These new discoveries have been highlighted in the design by Kristine Jensen, a Danish landscape architect, so that visitors gain a better sense of the historic layout of the site. The website Landezine describes the design rationale in detail, and is very much worth checking out for anyone who is interested: UNESCO World Heritage Site Jelling.
Kristine Jensen’s own design studio also offers some insights into the project and its relation to the Viking past for those who can read Scandinavian. Lastly, I should note/cover my ass that the images here were pilfered from Landezine’s page on the project and are credited to Jesper Larsen and Kristine Jensen. Definitely click the Landezine link above if you want to see more photos.
For anyone who’s ever wondered about the demeanor of Odin’s wiener, Swedish warrior-poet turned slacker-beach-bum Björn Svensson finally sheds some light on the topic. And it turns out that ole One-Eye’s own one-eyed warrior is a feisty little dream-weaver. Horns up to Jersey Devil Press for not ruthlessly rejecting this majestic piece of thoughtfully-constructed and immaculately-researched investigative journalism:
Once upon a time the great Norse explorer, Leif Eriksson, plundered his way up the Charles River to swanky Weston, Massachusetts where he then proceeded to disembark from his fierce dragon-prowed longship and initiate the first European colonization of North America. Only it wasn’t that great since the effort failed after a few short years and the native skraelings chased all the Norse men and women back to the icy wastes of Greenland. And also, it happened in Newfoundland, not Massachusetts. But that didn’t stop a bunch of stuffy old guys from proclaiming otherwise back in the late 1800s.
One of the main culprits who promulgated this phenomenon was Eben Norton Horsford, a chemist to whom I devoted a Heroes of Norse Proliferation posting during the not-so-glorious autumn of ‘014. The graphic icon above and the images below are all depictions of the tower and its associated plaques that he had erected in 1889 on the spot along the Weston/Waltham border where he thought Leif Eriksson had done the whole Vinland thing, only Horsford was also convinced that the settlement was known as Norumbega, a long-forgotten fabled city known to early European explorers. Horsford thought Norumbega was a corruption of Norway/North-Way/Norvega.
Many other wild and crazy Boston brahmins got on the Norse bandwagon during this era since it was considered anti-Irish to do so and therefore high-fashion since they were basically a bunch of dirty rat bastards, but thanks to them we now also have Leif Eriksson hanging out on Commonwealth Avenue, Viking ships on the Longfellow Bridge, and a highly degraded rune stone next to Mt. Auburn Hospital. Check out my Boston’s Monuments to Greatness page for more on these as well as links to actual historical websites where you can learn more (the Needham Historical Society’s article is particularly good).
This faded runic carving reads: “This tower was erected by Eben Norton Horsford A.D. 1889”
For those of you who live nearby and might be interested in checking out the notorious Norumbega Tower in person, I have compiled the following aerial maps to help show you where it is (also, google maps recognizes “Norumbega Tower, Norumbega Road, Weston, MA 02493” to help you find your way).
Lastly, check out the new webshop for Scandinavian Aggression T-shirts, including one featuring the Norumbega graphic at the top of this posting. The back of the shirt looks something like this:
The last posting to this crappy little website discussed the importance of 1930s era travel artwork, which in a round-about way reminded me of the unsung hero of great Norse postage art, Anker Eli Petersen. This guy hails from the Faroes, which along with Iceland is pretty much the most genuinely Norse place remaining on the planet, only fewer people hail from the Faroes, let alone even visit. Anker Eli Petersen is a living artist who has been commissioned to adorn the official stamps of the Faroes with Thor, Odin, Loki, Frejya and various scenes from Norse mythology, which is pretty badass. Personally, I’d much rather have a letter show up in my mailbox affixed with a stamp illustrating the death of Odin on it rather than some stupid little graphic of an apple or fireworks or some lame shit like that.
Since the Faroes have a population of less than 50,000 people, the actual proliferation of Petersen’s work is certainly more limited in comparison to the others who have been previously featured in this “Heroes of Norse Proliferation” posting category, but that doesn’t mean he’s any less worthy of glory and a mighty skål. He used to have his own website, which sadly seems to have been born under a bad norn because it no longer rides its electronic steed through this world. In lieu of that, here are a couple of online galleries that illustrate many of his works:
What better way to start off the new year 2.5 weeks late than by showcasing some vintage artwork that is nearly a century old and harkens back to a bygone age of style and class? Some things just never go out of fashion, and I am convinced that the classic 1930s era trans-Atlantic travel posters depicting the Norse side of Norway and the medieval side of Sweden are two of these things. While I never really need any additional motivation to want to go to Scandinavia, these posters certainly don’t give me any pause for second thoughts. The artwork was supposedly done by a guy named Ivar Gull, who I am assuming was Norwegian, but there is an unfortunate dearth of information about him online. Even wikipedia comes up empty handed, and that’s just a load of horseshit, especially since they’re all patting themselves on the back for turning 15 recently. I mean here we are, in the soulless, digital age of 2016, and even wikipedia can’t instantaneously provide any unverified free information about the guy? Sometimes I just don’t know what the world is coming to.
One of the few redeeming qualities about this obscure, little website is its dedication to the discovery and promotion of Viking-themed alcoholic beverages. Despite being the hardest drinkers known to both human history and Eddic poetry, Norsemen that actually grace the labels of bottles of booze are unfortunately fairly hard to come by in the 21st century. It’s usually a pretty rare occasion when I stumble upon a new specimen worthy of photographing (poorly) and then uploading into the great black abyss of cyberspace. It’s even more rare when said specimen hails from the shores of Norumbega, so naturally I felt that special rush of excitement that only the Vikings/alcohol combo-pack can deliver when I discovered Kelsen Brewing Company’s fine line of Norse/Tolkien/medieval inspired brewskies.
The Battle-Axe IPA is shown here, but they also have a Draken Robust Porter, a Vendel Imperial Stout, a Vinatta Russian Imperial Stout (‘Vinatta’ being the Norse word for friendship), and a Paradigm Brown Ale (for those who prefer doing their drinking with the dwarves). Not all their styles feature a Norse or medieval theme, but they’re on the right track. On a more serious note, they’re basically just a solid, little craft brewery doing good work from their home base in the state with the most Viking motto of the entire nation.
Books having to do with Vikings in some form or another seem to be experiencing a bit of a surge in popularity lately (at least compared to how the subject matter normally fares). I suspect this is mainly due to various publishers attempting to shamelessly piggy-back onto the pseudo-popularity of the History Channel’s Vikings tv show, which itself is an even more blatant attempt to piggy-back onto the enormous popularity of HBO’s Game of Thrones tv show. That aside, I condone the increase in printed Viking material out there. These publications may not reach the same echelon of public consumption that the latest celebrity-ghost-written-pile-of-vomit-splurge does, but it’s sure better than a decrease in new Viking-related publications. And one of the most noteworthy contributors to this development is Nancy Marie Brown.
While her published work does not always deal exclusively with our dearly departed Norsemen, in the past 8 years she has authored 4 books about them, which obviously clocks in at a very impressive average of one Norse book every two years. 3 of these books are unique contributions to the historical field:
The Far Traveler, which provides a historical account of the life and times of the Icelandic woman Gudrid who crossed the Atlantic to settle in Vinland.
Song of the Vikings, which provides an intriguing biography of Snorri Sturluson and relates the writing of his Edda to the geography of Iceland.
Ivory Vikings, which describes the context and journey of the Lewis Chessmen, some of the most famous Norse archaeological artifacts in the world.
One of the things I like best is how approachable these books are. Brown’s writing style is fluid and engaging, as opposed to dry and so mind-numbingly academic that it makes you want to put your head in a meat grinder and get a little berserk with the crankshaft (and there are quite a number of relevant books out there that fall in this unfortunate category). Plus the subject matter is interesting, and always provides a fresh take or perspective rather than a simple rehash or update like so many of the other mainstream Viking history books on the market. Clearly, Ms. Brown is deserving of a mighty skål indeed!
There’s no better way to start the week off right than by rolling out of bed Monday morning and popping open a cold, refreshing Icelandic craft brew courtesy of the Einstök Beer Company. Located in Akureyri, along the island’s north shore near the Arctic Circle, Einstök brews a variety of beer styles that are gradually making their presence felt over here in Vinland. With any luck, Einstök will be luckier than Leif the Lucky was in his day and remain here in Vinland for many years to come. I was personally lucky enough to recently find a batch and enjoy its clean, glacially-derived alcoholic contents. There’s just something about drinking a well-crafted beer from the land of fire and ice that helps you get by. And the logo is pretty damn badass, too.
Holger Danske, or Ogier the Dane as he’s known in the non-Scandinavian-language-speaking parts of the world, slumbers in the deep, dark dungeons of Hamlet’s castle, Kronborg, about an hour north of Copenhagen, defending Denmark with his staunch snoring. It doesn’t look like a very comfortable position. Personally, if I was going to sleep for years on end, I’d prefer to lie down and take off my armor. But then I’m a lame, weirdo blogger type of person, whereas Holger is a heroic badass who will wake and arise whenever his nation is threatened, so I think he probably does most things better than me, especially when it concerns medieval warfare, battle-preparedness, and general sexiness of appearance.
This particularly sexy rendition of Holger was sculpted by Hans Peder Pedersen-Dan back in the glorious year of ’07 (1907, that is). Pedersen-Dan, not only sculpted this great Nordic hero, but also made some important contributions to the Carlsberg Brewery, so he deserves double skåls for that.
Check out the photos below for an additional, sexy shot of Holger himself as well as his humble abode.
Djurgårdsbron is a bridge in central Stockholm where Freyja, Thor, Frigg, and Heimdall stand guard…silently. Just Like in the song, only minus all the decapitations and shape-shifting into wolf-form. And for some reason Odin is missing from the entourage. But otherwise, just like in the song. And if you cross the bridge, you don’t arrive in Asgard, but rather Djurgården (essentially Swedish for “Animal Farm”…menacing, indeed), one of Stockholm’s many islands and home to, among other attractions, the official Pippi Longstocking museum (also very menacing).
The statues were created by Rolf Adlersparre while the bridge was designed by architect Erik Josephson and built by Carl Fraenell in 1897 for the world expo that took place on Djurgårdsbron the same year. The old-timey photographs look pretty hardcore, but not nearly as hardcore as medieval wolf-men wielding swords and slaying all foresworn enemies in an endless orgy of slaughter and mayhem:
Ahhh, June, that wonderful month when the weather warms up (maybe), the sun stays out late (when it’s not overcast), and vacation seasons tend to officially start (if you can get the time off and/or afford to go anywhere). But let’s not be so optimistic here. Winter is only a short half a year away. In three weeks the days will be getting shorter, again. We will hurl headlong towards the bleak darkness of December and its vicious little gnomes, who as the descendents of two abominable ogres, will terrorize your yule-tide merry-making by breaking and entering into your house to eat all of your yogurt, steal your sausages, slam all of your doors loudly in the middle of the night, and spread germ-ridden saliva over all of your dishes and kitchen utensils.
But the stout of heart won’t let these trolls get them down, because there is beauty in winter, especially in Iceland, where they maintain a keen appreciation of their Norse heritage, as exemplified by Jón Gunnar Árnason’s work Sólfar dramatically situated along Reykjavik’s waterfront (above) or Alexander Stirling Calder’s Leif Eriksson memorial statue in front of Hallgrímskirkja (below).