Wooden Toy Hail! And welcome to Scandinavian Aggression, a mediocre blog about Vikings past and present. If you aren't already bored, you can check out enlightening materials such as:

- Comprehensive Viking Booze Directory

- Sagas of Pathetic and Banal Exploration
(published at various online journals)


- Praises to Past and Present Heroes of Norse Proliferation

- Norse History for Bostonians including the Prose Edda for Bostonians (published at McSweeney's Internet Tendency)

- Modern Viking Heraldic Banners (T-Shirts full of pomp and splendor)

- Leif Eriksson Was Here: Norumbega, MA - Boston's Vinland Since 1889

- Low Quality Metal Fiction at Metal Sucks

- Thought-Provoking Materials about Alcohol and Failure at Points in Case

And tons of other random drivel having to do with Vikings and Scandinavia. Thanks for stopping by. I skål to your health,

—Rowdy Geirsson

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!

‘Tis the Season for Classic American Paintings of Pagan Finnish Santa Look-Alikes

November 29th, 2018

THE MAGICIAN AND THE MAID OF BEAUTY
“High in the sky he saw a rainbow, and on it the Maid of Beauty.” (Wainamoinen returns home on a sledge from his exile in the icy wastes of Pohyola and attempts—extremely unsuccessfully—to flirt with the most attractive woman alive in the sky.)

Normally this dreadful, little blog focuses only on the Scandia part of Fennoscandia, but since Yule is in the air (or at least the 21st century commercialized version of it is on the shopping aisles, airwaves, etc.), it seems appropriate to deviate from that rigid stance and benignly embrace the Fenno side. Which of course can only mean: The Kalevala, Finnish metal, and/or Finnish metal based upon The Kalevala. In this particular instance, it’s specifically about the Kalevelian paintings done by N.C. Wyeth in 1912 for James Baldwin’s The Sampo: Hero Adventures from the Finnish Kalevala, which is no longer in print under the original name but has been re-released by those mighty re-printers of archaic, copy-right-expired texts, Dover Publications.

Adding to the fun trivia side of things, the venerable N.C. Wyeth was also a genuine Masshole (from Needham) who not only illustrated The Kalevala, but also illustrated other great stories such as Robin Hood, King Arthur, Treasure Island, and The Last of the Mohicans, all of which are much, much better known than The Kalevala outside of Finland. And, to use the sort of parlance favored by medieval Icelandic scribes (which isn’t what this post is about, but still), N.C. also sired Andrew Wyeth in a fruitful union between the houses of Wyeth and Bockius, and thus produced a male heir to inherit his artist’s crown, which has since passed on to Andrew’s son, Jamie. Much of the art of the Wyeth lineage is on display and online at The Brandywine River Museum of Art, but N.C.’s less-Santa-like Kalevelian works are also depicted below; the phrases in quotes are words from Baldwin’s text, and I’ve provided my own clarifications in parenthetical yellow to help put it all in context.

THE HAG OF THE ROCK
“An old, old woman, gray-eyed, hook-nosed, wrinkled, was sitting on the rock and busily spinning.”
(To prevent Wainamoinen from leaving the land of the dead, the evil hag relies on the age-old trick of failed hero-capturing: spinning an insane amount of thread that her cohort, an evil wizard, weaves together into a massive and ultimately ineffective fishing net.)

THE SLAVE BOY
“Then, at length, when all were peacefully feeding, he sat down upon a grassy hummock and looked around him, sad, lonely, vindictive.”
(Ilmarinen’s slave is pissed that the kitchen-wench put a rock in his bread.)

THE GOLDEN MAIDEN
“The flames died suddenly away, and out of the vessel there sprang a wonderful image—the image of a beautiful maiden.”
(Ilmarinen gets lonely after his entire household is mercilessly slaughtered, so he uses his unworldly blacksmith skills to create what is essentially an ancient blow-up doll, except that it’s made entirely out of gold and silver.)

And last, but not least, what would a post about Kalevelian art be without an appropriate Finnish metal soundtrack to accompany it? Because nothing screams seasonal festivity and Yuletide tradition like blasting Amorphis’ epic Kalevala concept album, Tales from the Thousand Lakes:

The Most Valiant Man Who Has Ever Lived in the Destitute Housing Projects of Northern England

October 18th, 2018

It’s not often that I discover a book so unique, so bizarre, and so badass that I choose to publicly word-vomit about it to all of the several individuals who occasionally stumble across this site by mistake, but Nutcase by Tony Williams is one of those rare exceptions. Nutcase is basically an updated, modern-day retelling of the Icelandic Saga of Grettir the Strong set predominately in the crime-ridden, brutalist housing projects of Yorkshire and the Humber. And it’s brilliant.

Anyway, the story arc follows the Icelandic original, but with necessary and clever modifications to suit the tale to its modern context. Grettir’s role is assumed by that of Aidan Wilson who, like his forebear, does not always get along well with others and partakes in numerous instances of urban violence. A multitude of characters come and go, in proper Norse fashion, and it can be a bit tricky to keep track of who is who, but readers familiar with the original will readily recognize the key plot points as Aidan evolves from unruly lad to local hero to inebriated outcast. It’d be inappropriate to divulge any specific details, but I particularly found the encounter with Glam in this rendition to be much more unsettling than in the original. And Aidan/Grettir’s last stand was perfectly updated for our media-frenzied, digital world.

The book is written with a very heavy emphasis on informal British slang, but I condone that sort of thing. How else would you end up with a beauty of a passage like this: “It was the most vicious fight you ever saw in your life, but useless too because they were both already so badly hurt. It was a bit like watching two bull sea lions gouging lumps out of one another on the rocks off Argentina, except instead of David Attenborough watching from a safe distance there was Bartholomew slumped there losing his vital signs in a pair of bloodstained Pumas.” Even if you’re not an acquaintance of Grettir’s, how can you go wrong with writing like that?

And last, but not least, some visual aids:

Park Hill Housing Estate in Sheffield, the sort of environment where Aidan Wilson spent most of his days. Compare to the image below…

Bjarg in Iceland, the sort of environment where Grettir the Strong spent most of his days. Call me biased, but I think Grettir got the better deal.

…And Now the Exhibit has Ceased to Be

October 1st, 2018

Nothing lasts forever and everything must die, even inanimate Viking museum exhibits like the one currently undergoing its own personal Ragnarok in Connecticut. But before it started its walk down Hel-Road, The Vikings Begin lived a glorious warrior’s life. The collection of primarily Vendel Period artifacts left their home in Uppsala to discover new shores and spread the story of their shaping of the subsequent Viking Age. And what better place to kick off the exhibit’s Vinland tour than Mystic Seaport, which is not only a badass historic maritime museum in its own right, but also just down the road from where Julia Roberts once served pizza back in the ’80s?

I had the honor of joining one of my brothers-in-arms and his shield maiden for the four-wheeled voyage to visit the exhibit shortly before it met its own predetermined fate yesterday. And it was a great exhibit full of authentic swords, shields, helmets, and brooches galore, as well as some nicely-done ship reconstructions, including one of that was used in the early research-and-development phase of the construction of the Draken Harald Hårfagre, which itself called into Mystic Seaport. And the multimedia bit was a cool icing on the cake: a grim but highly atmospheric video about ancient pagan sacrifice in all its corpse-painted and ritualistic black metal splendor.

And just as the world will rise again, fresh and new after utterly cataclysmic destruction brings it to an end, so will The Vikings Begin begin anew at the Nordic Museum in Seattle in just a few weeks.

Stone Cold Rainbow Bridge

September 13th, 2018


I’ve written about Boston’s mighty Longfellow Bridge before (scroll towards the bottom of the Leif Eriksson Norumbega page if you’re curious), but I’ve never had the pleasure of actually drifting aimlessly by it in a shallow-hulled paddling vessel that could never ever hope to possibly survive a full-blown voyage across the North Atlantic. Until now.

At long last, I finally got up close and personal with those mighty salt and pepper shakers. And they are indeed both mighty and glorious. On the one hand, I lament that they don’t build bridges like this anymore, because look at that ornate stone detailing! And who wouldn’t want the prow of a Viking longship to protrude from every pier of every bridge? But then on the other hand, the Longfellow Bridge suffers from a lack of structural integrity which isn’t helped by the trains that rumble across it every few minutes. But that also has more to do with neglect and disrepair than anything else, so shame on that. But visually, it’s still going strong, and should be structurally healthy again by year’s end.

And of course what would a pointless post to a pointless blog be without an embedded link to some meaningful and topically appropriate metal?

Towards Vinland’s Black Horizons

August 12th, 2018

So all summer long the Draken Harald Hårfagre is harrying Vinland’s coast, starting with New England and gradually making its way down towards the unsuspecting peasants who live in quaint, easily-pillagable places like Philadelphia and Washington D.C. And the norns smiled upon myself and my brothers-in-arms, as we rode our 4-wheeled short steeds to witness the ships’s arrival in Salem, MA and then again to tour its deck in Newport, RI. It’s a very impressively crafted vessel and we uniformly lamented our ill-informed decisions to keep our real jobs in lieu of conscripting ourselves to the cause. So maybe the norns weren’t that happy with us after all.

Anyway, it’s well worth a visit for anyone who gets the chance. The deck tour is inexpensive and provides the chance to view the craftsmanship up close and personal, learn how the crew lives onboard, and see which modern accoutrements have been by necessity added to the otherwise authentic ship. The Draken’s homepage has a schedule of when and where the Norsemen intend to bring their wrath before returning to Mystic, CT in October to hangout with the local Guardsmen and eat pizza while conducting ship repairs and maintenance in the winter.

Runic carvings about materials and dimensions, etc.

 

Arrival in the Witch City. Where are the shields and swords?

 

Solid wood from a fir tree

 

Huginn and Muninn watch over the vessel’s fire extinguisher and report back to Odin

 

Some good, old-fashioned Viking ingenuity

 

No trip to Newport is complete without a visit to the great stone tower famed for its role in erroneous New England Viking history

 

And what would a post to this dumb little website be without a clip of appropriately Viking themed death metal?

Longships and Mead

August 4th, 2018

So today is National Mead Day, thank Odin! And thanks to Illinois’ own stone-carving mead-maker for imparting this wisdom, because otherwise I would probably have remained as ignorant as a giant’s hair follicle. And what better way to celebrate this holiday than by spontaneously visiting a random liquor store in the suburbs for some mead tasting hosted by the good folks from Groennfell and Havoc Meaderies?

I got all excited (like an 8 year old kid who just spent his allowance on the coolest Batmobile toy of all time) yesterday when I happened upon Groennfell’s Valkyrie’s Choice Mead completely by chance. And then also by chance, I discovered that they would be hosting this tasting event, and that it was less than half an hour away. So logic and necessity dictated the course of events that followed, and I am now one 4-pack of cranberry flavored Nordic Farmhouse Mead richer. And I was also able to try a couple of Havoc’s offerings in the process, all of which were also worthy of a horn-clinking skål. My only disappointment with this expedition was that there were only four samples to try, and that I learned that the Fire on Snow Mead (“smokey maple cinnamon mead”) is only available in the winter and at the source. But maybe that will provide an excuse to drive the chunky, 4-wheeled short-ship 3 hours north to the Colchester Mead Hall after the first snow has fallen. And is it just me or does the lower half of Groennfell’s logo strike a certain resemblance to Mjölnir? Maybe I’m just seeing what I want to see.

And on a final note, it is not only a good day for mead, but also for longships. Or more accurately, a good summer for longships, because the Draken Harald Hårfagre is plying the waters up and down the New Englandic coast all summer long. A plan to hail their vessel next weekend with a couple of my brothers-in-arms is in the works, but I sure do hope they update their schedule so we know where to go. In the meantime, this just feels entirely appropriate:

That One-Handed God of Warfare and Legal Advice Sure Plays a Mean Guitar

May 12th, 2018


The Scandinavian invasion of Vinland continues to go strong this year. It’s not everyday that the good god Tyr intervenes with his divine providence in…Providence, Rhode Island, to be exact. And it wasn’t on a Tuesday either. For some reason Quebec received that honor this past week (really, Quebec?…well, better than New York). But anyway, he came to us in the form of his namesake band, hailing all the way from a far-off island pseudo-nation that most skraelings have never even heard of. And it was glorious.

And while I’m babbling about Scandinavia and metal and such, here’s a mindless diversion that also doubles as one of my least worst contributions to society and humanity at large:

I BRING THE SPIRIT OF TRUE NORWEGIAN BLACK METAL TO OUR CORPORATE OFFICE ENVIRONMENT

And I stole that image above from McSweeney’s twitter page. Yep, another good true story.

Winter Ravaging of the Theater District

February 19th, 2018

This February has been an unusually devastating month for Boston’s theater district, in all the right ways possible. First, Wardruna descended upon the neighborhood, bringing with them songs of ancient lore performed with appropriately ancient instruments like the kraviklyra and goat horn.

Then, when the smoke cleared and the dust settled, Myrkur and Enslaved sailed in to finish the job. Praise be to Odin for delivering this two-pronged sonic attack!

Now, if only Fejd could figure out a way to visit Vinland.

Heroes of Norse Proliferation: Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough

October 24th, 2017

It’s not often that I add new Heroes of Norse Proliferation to this shining (but sadly virtual) hall, which is probably because I’m a rather uninspired individual, but every once in a while motivation strikes and I bother to add a newcomer to the ranks of the mighty. This time the honor goes to Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough, associate professor of medieval history and literature in the department of history at Durham University in merry olde England.

Barraclough’s book, Beyond the Northlands, was released last year, and thanks to my tendency to be both trend-sensitive and timely, I just finished reading it. The book is good—definitely worth a read for anyone who spends their free time intentionally or accidentally visiting obscure blogs about Vikings. The book’s perspective is unique, and presents a solid historical overview of the Norse world by delving into the mingling of fact and fiction found in the Icelandic sagas. In addition to tracing the often highly imaginative biological origins of both men and monsters, Beyond the Northlands also presents a fresh take on the geographical limits of the known world as the Norse experienced it. Rather than just stating where the Vikings traveled to and what they did there, Barraclough herself literally followed in their footsteps, which must have been awesome. Her book discusses her own impressions of these exotic locations and the challenges/danger/excitement/etc. they must have presented to the Norse voyagers +/- 1000 years ago. It is also very accessibly written (which I condone, as mentioned in a prior hailing to Nancy Marie Brown) and full of great photos, maps, and illustrations.

So cleary, I like the book, but unlike a few of the other Heroes of Norse Proliferation, Barraclough has only written one so far (she has, however, edited another), so why include her here? Well, for starters, those other academically-oriented Heroes are all over 50, and it’s exciting to see someone comparatively new enter the field and make some serious headway. In addition to her book, Barraclough has also published a number of academic articles on Norse matters, and has branched out into more mainstream outlets as well, which is great for proliferating Norseness. This is primarily occurring in the UK, with BBC having produced radio shows featuring her discussing her work, such as the Supernatural North episode, and various British newspapers having published a few of her general interest articles relating to Vikings. You can find a full list of these if you click on the link attached to her name at the top of this page, which you should do, while also raising your horn and skåling in salute!

Boston’s Viking Irish Bring Massive Slaughter to Assisted-Living Elderly Home

September 24th, 2017


Boston’s own Viking Irish march to war on the premises of the Scandinavian Living Center

“On this yesterday in the year of our Lord 2017, the forces of northern darkness descended upon the vulnerable and defenseless Nordic assisted-living home for the elderly in Newton, Massachusetts, wreaking much havoc and slaughter. Few were spared as the heathen host desecrated the grounds of the institute with the blood of the innocent, taking slaves among the able-bodied few, and plundering everything of value, including all of the oxygen tanks and the vast assortment of Scandinavian language books kept behind locked doors in the central quarters of the establishment. Never before has such senseless violence been inflicted upon Newton’s flock as punishment for the sins of man.”
   —An imaginary medieval monk living in Massachusetts in the 21st century

Sorry, but I just couldn’t refrain from introducing this entry in the tone of a disapproving monk, it was just too fun (especially given the elderly home setting), but in actuality this wasn’t the first time that such a wanton scene of death and destruction has occurred at the Scandinavian Living Center, courtesy of the Scandinavian Cultural Center and in conjunction with the Viking Irish of Boston. It was all good, clean, safe fun, conducted as part of the 4th annual Nordic Bites Food Festival, which featured various food samplings from each of the Nordic nations, live music by local band Night Tree, and, of course, the highlight of the event: epic slaughter graciously provided by the Viking Irish of Boston, who took the field promptly at 2:00 pm and battled to the death in authentic Norse fashion to the pleasure of all onlookers. It was a good day, full of merriment and celebration of both ancient Irish/Norse and modern Scandinavian culture.


The Viking Irish encampment on the lawn of the Scandinavian Living Center


Entry to the field of battle, surrounded by the booths of vendors and other representatives from across the land


The Wolves and the Ravens face off as the battle begins


Viking versus Viking


Clearly, he shall join Odin for a drink in Valhalla tonight


And the field lay strewn with the bodies of the dead


I didn’t battle, unless eating all the snacks counts


And last, but not least, the replica commemorative rune stone in front of the Scandinavian Living Center is a sight for sore eyes

Icelandic Saga Recaps

July 4th, 2017

So I just stumbled across the Icelandic Saga Recaps by Grayson del Faro that are being published in English over at the Reykjavik Grapevine online magazine. They are just as their name implies—abbreviated recaps of the plot lines of various sagas, with extra special attention given to all the best bits involving irrational behavior, senseless violence, and dick jokes, accompanied by amusing illustrations by Inga María Brynjarsdóttir (and the one shown at the top here is among the tamer ones…check out the illustration for The Saga of Hrolf the Tramper for something even bloodier or The Tale of Shady Halli for something gloriously ribald). At any rate, the Recaps are definitely worth checking out for anyone who enjoys the sagas and can appreciate the humor in contrasting their usually stark seriousness and some of the crazy things that transpires within them with our modern sensibilities.

The Shire’s Underground Metal Scene

May 22nd, 2017

Recently, I collaborated with fellow metalhead and badass illustrator Matt Smith on something that we attempted to publish at McSweeney’s. Suffice it to say that the norns wove a highly unfavorable fate over this humble effort because McSweeney’s flat-out rejected it due to a perceived lack in interest in heavy metal and hobbits among its readers, which is probably apt since the site tracks its pieces’ popularity and in 2017 rarely publishes anything that doesn’t have to do with Trump, women’s issues, or child-rearing (thank Odin my gimmick of Mark Wahlberg riffing on Norse history was accepted way back during the site’s glory days when eccentric and topically irrelevant humor was dominant). Anyway, Matt and I watched from the sidelines as our piece got stabbed, speared, and decapitated like an inferior warrior on an ancient northern battlefield, but lo! A smile did creep across our faces when the valkyries chose to bring it to this digital Valhalla where the brave shall live forever.

THE EPICNESS OF OUR LIVE SHOW

GOES ALL THE WAY TO ELEVENTY

Like a piping-hot pork pie pulled fresh from the oven, the uncertainty of Middle-Earth’s survival hangs thick in the sweaty, night air. The hors d’oeuvres are gone, the pre-show music has started its slow descent towards nothingness, and only the occasional whistle or jeer for faster service can be heard. The stage is set, the kettle is rumbling, and finally, the curtain is drawn and the backdrop revealed. A lavishly well-stocked larder looms high overhead, its countless jars of herbs and jams, pastries and fruit pies sending tingles down the spine of every famished guest gathered before us. …Hail Onwards »

Vikingaliv: Return of the Swedish Pagans

April 22nd, 2017

Stockholm’s got a brand new Viking museum on the way, set to open next weekend! And it’s about damn time, too. New Viking museums don’t come along often enough, or outside of Scandinavia enough either for that matter, but that’s a separate topic that will only lead to a downward spiral of depression and heavy mead drinking if followed.

So then on that uplifting note…Vikingaliv aims to rectify Stockholm’s problem of not having a full-out museum dedicated solely to Vikings. Its creators are promising an educational experience unlike any other, one based on the latest research to give visitors a complete and accurate representation of the Old Norse lifestyle. It will also have original artifacts on loan from Historiska Museet and a shop and restaurant selling and serving authentic, local goods and food. And being situated on Stockholm’s leafy Djurgården island beside Vasamuseet (17th century piratical-style ship museum) and Junibacken (the ultra hardcore Pipping Longstocking museum), Vikingaliv is set to be in good company.

And for those of us on the wrong side of the Atlantic, at least we have some genuine Swedish pagans from Falun visiting us tonight:

Drink to the Deceiver of the Gods

March 4th, 2017

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!

True Corporate Black Metal

January 23rd, 2017

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:

I Bring the Soul-Defiling Spirit of True Norwegian Black Metal to Our Corporate Office Environment

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: