Archive for the ‘Heroes of Norse Proliferation’ Category

Heroes of Norse Proliferation: Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough

Tuesday, 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!

Heroes of Norse Proliferation: Anker Eli Petersen

Saturday, February 27th, 2016


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:

http://www.germanicmythology.com/works/FAROESTAMPART.html

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Anker_Eli_Petersen

I like to view his work while drinking and listening to his fellow countrymen:

Heroes of Norse Proliferation: Nancy Marie Brown

Friday, November 6th, 2015

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.

 

 

 

 

 

The 4th is a novelization of The Far Traveler called, appropriately enough, The Saga of Gudrid the Far-Traveler.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Heroes of Norse Proliferation: Eben Norton Horsford

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

Leif Erikson Day 2014 is nigh upon us (Thursday, October 9) and so that makes it perfect time to raise horns to the memory of the great Bostonian proliferator of Norse awareness, Eben Norton Horsford. For those of you unlucky enough to have attended a high school that didn’t cover Horsford’s Norse achievements in history class (which is all of us), let’s just say he was something of an eccentric, law-abiding, late 19th century equivalent to Walter White and he had a huge boner for all things Viking. Clearly, this is the sort of person that I hold in the highest regard.

The short version is that Horsford was a chemistry professor at Harvard who invented an improved formula for baking powder, got rich off the manufacture of the stuff, and then quit his job at Harvard so he could pursue his true passion in life: populating the Boston area with statues and other relics dedicated to Norse greatness, part of which involved a full-scale effort to un-scientifically prove that Boston was the site of the great Norse Vinlandian city of Norumbega. I have a visual tour of these sites on my Boston Monuments to Norse Greatness page. I think a few people have actually maybe visited it over the years.

Anyway, a very good article (and main online source) about Horsford’s achievements can be found at the Needham Historical Society:

http://needhamhistory.org/features/articles/vikings/

And the American Chemical Society has detailed information on the baking powder side of things:

http://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/whatischemistry/
landmarks/bakingpowder.html

On an interesting side note, Horsford’s old baking powder factory in East Providence is now home to an upscale bakery (among other things) which is cool because nothing screams “blood-thirsty berserker violent-ass seavoyaging motherfucker” like “multigrain bread made with an organic mix of 7 grains, sunflower seeds and a touch of honey; available as a round or pan loaf.”

Last but not least, here’s a view of the old factory and Horsford’s commemorative plaque in East Providence:

Heroes of Norse Proliferation: Quorthon

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

It was only a matter of time until Quorthon’s name was added to this not-so-golden hall of Heroes of Norse Proliferation, and that time has finally come. I unfairly prolonged that time with my uncanny ability to slack off at updating this obscure blog, but despite my best efforts to be ineffective and lazy, I can’t fight fate forever, and neither could the All Father of Viking Metal for that matter. He’s dead, and here I am, no longer going on a full-out berserker-level rampage of neglect and laziness at promoting his glory.

I hope most of you who have somehow managed to find this website know who he is. If you don’t, check out this short biography, then drink some mead and watch this video:

Heroes of Norse Proliferation: Poul Anderson

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

Poul Anderson is dead, but while he was alive he did awesome things, namely, the authoring of some very good Viking novels. It is somewhat unfortunate that he focused most of his writing efforts on science fiction (although I have heard that his science fiction is good, I have not read any of it myself). Nonetheless, he did complete a healthy number of Norse novels (some of which are shown here…don’t be put off by the horrible 70s sci-fi-esque artwork for The Broken Sword—it is a true Viking story full of epic battles, longships, elves, giants, incest, and Norse gods doing mischievous deeds). Poul’s extremely heavy and accurate reliance on Norse mythology and medieval history in these stories makes The Lord of the Rings look like a light-weight in terms of Norse inspiration by comparison. Most of Poul’s books are out of print these days, and that’s looking unlikely to change now that print itself is on a steady decline, but if you can find one of his fine Norse novels at a used bookstore or online somewhere, you should definitely buy it. And raise a horn to his memory!

Heroes of Norse Proliferation: Jesse L. Byock

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

Jesse L. Byock takes the spotlight for the inaugural entry into this wild and crazy new category that I’m calling Heroes of Norse Proliferation. Basically, it just seemed like a good idea to me to give a shout out to the folks out there who have done a lot of good work in making information about the Norse more accessible and/or promoting it, and it’s a lazy Sunday at the end of October, so I consider this to be time well-spent.

But joking aside, Mr. Byock is a heavyweight in the world of Norse studies. He is a Professor of Old Norse in the archeology department at UCLA and you can’t have read the sagas without coming across his name as one of your English-language translators at some point. There are other translators out there as well, and they are all worthy of a good, hearty skål, but Mr. Byock deserves to drink his mead from the metaphorical horn of honor. Counted among his translations are:

The Prose Edda
Grettir’s Saga
The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki
The Saga of the Volsungs

as well as a fine selection of other tomes of high relevance about Viking Age Iceland and the Old Norse language.

I’ve personally been spending a lot of time with Mr. Byock’s translation of The Prose Edda lately and will likely be blogging about it again here within the next month or so, so I especially owe Mr. Byock a debt of gratitude for that fine work.

Lastly, anyone out there who somehow happened to accidentally stumble across this blog and actually kept reading should check out Mr. Byock’s own site at http://www.viking.ucla.edu/.

The photo above was legally stolen from Örlygur Hnefill’s flickr stream.