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!
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).
It’s been a long time coming, but for one small moment of glory (and one day too late to be an April fool’s joke) I have failed at failing: the good folks at Jersey Devil Press have decided not to reject one of my pieces of investigative journalism. They have actually decided not to reject me in the past as well and for this I am grateful and should probably take it as a sign to be more productive rather than lamenting my successes at failing and then giving up at that and deciding to look for a beer instead.
Anyway, this counter-failing deals with the notorious and notoriously attractive Ingrid Törnblom, her exploits in Baltic raiding and slave-taking, her general disregard for me, and my general inability to behave like a normal human being while in her presence. Click the link below to learn more!
And while we’re at it, why not check out the earlier pieces of investigative journalism? They’re highly educational and completely factual, especially the part about the hostile leprechaun taking my luggage in the vast mead hall.
I’ve heard it said that you shouldn’t combine alcohol with certain activities involving the use of heavy machinery and/or sharp tools because if you do then you might not use your best judgement and accidentally do something clumsy like cut off your arm or leg. And then if something like that does happen then you only have yourself to blame which means that the option of starting a classic Norse blood feud goes out the window, and if there’s no chance of burning down your mortal enemies’ house then where’s the fun?
At any rate, up along the fringes of Lake Michigan Ted “Stenhugger” Strandt works with sharp tools and alcohol in the sense that he both carves badass sculptures from stone and brews his own mead. Yes, it was misleading of me to imply that drunken chainsaw operation was the activity of choice, but I have never claimed to possess a high standard of journalistic integrity and that is besides the point anyway. The point is that artfully chiseled stonework honoring Norse mythology and the craft brewing of mead are both activities that I support. The image above shows one of his latest works made of marble and entitled Eitri presenting Mjolnir, which should need no explanation for anyone who has somehow managed to find this website. Below you can see some of his mighty meadcraft. So here’s a big skål to Stenhugger for fighting the good fight!
Lastly, for those of you that might be feeling a bit confused by the name, Stenhugger is not in the business of hugging stones. Hugg actually means something quite different in the Scandinavian languages.
Stockholm is a magical place where they have a Viking restaurant and bar that actually strives for authenticity. Normally this kind of thing would be totally gimmicky and feel like a themed version of a Chuck E. Cheese; anyone over age 10 would stand out in a sad way if they weren’t there with a younger family member. Not so at Aifur. At Aifur it’s different. They’ve done their research to make the setting cozy and believable. The staff dress in garb appropriate to the setting and time period. The menu is based on archaeological records regarding the types of animals the Norse ate, and the types of spices they used to make those animals taste better. The drink menu consists of an extensive list of Nordic beers and meads, which alone is enough to make me excited. Throw in everything else I just mentioned, and it’s like Aifur goes to 11 when everyone else only goes to 10.
The goddess Gefion doesn’t fuck around when it comes to farming: when she plows she plows so hard that Sweden loses over 2000 square miles of its land area. This strip of land then ends up being dumped in the water next to the country’s southern tip, forming the Danish island of Zealand where the modern city of Copenhagen and the ancient seats of Norse kings, Roskilde and Lejre, can be found. Also, Hamlet’s castle is on this island, but that’s a tangent. The main point is that the residents of Copenhagen recognized the mythological importance of the ground upon which they bicycled and thus commissioned Anders Bundgaard to sculpt the masterpiece shown in these photos in Gefion’s honor. The work was actually donated by Carlsberg, the brewery, so it even has a legitimate and highly relevant relationship with beer as well which makes it even cooler.
For those of you who can stomach pseudo-phonetic imitation Mark Wahlberg rantings, Gefion was the hot chick who King Gylfi of Sweden banged at the very beginning of the Prose Edda for Bostonians. Of course I just followed Snorri’s lead in the telling of events with his statement that King Gylfi “offered a travelling woman, in return for the pleasure of her company, a piece of ploughland in his kingdom as large as four oxen could plough in a day and a night” (quoting Jesse Byock’s translation). In old-time Norse lingo the pleasure of female company does not usually refer to polite, non-physical conversation befitting British tea time. However, she’s also associated with virgins and the stories about her are contradictory in this sense.
Regardless of all that, Anders Bundgaard totally nailed her when it comes to the statue.
Barbarian Lord is both a hardcore boozer who possesses extremely violent behavioral patterns and a keen appreciation for poetry AND the name of the recently* released graphic novel dedicated to portraying his adventures in boozing, brawling, and poetic appreciation. As Barbarian Lord’s own personal real-life skald, Matt Smith sings Barbarian Lord’s praises and spreads his renown to those of us who are not fortunate enough to lift a sword and join in his adventures firsthand. Matt’s also an all-around good guy who I’ve had the pleasure of sharing a few horns with at local venues ranging from “the highest hall” to “the lowest cave” (in his own words, and if you know the area then you can likely guess what those are).
But getting back to the book, this is the sort of work for people who like the following:
-Evil trolls and other monsters
-Sexy witches who maim innocent birds
-Demonic possession of domesticated farm animals
-And, last but definitely not least, death metal allusions
If you’re even at this weird, little website, then that should be enough to convince you to hail the hero himself at http://barbarianlord.com/ and to join his quest for justice, drinking, and killing all who stand in his way.
*I say “recently” somewhat loosely because it was actually released last summer, but being only half a year behind the times is a step in the right direction for me. The last time I blogged about a book, I was three years late. Skål for punctuality!
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:
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:
“This was Estonindian black metal dub. Music for wounded bears as they shrugged off tranquilizer darts. A genre so conclusively suicide-inducing, blue-ribbon Congressional panels were afraid to listen to it. If Francis Scott Key had been a ninth-century raider whose head was still throbbing and clanging from an ax-blow to the helmet, standing with one hand braced on the dragon prow of his longship watching his enemies’ tarred warships burn in an uncanny blue bituminous haze, while unseen galley slaves chanting the stroke rumbled the ship from below, he may have closed his eyes, thought of Ragnarok, and composed an anthem like this.”
The above passage is taken from page 229 of Corwin Ericson’s Swell, and it epitomizes everything that I like about the novel, which is easily the best that I’ve read in the past few years. The book is set on a fictitious island off the coast of Maine and follows the misadventures of slacker/protagonist Orange Whippey as he gets sucked into a bizarre series of events involving cranky old fishermen, highly literate Korean smugglers, a North Atlantic whale-herding skald, and an intimidating Thor-cult priestess. This is a book for anyone who enjoys the following:
-Quirks of coastal New England culture
-Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
-Metal (the music)
-Experimentation on whales
-Alternate Abenaki/Sami history
The book was actually published in 2011, but I sadly didn’t discover it until a few weeks ago, since I have a great talent at being behind the times. I can at least claim to be the person who ordered amazon.com’s last in-house copy (but you can still get it through one of their affiliate vendors, which you should do). If further convincing is needed, check out these links, provided by Corwin himself, since we’re facebook friends (which makes it official):
Ask and Embla stand proudly above the main square of Sölvesborg, Sweden, bearing their mighty fine birthday suits for all to see. Not only is this inspirational because a) these were the first two humans in Norse mythology, and we just don’t get enough Norse mythology these days, but also because b) Embla is freaking hot. Or will be. Actually, I can’t really tell if she’s supposed to be fully grown from the photo or if she’s in some state of late adolescence. Same with Ask. But it could very well be that they’re still just a couple of kids with raging hormones. If I’m not mistaken people started procreating super early way back when there were only 2 people on the whole planet. Let’s change subjects now before this gets any weirder.
So, the statue was created by Stig Blomberg, who also did the badass piece of Thor scowling at his goats like a fucking madman over at Kungliga tekniska högskolan in Stockholm. I used to have an image of that one posted on this site as well, but then someone infiltrated and raped and pillaged my petty domain (because derailing mediocre blogs that get no traffic is a cool thing to do) and I lost that entry and didn’t bother to repost it. Skåls to that.
At any rate, the image at top belongs to a dude named Claes who takes photographs in southern Sweden and then uploads them at http://claesbilder.wordpress.com/ while the one below showing Ask and Embla’s Sölvesborgian context is, typically, from wikipedia.
Ole One-Eyed’s looking mighty impressive from his nook among the bricks of Oslo’s City Hall. Despite the label that Thought and Memory are leading him off into the land of the “twilight forest” he appears to be fastened well in place and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Sucks for him, but at least the rest of us can marvel at his colorfully-rendered, wooden glory. And, apparently, his is just one in a series of panels by Dagfin Werenskiold depicting scenes of Norse mythology at Oslo City Hall.
There’s something pretty badass about prominently displaying a scene of Ragnarok’s fire and carnage on the facade of the same building where the Nobel Peace Prize is annually awarded. Those Norwegians must like to think outside the box.
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:
This guy Olav Bjørnerud is my kind of artist. He doesn’t just sit around bemoaning via an obscure website/blog about how Vikings and their artwork have been in decline since 1066. No, instead he sees a space that lacks a Viking-related sculpture and then he goes and makes one with wonderful craftmanship. And then he gets it put on display. I find that highly commendable.
His piece, Strake is the first Viking ship inspired sculpture at Lawrence University, a school whose mascot is a Viking. For more info, you can check out this article about how the school awarded him the opportunity to create the sculpture for their wellness center. You can also visit his own site to see more images and other works.
The images shown here belong to him and Leslie Walfish.
As the headline suggests, this is the one where the king of Sweden learns a thing or two about Odin hanging himself from a tree and Thor riding around with some fierce goats just so that he can kill giants. Norse mythology is the best.
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!