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!

Cryogenically Frozen Fantasy Vikings

November 2nd, 2019

“‘If the King says, “Charge that army over there,” and you say, “Which one?” and he says, “The one that outnumbers us twentyfold in that superb natural defensive position just under that hill with the sheep,” then you do it. And if it works you say, “What a brilliant general the King is,” and if it doesn’t you go to Valhalla. Everyone’s a winner, really.'”

Tom Holt‘s Who’s Afraid of Beowulf? is a goofy book about Vikings, as that quote up above should make perfectly clear. The premise is pretty simple: a crew of slumbering Norsemen are awoken for the first time in a thousand years when their enchanted burial site is disturbed by present day archaeologists in the north of Scotland. What ensues is a bizarre romp through Britain as the Vikings attempt to stop their ancient arch-nemesis, the evil sorcerer-king, from doing something terribly wicked and cruel. Along the way they complain about the taste of seagull meat, threaten BBC camera crews to do battle, and visit the British Museum to view its Viking artefacts.

Leading the bewildered Norsemen in their adventure in the modern era is Hildy, the archaeologist and main protagonist. The Norsemen themselves sport names familiar from the Sagas: Arvarodd, Bothvar Bjarki, etc., which is a nice touch. And last, and certainly least, in my view anyway, are the two electrical board-game-playing spirits known as Zxerp and Prexz who also accompany the Vikings. In general the book is akin to a Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett novel, but with time-traveling Vikings as its “thing.” All in all, it’s a pretty fun time if you enjoy this sort of light-hearted nonsense.

And one final note: the book has absolutely nothing to do with Beowulf. There’s a passing reference to the old boy toward the end of the book, but all in all, it’s a title that makes very little sense. My guess is that the publisher decided that using the name Beowulf in the title would help it sell, but that’s just a guess. Maybe it was chosen for some other esoteric, artful reason to which I am completely blind. This would have all happened back in 1988 when the book was first published (I really drag my feet on these things). And in each addition released since then, it seems like the publishers have really nailed it with some bizarre cover artwork. I especially like the weird version up top with the guy dangling from the front of a long ship (something that never happens in the actual storyline).

Anyway, Who’s Afraid of Beowulf? is basically just an amusing, light read for those who enjoy the wit and humor in the passages that follow these other examples of some of the book’s wondrous covers:

“‘No, no,’ said Hildy. ‘I dig up ancient things buried in the earth. Things that belonged to people who lived hundreds of years ago.’
‘Do you really?’ asked the King. ‘We used to call that grave-robbing.'”

“‘I know a couple dealers of antiquities down in London…you remember London?’
‘Still going, is it?’ asked the King, raising an eyebrow. ‘You surprise me. I never thought it would last.'”

“When the sorcerer-king panicked, he tended to do so in Old Norse, which is a language admirably suited to the purpose, if you are not in any hurry.”

“The King overruled her; if Angantyr didn’t get something to eat other than rabbit pretty soon, he suggested, he would start to whine, and that he could do without.”

“‘The Castle of Borve,’ said the King, ‘was built for my father, Ketil Trout, by Thorkel the Builder. My father was a bit of a miser, I’m afraid, and, since he was forever going to war with all and sundry, usually very hard up. So when he commissioned the castle from Thorkel, the finest builder of his day, he stipulated that if there was anything wrong with the castle on delivery Thorkel’s life should be forfeit and all his property should pass to the King. Actually, that was standard practice in the building industry then.'”

“Arvarodd was staring. Hildy prodded him in the ribs, but he didn’t seem to notice. ‘That’s mine,’ he whispered.
‘Are you sure?’ asked Hildy.
”Course I’m sure. Given to me when I killed my first wolf. Sure, it’s only bronze, but has great sentimental value.’
‘Keep your voice down,’ Hildy hissed.
‘Bergthora said if I didn’t chuck it out and get a new one she’d give it to a museum,’ went on the hero of Permia. ‘I never thought she’d do it.'”

“‘It is time for us to go feast forever in Odin’s golden hall. Roast pork,’ he added before Angantyr could interrupt, ‘and all the mead you can drink. At the head of the table sits Odin himself; at his right hand Thor, at his left Frey. With her own hands Freyja pours the mead, and the greatest of heroes are the company. There we will meet many we have known, many of whom we have sent there, in the old wars which are now forgotten. They say that in Valhalla men go out to fight in the morning, and at night all those who have fallen rise up again to go to the feast, and fight again the next day. There is also, I am assured, a swimming pool and a sauna.'”


True Norwegian Tapestry Art

September 8th, 2019

Hail to the Allfather of Norwegian Art Nouveau tapestries inspired by Norse history and Scandinavian folklore! Obviously, that can only mean one person: Gerhard Munthe, of course. A household name on par with Nils Blommér, Hans Gude, and Mårten Eskil Winge, så klart.

Back in 1891 Munthe declared that the design of products coming out of his homeland weren’t Norwegian enough in their aesthetics, so he took it upon himself to attempt to rectify the situation. Most of his efforts were focused on items related to interior design, and so he dabbled not only with tapestries, but also with furniture, silverware, and porcelain, among others. He became well-known for his tapestries and interior designs, but really seemed to relish his work in illustration and painting the most, even if those efforts didn’t garner quite the same degree of acclaim.

That tapestry up at the top of this post is Munthe’s ode to the Battle of Hjörungavágr, and is presently property of Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum, though a replica of it appears to be on loan at the American Swedish Institute’s new Norse Saga Room in Minnesota, so that’s cool.

Anyway, here’re a couple more of his tapestries:
This one’s called The Suitors (The Daughters of the Northern Lights). And while grooms as polar bear are cool, anyone curious about a reversal of bear-courtship gender roles should really give Corwin Ericson’s Swell a read.

This one appears to just be called Saga. I couldn’t find much more info about it. Yup.

But Munthe’s work beyond tapestries also deserve special note, especially since he illustrated the 1899 Norwegian edition of Snorri Sturluson’s Heimskringla. So here’re a couple examples from that:

And for more on Gerhard Munthe himself, these are some good links:

Nasjonalmuseet: Gerhard Munthe – Enchanted Design

Apollo Magazine: Gerhard Munthe – A Madcap Medievalist in 19th-Century Norway

Monster Brains’ Gerhard Munthe Image Gallery

Native Norse American Hard Cider

August 17th, 2019

And the journey deep into the darkest…depths of Norumbega continues, with alcoholic apple-based beverages! What could be more enticing than that?

As my previous post so ineloquently explained, the myth, the legend, and the glory of Norumbega lives on in scattered locations and shape-shifting forms in the wilds of the state of Maine. Which, in a certain manner of thinking, actually kind of makes some sense, since Maine was basically once a colony of Massachusetts, which is the epicenter of Norumbega.

At any rate, this time the Norumbegan subject of focus is the Norumbega Cidery in New Gloucester, Maine. It is a quaint and lovely gård set at the edge of some dark woods that is working to bring traditional cider-making techniques back for modern Vinlandians to enjoy, including growing its own apples in its own orchard. And the cider is quite good, too. When I visited there were approximately half a dozen varieties available for sampling; the elderberry enhanced cider was a stand-out for me. They even have live music during their weekend tastings, which adds to the rural-rustic atmosphere and pairs extremely well with refreshing fruit-based beverages. It’s definitely a spot worth visiting, even if you’re not a geek of false New England Norse history.

So raise a horn and skål to Norumbega Cidery!

The Legend of Norumbega Lives On!…in Bangor, Maine?

August 5th, 2019

Well, it’s not everyday that traces of Leif Eriksson’s fabled and ancient New England Norse city of Norumbega are accidentally stumbled upon! In this particular case, the trace is that of the Norumbega Parkway in Bangor, Maine, which is probably best known for being the home of Stephen King and a very large statue of Paul Bunyun.

Anyway, the Norumbega Parkway is a mostly disgraced little urban park on the edge of Bangor’s downtown, on an artificial island in the middle of the Kenduskeag Stream and it doesn’t really seem to acknowledge its noble ancestry in any shape, way, or form other than in its name. But that’s enough to get me all hot and bothered to the point of posting about it on this ignoble website.

Apparently, there had once been an actual Norumbega Hall where the Parkway now exits. Not exactly a proper mead hall, but a hall nonetheless. Then a fire came along and wiped it out. But you can still see an old-timey photo of what it looked like over at The Maine Memory Network site if you wish. And The Cultural Landscape Foundation has a couple paragraphs of good historical info about the place, too.

But the fun doesn’t end there! Maine is apparently the promised land of bizarre honorings to fabled, never-existent North American Norse cities, so this is just the first in what will be several sorry attempts to cast light on these new “findings.” I know, I know, we can all just barely contain ourselves.


Lo there do I see the Norumbega Parkway! And lo there do I also see a glimmer of the fallen warrior in red non-chain mail sleeping it off on a secluded public bench in the shady distance.


I was standing on the outside, looking in.


Of course Lady Victory is here; this is a pseudo-indirectly Norsely inspired site, after all.


Genuine ancient New English Norse artillery.


What a sad little rune stone. What happened to its ornate inscriptions? And to whom was it raised for commemoration? Most likely, we will never know.

Taste the Sampo

June 18th, 2019

Life somehow just feels a little less trite and meaningless when you discover that an entire series of Finnish beers based on The Kalevala exists. Of course, we may be all speeding headlong towards a final destination six feet below ground (and many Finnish bands do their best to remind us of this) and it may feel like Ragnarök just keeps getting closer and closer (and many Swedish bands do their best to remind us of this), but until our personal or collective worlds are torn asunder, we at least have actual, genuine, Ostrobothnian-brewed Kalevalian beer! And proper graphic design to accompany it! Which is what this disgrace of a rambling post is mostly about.

This is partly because Ylikylä Olut Oy is a small brewery, and thus they don’t distribute to Vinland, and thus consuming their glorious nectar is something of a frustrating impossibility unless you live near their home. However, admiring their beer labels from afar is much easier.

And so praise be to Asko Leinonen for creating these works of mythological alcoholic art! Several of his badass label designs are shown below, and more may be viewed on his portfolio here, which is definitely worth checking out.

And I mean, really, who wouldn’t want to visually admire or taste those extra special bitters of Ilmarinen or Väinämöinen?

And hey! If you actually read this far, then maybe check out Corwin Ericson’s book Swell. It presents a new, interesting interpretation of the sampo. And we all need new, interesting interpretations of the sampo.

The Trials and Tribulations of Domesticating Wild Finnish Trolls

June 4th, 2019

When I get back home with a fresh pile of books, euphoric about my coming meeting with Martes—now so soon, so soon—the first thing that happens is I step on a troll turd. Anyone who would complain about miserable homecomings—the kids have been making taffy and not cleaned up, their husband’s flat on the sofa, drunk out of his mind—well, none of them has to step on troll shit in their own hallway. Naturally, the shit’s been neatly pushed under the doormat so my weight squashes it out on to both the underside of the mat and parquet.

So, this post is not exactly about Vikings, but a novel that seriously engages the reader with the practicalities of toilet-training a wild, Finnish troll somehow still seems very relevant to the thematic nature of this sorry little website. And so here we are. The book in question is Ennen päivänlaskua ei voi (in English: alternatively Not Before Sundown, or Troll: A Love Story, depending on where you live) by Johanna Sinisalo. And damn, is it weird.

The book takes place in Tampere and the premise is basically that the main character, Angel, gets home after drinking one night only to find some teenage thugs kicking an abandoned baby troll outside his building, so he chases them off and takes the troll in and starts to raise it as though he had rescued a stray dog or cat. In fact, the book presents trolls as an endangered species related to cats: Felipithecus Trollius, within the Felipithecidae i.e. Cat-Ape family, which was a brilliant touch. The reader then follows along as Angel struggles to house-train his new troll and becomes increasingly neurotic and paranoid in his interactions with veterinarians, past boyfriends, and abused women as he slowly devolves into a less-than-highly functional member of society. It’s a totally bizarre but fun ride for anyone who is interested in something as unique as this, but it will probably never make its way on to the U.S. bestseller lists, and that fact itself can be interpreted both as a sign of its originality and its quality.

And since some really bad life decisions led you to this website in the first place, why not continue on that downward trajectory and check out some earlier posts that also deal with trolls while you’re here? Exactly. But they’re below anyway:

Gateways to Trolldom

The Great Norwegian Trolldomizer

Heroes of Norse Proliferation: Jackson Crawford

May 2nd, 2019

Lo there! Spring is finally back in the dark gray Norumbegan air and that can only mean one thing: that I don’t know what that one thing is, and so rather than trying to find out, I am instead updating this pathetic, little excuse of a blog. But it’s not all bad, because this update involves a rare addition to the digital hall of the Heroes of Norse Proliferation with the induction of the one (and probably only) person alive who describes himself as “like if you crossed a viking and a cowboy, but got all recessive traits:” Jackson Crawford.

I first became aware of Dr. Crawford’s work about a year and a half ago when I inducted Dr. Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough into this very same mostly unknown location on the outer fringes of obscure cyberspace. We succeeded in exchanging a few friendly messages through the digital ether (thanks be to the elves) and then she dropped an atomic Norse bomb by sending me a link to Jackson Crawford’s Tattúínárdǿla saga: If Star Wars Were an Icelandic Saga. Which is pretty much exactly what it says it is, and follows the story of the family of Anakinn Himingangari and Lúkr Anakinsson in proper saga fashion. Which is exactly the sort of thing I admire.

The aforementioned Saga of the People of the Tattúín River Valley was something Dr. Crawford penned back in his pre-Dr. days, and now he teaches Scandinavian culture and literature at the University of Colorado. He has also published his own translations of medieval Scandinavian myths and sagas (so far The Poetic Edda and The Saga of the Volsungs).

And he also provides numerous insights and valuable information about all things pertaining to Norse everything for the masses on his epic youtube channel, which is an especially potent platform of Norse proliferation. Particularly of interest (to me) is his rendition of the Hávamál in cowboy dialect since I like things that play with language in bizarre, geeky Norse ways, and his lessons and auditory examples covering the pronunciation of Old Norse. You just can’t get this type of information down at the Bunker Hill Community College.

And that makes it all the more worthy of raising a horn for a proper skål indeed!

Rekindling the Varangian Flame, Part 2

March 8th, 2019

“Send the Magyars to slaughter us all in our sleep. Slit our throats, trample our bodies, and string us up to dangle, windblown and decaying from the nearest tree.”

The upbeat positivity and general good vibes of the suicidal Viking metal death-wish music project continues as the band members of Varjagikaarti relate what happened when they finally ventured deep into the land of the Rus.

Experience the true Fennoscandian cultural insensitivity of Part 2 over at Metal Sucks now.

And for your aural pleasure, Varjagikaarti wouldn’t be what they are today if it weren’t for these guys…

And my prior interviews with other Modern Vikings are still sadly online too. Check them out if for some reason you feel so inclined. Here’s a direct link to the one about spazzing out in a Stockholm subway station:

Self-Condemned in the Tunnelbana

Rekindling the Varangian Flame, Part 1

February 27th, 2019

“Never have I seen a more complete denouncement of the meaning of human life than that murky, yellow obscenity that hovers above the rooftops of Miklagård like a celestial plague raining its poison down upon the feeble souls below during the darkest depths of the eternal night. It made me want to kill myself.”

And if that introductory quote doesn’t make you want to read all about the highly dysfunctional extreme Finnish metal band Varjagikaarti’s suicidal Viking metal voyage down the Dnieper River deep into the heart of old Varangian territory, then I don’t know what will.

Check out Part 1 over at Metal Sucks now.

And lest this post be wonting of a proper and thematically appropriate metal video…

And lastly, check out some of my prior interviews with other Modern Vikings too, if for some reason you feel so inclined. A couple direct links are below.

Fear and Loathing in Western Sweden

Dream Hard On

How to Dally with Whores and Lose Kingdoms

February 5th, 2019

“The sea was dark like iron, flecked with white horses, and with a livid band of light in the far distance. There was a biting wind blew from the north-east.

‘Wither shall we sail now?’ asked Biorn, ‘if we be not to be drowned?’

Styrbiorn answered and said, ‘We will sail North.’

Styrbiorn the Strong is a little gem of a book by E. R. Eddison that traces the epic sea-voyaging, philandering, and warmongering adventures of Styrbjörn Olofsson as he raises hell all over Sweden, Denmark, and the broader Baltic Sea region in general. An actual figure from the sagas, Styrbjörn features in the short Styrbjarnar þáttr Svíakappa and receives passing mention as a leader of the Jomsvikings in Eyrbyggja Saga and the Heimskringla, but because a proper saga was never actually devoted to his escapades (or was lost to the mists of time), Eddison decided to rectify the situation by creating one for him. This was way back in the 1920s and that version of the book has long since gone out of print, but fortunately the hearty champions of Scandinavian literature over at the University of Minnesota Press re-released it in 2011 with a new, special afterward by Paul Edmund Thomas.

Eddison was big on the sagas and even translated Egil’s Saga himself, so he was a guy who knew his source material and used it to inform much of what he wrote, both the historic fiction of Styrbiorn the Strong and a number of early 20th century fantasy novels that he wrote. His work was highly praised by J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Ursula K. Le Guin, and anyone who reads fantasy will understand that’s no small matter, so it’s a bit of a pity he that isn’t more widely known.

The novel itself is a blast to read for anyone who likes a good Viking adventure and enjoys fine, ornate word-work. But saga purists may appreciate a word of caution: this is not the taut and straight-forward, emotionally-detached story-telling of the sagas. Nor does it conform to the easy-flowing sort of narrative style typical of today’s novels. This is an old-fashioned sort of story-telling in both the styling of the language used and the way in which the content is handled, which tends towards a generally chivalric/romanticized mood more along the lines of Wagner than the harsh, medieval brutality more commonly associated with Vikings at present day. But for those who can appreciate that (or at least, don’t mind it), reading Styrbiorn the Strong is a very worthwhile venture. And anyone familiar with the Völuspá, Völsunga Saga, and The Saga of the Jómsvíkings will find even more to enjoy because those are all drawn upon in some manner as Styrbjörn journeys to and from his native Sweden.

And because Styrbjörn’s heart is always set on heading northe (as the quote up top makes clear)—back home to Sweden—and because Norse adventures, epicness, and metal go hand-in-hand, what would this post be without a lyrically appropriate video clip by the guitar-serkers of Stormwarrior?

But a few more passages exemplifying the glory of Eddison’s language are worthy of direct quotation here before condemning this post to its final resting place down at the far end of Hel-Road. For epicness’ sake.

This passage refers to a pivotal moment that occurs midway through the novel. And while the name-calling is fun, the chivalric attitude of Eddison’s writing prevails, when Styrbjörn declares (on the same page) that what he did was wholly foul and of his own doing, and really no fault of the woman whom he viciously claimed to be a whore:

“After a while Styrbiorn, still in his former posture watching the endless procession of surges, said in hard toneless accents, ‘Shall I tell thee what I did in Sweden?’

‘Am not I thy brother?’ said Biorn.

Styrbiorn said, ‘I dallied with a whore, and I lost a kingdom.'”

Eddison’s epic battle descriptions are pretty badass. This battle scene features livestock as weapons and takes place at Fyrisvellir, near Gamla Uppsala, which should ring a bell for anyone familiar with Hrólfr Kraki’s Saga:

“And now there was an evil din of cattle bellowing and horses squealing, and there was many a man slain there or trampled or maimed or limb-lopped and their array near broken, and much folk fell both of the Jomsburgers and of them that drave on the beasts.”

And this is just simply one of the most glorious descriptions of Valhalla that I have ever read:

“On a sudden our Father Odin lifted up a hand, and there was darkness in heaven all save the light of the Father’s face, and they all stood up and waited in the listening gloom. And now was a noise far off, like lashing rain among leaves in a forest, and with it a rolling as of thunders far away, and pale lightnings flickered afar and vanished and flickered again through the night. Very slowly at first, then with swift strides, it drew nearer, until the roar of the tempest was like the roar of cataracts fed to fury by a cloud-burst among mountains. The lightnings streamed in rivers of molten steel and silver from the roof-beams of that hall, which is lofty as the tent of night, and the Einheriar clashed their weapons together and shouted with a shout that was heard above the deafening thunder: ‘Hail the choosers! the storm-raisers! Hail to the shield-mays of the Lord of Spears, the Father of Ages, the Loving One! Hail to the lords of earth whom they bring to join our fellowship!'”

Bifrost Doth Beckon

January 17th, 2019

Bifrost works in mysterious ways. Sometimes it reveals itself after a rain shower, leading to a place where gold may be plundered and leprechauns captured to be sold into slavery. Other times it takes the form of a stone cold rainbow bridge. But perhaps best of all is when it appears in the form of a beer bottle to soothe our weary souls on these cold winter nights.

I’ve actually been aware of this version of Bifrost’s existence for about a decade now, but this is the first time that I’ve ever actually encountered it in person, which for a sad individual who gets off on the combination of Norse anything with alcohol anything makes it a very special moment.

This liquid Bifrost is brought to us by those fine brewers at Elysian Brewing Company in Seattle (click the “seasonal” tab on their page if you want to read their official blurb about Bifrost). It’s a pale ale brewed for the grim and frostbitten season with some hints of spice and a nice medium level of bitterness, and really good. I enjoyed drinking it even more than I enjoyed taking the picture above to preserve its unadulterated glory for all digital prosperity. And no, I didn’t drink it straight out of the bottle, but rather poured it into my horn, as one should.

The Great Norwegian Trolldomizer

January 8th, 2019

Trolls are inspirational creatures. This is pretty much an established fact, at least among 19th century/very early 20th century Scandinavian artists. I’ve long known about the trolls and tomtar illustrated by the Swede John Bauer, who I hailed in the distant past for his more Norse-myth related work, but I had been embarrassingly ignorant of Theodor Kittelsen’s extensive contributions to the canon of visualized trollery till I read John Lindow’s Trolls: An Unnatural History. The sad thing is, I’ve long been familiar with some of Kittelsen’s work, but I failed to put it all together. The forest troll depicted above is probably the most recognizable culprit, but Kittelsen did so much more. Like this disturbed/disturbing sea troll:

Or this troll marauding down Oslo’s main street with Henrik Ibsen being pompous and oblivious in the lower right corner:

Or these trolls marching to war for Norway (I think; I’m not actually totally sure what’s going on here):

Or these trolls on their way to the fairy-tale Soria Moria Castle:

The trolls go on and on and there is a much more extensive collection of them over at Monster Brain’s website for those who feel the lure of Kittelsen’s trolldom. There’s also a whole exhibit dedicated to Kittelsen’s art over at The Cobalt Works and Mines in Åmot, Norway (because viewing classic trollish art at an early industrial underground mining may not be an obvious idea, but it is an ingenious one).

But that’s not all! Kittelsen also illustrated cool Norse related scenery, too. Like this Viking ship flying/crashing through some evergreen trees(?):

And this image of a sea monster, probably Jörmundgandr:

And then there is this, his grand tribute to Norwegian folk traditions involving the playing of the lur. Metalheads will recognize this one because of its association with Varg Vikernes and Burzum’s Filosofem album, which has unfortunately given the artwork a bit of a negative association. But of course that is not Kittelsen’s fault; he was long dead before Vikernes was even born, let alone murdering people and committing arson.

Gateways to Trolldom

December 27th, 2018

For those who have ever wondered: “Why isn’t there a general interest book dedicated solely to the history of trolls, their various forms of misbehavior, and the human world’s changing perception towards them as documented through literature and art over the past 1000 years?” Well, wonder no more! Because back in 2014 John Lindow finally released a volume through Reaktion Books to end that nagging curiosity (I’m always timely in my book “reviews”). Unfortunately, Trolls: An Unnatural History just doesn’t have the mass appeal or selling potential of something like 50 Shades of Pointless and Smutty Relationship Drama, so it lurks in the periphery, outside of the normal confines of human interest where it revels in its otherness, and in that sense, exists just like a troll itself. How appropriate!

So, it’s a fun and interesting book, covering the evolution of trolls from their earliest documented instances as a source of fear and harassment and cursing among the Norse (“That Halldor guy is a piece of shit! I hope the trolls get him!”) to their more benign and fairy-tale like incarnations in more recent centuries. John Lindow makes it clear that their general otherness and tendency towards disrupting normal human conventions, whether maliciously or not, has remained constant through their evolution. And he is a professor in the Scandinavian department at UC Berkeley, so I think we can probably trust him on this (he’s got a number of other relevant Scandinavian/Norse publications to his credit, too).

I particularly enjoyed learning more about how the word “troll” is actually used among the various Scandinavian languages. I knew in Swedish that a “wizard” is a trollkarl (troll-man or magic-man), but the use of the word extends so much further beyond simply being a funny way to describe Gandalf’s profession. My favorite was that in Danish, Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew is translated to be Taming of the Troll. Who wouldn’t want to tame a troll? And why isn’t there a metal band called Troll-Tamer yet? Or maybe there is and I’m just ignorant.

The Jutulport in Våga, Norway

I also really liked the part about Jutulporten in Norway, because it was entertaining and I’d never known about it before. Troll and giant are conflated a bit here, but Jutulporten is basically a mountain gateway to the land of the trolls in Våga. There is a fun tale about how you can get a terrible crick in your neck if you watch a troll or giant walk through the portal against his wishes, and it is retold in English on the Nordigard Blessom site, a farm/bed and breakfast that takes shares its name with the main character from the tale. It’s a well known tale in Norsk-speaking countries, but less so in English-speaking countries, and was illustrated by the Norwegian artist Peter Nicolai Arbo:

Arbo’s work may be recognizable to those of you who are familiar with his more famous rendering of Odin’s Wild Hunt:

And last but not least, what would a post about trolldom be without a proper soundtrack to accompany it? Hail Fejd!

Norumbega Blót

December 18th, 2018

In the shadow of Leif Eriksson’s Tower at Norumbega, Vinland

Lo there did we honor the Leif the Lucky at the sacred site of his Vinland colony! Indeed, a make-shift blót was recently held to honor the colonizer of Norumbega with mead and metal along the banks of the not-so-swiftly moving Charles River. And though we made no actual sacrifices (unless the contents of a ceramic bottle of Dansk Mjød Viking Blod qualifies), Leif nonetheless did smile upon us by granting passage to the top of his tower, which is usually barred off because that is the era in which we live. Needless to say, the make-shift blót was a huge success and surely a bountiful harvest is in store for the coming year.*

The open-handed proginetor of barbaric nobility performed skaldic arts and generously bequeathed idols of Odin, Thor, and Tyr for alcoholic worship upon the altar of erroneous history

Hail Tyr! And how appropriate that this is being posted on a Tuesday—is this coincidence, or fate?

We also perfected the magical “Skull Splitter” disappearing trick

And what would a Norumbega blót be without a thematically appropriate song sung in Swedish but transcribed only in runes?

*Leif’s tower bears a striking resemblance to Frey’s most distinctive feature, so the fact that we intruded into what was supposed to be an “impregnable” stone shaft is ripe with all sorts of symbolic meaning.

‘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: