Posts Tagged ‘Norway’

True Norwegian Tapestry Art

Sunday, 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

The Great Norwegian Trolldomizer

Tuesday, 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

Thursday, 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!

True Corporate Black Metal

Monday, 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: