The Nine Realms
9 months, 22 poets and writers, 22 Artists, 3 composers, 1 Viking boat: a magical reworking of Norse Mythology for contemporary audiences
Poems and Writing inspired by the Norse realm of Nifelheim (The Realm of the Dead
Karin Heyer and John Mansell
by Karin Heyer
In the mists of time,
Hel, goddess of the dead
was the moon that
drew good or evil
across the water.
Her gigantic power
should not fall to abuse,
for that was Hel’s hell.
She ruled over men
on this sea of wagons
with fierce piercing eyes.
She could protect or destroy
the apple-tree of strife
under the miraculous moon’s hall,
so that the brutal blood-snake
not in thoughtless revenge.
She was master of
the dream-assembly for
the sick and old,
could prevent the slaughter-dew from flowing
over the ruthless river-fire
in the lone battle of life.
The translations of the kennings:
Sea of Wagons = earth; Apple-tree of strife = warrior; Moon’s hall = sky; Blood-snake = sword; Dream-assembly = sleep; Slaughter-dew = blood; River-fire = gold
by John Mansell
The night stifles with moon and star-fall.
The skald saunters through the throng.
Arms aloft like antlers he shuffles words
on his rhythmic tongue,
full of soot and cinders, to fall upon
the eager warriors gathered in stately enclave.
The night ignited by the sparks of his recital,
spreading the gloaming like bleeding flame.
“We are such as gather before the camp fires of lore.
We are those who thrust to that glorious death.
Yet betwixt and between there are those
who crave infirmity and age.
Look and you will glance their shifting eyes
behind the slatted windows of hovels,
fearful and stripped of dignity.
No feasting halls for them.
Nothing but sullen Nifelheim awaits.
The clutch of ice and cold upon ancient flesh.
The dread of the Rime Giants or the Children of the Mist.
We are such as will never see those spectres.
“And lo I tell you, Nifelheim is older than the first star.
It was created before earth, and at its centre Hvergelmir,
the Roaring Kettle, from which nine rivers flow.
That hoary land where Odin sent
defiling Loki’s grotesque child Hel.
That cruel daughter;
half sable as night, half as you in stippled wipe of fire.
And there with those whose usefulness has diminished
go the evil doers, the molesters of dream.
Helgrind, the Gates of Hell, ne’er more apt,
that edifice entrance; that hall called Eljudnir.
She strewed the minds of ambling man.
Her dish was that of Hunger.
Her knife the famine before her table.
Her slave a slender wraith call Lazy
and Slothful her serving wench in harlot stance.
We are such as will not fall to her peril.
“We are such as will not see before the quivering sun,
as it shudders beneath the end of the earth,
the sail of her ship of death afloat from its mooring
in that place that traps and spits her name as if both are one.
We are such whose eyes will not stoop beneath
the lowest horizon before that Mistress of Death.
That Mistress of the pusillanimous hand.
Not lest you be as brave Hermod
whose ride to her foreboding hall entreats all glory.
To release sad Balder from its mortifying hold.
None must weep she said
to show that he was truly loved.
None at all she said.
How harsh her condition as that sole giantess
with eyes of granite frowned and found no tear.
We are such as Hermod.
We are such as defy the impossible.
No Nifelhein for us.
No falsifier of Death to retch our glories.
For we will find the perfect deaths to attend our only Master.”
The fires had burnt low.
The moon had travelled along the sky.
The gathered warriors gripped in thought the silent blades.
And the skald with no hint of farewell
departs as if he had never been.
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As always, thank you for your interest.