Tag Archives: emerging writers

Realm 5: Niflheim – Overview and writing prompts, The Nine Realms, an ArtiPeeps Combined Arts Collaboration 2014-2015

12 Feb

nine realms8

The Nine Realms

9 months, 19 poets and writers, 22 Artists, 3 composers, 1 Viking boat = a magical reworking of Norse Mythology for contemporary audiences

Nifelheim

(the realm of the dead)

 

Vikings Ahoy!

Here we are in the middle of February,  with the deadline for the poetry and writing for the 4th realm Nidavellir today! I shall be posting out more Jotunheim poems this week and next week, and then we’ll be onto Nidavellir. This month we are outlining the realm of Niflheim, and the deadline for all writing, poetry and mp3s for this realm is Thursday 12th March 2015.

These monthly posts will draw from a range of primary and secondary source materials and focus on selected gods, themes and stories that circle around the highlighted realm. They will not attempt to cover everything, and writers can embrace any other stories and characters within their writing which is not covered. Month by month we will be building our own magical, contemporary norse world whilst exploring the themes of POWER, NATURE and RELIGION. The project’s overall intention is to embrace orality, translation, storytelling and rhythm all of which are inspired by the origins of the oral tradition of the Norse Sagas.

I may well put out little mini-posts intermittently focusing on orality and poetic form as necessary.  

What is presented below is designed to inspire, present basic information and offer a starting point for individual creativity within the project inspired by the themes, characters and spirit of the myths and stories.

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1. A brief  Overview of Niflheim

 Niflheim means ‘Mist World’ and lies to the North of Ginnnungagap, the huge void  from which the world grew. It originally had 9 frozen rivers attached to it and was filled with ice, frost and snow. The rivers bubbled up from a cauldron called Hvergelmir and their  waters flowed into Ginnungagap.

In the guise of three men Odin gives a lesson in norse mythology to Gylfi (the earliest recorded king of Scandinavia). 

It was many ages before the earth was shaped that the Mist-World [Niflheimr] was made; and midmost within it lies the well that is called Hvergelmir, from which spring the rivers called Svöl, Gunnthrá, Fjörm, Fimbulthul, Slídr and Hríd, Sylgr and Ylgr, Víd, Leiptr; Gjöll is hard by Hel-gates.

The Prose Edda, Section III of Gylfaginning, in translation by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur (1916), p. 16.

Niflheim was said to be a nine day ride northwards and downwards from Midgard. At its centre was a towering place called Hel, whose gates were protected by a female of the same name. She is described in a variety of ways (pending on the source): as a half black-half-white she-monster and as a half living flesh and half rotting cadaver. There is also a distinction between Helheim and Niflheim:  men pass through Hel to die in Niflheim (Crossley-Holland: xxi).

Niflheim is also mentioned as the final  destination of the jötunn who was killed by Thor after he had built Asgard:

Now that the Æsir saw surely that the hill-giant was come thither, they did not regard their oaths reverently, but called on Thor, who came as quickly. And straight away the hammer Mjöllnir was raised aloft; he paid the wright’s wage, and not with the sun and the moon. Nay, he even denied him dwelling in Jötunheim, and struck but the one first blow, so that his skull was burst into small crumbs, and sent him down below under Niflhel [Niflheim].

The Prose Edda, Section XXXIV of Gylfaginning, in translation by Brodeur (1916), p. 55.

Rather than staying in Nifelheim the dead could also pass on to Nastrond/Náströnd* (the strand of corpses), where men must wade in poisoned streams before being cast into the Hvergelmir (cauldron) to feed Nidhogg the dragon. These ideas have affected Christian notions of fate and wickedness (Allan: 133).

*See Things of Interest below

Two other sorts of beings were said to come from Nifelheim the Hrímthursar, known as the Frost Giants (or Rime-Giants) and the Niflungar (“children of the mist”), a group of people who were treasure-seekers and hoarders. They are also known as  the Nibelungs.

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Gylfi and Odin

Gylfi and Odin

 

2. Gylfi’s Education:

Gylfi  meets ‘The Mysterious Three’ men mentioned above in Asgard, where, in search of wisdom, he questions them.  Each of the three men sit on a throne and guard the gates of Valhalla. The three are known as:  Jafnharr (Equally High), Harr (High) and Thridi (Third). He is unaware that the three are in effect incarnations of Odin.  

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a. Ice and Flames:

Odin (disguised as Thridi/Þriði)  tells Gylfi that Ymir was formed when the ice from Niflheim (Niflheimr) coalesced with the flames from Muspelheim (Muspelheimr), and thus began the creation of the world:

Just as cold arose out of Niflheim, and all terrible things, so also all that looked toward Múspelheim became hot and glowing; but Ginnungagap was as mild as windless air, and when the breath of heat met the rime, so that it melted and dripped, life was quickened from the yeast-drops, by the power of that which sent the heat, and became a man’s form. And that man is named Ymir, but the Rime-Giants call him Aurgelmir; […]

 The Prose Edda, Section VII of Gylfaginning, in translation by Brodeur (1916), p. 17.

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b. The Second Root:

Talking of the world tree Yggdrasill, Jafnhárr (Odin) tells Gylfi that Jotunheim (Jötunheimr) is located under the second root, where Ginnungagap once was:

The Ash is greatest of all trees and best: its limbs spread out over all the world and stand above heaven. Three roots of the tree uphold it and stand exceeding broad: one is among the Æsir; another among the Rime-Giants, in that place where aforetime was the Yawning Void; the third stands over Niflheim, and under that root is Hvergelmir, and Nídhöggr gnaws the root from below.

The Prose Edda, Section XV of Gylfaginning, in translation by Brodeur (1916), p. 27.

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c. The Story of Hel and Loki:

Gylfi is then told the story of how Loki had created Hel via his relationship with giantess Angerboda (‘she who offers sorrow’). Hel was the third daughter of this partnership and was sister to Fenrir (the eldest) and Jormungand (the second child, and a huge serpent).  Hel’s looks and grim demeanour were particularly disturbing to the Asgard gods. When the gods then heard that Loki had fathered these children, they felt that the three should best be captured. A group of gods gathered and went to Jotunheim to capture the siblings. They tied up Angerboda and took Hel to be cast into Niflheim by Odin (Crossley-Holland: 33). :

Hel he cast into Niflheim, and gave to her power over nine worlds, to apportion all abodes among those that were sent to her: that is, men dead of sickness or of old age. She has great possessions there; her walls are exceeding high and her gates great.

The Prose Edda, Section III of Gylfaginning, in translation by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur (1916), p. 16.

In this way,  Hel became the mistress of the world of the dead including  all those in the nine realms who died of disease and old age.  Odin stipulated that she had to share out all her food with whoever came to her.  

You can find the entire version of the Gylfaginning here.

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3. Hrimthursar/hrímþursar

or Frost Giants

When Ymir was formed out of the primeval chaos of Ginnungagap a procreative sequence was instigated: out of Ymir’s armpits grew his son and daughter, and his two feet gave birth to another son (a six headed monster). Ymir’s son and daughter and the six headed monster created what is known as the Hrimthursar (the name given to the frost giants who populated Niflheim).  The gods, however, debated this latter scenario, saying that the Hrimthursar’s origins stem from Buri (the grandfather of Odin. Vili and Ve) instead. The story goes that when  Odin killed Ymir, all his blood/water flooded Niflheim and killed all the frost giants (jötnar).  Nearly all the giants were killed barring one: the giant Bergelmir and his wife. Together they repopulated the earth:

From Ymir’s flesh the earth was formed, and the rocks from out of his bones; the sky from the skull of the ice-cold giant, and the sea from his blood.

Orchard, translated by Andrew (2010). “Vafthrúdnismál”. The poetry of the Elder Edda. London: Penguin Classics

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Themes, Relevance and Questions:

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Morality, Wickedness, Religion: In the creation of Hel we can almost see embodied in her a metaphor for moral choice: who is bad and who is good. She has the power to cast men into to Nifelheim, or into to Náströnd or to stay in Hel. She is one of the main figures (along with the Aesir and Vanir gods) in norse mythology who controls morality. The idea of moral rectitude and fate is put in place here. The themes of which you can also see flowed into Christian doctrines (Allan: 133).

 Exploration Point: What type of morality is shown within the Eddas? How is the harsh, dark morality balanced? Through nature? Through mysticism? Through play within language?

 

Things of Interest:

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1. Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur  (1881-1971. author of the  famous 1916 edition of The Prose Edda):

 

Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur 1916 ed

Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur 1916 ed

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Brodeur, born in Franklyn Massachusetts, USA, was given the Royal Order of Vasa for his services to Scandinavian culture from the government of Sweden. He was also forward-thinking in terms of his politics.  He was one of three members of the Berekely Communist Faculty Group.  Brodeur also initially refused to sign the loyalty oath as required by the state in 1949. He ultimately did decide to sign and continue the fight from within.

W. E. Farnham and A. E. Hutson, Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur, English; German: Berkeley: 1888-1971: Professor of English and Germanic Philology, at Calisphere, University of California Libraries, retrieved February 22, 2012

You can read more about him here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Gilchrist_Brodeur

http://pulpflakes.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/arthur-gilchrist-brodeur-professor-pulp.html

 

2.  Náströnd

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Click to enlarge the images

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Náströnd (shore of the corpses) is a place in Hel where Níðhöggr the dragon resides eating the corpses and sucking their blood. It is the place where those guilty of murder, adultery and oath-breaking (which the Norse considered the most terrible of crimes) go. Within the shores stood a castle filled with serpents. 

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From the  Völuspá  in The Poetic Edda:

Sal sá hón standa
sólo fiarri,
Nástrǫndu á,
norðr horfa dyrr.
Fello eitrdropar
inn um lióra.
Sá er undinn salr
orma hryggiom.
Sá hón þar vaða
þunga strauma
menn meinsvara
ok morðvarga
ok þannz annars glepr
eyrarúno.
Þar saug Níðhǫggr
nái framgengna,
sleit vargr vera.
Vitoð ér enn, eða hvat?

Völuspá 38-39, Dronke‘s edition
A hall she saw standing
remote from the sun
on Dead Body Shore.
Its door looks north.
There fell drops of venom
in through the roof vent.
That hall is woven
of serpents’ spines.
She saw there wading
onerous streams
men perjured
and wolfish murderers
and the one who seduces
another’s close-trusted wife.
There Malice Striker sucked
corpses of the dead,
the wolf tore men.
Do you still seek to know? And what?

Völuspá 38-39, Dronke’s translation

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N%C3%A1str%C3%B6nd

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3. The Nine Worlds of the Ygdrassil:

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4. The three children of Loki:

A brief overview:

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 Optional Poetry and Writing Prompts:

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Epistle

Epistolary poems come from the Latin “epistula” for “letter,” and are poems that literally read as letters. They directly address a subject matter or person. They can be intimate, colloquial or formal and measured.

See here for more details.

Writing Word Prompts:  Blood, Insignificance, Guilt, Serpents, Ice, Fear, Judgement, Brittle

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To confirm, the deadline for all writing, poetry and mp3s for the Nifelheim realm is Thursday 12th March 2015.

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 Thank you so much for your interest.

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References

 Allan, T (2010) Vikings, The Battle at the End of Time, London: Watkins Publishing

Crossley-Holland, K (1993) The Penguin Book of Norse Myths: Gods of the Vikings, London, Penguin Books

Ellis Davidson, H.R. (1990) Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, Penguin Books

Hollander, L.M. (1996) tr. The Poetic Edda, Austin: University of Texas Press

Larrington, C. (1996) tr. The Poetic Edda, Oxford University Press

Sturluson, S. (2005) The Prose Edda, Penguin Classics, tr. Jesse L. Byock

Weekend Showcase : Elizabeth Rose Murray (Writer)

9 Jan

Spotlight

Every Friday, 1 creative, letting their work speak for itself.

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Elizabeth Rose Murray

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Gothiclitterabastarda3

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The Books, They Cry *

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Sarajevo, 1993. No idea what date exactly – it’s not important any more. Food and cigarettes are the only currencies that matter.

Zoran pulls himself out of his bunk and into his hole-ridden combat jacket, rescued from a dead comrade last week. Bullet holes in a jacket bring you luck, they say. Bullets are proud like Serbs. Never hit the same spot twice. There’s no glory in that.

The scarf that Zoran tied carefully around his face has slipped in his sleep. The dusty air burns, dry and hot. Every breath suffers. He gulps like a suffocating fish, checking around nervously to make sure he hasn’t disturbed his comrades. As his gaze falls on his commander, Zoran stiffens, straightens as much as his tired body can manage. He wonders how the commander sleeps so well.

Before he turns sixteen, Zoran wants to be in charge of a unit. The Great Siege is all he has left. His mother, father, brothers and sister; they all died unremarkably. Zoran was outside sketching the last lime tree in his village when return fire blew their makeshift home apart. He found remnants of his mother, but the others evaporated like mist. Hiding in the apartment was a cowardly act. They should have been fighting for the cause.

Under his commander’s care, Zoran is no longer the snivelling boy found curled around his mother’s severed body. Tomorrow, he starts his first shift on the barricades on the Northern Bank of the Miljacka. The barricades offer the best contact fighting. They’re where you earn respect.

“Are you ready to join the men, Zoran?”

Zoran had not noticed the commander wake. He stares into his leader’s eyes. The others say the commander can see into a man’s heart. Zoran believes it, even though his own vision is clouded. He puffs himself up, sucks in his cheeks like he’s seen the others do.

“I am, sir.”

He hopes the thin croak in his voice doesn’t betray him. He’s been dreaming of this moment, can’t risk his excitement being mistaken for fear. The commander reaches out, grabs the boy by his shoulder and squeezes. Zoran accepts the pincer-sharp grip, fights the urge to pull away. Inside, his heart pumps like rapid-gun fire.

*

The Gazi Husrev Bey Library is so silent Ismet can hear his father’s breath from the other side of the room. Before the war started, before the bread queues and blockades, before the trees were cut down for firewood, the building would have been full. Nobody comes to read books any more. They’re too hungry or cold or afraid. The majestic glass dome is now a withered skeleton. There is no glass left in Sarajevo.

Ismet’s father used to say the library was the middle point between heaven and earth. He talked of how the books came alive at night; “Imagine, Ismet, while we sleep, philosophers and scholars from every country, every era, leap from the pages to debate the world’s most important ideas.” When war threatened, Ismet’s father didn’t panic. He smiled, cupping his hands around a decorative spine. “In times of war, books and prayers can be of great comfort to a man.”

Back then, Ismet would examine the treasured sixteenth century manuscripts, trying to make sense of the beautiful, handwritten script. Scarlet, viridian and indigo inks whispered to him, offering a glimpse of the nighttime chatter of ghosts. Ismet listened carefully, trying to decipher their incessant noise in languages he couldn’t understand.

Those days ended when the ‘men in the hills’ arrived. Now, Ismet’s father is silent. He holds the books close, smells their musky scent, strokes their covers. But there is no smile. He reads very little. Always, he worries. The books, they cry.

Once one of the most respected scholars in Sarajevo, Ismet’s father is reduced to stacking abandoned manuscripts into banana boxes. See the remnants of his past in the elegant angle of his neck as he concentrates? Ismet tries harder to see it every day as willow-thin and grey as the sky, his father methodically piles book upon book, then seals the box.

An act that could cost him his life. His son’s too.

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Zoran secures an excellent view of the Latin Bridge: a necessary crossing for civilians in need of water. Day after day, war-worn men and grief-bruised women race across the bridge in the hope of reaching the Brewery. Here, they drain water from the pumps, then risk their lives again to get back home to their families.

A tall, wiry sniper stationed at the Northern Bank barricade grins at Zoran. He nods his head towards the bridge.

“Easy pickings.”

In return, Zoran widens his lips and shows his teeth. It isn’t what a smile used to look like.

“Easy pickings,” he repeats.

Holding the high-precision rifle makes Zoran feel taller. Excitement rages through his body. Unlike the defending soldiers, he has ammunition. Ignoring the rusted trigger, chipped handle and uncomfortable weight, Zoran imagines that his weapon gleams against his hip. He’s thankful that there are no mirrors. He doesn’t want to see the oversized, tattered gun against his slight frame.

Zoran was never athletic or academic. He only excelled at art. Looking back, he scorns that weak, sunburned boy who spent hours dabbing at canvas with a sable brush. Cerulean blue, lemon yellow, alizarin crimson: all distant memories buried under the dust and debris of constant shelling. What need is there of such wasteful occupations? The city’s freedom will be beauty enough.

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The city’s main library is bombed. Ismet’s father grows increasingly restless. What will stop them from turning on the Gazi Husrev Bey next?

“It is time, Ismet,” he says.

A disused fire station near the tunnel that leads from the city to the airport is their only chance. No one attacks the tunnel. The fighters need their cigarettes. The black market needs its extortionately priced food. And those who can pay need their way out.

“How many books will we take, papa?”

“All of them.”

More than ten thousand tomes have made their home in the Gazi Husrev Bey. Ismet sighs. He wonders whether, with all their wisdom, those revered scholars saw The Great Siege coming? Pausing, gleaming manuscript in hand, he peers skyward, expecting to see apparitions. There is only the flat grey sky where the dome once glistened like dew.

“When, papa?”

“Morning.”

Ismet’s mother begs her son not to go. She says it is too risky for a boy of fifteen. She has not heard the books whispering, isn’t familiar with the sound of their important ideas. Ismet knows that if Sarajevo is to be rebuilt, it cannot be left to the criminals and thugs that have sprung up on both sides. Whoever wins, whatever the future, the books will preserve the city’s identity. They need to be heard.

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Pacing the barricade, staring down into the city, Zoran feels sweat drip down his spine despite the wintery air. With every step, the sniper’s eyes sear into him, calculating his next move. Zoran knows his future relies on impressing this man. Otherwise, the commander will be disappointed.

“Smoke?”

Zoran takes one of his companion’s cigarettes, taps it against his palm before lighting it to buy time. After three days of watching, he must shoot. But the choice of target is critical.

As he sucks on the cigarette, Zoran tries to think like his commander. Could shooting a man earn him the most glory? Maybe killing a woman would show he’s cut all ties with childhood? Or would a toddler be best? He looks into the sniper’s eyes, trying to read him like a colour palette. But the sniper only sees in monochrome. Zoran has to make his choice alone.

As soon as his cigarette is finished, Zoran stubs it into the ground and perches his rifle on the barricade. Closing one eye, breath slowed, he waits. Instinct tells him to let the first few people cross. But when a man in an expensive blue suit and hat steps out, Zoran’s heart thumps. The world pales. The blue suit gleams as it sprints across the Latin Bridge. Zoran aims, fires.

Recovering from the thump of the gun against his shoulder, he sees the man make it safely to the other side. His hat lies crumpled and smoking in the middle of the road. As Zoran lowers his weapon, a fist strikes him in the mouth. He springs back, but doesn’t cower. The blood is bright against his palm as he wipes it away. The sniper fixes his stare on the boy, spits his cigarette to the floor.

“Idiot! There’s no room for failure, here. If you want to lose, join the other side.”

*

Ismet and his father are ready. The city library still burns, lighting up the sky as their stooped figures step out into the morning, each loaded with a banana box full of books. Their task has made them strong. In single file they run across streets, dodge down alleyways, duck behind boxcars. Last night’s mortar attacks leave the air extra thick with dust, cloaking their movements.

When they reach the Latin Bridge, their hearts throb with fear. The bridge is open and in full view of the Northern Bank barricades. No dust will save them now. Waiting with the stragglers and empty water cartons, tucked behind an upturned truck, they watch. Ismet scribes a prayer in the dirt. War involves too much waiting.

A woman runs out, plastic water bottles clanking by her hip. She kicks an abandoned hat adorned with a single bullet hole, stumbles, but makes it safely to the other side. As another woman crosses successfully, Ismet decides he will grab the hat as he passes. A gift for his father as protection; they say no Serb bullet strikes the same place twice.

“It is time,” says Ismet’s father. “I will go first.”

He believes a sniper will fire as soon as he sees the box. There won’t be enough time to reload and shoot at his son.

“See you on the other side.”

Taking a deep breath and heaving the box of books close to his chest, Ismet’s father races into the street.

*

Sucking on his wounded lip, Zoran peers out across the range. There’s been little movement since he missed his shot. Just a few women he’d let pass to lure better prey. The others cower like starving dogs, sheltering behind vehicles. Zoran has heard that some people count the seconds after a sniper shot, trying to guess the safest time to cross. When will they realise it will only be safe when they, the Serbs, have taken the city by force?

Avoiding his comrade’s gaze, Zoran squints into the distance. He knows this is his last chance. If he doesn’t hit his target this time, his commander will be informed. His dreams of leading a unit will crumple in cadmium flames like the city library.

Zoran wears his non-smile as the civilians relax and begin to cross. First: a bent, grey man with a proud face. He runs slowly, only just able to bear the box he carries. Zoran blinks. Did he see right? His eyes haven’t deceived him; the box is imprinted with bananas. Zoran stalls. He knows that the black market is thriving; cars, clothes, toys, water. Anything can be bought for the right price. He’s seen the men in tracksuits with their oily hair and oilier palms, slicking their way from tunnel to hill to valley. They didn’t bother him before – smugglers are always chameleons in war – but the bright yellow-gold of the bananas feels like an insult.

“We don’t even have bread, and they have bananas,” says Zoran quietly.

Anger creeps into his stomach. His heart shrivels. As his blood pumps faster, making his forehead throb, he knows he will shoot the next person to appear. Under the watchful eye of his fellow sniper, Zoran lifts his rifle. Prays he won’t fail this time.

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* ‘The Books, They Cry’ was shortlisted for the RTE Francis MacManus Short Story competition (2013) – it was aired on national radio but this is the first time it has appeared in print.

 

  Biography

Elizabeth Rose Murray lives in West Cork where she fishes, grows her own vegetables and lives for adventure and words. Book One of her Nine Lives trilogy for children (aged 10-12) will be published by Mercier Press in August 2015.

Elizabeth has poetry & fiction published in journals across Ireland and the UK, and she has been shortlisted in the following competitions: RTE3 Short Story (2014) Penguin/RTE Guide (2013), Powers/Irish Times (2013), Writers & Artists/Anam Cara (2013) and Aesthetica Creative Works (2011). In 2012, she performed in Ciudades Paralelas: Station – a live writing installation in Kent train station as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival.

Twitter: @ERMurray
Facebook: /ERMurray.Author

Elizabeth will be returning to ArtiPeeps on Wednesday 25th February for her first FreeSpace. Do watch out for her. 

 

If you would like a Weekend Showcase please do get in touch via the contact form on the What’s On Page or via the comment box.

 

 

 

 

Realm 4: Nidavellir – Overview and writing prompts, The Nine Realms, an ArtiPeeps Combined Arts Collaboration 2015

8 Jan

World Tree Norse

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

Nidavellir

(the realm of the Dwarves)

 

Vikings Ahoy!

Happy New Year! Here we are at the beginning of January,  with the deadline for the poetry and writing for the 3nd realm Jotunheim coming up: Monday 12th January. The poetry and writing inspired by the realm Vanaheim will continue to be posted out. This month we are outlining the realm of Nidavellir and the deadline for all writing, poetry and mp3s for this realm is Thursday 12th February 2015.

These monthly posts will draw from a range of primary and secondary source materials and focus on selected gods, themes and stories that circle around the highlighted realm. They will not attempt to cover everything, and writers can embrace any other stories and characters within their writing which is not covered. Month by month we will be building our own magical, contemporary norse world whilst exploring the themes of POWER, NATURE and RELIGION. The project’s overall intention is to embrace orality, translation, storytelling and rhythm all of which are inspired by the origins of the oral tradition of the Norse Sagas.

I may well put out little mini-posts intermittently focusing on orality and poetic form as necessary.  

What is presented below is designed to inspire, present basic information and offer a starting point for individual creativity within the project inspired by the themes, characters and spirit of the myths and stories.

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185px-Nidavellir

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1. A brief Overview of Nidavellir

 Nidavellir (Niðavellir) is the realm of the dwarves. Nida means ‘dark’ and vellir means ‘dwelling’, and  Hreidmar is the King of the realm. Dwarves are consistently mentioned in the Voluspa poem of  The Poetic Edda (see below):

Stóð fyr norðan, / á Niðavöllom / salr úr gulli / Sindra ættar

tr: ‘Before you reach the north (Niflheim being the world furthest to the north), A dark dwelling stands (The dwarf world), In halls of gold, Sindri’s bloodline lives’.

There is some confusion as to whether Nidavellir is actually  the realm of the dwarves or the dark elves. They are often confounded, and associated with the realm called Svartalfheim (world of black elves). Snorri Sturlson refers to this in The Prose Edda calling the realm Svartálfaheimr. Dark elves or black elves, were  generally conceived as being horrifying and hideous. In later storytelling traditions they became what we know as goblins. The light elves, became equated with the notion of fairies.

You can find the whole of the Voluspa here.

Dwarves are known for their wisdom, and alongside giants have a mortal fear of sunlight, as it turns them into stone. This is well highlighted in the story  The Lay of Alvis (see Story Focus, below).  As a consequence  the sun is often called  ‘Dvalin’s Delight (after Dvalin the dwarf who came to a similar end as Alvis). See Point 4 below.

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1. The Creation of Dwarves

Having created the world Odin and his brothers then created beings to live in the world. He created the dwarves first. They grew from maggots infesting Ymir’s corpse. The gods gave dwarves a consciousness and then placed them underground so they could search for gold. The dwarves lived alongside trolls who also resided underground.

The dwarves live in darkness, breed in the earth and are often depicted as miners. In stark contrast to the Light Elves who live in Alfheim. They dwell amidst the rocks and hills, and were considered great craftsmen creating gifts for the gods.

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Hreidmar, King of Nidvellir

Hreidmar, King of Nidvellir

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2. Hreidmar (Hreiðmarr)

Hreidmar is the lusty King of the dwarves who captured three gods by using unbreakable chains. He was the father of FafnirÓtr and Regin, and lived in a bejewelled house built for him by Regin. Son, Fafnir guarded the palace on the King’s behalf. The story goes that Ótr was accidentally killed by Loki.  The Aesir, in order to make amends for his death, choose to repay him with what is known as ‘Andavari’s Gold’. Andvari was a dwarf who lived underneath a waterfall and had the power to change himself into a fish. The dwarf possessed a magic wealth-making ring called Andvaranaut. Under duress Loki makes Andvari give up his ring and his gold to him. However, before he leaves Andvari curses the ring. The ring and gold are passed to Hreidmar as repayment for his loss. but out of greed, Fafnir and Regin kill Hreidmar to get the wealth and ring. Fafnir then gets even more greedy and turns himself into a dragon so that he can forcibly drive Regin away through his transformation.

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Thor Kicks Litr. illustration by Emil Doepler (ca. 1905)

Thor Kicks Litr. illustration by Emil Doepler (ca. 1905)

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3. Lit (Litr ) and the Death of Balder/Baldr:

Litr, the dwarf appears in the story of  the death of Balder/Baldr (who is the second son of Odin. He is occidentally killed by his brother (Höðr) with a magical spear made from Mistletoe created by Loki). Baldr, in the mythology,  is seen to be a paragon of graciousness and wisdom. Baldr’s death is signalled as being one of the many important stories in the sequence of events that lead to Ragnarök.  Nanna, Balder’s wife, also throws herself symbolically into his funeral pyre. At Ragnarök,  Balder will be born into the new world.

Here is the reference to dwarf Lit in The Prose Edda

Next Thor stood up and blessed the pyre with Mjolnir. A dwarf named Lit ran in front of his feet. Thor kicked the dwarf with his foot;  it landed in the fire and burned to death.

 Gylfaginning tr. by Jesse Byock (Penguin Classics, Section 49, p67).

You can also find the story of Baldr outlined in Kevin Crossley Holland’s Penguin Book of Norse Myths, under the title Balder’s Dream (p147).

Frigg then sends Hermod (Hermóðr) to  Hel  (ruler over Helheim) to try and bargain Baldr’s life back from her. Hel stimpulates that in order for Baldr to be returned all things must weep for him. Trees, animals, metal and stones  all cry for him, except a giantess called Thokk (who is said to be Loki in disguise). As Thokk does not give in, Baldr cannot return from Helheim .

You can find the text of the entire Gylfaginning here.

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4. Dvalin, and ‘Dvalin’s Delight’:

 

Dwarf Dvalin alongside his brothers Alfrigg, Berling and Grerr are responsible for the fashioning  of the golden necklace Brísingamen (belonging to Freyja) which Frigg covets hugely. The only other reference to Dvalin in The Poetic Edda is in connection to ‘Dvalin’s Delight’ (see realm overview 1) where Dvalin gets turned into stone, which is ultimately the fate of dwarf Alviss too (see below).

You can find the reference to Dvalin in the Voluspa of The Poetic Edda (see link above).

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4. Story Focus:

A. The Binding of The Wolf/Fenrir:

Fenrir is a monstrous wolf, who was brought up in Asgard. In order to protect themselves some dwarves forge a chain to hold Fenrir securely. It is made up out of  ‘the secret and impalpable things of the world’ (Ellis Davidson: 31):

  • the roots of a mountain
  • the noise of a moving cat
  • the breath of a fish.

It is delicate but is equally very strong, and Fenrir would not allow the chain to be placed on him unless a god’s hand was placed in his mouth as a ransom. Tyr, the only god who dared feed the wolf , managed to bind Fenrir with the chain. In so doing the gods were happy, but Tyr lost a hand in the process.

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B. The Lay of Alvis (Alviss):

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Alviss and Thor

Alviss and Thor

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The Alvíssmál ( a poem in The Poetic Edda)  outlines a discussion between a dwarf called Alviss (all-wise) and Thor. The conversation is relayed in a series of kennings which are features of skaldic poetry  (Things of Interest 3. see below). Dwarves were often seen to be centres of knowledge and song, and were known to occasionally pass on their wisdom to the gods.

The story goes that Alviss approaches Thor to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage, saying that Thor had agreed to this earlier. Thor denies this, but says that Alviss can have his daughter if he answers a set of questions correctly. The dwarf’s answers act as an all-encompassing list of mythological entities ranging from giants to elves:

Himinn heitir með mönnum,
en hlýrnir með goðum,
kalla vindófni vanir,
uppheim jötnar,
alfar fagraræfr,
dvergar drjúpansal.
Guðni Jónsson’s normalized text
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‘Heaven’ men call it,
‘The Height’ the gods,
The Wanes ‘The Weaver of Winds’;
Giants ‘The Up-World’,
Elves ‘The Fair-Roof’,
The dwarfs ‘The Dripping Hall’.
Henry Adam Bellows’ translation
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There are some discrepancies in relation to the naming of the various objects. However, the poet-writer of the  Alvíssmál, as Crossley Holland points out (224)does not seem to mind as he is more keen to demonstrate an aspect of poetic technique (skaldic diction) than he is about proving he is 100% correct.  So Alviss fulfils on his task, but is unfortunately turned into stone as the sun rises.

You can find the full Alvíssmál  here.

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Themes, Relevance and Questions:

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Poetic Form and Language: Many stories in connection with the dwarves seem to draw on either their status as wisdom-givers, or highlight their role as conduits of magic and transformation. However, the dwarf stories are more complex,  particularly in the case of The Lay of Alviss which interestingly, combines this emphasis on magic and play with an overt engagement with poetic form and the flexibility of language/meaning. It is maybe worth thinking about how the Sagas , and the stories therein, blend an engagement and celebration of language with the mythic and the supernatural. What does this say about language, and what does this say about power?  

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Things of Interest:

The Death of Balder:

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2.   The Children of Odin

[Norse Mythology Audiobook] Thor, Loki, Asgard, Valhalla:

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3. Skaldic Poetry and Diction:

‘Skald’ means poet, and makes reference to the poets ‘who composed at the courts of Scandinavian and Icelandic leaders during the Viking Age and Middle Ages. Skaldic poetry forms one of two main groupings of Old Norse poetry, the other being the anonymous Eddic poetry’ (Wikipedia, see next link).

 Skaldic poems which consisted of elegies and eulogies (by contemporary poets of the time celebrating their peers) were a huge resource for the myths outlined in The Poetic Edda and other Eddas. Skaldic poetry is delicate, syllabic, alliterative and full of internal rhymes and consonance. Above all skaldic poetry is known for its  many ‘kennings, or condensed metaphors that contain part of their diction. Many of the kennings are rooted in myths with which the poem’s original audience were clearly familiar. So for instance, four of the kennings of gold are ‘Freyja’s tears’, ‘Sif’s hair’, ‘Otters ransom’ and ‘Aegir’s fire’.’ (Crossley-Holland: xxxiii). The kennings used by the poets not only make a nod to the myths that endured through the years and but also to those that had not. The kennings chosen by the poets always reflected the oral heritage that goes with them.

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Skaldic Prose Poetry Part 1.

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You can find Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

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4. The Icelandic Sagas: Europe’s most important book?

http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2008/oct/03/1

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Optional Poetry and Writing Prompts:

Anaphora:

Anaphora, comes from the Greek meaning up or back, and consists of lines where lines or phrases in sequence begin with the same words. A single word can be repeated or a phrase. It is often used in devotional poetry and a favourite of the Romantic poets. Sonnet No 66, by Shakespeare is an example of this (see link below). The form creates a forceful rhythm and often repeats the same sound.

See here for more details.

Writing Word Prompts:  Chains, Creation, Bites, Transforming, Power, Stealth, Stone

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To confirm, the deadline for all writing, poetry and mp3s for the Nidavellir realm is Thursday 12th February 2015.

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 Thanks so much for your interest.

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References

 Allan, T (2010) Vikings, The Battle at the End of Time, London: Watkins Publishing

Crossley-Holland, K (1993) The Penguin Book of Norse Myths: Gods of the Vikings, London, Penguin Books

Ellis Davidson, H.R. (1990) Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, Penguin Books

Hollander, L.M. (1996) tr. The Poetic Edda, Austin: University of Texas Press

Larrington, C. (1996) tr. The Poetic Edda, Oxford University Press

Sturluson, S. (2005) The Prose Edda, Penguin Classics, tr. Jesse L. Byock

Realm 3: Jotunheim – Overview and writing prompts, The Nine Realms, an ArtiPeeps Combined Arts Collaboration 2014-2015

4 Dec

World Tree Norse

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

Jotunheim

(the realm of the frost and stone giants)

 

Vikings Ahoy!

Here we are at the beginning of December,  with the deadline for the poetry and writing for the 2nd realm Vanaheim coming up: Thursday 8th December 2014. I shall start to post out pieces created for Vanaheim the week after next. This month we are outlining the realm of Jotunheim and the deadline for all writing, poetry and mp3s for this realm is Monday 12th January 2015.

These monthly posts will draw from a range of primary and secondary source materials and focus on selected gods, themes and stories that circle around the highlighted realm. They will not attempt to cover everything, and writers can embrace any other stories and characters within their writing which is not covered. Month by month we will be building our own magical, contemporary norse world whilst exploring the themes of POWER, NATURE and RELIGION. The project’s overall intention is to embrace orality, translation, storytelling and rhythm all of which are inspired by the origins of the oral tradition of the Norse Sagas.

I may well put out little mini-posts intermittently focusing on orality and poetic form as necessary.  

What is presented below is designed to inspire, present basic information and offer a starting point for individual creativity within the project inspired by the themes, characters and spirit of the myths and stories.

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The Giant Skymir

The Giant Skymir

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1. A brief  Overview of Jotunheim

 Jotunheim is the home to both the Rock and Frost Giants. It is where the giants fled to start a new race to prevent the extinction of Odin and his family. This race was called the jötnar (or jotunn)  It is the realm where many conflicts take place between the gods and the giants and where they try to reek havoc on Midgard and Asgard. The sons of Borr (Odin’s father) marked out the boundaries  of Jotunheim. The sons also built a vast boundary inland to protect themselves from the giants. The river  Ifing runs through the centre of Jotunheim and separates it from Asgard. There are a range of territories in Jotunheim: 1. Gastropnir where  Menglöð the lover of Svipdagr lives; 2. Mímir’s Well, which can be found under the roots of the Yggdrasil in Jotunheim, and from which Odin wants to glean great knowledge; 3. Thrymheim the home of Thaizi (see below, the son of giant Olvadi); 4. Utgard is the the capital of Vanaheim and is ruled by Skrymir (see below) and 5. Vimur River, where the giantess Gjálp attempted to drown Thor (see below).

2. Giants in Context:

The giants are generally considered the adversaries of the gods (the Vanir and the Aesir). However, relationships between the gods and the giants did exist. Thor himself was a child of the union between Odin and Jord  (personification of the earth) and Freyja and Freyr were the children of the marriage between Njord and the giantess Skadi.

Giantess, Skadi Hunting In the Mountains

Giantess, Skadi Hunting In the Mountains

 

Giants could also show kindness. This can be seen in the story of a young prince called Agnar who passing through Jotunheim on his way to reclaim his kingdom from his brother, found kindness and shelter with the giants. They were also seen (alongside elves) to also be sources of knowledge, magic and wisdom (see the Alvissmal).  Giants despite this are depicted as cold and dark. They cannot stand the sun and are turned into stone if the sun’s rays fell upon them. The giants also lived alongside trolls  in Jotunheim, and they were often the giants’ servants. They lived in isolated mountains and are said to be very unfriendly!  Many references can be found to them in the Prose Edda’s Skáldskaparmál (Poetic Diction). 

You can find a version of the Skalskaparmal here.

The giants are also equated with the natural world. Odin takes parts of the huge giant Ymir (formed out of the chaos of creation, out of the clash of two extreme forces:

Contained within Snorri Sturluson‘s Gylfaginning, Ymir’s creation is recounted:

Just as from Niflheim there arose coldness and all things grim, so what was facing close to Muspell was hot and bright, but Ginnungagap was as mild as a windless sky. And when the rime and the blowing of the warmth met so that it thawed and dripped, there was a quickening from these flowing drops due to the power of the source of the heat, and it became the form of a man, and he was given the name Ymir

You can find the Gylfaginning here.

There have been said to be two types of giants: frost and stone. The frost giants live in the mountains of Jotunheim and are surrounded by winter and they live alongside the stone giants who are hill dwellers and known for their strength. When Ymir was killed by The Sons of Borr nearly all of the frost giants were killed except for Bergelmir and his wife who kept themselves safe. From these two people came the frost giants:

‘Countless winters

before the earth was created

back then Berglmir was born;

that is the the first I remember

when the wise giant 

was placed on a box’

from the Lay of Vaftthrudnir, 35, (The Prose Edda: 16, tr. Jesse Byock, Penguin Classics)

 

Bergelmir

Bergelmir

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3.  Some Giants….

A. King Thrym

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Thrym's Wedding Feast

Thrym’s Wedding Feast

King Thrym was King of Jotunheim and the story connected with him and the stealing of Thor’s hammer is one of the most famous in The Poetic Edda (The Lay of Thrym). The poem was considered to be written in the 10th century or earlier. However, this opinion has been debated [see Hollander: 105].

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1. Wroth was Vingthor…….when awaking he

….Mjolnir missed………………his mighty hammer;

….his beard gan shake, …..his shaggy head,

….Fjorgyn’s first-born-……….he fumbled about him. 

2.  These words then first….fell from his lips:

……‘Hear thou Loki,……………what loss I have,

……which no wight knows-…………….neither on earth

……nor in heaven: ……………..my hammer is stolen!’

The Poetic Edda (tr. Hollander: 104)

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The story runs that Thor’s hammer goes missing. Thor and Loki take Freyja’s feather-cloak so that he can fly to Jotunheim and challenge Thrym, accusing him of taking the sword.  Thrym acknowledges the fact that he has stolen the hammer, and says he will only give it back if Freyja (the goddess associated with love, sexuality, beauty, fertility, gold, seiðr, war, and death) can be his wife.  Loki returns to Asgard and asks Freyja to go to Jotunheim and marry Thrym. However, she refuses. At a council of the Aesir Heimdall suggests that Thor could dress up as Freyja and go to Jotunheim in disguise. Thor eventually agrees to this . The disquise works. Thrym becomes entranced by Thor’s eyes and is amazed at how much meat and fish he can eat, let alone how much he can drink. The sword Mjollnir is brought in to sanctify the marriage and Thor grabs it and beats all the giants up, and in so doing reclaims the sword.

31. Laughed Hlorrithi’s……heart within him

…..when the hammer beheld………..the hardy one:

…..Thrym he slew first, ………….the thurses’ lord,

 ….then crushed he all…………..the etins’ kin

The Poetic Edda [tr. Hollander: 109]

See here for the full Lay.

W.H. Auden

W.H. Auden

 

The Lay of Thrym is also one of the stories W.H. Auden focused on in his collection of  Norse Poems, published in 1969:

‘Then Loki flew- the feathers whistled-

Out of the door of the hall of gods

On and onto the hall of giants.’ 

(Auden and Taylor, Norse Poems: 218)

Working with the translation from Paul B. Taylor, Auden, able to read Icelandic himself,  attempted to capture the rhythms of the Icelandic verse.

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B. Skrymir:

Skrymir by Elmer Boyd Smith

Skrymir by Elmer Boyd Smith

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As  mentioned in the Prose Edda, Gylfaginning….. Whilst sleeping in the grove of the giant Skrymir, Thor, Loki and Thor’s servant Þjálfi, are tricked by Skrymir’s illusions and the giant ends up going along with them on their travels towards Utgard.  The giant causes mischief and tries to take their food….  

Once they reach Utgard the giants gets Thor and his travellers to undertake a battle with ‘metaphors- made-flesh’; Thor’s servant has a footrace against thought, and an eating contest against fire personified.  Thor is asked to pick up a cat which is in fact the World. He also wrestles with old age personified. Thor gets so fed up with the tricks of the giant he tries to kill Skrymir while he sleeps. However the giant shields himself behind a magic mountain.

By the end of the contest  Skrymir develops respect for the 3 travellers and tells them how he has deceived them with his illusions. Thor tries to attack him, but as he does so the giant magics the whole castle away-and all that is left is a prairie. 

*You can find this tale on p55-61 of The Prose Edda, Penguin Classics Edition (tr.Jesse Byock, sections 45 and 46). And a section translated from Icelandic here.

*You will find the tale of Skrymir between p84-85 of The Penguin Book of Norse Myths (See bibliography below)

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C. Thiazi:

Thiazi and the Magic Apples

Thiazi and the Magic Apples

 

Thiazi was the son of the giant  Olvaldi, and he was made notorious because of the kidnapping of the goddess Iðunn.  The three gods Odin, Loki and Hoenir were travelling together, and they tried to roast an Ox for their dinner, but the meat would just not cook. An eagle who was sitting in an oak tree called out to them and offered to cook the meat for them if they gave him a share.  However, the eagle seems to take more than a fair portion and Loki becomes angry and tries to hit him with a stick. Loki gets ensnared and the eagle flies away with him. The eagle will not release him until he has Idun (Iounn) and her golden apples.

Loki goes back to Asgard and lures Idun outside and Thiazi, disguised as the eagle, takes off with her and her apples. Without tha apples of youth the Aesir begin to grow old and Loki feeling guilty takes off to Thiazi’s abode, and takes the shape of a falcon. When he arrives Thiazi is out fishing and Loki changes Idun into a nut and takes off with her. Thiazi’s daughter Skadi comes to avenge  her father and this is how she ends up being married to Njord.

You can find this story also in the Skalskaparmal here.

 

D. Gjálp (daughter of giant Geirröðr):

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Thors journey to Geirrodsgard where he spies Gjalp

Thors journey to Geirrodsgard where he spies Gjalp

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In The Prose Edda (Skaldskarparmal) Thor comes upun Gjalp with her legs straddled across two ravines. Her huge presence affects the flow of  the water running through the ravine and the river rises dramatically (This act is usually taken to be Gjalp trying to drown Thor with menstral fluid or urine!).  Thor throws a stone at her telling her to release the flow. In order to save himself from the rising water Thor grabs hold of some rowan branches:

‘Just then he was swept towards the shore, where he was able to grab hold of some rowan branches, and so was able to climb up from the river. The event is the origin of the expression that rowan trees are Thor’s salvation. ‘ (tr. Byock: 91).

Thor arrives at Geirrod’s house (Gjalp and Geip’s father) and immediately sits down on the only chair in the room. Huge screams come out from down below the chair as he realises the two daughters are underneath. He has broken their backs.  Consequently, Geirrod and Thor fight and the giant tosse a large piece of molten iron at him. However, Thor deflects the piece of metal and it pierces a pillar. Geirrod ends up on the floor outside.

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Themes, Relevance and Questions:

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Strength and Feminity:  Gjalp is a female giant who blocks the waters of a river with her legs causing Thor to get very angry. It could be said that she represents a very interesting form of femininity,  one which has the strength to force nature into submission. However, it seems that Thor (the epitomy of strength wins over when the giantesses backs gets broken when he sits on them).  Exploration Point: the power dynamics within the norse sagas.

The origins of language, linked to fun, play and mutability: The story linked to the giant Skrymir is an interesting one as it directly engages with language and literary forms in a playful way, through a story where metaphors are made flesh. Objects are personified and characters ‘play with language’ (racing against thought).  A bit like the story of ‘ The Mead of Poetry’ mentioned in the Vanaheim Overview, it is clear that underlying this play, there is a subtle subtext that the sagas are attempting to communicate. That is: how their authors see language- as playful, spirited, fluid and bold; like the strength of the giants and the flow of water. 

Things of Interest:

1. Learning Schools Radio: Thor and the Giants:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schoolradio/subjects/english/viking_sagas/episodes/part_4

2.  Giants: Mystery and Myth:

The Discovery Channel:

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The second of the 6 programmes can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFXAPByoj9w

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3. A Musical Rendering of W.H. Auden’s Poem Baldr’s Dream 

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Baldur’s Dream …..Eddara Sæmund (as translated by W. H. Auden & P. B. Taylor)

Barbara Thornton, voice
Benjamin Bagby, voice
Elizabeth Gaver, fiddle

Edda Sequenta.

If you go to the link the full length poem can be found there.

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Optional Poetry and Writing Prompts:

An Onegin Sonnet/Pushkin Sonnet:

This form was created by the writer Pushkin for his verse novel Eugene Onegin

The stanzas have 14 lines of iambic tetrameter rhyming ababccddeffegg.  The green letters indicate feminine rhymes (the lines have an extra unstressed syllable) and the black letters are for masculine rhymes (a simple rhyme- bat/cat).

See here for more details.

Writing Word Prompts:  Myth, Power, Dreams, Threat, Pebble, Fate, String, Cowerdice

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To confirm, the deadline for all writing, poetry and mp3s for the Jotunheim realm is Monday 12th January 2015.

 .

 Thanks so much for your interest.

.

References

 Allan, T (2010) Vikings, The Battle at the End of Time, London: Watkins Publishing

Crossley-Holland, K (1993) The Penguin Book of Norse Myths: Gods of the Vikings, London, Penguin Books

Ellis Davidson, H.R. (1990) Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, Penguin Books

Hollander, L.M. (1996) tr. The Poetic Edda, Austin: University of Texas Press

Larrington, C. (1996) tr. The Poetic Edda, Oxford University Press

Sturluson, S. (2005) The Prose Edda, Penguin Classics, tr. Jesse L. Byock

 

Realm 2: Vanaheim – Overview and writing prompts, The Nine Realms, an ArtiPeeps Writing, Art and Music Collaboration 2014-2015

4 Nov

World Tree Norse

The Nine Realms

9 months, 22 poets and writers, 22 Artists, 3 composers, 1 Viking boat and a magical reworking of Norse Mythology for contemporary audiences

Vanaheim

(the realm of the Vanir gods)

 

Vikings Ahoy!

Here we are at the beginning of November and with the deadline for the poetry and writing for the first realm Asgard coming up: Thursday 6th November 2014. I shall start to post out pieces created for Asgard next week onwards. This month we are outlining the realm of Vanaheim and the deadline for all writing, poetry and mp3s for this realm is Monday 8th December.

These monthly posts will draw from a range of primary and secondary source materials and focus on selected gods, themes and stories that circle around the highlighted realm. They will not attempt to cover everything, and writers can embrace any other stories and characters within their writing which is not covered. Month by month we will be building our own magical, contemporary norse world whilst exploring the themes of POWER, NATURE and RELIGION.  The project’s overall intention is to embrace orality, translation, storytelling and rhythm all of which are inspired by the origins of the oral tradition of the Norse Sagas.

I may well put out little mini-posts intermittently focusing on orality and poetic form as necessary.  

What is presented below is designed to inspire, present basic information and offer a starting point for individual creativity within the project inspired by the themes, characters and spirit of the myths and stories.

.

Vanaheim

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1. A brief  Overview of Vanaheim

 

Vanaheim is home to the Vanir gods who are associated with magic, fertility and wisdom. It is the realm where Njord (the father of Freyr) was raised.  It is a realm which is  covered in forests and water, and is populated (amidst others) by nature spirits. There is only one mention of Vanaheim in the Poetic Edda (see below). It is also briefly covered in chapter 1 of  Heimskringla (the best known of the Old Norse Kings’ saga):  “Van Home or the Home of the Vanir”- described as located around the Don River.

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2. The Vanir 

The Vanir gods are not as easy to define as the Aesir. They are surrounded by mystery and are more elusive. The Vanir gods are also primarily linked with fertility. They presided over sunshine, crops, rain, and growth. Their season is spring. They are often portrayed in constant conflict with the Aesir. This conflict famously manifests in a hostile war centred around the treatment of a giantess called Gullveig. The Aesir try to kill her, but the Vanir protect her. The conflict comes to an impasse and the gods exchange hostages. Njord, Freyr and Freyja (see below) went to live with the Aesir and Mimir (‘the rememberer’, the wise one) joins the them. This is how Njord moves to Asgard.

‘She that remembers, the first on earth,
when Gullveig they with lances pierced,
and in the high one’s hall her burnt,
thrice burnt, thrice brought forth,
oft not seldom; yet she still lives.
Heidi they called her, whitherso’er she came,
the well-foreseeing Vala:
wolves she tamed, magic arts she knew, magic arts practiced;
ever she was the joy of evil people.’

[translation by Benjamin Thorpe from The Poetic EddaVöluspá]

nb. You can find the Völuspá  here (1936, tr. by Henry Adams Bellows)

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Interestingly, the Vanir gods embody many of the traits of fertility gods from other civilisations and regions of the world. As Ellis Davidson says:

‘the fertility pattern is a definite one, easy to recognise, and the northern myths which have to do with the Vanir fall into the accustomed forms’ (124). The Vanir did not distinguish between good and evil in order to bring about justice. Their power lay in the fact they could increase fecundity in nature: in crops, animals and at home. They could also bring about links between man and the unknown. There was an air of mystery connected to the Vanir gods and goddesses that bridges between the known and unknown.  Good luck could also be brought through fecundity.

 

freyr 2

Freyr

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Freyr

Freyr is Njord’s son and ended up moving from Vanaheim to Asgard as a hostage of war in the first conflict between the Aesir and the Vanir (see above). Freyr gives sunshine, wealth and rain and gives the gifts of peace and plenty. The literal meaning of Freyr is lord. He possesses a ship called the Skíðblaðnir which magically can not only hold all the gods, but can also fold into a pouch. He also has a boar with marvellous golden bristles, and Freyr is said to have come over the sea to rule over men. It is worth noting that there is a close connection between the symbols of boats and the energy governing fertility from the Bronze Age in Scandinavia onwards (Ellis Davidson: 132). Model ships were often given as offerings. There is also a connection between death, ships and the Vanir.

In The Prose Edda Freyr is described as ‘the most splendid of the gods. He controls the rain and the shining of the sun, and through them the bounty of the earth. It is good to invoke him for peace and abundance.’ (tr. Jesse Byock, Section 24, p35).

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Freyja

Freyja

Freyja

Freyja is Freyr’s twin sister. She is associated with love and had certain powers over the dead. She drives a chariot drawn by cats and is called the goddess or bride of the Vanir (Ellis Davidson: 125). Freyja has also been closely associated with the world of death. The story in  Egil’s Saga confirms her association with death as the hero’s daughter Thorgerda threatens to commit suicide after her brother is killed. ‘I shall take no food until I sup with Freyja’. She is often pictured as a weeping goddess. Her tears are said to be of gold. A necklace is also associated with Freyja: the Brisingamen.  A necklace is something that has been associated with the mother goddess from early times. Freyja is also said to take on the shape of a falcon. In such a form she traveled great distances. She is also linked to a particular sort of witchcraft called Seiðr which enabled practitioners to see into the future. She is said to be the first priestess to teach this form of  magic to the Aesir. Her magic is generally connected to the coming season and the destinies of those who wished to see into the future. She is fundamentally responsible for the destiny of her community. This form of witchcraft was taken on by various cults and you can see her influence on various sybils through the ages. (119)

 

Njord

 

Njord

Controlled the wind and seas. He dwells in Noatun ‘the enclosure of ships’, and is one of the few gods to survive Ragnarök. In the Lay of Vafþrúðnismál, section 39:

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“In Vanaheim the wise Powers made him

and gave him as hostage to the gods;

at the doom of men he will come back

home among the wise Vanir.”

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You can find the full Lay here.

Njord was married to Skadi (daughter of giant Thjazi) who came from the mountains to marry him, and then, when the marriage unsuccessful, went back to the hills (See story focus below).  He is the father of twins Frey and Freyja.

 

  Story Focus:

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The Mead of Poetry

 

1. The Mead of Poetry, from Chapter 5 the Skáldskaparmál  (‘the language of poetry’) of The Prose Edda

Consisting of a dialogue between Ægir, the Norse god of the sea, and Bragi, the god of poetry.

This story is seen to be a metaphor for poetic inspiration.

(See p83-87 of The Prose Edda, Penguin Classics, tr. by Jessie Byock)

‘Aegar continued, ‘What is the origin of the accomplishment you call poetry? ‘

 The Prose Edda indicates the mead was created when the Vanir and Aesir were at war. They agree to hold a peace meeting and both sides spit into a vat, and in so doing create a man called Kvasir (84). Kavisir travels the world imparting knowledge. He comes upon two dwarves called Fjaalar and Galar who kill Kvasir pouring his blood into vats called Sin and Bodn and into a kettle called Odrerir. The dwarves blend honey with the blood and from this was create the mead that  makes ‘whoever drinks it a poet or a scholar’. They  trick a giant Gilling into drowning, but before he dies Gilling’s  strands the dwarves on a rock. The dwarves offer the poetic mead to  his son Suttung by way of compensation. Suttung takes the poetic mead home with him and  sets his daughter Gunnlöð  to watch over it.

This is why poetry is called ‘Kvasir’s blood’… ‘the drink or intoxication of the dwarves’……’the ship of the dwarves’….’Suttung’s mead’ (84-85).

‘The Aegir said, ‘It seems to me that calling poetry by these names obscures the truth. But how did the Aesir get Suttung’s Mead?’ ‘

Odin eventually ends up with the poetic drink by asking for a drink of the mead in return for doing the work of nine slaves for a giant called Baugi. The story goes that Baugi and Odin (using the name Bolverk) go to Suttung to ask for the Mead and he refuses. They trick Gunnlöð and Odin drains all the mead. Before anyone can get to him he shape-shifts into an eagle. Suttung, changing into an eagle too, takes after him. The Aesir see Odin coming in the shape of an eagle and they put vats out to catch the liquid as Odin spits out the mead. Suttung still chases after him. Evading capture Odin blows some mead out of his rear (which is known as ‘the bad poets’ portion’ (86)) .

‘Odin gave Suttung’s mead to the Aesir and to those men who know how to make poetry. For this reason we call poetry Odin’s catch, find, drink or gift, as well as the drink of the Aesir.’

You can find more about Skáldskaparmál here.

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2. Njord and Skadi splitting where they live (from Section 23 of Gylfaginning), in The Prose Edda

(See p33-34 Njord and Skadi,  The Prose Edda, Penguin Classics, tr. by Jessie Byock)

Njord was brought up in Vanaheim and wanted to live near the sea, but his wife Skadi preferred the mountains. She wanted to live in Thrymheim [Thunder Home] the place which her father had owned. Compromising, they agreed to stay 9 nights in Thrymheim and 3 nights at Noatun

After the 9 nights in the mountains. Njord said:

‘Hateful for me are the mountains

I was not long there,

only nine nights.

The howling of wolves

sounded ugly to me

after the song of swans’

and Skadi said:

‘Sleep I could not

on the sea beds

for the screeching of the bird.

The gull wakes me

when from the wide sea

he comes each morning’

Skadi then decides to return home.

[See the Lay of Grimnir, 11]

http://www.germanicmythology.com/PoeticEdda/Grimnismal.html

http://www.vsnrweb-publications.org.uk/Edda-1.pdf

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 3. Skadi Choosing Njord as Her Husband

(See p 82-83 of Skáldskaparmál, The Prose Edda, Penguin Classics, tr. by Jessie Byock)

Marriage of Skadi and Njord

 

Skadi, setting out to avenge her father’s death (p82), takes all her weapons of war in order to confront the Aesir. However in order to facilitate a reconciliation they offer the choice of a husband to her, but she must only choose him by his feet. She chooses Njord (who is from Vanaheim) and this does not go down at all well with Baldr (a god of light and purity, son of the god Odin and the goddess Frigg). So they settle upon another condition that the Aesir should also make her laugh. So Loki ties one end of a piece of rope to his testicles and the other he ties to a goat and they pull back and forth eventually making Skadi laugh. And finally Odin, takes Thjazi’s eyes and casts them into the heavens forming two stars.

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Themes, Relevance and Questions:

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Mystery and Magic: The gods and stories connected to Vanaheim and the Vanir seem to indicate that they operate between spaces and things and within nature. They are steeped in mystery and often embody a state of transition,  probably because of their links to fecundity (birth/death). In contrast to the Aesir, who seem to be powerful in a very obvious way (through force).  See Freyr and Freyja.

Poetic Origins:  As related in  Skáldskaparmál the origins of poetry were derived out of the war between the Vanir and the Aesir. Through the creation of a mead norse myth engages with the beginnings of poetic form and it’s importance.  ‘Good’ poetry is connected with the gods,  and poetry is ‘made’ (see Story Focus 1) which would seem to indicate an awareness of construction and the power behind storytelling.

Humour, Spirit and Power: There is a great cheeky spirit embedded into the stories outlined in this overview: a kind of life force which uses humour to make big decisions, to heal wounds. This seems to be an interesting way to confront notions of power and to destabalise them. Loki’s actions with the goat, for instance, deemphasise the fact that Skadi is in fact marrying a Vanir.  How do the norse sagas use humour to engage with difficult subject matter, and relieve tension?

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Things of Interest:

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Kenning:

A kenning (Modern Icelandic pronunciation: [cʰɛnːiŋk]; derived from Old Norse) is a type of circumlocution, in the form of a compound that employs figurative language in place of a more concrete single-word noun. Kennings are strongly associated with Old Norse and later Icelandic and Anglo-Saxon poetry.

Kennings and Alliteration for Beowulf (the same principle applies in the Norse Sagas. Top tip: turn the music on the video down)

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenning

 

Contemporary writer Gerdur Kristny: Bloodhoof (modern re-inventing of an Edda poem which tells of the abduction of Gerour Gymisdottir from the land of the giants to the court of Freyr)

Scrobble to 2.43:

 

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http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bloodhoof-Kristny-Gerdur/dp/1908376112

 

National Gallery of Iceland

 

 

Carl Frederick From Salza (1858-1905)

an artist and illustrator who provided drawings for the 1893 edition of The Prose Edda. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Frederick_von_Saltza

Njord by Carl Frederick von Saltza

Njord by Carl Frederick von Saltza

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Optional Poetry and Writing Prompts:

If you wish you can use the following poetic form for your poem:

Fornyrðislag

This poetic form is  one of the most used in ancient German, Anglo-Saxon and Norse-Icelandic poetry. Verses have 4 syllables. It is known in England from 700 A.D. onwards (Beowulf is an example). It is also found in German poetry from the 8th century, and in Swedish runes from the 9th century. As the centuries rolled by the form became more rigid with each stanza having eight lines (in German and English poetry it has four lines).

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An e.g. from the Völuspá:

Hljóðs bið ek allar Silence I ask from all,
helgar kindir the holy offspring,
meiri ok minni greater and lesser
mögu Heimdallar sons of Heimdallr.
Vildu at ek Valföðr Do you wish, Valföðr (Odin)
vel fyr telja that I clearly rehearse
forn spjöll fira of living beings those ancient tales
þau fremst um man? which I remember from farthest back?

Two lines are connected by alliteration to form pairs. In the a-line two syllables may alliterate with one syllable in the b-line.  It can also be just one syllable in the a-line:

Hljóðs bið ek allar
helgar kindir

But in the b-line readers always find a second non-alliterating syllable to put stress on, matching the second stressed syllable (often alliterating) of the a-line.

See more here

Writing Word Prompts:  Gales, Stars, Trust, Transformation, Apples, Giant, Disturbance, Curses, Growth

To confirm, the deadline for all writing, poetry and mp3s for the Vanaheim realm is Thursday 8th December.

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 Thanks so much for your interest.

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References

 Allan, T (2010) Vikings, The Battle at the End of Time, London: Watkins Publishing

Ellis Davidson, H.R. (1990) Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, Penguin Books

Hollander, L.M. (1996) tr. The Poetic Edda, Austin: University of Texas Press

Larrington, C. (1996) tr. The Poetic Edda, Oxford University Press

Sturluson, S. (2005) The Prose Edda, Penguin Classics, tr. Jesse L. Byock

 

Web Links

http://www.trobar.org/

Realm 1: Asgard – Overview and writing prompts, The Nine Realms, an ArtiPeeps Writing, Art and Music Collaboration 2014-2015

6 Oct

World Tree Norse

The Nine Realms

9 months, 22 poets and writers, 22 Artists, 3 composers, 1 Viking boat and a magical reworking of Norse Mythology for contemporary audiences

Asgard

(the realm of the warrior gods)

 

Vikings Ahoy!

Here we are at the beginning of October and into the first month of ArtiPeeps’ next EPIC collaboration. This month we are outlining the realm of Asgard and the deadline for all writing and poetry and mp3s for this realm is Thursday 6th November 2014. As soon as the poetry is in we will start posting it out on a weekly basis. 

These monthly posts will draw from a range of primary and secondary source materials and focus on selected gods, themes and stories that circle around the highlighted realm. They will not attempt to cover everything, and writers can embrace any other stories and characters within their writing which is not covered. Month by month we will be building our own magical, contemporary norse world whilst exploring the themes of POWER, NATURE and RELIGION.  The project’s overall intention is to embrace orality, translation, storytelling and rhythm all of which are inspired by the origins of the oral tradition of the Norse Sagas.

I may well put out little mini-posts intermittently focusing on orality and poetic form as necessary.  

What is presented below is designed to inspire, present basic information and offer a starting point for individual creativity within the project inspired by the themes, characters and spirit of the myths and stories.

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Asgard

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A brief  Overview of the Viking Cosmos:

 When Ymir lived long ago
Was no sand, no surging waves.
Nowhere was there earth nor heaven above.
Bur a grinning gap and grass nowhere

Voluspa-The Song of the Sybil

So the story goes,  Odin, King of Asgard set out with his two brothers to kill Ymir (a primeval frost giant made of clay). From Ymir’s body they formed the world. His blood became rivers, his flesh land, his bones mountains and his skull the sea. Four dwarves were sent to the four corners of the firmament, and the sun and moon in chariots were sent out to follow each other across the sky. 

Having made the world Odin seeks to fill it with beings. First came the dwarves, and then came people- formed out of flotsam from the seashore and he gave them a home-in centre Midgard. After human kind was taken care of they created Asgard, a place filled with huge halls and palaces. 

Asgard, reached only by crossing a bridge guarded by Heimdall, the divine watchman, is the realm of the warrior gods, known as the Aesir. The pillar of wisdom, which all norse mythology pivots around, runs through the middle of Asgard. It is the centre of Wisdom.

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Odin_with_Gunnlöd_by_Johannes_Gehrts

Odin

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The Aesir 

The Aesir gods are one of two divine families (alongside the Vanir) who live in Asgard.

Odin is the head of the Aesir- the All-Father (Ellis-Davidson: 29):

‘Then third said, ‘Odin is the highest and oldest of the gods. He rules in all matters, and, although the other gods are powerful, all serve him as children do their father….He is also called Father of the Slain [Val Father] because all who fall in battle are his adopted sons’ (Sturlson: 30, The Prose Edda, 20. Odin the All-Father)

Odin journeyed all over the world with two carrier ravens as companions called Huginn and Munnin (Thought and Reason). He also possessed a magical spear which guaranteed death.

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Odin_hrafnar

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Odin, roaming outside of Asgard, would often wander around Midgard dressed in a disguise as a tall grey-bearded man in a long cloak and hat. Odin was feared and respected, and would go to any length to acquire knowledge and sate his curiosity.  His quest for wisdom knew no bounds and in a story within Hávamál  in the Poetic Eddha he endured not only 9 days hanging from the Yggsdrasil (the tree of wisdom) but the piercing of his own eye with a spear all to gain the knowledge of the runes..

I wot that I hung….‘on the wind-tossed tree
………….all of nights nine,
wounded by spear,……bespoken to Othin
…………..bespoken myself to myself
[upon that tree…..of which none tellet
…………….from what roots it doth rise]

(Hollander: 36, tr. The Poetic Edda, Hávamál , The Sayings of Har/The Sayings of the High One)

The meaning of the story above seems to revolve around the notion of sacrifice: despite many lures being offered to him he nevertheless continued to sacrifice himself. Odin was thought, symbollically to bring success.

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Frigg

Frigg

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Frigg:

 Frigg is queen of Asgard and married to Odin. She is goddess of marriage and motherhood and has great powers of magic; she can foretell the future of gods and man. In many early religions, states Davidson,  mother earth often ‘appears as the wife of the supreme sun god’ (110). However, clear proof of the worship of the Earth Mother in Scandinavia is hard to find. The only truly maternal figure in Asgard, depicted in the Prose Edda, is that of Frigg.

In the Poetic Edda poem, Oddrúnargrátr (Odin’s Lament) she is sited as the goddess to be invoked during childbirth, and similarly  in the Völsunga as connected to motherhood as she asks Odin to grant permission for a couple to have children (Ellis Davidson ((131-132). In North-Western Europe the figure of Frigg has had a huge influence  with certain groups throughout the centuries and ‘their ability to determine the destiny of the{ir} new-born child[ren]’ (132) . 

May hallowed wightsbring help to thee,
Frigg and Freya……and favouring gods,
as oft thou warded…..evil from me
(and hastened hitherhelp to bring me)

(Hollander: 280, The Poetic Edda, Oddrúnargrátr )

Frigg figures consistently in the poetry of the Poetic Edda.  Her role as queen cannot be underestimated but she is often overpowered in the Eddas by the depiction of Freya (from the Vanir gods).

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Thor

Thor

.Thor:

 Thor is the son of  Odin and Jord (Earth), Living in a huge mansion with his wife Sif  Thor, the thunder god, possessed three great treasures: the hammer Mjollnir which could destroy giants and shatter rocks, a belt of power which gave him strength,  and iron gloves to allow him to grip his hammer.

Thor is the enemy of giants. There is the story of how he killed the mighty giant Geirröd by hurling back  a mighty lump of melting iron at the giant. 

You can find the Lay of Thor/Thorsdrapa here: http://www.stavacademy.co.uk/mimir/thorsdrapa.htm

Despite his antagonism towards giants he nevertheless had two children  by the giantess Jarnsaxa. Járnsaxa is also the name of one of the Nine Mothers of Heimdallr. who were nine sisters who gave birth to the god Heimdallr who possesses the resounding horn Gjallarhorn. The poem The Lay of Hyndla within The Poetic Edda contains the story of Heimdallr. Called The Song of Hyndla, in the Caolyne Larrington translation of The Poetic Edda. 

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Freya awakes Hyndla

Freya awakes Hyndla

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Thor was associated with the elements. He champions the Aesir and defends Asgard The cult surrounding him has had a long history in western europe. He kills with direction (unlike Odin and Loki). He kills with bolders and force. He is the god that travellers call to before setting out on journeys. Thor, it is said, can be trusted as:

‘Thor had done many great works, and had split rocks and shattered cliffs, while Odin gave men victory’ (Tryggvason, Olaf’s Saga cited in Ellis Davidson: 74).

Thor was the most popular god with 25% of the population in Iceland having his name as part their name. Iceland’s annual assembly opens on Thursday, his day.  Thor is a god who although reigned omnipotently is associated with equality across all walks of life from craftsperson to aristocrat. (Allan: 51).

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Thor's Hammer

Thor’s Hammer

 

.Loki:

Was the child of giants and lived in Asgard, and is known for his mischievousness and trickery. He gained entry into Asgard by befriending Odin. Odin and Loki were blood brothers. Snori Sturlson (the writer of the Prose Edda) calls Loki ‘the slander bearer of the Aesir, the promoter of deceipt’ (Allan: 54) .  He ‘ was the cause of many things’ (Sturluson: 69). Loki was also known for his ability to change shape and sex.

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Loki 2

 

The stories around Loki usually consist of him getting some sort of punishment. For instance, nearly having his lips sewn up as punishment for a lost bet. It is a fitting comeuppance for a smooth talker (54). However, he has also saved Asgard- when a giant demanded that he should have the sun, the moon and Freya in payment for building a wall around Asgard (54).  He saved the day by confusing the giant by turning himself into a stallion to distract the mare of the ogre. Loki has two sides. 

From the pairing of Loki and the mare came Sleipnir,  an 8-legged horse. Loki’s children all had dark undertones. This showed in his other child with giantess Angrboða with whom he begat Hel, Queen of the Dead.  Loki also played a key role in Ragnorak (the doom of the gods).

An excerpt from the Edda poem  Völuspá (which contains the story of Ragnorak) can be found here. See video of a reading of the poem below. 

 

Themes and Relevance, Questions:

Power and its consequences. The questioning of leadership: Asgard is the seat of power, leadership, craft and justice. The qualites of its primary gods and godesses speak to that. The strength of Odin and Thor through to shapeshifter Loki represent a spectrum of qualities both good and bad, both mutable and fixed. It is interesting to think about the dynamics of force and freedom in relation to this.

The questioning of Knowledge/ Wisdom: Asgard has the root of Wisdom from the Yggsdaril tree running right through its centre, signalling its status as the focus of Wisdom. But often the actual behaviour of the gods does not seem to reflect this. What does this say about knowledge? 

The Force of Creation and Mutability: Frigg, one of the few female godesses in Asgard seems to symbolically be there to juxtapose against the male gods’ acts of power. As a symbol of fertility and growth, she represents the other side of the coin. Different forces of creation and destruction rest side by side in Asgard. Loki also represents this through his shapeshifting.

 

Things of Interest:

On the Poetic Form of Norse Sagas: Alliteration, Kenning

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Norse_poetry

http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/meters.shtml

BBC The Viking Sagas

British Museum:

http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/cultures/europe/vikings.aspx

BBC Schools Radio, Thor and the Giants

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schoolradio/subjects/english/viking_sagas/episodes/part_4

Voluspa Part 1/2:

Voluspa Part 2/2:

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Optional Poetry and Writing Prompts:

If you wish you can use the following poetic form for your poem:

The Brisbane Sonnet:  consists of two sestets and a couplet. The original sestet was based on the Hymnal Octave form which has a rhyme scheme of a.b.c.b.a.b.c.b. Two of the b lines are removed and leave a rhyme scheme of a.b.c.a.b.c. by adding another similar sestet d.e.f.d.e.f. and a couplet, g.g., this sonnet form was born.

For more information see: http://goo.gl/9dLg2l

Writing Word Prompts:  Shapeshifter, Twisting, Birth, Flotsom, Smashing, Discipline, Endearment, Quest

To confirm, the deadline for all writing, poetry and mp3s for the Asgard realm is Thursday 6th November.

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 Thanks so much for your interest.

References

 Allan, T (202) Vikings, The Battle at the End of Time, London: Watkins Publishing

Ellis Davidson, H.R. (1990) Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, Penguin Books

Hollander, L.M. (1996) tr. The Poetic Edda, Austin: University of Texas Press

Larrington, C. (1996) tr. The Poetic Edda, Oxford University Press

Sturlson, S. (2005) The Prose Edda, Penguin Classics, tr. Jesse L. Byock

 

 

The Nine Realms: Our Next Epic Collaboration

1 Oct

Vikings

Vikings Ahoy!

On Monday the 6th October 2014 our next epic large-scale project will be starting with the posting of an overview of the realm Asgard in Norse Mythology. The online part of our collaboration will run for 9 months and is inspired by the 9 realms of the Norse world. Like with Transformations,  The Nine Realms will culminate in a 5 day exhibition in Hanse House, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, UK across the Heritage Open Day weekend.  We’re not only excited to deepen our connection with King’s Lynn, but to also draw in more disciplines. There’s going to be music, a Viking boat is being carved my sculptor Mark Crowley and we’re having a comic corner and a more up-front promotions corner for the creatives involved.

This year we are bringing together near on 50 creatives from all disciplines, some have crossed over from Transformations and there are well over 20 new creatives being showcased. So there is a good mix.  Excitingly, by the end of the project not only will the creatives involved have created their own personal Nine Realms, but they will also have created a collective Nine Realms which can be used to introduce new audiences and young people to this material. It can be used as an innovative, educational tool.  We learned a lot from the great schools’ day we had with King Edward VII Academy, King’s Lynn in relation to this.

As with Transformations, I will be posting out an overview of each realm month by month along with deadlines for the submission of the writing (poetry, prose etc). I will also attach writing prompts and an audio of one of the stories as well. We will be drawing from both the Prose and Poetc Eddas as well as other source material. The order will be as follows:

October 2014: Asgard (Month 1, Realm of the Warrior Gods)

November 2014: Vanaheim (Month 2, Realm of the Vanir, the gods associated with wisdom, nature, magic and fertility)

December 2014: Jutenheim (Month 3, Realm of the Giants)

January 2015: Nidavellir (Month 4, Realm of the Dwarves)

February 2015: Nifelheim (Month 5, Realm of the Dead, where evil men die)

March 2015: Helheim (Month 6, The Realm of the Dead, which men pass through in order to die in Nifelheim)

April 2015: Muspelheim (Month 7, Realm of Fire)

May 2015: Midgard (Month 8, Realm of the People)

June 2015: Alfheim (Month 9, Realm of the Light Elves)

During April/May we will collectively run a Kickstarter campaign for one aspect of our project.

The Writing: 

In this collaboration writers can chose to write in whichever form they like- prose, poetry play-format etc.

In alignment with the Norse Sagas themselves there will be a focus on ORALITY and storytelling, and work will be centred around the themes of POWER, NATURE and RELIGION.  There will also be a focus on translation and rhythm, and we are hoping that a separate off-shoot project can grow from this when we translate what we do into different languages. The writers are free to be as modern and contemporary as they like, but still keeping a feeling of magic.

At the exhibition, in contrast to Transformations, the writing will be communicated to the audience orally/in person or by recording. The oral communication of the poetry in Transformations was such a success that we want to get even more people actively involved and engaged with the writing in The Nine Realms.

As we go through the realms month by month the writers will be submitting their work in both a written and oral format/mp3. The idea being that we will create and record an oral version of the writing within the project. The poems will also be placed into a Nine Realms playlist on Soundcloud. This alongside some specially commissioned pieces of music will be turned into a CD and performed across the 5 days at the exhibition.

We are also intending to take the writing into libraries: one in King’s Lynn and the other in Norwich and have a theme of storytelling.

The writers will be submitting one piece (or more if they wish), and there will be a selection process at the end in relation to which pieces go into the exhibition.

The 22 Poets and Writers are: 

Nat Hall
Eleanor Perry
Mina Polen
Stephannie Brennan
James Knight
Lydia Allison
Ross Beattie
Rebecca Audra Smith
Joanna Lee
Jim C Mackintosh
Robert de Born
Richard Biddle
Karin Heyer
Kate Garrett
Greg Mackie
Shirley Golden
Adam Wimbush
Carol Robson
John Mansell
Tom Murphy
Lenka Monk

 

The Music:

This year we have decided to bring music into our project and we have commissioned three musicians and composers to write 3, 8 minute pieces to represent the realms:

Ruth Angell, violinist, singer, amongst other instruments will be composing music for Asgard, Vanaheim and Nifelheim

Shaun Blezard, a creative technologist, will be composing music for Jotunheim, Helheim, and Nidavellir. Shaun composed the music for The Recovery Project we did the year before last.

Simon Beavis, a music maker, is composing music for Muspelheim, Alfheim and Midgard

We are hoping that there will be a live performance of the music along with the poetry at the exhibition, and the compositions will be used in-between poems and as a background to the poetry. The music will set the tone of the realms. ArtiPeeps and I are thrilled to be working with these composers and to bring in this new element.

We are in the process of consolidating a partnership with Future Radio in Norwich and all being well we will be recording the CD at their studio in Norwich.

The Art:

We have also attached 19 artists to the Realms. 2 per realm (with the exception of Muspelheim which has 3). As with Transformations, they cross a range of styles and mediums including photography and sculpture. Each artist, with the help of the ‘woolly viking hat of fate’, has been allocated a realm from the 9,  which they can create for themselves inspired by the poetry and prose written about their realm by the Realms writers, and by their own research and the project overviews. The artists, if they wish, can create pictures for the individual realms as they go along, but only their allocated realm will be exhibited. For those artists outside of the UK, the same pattern as Transformations will be followed and we will frame a high quality 300 dpi image of their work on their behalf. The original will be available for sale through the artist.

The artists involved are:

Deborah Sheehy (Month 1, Oct. Asgard)
Diana Probst (Month 1, Oct. Asgard)
To be confirmed (Month 2, Nov. Vanaheim)
Heather Burns (Month 2, Nov. Vanaheim)
Ieuan Edwards (Month 3, Dec. Jotunheim)
Jasmine Reynolds (Month 3, Dec. Jotunheim)
Jeremy Moseley (Month 4, Jan. Nidavellir)
Cliona Sheehan (Month 4, Jan. 2015, Nidavellir)
Charlie Redding (Month 5, Feb. 2015, Nifelheim)
Rob Fitzmaurice (Month 5, Feb, Nifelheim)
Ryan Atkins (Month 6, March, Helheim)
Lili Morgan (Month 6, March, Helheim)
Gill Offley (Month 7, April, Muspelheim)
Chad Swanson (Month 7, April, Muspelheim)
Mark Peverley (Month 7,April, Muspelheim)
James Mackenzie (Month 8, May Midgard)
Raymond Bentley (Month 8, May Midgard)
Elaine Offley (Month 9, June Alfheim)
Ann Supan (Month 9 June Alfheim)

 

Our Partners:

Elizabeth and Lisa

The lovely Elizabeth and Lisa from Florida USA will also be involved with us again. This time actually creating a hard-copy comic inspired by the characters and realms of Norse Mythology. This hard-copy version will be made available to attendees at the exhibition, and act, once again, as a entry point for younger people and adults. As mentioned above, this year we’re going to have a comic corner and hopefully get the comic animated….Watch this space….

We are also going to be continuing our collaboration with both Hanse House and Deborah Services Limited, King’s Lynn, who provided our exhibition scaffolding.

King Edward VII Academy, King’s Lynn:

I’m thrilled to say that as a direct result of the great schools’ day we had with Transformations KES Academy in King’s Lynn want to get involved with our Norse project this year. They want to involve the art and english departments and their pupils. We are fleshing out what this will look like at the moment and I’ll let you know as more details unfold.

Millfield School, Somerset,

Millfield and their pupils took up a FreeSpace with us last year, and one of their post’s on ArtiPeeps got Freshly Pressed. The quality of Millfield’s young poets is apparent. We’re thrilled that they want to work alongside us on this project. Pupils of all ages will be writing their own myths and stories which will more than likely be posted out on ArtiPeeps as we go along. This is all being firmed up now.

We will be incorporating the work of both KES and Millfield into our exhibition. The exact way this will be done will be confirmed shortly…Watch this space…

Future Radio

Future Radio is a community radio station in Norwich, Norfolk, which broadcasts a breadth of user-created programmes to Norwich on a daily basis. It also runs courses in radio production and has a recording studio in which we are hoping to record the music and poetry for The Nine Realms. We are also hoping that they will interview our creatives and perhaps get involved with the storytelling workshops we hope to put on in libraries. Watch this space on this one too.

As with Transformations, as The Nine Realms evolves, new partnerships will emerge, and I shall keep you up-to-date as we move along.

The Funding of our project:

From this point onwards I will be applying to a variety of funders and sponsors in order to finance what we are creating. Through October and November the Chair of ArtiPeeps and I will be preparing budgets and I will start writing applications in November/December. This is a big project and therefore we are approaching a breadth of potential funders. They will range from local authorities, to public money funders, to foundations, to individual sponsors. We will also, as mentioned above, be holding a Kickstarter Campaign for one aspect of our collaboration. I have no doubt in my heart and my head that we can fund this rich, magical, multi-discipline project which is filled with such a range of talented creatives.

I’m excited to kick the whole project off with the Asgard overview next week, and I’m 100% sure that The Nine Realms’ Vikings will create something of high quality once again that inspires, innovates and promotes creativity as well as showing how relevant the Norse myths still are!

Thank you for your interest!

Nicky

P.S. We should shortly have a project logo for the Nine Realms created by Gary Caldwell

A Shattered Moon: A Hot Potato Collaborative Short Story

22 Aug

Moon

A Shattered Moon

by

Steve Harris, Michael Schmidt,
Shannon Pardoe,
Sam Grainger, Josh Kremer, Jessica Cooke

Illustrations by Sam Grainger

(written collaboratively March-May 2014, as part of our Hot Potato initiative)


Night fell swiftly, like a bird of prey plunging from on high to claim a squeaking victim. The evening was still warm from another baking hot day. Winston lay on his back on the hard concrete yard, the way he always did when he wanted to gaze up at the heavens.

The fragments of broken moon created a dusty ring around the planet that made it harder to see the stars clearly most nights. Only when the once-whole moon would have been dark, when the Earth was between Sol and what remained of the shattered satellite, could Winston see what he wanted to see: constellations, an iridescent miasma of flickering suns burning themselves up billions of miles from where he lay.

Something waited out there. Something wilder and brighter than he would ever find on the sluggish ball of rock and decay where he’d had the misfortune to be born. He had no idea how to express the certainty that for him life lay beyond the atmosphere of his home. He simply knew. The same way he knew when he was hungry or he needed the bathroom. His mother thought he was an idler.

“Winston, get yourself inside and do some school work before bedtime.”

“Do I have to?”

“Of course you have to. There’s work for educated people and nothing but misery for the dumb and the lazy.”

You would know, he thought to himself as he took one last look at the stars, squinting slightly so that the light from them all blended into a fire, like a signal beacon calling him to rise up from the Earth, to seek adventure and meaning.

“What happened to the Moon?”

“Do your school work.”

He knew she wouldn’t answer. Nobody ever answered that question. At school the teachers avoided it, or pretended they had not heard when it was asked countless times a day. The adults kept forbidden knowledge from their children. Sara, his best, his only friend in the bedraggled neighbourhood, once whispered her theories during a particularly evasive science class.

“Must be something terrible. Something they think will scare us to death. Like a huge war or an experiment that went disastrously wrong. Zombies and mutants and stuff.”
“Do you think we will be allowed to know when we’re adults?” he asked.

“Don’t know,” she admitted. Like Winston himself she felt that at ten years old they were already pretty grown up as it was.

“I’m going to find out.”

She did not argue. He sounded utterly convinced.

 

Face
Of course no one could have known what would happen next. Sitting on top of a rock outcropping just above the hole in the ground he now called home. Winston looked out on the skyline of a wasted L.A.. He fumbled through this and other memories as the sun didn’t so much as set, but withdrew into a grey night. Sara’s green eyes sometimes appeared when he closed his. But just like all the other faces he used to know– the nuances in her expressions, the exact impression of the freckles that spread across her cheeks and nose, have slowly faded away over time with every night, with every cigarette, with every jar of moonshine.

He remembers nights outside playing with Sara. He remembers sprinting home for supper after the street lights had come on. He also remembers the suspicion he felt after viewing the U.N.-approved orientation video at his town’s drive-in movie theatre. The video briefly explained how the moon had been hit by a meteor and how there was nothing to worry about as only the tides would be slightly affected. He remembers as nations slowly stopped fighting and focused inward on themselves as if bracing for something. He remembers the intangible panic he felt during those last years of unnatural peace. He remembers waking up one night to shrieks of desperation and the roar of space shuttles full of doctors, scientists, and engineers stealing away from earth in the night. He remembers words like Europa, Titan, Mars—and then of course, he remembers standing outside of the same drive-in movie theatre watching a television feed of those same shuttles colliding, one after another, into the blanket of debris which had been left by the destruction of the moon. They must have known it was a suicide mission, but what did they know that would force their hand in such a gamble? What piece of knowledge had they kept from us that made their suicide mission seem like a safer alternative to staying on Earth? He looked up at the night and gritted his yellow teeth at whatever leviathan of antithesis lay lurking between the stars. He never believed in God, but he believed in this.

He remembers the last lines of a poem and falls asleep out on the rocks as the words ring back in forth in his head–what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Earth to be born?–

—–

Winston woke the following morning disgruntled and listless from a poor night of sleep. He watched in silent indignation as a dusty haze swept across the horizon, bringing with it memories of long summer days and burning skies. Ever since the Event these memories had become his constant companion, playing out in his mind like the old movies he used to watch back at the drive-in theatre. Had she known even then?

Since the moon’s destruction things had fallen into chaos, the seasons had become erratic and with no anchor the raging seas had calmed to a gentle ripple. For those, like himself, who stood in defiance of whatever darkness lay beyond the planet the world had become a dangerous place, far worse than anyone imagined. The floating debris offered little protection from the asteroids that fell from space, crashing into the planet and leaving craters and burning cities in their wake.

But it wasn’t the destruction he feared the most. It was the silence, the emptiness left behind from those who had fled, they had run from the unknown and into the arms of death.

Like Sara and the rest of them he has stayed, too afraid to take the plunge into darkness opting instead to face whatever evil lurked between the stars. Even as a child, before grasping the enormity of what was happening, he had sensed that something was watching them, waiting. There was no way of knowing when it would happen but part of him knew it wouldn’t be long ‘til he found out. Until then he had only one task, one goal that would tip the scale in Earth’s favour – Sara. As shards of light drifted across the remains of his old home he could hear her voice.

“Winston, do you remember the promise we made to each other when the shuttles left Earth?”

Of course, how could he forget.

“You promised that no matter what we would stay together.”

He sighed, even here on the rocky outcrop he called home, far above the desolate streets of L.A she had found him. It was because of her that he had made it this far, the pixie like voice driving him onward, but she was only a voice. Even though he could no longer remember her face something deep inside his chest told him that somehow she was still alive, waiting for him to find her. The last words she had spoken haunted his every moment. He had to do it, he had to go on.

One sleepless night everything changed: he had found Sara’s telephone number, hidden under bags of waste in a dumpster. He had waited for morning to follow up on what he’d found. It’d be safer then. Terrors moved through the streets at night; terrors even he couldn’t face. He rolled the soggy piece of paper around in his mouth. Nothing would take it from him. Nothing. He’d swallow it if he had to, if it came to that.

Images of Sara kept his eyes light through the night, and his thoughts had a constant pulse. It had to be her. It had to be. She was alive. He knew she was. She was the solution. She was his absolution. She was the only hope left.

He’d begun to fear the worst after years of searching. But, in her old abandoned house he’d found it. It caught his eye in a most unlikely place.

The toilet bowl was dry and stained with murky lines. Unknown to him, just out of view, a piece of paper clung to the side of the basin. A small corner came loose from the trickle of his urine and curiosity had made him peel it away. It read:

New – 207 948 9882

Hand

Eventually, the morning came and brought a twist in his gut. He climbed out from the dumpster and made his way to a bar at the end of the street. It was a risk that had to be taken.

The bar held a mist of smoke. The low-lifes vegetated; cigarettes hanging from their bottom lips, drinks resting between their fingers. Empty eyes rolled over him as he entered, and remained fixed. The bartender glanced up in tired recognition.

‘I need to use your phone,’ Winston said.

‘Look, I’ve told you alrea- ’

‘I need to use your phone.’

The bartender nodded towards the end of the bar. ‘You’ve got two minutes – no funny business.’

Winston took the sodden ball of paper from his mouth, smoothed it out and dialled the number; a Maine area code. Why Maine? There was nothing left on the east coast; just wastelands. What was she doing in Maine? His bones vibrated painfully as he held the receiver.

It picked up.

‘Good afternoon, Sara’s Boutique Florists, how may I be of service today?’

It was her. That voice. It was Sara. The relief tasted of melted sugar in his throat. He broke into pieces and clutched the phone with two hands.

‘Sara? Christ, Sara, you’re alive. Fuck! Sara, it’s me, it’s Winston!’

‘Shit…’ the sound suddenly muffled on the other line, ‘Give me a sec, Jill, I’m sorry, it’s him again.’

‘Sara? Sara? I don’t belie – I don’t believe it. Sara, it’s me! It’s me, Winston. Where did you –. Where are you? I thought you were gone. I thought I’d lost you.’

There was no reply.

‘Sara? SARA?’

‘Winston, please don’t call this number again. I thought I made that clear to you last time. I don’t look after you anymore, Winston, I’m sorry. You’re not my responsibility. Please stop calling me. Goodbye.’

The phone clicked.

‘SARA!’

‘Hey!’ The bartender had moved to Winston’s side and ripped the phone from him, ‘Get out of my bar you maniac, I said no funny business. GET OUT.’

All Winston knew was he had to see Sara for real, despite her cold words. He had to go to her, find her. The wasteland of coast was not an easy path to follow, but through the midden of fallen sky and obliterated earth Winston carried on. Every step was somehow more treacherous than the last as fragments of stone, moon, and people’s lives crunched under his heavily lined boots.

The moon’s breaking seemed an entire lifetime ago. Its pieces still plummeted to earth on occasion, never letting anyone forget the past and grounding them in some strange future. Winston’s steps were slow and deliberate as he navigated the debris of Maine, each step bringing him closer.

For how long had he considered the day the moon was ravaged the changing point in his life? For how long had he been wrong?

All the world had watched, paralyzed, as the moon shattered and ruptured humanity’s trajectory for a bright future—the worst of cataclysms—yet Winston was unchanged by it. He had a strong spirit.

He had changed when he had lost her—and every day since he had blamed the moon, and had felt his heart breaking, healing, and breaking over again. He had become a drifter, floating through whatever came his way, coasting. Drinking.

Maine’s air had a crisp bite as he consulted his pocket map, and carefully measured the last leg towards a facility the world seemed oblivious to. How she had come here, and why, didn’t matter. He had to find her.

He had been lost in his head for so long, he had forgotten she was still alive and not a fragment of the past. He devoted everything to his memory and her face. Her face, piercing, drove him on. It held electrifying beauty.

The scientists had failed. They were meant to be the last, best hope for humanity—and Winston didn’t care. His only hope was Sara, his only vision was of her face. He didn’t register his steps in terms of mileage, but measured them in terms of closing the distance between him and her.

He could at last see an unscorched building, the last structure this part of the world seemed to have, and slipped inside. The door creaked, but no one seemed to hear. A dull hum filled the corridors as he quietly began his search for her. His boots clumped loudly and left scuffs across the floor tiles, so he removed them. He peered in doors only to find empty rooms.

Carefully he continued, turning a corner and—

“Winston?”

“Winston, is that you? Where the devil are your shoes?”

To Maine he had gone, for a woman he only remembered as a girl. He had made a promise to her…had she forgotten that she had made one to him as well?

Sara stood facing him at the end of the corridor. He walked towards her, stepping lightly and slowly, as though she was a tiny animal and so much as a breath less delicate than hers could cause her to break away.

Her hair was twisted high on top of her head in work-mode, and she wore a white surgeon’s coat complete with rubber gloves. A tiny badge pinned to her left breast read, “Sara, Florist.” Little spots of color flecked her gloves and coat. She’d been painting.

“I knew you’d hate me having this job,” she said, “I’m sorry I wasn’t in touch. This was just something I had to do. Something… Without you.”

It had been like traveling a hundred years in the dark. Looking in abandoned places for numbers that might not be there, going into bars asking favors from people that didn’t even want to see you. A hundred years in the dark till now but instead of one light, he felt a thousand burning between the place where his bones meet his skin, and under their glare he felt more lost. He wanted to undo the pin that held her hair, letting it all fall across her shoulders and tell her how pretty she looked.

How much he’d missed her. A decade ago, he wouldn’t have thought twice, but right now one more step and he’d feel like he was breaking the law.

“Do you want to see the lab?” she asked him.

He followed her into a crisp, white room where jars holding pickled flowers lined the rooms. He stared. Roses, tulips, lilacs; each jar held one single flower of a different breed to the last.

Real flowers hadn’t existed like this in years, yet here they were, blurring the line between past and present. The long white petals of a daisy unfurled in the dappled liquid, its base gleaming like a yellow eye, its stem curved, suspended in the jelly.

She brought him to a table just in front of them, and opened the lid of a metal box.
There, inside, a miniature blue flower dipped its head towards its stem, curling into itself. Its leaves fanned out like ghosts in the water.

“Prototype, “Sara said, “Bluebell. Wild flowers are harder to recreate, because they weren’t as artificially engineered as the more popular ones. Rose was the first one, obviously.”

“Obviously,” he repeated, dumbfounded.

“I don’t know. You always seemed so obsessed with the moon, with the past. It was like you blamed it for everything. I needed to get out of LA. I mean, we haven’t had weather like the ancestors did since before we were born. So, I never understood why everybody mourned it so much. It was a terrible thing to happen, sure, but don’t you feel like the more we’re mourning one kind of light, we’re missing out on another?”

“Your flowers are beautiful,” he told her, “but fake.”

She looked down, sighing.

“I thought you’d say that. That’s why I didn’t want to tell you what I was doing. Can’t you see the benefits of the work we’ve done here? It’s only one small thing, but it’s a step towards recreation. Towards life.

“Through art.”

He shoved his hands into the pockets of the white coat she’d given him to hide their trembling.

“This isn’t Art. This is synthetic. Like, most of outside, what’s natural, what’s life is not synthetic flowers. I’d rather give my girlfriend a bouquet of moon! Because that’s what’s real. At least when she smelled she’d smell a piece of something that did exist, that was blown up, and that hurt everybody. It wasn’t nice that it happened, but I’m not about to forget that it did happen. This world has been changed, and no amount of chemical flowers is going to make me forget that life doesn’t exist any more.”

“What is the difference? Yes, they’re chemical, yes we made them and we painted them! But they’re here! They’re something! A step towards rebuilding! A step towards finally being happy!”

“It’s not about being happy. It’s about truth. Denial of the truth is the worst thing anyone can do to another person.”

“Is that why you came here? Hoping that I could be your truth, hoping that I’d want to go off with you and wander around, picking up bits of broken moon and imagining what life could have been like? We’re not kids any more, Wints.”

“I just wanted to see you. I had to see you,” he paused, “I still want you, even… even if this is what you want.”

“This is what I want.”

“I know. When I called you I just had to see it for myself.”

“I’m moving to New York,” she said suddenly.

“When?”

“Tomorrow, they have a new lab opening. They have a project opening; they’re planning to recreate the whole of Central park, but with lots of flowers ahead,” her voice sped up, excited, “We think we can manipulate the roses to grow right out of the bark in the trees, can you imagine how beautiful that would be?”

“When do you leave?”

“In 2 days.”

Winston could see it now. The stuff of dreams. But how real was a dream when it hadn’t come from within? When it had come from someone placing it there, someone constructing it. He would never be able to visit the park without feeling like he was a trespasser in someone else’s garden.

“I should go,” he told her.

She didn’t blink.

“Okay.”

A hundred years in the dark, for only a flash of light.

He left the building into the dust swirling street. Charcoal grey shimmied in the thick air around the emaciated branches of a tree. There was something beautiful in its wasteful figure. The way it held itself, proud of its bareness, unashamed.

He bent down, scooping a piece of moon up from the gravel and placed it in his pocket.

What rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards the Earth to be born?

Sara could have her garden, they all could. The moon felt coarse and hard in its pocket, its jagged edges scratched his legs through the thin fabric of his pants but he did not remove it. It would remain there all day, every day, a rough beast in his shallow life.

Sara and her friends would create a garden, inventing Nature in a way that no one had intended, and in decades no one would know the difference.

He put his hand in his pocket, holding the piece of moon. A hundred years in the dark with only a reminder of light.

Writers’ Information

Steve Harris:

http://theplanetharris.com
https://twitter.com/theplanetharris

Michael Schmidt

http://glitteringafterthoughts.wordpress.com/
https://twitter.com/geometric_auras

Shannon Pardoe:

https://twitter.com/shannongpardoe

Sam Grainger:

http://sgraingy.tumblr.com/
https://twitter.com/SGraingy
http://sgraingy2.tumblr.com/

Josh Kremer:

https://twitter.com/joshuaDkremer

Jessica Cooke:

http://madramblingsss.wordpress.com/
https://twitter.com/JessicaCooke5

If you would like to take part in our next Hot Potato short story collaboration do get in touch via the comment box or via the Contact form on the What’s On page. You would be welcome.

Weekend Showcase : Chris White (Writer)

25 Jul

Spotlight

Every Friday, 1 creative, letting their work speak for itself.

______

Chris White

 

Flash

 

The Shadows of the Jungle

 

“What’s the fucking time-stamp on that picture? Does anyone know?”

The image staggered and jumped – overlaid with a static-fuzz, the jump-suited soldiers were barely visible, flicking in and out of phase with the shadows of the jungle. Had they realised that the mech was dead? He certainly hoped not.

“Janice! Janice! Get down in the turret now! And somebody go and bloody warn the others!” Was it too late? Shit, he hoped not.

The image looped, in his peripheral vision, over and over and over again. There were kids inside the factory – sure, they’d done their best to make it seem decrepit, had pumped a slurry of sewerage and grey water and algae into the roof to dampen their heat signatures, to hide from the drifting satellites, hangovers from before the war was won. From before the world was lost. There were kids inside the factory. That was why it was soldiers, this time, not drones or tanks. Infantry. Quislings, they’d already adjusted to the new regime, they’d already betrayed their own species.

“Yeah, we get it Phil, they’re bastards.” He heard Janice, cutting through the static in their old-fashioned walkies. He hadn’t realised he’d been talking aloud. “Have you got a visual on ‘em yet?” She pedalled the belly-mounted turret around, the little plas-steel bubble rotating on the jerry-rigged bicycle chain – electricity was at a premium, and the settlement’s air-purifiers, waste-recyclers and water-pumps were more important than the old war machine that quietly rusted outside it. Most of the time. That was why the mech’s cameras weren’t set to be always recording, why they were motion-activated, why they didn’t have a goddamn time-stamp. Wearily he fingered the connection code, powering up the mech’s weapons systems, imagining the sudden, hushed silence inside the factory building as the lights faded and parents snatched up frightened children, or grabbed some antique piece of weaponry. Bolt-action .22 rifles, bows and arrows – they might as well be carrying clubs.

But even a B.B. gun was better than nothing. There were gaps, weak spots in those armoured jump-suits, around the eyes and the joints. Thank Christ for the secret, underground organisations, of doomsday prophets and nutty Christian survivalists. Without them there’d be no tinned foods, no bottled water, no ammunition. No survival.

The bugs had never bothered too much with the rogue settlements – the jungles were outside their habitable zone, they preferred the cold, high deserts, like the Atacama, the Gobi and the Antarctic plains. Which was how they managed to get settled in, no-one went and checked out the flaming crash landings. Meteorites fizzed into the atmosphere all the time, and if they landed somewhere inaccessible, somewhere far from cities or farms…well, who cared? Humanity had just breathed a collective sigh of relief, and wondered how they’d slipped through the ring of satellites all looking outward, counting pebbles in the vacuum. Why hit the rogue settlements now? And why with men, carrying stun-guns and handcuffs? It was simple, really. They needed to enlarge the breeding pool, they were just trying to encourage a little bit of genetic diversity.

He heard the drone of the gunner’s nest powering up, the whisper of the rail-guns, the bark of lumps of uranium-enriched tungsten breaking the sound barrier. He heard Janice cursing, spitting profanities that he didn’t know she knew as the guns kicked into life and dealt out death. She was only fourteen – his little girl. But he couldn’t stop her from calling him Phil, couldn’t stop her from trying to catch the tails of the window lizards, couldn’t stop her from sneaking out into the forest without her respirator or his rifle.

The spider’s eyes lenses of the cameras drew the black-armoured soldiers into sharp relief against the green-grey-red foliage of the jungle, painting them with the computer’s targeting lasers.

It was all the invisible, untouchable satellites needed, as their own computers locked onto the signal, and the drones ghosted their paths high above the battlefield.

There was a flash of light, which blinded the cameras and the crippled legs of the mech collapsed in a shower of rust flakes and torn, screaming steel.

They took the settlement, without much more resistance.

 

 Biography

Chris White is an author. His words (and worlds) can be found in both 1’s and 0’s, as well as in books made of dead trees. His blog is right here: http://chriswhitewrites.com

 

If you would like a Weekend Showcase please do get in touch via The contact form on the What’s On Page or via the Comment box.

 

 

 

 

ArtiPeeps Update: Onwards and Upwards

28 May

hot-air-balloon

 

Exactly a week has passed since the conclusion of our Kickstarter campaign for Transformations. We had a £4413 project goal and accrued £1392 of it, with 46 backers. A huge thank you to everyone who supported us.  This,  I feel,  is no mean feat and the Transformers and I all worked very hard, full-out, for its duration. Kickstarter campaigns are incredibly labour intensive, I have found!

The conclusion of this Kickstarter could have elicited feelings of despondency, but quite the opposite:  financial support has emerged out of the ashes of the campaign; many backers still  feeling able to support what we’re doing. We can move forward not really having lost anything. I am also about to put in an application to the arts council to fund the remaining monetary shortfall, and the Chair of ArtiPeeps and I will be trying to secure business sponsorship over the next couple of months.  

Overall, I think the campaign has positively foregrounded not only what ArtiPeeps stands for, but also what is behind the opportunities and initiatives we are attempting to provide.  It has also brought all the Transformers together much more overtly and we have communicated and worked well together as a collective. Considering this has often been across continents this is amazing.

I am also pleased that via the article in The Cambridge Evening News I may have helped other people with bi-polar by being open about mine. I’ve received a variety of emails and tweets that would indicate this, which is gratifying.  Some are creatives and will be taking part in future projects. I couldn’t run ArtiPeeps the way I do with a well-being thread without being fully transparent about my health…. 

There is a fast turn around on the Arts Council grant of 6 weeks, so my aim is to have that completed by the end of June. Therefore we will know where we are financially by August which gives us time to secure other funding if necessary by 12th September.

Processed_SAM_loki

Loki, Norse supervillan

 

I am also intending to put in further applications for our Norse Sagas project next year and our ‘Supporting Mental Health’ exhibition. By procuring funds in advance of our projects this will help secure our initiatives and allow us to move forward from a position of strength. That is the the theory anyway!!  From the end of June my time will then be spent on the soft copy exhibition book, ebook and pdf and other sponsorship.  We’ll see how that goes…

Our second season of work ended last Friday, and looking back it  featured a wide variety of creatives and initiatives: from Millfield School’s Year 9 young poets, to our second hot potato collaborative short story (which is now being illustrated) to our first wood sculptor who is hopefully going to be involved in the Norse Sagas project next year. The ‘Supporting Mental Health’ Initiative has also produced some fantastic work on the themes of Loneliness and Anxiety and Release. The Found Poetry Project has also shown me the delights of creating such poems. Fabulous!

Running the Kickstarter on top of the season of work was a lot of pressure, and it has made me think about how I will run the seasons in the future. Whether I will just have rolling programmes of initiatives, instead of packed three month seasons. I’m going to discuss this with the Management Committee and go from there. With a rolling programme, opportunities could be given in a more consistent, less intense way. Any feedback on this thought would be welcomed. It would also leave room for a spontaneous project which would be no bad thing. 

I will be posting out regular updates as we move towards the Transformations exhibition dates, and will post something out in July about the opportunities centred around Norse Sagas.

Thanks so much for your interest, and for having supported us during our Kickstarter campaign. It’s much appreciated, and do get in contact if you’d like to get involved- via the contact form on the What’s On page or via @ArtiPeeps

 

All the very best,

Nicky

 

 

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