Tag Archives: emerging writers

Weekend Showcase : Stephen Thom (Writer)

13 Mar

Spotlight

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

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Stephen Thom

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Marbles

 

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IT IS ALL LITTLE MARBLES IN OUR EARS

by Stephen Thom

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Hugh placed his plastic cup of sparkling wine beside the picnic hamper and pushed the tweezers deep into Lottie’s left ear. She slugged her own cup back violently, wincing as the bubbles surged down her throat and cold metal tongs simultaneously wriggled into her earhole. Selecting a pair of tweezers for herself, she directed them into Hugh’s right ear and tried to focus on her own prodding and poking. And as it was, she succeeded first. A little, smooth, dark round bead was tugged from Hugh’s ear, clenched between the pincers of the metal implement. Swiftly the bead was followed by more and more tiny round balls, connected together by some sinewy, sticky tether. Hugh’s ear bled as the beads were carefully extracted; dribbling, red pearls hanging from the lobe.

‘How does it feel?’ Lottie asked. Hugh’s head was throbbing, but he didn’t want it to show. Instead he tried to change the subject. ‘I can’t seem to get a handle on yours.’ He switched positions, wedging the blanket into the sand beneath it as he shifted onto his knees. Finally he felt his tweezers click around a smooth surface, and with his eyes screwed up in concentration, tugged the first few beads from Lottie’s left ear. They slid out with comparative ease; soon a whole, slick chain of dark little stony spheres was unravelling out of her earhole, and she barely flinched as she focused on yanking and squeezing Hugh’s assorted beads out individually.

‘Ow,’ he muttered, craning his neck against the roving tweezers. ‘Ow.’ His eyes flickered to the trail hanging from his ear. ‘Ah…Jesus.’

‘They look a bit like marbles,’ breathed Lottie, stroking his head to calm him. ‘I thought you’d be able to see…more, or anything. Maybe they’re different on the outside, like, maybe they change?’

‘Maybe,’ choked Hugh, grinding his teeth as water formed in the corners of his eyes.

With a sucking noise, what appeared to be the final bead was wrenched from Hugh’s ear; Lottie laid his collection in a bundle on the blanket beside her own, long since unravelled to the ground. They surveyed the piles of beads in silence for a while, Hugh rubbing his ear. ‘How long do you think we have?’ He murmured.

Lottie looked up at him. His eyes were jet black, but she declined to inform him of this.

‘It doesn’t matter,’ she said, reaching for his hand. Hugh let her caress his palm for a moment, then picked up one of his beads. He rotated it between thumb and forefinger. In the centre of the little ball, a cloud swirled amongst the gloom. As he watched, it gathered texture, accumulating into a structured mass. This mass snaked out to incorporate fleeting glimpses of minuscule limbs, features, stretches of environment – a world condensed into a smooth, sticky marble.

‘No, you were right,’ Hugh concurred, ‘it must have been a type of…camouflage, or cover. Look, this is when I met you.’

He held it up to her glassy eyes, still in ownership of their pupils. A scene danced across the minute circular landscape.

‘It wasn’t, though,’ she replied, averting her gaze. Then, looking back at Hugh, she saw a thick sliver of black liquid ooze from his dark eyeballs. He wiped his cheek in shock. Hastily, he pulled the beads up one by one, scrutinising the pictures the little marbles conveyed.

‘This is Greece!’ He cried. ‘This was our holiday! When I was twelve…I had such bad sunburn. I had to have cold showers. Look, this is when Mum was ill…we were waiting at the station for Dad to pick us up, but he’d got the time wrong, and you just kept talking about how you have to pay to use the toilets there, I guess you didn’t want to talk about anything else-‘

‘Hugh…’ Lottie covered the bead with her left hand, and pulled the arm of her jumper down over her right hand, wiping away some of the black fluid flowing down his cheeks.

‘I don’t know if it was the right thing to do anymore,’ he croaked. He was having trouble kneeling upright now; he seemed to be hunching into himself without realising. ‘Even if they’re not ours, or mine, or whatever, it’s what we knew. It’s all I knew. I should honour that. It doesn’t feel right, or like I thought it would. I still spent my life with these people.’

Lottie kissed him on his smudged cheek. ‘It is right,’ she said, and she felt her own voice flagging as she did so. ‘You did spend your life with them, and you will meet them again, just in the right way this time. These things, here…’ her hands fumbled with the beads, ‘they’re not our own, they’re someone else’s interpretation. But all these…links, they’ll come back to you. You will see them again,’ she finished, trying to sound decisive.

Hugh’s face was a mess of black fluid, and he sunk to the blanket as his knees failed him. The sand that had drifted onto the blanket mingled with the thick oilish substance as cracks and sores opened across his skin, and more of it flooded forth. Lottie held his head tightly, staring straight ahead as her own eyes dulled to black.

‘Hugh, did you hear me? Hugh, it’ll be your own now.’

‘I’m sorry,’ he sighed as a black mass converged before him and fractured into a million splinters; splinters that remolded themselves as little black marbles, tumbling in every direction.

He saw his embryonic, shapeless shadow chasing after them, ready, renewed-

‘Don’t ever be sorry,’ Lottie sobbed, somewhere far behind.

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Biography

Stephen Thom is from Carrbridge in the Highlands of Scotland, and enjoys reading and writing fiction with an interpetive element. His pieces have appeared in Firewords Quarterly, Holdfast Magazine, Fur-Lined Ghettos, High Flight, Don’t Do It, Thought Collection Publishing, Thick Jam and Puffin Review amongst others.

http://stephenthom.wordpress.com/​
@StephenThom3

Stephen also plays mandolin in a folk-rock band called ‘Dante’. Their debut album, ‘Wake’, was released in October 2013 to fantastic reviews and features in the Herald’s ‘Top 50 Scottish Albums of the Year’.

http://www.dantemusic.com
@wearedante

 

 

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.

 Image by Barnaby N: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blast/212455

 

 

 

Realm 6: Helheim – Overview and writing prompts, The Nine Realms, an ArtiPeeps Combined Arts Collaboration 2014-2015

12 Mar

nine realms8

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

Helheim

(the realm through which  men pass in order to die in Nifelheim)

 

Vikings Ahoy!

Here we are in the middle of March,  with the deadline for the poetry and writing for the 6th realm Nifelheim today! I shall be posting out more Nidavellir poems this week and next week, and then we’ll be onto the Nifelheim poems. This month we are outlining the realm of Helheim. The deadline for all writing, poetry and mp3s for this realm is Thursday 16th April 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.

Helheim

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1. A brief  Overview of Helheim

 

Helheim is the lowest realm of all ruled by Hel (see Nifelheim overview). In Grímnismál stanza 31, Hel is listed as existing beneath one of three roots of the world tree Yggdrasil. One of the other two roots leads to the frost jötnar and the third to Mankind. In the poem Völuspá in The Poetic Edda a völva (sybil)  states that Hel will play an important role in Ragnarök. As mentioned in the Nifelheim overview there is some greyness in terms of differentiation between Nifelheim and Helheim, but in the Vafþrúðnismál (the third poem in The Poetic Edda)  states that it is the place that evil men pass through to die again in Nifelheim.

It is also  the place where all men, who were not warriors and did not end up in Valhalla (the feasting hall of the dead), were decreed to go and condemned to a grim death by Hel. The myths connected to Hel and Helheim spread into cultural traditions, and loved people were buried near to their homes to keep a connection, and those who were cruel were buried far away. Their families fearing they might become the walking dead. In relation to the life/death dynamic there is even some evidence that some thinkers believed there was no life after death. In the Hávamál, for instance it states:

Wealth dies, kinsmen die, a man must like-wise die: but fame never dies, for him who achieves it well (Allan: 135)

You can find the full Hávamál text here

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1. Odin’s Consultation with the Völva

Baldr’s draumar  is another Eddic poem from within The Poetic Edda which tells the story of Odin’s ride to Hel investigating Baldr’s nightmares. (Baldr is the son of Odin and Frigg and is married to Nanna with a  child Forseti.  Baldr is responsible for the construction of the most wonderful ship known to man called the Hringhorni.   You can find out more about Baldr in the Nidavellir overview. )

The story goes that Odin, travels to Hel to find the grave of a Völva (sybil) so that he can resurrect her and questions her about Baldr’s future. She reveals Baldr’s fate: that Höðr (his brother) will kill him, but Vali  (one of his other brothers) will avenge him.

Apart from this description Baldr is known primarily for the story of his death. His death is seen as the first in the chain of events which will ultimately lead to the destruction of the gods at Ragnarök. Baldr will be reborn in the new world, according to Völuspá.

In Gylfaginning, Baldur is described as follows:

Annar sonur Óðins er Baldur, og er frá honum gott að segja. Hann er svá fagr álitum ok bjartr svá at lýsir af honum, ok eitt gras er svá hvítt at jafnat er til Baldrs brár. Þat er allra grasa hvítast, ok þar eptir máttu marka fegrð hans bæði á hár og á líki. Hann er vitrastr ása ok fegrst talaðr ok líknsamastr. En sú náttúra fylgir honum at engi má haldask dómr hans. Hann býr þar sem heita Breiðablik, þat er á himni. Í þeim stað má ekki vera óhreint
The second son of Odin is Baldur, and good things are to be said of him. He is best, and all praise him; he is so fair of feature, and so bright, that light shines from him. A certain herb is so white that it is likened to Baldr’s brow; of all grasses it is whitest, and by it thou mayest judge his fairness, both in hair and in body. He is the wisest of the Æsir, and the fairest-spoken and most gracious; and that quality attends him, that none may gainsay his judgments. He dwells in the place called Breidablik, which is in heaven; in that place may nothing unclean be
 Brodeur’s translation

In Baldrs Draumar, the sybil replies:

Here stands brewed the mead for Balder,

shining cups with shields for cover,

but the Sons of the Gods must suffer anguish….

(Ellis Davison: 185)

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You can find the whole of the Gylfaginning here

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Odin's Last words to Baldr

Odin’s Last words to Baldr

 

2. Odin’s Ride to Ransom Baldr

Baldr dies (see Nidavellir overview. )  and Frigg once again asks Odin to go to Helheim and entreat Hel to let him come back. He travels through ice and wind, crossing  the Gjoll torrent (which separates the living from the dead) via a golden- roofed bridge. Hel agrees that Baldr can come back only if everyone and everything agrees to weep for him. All things do weep for him: trees, stones, animals all except Thokk/ Þökk (who is thought to be Loki in disguise) ensuring that Baldr cannot return. In so doing Baldr has to remain in Hel; not to be released until after Ragnarök. Baldr and Höðr would then be reconciled and rule the new earth together with Thor’s sons.

 

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4. Ragnarök and Helheim

As Ragnarök unfolds an axe age, a sword age, a wind age and a wolf age reek havoc over the world.  Midgard is ridden with wars for three winters and fathers kill sons. A most ferocious  winter (Fimbulvetr)  covers Midgard. Three winters in succession will manifest with no summers in between.  The children of the giantess in the Iron Wood declaim themselves and the wolf Sköll  swallows the sun whole in his jaws, splattering Asgard with blood. His brother Hati  mangles the moon within his mouth, and the stars disappear.

The earth begins to shudder, mountains shake, and rocks roll, and Fenrir runs free.  Eggther, the watchman of the giants,  strums his harp. A red cock called Fjalar crows waking the warriors in Vallhala every day. A golden-combed cock crows to the gods, and a  red rust cock raises the dead in  Hel. The Midgard serpent writhes in anger, and high seas come in. Loki, free from his fetters sails the high seas towards Vigrid from the North with a deathly crew from Hel. The world is in uproar, and the Yggdrasil Tree trembles , and the gods take arms within Valhalla and March toward Vigrid/Vígríðr, (a large field which hosted a battle between the gods and the forces of Surt).

Odin rides upfront, and in the end Fenrir  swallows Odin and he dies.  Vidar/Víðarr (Odin’s son) kills Fenrir in return. Surt lets flames fly and Asgard, Midgard, Jotunheim and Nifelheim become furnaces burning to ashes. The nine realms burn and the gods die, men and women die, and elves and dwarves, monsters and animals die. The earth sinks into the sea.

BUT out of the dying earth a new one is born out of  ‘water, fair and green’.  (Crossley-Holland: 173-175).

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Themes, Relevance and Questions:

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Life,  Death and Transition: It could be said that Nifelheim and Helheim in combination represent a very powerful symbol of transition (from life to death and vice versa). Viewed in conjunction with Ragnarök, this makes for a very strong articulation of the force of life and rebirth.   Where through a conflict and a realignment of moralities life comes forth again ‘fair and green’, with dark forces in hand once again.

Through the creation of the figure of Hel we can see a centre and symbol of moral judgement has been created:  one that allows us to question what is right or wrong, and who is condemned and who is not ( exactly as Hel does). The sifting through that Hel undertakes as men pass through Nifelheim  (judging their morality and position in life) could be seen as a parallel to the sorts of judgements  many people and leaders and figures in power make today. To look at the role of transition and rebirth within the realms of Helheim and Nifelheim , I think can well serve anybody wishing to understand the nature of moral judgement and freedom.

 Exploration Point: What transitions of power can you see in play within these realms and their stories, and how could they be used to reflect upon modern contemporary life? 

 

Things of Interest:

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1.  The Relevance of Norse Myths in the School Curriculum:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/10622293/Get-your-fill-of-Norse-myths-before-Hel-freezes-over.html

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 2.  Filmpoem: Sonatorrek (Loss of Sons)

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A filmpoem by Alastair Cook of John Glenday’s ‘The Lost Boy’, a poem after Egill Skallagrímsson’s Sonatorrek *.

http://www.asnc.cam.ac.uk/resources/mpvp/?author=2

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* Egill Skallagrímsson/ Egil Skallagrimsson(c. 904 – c. 995) was a Viking-Age poet, warrior and farmer.

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Egil Skallagrimsson

Egil Skallagrimsson

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3. ‘In Old Norse mythology, poetry is a slippery substance….’ 

http://www.asnc.cam.ac.uk/resources/mpvp/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/An-Anthology-of-Responses-to-Skaldic-Poetry.pdf

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4. Sculptor:  Asmunder Sveinsson

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Who was born in 1893, and drew inspiration from The Prose Edda for some of his work.

See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%81smundur_Sveinsson

Reykjavik Art Museum, of which one part is dedicated to Sveinsson

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 Optional Poetry and Writing Prompts:

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Rubai

The rubai (plural rubaiyat) is a Persian verse form. Each rubai stanza is a quatrain, in which lines 1, 2 and 4 all rhyme.

See here for more details.

Writing Word Prompts:  Light, Thousand, Knowledge, Capital, Fingers, Stars, Deep, Hate, Forest, Broken

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To confirm, the deadline for all writing, poetry and mp3s for the Helheim realm is Thursday 16th April 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 : Marie Gethins (Writer)

6 Mar

Spotlight

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

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Marie Gethins

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Brigid Painting

 Painting by Brigid Delahunty

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Jeremiah and the Singing Sheep

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A few months after Jeremiah turned the fields around Gallybeg blue, sheep began to sing. People in the village called it singing, but it was more of a hum. Shamie Howlin claimed he heard the chorus to O’Donnell Abú one night when he took a short cut home from the pub. However everyone knew better than to trust Shamie’s opinion.

Jeremiah arrived one April with a long beard and an orange tent. “A New Age blow-in,” my mother said, shaking a finger at me. “Now lad, don’t get too familiar.” By the end of his first week, she puzzled together enough information to serve Jeremiah’s life story with my father’s Saturday steak. “Brains to burn, degrees coming out his ears. He’s here to set-out those wind turbines.” She poured pepper sauce across his meat and potatoes, tapped the metal spoon against the pot. “From Kentucky—so they say.”

The wind turbine project pleased almost everyone in Gallybeg, bringing with it a handy cash injection. A protest group from Dublin came down a few weekends until a bull got loose and chased them through the village. “If we had the climate for tomatoes, it would be as good as Pamplona,” my father said. But we could only grow grass and by the look of the livestock, even that didn’t seem to be doing so well.

Part of the preliminary crew, Jeremiah took measurements and pounded sticks into fields marking off access roads and tower bases. He said that he liked to live close to nature. Although the company would pay his expenses for a city hotel and commute costs, he preferred to pitch a tent near the construction sites, landowners permitting.

Jeremiah’s orange tent became a regular fixture and feeding him a competitive sport. It began with a sandwich pile and tea flask, but stakes rose to a full Irish breakfast and hot dinner by farm number three. When he arrived at our place, my mother pinned meal plans and a baking schedule to the kitchen curtains. My mother decided she couldn’t cook, bake and deliver, so my father and I shared the task of bringing Jeremiah his meals.

He had an easy way of speaking: slow and gentle, leading you along. Philosophy, engineering, nature, mythology—Jeremiah covered them all, mixing one with another. Often I couldn’t tell my mother what we had talked about, only that I agreed with him. One evening my father and I shared a warm apple tart and tea with Jeremiah while the ewes and lambs nibbled around us.

“That’s hard dining.” He motioned towards the flock with his fork. “Ryegrass, what’s the variety?”

“It’s a mix,” my father said. “Irish seed mostly, but I was thinking of trying a bit of Italian next.”

“Italian ryegrass? Wouldn’t you consider Poa? Works real well back home. Poa pratensis, Kentucky bluegrass. Those sheep would be so content they’d sing.”

My father shook his head and laughed.

When the construction team arrived, Jeremiah moved onto his next job, but he said he’d return to Gallybeg before the wind turbine commissioning. Although everyone had stared at Jeremiah’s stick outlines for several weeks, big machinery churning up the fields came as a surprise. The post office, petrol station and pub buzzed with complaints. My mother put away her recipe cards and told me to stay well clear of the crew. From my bedroom window I watched the white towers rise, giant fingers pointing to heaven. On rainy days, they broke the grey clouds into marshmallow pillows and when the sun came out, clinging drops glimmered on their sides. With rotors fitted, the turbines became a line of fairground pinwheels waiting for God to blow. My father heard the electrics still had to be wired up.

The heavy works crew left and after a few days Jeremiah appeared. We walked around the wind turbines with him, our wellies sinking in the muck.

“Not a blade left in the field,” my father said.

Jeremiah stroked his beard. “I believe there’s a reseeding contingency in your contract. This could be an opportunity my friend.”

Two weeks later several sacks of Kentucky bluegrass seed came by special delivery. My father covered them with old blankets and locked the shed. When he deemed conditions were ideal, I helped him plough the field and spread the new seed. Soon tufts popped up. A mixture of green and teal blades surrounded the wind turbine bases and covered the soil. When seed heads appeared, the land turned a blue tint in twilight. The ground firm, we moved our flock into the wind turbine field. The sheep rustled through the new coarse grass, happy to dine on the American gourmet fodder. We started to notice other Gallybeg fields the same shade as our farm.

Commissioned at last, the wind turbines began to rotate. Regular rent payments arrived from the energy company. My father talked about building a new shed, my mother a conservatory. Reporters interviewed farmers, photographers snapped shots of white wind turbines and fluffy sheep against bluish fields.

Summer rains shifted into autumn frosts. On a clear November night, my father and I checked on the flock. An orange harvest moon hung heavy in the dark sky, stars scattered like bog cotton around it. A rhythmic hum grew louder as we approached the field.

“Do you hear that?”

My father nodded. “It must be the sheep.”

“What?”

“Jeremiah said that grass would make them sing.” He slapped my back and chuckled.

That winter noise pollution protestors from the city went round the village asking people to sign their petition. They wanted the wind turbines silenced. “But the wind turbines are silent,” the villagers said. The protestors passed around leaflets on infrasound, asked about headaches, nausea and tinnitus.

“Don’t you hear that hum?” one said. “How can you sleep?”

“Ah that’s just the sheep.” My father handed back a leaflet. “They’re so happy with the Kentucky bluegrass they sing for joy.”

A CD and a letter from Jeremiah came with my father’s latest seed order. The cover had a picture of him outside a tent, beard plaited, a funny looking guitar in his lap. He wrote that he’s started an Ashram in the Appalachian Mountains and plays bluegrass music on the sitar for the local wildlife. Next birthday I’m going to ask for an orange tent and when I’m older, I’m going to grow a long beard. In the meantime, I play the CD for our flock, a background hum in harmony.

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Biographies

Marie Geth­ins’ work has fea­tured in the Litro, 2014 NFFD Anthology, Flash, NANO, The Incubator Vin­tage Script, Circa, Firewords Quarterly, The Lamp, Control Literary Magazine and Word Bohemia. She won or placed in Tethered by Letters, Flash500, Drom­i­neer, The New Writer, Prick of the Spindle, Sen­tinel Lit­er­ary Quar­terly and 99fiction.net. Marie is a Pushcart and Best of the Short Fictions Nominee. She lives in Cork, Ireland, working on her MSt in Creative Writing at the University of Oxford.

https://twitter.com/MarieGethins

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 Artist:  Brigid Delahunty:

Award winning artist Brigid Delahunty’s work reflects upon the different shapes of man-made objects built or left in the landscape with their random presence creating a new perspective and incongruity in the environment. Each scene is individual and fictitious with a narrative approach that emphasises a sense of emptiness and isolation. Contact info: https://brigiddelahunty.wordpress.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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 .

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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

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.

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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

 

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