VIKING ESSAY CONTEST WINNER
The Viking Essay Contest offered in the Spring l998 edition
of NORSEMAN NEWS has resulted in a winner, chosen by a panel selected from
NORSEMAN's Board of Directors. The winning essay was submitted by Mr. David
Prohow of Tucson, Arizona, who has received his $100.00 prize which he
intends to put toward his education. David writes that he has been fascinated
by the Norse culture since the age of 6 when he visited the Jorvik center
in York, England with his parents. David hopes to become a historian. He
has worked on his high school newspaper and enjoys reading, tennis, and
travel. His essay is as follows:
JOY TO HIM WHO HAS UNDERSTOOD;
DELIGHT TO THOSE WHO HAVE LISTENED
by Shimon David Prohow
Of his knowledge a man should never boast.
Rather be spare of speech.
Give thy thoughts no tongue
A man should be loyal through life to friends, to them and to friends of theirs.
The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel.
He whose words are always fair is untrue and not to be trusted.
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgement.
They are truths universal and they come down to us from the mists of a millennia. The Havamal was the knowledge, the wisdom which gave the gods - "The High Ones" - wished to impart to their people, those we know today as Norsemen, as Vikings.
And they are truths universal which come down to us...from William Shakespeare.
Might Shakespeare have taken the ideas and ideals of the Havamal for his own purposes? Oh, not as a plagiarist but as a man widely read and seeking...more in a world of precious few literary resources. Clearly Shakespeare was at least passing familiar with the Scandinavian world; he did, after all, write "Hamlet, Prince of Denmark". He got the names right and the dates and the locations.
Interesting, too, that the Bard uses a character who is pragmatic and cunning and sly to communicate these important, arguably vital adages; all virtues - or vices - which the West had historically saddled upon the Vikings.
What of the Havamal? It (or more likely, they, for they were probably added upon constantly) dates from at least 1000 A.D. and very likely even earlier. Havamal is loosely translated as 'words from the high one", that is, from Ooinn or Othin, the god we in the west pronounce as Odin.
They appear to be, to this writer at least, words of wisdom applied to a time that was even more dangerous - perhaps - than our own.
The very first 'rule' argues that..."The man who stands at a strange threshold, should be cautious before he cross it, Glance this way and that: Who knows beforehand what foes may sit awaiting him in the hall."
That sets the tone rather quickly.
And this: The coward believes he will live forever if he holds back in the battle, but in old age he shall have no peace though spears have spared his limbs. Centuries later Shakespeare would write that cowards die a thousand deaths, the brave man only one.
Finally, there is the widespread misunderstanding that Norsemen who died in battle went to Valhalla. The real thrust of a Viking's life was not to achieve everlasting life, but rather everlasting fame.
Cattle die, kindred die, every man is mortal: but the good name never dies of one who has done well.
But I know one thing that never dies, the glory of the great dead.
And the glory of the great dead does live on in books
and movies...in the 20th century's equivalent to the Sagas.
Joy to him who has understood, reads the last line of Havamal, delight to those who have listened.
Planning continues for two high-profile Millennium events being coordinated by NORSEMAN President Dennis Johnson. VIKINGS SAIL2000! will encompass a fleet of Viking ships gathering at L'Anse Aux Meadows, Newfoundland, in early August, 2000 for a race and a Viking encampment organized by the VIKING TRAILS TOURISM ASSOCIATION of Newfoundland. They will then set sail down the east coast of North America "in search of Vinland", stopping at many seaports along the way, overnight at some places and spending weekends in the larger cities. After visits to Boston, New York and other cities, the fleet will arrive in Philadelphia to help celebrate a big Leif Ericson Millennium weekend, October 7-9. Over a dozen ships from Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and the US have expressed strong interest in taking part, and many others are in the process of being contacted. NORSEMAN will sail with this fleet.
The preliminary schedule for VIKINGS SAIL2000! and the itinerary are now on the Millennium web site (www.leif2000.org) with a description of the event. Readers and members living in or near prospective host cities are invited to contact Dennis Johnson at JNSNSMTH@worldnet.att.net to find out how you can help organize activities when the fleet arrives in your city. Individuals or corporations interested in sponsoring parts of this event or one or more ships can also contact Johnson for more information. The Viking ship groups from Europe, like ours, are volunteer organizations and will need financial assistance to help bring their ships and crew to North America.
Also, a WORLD VIKING SYMPOSIUM is planned for Saturday, Oct. 7, 2000 in Philadelphia as part of the Leif Ericson Millennium weekend. This event will be under the direction of Bernard Wailes, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Speakers on Vikings in the West, and on Leif Ericson, will be on the program and these internationally recognized scholars will also take part in a panel discussion as part of the program. Proceedings will be published and available after the Symposium.
The above events will be part of a spectacular Leif Ericson Millennium weekend in Philadelphia, beginning with the arrival of the Viking Fleet at Penn's Landing on Saturday morning. Also planned are a grand Viking Encampment, with Viking re-enactors, crafters, a Viking village, and other cultural exhibits; a Scandinavian Festival honoring Leif Ericson and Vikings; the Leif Ericson day ceremony on October 9, other special events, and culminating in a grand Leif Ericson Millennium Banquet on the evening of October 9. Many visiting dignitaries and well known personalities from the US and other Nordic nations, Iceland, Greenland, and Canada are expected to be present.
VIKING BOOK REVIEW
THE KING OF VINLAND'S SAGA, by Stuart W. Mirsky, XLibris, Princeton, N.J. l998. (Hard cover $25.00, paperback, $15.00).
A new work of fiction about Vikings and Indians in the New World, the King of Vinland's Saga is the first novel written by Mirsky, A Division Manager for municipal services in New York City. Long a student of ancient and medieval adventures, Mirsky has built a tale about Vikings in North America, led by a fictional grandson of Leif Ericson, one Sygtrygg Thorgilsson.
The lineage of Sygtrygg is accounted for from Leif's dalliance in one of the Hebrides while on his way to see King Olaf of Norway. On that island he met a dark-haired lady, Thorgunna, said to be a daughter of the King of Russia. The son of Leif and Thorgunna, Thorgils, was born after Leif departed for Norway but was sent to join his father, Leif, in Greenland sixteen years later. After Leif's death, Thorgils was shunned by Leif's other sons and daughters and set to wandering, where he eventually fathered a child by a native woman who then died. Thorgils brought his son, Sygtrygg back to Brattahlid, where he was shunned as well. Thorgils resumed his wanderings, and Sygtrygg was left to claim his share of his grandfather, Leif's, inheritance.
Quarreling over this matter led to Sygtrygg's leading a band of Greenlanders to Vinland, where they took up residence at Leifsbudir and began exploring their surroundings. This resulted in contact with native Americans and the unfolding of the fictional saga whereby Sygtrygg, in time, became "The King of Vinland".
In this long historical novel (637 pages), the author attempts to use a 13th century voice in the Saga tradition of medieval Iceland, while weaving a tale of the clash of cultures and of the collision of strong wills among the various Viking protagonists. Both the style and the convoluted telling of the tale give the reader a stronger sense of the times, and the ways of thinking and speaking attributed to eleventh century Vikings.
As with most historical novels, it is essential that the reader view this Saga as fictional, and not confuse this story with the relatively meager known facts about Leif Ericson, the Greenland settlement, and Vinland. Keeping this firmly in mind, Viking enthusiasts should enjoy this engaging tale from beginning to end.
THE NORSEMAN NEWS:
HAROLD THE RUTHLESS, The saga of the Last Viking Warrior by Andrea Hopkins, l996. This 61 page illustrated hard cover book tells the story of the famous Norwegian King, Harold Hardrada. In the form of a graphic novel, a clear portrait of the life and exploits of the last great Viking Warrior is given. Based on events recorded by Snorri Sturluson in about 1230, this books highlights the incredible adventures of one of the most notable Vikings of them all. Originally $16.95, now $15.00. Suitable for teenagers and older.
THE VIKINGS, LORDS OF THE SEAS, by Yves Cohat, Discoveries series, l992.
Pocket size, paperback, 176 pages. Features activities in each of the major
Viking areas; Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Covers activities such as trading,
navigation, and articles about sagas, runes, funeral rituals, L'Anse Aux
Meadows, the Roskilde ships, and includes a timeline comparing events of
Vikings in England, France, Russia, and Islam. Originally $12.95, now $10.00.
· You can bring your own Viking Ship to VIKINGS SAIL2000! We have learned that the Viking ship ANUND (one of our sailing companion ships in Stockholm last year) is for sale or lease by the owners. If you purchase this ship, a crew to come to the US and teach you to sail her is included. For the selling price and other information about ANUND, contact Lee Holmstrom in Sweden, at (firstname.lastname@example.org ).
· Recent activity on the NORSEMAN web site has increased to over 10,000 "hits" per month by the end of l998. We are pleased that well over 300 people per day visit our site and are interested in learning more about Vikings and Viking ships.
· May 2, l998 was celebrated by the Viking Historical Group of Kensington, Minnesota as the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the Kensington Runestone. The Society is seeking another Runestone purported to have been found about the same time but reburied when the Kensington stone was discredited by experts. (We visited the Runestone Museum in Kensington last summer and viewed the stone - it looks pretty convincing for a hoax by a supposedly uneducated Swedish immigrant farmer in l898- Ed.)
· The oldest Viking dragon ship in the world is based in Taby, Stockholm. This ship, VIKING PLYM, was built in l912, and also sailed with NORSEMAN at the "Viking Invasion". VIKING PLYM (Plume) has been immaculately kept, and is distinguished by its beautiful wood carvings in Viking "Ringarike" style. About 11 meters (36 ft.) long, this ship will be among the ships coming to North America in 2000.
· If in the Chicago area, you can charter a 30 ft. Viking ship called the BLUE DRAGON. It even has an enclosed cabin for modern Vikings who prefer to stay dry. For further information, contact the charter captain, at (email@example.com).
· A major film about Leif Ericson is being planned for the year 2000. To be called THE VINLAND SAGA, by Dundee entertainment of Hollywood, CA., the film is based on a script by Gene Swift. We have spoken with the producer, Mr. Tommy Reid, who has shared the script and story boards with us. The script bears strong fidelity to the original SAGAS, and is to be filmed largely at or near the original locations in Greenland, Newfoundland, and Iceland. We wish the production well, since there is great need for such a film. For more information (and to nominate your favorite star to play Leif) contact (Adundee@aol.com).
NORSEMAN "NEAR MISS" TO SUPER BOWL
Negotiations were actively under way in the week before
the Vikings-Falcons game on Jan. 17 to bring NORSEMAN to Miami for the
SuperBowl weekend. We had been invited by a NFL Consultant in Minneapolis
to be a major attraction for a pre-game Viking Fans party near the Bowl
to be hosted by Vikings owner Reds McCombs. The party was to take place
on the day before the big game. This would mean a trip to Miami via I-95
for NORSEMAN and six crew for the weekend of January 29-30.
Regrettably, and despite being favored to win, the Vikings lost in overtime to the Falcons in Minneapolis under the Superdome, and some folks from Atlanta will be partying in Miami, instead. Isn't there an old Viking saying about not counting your chickens until they are hatched? Perhaps next year! It was nice to be asked, however, and good to know that we are known out in Vikingland.
Fall '98 Newsletter