Unless you are under about twelve years old you probably don’t realise that the borders on many pages of The Last Viking contain messages hidden in the Runes, the ancient magical text used by the Vikings, waiting for you to translate them, with help from the key in the endpapers.
There are quotes from famous Vikings like Nelson Mandela, and also ancient Viking wisdom, such as, An enemy with his feet chopped off can not chase after you, or Two heads stuck on pikes cannot conspire against you. There are less fierce ones available like, Only the brave should go a-Viking. The meek and stupid should stay in bed.
James and I decided we’d continue this new tradition in the Return of the Last Viking (available in all good bookshop in October 2014 , and online :-} ), so we’ve been trawling 1000s of quotes as possible inclusions. Deciding on suitable quotes was easy enough – who can go past that other famous Viking, Winston Churchill, for great quotes? What was difficult was cutting them down so they’d fit in the available spaces in the border. You just try cutting down his war speech, What is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.
Knut, our little hero, is in dire peril in this new story, and a speech such as that one suits that page perfectly, but editing Winston’s words down to exactly 81 letters and spaces is almost impossible. It still has to make sense, fit to the exact letter and not result in the great leader haunting you for disrespecting his famous words. ( What huge egos we must have to think we can do that.) I can tell you, I didn’t sleep very well last night, having nightmares about beaches, fields, landing grounds and never surrendering, and squadrons of Spitfires strafing my house.
My favourite quote about dragons was originally by GK Chesterton, then paraphrased by Neil Gaiman, then by Norman Jorgensen and finally by James Foley. As you can see we had a rather busy afternoon. James has spent so much time with the Runes that he no longer needs the translator.
A couple of other famous Vikings we have included are John Lennon, JRR Tolkien and a real Viking with the rather fabulous name of Snorri Sturluson. I wonder if his wife gave him his first name?