The Last Viking Returns


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Wow, I’ve just discovered that James and I are in good company.

One afternoon after we had a done a gig together at Guildford Grammar School, we were having lunch in the nearby Woodbridge Tavern and began discussing what we would like in the new book. James has always been keen on dragons and thought he could do a good job of bringing one to life on the page. At the same lunch we also decided that a theme park called Viking World would be a good location for the plot, as it will get all the characters out of the house and would be a fabulous, colourful background to whatever we then decided would happen to them.

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A Really Cool Competition

Competition!  

One of these photos is of the legendary creators of Asterix, and the other is of a couple of wallys.

To win a free book simply identify the correct photo.

Closing date for the competition is whenever I get bored.

***

I’m a great admirer of these two, (the Asterix ones, not the other two clowns) and I even based my first books, Ashe of the Outback series on the format they so successfully pioneered along with Herge’ and Tin Tin. James, however, is the psychic love-child of Goscinny and Udurzo. He doesn’t admit it, but it is obvious that to  him they are the French version of the Norse Gods of artists and look down on his every pen stroke and every colour mix  he ever attempts. I suspect  as far as he is concerned there are none better. I bet too if we were to see a picture of  James’  bedroom when  he was ten years old,   the walls would be covered in Asterix posters,  the bookshelves groaning under only Asterix volumes, and little Obelix and Getafix dolls would  litter every surface. And he probably spoke in a bad, pun-laden French accent, non?  And was just itching to attack hoards of  le Normans (or le Romans).

I suppose pretending to be Udurzo is a slight improvement on the ten year old Norman pretending to be Errol  Flynn all the time. Not much future in that.

Addendum from James (to be read in a French accent):

Excusez-moi, mon ami Nor-man, fer high-jacque-ing your blog poste, but I sought I woulde show you a little photograph of mon bureau, eh, my desk. When I was zhust a garcon, I did not have ze dolls d’Asterix as you say. But now Je suis un adulte, mon bureau has many of ze Asterix figurines upon it… zey are tres bonne, no?

mon bureau

Back to Norm:

And further more…

So James didn’t get his Asterix dolls until he was an adult, eh? Arrested childhood, perhaps? A tragic childhood? No toys, and only gruel to eat, so he’s making up for it now? However, I can talk. Here I am  half a century later still pretending to be Errol Flynn. The picture was taken a few years ago by my wife Jan  at  a medieval fayre in St David’s Cathedral grounds in Wales. To my surprise, as I’m usually hopeless at sport-like stuff,  I turned out to be a  right little Robin Hood with an Anti-French longbow. Loads of bullseyes.  I reckon could  have stood on Hasting beach in 1066 and  just about single handedly stopped the Norman invasion of England, my aim was so true. Though, with a name like mine I would have been on the other team, and then King Harold would have had something to really worry about .


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Bunch of Viking Hippies

The more research I do the more I’m becoming to believe that the Vikings, with their well-deserved reputations as blood-thirsty pirates, were, in fact, more like a commune of New Age hippies. They had eco-friendly houses half buried in the ground and covered with earth for insulation, they were at one with the elements, living their lives according to the seasons, their Gods were a curious, maladjusted lot, to say the least, they sat round making jewellery, and most obviously hippyish of all, they gave their kids impossibly stupid names.

For instance, according to the old Norse sagas, North America was settled in about 1000AD by a group of Icelanders led by  Þorfinnur Karlsefni and his wife Gudridur Þorbjarnardottir. They both must have both suffered as kids with names like that, but, amazingly, they still went and named their own son Snorri? Snorri. I ask you? Snorri then had the dubious distinction of being the first European born in America.

The little colony lasted for only a few years in Newfoundland, probably because the inhabitants, who they called the Naturals,  didn’t really want them there, understandably, and regularly attacked them, so Snorri and his folks returned to Iceland while their scalps were still intact. I bet now if they could look back and see what a success the other waves of immigrants made of the place, they may not have been in such a rush to leave. Though, with a tribe of very angry Indians waving tomahawks and firing arrows at you, and no hope of rescue by the US Cavalry, I can understand their eagerness to “get the heck outa’ here.”

Their Icelandic ancestors had much more success and between 1870 and 1914 a quarter of the population joined the “tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, and the wretched refuse of your teeming shore” and tootled off to immigration control at Ellis Island, New York,  and a potential new home in what they like to call the Home of the Free. Here they are talking about freedom, not the cost of things, obviously. 

Oddly, many settled in Minnesota,  a state a long, long way from the sea  at 1200kms, but they prospered and still have strong Scandinavian traditions.   Even their NFL  football team is called the Minnesota Vikings, and looking at a picture of the quarterbacks you can easily imagine them up on the prow of a Longship ready go berserk  into battle.


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William the Conqueror, The Actual Last Viking

IN 911AD the Vikings invaded northern France and established a new colony in Normandy, and that is a seriously good name for a region if ever I’ve heard one. They quickly dominated the local population and became so immensely powerful that eventually William, Duke of Normandy, decided to invade England. He believed he had been promised the throne by the English King, Edward the Confessor. Unfortunately, on Edward’s death William’s distant relative, King Harold Godwinson, managed to beat him to the  throne and break his promise to William. William was not amused, to say the least, and very soon lived up to his nickname of William the Bastard. He then went ballistic!

In 1066 he began a full-scale invasion of England. Harold’s army was soundly defeated at the Battle of Hastings and he died with an arrow in the eye. Ouch! King William then set about being very beastly indeed to the English, spreading his wrath (and taxes) far and wide.

William’s brother, Bishop Odo, had huge comic-like account of the Battle of Hastings called the Bayeux Tapestry made to celebrate the battle.

Always warlike, like his Viking ancestors, I suppose, William died twenty years later while fighting the French, when his intestines burst, merde, though it took a further five weeks for him to actually die. At his funeral his bloated corpse was crammed into a too-small coffin and this, together with a warm day, caused his body to explode! The resulting smell was so disgusting that all the royal mourners immediately ran away from the royal funeral.

William’s favourite son, William Rufus, inherited the throne of England and he was said to be a right chip off the old block, also being cruel, unjust, self-indulgent and downright selfish, just like any normal English king.  Rufus too came to a sticky end, being mysteriously shot by an arrow while out hunting in the New Forest.


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Famous Vikings I Have Met. Kris Williams.

This is Kris Williams, world-famous director of the internationally renowned All Saints’ Literature Festival, held at All Saints’ College in Perth every March.

Kris is from a long line of Vikings, with her mother being Irish and her father Danish.  This picture of her was taken in the 1980s and shows her standing beneath the portrait of her Great Uncle Torvald.  What a great name, but get this, Great Uncle Torvald was Head Brewer at Carlsberg Brewery!!!  in Copenhagen, Denmark. What a great catch Kris would have been. Here she is, young, brunette and gorgeous and her uncle runs a brewery!!!

The Last Viking will be coming out around the time of the 2011 All Saints’ Festival and Kris has signed me up as a presenter, so it could be a chance for you to see the book newly published, before anyone else has had a chance.  You won’t be allowed in the room, though, unless you are wearing horns. And as a good Viking Princess, Kris will go Berserk at anyone who stupidly tries to sneak in not properly dressed and ready for battle.

Kris is still to announce the line-up for next year’s All Saints Festival, but I’ve heard she has contracted a number very talanted authors and illustrators from Fremantle Press.

She has also agreed to do more family research for the blog as we are very interested indeed in anyone related to Great Uncle Thorvald.


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Odin. The Norse Gods.

Odin, or Odinn in Old Norse, if you happen to speak that instead, though, I can’t really imagine you do.

Odin is the god of war and death, but also, surprisingly, the god of poetry and wisdom.  Of all the Norse Gods, Odin is regarded as the greatest and chief of them all. He is also the father of Balder, Hod and Hermod and of  Thor, the God of thunder.  (No one seems to be called Hod anymore. I wonder why it has not lasted as a name?)

Odin’s has an eight legged horse called Sleipnir and he is followed where ever he travels by his pet wolves, Freki and Geri. Odin never gets hungry and consumes nothing but wine. ( That’s a surprise.)

Odin also has only one eye, which blazes like the sun. He traded his other eye for a drink from the Well of Wisdom, and gained immense knowledge. He certainly doesn’t sound like the sort of guy you’d want to upset at all, does he, as you’d have to think he’d have be permanently plastered.

His hall is Asgard, hidden up in the clouds where he lords it over his cloudy kingdom while sitting on a  throne called Hlidskjalf. From here he watches all that happens in the nine worlds, including yours (and mine!)   News is brought to him by his two jet black ravens, Huginn and Muninn. Next time you’ve been bad and you hear a couple of crows squarking at you, you’d better watch out … you never know.

Odin also rules over Valhalla, the Hall of Fallen Heroes, where warriors slain in battle are sent to await the Ragnarok, the end of the world, transported there by the Valkyries, blonde battle maidens who are ruled by the goddess, Freya. Hmmmm.

Of the days of the week, Wednesday is named after Odin, or Wodan, as the English called him.

In this picture, Odin, the Wanderer(1886) by  Georg von Rosen, he looks an awful lot like Galdalf.


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Lucky Leif. Famous Vikings

Amerigo Vespucci was an early explorer of the New World, who helped Columbus raise money for his later voyages, and he is primarily remembered because America was supposedly named in his honour after his first name.  What utter rubbish. Who would name a continent after the first name of a navigator who went there  five years after Columbus?  How likely is that?

We all know that Viking, Leif Erikson, son of Erik the Red, discovered Newfoundland in 1000AD. It is recorded in the Icelandic Sagas and evidence of his settlement has been excavated at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, the place Erik called Vinland. What is less well known, and sometimes disputed, is that early explorers knew of a star in the east called La Merica. I bet when they first sailed east and banged into a massive great, green continent beneath that star they immediately named it La Merica.  So which do you think sounds the most likely, Amerigo or La Merica?  What if they’d called Vespucciland. Can you imagine their national anthem now, ‘God bless Vespucciland, land of the free. From the mountains to the prairies… etc.

Now, this has only a little to do with the Viking Quest we are all on in this blog, so back to Leif, or Lucky Leif as he was called. That was until he visited Norway and returned to Greenland having been converted to Christianity and bringing with him a priest. His dad, Erik the Red, was less than impressed, being a traditional, violent, mead-swilling Viking Pagan and against his better judgement, and everyone’s surprise,

let the priest live. His one Christian act, ever, didn’t do him a blind bit of good though.  Erik  wasn’t so lucky and he died a year later.

Compared to many of his blood-thirsty forebears, Leif seems a bit dull, though, on the other hand, he did sail off into unknown, dangerous, wild, uncharted waters with only thirty five crew and went on to discover Baffin Island, Labrador, Canada and America. He lived for another twenty years before he went to Heaven, or Valhalla, depending on how strong his faith was at the end.