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Today we go exploring in a completely “Viking” way!
Our first stop is inside the pages of a new favorite for us called Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman.
I think Neil Gaiman is one of the most inventive authors out there. His writing style is simple, he keeps us engaged with every page , every twist and turn, and those incredible scary moments that we know are coming but surprise us every single time. Every tale is unique unto itself regardless of genre. We read Neil Gaiman because we know that every story will be told masterfully.
Today’s story is no different. It is a heartfelt story of a young boy named Odd, which means point in the Norse languages, who has had some very bad luck. His father died during a Viking expedition. His mother is remarried to a man who looks at Odd as an unworthy misfit. Out in the woods a tree falls on Odds leg and shatters it, making him even more a misfit. The winters have come to a unending state and has made not only the people in house grumpy but the villagers at large. Odd, in his frustration decides to leave the house.
While in his father’s workshop cabin, he encounters a fox who persuades him to follow him. As Odd does so he discovers what the fox is wanting to show him, a bear and an Eagle. This motley crew has a very strange story to tell. Such as, they’re actually Norse Gods who have been kicked out of Asgard by the Frost Giants. Not only this but they have been turned into animals. Committed to his new found friends, Odd takes a journey he had never imagined. He is going to save Asgard and return the gods to their proper dwelling place. To restore the gods to Asgard and put an end to the long winter, Odd will have to use all his skills. To do this, he is going to have to outwit the frost giants. Is he clever enough, cheerful to the point of being infuriating enough ? You’ll have to see.
This is an endearing short tale that will have you on the edge of your seat routing for Odd! Grab your copy of Odd and the Frost Giants HERE.
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Today we are going on a field trip! Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live as a Viking ? Well wonder no more. My family is from Sweden from the island of Gotland. Every summer we go to bonafide Viking Camp. A few years ago my son had the most amazing experience. Here’s a look at his adventure back into the Viking Times.
Life in a Viking Village
By Valarie Budayr (as told by her son “O”)
We were just out walking, my mom and I, when we came across an old carved stone. There it was just standing out in the field. “Mom, do you know what this is for?” I asked.
“Well, it is a rune stone placed by a Viking to tell of the heroic deeds of one who died in battle or at sea. It is written in Viking symbols called runes or runic.”
“Can I touch it?” I asked.
“I don’t see why not,” she replied. “It’s been standing here for a thousand years or so and I don’t think you touching it will have any effect.”
It was amazing to feel this old stone. Parts of it were smooth while other parts were carved very deep. As I was tracing the designs of the stone I could smell smoke being blown on the breeze. “Mom, do you smell smoke?”
But my mom wasn’t there. I started running through the field from the direction we came only now there stood a large wooden house. I didn’t remember seeing it before but I was sure my mom had to be in there. As I approached the door I could see blue smoke. What was that? It was very dark in there and all I could make out was a fire and some furniture. Entering the hall, I realized that this was a Viking long house, where the Viking chief and his clan would eat and celebrate. I had read about it in my Viking books. I was the only one in there. Where was my mom?
As I turned to leave, I heard a woman yelling at me from outside. “Boy, boy, come out of there and have something to eat before it’s time to go.” Bounding out of the long house, I asked,” Go where?”
“Well to games school of course,” the voice of the unseen woman answered. “Come and have some barley bread and honey.”
Suddenly, there she was; a very kind looking woman baking bread on a hot iron pan. She was dressed in clothes from a different time period. She wore big brass pins to hold up each side of her dress. On her head she wore a headscarf and turned her bread with wooden spoons. It sure smelled good. I decided to have some and afterwards I would look for my mom again. As I was eating a loud horn was being blown and then loud shouting.
“Invader! An invader! We have a thief amongst us!”
As I turned around, I saw a man running out to the center of the field and someone was chasing him. Soon swords were clashing and shields were being butted against each other and held up to stop the crashing blow from the flying swords. They too were dressed in clothes I had never seen before. It didn’t take long for either one of them to be disarmed. Both were very good swordsmen. The fight wasn’t over, however. Once they were both free of swords and shields they started wrestling. They kept flipping each other until one of them could no longer get up. The men who had been fighting were now lending a helping hand to get up, hugging each other, and laughing. The young woman who had baked my bread was clapping and laughing as well.
I didn’t know what would happen next. It was all so odd. Somehow between the barley bread and the sword fighting I realized that, though I was in the same place, I wasn’t in the same time. Could it be true that I had somehow ended up in a Viking village in Viking times?
The answers to these questions would soon be answered when one of the fighting men grabbed me firmly on the shoulder and asked, “What’s your weapon?”
“Bow” I said.
Laughing loudly, he said, “That will do you from a distance but if you should ever get close to your opponent, he will have the best of you. I’ll see you in the field then young brother and we’ll see what other sports we can teach you.”
Following a group of boys and men, together we arrived at a Games Course. Inside were a variety of games, archery, axe throwing, tug of war and log tossing. As I walked in, there were two people sitting on a log, hitting each other with pillows until one of them fell off. All of the boys around my age were brought into the center of the arena and the men who had been fighting were standing before us.
“Can anyone tell me what this is?” I asked.
“A spear!” came a shout from the back.
“Exactly. Though the spear is very long and many people like to throw it,” answered my companion. “Its real purpose is to be used to stop a horse and rider. Hold the spear against your foot like this. The horse will toss its rider and you will be able to face your opponent.”
Next up was the axe. A Viking always carries a bow, axe, shield and sword.
They even sleep with them near their bed because invaders especially like to come at night. I learned that there are two kinds of swords. The ones the Vikings make themselves, which are very much lighter, and the ones that they acquire on raids. These are heavier metals and have rounded hilts (handles). I also learned that shields are a swordsman’s best friend. There are a couple of ways to use a shield. One use is to join a friend’s shield with yours and hold them together.Another use is to bump into an opponent’s shield, knocking them off balance.
The lessons suddenly turned serious when we came to the topic of chainmail. Only the very rich could afford chainmail as body armor. One piece of chainmail costs about 200,000 dollars. Much of the metal needed is gathered on raids and then re-purposed for chain mail. It is extremely heavy but absolutely protects from a sideways blow of both axe and sword.
“Thank you young brothers,” shouted my companion. “Now it’s time to go off to your other courses. We will see you this afternoon for games practice.” Leaving the games course, we walked into a small wooden village where we were divided into small groups which would rotate through various daily tasks. First it was leather making. Everyone had to make their own shoes. Both men and women make shoes for children but once you are 10 years old, you are expected to make your own.
Each village and clan makes their own beads by melting sand into glass. You can tell where somebody comes from by the beads they are wearing. Bigger villages become trading centers for smaller villages to swap items they have for items they need. Many times beads are used in the exchange. This village has a large assortment of beads from all over the Viking world. I traded a leather purse I had made for the prettiest beads so I could make my mother a necklace.
Another daily task is gathering flax and wool to weave into rugs, blankets, and clothing. Using various flowers and herbs, we made our own dyes to color our newly spun wool. My favorite color is the yellow which comes from dyeing birch bark. An entire small wooden house was made for textiles and weaving.
Among the other houses for doing chores were blacksmithing and iron making, pottery with clay we gather from the sea, wood carving, and the board game house to teach strategy. No matter how many tasks there are to be completed in a day it always comes back to one thing and that is be ready for an attack by raiders.Much time is spent in forging swords, making shields, and bending metal for chainmail. Ironically, I found this to be a peaceful task.
While I would bend the metal from one link to another, I could hear children playing, women talking, and the sound of birds and the breeze blowing in the grass. In the distance is the sound of the sea crashing against the shore. In the late afternoon, when the shadows are getting long, a horn blows in the distance. It’s time to suit up for the afternoon games. It’s a time for much “play” fighting, arrow shooting, axe throwing, wresting, log tossing, and shield butting.
Though our teachers make mock sword fighting look so easy, it is very difficult. At home I can really move my wooden sword around very fast. It’s another story when the sword and helmet are made out of metall. Add chainmail to that and I’m not going anywhere fast. In fact I can barely hold my head up and my shoulder aches to even hold my sword up for more than a couple of seconds.
As I was walking away from the game field, I heard my mother calling me from a distance. “Omi, Omi, …….” I ran towards the end of the village and the sound of her voice. Before getting to the entrance, a hand grabbed my arm. A man with long brown hair said, “Always know where all of the entrances into a village are. Invaders can raid at anytime and you need to be able to escape. Remember, the nearest exit may be behind you. Be well young brother.”
Wow, I didn’t know that was a Viking saying..
I ran through the gate and towards my mother’s voice. When I got through the gate, the village disappeared.
“ Omi, wake up. It’s time to go.” I heard my mom say.
As I opened my eyes, my mother was folding up the picnic blankets next to the Viking stone we had found.
“Come on sleepy head,” she coaxed. “If you don’t wake up now you won’t sleep tonight.”
Walking back to the house I felt something in my pocket. I reached in to feel the beaded necklace I had made for my mom. Had it really been a dream or had it really happened?
P.S. A few summers ago my son and I spent our vacation on the island of Gotland , in Sweden. Everywhere you turn on the island you can find evidence of the Vikings. The largest Viking hordes have been found on Gotland, one in particular was found by a school group touring an old Viking village. We would like to thank Annie and all of our friends at the Tofta Viking Village . They run an incredible program of Viking camps, long house feasts,and sharing their love of the Viking world with us modern people.
**Would you like to enjoy this Visit to a Viking Village adventure in a PDF form? If so, email my Head Elf at Becky (at) AudreyPress (dot) com and she will be happy to get you a copy!
***Does your young reader love books involving Vikings and Norse Gods? If so, check out my “Books Like Percy Jackson” booklist HERE! Happy reading!