Sunday, June 7, 2015

Viking Adventures

Today was a doozy of a day! We donated a Viking-themed adventure to our son's school auction a few months ago, and after obsessing about studying Vikings nightly enough to decide I want to worship Frejya really appreciate and understand 8th-11th century Norse culture, I was so excited to share some of this with thirteen kids for a day.

Our morning began in a picnic shelter at a local seaside park just blocks away from a huge statue of Leif Eriksson (he's sort of a big deal in this Scandinavian part of town).

We shared with the kids that our comrade and fellow Viking Ragnar Hairy Pants (an actual Viking, by the way) had been taken--and likely killed--by the trolls. Sad face. So we needed to have a Viking funeral. (I told them about some of the warm-and-fuzzier points of Viking burial customs but omitted these terrible details.)

I gave each child a few drawings representing items typical of Viking grave goods to put into a cardboard Viking long boat, which we then set on fire. (Boat based on tutorial found here. Thanks, Ikat Bag!)

I left out the horse and the human thralls because yikes, but included the chicken.

The actual one we burned was this ship's fuglier cousin.

It burned really well!
Not only did the trolls kill our friend, but they also took his treasure! Sadder face. We decided that if we were going to have a chance during a raid on the trolls, we needed to be prepared. We needed swords, and shields, and armor. And that's what we did next.

I prepared wooden swords using garden stakes loosely following another great Ikat Bag tutorial (find it here). I used a wood burner to put each child's name on the sword--in Runes. (Long Branch Younger Futhark, to be exactish.) This made the challenge of finding one's sword a little trickier. The kids named their swords (like real Vikings) with such fear-inducing monikers as "Fire Bird", "Phoenix", "Frejya", and "Endeavor" and decorated them accordingly.

We dulled the "blades" by sanding beforehand, which the parents loved but some kids complained about (because they like pain?).

The shields were cut from the sturdy cardboard box from our new hot water heater (spending money on stuff like that is really no fun). I attached a cardboard handle to the back of each using hot glue and edged them with this great foil tape I found in the plumbing section at our local hardware store. For the boss (the typical small dome in the middle of Viking shields) we used circles cut from the same foil tape. (I loosely followed this tutorial.) For cardboard, they held up surprisingly well.

Bonus: We used scented markers. There were a lot of cherry and licorice Vikings out there today!

I'm really bummed I didn't get any pictures of the leather working station I set up for the kids to decorate their own bracers! We had a few Celtic stamps that echoed Viking motifs, a dragon, a lion, and Thor's hammer (mjölnir), plus stars and alphabet stamps they used to decorate the leather. With only one mallet, it was slow-moving, but the kids were patient and no swords were used against one another. I'm counting that as a victory. Then we added laces. One very clever Viking fashioned a belt from her bracer!

Fashionable AND functional.

When all the weaponry was prepared, it was time for some serious berserking! The kids were mostly unbloodied (Kidding! No skin-busting injuries AT ALL! Can you believe it?!) and had some great imaginative and unstructured play time. I wish you could have seen some of the dramatic death scenes.

Berserking: Nothing like twerking.

Next, some games were in order. Viking chess, aka Koob, aka Kubb was the logical next step. The kids did really great learning a new game and practicing sportspersonship (I dunno). More info on how to play this really fun lawn game can be found here. My neighbor is a mensch and when I brought him an 8' scraggly 4"x 4", 1/2' x 4' dowel, and 1.5" x 8' wooden closet rod, he cut them all down to size for me. See? Mensch. (We followed the This Old House tutorial.) Then I sanded and painted them up all pretty to have our very own Koob set for many future parties with the menschy neighbors. 

I used 20-year-old gesso and 24-KARAT-GOLD spray paint. ($6 a can, folks!) I wish I could make that text flash.
I admit, I'm pretty proud of this. And I ain't talking about my deck, either. 

The next game with played was one of strength to counter our previous Kubby game of strategy. Togahönk is a Viking game you probably played as a child if you grew up in the time of ropes as playthings. That's right, good ol' tug-a-hönk:

Did I mention we had beautiful weather?
At the end of the game, we discovered the trolls had left us some messages in Runes back at camp. In order to solve the riddle of the location of Ragnar Hairypants' treasure, the kids had to work very hard to decipher the clues. The first message was waiting for them at the fire pit. They translated the Runes to find the message said:  "Miriam has no clues in her pocket". SURPRISE! The clues *were* in my pocket. That message said: "There are no clues on table". SURPRISE! The next secret message *was* on the table. It said: "Do not look in tree for treasure!" I bet you can't guess where they found the treasure! (Kind of dim-witted trolls, if you ask me.)

The kids found that a mysterious sack was hanging in the trees. We all surrounded the tree together and chanted in Swedish "Stay away, trolls!" (hålla sig borta, troll!)  as we lowered the sack. When we opened it, we found a great surprise! Our missing comrade, Ragnar Hairy Pants, wasn't killed after all.1 As thanks, he gave up his gold to each Viking who helped save him. (The doll was made by the very talented Joyce of Hillcountry Dollmaker back in 2012.)

Ragnar was grateful. Funny: Pants are actually made from wool. HIS PANTS ARE ACTUALLY HAIRY.
Ragnar gave up his gold in gratitude. Treasure is bisque-fired stoneware spray painted gold and sealed with acrylic medium. 

Were we all exhausted by the end of the event? Um yah we were! Did we stop for ice cream on the way home? Heck yes we did! If you made it this far, you deserve some ice cream too!

Hej då, my friends! May Frejya's blessings be upon you!