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Monday, August 6, 2012

Rig's Favorite Things

My French was really put to the test -- especially with all the technical terms that I never needed in school, but I got better at talking around the subject and waiting for the visitors to clue in and give me the word I needed.  Generally the visitors with the greatest interest had at least a smattering of English.  The one exception was a boy about 12 years old who stayed to learn how to play Hnefatafl with me while his parents went on to look at the weaving.  I explained the rules as best I could and I thought I had done fairly well.  He was playing the king, and although he lost men rapidly, he got his king out and moving and was doing well.  In fact, there were two points where he had me beat, but then didn't make the move to the corner to finish me off.  It wasn't until his mother returned that I found out that my instructions had lost something in translation -- instead of the king needing to move to the corner, he had thought the king was not allowed to move to the corner.  I have no idea what he thought the goal of the game was previously, but with the correct instructions, he did go on to win the game.

It was really great that we had so many children along this time. My four year old son Emundr spent most of his time running around with his cousin, but every day he would come over to where I was working on my shaving bench and ask for some songs and stories.  His favorite was "the Norse Kings sagas", my adaptation of chapters 16 to 25 of Snorre Sturlasson's Ynglinga Saga.  He'd curl up on my lap to listen and criticize me if I didn't sing the song or tell the accompanying stories in just the "right" way.

Before letting the younger visitors try using the drawknife on the shaving bench, they always got a quick lecture on how to handle knives so I could explain how a drawknife was different.  "Always cut away from you," I'd tell them, "and make sure the knife is pointed away from you palm when you pass a knife handle first to someone else."  On our second day, those instructions got a laugh from the parent -- the boy had spent the day before at the hospital having stabbed himself in the leg while whittling towards himself.  A few days later one of the fathers showed off an ugly scar on his hand from handing a knife to his brother the wrong way.  It's always great getting more anecdotes to add to my cautionary tool kit.

It was always interesting when I got challenging questions from visitors. Twice I had people come up to me and say, "Tell me what you know about norse music", and then actually stick around for the hour or more it took me to summarize my research from the last 15 years.  Last time out in 2010 I stuck to the 3-4 pieces of music that could be argued as being period;  this time I branched out to include a few of my own compositions that I had created based on texts from the sagas using melodies that closely resembled the old examples.  I'm still working on my pronunciation, but I had the one compliment of a Norweigian gentleman who said he actually understood some of what I was singing.

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