torvaldrGwendolyn the Graceful, Brehyres, Sylvan Bard, brings us the next Æthelmearc Bardic Profile.

What’s your full SCA name (and anything else you typically use to introduce yourself)?
Hersir (Baron) Torvaldr Torgarson when I am being formal, though I usually just say, “Hi, I’m Torvaldr.”

What attracted you to the bardic arts?
I have always been interested in artistic performances. Even before I found the SCA. I was very involved in band and drama from elementary school up into college. And a huge history and mythology nut as well. The SCA allowed me to combine them all.

How long have you considered yourself a skald?
Probably since the age of about 11 or 12 when I started being active in acting. Initially when I joined the SCA I just used our generic term of bard. Now a days I mostly introduce myself as a skald, but I am not picky about the artistic title and am perfectly happy if someone calls me a bard as opposed to skald. I am 51 now, so pardon me if I don’t do the math to figure out the exact length of time.

What’s your primary form (singer, storyteller, poet, etc.)? Do you play any instruments, and if so, which?
Instrument-wise I played brass though I haven’t played in a couple of decades now. Primarily I consider myself to be a storyteller and poet, though I write songs and sing as much as the other. But I think I am best known for my storytelling. Especially my silly Viking stories. I am also heavily into skaldic verse and have several projects in I am working on combining drottkvaet with physical items such as shields and rune stones.

Where can we find your work?
You can find some of my work on my website, click on the poetry link. Most of that is some of my early work as I was still learning to compose in drottkvaet.

You can find more on the West Kingdom History website here; scroll down to my name, and if you want to see and hear some of my stories you can go to my youtube channel and go to the Viking Home Companion playlist here.

What sorts of pieces do you enjoy producing? What attracts you to that style?
I really enjoy working in drottkvaet skaldic verse, the formal court poetry of the Norse. It is a very rigid style but there are ways to use it less formally as well. Occasional verses – which are usually single stanzas about someone or something that just inspired you. Flokkr – which could have several stanzas and is still considered informal, but could be used if the inspiration that caught you was too much for a single stanza. Then you have the drapa, the full on formal poetry that you would compose and recite in a formal setting such as court or the Jarl’s hall. Add in the heits or kennings, the poetic descriptives used in place of other things and you create not only a story or image, but a riddle as well. The entire world of skaldic verse is fascinating and complex.

Describe a favorite performance of your own in the SCA. What makes it a highlight for you?
It was during one of my performances as the Bard of Cynagua. I was singing the song that I had composed for the final court of the Prince and Princess and I was able to make several people cry. I was very proud of being able to convey all the emotion I was feeling myself. That is always my goal. I want my audience to see and feel everything that I am seeing and feeling as well.

Describe a performance by someone else that inspired you in the bardic arts. How did that performance guide you to improve your own art? What did it prompt you to do?
It was a performance by Mistress Siobhan the Fiddler. She wrote a song as a gift to the Principality of Cynagua called Black Swan Rising. It pulled up all the love and pride I had for my principality and its people. You get caught between wanting to cheer, cry, or kill something!

What projects are you working on now?
Several. I have a self-torture project that may never get done. I have been transposing the Saga of Beowulf into drottkvaet skaldic verse. It is my belief that the Story of Beowulf is much older than the Saga, and not of Anglo/Saxon origin. So I have been transposing it into a Norse poetry form. Drottkvaet would not have been the form used for a saga like this, but I am taking a few liberties. By composing and performing the story in drottkvaet I am intimating that the audience (presumably a Norse noble or royal) is as great a hero as Beowulf.

I have been recently inspired by an old Norse custom of gift giving. It was customary when giving a gift to someone that a return gift would be given. If it was between people of an equal status then the return gift would be of a similar value. When from a higher rank person to a lower rank the return gift would not generally be a physical object, but friendship, loyalty, and support instead. But when the gift was given to a skald the rules changed. The skald was expected to present the gift giver with a poem written about them and/or the gift. The most famous example of this is Ragnarsdrapa written by Braggi Boddason the Old. It was a poem written about a very expensive shield that King Ragnar had given to Braggi. So Braggi wrote a drottkvaet drapa about the shield with a stanza describing each of the various fittings on the shield that reminded him of different mythological references.

So what I have been doing is creating shields with Norse imagery on them and then writing drottkvaet drapas about them. I have 3 so far. Eventually I want to start giving them away as gifts. Both the shields and the poems. I have several planned for friends.

Along those same lines I have also started making rune stones that would have imagery and poetry on them. I have completed 2 of those so far. With a third in the works.

Who are some of your favorite influences, either for your own research and composition, or for performing within the SCA?
I am inspired all the time by other people in the SCA. Those who struggle as well as those who achieve. I have always felt a bard’s/skald’s place was not only to record and/or praise what has been done, but to encourage people to keep trying when they fail. To lift people when they are down and bring them a little joy. Words are powerful, far more than many people realize. And sometimes it is easier for someone to hear the meaning when those words are in an artistic performance.

What other types of performance do you particularly love to see/hear?
I enjoy nearly all other forms of artistic performances. There are very few that I do not care for. Even ones done in a language that I can’t understand can still be enjoyable if the performer brings the right emotion to the performance.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to be a bard?
Perform. Perform often. Practice and pay attention to the details. Then perform some more. There is no substitution for live performance. The more you perform the better you will get. It is no different than fighting. The more you practice and fight, the better warrior you become. The more you practice and perform the better bard you will be. And don’t be shy. There will generally be people around who you can ask for help or advice. Ask them.

A Sample of Torvaldr’s work:

War Song for Aethelmearc

by Hersir Torvaldr Torgarson

on the occasion of Arnthor’s knighting
May 16th, 2015
At Aethelmearc War Practice
Coopers Lake Campground
Written in 9th Century Drottkvaet drapa

Hear heroes and people
hardy of Æthelmearc!
Before you comes brave and
bold Arnthor inn Sterki!
Valkyries vie for his
victory and glory
in war, to waylay
wastrels lost before him.

Thunder thrums across by
Thor’s will, ever hunting
jotun’s bane, boldly strokes
blazing spears from heaven.

War wise thane, the battle
warden races ahead
his courage to claim first
clash of the Valkyrie.
Seeking serpents bent on
seeping into kingdom
well loved.
Lords praise him and
ladies sing of his glory!
White horse, winter foal, bears
warriors to honor.
Singing death and dealing
danger to the haughty.
Border lords brav’ly watch
beating hearts so proudly,
Arnthor open hearted
ever to the many.
Doubt not his daring lest
death be thy wyrd.
Flee should sharpened war tooth flow,
shower milk of corpses.
On the fields fierce yet his
friendship even greater,
blesse’d are the bonds now
between the fortunate.

Thunder thrums across by
Thor’s will, ever hunting
jotun’s bane, boldly strokes
blazing spears from heaven.

Praise him people of the
Proud lands of Æthelmearc!
Praise his deeds and daring
dancing to your glory!
Praise the power raised to
protect the realm beloved!
Praise him now and never
need to doubt his honor!