On October 3rd, A.S. LV, Æthelmearc lost a beloved subject when Sir Thorgrim Skullsplitter, companion of the Keystone, Sycamore, and Golden Alce, Companion of the Gage and the Millrind, and Knight of the Society, passed away unexpectedly at age 50.
With his lady wife, Mistress Katla Ulfheđin, Sir Thorgrim was the head of Stormhaven, a large and respected household centered primarily in his home Shire of Sunderoak.
He served in many offices, ranging from knight marshal, seneschal, and chatelaine of his shire, to Regional Commander of the Æthelmearc army and Kingdom Youth Marshal. Along the way, he autocratted a number of events including the Æthelwald Proving Grounds, and was active in many arts and sciences, like brewing, leatherwork, woodwork, and armoring.
Sir Thorgrim believed that to be a knight is to be more than simply a good fighter. In an interview in A.S. 50 for a Gazette article about knighthood, he said, “The Knightly Virtues align well with the Boy Scouts’ creed, which I very much hold to. Prowess is not as important as being a good person. Without those other virtues, a fighter is just another thug.”
Sir Thorgrim also emphasized the importance of service and relationships in the SCA. “At one point I trained with fighters who had prowess as their goal, but over time I found that service to the fighting community was a better path for me.”
Initially, Sir Thorgrim was squired to Duke Rurik Longsword, from whom he learned most of his fighting technique. Later, he was squired to Sir Kadan Chákhilgan Ger on Echen, who he said helped him to have the right attitude.
Sir Kadan recounted this story about his former squire: “He was a good student and had improved to the point where he was being discussed by the order of the Chivalry. He had a lot of support from my brothers in the order at one point, but I spoke up saying that I I thought he needed a little more work and training and was not yet ready.
You can’t make a statement like that in an order meeting without taking action; I needed to have “the talk” with Thorgrim. It was one of the most difficult conversations I have ever had in my life. I said I thought him a knight in every way save prowess, and even there he was so, so close. I told him I wanted him to take that one final step. I know that was hard for him to hear but all he did was take a deep breath and say “So what do we need to do to make that happen.” He took my advice to heart, ramped up his training and put it into practice quickly. His skill exploded to the point of being way past my own. There was a stretch of about eight months where Thorgrim placed in the the final four or the top two in every tournament he entered.
On the day of his knighting, I hugged him and told him that I could not be prouder of him. He and I never spoke about that conversation again except once, about seven years after his knighting. I apologized for having said what I said, and I told him that the previous years and hindsight had shown me that I was wrong. He was ready and I didn’t see it. I wanted to let him know that I recognized my mistake. All he did was smile and say “Oh that’s OK boss, that lit a fire under my ass so I don’t hold it against you.”
Mistress Aleea Baga, wife of Sir Kadan, commented “I remember how, as any good parent would, he set all of his personal goals aside to take care of his son (Lord Torstein Thorgrimsson) who went to Children’s Hospital with a severe stomach bug, to then find out it was cancer. When his son lost his hair due to chemo, [Thorgrim] shaved his head in solidarity. In 2017, when I was fighting breast cancer, he dyed his hair bright pink for the war that I missed.”
Fortunately, Torstein, now an adult, has been cancer-free for over 15 years.
Sir Thorgrim had many squires, including Lord Titus Marius Caninus, THLord Rhys of Myles End, THLord Garreth Whytbull, Lady Takasukasa Riku, Lord Wolfgar Ronaldson, and Lord Uthred Aet Pyttansburh. Two of his children, Lord Torstein and Lady Runa Thorgrimsdottir were also squired to their father. Lady Runa said “I think my favorite memory is the first time I got to fight side by side with him on the field! I will never forget that feeling of pride cause I got to fight with my dad.” Torstein said, “I’d have to echo that, and just how great of a leader and a knight he was.”
Another of his squires, Oliver Sutton, was knighted at Blackstone Raid last year. Sir Oliver posted this remembrance on his Facebook page:
“Being a great leader isn’t about achievement and it isn’t about having the ability to make snap decisions that are always right. Being a leader is about choosing the best options in front of you and what is best for all of those affected. It is taking and accepting responsibility when you choose poorly. It is about being an exemplar. And being a great leader, ultimately, is about developing new and better leaders.
Being a great father isn’t about just playing ball or making sure the kid knows how to wash dishes and change oil. It’s about showing the child how to love. Teaching empathy and respect. We do that by opening our homes to those in need. We do it by being inclusive. By showing tolerance. We do it in leading by example. We do it by being a shelter from the storm. Being a great father is showing our children how to be great parents.
Being a great teacher isn’t about giving the answers. It isn’t even about showing how to find the answers. It’s about instilling that want to know. It’s about teaching to ask the questions. Sure, the discipline is a part of it. The rules matter. Knowledge is needed. Form, footwork, values, how to tie a knot, which fork to use, the history of a thing…. But being a mentor is the desire to walk a path towards excellence and mastery, all the while developing your student’s desire to walk that path by your side.
Being a giant isn’t about stature.
The lasting effect of Thorgrim isn’t the memories we made with the man, though God I will cherish those…. it will be in the legacy of those he has touched. Those who have grown because of him. Those great leaders, great fathers, and great mentors that saw it and learned it from him. That legacy will ripple down through generation after generation ever widening. Ever teaching. Ever loving.
My Knight. My friend. My brother. You are a giant.”
Mistress Mahin Banu Tabrizi, who says she moved to Æthelmearc at least partly because of Sir Thorgrim and Mistress Katla, commented, “I met Sir Thorgrim before he was a knight, at Landgrab one year when his group was new to the block. Over the next two weeks I was welcomed and shown Æthelmearc hospitality from a household that would soon become my own. Early on, he and his household explained the meaning behind the name. What I found was exactly as described, a haven in the storm.”
Duke Gareth Kincaid posted this to his Facebook page: “Sir Thorgrim was a good friend to me for over 20 years, I thought of him as a brother. We worked together so many years training fighters in Æthelwald. Our households are close like first cousins.
What I have been remembering this week is the honorable man that loved his wife. When you spend time with someone you know which ones have the wandering eye. He never did. It was always all about [Katla]. You could see the joy they had in each others’ presence.
I remember how proud he was of his children and the example he was for them.
I remember how, when my best friend died, Thorgrim and Stormhaven wore black armbands at war that year with us to honor Shane. We will wear ones at the next Pennsic to honor Thorgrim.
There’s no replacement for friends lost, no getting over it, only pain that surrenders to memory and thankfulness for time you were gifted. I will miss him beside me on the battlefield: his wisdom and advice, his strength and loyalty.”
Sir Thorgrim is survived by his wife, Mistress Katla, his children, Erin Gurnsey, Jessica Rose (Ava Thorgrimsdottir), Katryna Marvel (Lady Runa), Ian Reitemeyer (Ragnar Thorgrimsson), and Garrett Gurnsey (Lord Torstein), as well as grandchildren Misty, Scarlette, and Edward.
The family has requested that anyone wishing to honor Sir Thorgrim consider making a memorial contribution to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Free Care Fund, https://www.givetochildrens.org/ freecare.