Today on The Tattooed Book Geek I am pleased to be taking part in the blog tour for A Sacred Storm (The Wanderer Chronicles) by Theodore Brun with a guest post courtesy of the author himself where he looks at: Northernness: A Comeback?
It is a really interesting topic for a guest post and a fantastic read and I hope that you will give it a look and also checkout the other great blogs along the tour too.
Massive thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the blog tour, Corvus books and also Theodore Brun for both writing the book and writing this guest post.
Northernness: A Comeback?
By Theodore Brun
Author of A Sacred Storm
Out June 7th
Northernness is on the rise.
In movies, TV, historical and fantasy fiction, radio, opera, travel, even cookbooks. Once you know what you’re looking for, suddenly it seems to be everywhere.
Over the last eight years, millions have become obsessed with the North in Game of Thrones. “Winter is coming” is surely the catchphrase of the decade.
Millions more remain glued to the Vikings TV show, now into its sixth series. Then we have The Last Kingdom, Hollywood blockbusters like Thor: Ragnarok; and in the literary world, Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, the peerless Viking trilogies of Giles Kristian or Justin Hill’s masterpiece, Viking Fire. Go a little further back, you could chuck in the Lord of the Rings movies and a whole host of fantasy fiction that has grown out of Tolkein’s original little book, The Hobbit.
Cast the net wider still and you might include more modern tales found in Scandi Noir thrillers, both on the page and on the screen: Jo Nesbo, Michael Ridpath, Stieg Larsson and the like. You could even throw in the Nordic concepts of ‘hygge’ and ‘lykke’ if you were feeling really generous.
The common thread that runs through all of this is, in my opinion, “Northernness”.
But what is Northernness exactly? And what is its appeal?
The term was coined by C.S. Lewis in his autobiography, Surprised by Joy. In that book, he describes being overwhelmed by a powerful sensation when he read the words, “Siegfried and the Twilight of the Gods” in a literary catalogue. Even knowing nothing about it, he said that at the moment of reading those words, “Pure northernness engulfed me: a vision of huge, clear spaces hanging above the Atlantic in the endless twilight of Northern summer, remoteness, severity…”
Giles Kristian, bestselling author of the Raven and Rise of Sigurd series, describes Northernness in similar terms. “I think of grey cliffs and slate grey skies, heath and open, wind-scoured spaces. I see big, pale, open faces and weathered hands, hear abrasive language and forthrightness.”
Justin Hill, author of the lyrical epic, Viking Fire, recalls one of his strongest experiences of it came after a rugby match: “looking up at the sky, and seeing looming, low grey clouds skudding over the York skyline. The sky seemed all at once grim, foreboding and powerful, and had a profound effect on me…”
You get the picture. It’s something deep and evocative that touches both the senses and the soul.
CS Lewis wrote that he immediately connected this momentary experience with the elusive “Joy”, the pursuit of which, he says, was the defining quest of his life, which was continually escaping him, leaving in its wake an “unendurable sense of desire and loss.”
I think this gives some clue to the appeal of Northernness, and – I would argue –why it keeps coming back again and again through every strata of culture, high and low. From Wagner’s operas to Marvel Comics and everything in between. (CBeebies, I’m even looking at you.)
Who can think of George RR Martin’s “Wall” and not be engulfed by pure Northernness?
The question that intrigues me is this: why does Northernness seem to be making a comeback now? It has always been a powerful idea, but it hasn’t always been popular.
Taken the way CS Lewis meant it, Northernness is an evocation of something magical, even numinous. A splinter of joy that pierces our imaginations, maybe even our souls, only to slip away again. It stirs something within us which, in some cases, transcends into something almost spiritual. Hill remembers of his experience, “As my hair blew, I felt I was in the presence of what previous ages would have called the divine.”
It’s not, however, about religious beliefs. It’s not about the paganism of Northern Europe’s pre-Christian days, although that might be a common portal for it. But the cultural appeal of Northernness spans a demographic miles broader than those people drawn by this feeling into a belief in the Norse gods.
Indeed, Northernness can lead in quite opposite directions too. CS Lewis’ quest for “joy” led him through Northernness and onwards, until he eventually found the answer to his personal problem of that ever elusive “joy” in the Christian faith.
But most of us don’t go so far in that direction either.
Perhaps we are living in a post-Christian and now even a post-atheist age – in which we are more open to spiritual experiences that touch us, whichever quarter they come from.
Or, maybe it’s an accident of geography. As Hill puts it, “Northernness comes out of the landscape and the northern experience of cold and gloom.” If I were being fanciful, I might suggest that something resonates within us because, for our ancestors, the world of “Old Europe” – with its wild landscapes, its stories, its rituals and beliefs – formed the essence of their lives, and that essence now echoes down to us through our blood. If that might be true of Native Americans, say, and their bond with their ancestral landscapes, then why not for Northern Europeans also? And yet, the appeal of the Northernness seems to break the confines of mere ethnicity as well.
So what’s the answer?
For Kristian, it’s something less esoteric than what I’ve suggested. “The idea of the north has come to be associated with the idea of honesty and plain-speaking.” This, in contrast with the duplicity and intrigue of the south (if we’re referencing Game of Thrones again, or the Byzantine world on which GRRM’s south is modeled). Clearly, the positive side of that contrast has some appeal.
But probably – as my wife often tells me – I’m over-thinking this.
“You know nothing, Jon Snow.”
For a lot of people the appeal of the North could simply be that they love a bit of “swords and splatter”. Certainly the body count in any Viking tale can be extremely high (my own stories not excepted). Even so, I suppose I’d prefer think both viewers and readers are not quite so basic, or so brutal.
Instead, I’d like to think that the images and stories that provoke experiences of “Northernness” linger with us because they crack open a powerful portal, through which we experience “Joy”, as CS Lewis would have defined it. An echo, a reminder of something, grains of sand slipping through our fingers, forever elusive… but no less real for that.
A Sacred Storm (The Wanderer Chronicles).
Forged in fire. Bound by honour. Haunted by loss.
8th Century Sweden: Erlan Aurvandil, a Viking outlander, has pledged his sword to Sviggar Ivarsson, King of the Sveärs, and sworn enemy of the Danish king Harald Wartooth. But Wartooth, hungry for power, is stirring violence in the borderlands. As the fires of this ancient feud are reignited Erlan is bound by honour and oath to stand with King Sviggar.
But, unbeknownst to the old King his daughter, Princess Lilla, has fallen under Erlan’s spell. As the armies gather Erlan and Lilla must choose between their duty to Sviggar and their love for each other.
Blooded young, betrayed often, Erlan is no stranger to battle. And hidden in the shadows, there are always those determined to bring about the maelstrom of war…
Purchase A Sacred Storm (released 7th june, 2018.
About Theodore Brun.
(author picture and biography is taken from his author website)
Theo is an established author and public speaker.
At Cambridge, he studied Dark Age archaeology (amongst other things), graduating with a BA in Archaeology and Anthropology and an MPhil in History. After university he trained as a solicitor, qualifying into the area of arbitration law where he worked for several years, including for two Magic Circle firms. His career took him first to London, then to Moscow, Paris and finally Hong Kong.
However, in 2010, disenchanted with the law and with the germ of an idea for a series of novels already in his head, he quit his job in Hong Kong, jumped on a bicycle and pedalled 10,685 miles across Asia and Europe to his home in Norfolk. At this point he sat down in a spider-infested cottage to write the first volume in his epic historical fiction series, the Wanderer Chronicles. Four years later, A Mighty Dawn was published by Corvus Atlantic. Its sequel, A Sacred Storm, is due for release in July 2018.
Theo is a third generation Viking immigrant, his Danish grandfather having settled in England in 1932. One could say Viking stories are in his blood. They did also form a small part of his degree, but the truth is they only came alive for him through the discovery of Wagner’s Ring Cycle when he was studying for his law exams. Through this unlikely portal, Theo discovered the hoard of stories from the old Scandinavian and Germanic worlds which underlie many of the works of authors like Tolkein, CS Lewis, George RR Martin, Neil Gaiman, Giles Kristian and Bernard Cornwell to name a few. It was this material that provided the inspiration for the first two novels in his Wanderer Chronicles series.
Besides writing, Theo is also an acclaimed speaker and has presented to a wide variety of audiences about his epic bike journey and about creative writing, as well as inspiring young people to dream big and pursue their passions.
Theo is married to Natasha. They live in London together with Natasha’s daughter, Ella, their baby girl, Talitha, and an unruly dog named Wilmo.
Theodore Brun can be found:
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