Well, Winter is here, and though it's been quite mild so far in our neck of the woods, there's a blizzard warning of some sort for the whole Northeast this weekend. Which reminded me. I have long meant to do a blog post about ice grendels. What ARE ice grendels, you ask? Answer: You tell me! *grin* We made them up.
These beasties get only a few, ominous passing mentions in Jake & The Giant, which of course was heavily inspired by Norse mythology. That seems like an appropriate topic, especially at this snowy time of year. From Odin, Thor and Loki to the frost giants and the---oops, I'd better not give away any spoilers, for those who haven't read it yet!
In any case, the research for our novels is one of the most rewarding and fascinating parts of the writing journey, and for my part, I found myself getting totally absorbed in reading translations of the ancient Norse sagas and listening to clips of readings in the original tongue when they are available. They are gripping, with all sorts of story- lines ranging from high adventure to war tales to comedy to horror to paranormal to romance to psychological suspense and family drama. But what strikes me most is the raw power of the language and mesmerizing rhythms of the ancient poetry. You can just imagine yourself among the Vikings sitting around a roaring fire in a frozen landscape, listening on the edge of your seat to the tribe's bard or volva (a seeress) share a poem, song, or tale.
Here's a short reading from the great work of Viking literature, the Poetic Edda, and how it might have sounded being performed in a great hall of a Viking chief. Have a listen...
Along with the Poetic Edda, there is a somewhat less ancient version, the Prose Edda, by the 13th century writer, historian, and politician, Snorri Sturluson of Iceland. Some call that Snorri the Scandinavian Shakespeare (though he was medieval, not Renaissance, and didn't write plays). His massive Prose Edda is another main treasure of Scandinavian culture, and yes, we did name our dull-witted but good-hearted giant Snorri after him, affectionately. Some of the Prose Edda's passages prove the man had a sense of humor and made us feel he wouldn't have minded having a character named after him 800+ years after he lived on earth.
But what does all this have to do with ice grendels? Well, as you probably know, the Vikings had a huge influence on the cultures of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and thus on all the cultures they, in turn, eventually gave birth to, like our own. Norse culture also clearly inspired our oldest surviving long poem in Old English -- and if you said BEOWULF, you get a gold star! Beowulf's story is even set in Scandinavia. Beowulf is a mighty wandering hero who comes to the aid of King Hrothgar of the Danes, who, along with his people, is being stalked and tormented by the monster, Grendel, and his mama.
What drove me nuts the first time I read Beowulf was that you get thru the whole story and the author (who is anonymous, by the way) never tells you WHAT GRENDEL LOOKS LIKE. It's just like a typical monster movie of today where they torment you with brief glimpses of the creature, but you never really get to see it until maybe the end -- if you're lucky! And then it's usually a letdown, lol. Anyway, since the original Grendel was never really described -- dragon? Yeti? Demon? It could be anything! -- I thought it would be kinda funny to let YOU, the reader, decide for yourself what ice grendels lurking in the far north lands might look like. Now that Jake & the Giant has been out for a while, though, here's what I think they might sort of look like. But if you prefer to think of them as a yeti sort of thing, we're good with that, too! :)
Have you ever made up a monster for a project or Halloween costume? Tell us about it below! :)