osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,

My storytelling experiment at Battle on the Bay

Last weekend was the Storvik event Battle on the Bay. It's local and a camping event and I was free that weekend due to my withdrawal from an academic conference (I had failed to get my paper done, which is rather disappointing). Rivka wasn;t feeling up to camping that weekend so she and Aaron stayed home while I went to the event.

I tried two experiments at the event. The first, based on a conversation I had with Scholastica (the current Atalntian Royal Bard) about trying to build a space for long-form storytelling, was to issue a story-telling challenge. The second, inspired by fianaclare's "Ieasu Odinson" stories, was an attempt to translate a bible story to a viking paradigm.

The first experiment was very successful, the second is definitely a work in progress and I'm not sure if I am up to it.

Experiment 1: The Challenge.

First, the challenge. I decied it would be good to offer a longform storytelling challenge. I first recruited Scholastica to judge and help plot. then I recruited Teleri the Well-Prepared (an excellent poet and storyteller as well as Storvik baronial bard), and Master Igor of Clan Cambion (another excellent storyteller) to participate. With these two, I knew I had storytellers who could tell a 15-20 minute story and not bore the audience to tears (one thing Scholastica and I worried about is that, in an open competition, you may well get someone who is a crashing bore. If I ever do this again at a larger event I think I will do a "qualifying round" of 5-7 minute stories first.)

Later, when I saw on Facebook that Rhudri An Cou was coming, I recruited him as well. that gave us a good base in addition to anyone we might pick up.

The event had a Viking-themed A&S challenge and ransome tourney. For the A&S ransome challenge, the winner got to take home all the other entries. For the ransome tourney, each fighter was supposed to put up some small value item, with the winner taking all. I decided to emulate this by offering a prize and encouraging others to match (but not requiring it). I selected a pottery cup I have with a rendeer motif that I think I won some years back in a bardic competition (as Lord knows I would never have bought it), and a small necklace I have that is a replica of an item taken from a Saxon horde.

I opted not to require documentation, in order to facilitate last minute entry. The entries were encouraged, but not required, to be related to the Viking theme of the event.

Friday night was a scheduled Viking Boasting for the participants to come to the fire and brag of the great deeds they would do the next day and engage in ritual insults with their opponents. As I adivsed Igor and Teleri, my title "Mar" (the Hebrew word for 'Lord') also means "bitter," lending itself to good insults.

When arrangements were settled I double checked with the autocrat who embraced the challenge enthusiastically.

I publicized the challenge on Facebook and in various eectronic fora a week before the event.

Experiment 2: The blood Feud of Jacob and Esau

I've enjoyed Fiana taking Christian stories and puting them in a Norse mode, in which Jesus becomes Ieasu, the son of Odin. I decided it would be a fun challenge to myself to try to do the same with an Old Testement story.

It seemed to me that the story of Jacob and Esau could be shifted, with some work, to a story about a blood feud between two powerful clans. My initial inspiration was to try to tell the story of how the feud ended. The basic story is in Gen. 32-33. I had long conversations with both Fiana and Toki Redbeard to get necessary background and occassional answers to my questions.

The exercise turned out to be much more dfficult than I had anticipated, and as usual I was far more busy than I expected and did not have nearly enough prep time. For background, I ended up going all the way back to Avraham, who was now a great warleader and Gothi, who went Viking to the land of Cana'an, a land of Skrealings fit only for thralls. The Covenant of the Parts became an adoption ceremony where Odin adopted Abraham (changing his name to make him "Father of Nations" after the Allfather) and gave Abraham a great silver neck ring. The idea being that the neck ring symbolized the birthright and would be passed down.

Certain traditional virtues associated with Abraham, such as hospitality, also translate into Viking virtues.

Isaac inherits the neck ring and Abraham sends his sworn man Eliezar back to his clan to fetch a suitable bride, as the Canaanites are a slave race fit only to raid and in no way fit for true marriage. Great the bride price paid by Abraham. Eliezar bring back Rebecca, in whom is the spirit of Frigga. When she enters te tent of Isaac the candles and the fire on the hearth -- dim since the death of Sarah -- burst into flame in welcome. The kneading trough is blessed and flour for one loaf makes 7 loaves in Rebecca's hands. Rebecca also has the power of prophecy (Frigga is the goddes of prophecy in addition to being the goddes of the home and domesticity).

But Rebecca is barren. Isaac and Rebecca each pray for a son. Odin hears them both and sends two sons. One is a warrior born, covered with hair. A beserk and a great war captain. He is named Esau and is beloved of his father Isaac. The other is cunning, learned in lore and and the law. He is named Jacob, beloved of his mother Rebeccah. Rebeccah has a prophecy that Jacob should be the next Gothi and recieve the neck ring.

As the boys grow older they despise each other, but keep peace for the sake of family. One day, as Jacob prepares himself a dish of lentils, Esau bursts in. He was hunting with Nimrod, the great King and a mighty hunter before Odin. By accident he slew Nimrod, and now Nimrod's kin want revenege. Esau begs Jacob, learned in the law and gifted in words, to speak for him to Nimrod's clan and get them to accept a wereguild rather than vengance and feud.

Jaccob agrees, on condition that Esau will sell him the birthright and waive his claim to the neck ring. Esau agrees and they seal the deal by eating the lentils together.Jacob persuades Nimrod's sons to take wereguild and the matter is setted.

As the years go by, Esau becomes a great war captain. He scoffs at the claim he sold his birthright and mocks his brother. "He is a man who sits in tents. He claims he studies the law and the lore, but he is simply lazy. Would anyone learned in the law make such a bragain with no wtinesses but lentils? He is not only lazy but a liar. His cheeks are smooth, like a woman's, and like a woman he sits in his hall while real men go forth and fight."

Jacob is enraged. "I had no witness to save my brother's shame. For he was a coward. Weeping and crying like a baby in fear of his life from the brave sons of Nimrod! They say he is hairy as a bear. And so say all the bears, for when the moon is full he goes to the forest where the bears use him as a woman. Esau marries these Cananite women, these skrealings fit only for thralls, for no true woman will have him."

Isaac, thinking himself cloe to death, tells Esau he will give him the neck ring nd make him Gothi. Rebecca hears this and warns Jacob, she remind him of the prophecy that Jacob should be heir. Jacob therefore resolves to take the neck ring by guile. He disguises himself as Esau and gets the neck ring and the blessing of Isaac. After Jacob departs, Esau returns with food for his father and discovers the theft. Esau vows to wait until his father dies, then he will take revenge. Rebecca therefore sends Jacob to her brother, Laban, ostensibly so he may find a wife worthy of him.

20 years later, Jacob returns. He is grown wealthy with succesful trading and because of his cunning and wordskill. Odin tells him to return to Cana'an and make peace with his brother. Jacob sends a message to Esau that they should attend the Thing and have the matter judged between them To sweeten the deal, Jacob sends flocks of goats and sheep and cattle to pledge as a fine and payment. Esau arrives with a warband of 400 men. The Thing will start tomorrow. Jacob invites Esau to settle the matter with him before Odin by coming alone to the sacred place of their family. There they will negotiate a settlement and have it accepted by the Thing. Esau agrees.

At night, Jacob goes to the sacred place where he and his fathers have sacrificed to Odin and prays. When he has finished, Esau arrives. Esau sees the neck ring on Jacob and is enraged. He goes beserk and transforms into a bear. He and Jacob wrestle. Esau tries to bite Jacob's neck, and shatters his teeth on the silver neck ring. Jacob wrestles Esau to the ground and makes him swear by Odin in this sacred place that he will accept Jacob as heir. Esau at first refuses and twists Jacob's thigh, but Jacob holds firm. He warns Esau that when the Sun rises he will no longer be a werebear and Jacob will break his neck if Esau refuses to swear.

At that point the Allfather himself appears. He takes Jacob as heir to Isaac and gives him the Title Yisroel, meaning "the chosen of the gods who prevails." He promises to Esau a possession of his own. The Allfather departs, as do Jacob and Esau.

The next day, at the Thing, Esau and Jacob detail the settlement dictated by Odin. Still Esau tries to boast that he was the true victor in their wrestling match, for you can see ow Jacob limps in pain. Jacob relies that if Esau won, let him smile now befoe the Thing. Esau at last learns to respect his brother and they part in peace.

(how the experiment turned out next report)


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