I don’t live in the past—I only visit—and so can you!

Archive for August, 2022


I am no linguist. I am familiar with French and have translated books for my own use. I am conversant with Latin and several other archaic languages. But I am no Jackson Crawford by any stretch of the imagination.

This makes it very strange that I am fascinated by translations. Especially modern translations of words that were not use during the time. One is the word “tattoo” that was not created until the eighteenth century and is one of only a few words in English descended from a Polynesian word.

Another is plague, which descends from Latin.

Plague today has a specific meaning. At least in popular thought. It references to the Bubonic Plague, the Black Death, The Great Dying. Actually the term was not born until the fourteenth century. The Online Etymology Web page gives this source:

late 14c., plage, "affliction, calamity, evil, scourge, severe trouble or vexation;" early 15c., "malignant disease," from Old French plage (14c., Modern French plaie), from Late Latin plaga "affliction; slaughter, destruction," used in Vulgate for "pestilence," from Latin plaga "stroke, wound," probably from root of plangere "to strike, lament (by beating the breast)," from or cognate with Greek (Doric) plaga "blow" (from PIE root *plak- (2) "to strike").

In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the year 664 tell us:

Her sunne aþeostrode, & Earkenbriht Cantwara cing forðferde, & Colman mid his geferum for to his cyþþe. & þy ilcan geare wæs mycel mancwealm, & Ceadda & Wilferð wæron gehadode, & þy ilcan geare Deusdedit forðferde.

which is translated as:

This year the sun was eclipsed, on the eleventh of May; and Erkenbert, King of Kent, having died, Egbert his son succeeded to the kingdom. Colman with his companions this year returned to his own country. This same year there was a great plague in the island Britain, in which died Bishop Tuda, who was buried at Wayleigh—Chad and Wilferth were consecrated—And Archbishop Deus-dedit died.

The term “mancwealm” or “man-cwalm” depending on the transliteration) may be translated as “plague,” but we have already noted that it does not since that definition was not known at the time. Rather, Christopher Grein in his Handy Anglo-Saxon Dictionary define it as “destruction” or “death,” which is similar to Plague but not the only definition. And certainly not will be in the casual reader’s mind when it is read!

How many modern translations are similar? This is an example of why the translation should not be accepted by the reader without further research. For many years, I have had a habit to place the untranslated text next to the translated, and that will give a good idea of how faithful the translation is! That is something I recommend to anyone dealing with a translated text!

New 2022 Edition of MEDIEVAL MOVIES uploaded

The new edition of _Films of the Viking Ages_ has been uploaded to Academia at https://www.academia.edu/85632130/2022_Edition_Medieval_Movies_Films_of_the_Viking_Age


Look at yourself in a mirror and fill out this checklist. Give yourself a checkmark for everything you see.


If you have one to 48 points, you are a farb.

Note that if a piece of farb is concealed from the public and only brought out during an emergency, that is acceptable. We could have added in things such as lamellar armor, ancient Roman jewelry, Gotlandic box brooch and the like, but we have evidence that some were used by the Norse but that they were not available in vast quantities, so their farbiness is dependent on how many you have!


Updating and correcting “Medieval Movies: Films of the Viking Era,” to include films released since the last edition. And discovered there were many other films as well…

I’ll be posting comments on some of the ones not covered before for the next month!

Ragnarok (2018)

The description makes it sound as if this was a science-fiction end o the world film. It is instead a film set in the world of Norse fantasy, using the horse we saw in the opening credit of “Deadwood.” Costuming is not accurate for the most part, including tall swashbuckler boots, and they use out of period armor. The scenery is quite attractive and not cluttered with modern cinematic interpretation of stone castles, and the music was and appropriately dirgelike. Very stylish and effective and proves you do not have to have expensive CGI. Incredibly bloody, but what more do you want for the end of the world? At least they have beautiful fur cloaks!

Ragnarok (2013)

aka Gåten Ragnarok

An amusing film about the end of the world, as they all are. The historical segments are dark, which seem to help disguise any inaccuracies. At least it has nice fury cloaks! Nice modern shots in the Oslo Vikingship Museum, and it has some very nice incidental shots of period objects, so actually there is no reason not to make certain items in the medieval sections, Science-fiction fans care about nothing more than the science fiction, which is based on tropes found in the literature before but which is very well done here, but anyone interested in the medieval Norse culture will not care that this is not Star Wars! At least the CGI might be good enough for them. It captures the obsession perfectly! The main character excitedly saying to his son, “Here s where Vikings walked a thousand years ago/; sums it all up so well! Not much to research, but it tells you so much about the process and about your obsession. With a few melodramatic thrills and comments on Nighthawkers along the way! And shows how resourceful and courageous archaeologists are!

Thor (1962)

Long considered lost, though there are rumors of pirated copies. The clip on a Youtube review of the 1990 “Captain America” is actually from the Hulk television show. If anyone discovers a copy, please let me know!

Almighty Thor (2011)

aka El todopoderoso Thor aka Thor – Der Allmächtige

Bad costuming, bad rip-off of a Marvel film, bad CGI…but at least you can see Thor use an uzi!

Ceremony of Innocence, The (1970)

Filmed for an NET television show. Simple costuming. Much seems accurate, though the use of broad-brimmed hats is more from later times, belts are much wider than they actually were, shoes are welted and cloaks, of course, are fur. And there is a dialog about how no man had ever sailed west and returned, when Iceland had been settled more than two centuries before, Greenland had been encountered close to a century before (and offered tusks, furs and more for trade) and Vinland was known well by this time. This was apparently a nod at Washington Irving’s invented ignorance. Most of the scenes are close-up, since the makers’ focus is on the brilliant, biting dialog—and a plot that deals with aspects of British history that are usually ignored—and not on how the film is being recorded. Yet the props are very satisfying, and the few “open” shots are very satisfying. An anonymous reviewer notes, “No other play better reflects the moral ambiguity of war than Ribman’s “Ceremony of Innocence.” The drama of why we fight and why we cannot stop fighting is painfully depicted.” Simple and effective, with no explosive special effects and no brutal violence but brilliant composition and lighting. Probably done fairly inexpensively, which indicates you do not need to heap money on a film project to make it be recommended by the any but the witless among us! Currently at the Library of Congress but unavailable for streaming; I had to find a DVD that had been withdrawn from a library. However you can obtain it, jump to it if you can!

Editorial Note

This has been the last of the new films. For them and much more, I will be downloading the book to Academia very soon and will tell folks where to see it!


Updating and correcting “Medieval Movies: Films of the Viking Era,” to include films released since the last edition. And discovered there were many other films as well…

I’ll be posting comments on some of the ones not covered before for the next month!

Olav (2021) (tv series)

A strange, delightful and effective mixture of modern and medieval, where Kristofer Hivju in modern day searches for him in the twenty-first century while there are segments from the eleventh. A portrayal and search for one of the greatest Norwegian heroes and allegedly Hijvu’s great hero. Costuming is mostly accurate, though the cloaks tend to be fur. The CGI is simple but more effective than many other productions. But so well detailing the man and the search that you do not really notice any errors. Combat scenes show that you can do very effective combat scenes without being too gristly or blood. The series is in three parts, and each part deals with a different part of Olaf’s life and the happenings after his death: Olaf’s life as a Viking, as a king and as a saint. I started watching just before midnight and had to finish the three-hour production!

Killian’s Chronicle: The Magic Stone (1995)

A fascinating and well-done story of the interaction between Irishman and skraeling, as well as heathen versus Christian The film-makers make the most of what the budget allows it is very satisfying. The magic stone is a sunstone, and there are many other details are part of little-known aspects of the culture. Costumes are more than adequate for the most part, and while there are waistcotes, there re no furry cloaks. The skraeling do call the Norse “bear people,” which might be a sly reference to bearsarks. Even the already dodgy character going combat mad after being treated with mushrooms after a being stuck by the porcupine he was tormenting makes a lot of sense but is never directly alluded to. Unfortunately, chess is frequently played though this was a time when the game had not been introduced to Europe. Why couldn’t it have been Fidchell?

Sword of Vengeance (2015)

aka Schwert der Rache aka La Spada Della Vendetta

Bad two-sword combat, plenty of bloody gore and really neat and cool explosions! Lots of running in bad costume and worse armor. Nice horns on their helmets!

Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands (2016) (TV Mini Series)

aka Beowulf

Bad armor, terrible costumes, bad weapons, incredibly bad CGI but enough blood and gore to keep the folks who love this stuff happy. Even the scenery is somewhat banal and sterile. Even the CGI creation of knotwork is pretty uninspiring compared to its primitive antecedents from Magnus Magnusson’s “Vikng” series from years ago. There are at least no stone keeps, but the wooden structures they present are no less inaccurate, though in a different way. The sets look as if they done by Frazetta on a really bad day. Lots of furry cloaks and black garments and armor, which is the best way they seem to think to prove they are being accurate. Incredibly pretentious as it screams out of be a comedy. Great furry cloaks though. Do not watch this in hopes of getting ideas for an accurate reenactment.


Updating and correcting “Medieval Movies: Films of the Viking Era,” to include films released since the last edition. And discovered there were many other films as well…

I’ll be posting comments on some of the ones not covered before for the next month!

Trees Grow on the Stones Too (1985)

Aka Flukt aka I Na Kamnyakh Rastut Derevya aka Dragens Fange

Rather bland photography and choreography, without much crispness, innovation nor artistic innovation. Scenes are rather static and old fashioned, and even the action is rather dull, with Vikings prancing delicately around. The combat scenes are rather staged and amateur, as if they were choreographed by a high-school drama teacher. And let’s not talk about over-acting. Which is too bad since the costumes are decent (though with the hoods of a later era, puttees that are indescribable, too many visible bags and belts that are much too wide), the props are accurate and I saw no furry cloaks or fur-lined caps for some time into the film. The word parts of this film is far better than the best parts of some later films, though, though it is not as enjoyable as some reviewers have said. It started out rather fine and goes downhill through much of the film. If I was able to get a translation, I might not be so critical, but I had to focus on what I saw. For example, they used plenty of buttons!

Stone Forest, The (1965)

aka Il Tesoro Della Foresta Pietrificata aka Treasure of the Petrified Forest

Viciously bad acting, typical Italian Viking costume and unusually sterile photography. It mentions Vikings by name and is a clever mash-up where the opera by Wagner is crossed with a Humphrey Bogart film! Not recommended for researching costume, though it is at least not a poor retread of Fritz Lang. The only reason to research thi is just to see how you should write a really really bad film. But the dry ice budget was probably a lot more than the costume!

El Príncipe Encadenado (1960)

aka King of the Vikings

A Spanish film adapted from a seventeenth-century play that presented Spanish culture as the best of all time but attempts to meld generic Viking culture with a the play. Costumes and armor is ludicrous and bright, possibly rejected by Italian Viking films, and seem more similar to those used in films of classical times than whatever time this is presending to be. Weapons are similar to Spanish or Muslim versions, and the scenerey is filled with castles and stone buildings, not even giving a token nod to period woodn buildings. It is amusing that, after a while, you recognize the scenery used in Spanish films as easily as that used by John Ford in Monument Valley. There are, of course, no drakkars, not even row boats with dragon prows.

Sweaty Beards (2010)

aka Die verrückten Wikinger—Die vergessene Wikinger-Legende

A Swedish comedy that is actually funny, inspired by Monty Python. Costumes are relatively accurate, unless the inaccurate costumes are meant to be amusing. Props are more accurate than they need to be, and the actions are often broad and burlesque.