Skáldsspá is a fantasy-genre epic poem written in the style and theme of ancient Old Norse poetry. It tells the tale of Edda (named for the Poetic Edda, a historical collection of Viking Age poems), a young poet, bard, and budding seer caught in the midst of a historical conflict between the elven people of the northlands and their ancient enemy, the frost giants. When an early freeze devastates their fall crops, the town calls upon Sigríð, a powerful seer and Edda’s mother, to ask how they can survive the winter. Sigríð performs a divination and speaks a prophecy alluding to a coming clash with their enemy, but young Edda disagrees with her mother’s interpretation and the story unfolds from their conflicting visions for the future of their people. Edda’s journey is for both her people and herself, as she struggles with wanting to please but also individuate herself from an overbearing parent, grapples with grief over the loss of her sister, and grows into her new powers. The poem explores the nuance of words, the subjective nature of power and choice, and the meaning of fate itself, with threads of magic, adventure, and a touch of the cosmos to tie it all together. The story draws inspiration from Norse lore as well as historical writings and scholarly accounts of ancient Viking culture. The word skáldsspá is a compound word translating to “poet’s prophecy” in Old Norse.
Skáldsspá is written in a style of historical Old Norse poetry called Ljóðaháttr, or “song meter.” It’s a beautiful form whose structural elements are very subtle. Rather than a focus on rhyme, this form uses alliteration as an aesthetic mechanism. It also has no set cadence like other Medieval poetry, which allows the words to flow almost as if written in prose. At the same time, it is more constrained than prose and that brevity maintains its poetic air. All of these elements lend themselves well to being read aloud, for readers interested in such an experience.
It took me nearly two years to write this book and it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever made. The story actually began as the backstory for a D&D character and blossomed from there. (Those who play might be interested in seeing Edda’s dice.) I’ve printed a few copies for myself and family, but I’m currently looking for a publisher to share it more broadly. You can download a free PDF of Part 1 here as a preview. I hope to record a reading of the full poem as well, but that will take some time.
In Part 4 of the poem, Edda performs a song called Systur Dreymir (“The Sister Dreams”). It’s a sad song based on the oldest known piece of Nordic music as recorded in Old Norse in the Codex Runicus. I have composed a full version of this song for the harp, which you can listen to below. This version is a crappy recording on my laptop over a synthesized instrument because I’m still learning to play it on my real harp. So please be kind : )
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