Scaldic poetry contest

We have been involved with the historical festival Sagauka at Melhus municipality for some time, and they wanted our services also in 2020. We usually are quite “hands-on” on what we do, but in the time of The Plague we had to think if new ways of working. Unlike most of the historical festivals in Norway during the summer of 2020, Sagauka was not cancelled. Melhus municipality decided to celebrate their rich viking age history with a digital festival.

The theme of 2020’s festival was “Ordets makt / The power of the word”. Scaldic poetry quickly springs to mind with a theme like that, and we decided to arrange an online poetry competition.

Screenshot from the instruction video.

This is what Melhus municipality wrote about the theme of the 2020 festival.


“In the beginning was the Word”

At all times, the word has been central to human existence. Words have changed history, words have created movement, words have shaped thoughts.
We have to go all the way back to antiquity to find the origins of rhetoric, the oldest communication and linguistic tradition we know. The importance of rhetoric grew with the rise of democracy in Athens, and figures such as Aristotle, Cicero and Quintilian were among the leading contributors to the subject.
Also in the saga era, the word and the story were central. Among other things at the Ting – the parliament, which was both a legislative and judicial assembly. Political decisions were made, laws were formulated and disputes between families were resolved. The saga era also brought with it poetic poetry, edda poetry and mythological tales. In addition, we are enriched with oral traditions and narratives. Together, this literature and the art of storytelling reflect much of the saga era’s beliefs, thoughts and social structures. It shaped the people of the past, and it helps us understand the past.

Melhus calls itself sagabygda, which promotes identity and belonging and connects the inhabitants to the landscape and history. You’ll have to search far and wide for a settlement with more exciting and interesting historical events, where powerful chieftans made a strong presence in the Viking Age and during the transition to the Christian Middle Ages, also in the national historical context. In Melhus you can go on a histprical hike with Snorre’s Heimskringla and other saga stories as a guide.
What does the Word mean to us today? What forces lie in the written and spoken word? How does it shape us as individuals, as a society and the way we interact and live? These are questions we ask ourselves during Sagauka 2020.

Most people have absolutely no clue of how to make a viking age scaldic poem, so we had to make a manual. We decided to go for an easy version of fornyrdirslag. Fornyrdislag has an easy, rhythmic composition, and is perhaps the least complicated form of Norse poetry. We mad an online manual and an instruction video with examples. The aim was to reach out to the municipality’s inhabitants, and have them write a scaldic poem about something they felt strongly about. We also put together a jury composed of the mayor, a Norse literature professor (Jan Ragnar Hagland), local bigshots of culture and media and our own Norse expert Tonje Digre.

Prizes were provided by the municipality (cinema tickets) and local businesses (gift cards and various goods).

We also teamed up with the municipality’s high schools. Both written and filmed poetry was submitted to the contest.