A Loki themed scabbard for an Albion Alexandria longsword. The client had a strong personal reason for wanting to pay homage to Loki, but also is interested in historical accuracy. Norse mythology and this 15th century sword aren’t contemporary with one another, so I started brainstorming the plausibility of Norse imagery being used in 15th century art, and I hit the books and internet. Below is a full explanation of the why I designed the scabbard this way, and what the imagery mean… though you can just skip ahead if you don’t want to read it all!
-Norse mythology saw a revival in the middle ages with the publication of the Prose and Poetic Eddas in the 13th century. This was long after Europe became predominantly Christian, so these pagan tales were probably celebrated as stories much in the same way that Greco-Roman mythology was celebrated throughout the Medieval era and beyond.
-Despite the Christianization of Europe, we can actually find medieval Christian symbols decorated with Norse myths. Most likely this was due to the stories surviving as cultural artifacts that remained even as the Christian religion was imprinted over them. Two such Christian symbols provided inspiration for this scabbard: The Gosforth Cross in England and the Urnes Staves Church in Norway. (Full description below.)
-Like Greco-Roman mythology, we can find illustrations of Norse mythology in the middle ages where the characters’ clothing is “updated” to the contemporary clothing of the era. An example is the Icelandic drawing of the Saga of St Olaf in the 14th century, where everyone wears 14th century clothing.
-We have depictions of these myths in the 14th and the 16th century, but for some reason there unfortunately is a black hole of information on these myths during the 15th century. For this scabbard, I decided to draw from 15th century art as well as earlier period Norse depictions and create a historically-plausible piece, where Loki was “updated” to wear early 15th century armor. I imagined being a 15th century artist sitting in front of the Urnes Staves Church and being inspired to tell the tale of Loki’s end days.
DESCRIPTION OF THE IMAGES
-The lowest part of the scabbard is a 15th “century-ized” version of the lower portion of the Gosforth Cross in England. The main difference is that Loki and Sigyn are “updated” with early 15th century clothing. The cross depicts multiple Norse legends, and this part depicts the legend of Loki bound under Skadi’s venomous snake. Loki’s wife, Sigyn, is depicted above him holding a bowl to catch the venom. As the bowl filled, she attempts to empty it, but in this moment the venom drips onto Loki’s face. In the version told in the Prose Edda, this causes Loki to shake so violently in pain that Midgard broke with earthquakes and Ragnarokkr (The Twilight of the Gods) was unleashed. Loki is able to escape.
-The image of Loki’s pain flows directly into the image above, which was directly taken from the carvings on the Urnes Staves Church in Sweden. This comes from the part on the left of the doorway, and depicts the snakes, dragons, chaos and destruction of Ragnarokkr as the world is engulfed in natural disasters, eventually sinking underwater.
-The topmost image depicts Loki’s final battle. As the world burns around them, Loki fights Heimdallr, recognizable on the ground because he holds the Gjallarhorn in his hands, which is now broken. In the Prose Edda the two kill each other, although I decided to only show Heimdallr’s fatal moment, leaving Loki’s death unseen but inevitable. The face of one-eyed Odin looks down in sadness at his son just before his imminent death. This original image that I took this from is actually not a depiction of Norse mythology, but rather of the Trojan War. It comes from the manuscript Harley 4431, f. 114 which shows an illumination of Paris slaying Achilles. Due to the lack of 15th century images of Loki, it felt right to use an image from a different myth to provide the contemporary feel.