That’s So Black Feathered Wound-Bird!

April 27, 2010

The Saga of Cormac the Skald, which I mentioned in my post on Icelandic awesomeness is notable for the badassery of its subjects, the beauty of its language, and many, many songs about ravens. Sample these:

The friend that I trusted has failed me
In the fight, and my hope is departed:
I speak what I know of; and note it,
Ye nobles, – I tell ye no leasing.
Lo, the raven is ready for carnage,
But rare are the friends who should succour.
Yet still let them scorn me and threaten,
I shrink not, I am not dismayed.

and

Of the reapers in harvest of Hilda
– Thou hast heard of it – four men and eight men
With the edges of Skrymir to aid me
I have urged to their flight from the battle.
Now the singer, the steward of Odin,
Hath smitten at last even Bersi
With the flame of the weapon that feedeth
The flocks of the carrion crows

and

I have smitten Toothgnasher and slain him,
And I smile at the pride of his boasting.
One more to my thirty I muster,
And, men! say ye this of the battle:
In the world not a lustier liveth
Among lords of the steed of the oar-bench;
Though by eld of my strength am I stinted
To stain the black wound-bird with blood.

The love songs are not spared:

I tell you, the goddess who glitters
With gold on the perch of the falcon,
The bride that I trusted, by beauty,
From the bield of my hand has been taken.
On the boat she makes glad in its gliding
She is gone from me, reft from me, ravished!
O shame, that we linger to save her,
Too sweet for the prey of the raven!

Nothing improves a love song like the presence of Corvidae.

Anyway, the presence of the ravens is only one instance of how hardcore the songs of the Icelandic sagas are. This led me to ask the obvious question – are there any Scandinavian metal bands which incorporate songs from the sagas into their lyrics. The natural person to ask was Rahul Raguram.

Rahul, being a cute guy, pointed me in the direction of Oakenshield and Amon Amarth. Oakenshield has in fact incorporated text from the Poetic Edda into their lyrics. At least, they claim to have done so. In their The Death of Baldr, I was hard pressed to make any lyrics out. Their name definitely takes its name from the Poetic Edda, specifically the V√∂lusp√°. And here’s a cool bit of triva – Tolkien took the name for the Dwarf Thorin Oakenshield (the one who was King Under the Mountain) from the same source. Anyhow, here’s The Death of Baldr:

Googling also turned up this delightful webpage about Norse/ Asatru/ Heathen inspired music. There is chanting, folk, and of course metal. Such joy.

But can there be true joy without ravens? No. And therefore, here’s Oakenshield again, with Twa Corbies: