The Write Place

Thank you so much for your email! Unfortunately, I’m out of the office writing on my thesis on a deserted island until Wednesday, August 30th. If you need me, try sending me a message in a bottle. […]

Kind regards,

Sofie Vanherpen

This is my “out-of-office” reply. If you happen to send me an email when I am working and writing on my PhD-project, then this is the message you’ll receive. And no, I am not actually residing on a deserted island, nor am I in Denmark, in Iceland or some other remote spot. With my modest income and being an independent scholar, withdrawing in a quiet and secluded place where I can write is something I can only dream of. My “island” is actually just a desk in the living room buried beneath books and paper towers.


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Viking women here, Viking women there … Viking women everywhere!*

Last week I attended the 18th Viking Congress, which took place in Denmark alternating between Copenhagen and Ribe. During the congress, we were fortunate enough to visit a number of places that were connected with Vikings. We travelled around Denmark, taking in the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, the Viking Fortress at Trelleborg, the home of the Viking Kings at Jelling, the Viking Center and the Viking Museum in Ribe, and we even ventured across the border to Germany to visit the Viking Museum Haithabu, also known as Hedeby. A central part of the museums’ exhibitions are the strong Viking Age women. In each of these places, reenactors brought to life what was happening in and around these locations during the Viking Age. Numerous Viking female reenactors give new voices to these strong female characters from history and literature. Continue reading

Music from the North

Among the Christmas cards I received in 2016 was one from Tone Holte, a dear friend of mine who shares my passion for and interest in Aud or Unn the Deep-Minded. The envelope also included a gift, a CD by Lyra fra Nord. Lyra fra Nord or ‘The Lyre from the North,’ an ensemble featuring Rolf Agaton, Tone Holte and John Vedde, focuses on medieval and traditional Scandinavian music. The group released its first album Det som bølger ut i havet (‘What waves might bring’) in December 2016.  Continue reading

Women – Key figures in medieval Sweden

In one section of the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm representing the Viking period, Swedish women are represented in one individual display case by a great number of keys found in various archaeological digs. Keys are everyday and familiar objects, that any of us carry with us or use as a part of our daily routines. These seemingly mundane objects carried a lot more meaning during the Viking Age as the title of the display case already suggests: “The woman – a key person.”

Viking-age keys on display at the Swedish History Museum, Stockholm.

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The lone scholar

Empress Matilda, 15th century

“I’m a poor lonesome scholar, I’m a long long way from college-home. And this poor lonesome scholar has got a long long way to roam. Over conferences and over libraries. From dawn ‘til day is done. My books and I keep aspiring, with the desk light on …

I’m a poor lonesome scholar, but it doesn’t bother me. ’Cause this poor lonesome scholar prefers books for company. Got nothing against e-sources, but I wave them all goodbye. My books and me keep aspiring. We don’t like being tied.

Lonesome scholar, lonesome scholar …”

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Traces of Vikings in Northern-Ireland

Display at the Ulster Museum, Belfast, Northern-Ireland.

‘Loose canons’ I muttered under my breath as I read the text announcing the Viking Age exhibit in the Ulster Museum. It was the last day of a five-day visit to Northern-Ireland. Since the weather forecast predicted the final day of my trip to be the coldest and wettest, I decided to keep a visit to the Ulster Museum in Belfast for my last day in the city. The Viking exhibit was a small one showing only a couple of artifacts found mainly in grave sites and hoards in the counties Armagh and Antrim. ‘Loose canons’ seems rather unfit for Vikings sailing to and trying to settle in Northern Ireland. Unlike the Southern part of the isle, where the Vikings established a first Viking kingdom as early as the ninth century, the Northern part of the isle experienced little or no troubles from the Vikings. This also explains the scarcity of Viking finds in this particular area.

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