21 October 2012

Commission update 1

Progress on the commission is going well, I paint for pleasure and the terms of the commission reflect that and allow me the artistic freedom I enjoy from bringing miniatures to life.

So far I have de-flashed, mounted onto 30mm round bases and hand under-coated 28 figures. These have all been given their base flesh tone and all the cloth has been taken to the final highlight, I have now started to take the flesh up and working on some nice war paint for some crazy drug fuelled crazy berserkers.

I will take this oppertunity to explain my reasoning for painting the berserkers as follows:

The etymology of the term berserk is disputed. It may mean "bare-sark," as in "bare of shirt" and refer to the berserker's habit of going un-armored into battle. Ynglingasaga records this tradition, saying of the warriors of Óðinn that "they went without coats of mail, and acted like mad dogs and wolves" (Snorri Sturluson. Heimskringla: History of the Kings of Norway. trans. Lee M. Hollander. Austin: Univ.of Texas Press. 1964. p.10). Others have contended that the term should be read "bear-sark," and describes the animal-skin garb of ther berserker. Grettirs Saga calls King Harald's berserkers "Wolf-Skins," and in King Harald's Saga they are called ulfhedinn or "wolf-coats," a term which appears in Vatnsdæla Saga and Hrafnsmál (Hilda R. Ellis-Davidson,"Shape-Changing in the Old Norse Sagas," in Animals in Folklore. eds. J.R. Porter and W.M.S. Russell. Totowa NJ: Rowman and Littlefield. 1978. pp. 132-133), as well as in Grettirs Saga(Denton Fox and Hermann Palsson, trans. Grettir's Saga." Toronto: Univ.of Toronto Press. 1961. p. 3).
It is likely that the berserk was actually a member of the cult of Óðinn. The practices of such a cult would have been a secret of the group's initiates, although the Byzantine emperor Constantine VII refers in his Book of Ceremonies to a "Gothic Dance" performed by members of his Varangian guard, who took part wearing animal skins and masks: this may have been connected with berserker rites (Hilda R. Ellis-Davidson. Pagan Scandinavia. NY: Frederick A. Praeger. 1967. p. 100). This type of costumed dance is also seen in figures from Swedish helmet plates, scabbard ornaments, and bracteates which depict human figures with the heads of bears or wolves, dressed in animal skins but having human hands and feet. These figures often carry spears or swords, and are depicted as running or dancing. One plate from Torslunda, Sweden, may show the figure of Óðinn dancing with such a bear figure.
Modern scholars believe that certain examples of berserker rage to have been induced coluntarily by the consumption of drugs such as the hallucinogenic mushroomAmanita muscaria (Howard D. Fabing. "On Going Berserk: A Neurochemical Inquiry."Scientific Monthly. 83 [Nov. 1956] p. 232), or massive quantities of alcohol (Robert Wernick. The Vikings. Alexandria VA: Time-Life Books. 1979. p. 285).

The physical appearance of the berserk was one calculated to present an image of terror. Dumezil draws parallels between the berserk and the tribe of Harii mentioned in Tacitus's Germania who used not only "natural ferocity" but also dyed their bodies to cause panic and terror in their enemies, just as the berserk combined his fearsome reputation with animal skin dress to suggest the terrifying metamorphosis of the shape changer (Dumezil, Destiny of the Warrior, p. 141). Indeed, berserkers had much in common with those thought to be werewolves. Ulfr, a retired berserker, is mentioned in this light in Egils saga Skallagrímsonar:
But every day, as it drew towards evening, he would grow so ill-tempered that no-one could speak to him, and it wasn't long before he would go to bed. There was talk about his being a shape-changer, and people called him Kveld-Ulfr ["Evening Wolf"] (Palsson and Edwards, Egil's Saga, p.21).

 Right thats the first update on the commission completed back to the paints.


  1. Coming along very well! Great work.

  2. Nice work so far, I like the stripy trousers in the last pic.


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