Monday, January 14, 2019

Tales of Viking Fantasy

A month ago I wrote about Vikings and other medieval subjects on the cover of Weird Tales, and out of that I received a couple of comments from readers about Viking fantasy stories. That got me thinking that there may be a missed sub-sub-genre of fantasy and science fiction dealing with those men and women of the north, with their winged and horned helmets, long, braided hair, conical breastplates, and raiments of hide and fur. So here is a first shot at stories of Vikings and Norsemen, with some also of Saxons, Geats, Goths, and other early northern Europeans thrown into the mix. These are stories with fantastic, supernatural, weird, or science-fictional elements. That leaves out a lot of good Viking stories to be sure, but you've got to draw a line somewhere. I welcome additions to this list. If you send them, I will add them.

  • Beowulf by an unknown author (date of composition unknown)--Beowulf is the granddaddy of Northern fantasy in English, and although it's really the story of Geatish men, I think I have to include it here. To leave it out would be a bumbling kind of oversight. Beowulf has been an inspiration to myriads of writers, including, in the twentieth century, J.R.R. Tolkien and Michael Uslan, better known as the executive producer of the Batman movies.
  • Unidentified stories by Ralph Milne Farley (Argosy, 1930s)--A commenter on my earlier article mentioned these stories, but I don't know any titles.
  • The Lost Vikings by Jack Bechdolt (1931)--A lost lands/lost race novel set in Alaska.
  • Prince Valiant by Hal Foster (1937)--A Sunday comic strip in which the title character, a Norseman, goes on adventures, some fantastical or supernatural, all over the globe, as the subtitle reads, "In the Days of King Arthur." Adapted to film in 1954.
  • "King of the World's Edge" by H. Warner Munn (Weird Tales, Sept.-Dec. 1939)--A four-part serial by a correspondent and friend of H.P. Lovecraft, "King of the World's Edge" is a story of Romans and Saxons in pre-Columbian America, authored by an enthusiast of history and archaeology, including the idea that Vikings came to America during the Middle Ages and left behind evidence of their visit.
  • "A Yank at Valhalla" by Edmond Hamilton (Startling Stories, Jan. 1941)--Reprinted as The Monsters of Juntenheim (1950).
  • "Flight into Destiny" by Verne Chute (Weird Tales, Mar. 1943)
  • The Lost Ones by Ian Cameron (1961)--Reprinted as Island at the Top of the World (1974) and adapted to film as The Island at the Top of the World (1974).
  • Journey into Mystery (Aug. 1962)--Marvel Comics' version of Thor as a superhero (and future member of the Avengers) first appeared in Journey into Mystery in August 1962. Since then, he has been in countless comic books and now a series of movies made by Marvel Studios.
  • Eaters of the Dead: The Manuscript of Ibn Fadlan Relating His Experiences with the Northmen in AD 922 by Michael Crichton (1976)--Reprinted as The 13th Warrior in 1999 and adapted to film that year under the same title.
  • The Norseman (1978)--A movie starring Lee Majors, Cornel Wilde, and Mel Ferrer.

DC's version of Beowulf starred in his own title in the 1970s. The stories were written by Michael Uslan and drawn by Ricardo Villamonte. Here is the cover of the first issue, from May 1975.

Prince Valiant of comic strip fame is a Norseman. Here he is on the cover of Dell Four Color #900, from 1958. The interiors were drawn by Bob Fuji, but I'm not sure that he was the cover artist here.

Startling Stories, January 1941, with a cover story, "A Yank at Valhalla," by Edmond Hamilton and cover art by Earle Bergey. 

"A Yank at Valhalla" was reprinted in 1950 as The Monsters of Juntonheim in a British edition. The identity of the cover artist is unknown.

Weird Tales, March 1943. The cover story is "Flight into Destiny" by Verne Chute. The cover art is by Edgar Franklin Wittmack. 

In 1974, Walt Disney Pictures released an adaptation of The Lost Ones by Ian Cameron. Here is the movie tie-in edition of Cameron's book, retitled to match the movie.

Vikings in America were and still are a popular theme in popular culture. (Prince Valiant came to America, too.) In 1978, American International Pictures released The Norseman, with Lee Majors in the lead role as a Viking in the New World. I think The Norseman made a clunking sound, but I remember that my younger brother saw it at the movie theater with his friends. Note the similarity of the movie poster to one of Frank Frazetta's Conan covers for Lancer. If you have never seen Hal Foster's original Prince Valiant, you know that Frazetta took a great deal from Foster. Who can blame him? And so this Frazetta-like poster closes a circle.

Text and captions copyright 2019 Terence E. Hanley

5 comments:

  1. The Norseman was one of the biggest dogs I paid to watch.

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    1. Dear Andy,

      I have removed your comment, even though there is a lot of good information in it. The reason I have removed it is that I don't allow commercial messages or advertisements on my blog. If you would like to comment again without the commercial message, please do. Like I said, your comment has a lot of good information in it.

      TH

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  3. Additional sources of Viking stories can be found in various media. "The Viking Prince" 1950's comic by Joe Kubert. A "South" meets "North" tale titled "Sinbad and the Viking Queen" by Gavin Chappell, who also writes other fantasy Viking stories.

    The Casca series tells the story of a Roman soldier cursed by Christ to live forever as the "Eternal Mercenary", written by Barry Sadler and continued by Tony Roberts. The second book in the series, "God Of Death", has Casca traveling with Vikings to ancient Mexico. He gets captured by the Aztec-like people, who want to rip his heart out on top of their huge pyramid. What happens next shocks the crowd.

    In the movie field, there are several B-grade movies. One of the best modern ones is the A-grade "Outlander" (not the current TV series) - A human from another planet crashes his spaceship into Scandinavia during the Viking era, letting loose his prisoner, an occasionally-invisible beast. The other-worldly human joins Vikings in trying to kill it before it kills them all.

    There are also the 1958 "The Vikings" and the 1964 "The Long Ships" (Vikings encounter Moors in northern Africa, while searching for a golden bell).

    These are some areas to explore for pseudo-historical and fantasy Viking tales. Happy hunting!

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  4. Edmond Hamilton's THE DAUGHTER OF THOR...

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