The power of symbolism and representation
In one of my social media posts this past week I touched upon what I am most proud of with my designs: the powerful portrayal of the Norse goddesses. Let me introduce you to the goddesses Freya and Thrud, and explain what makes the Soldiser illustrations of them so important.
With all my designs, the aim is to offer a historically accurate depiction of the Norse legends and its heroines and heroes. I spend weeks, if not months, researching in preparation for a new design. Every detail in every illustration is drawn based on actual archaeological finds from the Viking Age. With regards to the goddesses and gods, I rely on several sources, from relevant poems to runestone inscriptions.
We are used to seeing the goddess Freya drawn as a sweet and gentle lady, in a fluid dress, accompanied by two fluffy cats. Yet, according to the ancient sources, Freya is a goddess of war. Her primary role is as the ruler of war, as the foremost of all Valkyries - the choosers’ of the fallen. Freya selects half of all those who have died a heroic death to serve her, in her hall Sessrumnir, in the afterlife. Only thereafter the remaining half joins Odin in Valhalla.
Freya is also a goddess of unparalleled power in her unmatched position as a mighty shaman – völva – and her unique knowledge of the seidr, a magical rite, enables her to predict the future. She is described as having a ferocious temper, sometimes getting so angry that the realm of the goddesses and gods’ shakes and trembles. Therefore, it was essential to create a more probable illustration of her in suitable attire, with her staff, helmet and fierce-looking cats.
The illustration of the battle goddess Thrud is perhaps even more significant. These days she is almost completely forgotten, but she is the daughter of Sif, the goddess of the abundance of the earth, and Thor, the god of thunder, lightning, winds, rains and fair weather. Thrud is attested in several sources, and Thor is sometimes referred to as ‘the tough father of Thrud’ or as in the poem Thorsdrapa, ‘he who longs fiercely for Thrud’. The Karlevi runestone, from the late 10th century, located on the Swedish island Öland, tells us about a chieftain having ‘done the deeds of the battle goddess Thrud’ meaning having been a true and great leader. Despite having been a powerful goddess in her time, she is hardly ever mentioned in the literature today. I hope my design can contribute to the revival of her existence and I am thrilled to have contributed to one of the very few illustrations there is of her.
Powerful heroines and legendary women should be depicted as such, in words as well as in artwork. Don’t you agree?