Nine from Nine is an illustrated box of a Viking Age poem. A visual account of the Norse god Odin’s eighteen magical songs.
Where Does the Poem Come From?
There are two Icelandic manuscripts that contain the oldest written records of Norse mythology. They are called the Younger and Elder Eddas. The poem is called Ljóðatal and is a small section of the Elder Edda.
The stories, verses and sayings contained within the Eddas are an incredible source of information about the lives and beliefs of the Vikings. This is the source material that informed the work of Tolkien and others.
The book will be Hardback. Approximately 17cm x 20cm (6.5″ x 8″) and 40 pages. Each verse of the poem will have 1 to 3 full-page illustrations. There will be a section at the end of the book explaining each verse and some information about it’s illustration.
Nine from Nine will be a beautiful book that presents the rich subject matter in a clean and accessible way.
Breakdown of the Poem
The father of the gods, Odin is obsessed with acquiring arcane knowledge. So much so that he has previously given up one of his eyes in exchange for a chance to make use of Mimir’s well of knowledge.
At the start of this poem, we meet the now one-eyed Odin hanging on the world tree, Yggdrasill.
Odin stabs himself with his spear, sacrificing himself to himself. Now dead and in the underworld he acquires knowledge of nine songs (these are like charms or spells) from a big, scary giant.
Odin is then re-born, wiser and inspired. He is able to create a new song from each of the nine taught to him. A verse is then dedicated to a description of the powerful magical effects of each song.
You’ve probably already noticed that whenever possible I’ve used the original Old Norse words. Sometimes it’s good to mix things up. I’m attempting to make something incredibly old more accessible but I don’t want to change the original ideas or the translation unless I really have to. This will hopefully produce a much richer experience for the reader.
I have based my text on an out of copyright translation by Benjamin Thorpe. This translation is one of the more faithful to the original structure and wording of the poem.
When designers use type they often use a grid to space out the text so that each heading and paragraph has a visual relationship. This grid will often relate to the size of the page so that all the elements lock together.
These illustrations are placed on one of these grids but they are also drawn in relation to the grid. It’s all part of a contemporary visual debate about how painting meets graphics, especially when using a computer to produce work.
The book features cool stuff like trolls and giants though, so let’s not worry about that too much.
The colours are chosen to describe specific settings and also the cold muggy light of Iceland. I’m obsessed with colour so I’ll be spending way too much time on that.
Some of the illustrations will develop as the project progresses.
Red is used for blood and to signify a link to Niflheim, the land of the dead. If someone has red eyes they really are actually dead. Scary stuff.
The illustrations will depict some nudity and violence, as befits the subject matter. Also included: trolls, giants, eight-legged horses and zombie Vikings.
The Use of Runes
I’m currently getting a translation into Old Norse and then into Younger Futhark runes for two lines that will feature within the book. There will be a strap-line, ‘The Best of Books’ which echoes a line from a saga where the loss of a hero’s shield is lamented: ‘…the best of shields’. The second use of runes will be to honour the friends, family and community that have helped with the project: ‘We Made This’. You can’t complete an ambitious, complex project like this on your own. ‘We Made This’ acknowledges the real contribution from those supporting Nine from Nine.
I’ve been working on this project for two years now. I’ve been sketching on the train journey into work and then working up these drawings on a computer at home at the weekends. But I’m making good progress.
Now that the website is finished I’ll be making more regular updates here and on the crowdfunding pages. The ambition is to have all the artwork finished for Christmas time and then the production to kick off in January.