The Song of Rig (Rigsthula)

Using my own (assisted) translation of this ancient Norse poem we investigate Viking classes and their lifestyles:

   In the hall, three areas are set up for: Thrall's, Karl's and Jarl's (slaves, workers and nobles).

   As the children come in, or after they are settled, I hand out name cards for characters in the poem (there are 69!). Most of these are mildly amusing, such as 'Lumpy-calfs' and 'Stinky'; some are slightly suggestive - 'Easy-going' for a girl, for example. These can be vetted to your requirments. Certain characters have specific costumes, and as I get these characters dressed I explain about the style of garment, the fibres, colour, etc. The remaining characters choose from what's left. (Everyone will get something to wear - although it may just be a leather head-band!)

   When everyone is settled again I begin reading the poem. It is interactive and I move around a lot. As I read the poem I mention particular points of interest and pause frequently for the laughter to die down! They usually find the birth of the first baby quite funny (they are given an anatomically correct baby to swaddle - you can vet this if you want). As the poem progresses, everyone has their moment in the spotlight, and I further discuss any interesting points I forgot before (I don't have a Viking memory!).

   To finish the session, when the poem is completed, there is the chance to taste Edda's 'lumpy loaf, heavy and thick, loaded with bran', and the other foods and drinks from the poem. This includes hot veal soup, cold roasted meat and salt fish, skyr yoghurt, non-alcoholic ale and non-alcoholic wine (which again you can vet if you wish).

Questions answered: Why was the story-teller important? What was the 'Skaldic Tradition'? How did the Vikings believe the classes came into being? What does Viking food taste like? How can we tell the difference between rich and poor Vikings?

* I have the Food Hygiene certificate level 2, as I work as a mobile relief catering assistant!


Rosala Viking Centre, Finland: showing a Viking hall with tables, benches, sleeping areas, etc. where a Jarl may have lived.