The Loneliness of the Einherjar

The Einherjars are the elite warriors of Asgard. Only those living and dying with great courage are chosen and brought from the battlefield to their seat in Valhalla. As an Einherjar, your days will be spent fighting and your nights will be spent feasting with your brothers in arms.

It was my ancestors’ idea of paradise. For some of us, it still is. But more importantly, the Einherjar you will become after your death dictates how you live your life in the world of the mortals. «Einherjar» translates quite simply to «warrior who fights alone», alone meaning on his own and by his own means. This tells us a lot about the ideal of the Norsemen. Most historians now agree that the success of the Viking warriors was not only caused by their ships and their ability to adapt to the environment, but also the idea that every warrior should be an army in himself. A Viking warrior was skilled in the use of most common close combat weapons, he was an archer and he would be trained in fighting outside of, and even in front of, the shield wall. He would probably be trained in facing multiple attackers and he would fight to the death to avoid dishonor and a speedy journey to the ice cold halls of Hel.

Versjon 2But the Viking Age was a long time ago. However, if you’ve read some of my other blog posts, I’m sure you’ve noticed that I am not only interested in what happened a thousand years ago. I am extremely interested in what we can learn from the mentality of the ancient Norsemen. Can we live like Viking warriors today? Can we adopt the ideal of the Einherjar?

I think we can. I think we should. I know that some will disagree, but I find it disgusting that we are supposed to work ourselves sick only to pay taxes and bills for electricity and unhealthy food and things and stuff, then spending a decade or two wasting away while the body is slowly dying. And I’m not saying this as a young and naïve man. I’m in my 40’s now and I feel very strongly that the life I’m presently living, is making me physically sick. I work far too much. The food I eat is wrapped in plastic that could alter the hormone balance and people around me are looking more and more like slaves bent under the burden of immense bank loans. As I’ve often said: If I didn’t have kids to raise, I wouldn’t have been here. I would have left everything a long time ago. I would be out on some ocean or moored in some distant port. Because there is no freedom left in modern society. There is no room for honor. Even the word «honor» has an ugly face here in Norway, as it’s being used as a synonym for religious intolerance and – stupidity.

What I’m trying to say is that the Einherjar I hope to be, is telling me to leave this place and go exploring the world’s oceans – just like my ancestors did. It will not happen tomorrow, not even next year. I’m a Dad and that is my first priority. I am staying until my kids have grown up and I will do my very best every day. It’s hard sometimes. I’m empathic to the extreme and I have that artistic temperament that really doesn’t fit well with parenting – it makes me worry a lot. And like most artists, in a way I’m still a child myself. Anxiety, depression, extacy, grief, love and anger; in my head I go through all these emotions every single day, both through the characters in my books and when my imagination runs amok, which it likes to do. But the Einherjar I hope to be whisper that it’s okay. He tells me that the loneliness is part of the fight and part of being an Einherjar – the warrior who fights alone. He tells me there’s a meaning behind all this, and that my fight is here and now. My fight is being a parent, while at the same time preparing for the coming voyage. He points out at sea and tells me that I must never forget what’s waiting for me. Be patient, he says. The day will come when I shall leave these shores.

– Bjørn Andreas Bull-Hansen

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