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Old 15th October 2011   #2
Senior Member
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 103
Default Re: Kailee O'Sullivan: Nordic Beauty

The Norse theme of the photos is fascinating. Being of Irish descent, Kailee personally has a Celtic rather than Germanic heritage, but the beauty that is particular to the women of both ethnic groups is very similar, both having been nurtured in overcast Northern climes. Kailee could successfully personify a fair maiden from either population, as these images demonstrate.

Of course, the Irish and the Vikings have a shared history with much cross-pollination, especially in the middle portions of the Dark Ages, when the Northmen both raided and settled in parts of the Emerald Isle.

A very good article in the Irish Times newspaper, just published today, offers a fascinating and sympathetic account of the Viking influence on Ireland.

Here are a few choice passages, but really, the whole article is worth reading, as it tells of an incredibly exciting time of history and of a brave, noble people, whose fiery blood still flows in the veins of many of us, their descendants. The quoted verse captures the spirit of Kailee's images.

What have the Vikings ever done for us?

The Irish Times - Saturday, October 15, 2011

Complaining about the bad weather is a favourite Irish pastime. But in the early ninth century, an Irish monk wrote a short poem giving thanks for a stormy night. It reads, in Proinsias Mac Cana’s translation,
Bitter is the wind tonight,
It tosses the sea’s white tresses;
I do not fear the fierce warriors of Norway,
Who only travel the quiet seas.
Cold gales were a lot more fun than Vikings.

Or, to look at it from the other side, a Norse saga describes the pattern of life of one Svein Asleifarson, a Viking settler on the Orkney Islands: “In the spring, he had more than enough to occupy him, with a great deal of seed to sow . . . Then when the job was done, he would go off plundering in the Hebrides and in Ireland on what he called his ‘spring trip’...

One man’s terror was another’s trip.

The explosion of raiders, traders and colonists out of Scandinavia in the eighth and ninth centuries is one of the most extraordinary phenomena in European history. Its influence stretched, at one point or another, to North America and Greenland, south as far as north Africa, Byzantium and Baghdad and as far east as Russia, whose very name derives from the local name for the Swedish traders and colonists, the Rús.

In this, the Russians are not alone. In the forms we now use, the names Ireland, Munster, Leinster and Ulster are of Scandinavian origin. It is arguable that the Vikings transformed Ireland more radically than any other set of invaders. They brought, among other things, cities, money and serious military technology. They posed a profound challenge to Irish society, which had to change profoundly in response.

The Scandinavians functioned equally well as merchants, colonists, farmers, pirates and raiders. They had both the technological and organisational means to project themselves into distant societies. The longship was a new invention, developed only in the eighth century. It is not accidental that the Vikings began to expand aggressively thereafter: they did it because, now, they could.

The longship was the spacecraft of its day, propelling adventurers across vast and hitherto unimaginable distances. In one raid in 858, a group sailed from Scandinavia to the coast of Spain, into the Mediterranean, on to Italy, up the River Rhône, raiding all the way, and then back home.

The ships had enough give not to be torn apart by strong waves and were able to traverse both the high seas and inland river systems. (It was through the great rivers of Poland and Russia that the Swedes gained access to the Black Sea, Byzantium and the Arab world.) Their weapons, especially the iron swords they adapted from the Franks, were fearsome.

On their own, these technologies would have had limited impact. The Vikings needed systems for passing on information about geography and sources of wealth. They needed the capacity to band together in flexible, often temporary alliances. They needed a culture that balanced a strong individual or family ethic with cults of loyalty, heroism and unity. One Frankish source refers to Viking companies overwintering on the River Seine as sodalities, or brotherhoods. Somehow, the Vikings were able to combine an adventurous, even reckless, spirit with a capacity for co-operation.

By 807, Vikings were even turning up on the west coast, burning Inishmurray, off Sligo, and Roscam, in Galway Bay. By 821, they are recorded as capturing slaves: a large party of Irish women were kidnapped from Howth.

These incursions were not unopposed, and they were not always successful. One Viking party was routed in Kerry in 812, and in the same year a victory by the Irish over “the Northmen” was considered significant enough to be recorded at the court of Charlemagne, the Frankish emperor. The first named Viking in Ireland, Saxolb, described as “leader of the foreigners”, was killed in battle.

The Vikings also changed the map of Ireland in ways that had long-term consequences for the natives.

The change can be symbolised by the shift in the centre of gravity from Tara to Dublin. The old Ireland looked, geographically as well as psychologically, inwards. It was the Vikings who developed not just towns but coastal towns: Dublin, Wexford, Cork, Limerick and Waterford.

What made them such prodigious founders of coastal towns in Ireland was the simple fact that they were unable to carve out large swathes of rural territory. They needed their fortified strongholds with quick access to the sea.

Yet, particularly as Irish power began to recover from the initial shock, native kings saw the value of this new way of life. They intermarried with the strangers and sucked them into their own quarrels and alliances. The Vikings brought with them a more developed commercial culture than Ireland had known: among the words that entered Irish from Old Norse is margad, market.

The passages in the article about the clashes between the Irish and the Vikings, and how Irish women were sometimes taken in battle, gives a historical background to Kailee's new shoot. In these images, she could either personify one of the Irish women whose village was set upon, or the beloved of a Viking warrior waiting for her hero to return from far-distant battle. Her headshot has a haunted look, but her white-sweater photo is very warm and promises coziness to ward off the bitter chill. She might even represent both: an Irish girl captured on a raid, with whom the Viking warrior falls in love and makes of her his bride.

Gorgeous and evocative images from a hauntingly beautiful model.
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