THE ULFRHEIM SAGAS revolve around a group of kids in a Swedish region made up of small country villages. They grow up not trusting authority of any kind, as they’ve all gone through far too many traumatising experiences. At the heart of the group, we find Edda and Horse, two of the central characters in the sagas. Best friends since they learned to walk, they seek refuge and comfort in each other, when they feel let down by the adult world.
Looking to the ancestors and the old ways for guidance, they build an unconventional family of misfits, outcasts and broken spirits together. They call themselves Fenrir’s Cubbies, and they live in a fantasy world, Ulfrheim, governed by the way of the wolf. This is their safe haven. A place where the pack looks after their own and no one gets left behind. It is also their comic relief.
Besides caring for the pack, the Cubbies’ mission is to prank teachers, exhaust parents and defeat bullies. Over the years, as they grow older and their needs change, Ulfrheim grows with them. Until the day they all have to move to the big city to continue their education that is. Will their coming of age break the bonds that unite them, or can they find a way to keep their chosen family together?
The stories of Ulfrheim and the Cubbies are rooted in Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore. They are set in our world, but I have applied an alternate universe lens to certain aspects of it. I have, for instance, taken creative liberties in how I handle things like literary “evidence” and historical facts.
In my sagas, Ragnarök, the doom/destruction of the gods, happened before Pangaea. The gods that were killed in the battle still exist, but as superhuman beings or spirits in keeping with the concept of rebirth in Norse mythology. After the old world had crumbled into the sea, the new continent, Pangaea, rose out of the water. The surviving gods and humans assembled in Iðavöllr in Hel, the place where Óðinn and his brothers first created the old world. We are told gods, creatures, beings and men all lived in peace once they had organised themselves in the new world.
However, time was not linear in Norse mythology or, indeed, to our Scandinavian ancestors. The peace would not be everlasting. The sagas tell us about aldar rök, the destruction of an age. I decided to make use of two historical events, the Justinian and Black Plagues, and make them the first and second aldar rök that devastates humanity. But I do not use their names, and I have skewed the facts around each plague to suit my narrative. They lasted longer, reached wider and killed far more people.
As far as gods, races, beings, concepts etc are concerned, I am trying to stay as true to the original sources as possible. For me, meddling with our history is a delicate balance and it really annoys me when storytellers make shit up as they go along for no apparent reason. Two examples that come to mind: I have no problem with the casting of Idris Elba as Heimdall in the Marvel universe. It makes no difference to the character, as he was never defined by skin colour. But turning Hel into Hella and making her Loki’s sister? And reducing Fenrir to an imprisoned doggo, albeit a large one, in some Asgardian vault? Hel, no! That’s not ok.
I am incorporating a lot of features from mythology and folklore, and in each case, I have spent a lot of time reading different accounts and opinions on them. I realise some people will be upset no matter what I write, as there are many who feel very strongly that their interpretation is the correct one. And I’m ok with that. But for the purpose of my stories, I have chosen to go with the ones that best align with my narrative.
At this point in time, I cannot offer too many examples (because spoilers!) of changes I’ve made. Here’s one that I don’t think is too controversial, though: There are úlfhéðinn in my stories. In the sagas, they are described as Óðinn’s fiercest warriors, men in wolf skins that were said to be hamrammr. Shape changers. They could channel the spirits of wolves and enter the battlefield in altered states of consciousness. Experts in combat and survival, with unparalleled skills and abilities, they were nigh on invincible. But in essence, they were still men. In my stories, the úlfhéðinn are not channelling the spirits of wolves – they are wolves. Or wargs, to be precise
Another decision I’ve made is related to names and language. Initially, I toyed with the idea of making up place names, but it felt wrong. Allowing my characters to grow up in real places with real histories and cultures, made the story feel more authentic. I will not be translating these names to English, but where applicable I will explain their meaning in the wiki. I have also kept the names of schools, churches and other public buildings, but decided to make up most private places (e.g. shops, restaurants etc.) I figure it’s ok for a kid to say that a school sucks, or have issues going to church. Painting a private business in a bad, or potentially “not ideal,” light is different.
With the exception of large grocery stores, petrol stations and banks none of the places where you can spend money actually exist. In some cases, however, I have created something borrowing features from a number of different places. The Palace, for instance, nightclub/hotel where Edda and Angel work, features a famous staircase that does exist. Just not in a place like that.
And while we’re on the topic of made-up names and places, I may as well mention that not one single character in the stories is based on a real person. Apart from Edda who does borrow some aspects of my life and personality. Some, ok. She is not me. All other characters are 100% fictional, but they may have certain things in common with people I know. Which, I suppose, is inevitable in a story with loads of different characters…
Character names are initially exclusively Swedish/ Scandinavian as that is where it all begins. The Cubbies, however, have a tendency to give each other English “road names.” Probably because they are growing up in a macho culture influenced by 1950’s and 60’s Americana; particularly motorcycle clubs, classic cars, music and clothes.
When it comes to words that are Swedish and/or related to mythology or folklore, I will be using the Old Norse words where possible. Most of our words are similar in Norsk Bokmål, Nynorsk, Danish and Icelandic, but they are not the same. We all get them from the same root though, so it felt right to use the old words. It also makes sense in the context of the story, but spoilers you know. Can’t really go there.
Returning to our Cubbies, the story in Horse’s Heart begins just as they are about to leave Year 9. The kids are 15/16. It’s the last day of compulsory education, and the last time they will all be together as pupils in the same school. In Fenrir’s Cubbies, they are getting close to the big 3 0 and have been adulting for quite some time.
I have outlined and rough drafted a story that spans over nearly 100 years, following the Cubbies and their kids as they try to find their way through a world that is, literally, falling apart around them. It is a multi-genre story that dips into fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, historical, romance and dystopian. To begin with. Now, let’s hope I have what it takes to finish it.
One book at a time.