Sunday, December 25, 2005

Pond of the Plywood Vikings


In Skive, Denmark, there's a pond dug to accommodate a plywood Viking ship that was never set afloat.

My friend Rud Kjems tells the story in local-history annual Skiveegnens jul 2005. Skive museum was incorporated in 1910, but only in 1942 did it get premises of its own. When the museum building was finally becoming a reality, the organisation received some unusual corporate sponsorship.

Danish brewery Tuborg financed a film set in the Viking Period for the universal exhibition of 1937 in Paris. The brewery ended up with a warehouse full of props, costumes and set decorations, including a 19 metre Viking ship replica. It offered all this, along with a sizeable sum of money, to the thrilled trustees of Skive museum. They envisioned a Viking re-enactment centre in the town park, with a re-constructed Iron Age house, people in period costumes, and a pond with a boat house and a proud Viking ship. For a time, Skive was the envy of neighbouring town councils. Plans were laid out for the park, and the pond was dug.

But when the gear arrived from Tuborg, it turned out that the latter-day Vikings of the Danish film industry weren't quite up to the standards of their ancestors.
"Using cardboard, plaster and paint, they have created an illusion of thick oak boards, but it is all hollow. Only a few pieces may be massive. The general impression of the materials is not good, even if there may be a few things ... you might have hopes for, but otherwise it looks like a pile of firewood."
Skive museum has much to offer the visitor, but no re-enactment centre from the 1930s, and no Viking ship. It turned out to be made of plywood. But the pond is still there, the imprint of a dream of a beer-sodden replica of a golden past.

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