The Beardmore Sword: How a Viking sword ended up in Northern Ontario (Friday Feature)

In 1931, the so-called “Beardmore sword” was reportedly discovered in Thunder Bay, Ontario, alongside several other Norse artifacts. James Edward Dodd claimed he found them while prospecting for gold in the area. The objects appear to be Norwegian in manufacture with estimated production dates ranging from 850 to 1025. It is now widely accepted that the relics are authentically Norse, but they were planted there in the first quarter or so of the 20th century (Text from the label accompanying the sword in the exhibit).

This is a fun story about a 9th-10th c. Viking sword, and how it was imagined to have come from Northern Ontario. Canada has the distinction of confirmed Viking long-term landings in North America, notably L’Anse aux Meadows, a late 10th c. Viking settlement on the Northernmost tip of Newfoundland. While most of us would admit that we’d love to have our own authentically Viking sword, claims of Nordic exploration in the past have been designed to undercut French and Aboriginal claims, so the story is a bit loaded. But it is also a bit of sleuthing fun, and kicks off an exhibit beginning next week at Toronto’s famous Royal Ontario Museum. Enjoy the story here as this week’s Friday Feature.

//www.cbc.ca/i/caffeine/syndicate/?mediaId=1081951811893

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About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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10 Responses to The Beardmore Sword: How a Viking sword ended up in Northern Ontario (Friday Feature)

  1. L.A. Smith says:

    Love it! Thanks for sharing the story of this sword. I would love to see it in person.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bookstooge says:

    You make undercutting the french sound like a bad thing…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Thanks for this – it is fascinating, especially also following the link one of the commenters provides, and looking forward to following its Nipigon Museum blog link(s) further!

    Funnily enough, we are part of the way through watching a delightful BBC programme from 1966, I think the launch of the series, Chronicle, “The Vikings in North America”, which can be found online, and gives a lucid and vivid general background overview.

    Funnily further, we discovered it while I am in the midst of reading Tim Severin’s thoroughly enjoyable Brendan Voyage! (It’s got me wondering whether the Brendan story, in one or another of its versions, is particularly part of the background of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.)

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    • Very cool. There is sort of a Viking rush on nowadays. I haven’t kept up with it, unfortunately. I don’t know the Tim Severin story, but have read the Frederick Buechner Brendan (which is gorgeous). I had been thinking of the travelogue backgrounds to Dawn Treader–Homer, yes, but Dante and Bunyan–but I hadn’t thought of Brendan.

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      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Thanks for the Beuchner recommendation – he is a famous name to me, none of whose works I’ve read, yet – like Tim Severin was, till a few days ago!

        It would be interesting to know what St. Brendan sources Lewis knew, or even taught:

        Thomas Wright produced St. Brandan: A Medieval Legend of the Sea, in English Verse and Prose in 1844 (it’s scanned in the Internet Archive);

        Carl Horstmann’s edition of The Early South-English Legendary; or, Lives of Saints. I. MS. Laud, 108, in the Bodleian Library, for the EETS in 1887, includes a Life of St. Brendan (it’s also scanned in the Internet Archive);

        and Thomas Shippey, who quotes the latter in discussing some of Tolkien’s poetry and thought in The Road to Middle-earth (1982), also mentions The Voyage of Bran, Son of Febal, to the Land of the Living; An Old Irish Saga edited and translated by Kuno Meyer (1895) (scanned in the Internet Archive, too).

        One of the poems Shippey discusses, written in 1924 and published in 1927, mentions Bran and Brendan together in one line, and is republished by Christopher Tolkien in The Lost Road and other writings (1987) while another, ‘Imram’, is reprinted by him in its 1955 published version and in an earlier version as ‘The Death of St. Brendan’, in Sauron Defeated (1992).

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        • Great question…. I’m going to have to keep my eye open on this one.

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          • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

            We’ve just encountered – and much enjoyed – another Chronicle episode, from New Year’s Eve 1966, “The Holy Sailors/The Roman Goose March”, online, with the first part about old Irish monastic sea-faring, including St. Brendan (and the second about how the Romans could indeed have driven geese from Gaul to Rome – with some nice Swingle Singers Bach excerpts suited to their various walking speeds…!).

            Lewis, could, of course, have read the Latin Brendan and other Irish navigation sources, but would presumably not have taught them, directly, though I can imagine them getting a mention in one or another version of the lectures at last distilled into The Discarded Image.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I didn’t know this phrase would ever exist: “…. Swingle Singers Bach excerpts…”
              In Planet Narnia, Michael Ward mentions St. Brendan’s voyage as one of the potential backgrounds to Dawn Treader.
              In Discarded Image, Lewis mentioned Ashe, Land to the West (1962), which speculates that St. Brendan’s legends including American discovery.

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