Ymir's Tale Picture

Mixed: Digital / Gouache
24'' x 32''

Of Buri, sire of Borr, grandsire of Odin, deep I peered into the soul of this being; this stowaway. I knew not from whence his story came, for it was not of my telling. And for the first time, I knew sorrow. For the first time, I knew fear. Still, I freed him from the rime frost; suckled him until his spark had returned; until he could speak his tale. From the North he had come, riding upon a great metal ship, harnessing the power of a thousand, thousand suns, to breach the unbreakable barrier, crossing the endless seas of time and space, crossing even the great, blinding Maelstrom that marks the beginning and end of each age, through the Gunnungagap. And I saw in him my doom. Still, I harbored him; nurtured him as he grew from shadow to substance; bathed him in the living etyr.

This painting depicts Buri, grandfather to Odin, great-grandfather to Thor, the first of the Aesir. In the Norse creation myth, the gods did not create the universe. It was inhabited by the primordial demoness, Ymir, long before they arrived. Buri was discovered by Ymir frozen in the rime frost. Ymir freed Buri, nurtured him to health, even offered him her own daughter as a mate. Buri’s progeny, led by Odin, would eventually slaughter Ymir, fashioning the world as we know it upon her bones: the heavens from her hollowed scull; the fertile lands from her flesh; the merciless seas from her blood. I’ve always found fascination in this creation myth, hanging on the feintest whisper of an all but forgotten past, slipping down through the ages against all odds. It awakens in me the spirit of these ancients from the cold north. For I have walked the frozen plains. I have sailed the winter sea. I have heard the call of the lone wolf in the night. I have faced the long dark of the endless winter.

Ymir's Tale started as a digital photo of myself taken while hiking at Pixley Falls in New York. Yeah, I know, a bit presumptuous to cast myself as the progenitor of Odin and Thor. What can I say? I isolated the torso by darkening and obscuring the background and then pushed all of the colors toward a nice sepia finish. I had the image printed on artist's canvas and then painted in various details and highlights with gouache. The entire elder futhark, the mystical norse runes won by Odin's sacrifice, are subtly hidden within the image. I like the distant and frozen feel of this image. For me it really captures the idea of Buri frozen in the rime frost. I also like the hint of trees creeping in from the bottom of the image, like the earliest shoots of Yggdrasil, the Norse life tree, hinting at the doom of Ymir and the new order to come.

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