We’re glad to have Bjørn Andreas Bull-Hansen join us as a guest blogger! He is a Norwegian novelist, screenwriter and blogger, as well as a skilled craftsman and wilderness survivalist who builds bridges between the Viking Age and today. Here is his third blog post exclusively written for Grimfrost and there will be more exclusive content to come.
I love making bows. It’s such a great and meditative process and I thought I would share some thoughts on this subject with you. As I am sure you already know, the bow was an integral part of any Norseman’s life. It was a hunting tool and a weapon. If you grew up in Viking Age Scandinavia, you would start practicing with your bow from a very early age and I think it’s safe to say that most Norsemen and most likely also a significant part of the women were extremely skilled archers by modern standards. Yes, I know the bow is not what people usually associate with the Vikings, but it was probably their weapon of choice — close combat would easily get you killed or seriously wounded.
Viking style bows are usually flatbows, which means they look different from the iconic English longbows. It’s a design that served our ancestors through centuries and even though they can be difficult to shape, when you get it right they are extremely efficient. Now, the bow is not a toy. That should really be obvious, but still there are people who think it’s funny that a grown man like myself are making and shooting wooden bows. These people tend to think that bows are primitive, inaccurate and not at all as efficient as a rifle. I don’t know much about rifles, but I do find that when you put an arrow straight through a car door from some distance, most people don’t view them as toys anymore. Also, the process of shaping a bow from a piece of wood and then shooting that bow connects you with nature and the ancestors in a very profound way. There is nothing quite like it. From time to time, I teach others this craft and seeing the joy in their eyes when they let fly that first arrow from their self made bow is very special.
I believe that magical feeling that bowbuilding and traditional archery gives you, has to do with freedom and self reliance. Knowing that you can actually make a precise hunting weapon from a piece of wood is a massive confidence boost. In a way, it’s a way of saying to modern society: «I don’t need you, I am my own master and I can fend for myself.» I often take one of my bows with me on my woodland walks. I don’t hunt (bowhunting is illegal in Norway), but I do shoot some occasional arrows into tree stumps and across fields — it’s just so liberating to see those arrows fly. Here’s a video I made from my walk in the first snowfall a few days ago:
Be on the lookout for more blog posts by Bjørn Andreas here on Grimfrost. More blog posts can also be found on his website: www.bull-hansen.com
Some of the bows made by Bjorn