A (brief) look into the character of Sigrdrífa, plus final Cover!

Sigrdrífa is a shieldmaiden. She is a Norse warrior in search for battle and glory. She is inspired by the valkyrs of myth, those women warriors who searched the battlefields for the slain and worthy to enter Valhalla, and join Odin’s army, the Einheriar.

I think my fascination with the valkyrs stems directly from Richard Wagner’s magnificent theme from his opera Die Wälkure. You know the theme, the one that shows up in Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, or in countless other movies. The opera version, containing the singing of the valkyrs with their “hoyotohos” battlecries, is even grander than the “mainstream” version most people have heard. This is music that evokes a thousand images and feeds the imagination. It’s music that makes you want to write about it.

So here I am, writing about it.

I still do not know exactly what story will come out of it, but I can show you one image that has come out of it; here’s José Vega’s finished cover artwork:

Samuel-Perez---book-cover-final-highrez

For more on José Vega’s art you can visit his webpage below.

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Chapter 4: What I have learned from reading the Völsunga Saga, Part 2

After the series of sick murders I presented in the first part of my Völsunga Saga post, these last few points will seem tame by comparison; but before we get to them, I found I had forgotten one last idiotic “for the fuck of it” murder to include previously, so here it goes:

Gudrun, that lovely mother who fed her own sons to their father for revenge’s sake, is the one character who constantly avoided death, despite her actively seeking it after getting fed up with all the bullshit in her life. (Probably the gods having some fun at her expense). After the offspring cooking episode she tried to commit suicide by throwing herself to the sea, but all she managed was to be washed away on some shore, being found by some other king, get married for the third time, and suffer her daughter Swanhild’s murder by… because… I don’t even remember. Doesn’t matter anyway, we all know everybody dies in this saga. The important thing is that Gudrun had Swanhild’s brothers (man, this woman had so many children as backup, no wonder she didn’t give a fuck if she killed a couple here and there) avenge her, a task that would also mean certain death to them. So, basically, she also had them killed.

Anyway, here’s what the saga has to say about their quest for vengeance:

And now, as they went on their way, they met Erp, their brother, and asked him in what wise he would help them.

He answered, “Even as hand helps hand, or foot helps foot.”

But that they deemed naught at all, and slew him there and there. Then they went their ways, nor was it long or ever Hamdir stumbled, and thrust down his hand to steady himself, and spake therewith-

“Naught but a true thing spake Erp, for now should I have fallen, had not hand been to steady me.”

A little after Sorli stumbled, but turned about on his feet, and so stood, and spake-

“Yea now had I fallen, but that I steadied myself with both feet.”

And they said they had done evilly with Erp their brother.

Seriously, I’m not making this shit up.

3. All you need is gold, gold! Gold is all you need!

This is somewhat connected to the first point about murder being meh, and the weregilds. It’s just funny how everything can be solved with gold. Like this:

So Grimhild comes to hear where Gudrun has take up her abode, and she calls her sons to talk with her, and asks whether they will make atonement to Gudrun for her son and her husband, and said that it was but meet and right to do so.

Then Gunnar spake, and said that he would atone for her sorrows with gold.

Or this:

Now thought Atli the King that he had gained a mighty victory, and spake to Gudrun even as mocking her greatly, or as making himself great before her. “Gudrun,” saith he, “thus hast thou lost thy brethren, and thy very self hast brought it about.”

She answers, “In good liking livest thou, whereas thou thrustest these slayings before me, but mayhappen thou wilt rue it, when thou hast tried what is to come hereafter; and of all I have, the longest-lived matter shall be the memory of thy cruel heart, nor shall it go well with thee whiles I live.”

He answered and said, “Let there be peace betwixt us; I will atone for thy brethren with gold and dear-bought things, even as thy heart may wish.”

I won’t even bother putting those two examples in context; just bear in mind that while both involve Gudrun, they are different instances of losing family to different kings. All that gold, however, wasn’t enough to salvage her mental stability; I mean, Atli tried, and the thanks he got in return was eating his own sons, and drinking their own blood. The ungrateful bitch!

goldgoldgold

The solution to all problems.

4. Speaking of ungrateful bitches, Brynhild is a BITCH.

The first thing that caught my attention about Brynhild was that she’s the Brunhild of Wagner’s operatic masterpiece The Nibelung Ring, being the title character in The Valkyrie. She is the main inspiration for my own Sigrdrífa – in fact, while there is a valkyrie called Sigrdrífa in Norse Myth, she is sometimes associated with this Brynhild.

The second thing that caught my attention about Brynhild was how much of a fucking bitch she was.

Brynhild was an awesome warrior, and as it usually happens with awesome female warriors, they get to set the rules about who can and cannot marry them. Her father can’t simply marry her off to whomever he pleases; the man who wants her hand must earn it. Sigurd, the greatest of the Volsungs and first husband to Gudrun, meets Brynhild while he was still single and available. He immediately falls for her, but of course Brynhild being a woman (and thus excessively complicated) she says nay to his advances. It’s not that she doesn’t like him back, it’s just that… well, she’s a woman. Things must be complicated. They do pledge love for one another but without the marriage or even the sex to make it worthwhile (yes, Sigurd was badly friendzoned), but eventually he meets Gudrun’s family, and Gudrun’s mother puts some sort of spell in him that makes him forget all about Brynhild and marry her daughter. Eventually Brynhild and her conditions for marriage reach the ears of Gunnar, one of Gudrun’s brothers, and he decides to take her; but unable to pass the test they put a spell on Sigurd that disguised him as Gunnar, and Sigurd beats Brynhild’s test, winning her for Gunnar.

To make a long story short, Brynhild eventually realizes the deception, and gets very angry at both Gudrun and Sigurd. Here’s what Brynhild says to Gudrun when she was about to tell her the truth of what had happened: “Ask such things only as are good for thee to know – matters meet for mighty dames. Good to love good things when all goes according to thy heart’s desire!”

Well, Brynhild, if you had followed thy own heart’s desires when you had the chance, you wouldn’t be in this pickle now, would you?

That’s not the bad part, though. It’s perfectly understandable that she would be pissed at realizing just how stupid she was for rejecting Sigurd, it happens to all of us at some point in our romantic endeavors. What doesn’t happen to most of us is how she went batshit crazy and eventually caused the deaths of Sigurd, Guttorm (one of Gudrun’s brothers), and started the chain reaction that would end with the destruction of all of Gudrun’s kin, the end of the Volsungs, and Gudrun’s own batshit craziness.

All of this because she played hard to get.

Bitch!

Bitch!

And there you have it, the things that I learned from reading the Völsunga saga, which was – basically – that Norsemen, despite their apparent overall craziness, are not really that different from us. They just took it to the extreme. Will I take it to the extreme with Sigrdrífa?

Stay tuned!

NEXT TIME: A look into the character of Sigrdrífa

A look into the art of Sigrdrífa: Interview with José Vega

Back in January, when I posted the official announcement for the Sigrdrífa novel, I included the first sketches for the character drawn by artist José Vega. Since then the character has been developed and the cover finished. That final version won’t be released yet (after all, there is still plenty of time before the actual novel is released), but I will present here part of the progress, plus a short interview with José.

José Vega

José Vega

Q: What got you into art?

A: Well I was not the typical artist who has been drawing and painting since being a kid. I got introduced to drawing in senior year by a friend and we used to redraw anime drawings back in the day when DBZ was popular. I decided to go to the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale where I got exposed to different types and realms or “art” from Animation, to 2D Illustration, traditional painting and 3D. I got my major in Media Arts and Animation and started working as a 3D Visualization Artist doing architecture and Interior Design. I was more into the 3D world building models due to my work and because it was a more technical approach, however I was always a gamer. I loved games and I always liked to see “The art of________ ” of the games that I liked and the more I looked at those books the more I got into the pre-production process of making games. So after a few years I lost my job due to the recession, moved around the states till I ended up back in my island (Puerto Rico) where I grew up and after a year of having digital painting as a hobby and doing it more and more I decided to go for it. I started getting more involved in communities, forums and with other artists and my passion for 2D Digital Illustration grew to the point where I am at now. Still evolving and defining.

Q: Any particular influences on your style?

A: Well, I was always attracted to the games I played like Blizzard games, Halo, Soul Reaver, many others. But I can recall 2 incidents in specific where it influenced my art in a tremendous way. The first was when I first started getting serious about my artwork and polishing my skills to become a professional. I found out about Feng Zhu video tutorials from his school. And by that time he had about 30 episodes of small and short tutorials on different topics on Digital Painting. And I remember watching one in the morning and one at night before bed for like months, even though I had watched them already. I learned a lot and my artwork took a leap forward due to the videos. The other incident was in early 2012 where I decided to go for a month to Canada to the Imaginism Studios workshop. It was an intense and remarkable experience. It was all about Art and friends. The lessons I took about foundation, rendering, style, imagination, etc., were very, very important in creating what I am right now. It was a great experience.

Q: If you could pick a film or franchise in which to work on as art designer, which one would it be?

A: WOW, this is a very hard one.

Ok so after thinking a lot I think it would be AWESOME for me to work in a new series for the Legacy of Kain games, Soul Reaver. It is a game series that I enjoyed a lot when it came out and it has been a while since they make a new game.

Q: What was the process behind the design of Sigrdrífa’s cover?

Character concepts

Character concepts

A: Well after reading the author’s description of an idea, usually what I do is do some research. And the first thing I look for is for a good color palette. There are a lot of ways I can go for that but after finding that then I start with more specifics like, research on armor, book covers, composition, etc. Once I have all that gathered up I start sketching, making thumbnails to play with composition and placement and look for the best possible image and design, which in my opinion is probably the hardest part because once I have that its all about rendering and spending time with the image.

Background sketch

Background sketch

Cover background, finished version

Cover background, finished version

For more on José Vega’s art you can visit his webpage below.

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NEXT TIME: What I have learned from reading the Völsunga Saga, Part 2

Chapter 2: Entering Valhalla

Norse mythology has always held a certain fascination to me. Now, while technically that’s true of most mythologies from around the world, Valhalla and friends have a special place thanks to their intrinsic coolness and inevitable tragic endings. It’s no coincidence that Stan Lee and Marvel Comics added Thor to their superheroes roster (Thor being, incidentally, my favorite of the Norse gods). Not only did they have consumate warriors, giants, dragons, elves, dwarves, trolls, and tricksters, but those gods were destined to die in a grand final battle, and they knew it. These are gods devised after a manner of people who not only did not fear death, but actually welcomed it. Their Ragnarök was a sort of beautiful tragedy, where death and oblivion meant the most glorious ending to one’s life.

Thor battles the serpent Jörmungandr. At the Ragnarök, they kill each other. Thor also had considerably more clothes than as depicted.

Thor battles the serpent Jörmungandr. At the Ragnarök, they kill each other. Thor also had considerably more clothes than as depicted.

It is this world that I have chosen to tell the story of Sigrdrífa. All the elements of modern fantasy are encapsulated in Norse mythology, and masters like Wagner and Tolkien drew from its legendary sagas to build their own epic stories. While I am not contemplating having Thor, or many of the gods, make an appearance in this novel, there will be plenty of fantasy to go around. And violence. And murder. And sacrifice.

Remember, this isn’t a happy place. Beware the faint hearted.

NEXT TIME: What I have learned from reading the Völsunga Saga

Chapter 1: The Swarm

Christmas 2013 Sigrdrifa logo

One of the side effects you get from having an active imagination is the swarm of ideas that float around your mind day and night, chaos desperately seeking for enough order to make sense of itself. I guess that’s why writers, painters, sculptors and artists in general become what they become; they need to channel those swarms into something congruent in order to be happy. I have had that swarm… uh, swarming around me for well over a decade now, and it’s annoying. When I was a little kid I already had some ideas floating around, sure, but after putting them into paper in a half-assed way they stopped nagging me. It was upon reaching adulthood that they became powerful enough to force me into doing something about it.

Sigrdrífa is one of my first serious attempts at doing something about it.

Not that I haven’t tried before. I have plenty of material slowly detaching itself from the Swarm and settling down into something a bit more controllable. In fact, Sigrdrífa isn’t even the biggest idea I have that is leaving the Swarm, although it has the potential of becoming something huge. What Sigrdrífa has that the others don’t is commitment; I’m making the production of this story public, as well as setting a deadline (Christmas 2013, as you can see from the promotional banner above). I will blog about its progress as it occurs: its ups and downs, the writer’s blocks that I’m sure to find along the way, the eureka moments that break those blocks, and so forth. I’ll make the readers privy to that process, which means I’ll have to hold myself accountable to the success or failure of the project.

And I’m not doing this alone.

sketches for sigrdrifa

Mr. José Vega will also be a part of this project as its cover artist, and he will be sharing his progress as well. The sketches you see above are the very first ideas that made it into paper. In the meantime, you can check his amazing artwork at his Art of José Vega webpage, and follow him on his Twitter handle @iarte7.

You can also follow me at @Samtertainment, and of course follow this blog.

What will Sigrdrífa be about? You guys can probably get some rough ideas from the name itself as well as those sketches. For more information, however, stay tuned!