I just spent the week going through the first wave of edits on Seiðman, and it was pretty overwhelming. I’d done a ton of research over the past three years and had it critiqued by people in Iceland and Norway, but I still kept finding things that I would have to jot down in a list of notes with a little question mark:
Did they use miles? (No, they used the measurement mil, in some parts of Scandinavia, but I gather it was closer to a league, which is about 3.4 miles.)
Would Kol and Ari pass a bottle of ale back and forth? (No, bottles weren’t common. I went with a drinking skin, instead.)
Would they see stars in the sky, when they looked up? This one turns out to be extremely tricky for those of us who don’t live near the arctic circle. Not only does the sun set very late in summer, but it also doesn’t sink far below the horizon when it does. This means that during certain months the sky never quite gets dark before the sun starts to rise again, so you wouldn’t see stars, if you looked up.
But the biggest anachronism I found was that I had described several sailing ships as having decks and forecastles. This is absurd. Viking longships had neither of these things. I can’t believe I never noticed this before I submitted the novel, and none of my readers caught it either. At least, I caught it before it went into publication.
There was also a passage I used from the Völuspa, one of the best-known Norse poems. It was probably written before Norway and Iceland became fully Christian, though nobody knows for certain. I quote two stanzas from it, and I was initially using the translation by Henry Adams Bellows. Since he died in 1873, his translation would be out of copyright. But a writer I know was recently accused of plagiarism for coincidental similarities between his novel and popular gay indie film, and I really don’t want to deal with someone claiming I “steal” from other sources. So my wonderful husband came up with an original translation, based upon the Old Norse.