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  • Emma Ford

The British Museum: Historical References for my Created World

My recent trip to the British Museum made me feel like a kid in a candy shop. I take a lot of inspiration from European folklore and history, especially the Viking invasion of Britain, so when I went to the British Museum the first place I went was the Sutton Hoo exhibit.

Information from the British Museum Website on the Sutton Hoo Exhibit By AD 500, invasions, religious infighting and political strife had disrupted life in the Roman Empire and it eventually broke down, only enduring in the east as the Byzantine Empire. A few miles from the Suffolk coast, the Sutton Hoo ship burial was one of the most exciting discoveries in British archaeology, and one that profoundly exploded the myth of the ‘Dark Ages’.  There are two Sutton Hoo Helmets in Room 41, the original and a replica showing how the original previously looked. The original helmet is extremely rare, only one of four known complete helmets from Anglo-Saxon England.   At the heart of the Sutton Hoo ship burial was a chamber surrounded by riches from Byzantium and beyond, pointing to the existence of international connections. The origin of the term ‘Viking’ is uncertain, perhaps coming from Old Norse words for pirates, seaborne expeditions, or an area in south-eastern Norway called Viken.   A double-edged sword, such as that on display, were the most prestigious weapon used by Vikings, only available to high status warriors.  

One of the races in my world is heavily inspired by the Vikings and their culture and folklore. The exhibit is full of weapons and everyday items that were created with great beauty, and that provide the perfect inspiration for my world building project.

I want to make the world feel tangible and alive and visiting this exhibit has made me think about how the vikings have repeating motifs and designs throughout their culture and every day objects.

I was really interested in the above open ring brooches. These were all gold and lavishly embellished. Items such as these would not have been kept by ordinary people, these would have been reserved for important people and royalty.

I actually used these as inspiration for the cloak pin worn by one of the characters I have created.

My original character Tristan wearing a gold cloak pin as a sign of his royal lineage, inspired by the brooches in the Sutton Hoo Collection.

However, even the most basic items seem to possess beautiful details, such as clasps hinges and hooks.

The cauldron may have been suspended from a beam in a great hall. The chain is almost 3.5 meters long, so the beam must have been four or five meters from the ground. The roof would have been even higher so clearly the cauldron was made for use in a significant building.

It is details like this that make a fantasy world believable and ground it in some kind of reality. Its not just about the larger world like the buildings and environment, it’s also about the small every day objects that the people have in their homes and use in their every day lives.

I was also really excited to see the Lewis Chess Set. I remember my dad had a replica of this when I was a child and I always wanted to see the original. I have also used these figures as inspiration for the gods in my created world.

My digital drawing of a shrine to the God of War in my created world.

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