Note: for clarity, I am going to ignore the questions such as where the coal, wood, and paper came from; how Karl obtained wire steel stock; etc.

“Today’s the day,” said Karl.

Gunnar looked up, surprised. He was busy rearranging his collection of animal bones, this time from the largest to the smallest. Sometimes he picked the prettiest one, sometimes the most bad-ass one (a broken skull of a fox), then arranged them in the badassery order. Strangely, the older he got, the less he enjoyed the game. Perhaps he just needed more bones. “The day?”

“The day you start working at the forge.”

Gunnar jumped up to his feet, dropping the large bone he was holding. It hit the skull, breaking it further, but the boy didn’t care. “I…will work at the forge? All on my own?”

 

Kids’ toys – Árbærsjafn open air museum, Reykjavík

 

His father laughed. “No, Gunnar, you can’t work at the forge all on your own. You need a helper. Or, in this case, I need a helper. That will be you.”

The boy was overjoyed. He watched his father at work since the forge was built a year before. Karl was self-taught, or more precisely still self-teaching, explaining to Gunnar over and over again over the noise of the hammer and the roar of the fire that the most important thing about forging was practice, practice, practice. To Gunnar’s dismay, Karl had never made a sword. Yet. “Will I make swords?”

Karl emitted a sound somewhere between a sneeze and a chuckle. “Come, boy.”

Gunnar’s head was already filled with the images of himself making a huuuuuuge sword. One that would slay enemies in half before even touching them. So what that in the twentieth century nobody really needed swords? Gunnar wanted one. He could already see himself expertly handling the weapon. He ignored his mother raising her eyes from the shirt she was mending, then shaking her head. What did mother know about swords? Nothing, that’s what.

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