Pond of the Plywood Vikings

Re-run from 25 December 2005 (no, Swedes pay no attention to Christmas Day, preferring to get worked up about Christmas Eve).

i-95f6581cbcd185983e58e7b6597b2dcd-Skive pond.jpg

In Skive, Denmark, there’s a pond dug to accommodate a plywood Viking ship that was never set afloat.

My friend Rud Kjems tells the story in local-history annual Skiveegnens jul 2005. Skive museum was incorporated in 1910, but only in 1942 did it get premises of its own. When the museum building was finally becoming a reality, the organisation received some unusual corporate sponsorship.

Danish brewery Tuborg financed a film set in the Viking Period for the universal exhibition of 1937 in Paris. The brewery ended up with a warehouse full of props, costumes and set decorations, including a 19 metre Viking ship replica. It offered all this, along with a sizeable sum of money, to the thrilled trustees of Skive museum. They envisioned a Viking re-enactment centre in the town park, with a re-constructed Iron Age house, people in period costumes, and a pond with a boat house and a proud Viking ship. For a time, Skive was the envy of neighbouring town councils. Plans were laid out for the park, and the pond was dug.

But when the gear arrived from Tuborg, it turned out that the latter-day Vikings of the Danish film industry weren’t quite up to the standards of their ancestors.

“Using cardboard, plaster and paint, they have created an illusion of thick oak boards, but it is all hollow. Only a few pieces may be massive. The general impression of the materials is not good, even if there may be a few things … you might have hopes for, but otherwise it looks like a pile of firewood.”

Skive museum has much to offer the visitor, but no re-enactment centre from the 1930s, and no Viking ship. It turned out to be made of plywood. But the pond is still there, the imprint of a dream of a beer-sodden replica of a golden past.

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One thought on “Pond of the Plywood Vikings

  1. Movie props, even for carefully researched period movies, hardly ever reach the level of museum-level reproductions – not only would it be too expensive, it also often isn’t practical.

    For the 1965 version of “Mutiny on the Bounty” they wanted to go the full mile and create an accurate replica from original design drawings – only to realize that the ship would have been too small and cramped to accommodate the actors (larger in average size than their ancestors) and the film crew with all of the necessary equipment. As a result, the Bounty II is a pretty accurate replica – but 33% larger in all dimensions.

    In a curious reversal on the Skive situation, another Bounty replica made for a 1984 remake of the film was solidly constructed with a steel hull clad in wood paneling, and fully sea-worthy – because the vessel’s secondary use as a tourist boat after the end of filming had already been included in the considerations.


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