Mad Max meets Lord of the Rings
This story begins with historical fact, which eventually leads to speculation. At this
stage, it is a draft history of a land that Australia might have become if it had been
colonised by Vikings. While offering an amusing mental diversion, it also aims to provide
an opening for some of the possibilities of settlement in the southern
continentpossibilities that help put the English settlement in a broader context.
The story begins at the end of the last millennium.
- The Varangian guard
- Ragnarök Now
- Valhalla postponed
- Hel and back
- Not like old times
- Where sea and land meet
- Woomera the crafty
||The Varangian guard
||In 980AD, the Russian Tsar Vladimir converted to Orthodox Christianity. At token of
his devotion, he sent 6,000 of his soldiers, mostly Vikings, to assist the Emperor of
Constantinople, the ruthless Basil II. These soldiers became known as the Varangian guard.
||Still proud of their pagan gods, especially the thunder god Thor, the Varangians find
this Christian deity hard to swallow. Disaffection with Basil smoulders, fanned by Muslim
spies who infiltrate their ranks and cleverly interpret Viking mythology according to
their own prophesies. The spies show their Viking friends the astrological signs that
indicate the immanent arrival of the apocalypse known in Norse mythology as
||Ragnarök is a final battle in which the godstogether with the fallen soldiers
residing in Valhallastruggle with the evil giants lead by Loki. At its climax,
Jormungand (the world serpent) and Thor are locked in mortal combat. Ragnarök
concludes with a great fire that consumes the world.
||The spies explain to the soldiers how the White Christ they serve is in
league with the giants against Thor. And maps are revealed that indicate the location of
Valhalla in the antipodes. They propose a plan to sail to this land to the guards may be
there in time to join the final battle.
||Such news confirms Viking suspicions about the growing Christian empire and offers a
definite course of action. Not all agree to leave, but those remaining swear not to reveal
the rebels destination. Harald the Restless leads his rebel group of 600 Viking families
south of Constantinople to Oman. Despite concern at the crude habits of this rough guests,
Omani welcome the Vikings as invaluable help in building their fleet for trade with China.
||For more than a year, the Vikings assist the Omani with the construction of their
ships. Finally, in the year 998, the Vikings lead the Arab traders on a long hazardous
voyage along the Indian coastline to the land of Java.
||Now at their destination, the Arabs are anxious to dispose of their filthy companions
and send them what they think is a wild goose chase to the Valhalla further to the south.
The Vikings eventually land on the top of the southern continent.
||At first, the Vikings carry on their natural ways. They gorge themselves on local
seafood and rampage through native camps. However, they soon find themselves in need of
assistance to locate their promised Valhalla. The Vikings adopt a friendlier attitude to
the tribe on which they depend. Knowing nothing of Viking history, the local elders assume
they come to gather more people for the land of the dead from which they come. When the
Vikings try to explain the myth of Jormungand, the elders translate this into their own
mythology as "Ngalyod", the rainbow serpent whose movements made passages
through the land for water to flow. They then gesture to their visitors the journey of
Ngalyod in mountains to the south.
||Emboldened by information they think will lead them to Jormungand, the Vikings march
further south, assisted by a network of Aboriginal communities. The trust between these
two peoples from opposite sides of the world grows steadily. Eventually, they come to the
place where the serpent is meant to preside, but what they see is just desolate landscape,
covered by smouldering grasses. At first, the Vikings are left to presume that their
fabled Ragnarök has already taken place and they are too late to participate in it. This
causes great consternation in the beleaguered community of 800 men, women and children.
There is nothing in Norse mythology that tells of what if anything follows the firestorms
||Hel and back
||Some of the more hot-headed warriors claim that their Aboriginal friends are the burnt
remnants of Loki, and they have been led astray to the terrible underworld of Hel. A
fierce argument ensures between them and the more moderate voices. During the course of
their argument, distant thunder can be heard, leading some to think that Thor might still
be alive. In the middle of this argument and rainstorm descends, filling the land with
rivulets and waterfalls. The Aboriginal guides seem most excited and the Vikings learn
from them about the manifestation of their rainbow serpent. Their leader, Sigmund the
Reasonable, is led to a particularly strong waterfall where he is shown what appears to be
a rainbow serpent.
||Sigmund returns to this people and revises the story of Ragnarök to accommodate an
offspring of Thor, whose appearance as a snake douses the flames of Ragnarök, allowing
new life to emerge from the devastation of fire. Not all are convinced, however, and
Inveld the Furious leads a small but rowdy group of warriors back to where they arrived.
||In the meantime, the Sigmunds people settle on the land, learning to survive at
hunting with their Aboriginal hosts. They find a reliable source of fresh water, from
which they begin agriculture on a small scale. A couple of men with knowledge of mining
manage to find sources of iron in the hills. From this, they begin to fabricate weapons
for hunting, including a particularly deadly form of boomerang. The boomerang and the
kangaroo inspire experimentation with aeronautics. Over the course of several generations
a very primitive helicopter is developed that hops along the landscape.
||Meanwhile, Invelds warriors operate like lawless pirates along the coast of the
continent. They indulge themselves on rich sea-life, coming to land occasionally to steal
women. Eventually, they make their way to larger islands on the south-east of the
continent. After many generations, they meet another warlike people with whom they engage
in fierce battle. Weakened after many years of indulgence, the Vikings succumb in battle
and are subsumed into the Maori peoples. Their knowledge of the larger continent proves
useful later in extending the range of the Maori activities.
||Not like old times
||By 1450, the two Viking groups eventually meet up. The seafarers are amazed at the
technological advances made by their land-loving ancestors. They look with envy at the
violence they might wreak if given access to these mechanisms. Pirates sneakily accept the
welcome offered to them, but strike at night by first killing their leader and then
seizing the machines. Villagers flee to the hills before they can be captured, so the
pirates are left to clumsily work out how these mysterious flying machines work. In the
process of their experiments, they manage to break most of the equipment and are left no
better off than when they began.
||They decide to venture into the continent to track down the villagers. They notice
fires on a hill and advance in battle formation. Their leader Aratoa notices a stick
flying through the air to him and reaches out to grab it. The stick (a
"Gungnir") is actually made of sharpened steel and slices off his fingers before
returning to its point of origin. This blow sends the band of warriors into disarray and
they retreat back to the sea.
||For a long time nothing is heard of these pirates and the village warily returns to
its original location, which it begins to fortify. Their civilisation advances on, forming
a network of mines and forges throughout the continent. Wonderful jewellery is made using
the rich gold deposits found in the interior. Using the hopping machines
("sleipnir"), greater inter-communication develops between Aboriginal
communities and their languages begin to share many common words.
||The pirates in the meantime play sport with whatever they can find, including the odd
whaling vessel from the other side of the world. Their incursions into the continent
become rarer as coastal villages develop more sophisticated defences. Instead, they begin
to concentrate their activity to the north, where they throw in their lot with the Bugis
and Macassans in preying upon small trading vessels. They meet their match, however, with
the arrival of the Europeans, particularly the Portuguese and the Dutch, whose cannon
power overwhelms their bows and arrows.
||Where sea and land meet
||In 1634, their leader Moanok the Ready decides that they only way they can counter
these new weapons is by means of an alliance with the miners, in which they can use their
||The miners are naturally wary of their approach, but grow in confidence when Moanok
offers to give all five of his wives as guarantee to the deal. Voices among them also see
the usefulness of this alliance in repelling a potentially more dangerous enemy. After the
Treaty of Woomera a naval force is established without peer in south-east Asia. The
ensuing sea battle with the Dutch navy is intense and bloody. With greater agility of the
Woomera vessels eventually outmanoeuvres the more cumbersome war ships and the Europeans
are forced to withdraw to safer ports.
||Victory celebrations justify this uneasy alliance between the brains and the brawn of
Viking descendants. From that day, the nation of Woomera is ruled by a marriage in which
the King is drawn from land-lover stock, of mixed Aboriginal and Viking blood, and the
Queen from sea-farer stock, descended from Viking and Maori blood.
||Woomera the crafty
||Woomera develops as a proud nation, fiercely opposed to the Christian empires
constantly knocking on their doors.
||Today, Woomera is distinguished for its marriage of technology and ornament. Modernism
has little influence in design; form usually goes far beyond function. Their hand tooled
machines were much celebrated by the leaders of the English Arts & Craft movement,
William Morris and John Ruskin. The Woomera workshops established by Morris still produce
the fine fabrics and wallpapers that are found in every Viking home. Thanks to trade
protectionism and resistance to economic rationalism, Woomera manufactured goods are
prized rarities overseas.
||Woomera cities are densely inhabited with large communal buildings for meals and
gatherings. The biography of an average citizen is marked by a formal rite of passage, in
which initiates are removed from their families for ordeals of endurance in the harsh
interior of the continent. The violence of this method is the source of much criticism
from outside Woomera. Such criticism only strengthens the nations resolve to
maintain its customs. Naturally, a modern pagan nation is also a great challenge to the
many Christian missions around the world. Conversely, mystics and their followers are
drawn to Woomera from all around the world, particularly from Scandinavia. These New
Vikings are the butt of most Woomera jokes.
||The summer and winter solstices are moments of great celebration. Winter solstice is
marked by huge bon fires on which are placed wooden boats filled with crash dummies. And
in summer, the seas are filled with the holiday crowd trying to catch the next wave on
their Bugis boards.
||On the world stage, Woomera has tried to maintain a neutral position. Fascist
sympathies were stirred in the 1930s, though the attack from Japanese forces helped
consolidate the nation to defend its shores. Since then, Woomera has been a fierce
advocate of indigenous peoples. However, its treatment of philosophy as a treasonable
offence as troubled many Western countries.
||Woomera representatives in international forums are renowned for their rudeness. More
sophisticated nations occasionally swallow their pride in order to gather information
about Woomera technology, particularly their satellite technologies. Around the globe,
people encounter Viking backpackers trekking through the most remote areas of their world.
Probably the most exotic location is the Viking Bed and Breakfast in Antarctica.
||The down-under world of Vikings in Woomera adds a colourful footnote to
the book of mankind, though its a book that few residents of this country are likely
**The above was constructed with the assistance of a workshop held on 1st
August at the new Object Galleries on Circular Quay, Sydney. Thanks to Vivien, Corinna,
Tracey, Catherine, Mary and Anne.
Responses to the story are most welcome and will be incorporated into the final