Stories of Baron Thorvald inn Grimmi

Passed on from a Middlebridge post by Finnvarr:

I thought that someone should remark on Thorvald’s contributions to the kingdom and the Society as Baron North Woods. And since I am just about the only one who was around for the early days — being among the founders of North Woods myself — I feel a duty to be that person.

Thorvald’s role in the founding of North Woods was crucial. He and Signy Dimmraedela were at the Baycon Tournament of 1968 which was the beginning of SCA expansion outside of California. Signy and Thorvald were among the many who were very impressed by the proceedings, and they did their best for the next year and a half to start a chapter at Michigan State University. Their efforts bore fruit in May of 1970, with the first tournament of North Woods. This was just about simultaneous with the first Castel Rouge event in Winnipeg — these were the first Middle Kingdom events not sponsored by the Chicago group, originally known as “the Middle Kingdom.”

North Woods grew dramatically and was full of talented, fun people who were willing to work hard to make the SCA more like the Middle Ages with every passing event. Thorvald was particularly willing — not only was he the first seneschal, but the first baronial chronicler; his newsletter Holmgang was key in keeping NW on track between our first tournament (May 1970) and the second (October 1970), and insuring that the May event was not just a one-time party.

The October tournament was the first time a Midrealm king came to North Woods, and King Franz was mightily impressed — not only was our event the biggest one he had ever seen, with lots of fighters, but at court the barony did a processional pavane in his honor.

Thorvald won that tournament, beating a recently knighted man, Sir

Philippe, who had been second in the recent Crown Tournament in Chicago. Thorvald himself was knighted — 4th knight of the realm — and was recognized as Baron of North Woods. We had asked the king to make the best NW fighter in the tourney our baron, and we were thrilled when Thorvald won. All the rest of us fighters knew that he would, and we were happy about it — he was our leader and the best man for the job.

Thorvald soon after became Kingdom Chronicler, because Holmgang came out on time and the Pale, at that stage, did not. He was the first effective Chronicler, the first one to deal with 3rd class mailing permits and send information all over the kingdom once a month.

It may have been his success at this job that put him in line to be the first Steward (Society Seneschal) of the SCA to come from outside California. In that position he had the Corpora, or Board rulings, published for the first time, so that people could actually consult the rules. He thus had a significant role in establishing effective two-way communication between Society HQ and the scattered — very scattered — branches.

In about 1973, the Board decided to inaugurate the Order of the Pelican for people whose service to the Society was unglamorous administration rather than artistic or martial. The first Pelicans were given to people whose service had not been in any kingdom, but at the Society level. Thorvald was one of these, and he thus became the Premier Pelican of the Middle Kingdom. If the Board had not given him that Pelican, I don’t doubt he would have been the first or one of the first to receive it from the Kingdom itself, for his purely in-Kingdom service.

Few people fighting today have seen Thorvald fight. He was an early master of sword and shield and greatsword. He never won a crown, in part because his service commitments often kept him out of Crown Tournaments, but when you’d beaten Thorvald, you knew you had fought a good fight. He was also a great gentleman on the field, and an inspiration in chivalry to me and many others.

“Thorvald the Grim” was a bit of a joke when he took the name, because before that he was known as “Friendly Bob McNish.” Thorvald was one of those service people who did become grimmer as a result of his labors. But he did not get the rest of us to do our best by berating us. He did it by his own example, and by a well-placed inspirational word. We knew he wanted us to have fun, the best fun we could have, and we lived up to his expectations.

Some of you old-timers may have fabulous stories that I have not included. Scold away, friends, and tell them if you’ve got ‘em.

Finnvarr de Taahe
Seventh knight of the realm
Pelican for 19 years

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Passed on from a Middlebridge post by Folo:

Thorvald was a fixture since I started. Although we sometimes found ourselves on opposite camps, he never treated me in less than a kind and courteous manner. He’s, to my knowledge, the last of the old-timer barons. If I’m not misstakem, Wulfie is now the most senior landed baron (and since he joined after me, I can’t think of him as “old time”).

Rick DeTar once gathered together a trilogy of Thorvald stories that he told at history gatherings, parties etc. One isn’t PC. The second is that at the second Pennsic. he came walking by, looking upset. Bahadur said, “What’s the matter?” “Wanna buy a squire?” “In my culture, we have no squires…” “Wanna buy a slave?” Rick asked what had happened, and Thorvald replied that [blank] had forgotten his tent [poles. “Where are you gonna sleep?” “I don’t know…but [blank] is gonna sleep in that swamp over there!”

And my favorite: After the first Wurm Wald event, Thorvald was sitting on the porch at House Murometz drinking (the official Nortth Woods brew) Coke. He suddenly turned to the newbie next to him and drawled, “Hey, kid, you wanna be a knight?” The newbie was flustered. embarrassed, pleased. He stammered, “Sure.” Thorvald said, “Quit flicking your ashes in the Baron’s Coke…”

Damin de Folo
Baron Wurm Wald (SCA) – Commander, Baldwin’s Reg’t (NWTA)

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Passed on from a Middlebridge post by Siobhan:

His Grace Finnvarr placed an eloquent and moving post about the contributions of Baron Master Sir Thorvald hinn Grimmi.

I remember Thorvald from my earliest days in the SCA. In fact, over the weekend, I passed the twenty-second anniversary of my first SCA event (Beggar’s Banquet in Three Hills, autocratted by Baron Algorik and Fumdiddly of the Modunkers), and I remember at the time the Canton of Three Hills was still a canton of North Woods.

We were in the middle of seeking independence from “the Oppressors to the North” (grin). This was back in the days when the BOD in California was still sort of operating under the idea that every state would be a barony, and only one group within the state would be the baronial seat.

Funny how times change.

I remember also, early in 1976, when Andelcrag as a barony was about to be born, that there were the first talks of Pentamere organizing into a region and possibly seeking Principality status.

Thorvald was in on those talks, as were Signy, Caellyn, and other significant SCA elders. I was still pretty new to the Society, I didn’t understand all the political ramifications, but I knew it had to be important.

And the day that Andelcrag was officially recognized as a Barony was, I believe, the same day that Baron Thorvald recognized Fum with the Order of the White Wolf, for his service to North Woods. (my memory is getting foggy, I may not be recalling this correctly). It was among the last White Wolf awards to go to someone outside the Barony of North Woods (one went to lord Yonathan mumbledemumble Yitzhak for his service to found the office of chirugeon as well; Yonathan was also from the canton of Three Hills).

To me, Baron Thorvald will always be just that. Others will follow him, but no one will ever replace him or his contributions to the Society, the Middle Kingdom, and to the region of Pentamere.

Siobhan O’Neill

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