By David Lias
Skjaldborg means “wall of shields.”
It’s a fitting name for a group of Viking re-enactors who were part of the Midsommar celebration at Dalesburg Lutheran Church July 21.
The group also served as a reminder to their audience of largely Scandinavian heritage that their European ancestors lived at times that were quite barbaric, and had to develop unique weapons and fighting strategy to survive and grow.
Develon Puckett, from Omaha, NE, shed 62 pounds of armor after he, Ryan Carlson, also of Omaha, and a couple of younger students, all dressed in traditional garb, demonstrated the battle techniques developed by Vikings centuries ago.
The armor, helmets, boots and wool leggings and undergarments were no doubt fine for the cooler climates of northern Europe. The warm, humid day provided a bit of a challenge to Skjaldborg members – one they were able to overcome.
“We call what we do ‘edutainment’ because we want to educate you while we entertain you,” Puckett, who works as a paramedic in Lincoln, NE, said. “That’s why we mix in the fights with the educational part. Hopefully at the end of this event, some of the spectators are able to tell me what the time period of the Vikings was, what they wore, how they survived, how they fought and how they thrived.”
In between brief demonstrations of typical Viking battle techniques, Puckett and Carlson, who is a schoolteacher in Omaha, did their best in a fairly brief amount of time to instill in their audience a sense of the Viking lifestyle and history.
“Everything is as authentic as we can make it,” Puckett said. “All of our armor, we’ve made ourselves. Nearly all of the weapons – we have two blacksmiths in our group – have been made by us, too. “
Members of the group also research as much about the Viking lifestyle as possible so they can pass that knowledge along to their audiences.
“If you’re from Scandinavia – Sweden, Norway, Finland, northern England, Ireland, Denmark, Iceland and northern France, you have Scandinavian heritage, whether you like it or not,” Puckett said. “Our job is to educate you on your past, to the best of our ability. There are smarter people than us roaming around, but I don’t think they swing swords and axes.”
Puckett, dressed in a traditional wool hat and both a woolen under-tunic and woolen over-tunic that reached down to his knees, complained little after shedding his heavy armor.
“It’s not that hot,” he said. “Wool breathes great, and so does linen, and it dries off incredibly hot. Modern fabrics don’t breathe as well as traditional fabrics. Things are rather pleasant, right now, with the breeze we have right now.”
The Vikings culture reflects the turmoil present in all of Europe centuries ago, he said.
“We try to research the way they fought so we can demonstrate that,” Puckett said. “There are combat groups in Europe, and there are people in the United States who go over to Europe and learn fighting techniques. We learn some techniques from books that were written in the 1400s and the 1500s, but there are only so many ways to fight.”
Puckett said he first solely interested in learning about medieval swordplay when he saw Skjaldborg in action. He decided to become involved in that group because besides learning about ancient battle techniques, he appreciates Skjaldborg’s goal of teaching while demonstrating.
“That’s very important. I really like educating people,” he said. “So, instead of just swordplay, we’re able to talk to the public, we’re able to tell people about history. Since it’s our history, and it’s the public’s history, it makes it much more personal.”
A throng of people surrounded the Skjaldborg group in a grassy area near Dalesburg Lutheran Church, and soaked in every word of history being shared Friday afternoon.
Skjaldborg shares information that many, many people of the Midwest can relate to.
“Some of these people can say, ‘Yeah, my grandpa talked about things like that,’ or ‘my great aunt from Sweden said many of the same things,’ and it brings it all home.
“It’s cool. It’s living history.”