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About This Instrument

As a playing instrument, this is a typical modern Hardanger fiddle.  Players in Norway and America have played this instrument with no complaints about measurement, adjustment, and so forth.  Neck length (edge of body to nut) 111 mm.  String length about 300 mm.  Flatter-than-violin fingerboard and bridge.  Hardanger fiddle strings.

The decoration uses the traditional methods: inlay of bone and mother-of-pearl, and pen-and-ink drawing. However, the artistic style is quite non-traditional.  In the traditional artwork, the pen-and-ink drawing is leafy, and the inlay in the fingerboard and tailpiece are geometrical.  Here's an example of the traditional artwork, in a fiddle by Torleiv Frøysaa, from 1931.  It's on my workbench, being repaired.

But I could not force myself to do the traditional artwork; instead, all the artwork in this instrument is based on Viking-age themes.  (The earliest known Hardanger fiddle is dated 600 years after the end of the Viking age, so there is no claim that this use of Viking themes is historical.  It is just an artistic choice.)  Here are a few of the models I used.

The head of the fiddle is based on a head that was part of the Oseberg ship find.  This magnificent and terrifying carving is probably the most famous single object from Viking times. 

The story of Sigurd the killer of the dragon Fafnir is the story that Wagner adapted for the Ring.  One of the bad characters from the story (actually, nobody was very nice) was Gunnar.  As punishment, he was thrown into a pit of poisonous snakes with his hands bound.  His sister threw in his harp.  He played the harp with his feet, which calmed the snakes, until – perhaps he hit a wrong note – one of them bit him and killed him.

Scenes from the Sigurd story were carved on church door frames.  Here is Gunnar from one such door frame.  I thought he would be a good choice for the fingerboard of the fiddle.  

The pen-and-ink work has various sources. The birds (yes, they are birds) in the middle of the bottom and top of the instrument are from the Oseberg find.  The intertwining animals on the upper and lower ribs (sides) are from a silver cup known as the Jellinge cup.  And the runic inscription on the middle ribs says … well, what do you think it should say?

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