Him on mod bearn
þæt healreced hatan wolde,
medoærn micel, men gewyrcean
þonne yldo bearn æfre gefrunon…
[He then envisioned a great meadhall.
The hall would be celebrated
throughout the ages…]
Continuing the work of The Grinnell Beowulf, we are now working to construct a virtual reality (VR) model of Heorot. The team is basing its model on archeological excavations of Viking meadhalls in Denmark and England, particularly hall at Lejre , as well as accounts from historical and poetic records from the early Middle Ages. The project will help modern readers of Beowulf to better understand the civic spaces that helped shape the poem’s social structures.
With virtual reality technology, people will be able to “visit” Heorot, the “greatest of meadhalls” that features prominently in Beowulf. Using Beowulf, related poetry, and historical sources, the meadhall will be populated with people and objects important to understanding the setting of the poem. The VR experience will give participants a sense of space, allowing them to see how the layout of the hall contributes to its function as a political and social arena. In addition, people will be able to “hold” and examine virtual objects such as weapons, armor, jewelry, etc.
We began work on this project during Summer 2018.
The VR Heorot Team
Six Grinnell College students have contributed to the project so far, and we expect to bring more on board as the project continues to develop over the next few years. Joseph Robertson ’19 and Madison Smith ’20 have worked as content experts, contributing valuable research on Viking architecture, material culture, and social structures. Ethan Huelskamp ’20 and Anna Brew ’21 are our 3D artists. Zoe Cui and Mike Zou ’20 are working as programmers.
Faculty-Student Research in Iceland
In October 2018, I took three students to Reykjavik, Iceland to do research on Viking objects and architecture. We visited the National Museum of Iceland, the Reykjavik Settlement Museum, and the Saga Museum, and took the Golden Circle Tour to Þingvellir National Park, the Haukadalur geothermal area, and the Gullfoss waterfall.