Torvaldsland, though not treeless, is bleak. In it, fine Ka-la-na wood, for example, and supple temwood, cannot grow. These two woods are prized in the north. A hall, built with Ka-la-na wood, for example, is thought a great luxury. Such halls, incidentally, are often adorned with rich carvings. The men of Torvaldsland are skilled with their hands. Trade to the south, of course, is largely in the furs acquired from Torvaldsland, and in barrels of smoked, dried parsit fish. Marauders of Gor, page 28
Upon reflection, however, it seemed to me not so strange that this should be so, in a bleak country, one in which many of the trees, too, would be stunted and wind-twisted. In Torvaldsland, fine timber is a premium. Too, what fine lumber there is, is often marked and hoarded for the use of shipwrights. If a man of Torvaldsland must choose between his hall and his ship, it is the ship which, invariably, wins his choice. Furthermore, of course, were it not for goods won by his ship or ships, it would unlikely that he would have the means to build a hall and house within it his men. Marauders of Gor, page 90
It is noticeable that most northern halls in a steading are within a palisade.
Then the ship turned a bend between the cliffs, and, to my astonishment I saw a dock, of cough logs, covered with adzed boards, and a wide, sloping area of land, of several acres, green, though strewn with boulders, with short grass. There was a log palisade some hundred yards from the dock. High on the cliff I saw a lookout, a man with a horn. Doubtless it had been he whom we had heard. Marauders of Gor, page 81
For more on halls, longhouses and buildings of Tovaldsland, please click here.
I had heard of this stone. It is taken by many, to mark the border between Torvaldsland and the south. Many of those of Torvaldsland, however, take its borders to be much further extended that the Torvaldsmark. Indeed, some men regard Torvaldsland to be wherever their ships beach, as they took their country, and their steel, with them. Marauders of Gor, page 45
I could see, against the night sky, the darker shape, but low in the water, of the skerry. Too, against the sky, I could see the tall rune-stone, looking like a needle against the stars, which worms the Torvaldsmark. Marauders of Gor, page 75
The Torvaldsberg is, all things considered, an extremely dangerous mountain. Yet it is clearly not unscalable, as I learned, without equipment. It has the shape of a spear blade, broad, which has been bent near the tip. It is some-thing over four and a half pasangs in height, or something over seventeen thousand Earth feet. It is not the highest mountain on Gor but it is one of the most dramatic, and most impressive. It is also, in its fearful way, beautiful. Marauders of Gor. Page 220-221 Ivar Forkbeard and Tarl climb the Torvaldsberg and this quote simply gives us more insight in the mind of a Torvaldslander. One is that they would know how to read runes, but like some of the scarlet cast, they donâ€™t like this to be known. It is interesting that there is a drawing of a horse and we can almost assume that horses at one time were present of Gor, but did not survive the Gorean environment. Young men of Torvaldsland are taught basic mathematics, some history through skalds and so forth to be able to trade and work a farm.
The passage extended beyond us, disappearing in the darkness beyond the light of our torches. It was about eight feet in height and width. It was carved from the living rock. Along its edges, spaced some twelve feet from one another, on both sides, were torch rings, with unlit torches, which might be lit. The piles of tinder and flint and steel, or iron pyrites, lay now behind us, or to one side. I lifted the torch to the borders, running linearly down the chamber, disappearing into the darkness before us. The lettering was in the high, angular script of the north; the pictographs seemed primitive.
"These are old runes," said Ivar. "Can you read them?" I asked. "No," said Ivar.
My hair rose on the back of my neck. I looked at one of the pictographs. It was a man astride a quadruped.
"Look," said I to the Forkbeard. "Interesting," said the Forkbeard. "It is a representation of a man riding a mythological beast, doubtless an illustration based upon some saga with which I am unfamiliar."
He continued on.
I lingered by the pictograph. I had seen nothing like it on Gor.
"Follow me," said the Forkbeard.
I left the pictograph to follow him. I wondered on the man who had carved it. It was indeed old, perhaps ancient. It was drawn by one who had been familiar with a world unknown to Ivar Forkbeard. There was no mistaking the quadruped on which the rider was mounted. It was a horse.
The passage now enlarged. We felt lost in it. It was still squarish, some twenty feet in height and width. It was now much more decorated and carved than it had been, and, in the light of the torches, we could see that much color had been used in its decoration. Pictographs were much more numerous now, and, instead of being linearly bordered the walls were now decorated in columns of runes and designs, and pictographs. Torches, unlit, in wall rings, were still illuminated as we passed near them. Many of the columns carved, with painted surfaces, on the walls, reminded me of rune stones. These stones, incidentally, are normally quite colorful, and can often be seen at great distances. Each year their paint is freshened, commonly on the vigil of the vernal equinox, which, in the north, as commonly in the south marks the new year. Religious rune stones are repainted by rune-priests on the vigil of the fest-season of Odin, which on Gor, takes place in the fall. If the stones were not tended either by farmers on whose lands they lie, or by villagers in whose locales they lie, or by rune-priests, in a few years, the paint would be gone, leaving only the plain stone. The most famous rune stone in the north is that on Einar's Skerry, which marks the northland's southern border.
"Can you not read these runes?" I asked Ivar, again
"I am not a rune-priest," he said.
Ivar's reply was not a little belligerent. I knew him able to read some rune markings. I gathered that these, perhaps because of antiquity or dialect, were beyond him. Ivar's attitude toward reading was not unlike that of many of the north. He had been taught some rune signs as a boy, that he could understand important stones, for in these stones were the names of mighty men and songs of their deeds, but it had not been expected of him that he would be in any sense a fluent reader. Ivar, like many of those in the north, was a passable reader, but took care to conceal this fact. He belonged to the class of men who could hire their reading done for them, much as he could buy thralls to do his farming. It was not regarded as dignified for a warrior to be too expert with letters, such being a task beneath warriors. To have a scribe's skills would tend to embarrass a man of arms, and tend to lower his prestige among his peers. Many of the north, then, were rather proud of their illiteracy, or seml-illiteracy. It was expected of them. It honored them. His tools were not the pen and parchment, but the sword, the bow, the ax and spear. Besides simple runes, the boy in the north is also taught tallying, counting, addition and subtraction, for such may be of use in trading or on the farm. He is also taught weighing. Much of his education, of course, consists in being taken into a house, and taught arms, hunting and the sea. He profits, too, from the sagas, which the skalds sing, journeying from hall to hall. In the fest-season of Odin a fine skald is difficult to bring to one's hall. One must bid high. Sometimes they are kidnapped, and, after the season's singing, given much gold and freed. I had not, of course, intended to insult the Forkbeard. Marauders of Gor, page 230-231
The Stream of Torvald
The stream of Torvald is a current, as a broad river in the sea, pasangs wide, whose temperature is greater than that of the surrounding water. Without it, much of Torvaldsland, bleak as it is, would be only a frozen waste. Torvaldsland is a cruel, harsh, rocky land. It contains many cliffs, inlets and mountains. Its arable soil is thin and found in patches. The size of the average farm is very small. Travel between farms is often by sea, in small boats. Without the stream of Torvald it would probably be impossible to raise cereal crops in sufficient quantity to feed even its relatively sparse population. There is often not enough food under any conditions, particularly in northern Torvaldsland, and famine is not unknown. In such cases men feed on bark, and lichens and seaweed. It is not strange that the young men of Torvaldsland often look to the sea, and beyond it, for their fortunes. The stream of Torvald is regarded by the men of Torvaldsland as a gift of Thor, bestowed upon Torvald, legendary founder and hero of the land, in exchange of a ring of gold. Marauders of Gor, page 55-56
Skerry of Einar
â€œTake course,â€� said Ivar Forkbeard, to his helmsman, â€œfor the skerry of Einar.â€�
â€œYes Captain,â€� said the helmsman.
Aelgifu laughed with joy.
It was there, at the rune-stone of the Torvaldsmark, that Ivar Forkbeard would receive her ransom. Marauders of Gor, page 74-75
The most famous rune stone in the north is that on Einarâ€™s Skerry, which marks the northlandâ€™s southern border. Marauders of Gor, page 231
â€œBut I am of Ax Glacier,â€� said the Forkbeard. In Ax Glacier country, of course, there were no farms, and there were no verr or bosk, there being insufficient grazing. Accordingly there would be little field dunging to be done, there being no fields in the first place and no dung in the second; too, due to the absence of verr or bosk, butter would be in scarce supply. Marauders of Gor. Page 156
â€œIn Ax Glacier country,â€� said the Forkbeard, with great seriousness, â€œthe night is six months long.â€� Marauders of Gor. Page 157
Skerry of Vars
The Skerry of Vars is roughly a hundred foot, Gorean, square. It is rough, but, on the whole, flat. It rises some fifteen to twenty feet from the water. It is grayish rock, bleak, upthrust, igneous, forbidding. Marauders of Gor. Page 271
The Landmarks of Torvaldsland
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This research is done on the series of books written by John Norman, the comments in italics are mine and my point of view. Woman of Gor