What Were They Thinking?

In towns and cities around the world there are statues, monuments, and street art erected to beautify, inspire, and sometimes perhaps amuse us.

They may be mascots for the town, some important person who impacted the history of the location, or often just to celebrate some triumph.

However, one of the lasting impressions I will have of our travels through the Scandinavian countries this summer were the number of unusual statues we encountered that don’t seem to fit into this typical mold.

It started with this violent piece in Kalmar, Sweden which tops a fountain in the downtown area.  This was not your typical dignitary immortalized in stone.

Only much later did I learn this is supposed to be the triumph of David over Goliath.

Kalmar

When we reached Copenhagen, statues took on a whole new dimension.  Serenity is not a word I would attach to many of this city’s statues.  Yes – we found several whimsical and classic designs, including the famous Little Mermaid, but then there were the *others*.

First, we discovered the frenzied Horseman with a steed exhibiting a face of pure terror. From what were they fleeing?!  If there was any possibility that this horror was still lurking about, I wanted to know so I could make my escape as soon as possible.

Copenhagen

Later, I learned this statue was called Valkyrie and Horse … from Norse mythology. Valkyrie were handmaidens to Odin and were said to accompany warriors into battle, choosing those who would live or die.  They would then accompany the slain to the afterlife – Valhalla.

Not far from the Valkyrie, we encountered another horse in the process of being eaten by a lion.  What a charming statue with massive genitalia at eye level.

I couldn’t help but wonder if it was the same poor animal from above – unsuccessful in its effort to escape and abandoned by its rider.

Copenhagen2

Then there was the battle with the snake … not any snake, but a horrible adversary which had already brought the horse down.  Not surprisingly, I discovered the statue was called “Moment of Peril”.

Copenhagen3

We began to think it might simply a peculiarity of Copenhagen – perhaps an indication of a tortured past …. and we clung to that belief until we reached Oslo.

There we encountered life-and-death struggles with reptilian creatures on top of huge columns framing the bridge in Frogner Park.

Oslo

One poor soul was clearly losing the battle.

Oslo2

In all my travels, I’ve never encountered so much violent struggle captured in stone.  I’m so curious … is there anywhere else in the world with such an unusual collection of statutes?

About Joanne Sisco

Retired but not idle. Life is an adventure - I plan to continue to embrace it.
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70 Responses to What Were They Thinking?

  1. I agree. These statues depict so much violence. I don’t believe I could like in a place with such statues. I abhor violence of any kind, but I do thank you for sharing these finds. I wouldn’t know about them otherwise. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ChristineR says:

    I’ve reblogged this, Joanne. I miss so much good stuff through being a lousy follower. I appreciate your visits to mine. I love these statues, and they do reflect the warrior blood of the old people. Even their Gods loved nothing more than a good stoush among themselves. 🙂

    Like

  3. ChristineR says:

    Reblogged this on Christine R and commented:
    I’m reblogging this collection of statues, recently seen by Joanne in her Scandinavian travels (posted September). To the Norse warrior, dying in battle, sword in hand, was a very big thing. There was no better way to ensure entry into their version of Heaven. I can’t imagine one could stand before anyone of these magnificent statues without feeling an onrush of emotion. Awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. nimi naren says:

    Very interesting..totally enjoyed. Loved the way you have written it.

    Like

  5. We have a Big Pineapple. Those spiky leaves can be brutal, you know.

    I love these statues (and your stories of them – giggling madly here) but then I’m weird. But I would also argue that I live with boys and these are definitely right up a boy’s alley. Way more than some whimsical tiny fishwoman.

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  6. Alex Hurst says:

    San Francisco has a statue of a mother and child on the pier…. built out of rusted chain links, and planted on the spot where, over a decade ago, a mother tossed her three children to their deaths in the Bay. It always creeped me out when we drove by it. The mother’s fingers were scarier than Edward Scissorhands’s own!

    Those are some pretty amazing statues, though…. they require thought, not just a snap!

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    • joannesisco says:

      OMG … that is such a horrible story. I’m sure that people who don’t know the story puzzle over the statue and its significance.
      So often we see statues without giving any thought to them. Then there are the ones that stop us in our tracks and make us wonder ….

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Paula says:

    Love this post! I wonder if it’s a matter of focus. You know, once you notice the crazy statue here and the freaking out horse there suddenly all you see are these extreme, yet fantastic, sculptures. Now I’m going to look around, I’ll bet they’re all over…maybe even in my sleepy town, who knows? I’ll share what I find 😉

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    • joannesisco says:

      I think you’re right. It’s the same phenomenon as when you buy a blue car and suddenly all you see are blue cars on the road.
      I admit that suddenly I was looking for more evidence that there were weird and wonderful statues out there! Quel surprise … I found more!!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Brutal and violent, but very detailed and clever sculptures. Interesting to see that this what is predominates.

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  9. Heyjude says:

    I think they are magnificent! We have a fair few over here, and you see such sculptures in Paris too. Europeans love their mythology and biblical heroes 🙂

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  10. Sammy D. says:

    Seeing so many on one trip might be disconcerting, but I find them exquisite in their depiction of struggles and death throes. I’ve not seen any anywhere that are as vibrant as these.

    I suppose in our PC-hyped world these are over the top, but I think they allude to dark underworlds and evil and inhumanity that has existed in religion, fables, oral history and even our lives today. Are they any more disturbing than video of beheadings that have occurred this year? I’m only surprised to find these in Copenhagen, but it must be the Norse/Viking ancestral ties.

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  11. treerabold says:

    Why couldn’t the horse be the champion?! He seems to be taking the brunt of the attacks!!
    Bizarre statues to say the least….Obviously I have very little art education….I mean, I went searching for the Big Nickel in Sudbury Ontario!! 🙂

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  12. Valkyrie’s are awesome. My next wife will definitely be a Valkyrie!
    Perhaps Vigeland (the creator of Frogner Park) was way a head of his time and his artwork held references to the, not yet invented, Illuminati/Reptilian conspiracy theories? 😀 Hehe.

    Here’s one of my Valkyrie’s:
    https://cardinalguzman.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/a-valkyrie-in-the-park/

    Like

  13. hilarymb says:

    Hi Joanne – stunning sculptures … amazing to see – thanks for posting and then the snippets of history attached. Moment of Peril is by an English Sculptor Sir Thomas Brock – he’s in Wiki … and whose works include the Queen Victoria sculpture in front of Buckingham Palace.

    Fascinating .. I’d have never have known about Brock … cheers Hilary

    Like

  14. bkpyett says:

    Joanne, thank you for opening my eyes. I think some of the literature that comes from that part of the world reflects this turmoil. I always thought that this area of the world was peace loving too!

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  15. Su Leslie says:

    Seriously gruesome! But I think it was quite normal in older European art to portray the violent and dramatic. Painting was much the same before the rise of the bourgeoisie and the pastoral “see how much stuff I own” scenes. A lot of it was based on biblical or mythological stories. I guess it was pre-literacy story telling.

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  16. Those poor horses sure are having a tough time! This is quite a gruesome selection of statues you’ve found. Think you might be right about some of them being from the same era though – glad I missed that one!

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    • joannesisco says:

      Art through the ages. I suppose I *could* have posted a picture of the Little Mermaid … but what fun would there have been in that! 😉

      Sorry to all the horses lovers … if these statues are any indication, they were definitely battle fodder 😦

      Like

  17. Mara Eastern says:

    Your title sums it all. What were they thinking?! Perhaps I just lack an understanding of the Scandinavian culture…

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  18. It is very I teresting how the status change from country to country and sea to area. These were clearly some unstable and talented artist. Great post.

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  19. Wow! No, and I can’t remember ever seeing such captivating statues honestly. I love them. Guess the Viking blood runs strong.

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  20. Interesting thuogh. They weren’t all the same artist I take it (kidding). 😀 😀 😀 Is it a culture thing to showcase death as hard whether it comes easy or hard? Not my cup of tea either. Too violent. 😦

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  21. The violent subject matter aside, those are really beautiful statues! The artists really captured the emotions and the horror. I think I actually prefer them to the over-the-top ego monuments that so many statues of famous people are. Thanks for sharing them!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Very odd, Joanne. Does make you wonder about the artists, the people that commissioned these works, and the public that accepts these captured moments of violence.

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    • joannesisco says:

      they are definitely not “politically correct” in today’s environment. According to Mr Google, these statues in Copenhagen are hundreds of years old. I’m wondering if it was a “style” at the time … but I’ve never encountered anything like this before. Or maybe I just didn’t notice.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Mrs. P says:

    I have the same reaction as you. I have always loved statues but these are horrible…violent is a good word for them. Never seen anything like it.

    Like

  24. Kristin says:

    Wow, very interesting post. Thanks for sharing. I didn’t particularly enjoy looking at some of these statues. Poor horses…

    Like

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