Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Art Contest – Midwinter 2015


The theme for The Norse Mythology Blog's sixth art contest is a bit different. Be sure to carefully read the entire Contest Theme section so that you understand the assignment.

Cover to a book by Karl Paetow

During the winter solstice on December 21, those of us in the northern hemisphere will experience the shortest day and longest night of the year. This may seem early in the season, but it’s really the middle. From this point on, days will get longer as we slowly move back towards summer.

Throughout Northern Europe, there are local traditions that celebrate midwinter. Some of these practices preserve very old rituals. Your original piece of visual art should capture the midwinter spirit.

I strongly suggest doing some reading and research on myth and folklore before you begin your artwork. What characters and concepts can you discover? Can you think of a way to relate them to the contest theme?

If you need some ideas about mythology, browse The Norse Mythology Blog Archive. You can also check out the winners of the Midwinter 2014 Art Contest in the three categories: kid, teen and adult. Most importantly – be creative!


Your artwork entry must somehow relate to the character and legends of Frau Holle. When I was a child, my father told me of the German folk tradition of Frau Holle; when she made her bed in the sky, she would shake out her comforter, and the downy feathers would fall to the earth as snow. I think of her whenever Chicago is coated by a beautiful new snowfall.

Illustration of the Grimms' fairy tale

This complex figure of folklore has many aspects, and most of them relate to winter and midwinter. Your job is to find something about Frau Holle that speaks to you and inspires you to create your own original work of art. Here's some information to set your imagination going.

In the first volume of Children's and Household Tales (1812) by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (also known as Grimms' Fairy Tales), Frau Holle appears in tale number twenty-four. A beautiful and diligent maiden falls into a well and finds herself in a lovely meadow. Eventually, she meets an old woman named Frau Holle.

At last she came to a small cottage where an old woman was looking out of a window. She had such big teeth that the maiden was scared and wanted to run away. But the old woman cried after her, "Don't be afraid, my dear child! Stay with me, and if you do all the housework properly, everything will turn out well for you. You must only make my bed nicely and give it a good shaking so the feathers fly. Then it will snow on earth, for I am Frau Holle."

[After loyally serving Frau Holle for a time, the maiden eventually asks to go home.]

Frau Holle answered, "Since you've served me so faithfully, I myself shall bring you up there again."

She took the maiden by the hand and led her to a large gate. When it was opened and the maiden was standing beneath the gateway, an enormous shower of gold came pouring down, and all the gold stuck to her so that she became completely covered with it.

"I want you to have this because you've been so diligent," said Frau Holle. Thereupon, the gate closed, and the maiden found herself up on earth. Then she went to her mother, and since she was covered with so much gold, her mother gave her a warm welcome.

[adapted from translation by Jack Zipes]

There's more to Frau Holle than just feathers! The following descriptions of her are adapted from the first volume of Jacob Grimm's Teutonic Mythology (1835). Notice that Frau she appears in many different guises – some charming, some beautiful, some frightening. Which aspect will you pick to portray in your artwork?

Powerful goddess of the sky

In popular legends and nursery-tales, Frau Holle appears a superior being, who manifests a kind and helpful disposition towards humans, and is never cross except when she notices disorder in household affairs.

Frau Holle is represented as a being of the sky, begirding the earth; when it snows, she is making her bed, and the feathers of it fly. She stores up snow, as Thor does rain; so that Frau Holle comes before us as a goddess of no mean rank.

Beautiful lady of the lake

She loves to haunt the lake and fountain; at the hour of noon she may be seen, a fair glowing lady, bathing in the flood and disappearing; a trait in which she resembles the goddess Nerthus. Mortals, to reach her dwelling, pass through the well.

Wagon-driver in the midwinter dark

She drives about in a wagon. She had a linchpin put in it by a peasant whom she met; when he picked up the chips, they were gold. Her annual progress is made to fall between Christmas and Twelfth-day, when the supernatural has sway, and wild beasts like the wolf are not mentioned by their names, brings fertility to the land.

Head of the Wild Hunt

Frau Holle, like Odin, can also ride on the winds, clothed in terror and she, like the god, belongs to the Wild Hunt. From this arose the fancy, that witches ride in Frau Holle's company. Into the same Furious Host, according to wide-spread popular belief, were adopted the souls of unbaptized children; not having been christian'd, they remained heathen, and fell to heathen gods, to Odin or to Frau Holle.

Leader of spooky sprites

The next step is, that Frau Holle, instead of her divine shape, assumes the appearance of an ugly old woman, long-nosed, big-toothed, with bristling and thick-matted hair. "He's had a jaunt with Frau Holle, they say of a man whose hair sticks up in tangled disorder, so children are frightened with her or her equally hideous train: "Hush, there's Holle-bruin, Holle-bogie coming." Holle-peter and other house-sprites are among the muffled servitors who go about in Frau Holle's procession at the time of the winter solstice.

Wife at the spinning wheel

Frau Holle is set before us as a spinning-wife; the cultivation of flax is assigned to her. Industrious maids she presents with spindles, and spins their reels full for them over night; a slothful spinner's distaff she sets on fire, or soils it. The girl whose spindle dropt into her fountain, she rewarded bountifully.

[adapted from translation by James Steven Stallybrass]

Frau Holle statue by Viktor Donhauser

You can do any of these things:

1. Illustrate a scene from the fairy tale of Frau Holle
2. Illustrate one of the aspects of Frau Holle from Teutonic Mythology
3. Illustrate the feeling of Frau Holle
4. Create something inspired by Frau Holle
5. Draw something connecting Frau Holle to other characters or concepts from Norse myth and Germanic folklore

You must do this one thing:

Include an explanation with your entry explaining how your work relates to the poem.


In this contest, Marvel Comics characters are NOT considered part of Norse mythology or folklore. Art with imagery from comic books or movies will NOT be accepted. Do some reading and research on myth and folklore, then base your imagery on what you learn!


I am extremely proud to announce the judges for the art contest. I greatly respect both of these incredibly talented people, and I'm very happy that they agreed to participate this year. The three of us will judge the entries together.

Simon Coleby
I've loved Simon Coleby's art since I first discovered it in the early 1990s in the pages of the great UK weekly comic 2000 AD, where his brilliantly unique work was showcased in tales of Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper, Venus Bluegenes, Malone, and Sinister Dexter. In the first decade of this century, Simon blasted into the pages of the Judge Dredd Megazine, with massive thrill-power on the title character and hilarious silliness in stories of Bato Loco.

Simon Coleby

His work for DC includes Lobo (with Batman's Alan Grant) and The Legion (with Thor's Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning). For Marvel, he's worked on The Punisher, Death's Head, and The Eternal. He's currently working on Dreaming Eagles (with Preacher's Garth Ennis) for Aftershock Comics.

Simon's art is always designed with integrity and finished with intensity. I'm very happy that he's a judge this midwinter, and I look forward to his insights on the entries.

Dr. Kendra Willson
Kendra Willson is currently a researcher at the Turku Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of Turku in Finland, with a project focusing on possible Finnish and Sámi elements in runic inscriptions.

Dr. Kendra Willson

She has previously held positions at the University of Helsinki, the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), and the University of Manitoba. She holds a PhD in Scandinavian languages and literatures from the University of California at Berkeley. She has written on Old Icelandic and Modern Icelandic personal names, discourse structures and genre in Old Icelandic sagas, metrical aspects of poetic translation, and word order change in Icelandic and Finnish.

I am very interested to follow the results Kendra's fascinating new research into Finno-Ugric elements in runic inscriptions. She writes:
I will review the corpus of runic inscriptions from Scandinavia to reassess the possibility that especially undeciphered inscriptions might contain names or other elements from Finnish or Sámi. Unintelligible inscriptions have often been interpreted as magical or illiterate but rarely as reflecting non-Germanic languages. This may in part reflect outdated views of the cultural makeup of the region in earlier times and the nature of language contacts.
Scandinavian runic inscriptions contain personal names from West Germanic, Celtic, Latin and (one) Slavic. While runestones mention several place names from Finland and Estonia, no Finnic personal names have been established in runic inscriptions. The few proposed Finnish and Sámi interpretations in the runological literature have shown anachronisms due to limited understandings of the histories of those languages.
The results of this research could have far-reaching repercussions for interpretation of supposedly magical runic inscriptions. You can read more about Kendra's project by clicking here.


There will be three winners in each of the following categories:

Kids: Age 12 & under
Teens: Age 13-19
Adults: Age 20 & up

Frau Holle by Wilhelm Stumpf


1. Art must be done with crayon, marker, paint, pen, pencil or digital materials.
2. Original art only; no photos or collage.
3. Art must be kid-friendly; no nudity or violence.
4. No copyrighted characters. Let’s leave the Marvel Comics to the professionals!
5. One entry per person, please.


Send an email to mythcontest@live.com that includes the following:

1. Your full name (kids can give first name and last initial)
2. Your age (as of December 18, 2015)
3. Your location (city, state/province, country)
4. A short description of your artwork that explains how it relates to lore of Frau Holle
5. Your artwork (as an attachment)

Seriously, don’t forget to include your art as an attachment!


11:59 p.m. (Chicago time) on December 18, 2015


Steve, Kendra and I will be judging the entries based on creativity and relation to Norse mythology. Do some reading, do some thinking and make something original!

Winners will be featured on all
Norse Mythology Online sites

The three winners in each age group will be featured on The Norse Mythology Blog, The Norse Mythology Facebook Page, The Norse Mythology Google+ Page, The Norse Mythology Pinterest Page and The Norse Mythology Twitter Page. Your art and your description of it will be posted on all the many sites of Norse Mythology Online and will remain permanently in the The Norse Mythology Blog Archive.

December 21: Kid winners announced
December 22: Teen winners announced
December 23: Adult winners announced

Good luck to everyone!


Stevie said...

I noticed that specific materials are listed in the entry requirements. Would a fiber art piece, such as an embroidery, not be accepted?

I think it's wonderful that you're holding a contest like this and I'm so pleased to see Holle honored! Thank you!

Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried said...


I personally would love to see your embroidery, but we're going to stick with 2D art for the midwinter and midsummer contests for now. It's already very difficult for the judges to rank the different pieces. Maybe we'll do an all-3D contest in future. A photography contest would also be interesting.


Stevie said...

Thank you! I look forward to seeing the results of this year's contest as well as future contests. I felt fiber art was especially appropriate since you are honoring Holle, but nothing is stopping me from making a piece to honor Her on my own!

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