Monday, 23 March 2015

Interview with Duke Finnvarr de Taahe

Recently, the Ealdormere Gazette was able to sit down and talk to Duke Finnvarr, KSCA, OP, OL about his time in the SCA.

Photo by Master Eirik Andersen.
How long have you been involved in the SCA?

I was one of the founding members of the barony of North Woods in the brand-new Middle Kingdom in late 1969 – early 1970.

What is your persona?

Like a lot of long-term members, my persona is my personal history in the Society. The name is an Irish one. I started out as a barbaric early period figure with a round shield, and later on became 13th or 14th century. More significant however is the fact that I've been king of the East and the Middle at two Pennsic wars, was the first active SCA person in Ontario, and devised the names Ealdormere, Septentria, and Eoforwic. It's more interesting than my theoretical Irish persona. 

How much of Finnvarr de Taahe comes from your modern life? Do you act in the SCA differently than you do outside the Society?

 I'm not sure I can answer that question.

To what activities did you initially gravitate?

Fighting, heraldry, and writing the history of the society.

In your time within the Society how have you seen it evolve? Has this evolution been beneficial or detrimental to its long term sustainability?

In the early days of the society, the membership was young, pretty close to broke, and not necessarily blessed with a lot of practical skills. Of course, the membership is much older now on the average and the organization tends to attract people who want to do a good job of portraying medieval people, setting up medieval camps, and flying medieval banners, etc. It takes money and time in the organization to acquire such things and develop such skills. Also, I can well imagine that 19-year-olds like I was when I joined would prefer to get involved in an organization with an average younger age.

You can label such development as either beneficial or not depending on taste, but early members were ambitious to have a classy organization, and this is how an organization develops – there has to be a certain amount of money, skill and dedication if you're going to have nice stuff and well-organized events and institutions that can support continuity.

How much did the royal crowns of Ealdormere cost? We could have $25 crowns and an organization that was much cheaper to run if we wanted to.

What changes do you think should still be made?

There seems to be a lot of concern these days about the sustainability of the society. I think that this depends more on general social conditions than what the members of the society do. I remember a time when Ealdormere seemed poised to really flourish and a big recession came along we started losing established members rather than recruiting new ones. 

It might help to have a systematic effort to recruit young people into office and refrain from dumping on them when they make dumb mistakes. Let them think they own the place. 

Or we could dance a lot more and ask strangers if you can have the honour of this dance. 

What has been the highlight of your time in the Society?

Hard to pick after 40 years. Meeting and fighting and partying with people at various wars. Running, with my lady, a successful camping event for 20 solid years.

You are known unofficially as the Iron Duke. What do you think of that nickname?

I very much appreciate the compliment.

You fought in many, many Pennsic Wars. What are some of your most famous exploits from those experiences?

Viscount Mordain years ago noticed that I had taken part in every mass battle at every Pennsic war. We checked our memories and seemed to be true. That's really where the Iron Duke name comes from. It's the background of my household's motto "we show up." That's why I appreciate the name Iron Duke.

At Pennsic 6, when I was King of the Middle Kingdom, the magnificent seven Western super Dukes showed up and took on everybody. Since they had the Bellatrix techniques,  they beat everybody in single combat pickups. Except me. I beat one of them, Duke Andrew of Riga, who 20 years later asked me how I did it given the great advantage that they had. Until he asked, I didn't realize the significance of that fight.

If you want to know how I did it, buy me a beer at an event and ask me.

You have lived in multiple kingdoms, been king of two of them, and helped found what eventually became Ealdormere. What aspects of life in those other kingdoms do you wish would take root in our kingdom?

We should dance as much as whoever dances the most now. 

What aspects of Ealdormerean culture would you like to see other places adopt?

More singing that involves everybody. 

What awards and accomplishments have you achieved over the years?

Buy me two beers and I will tell you.

Some people feel that the award system is broken, that it can lead to people feeling overlooked while other people they feel may be undeserving of awards—or who perhaps already have many—keep getting more. What are you thoughts on this? Do you have any advice or wisdom to impart on this subject?

I don't think the award system is broken. I think we have enough awards and a good basic structure and don't need more. I have seen several recent Royalty working hard so that they don't overlook people, with a certain amount of success. I think that just about all Kings and Queens take that duty very seriously. Whether people are overlooked or over-rewarded is a matter of individual judgment most of the time, and no tinkering with the award system will fix that. More complicated it gets, the more justifications for people to feel hard done by are multiplied. 

Do you have any current projects you’d care to talk about?

I am in the process of publishing two books on chivalry in the SCA. One is the Dialogue of Chivalry, which I originally wrote about 19 years ago. I have just written a short guide for the "Knight on Vigil." I hope it will help candidates for the accolade think about this important turning point.

I am also working on a graphic novel on the famous 14th-century incident called the Combat of the 30. Someday I hope that graphic novel will grow into a movie. It's a great story.

Your readers may be aware that I publish material on historical chivalry through Freelance Academy Press. Have a look at their site and at my site called Deeds of Arms.


 The Ealdormere Gazette thanks His Grace for speaking to us today. If our readers have anyone they’d like the Gazette to try and interview, email us your suggestions.

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