Vikings in Times Square

So this weekend, Annabeth invited Magnus down to New York for a visit. They saw this exhibit at the Discovery Center in Times Square called The Vikings. Becky and I tagged along, though we kept our distance because we wanted the cousins to have some bonding time.

Magnus was like, “You bring me to New York and show me Vikings? I’ve got enough of those in Boston.”

But Annabeth thought it would be good for both of them to understand Magnus’ world. Annabeth is all about having more information. She also promised to take Magnus to Mamoun’s for falafel and shawarma afterwards, so Magnus didn’t complain too much.

If you get a chance to see the exhibit, you should. It’s pretty cool. If you can’t make it to NYC, here’s a little peek at what we saw:

A full-sized reconstruction of a Viking river boat, made with historical tools meaning no saws, no machines, no easy assembly from IKEA. Magnus would have borrowed the boat, but sadly it does not fold into a handkerchief for easy carrying. Life was hard back in Viking days.

Magnus was like: “The Hammer of Thor! I found it! That was legit the easiest quest ever.” Then Annabeth pointed out that this was just a replica of a silver necklace. The Norse wore these all the time, the way Christians wore crosses. Magnus said, “Dammit!” The security people said, “Shhh!”

Booty! Some of the gold and silver jewelry found in Viking graves was really impressive. Annabeth liked the silver bracelets, though they made her a little sad because they reminded her of Thalia and her shield bracelet.

This Viking runestone featured the World Serpent swallowing his own tale. Not sure why he is covered in runes. I guess Jormungand spends a lot of time at the tattoo parlor. Magnus said, “That is absolutely NOT what he looks like.” Annabeth shuddered. “I’ve had a few encounters with sea monsters too. Let’s move on.”

More awesome jewelry, but this stuff was also pulled from a grave, which makes it a little sad to look at. Annabeth checked out all the beads on that necklace and said, “Wow, this person spent a LOT of years at camp.”

Ever lose your key? Is this it? Vikings had some weirdly shaped keys. I guess that’s because each one was handmade. They were careful to lock their doors and keep their stuff in locked chests like this one:

I doubt these locks would keep out a determined thief, but apparently if you were caught stealing, the punishment was harsher if you broke into a locked room or a locked chest. The Vikings were all about harsh punishments.

“Must be why Valkyries wear keys on their belts,” Magnus guessed. “So they can lock up their stuff and flog anyone who tries to take it.”

“I want to meet these Valkyries,” Annabeth said.

This was a little hard to look at — bones from an actual Norseman. Examinations of the skeleton reveal just how hard life was in Viking times. This guy had broken bones, bad teeth, anemia, poor nutrition and constant digestive problems. On the bright side, he is now an einherji in Valhalla. “I’m pretty sure I did bikram yoga to the death with this dude last week,” Magnus said.

“How do you do yoga to the death?” Annabeth asked. “Wait. I don’t want to know.”

Viking music! Here’s a bone flute to play your favorite songs. And here’s a buzzer, so called because you can blow in it or spin it through the air on a string and it makes a buzzing sound:

That’s right, folks. Vikings invented the kazoo.

“Ugh,” Annabeth said. “I got Percy a kazoo as a joke one time, and he would not stop playing it. It’s literally his only musical talent.”

“Where is Percy?” Magnus asked. “I thought I’d get to meet him.”

Annabeth frowned. “He’s studying. He is not allowed to do anything fun until he passes his midterms.”

“Ouch,” Magnus said. “His mom grounded him?”

“No,” Annabeth said. “I did.  If he doesn’t graduate high school, he doesn’t get to go to college at New Rome with me. And if that happens, I will have to kill him with a kazoo.”

That seemed a bit harsh, but then Annabeth saw this artifact and got a little teary-eyed. It’s a weaving knife, used with a loom, and it is inscribed in runes: “Love me, I love you. Think of me, I think of you.”

“That is so sweet,” Annabeth said.

“It looks like a paddle,” Magnus noted.

Annabeth rolled her eyes. “You’re horrible.”

Viking ice-skates, made of . . . deer bones? You strap them to your shoes and away you go!

“Sideways,” Magnus speculated, “straight into the nearest tree.”

“I’d hate to see Viking skis,” Annabeth said.

The exhibit had some great examples of Viking swords, but they’re all in pretty bad shape.

“That’s sad,” Annabeth said. “Nothing is left but corroded metal.”

“Oh, you should’ve seen Jack when I pulled him out of the river,” Magnus said. “He looked much worse.”

“You named your sword Jack?”

“No, he named himself that.”

“He . . . what?”

“I’ll introduce you later. But I’m warning you, once he starts talking, he doesn’t shut up.”

Annabeth wanted to axe him some more questions about that, but we kept going. (Bam-doom-cha!)

Even after a thousand years in the earth, this broach is still pretty amazing. It was probably fashioned to resemble the pendant on Freya’s necklace Brisingamen.

“Nice, but the real necklace is much fancier,” Magnus said.

“Why are you blushing?” Annabeth asked.

“I am not blushing,” Magnus insisted. “Freya just has a nice ear . . . NECKLACE. I mean necklace.”

Here’s something Magnus didn’t know. If you die a dishonorable death and have to go to Helheim, you are buried with spikes on your shoes like this, because the road to Hel is icy and slippery.

“Personally,” Annabeth said, “I’d go for the deer bone ice skates.”

This is a magic amulet, used for cursing your enemies or protecting yourself from rune magic.

“I wish Hearthstone was here,” Magnus said. “He would love this.”

“Yeah,” Annabeth said. “Carter and Sadie would think that was pretty awesome too.”


“Uh . . . some Egyptian friends of mine.”

“Egyptian. Are you telling me –“

“Maybe we’ll talk about that at lunch,” Annabeth said. “Over falafel and a large bottle of Advil.”

This talisman is actually a symbol of Frey — a bunch of sickles for the harvest.

Annabeth shuddered. “I don’t like sickles. They remind me of a certain Titan.”

Still, Magnus lingered at this exhibit. Maybe it was my imagination, but the light seemed to get brighter and warmer in the display case.

“Hey, dad,” Magnus said. Reluctantly, he moved along.

Last display: a bunch of little silver Valkyrie amulets like this one.

“Sam would love these,” Magnus said.

“I’ve got to meet Samirah one of these days,” Annabeth said. “She sounds great.”

“Yeah,” Magnus said. “Just . . . try not to meet her the way I did, by dying.”

“Deal,” Annabeth said. “Ready for some falafel?”

“The answer to that is always yes.”

 Magnus and Annabeth went off to find lunch while Becky and I explored the other exhibits.

We found this poor Viking frozen in a block of Helheim ice:

Oh, wait. Actually, I think we wandered into the Star Wars: Power of Costume exhibit next door.

Yes, definitely Star Wars. But as the T-shirts in the gift shop said, “May the Norse be with You!”

Thanks for tagging along on our trip through the Discovery Center, and if you happen to run across Magnus and Annabeth in Times Square, definitely say hello, though you might want to approach them slowly and announce: “I come in peace!”

Rick Riordan