Sculptor Tamara Howell of Howlart has beautifully re-imagined the mythical creatures of the ancient Norse culture in her Norse Series, which features goat and wolf skulls ornately decorated with clay and mounted on gorgeous carved stands. Her pieces are tributes to Thor’s chariot-pulling goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr, and the wolves that chased the sun and moon across the sky, Sköll and Hati. Howell and perfectly captured the majesty and power of these mythical creatures in these four pieces. Check out some photos of each skull below as well as Howell’s descriptions.
Mythology follows the patterns of birth, death, and rebirth in time and consciousness. In Norse myth, Tanngrisnir (“tooth barer”) and Tanngnjóstr (“tooth grinder”) were the goats who pulled the god Thor’s chariot. See here for the story regarding these two goats.
Thurisaz, the rune incorporated into both Tanngrisnir Rising and Tanngnjóstr Reborn as a tag on their respective horns, is a rune of fire and is associated with the god Thor as well as the frost giants slain by his hammer. In this regard, the rune can be taken as being representative of the rationalization of opposites. On the one extreme, there are the frost giants and their continual assault on Asgard, and on the opposite end you have Thor with his hammer constantly warding them off. Both of these aspects represent raw force, which could be interpreted as unchecked male sexuality contrasted with a balancing protective quality.
Thor’s hammer, Mjöllnir, a symbol of both creation and destruction, is depicted on the base of each piece, and the curved design represents Thor’s mortal enemy, Jormugandr, the Midgard serpent.
Red and gold are associated with the god Thor, as black and silver are associated with his father, Odin. I could probably go on and on regarding the symbolism incorporated into these works, but that takes half the fun out of it, so I’ll leave it to the viewer to determine the remainder.
SKÖLL DEVOURS THE SUN
In Norse myth, Sköll and Hati were wolves who pursued the sun and moon across the heavens.
The threat of Sköll and Hati’s size and hunger are emphasized, for their jaws gape open to swallow the heavens. Indeed, the “twilight of the gods”, Ragnarök, is explicitly linked to unrestrained destruction, the wolf’s hunger, namely that the ravening wolves will run free. In both German and Norse mythology, wolf was a symbol of chaos, destruction and death. Wolves are seen as teachers of hard but necessary lessons.
Sól (the sun) and Mani (the moon), symbols of creation and the passage of time, are depicted on the base of each piece, and the curved design represents the chaos that will ensue when Sól and Mani are finally captured by Sköll and Hati at Ragnarök.
Golden hues are associated with the sun, as blues and silvers are associated with the moon at night. I could probably go on and on regarding the symbolism incorporated into these works, but that takes half the fun out of it, so I’ll leave it to the viewer to determine the remainder.
HATI CATCHES THE MOON