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Old 2nd July 2018, 01:14 AM   #1
A. G. Maisey
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Default Puukko Question

My principal interest is the Javanese keris, but I do have an interest in a lot of other things as well, one of those other things is puukko knives.

Here is one that I'm a bit puzzled by.

The blade is a Gallus, I've had a few of these over the years, and I think I currently have another couple of them apart from this one. But this knife shown has a custom hilt and scabbard. The metal is good quality silver, the hilt is wood.

The embossed scabbard motif is a dragon.

I am puzzled by the figure shown in the hilt carving, it appears to be some sort of mythical monster with fangs and two tongues. I have thought that Grendel from Beowulf might be a candidate, but maybe there are multiple Scandinavian monsters that are similar.

Does anybody have any suggestions?
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Old 2nd July 2018, 09:20 AM   #2
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Scaled up would make a nice prow for a Viking longship the full frontal shows just below the hands, what looks like the stem of a longship with the bow wave.

I note the 'scales' looked like a scale armour hauberk, the head/forearms/hands don't have them. looks like it's wearing a helmet with a rear neck guard too. Bushy eyebrows? Stuff coming out of it's mouth could be dragon fire rather than a split tongue.

Dragons/Serpents/Wurm frequently had forked tongues...So did people.

Yours has hands cupping scaly breasts, maybe this is her after she shaved off her moustache?
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Old 2nd July 2018, 02:10 PM   #3
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Is that the best of you, Wayne ?
Honestly
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Old 2nd July 2018, 03:43 PM   #4
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Hello Alan,

My best guess would be Jormungandr, the Midgard serpent.

But the knife doesn't look Finnish to me.

The Finnish puukko is quite simple, even the high end/dress pieces. Moreover, the typical puukko has no ricasso, with the edge going all the way to the hilt/ front bolster.

However, even for a Norwegian knife it is rather unusual due to its lavishly carved hilt and sheath. The style of the carving and decoration on the sheath also doesn't look very "Norse" to me. Special, less traditional order?!

But just my two cents...


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Old 2nd July 2018, 04:36 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
Is that the best of you, Wayne ?
Honestly


I'm having an off day...

Anyhow, was going to say it looks more like a keris hilt and maybe them folks might have some info.

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Old 2nd July 2018, 05:09 PM   #6
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No idea about the knife, but the carving and the silverwork look pretty Indonesian to me...
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Old 2nd July 2018, 05:21 PM   #7
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My impression also, but A.G. would be one in the know about that end of things.
Truly a anomalous puuko.
We do see figural ivory Dutch sword handles carved in the Far East...
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Old 2nd July 2018, 07:20 PM   #8
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Kronckew,I must be having an "off-day," as well as I thought your post was rather humorous;thanks for the smile !
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Old 2nd July 2018, 11:53 PM   #9
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Thank you for your responses gentlemen.

I have maintained an interest in Nordic knives, especially puukko-style knives, for many years, I built a reasonably large collection of them, until I decided that they were just one more distraction from my work with the keris, so I sold off most of them and held on to only a few. In fact, when I was doing custom knife work I even made a few damascus blade puukkos.

This knife that I have asked the question on is most definitely not associated in any way with Jawa or Bali. The silver work is European, not SE Asian, the motifs are European, the style is not SE Asian. This much I can be definite about.

This is an old knife, my estimate is second half, 19th century. The name "Emil Pay" is engraved into a scabbard escutcheon and on the ferrule, I assume it is the original owner rather than the silversmith.

The blade was made by the Gallus workshop, Gallus was a Norwegian maker, it is believed that Gallus blades were sometimes hilted by a well known 19th century Norwegian carver named Bogarson. There is a long tradition of wood carving in Scandinavian countries, many of the puukkos that I sold on to other collectors had very well carved handles.

The identity of the hilt figure is my only question in respect of this knife, of course, all comments are welcome, but all I really need to know is the identity of the hilt figure.

This figure has arms and legs and is in a kneeling position, the arms and hands are clear, the feet can be seen at the rear base. The figure has two tongues, one emerging from each side of its mouth, each of those tongues appears to be forked. Marius has suggested Jormungandr, and this may well be intended to be a humanised, or anthromorphic depiction of Jormungandr, but because Jormungandr is normally depicted and thought of as a serpent, this can only be a hypothetical identification. In any case, although Jormungandr has a forked tongue, it is a single tongue, not two tongues. A fang at either side, back of the mouth, indicates demonic character.

Kronckew suggests that rather than two tongues we may be looking at dragon fire, this is certainly possible.

So gentlemen, does anybody have any suggestions as to identity of the hilt figure?
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Old 3rd July 2018, 09:05 PM   #10
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Perhaps disgorging, rather than a split tongue. Grendel, I would think, a good choice to describe the beast (too much mead?). A giant, all curled up, waiting to spring into action (or recovering).

Anyway, another mythos disgorging would be der Gruner Mann, the Green Man.

Cheers
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Old 3rd July 2018, 10:02 PM   #11
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Thank you Hotspur.

Yes, possibly disgorging, but if we were to accept Green Man those two forked tongues could be interpreted as foliage shoots, depictions of Green Man with two similar foliage shoots emerging from the mouth do exist. But the most usual depiction of Green Man seems to be face only, full body is very unusual, in addition, although Green Man is ancient and widely spread, he is essentially Celtic.

The Green Man had also occurred to me, there are flowers attached to the wrists, the hair(?) on the top of the head is rendered in a foliage-like fashion, however, I do not know of The Green Man being depicted with fangs.

There is another problem also, with both Grendel and Green Man. Grendel is associated with English tradition, Beowulf is Old English literature. As for Green Man, I'd be more inclined to accepting him if this knife could be associated in some way with Celtic, or at least West English culture.

Still, at the moment I think both these gentlemen should go onto the short list.
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Old 3rd July 2018, 11:46 PM   #12
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I really only mention the Green Man re disgorging, rather than showing two tongues. The beast in question could simply be snorting. Nanook would be a bit of a stretch as well but I did get to thinking of bears. Whomever, whatever is depicted does seem to be scaled or armored. Winged dragons a later Asiatic influence? Conyer's slaying the great (Lambton) worm almost infers no legs. However, Carroll's Jabberwocky is most dragon like as well.

Anglo-Saxon mythos intertwine and der Gruener Mann is older than England alone. As are the Norse saga. Where is Lee? I was going to ping the Hurstwic guys and gals to see what they think of your knife.

Cheers
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Old 4th July 2018, 01:46 AM   #13
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Yes, polar bears certainly would be a stretch.

European dragons are typically winged, Oriental/Chinese dragons are typically wingless.

In Modern Europe the Green Man seems to be recognised from about the 10th-11th century, but my understanding is that the roots of the Green Man pre-date Christianity by a considerable time.

The Celts are often thought of in terms of the British Isles, but in fact they are spread throughout Europe, my memory is that what we now recognise as Celtic Culture began in Central Europe around 600BC.

My feeling is that we need to delve into Norse mythology, something that is indeed a mystery to me. Yes, perhaps the Hurstwicians might have some viable suggestions.
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Old 4th July 2018, 09:00 AM   #14
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Alan, the hands appear to be pulling the scales/armour/something else forwards and there is something above the hands in the centre, I cannot make out what that might be from the photos, is it clearer in the hand.

The problem with calling this figure Grendel or indeed Grendel's mum is that the text of Beowulf does not describe Grendel in any detail, the most recent translation by Seamus Heaney says he is human like but bigger and that he is covered in scales and has talons and spikes and claws (page xlviii/8 in Heaney), so we can only have the carver's thoughts on Grendel if we are to consider Grendel and option. Grendel's mother is not described at all
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ps I have also had a quick look through Tolkien's translation, he describes Grendel as an ogre and as troll kind and of the race of Cain, but again no description beyond generalities
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Old 4th July 2018, 12:46 PM   #15
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David, the "something" above the hands in the centre is no clearer in the hand, it is a protrusion from between the lower teeth, I cannot fathom what it might be.

Yes, no doubt at all that Grendel is difficult to support as a candidate, as is Green Man, as is any other Norse mythological character of which I am aware --- not that I'm aware of very many.

I found a site yesterday that I intend to contact with the question, it appears to be a Norse myth stronghold
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Old 4th July 2018, 01:29 PM   #16
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Meanwhile, I'll stick to Jormungandr...

Scales, double tongue, no feet...
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Old 4th July 2018, 02:23 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc
Meanwhile, I'll stick to Jormungandr...

Scales, double tongue, no feet...


But the carving here does have feet,...is kneeling.
The wood must be wonderfully hard, to be able to carve in such detail.

It is Most Odd!
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Old 4th July 2018, 05:27 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pukka Bundook
But the carving here does have feet,...is kneeling.


Yes, indeed. Now I see the feet.

So if it is not Jormungandr... my best guess would be my mother-in-law. I seem to recognise some features.


PS: What if it is not inspired by a specific figure from Norse mythology, and is simply an artistic interpretation of a monster... any monster?!
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Old 4th July 2018, 08:40 PM   #19
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I was thinking the same thing Marius, just an artistic, generic monster.

Does Jormungandr have two tongues, or a forked tongue? This little bloke has one forked tongue coming from each side of his mouth --- if indeed they are tongues, and not something else.
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Old 5th July 2018, 02:10 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey

Does Jormungandr have two tongues, or a forked tongue?


The solution is quite simple: have to find someone who met Jormungandr in person and ask him.


Meanwhile the discussion is opened to speculation. Not very much unlike the discussions we had about some Keris hilts (whether is Battara Bayu, or Bhima, or God knows who?!).
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Old 5th July 2018, 09:48 PM   #21
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Yes Marius, that similarity was in my mind as I opened the thread.
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Old 9th July 2018, 12:44 AM   #22
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Hmm...Very interesting and I'm enjoying all the commentary. At first, I was also thinking it was protruding tongues. The beast on the scabbard also has a forked tongue, but it appears quite different that that creature portrayed on the hilt (more dog-like in facial features, serpentine back end with no legs, etc). besides flames or tongues, perhaps smoke? Steam? Rushing water? Just trying to figure out the Mythos on this one.

The front claws appear to be grasping something which appear to my weary eyes to have flowers growing from them? Any significance there? Also, does this fellow have a double row of upper teeth? David mentioned the Dutch connection as far as the carving. Lots of their work having Indonesian/Snri Lankan influence. Ceylonese maneless lion? Just thinking aloud...
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Old 9th July 2018, 12:57 AM   #23
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no, looks to me like upper and lower teeth with the tongues of stuff in between, smoke. fire or tongue tongues, lower jaw has upward pointing tusks, and 'he' has a moustache & bushy eyebrows. he's got ribbons of something tied in bows on both arms, not flowers. I say 'he' advisedly, as he's got two big (man?) boobs held in his hands. Th e'scales' look like a lorica squamata or scale hauberk. The bows may be securing the sides of the hauberk front and back sections. I just noticed he has rearwards pointing feet like he's kneeling.

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Old 9th July 2018, 01:55 AM   #24
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Kronckew, thanks for your input to this question, I appreciate it, however, I do understand that sometimes it is difficult to interpret a physical object from an image, so just a couple of comments on your analysis in post # 23:-

1) I am uncertain that this figure has a moustache, the element of carving that could be interpreted as a moustache in the photos seems to be a depiction of lips

2) the bracelets at both wrists do seem to have flowers, or at least some sort of foliate elements, attached

3) I am uncertain as to the interpretation of what this figure has clutched in its hands, the first impression is of breasts, but closer examination reveals that if the anatomy of this figure is in any way close to the anatomy of a human being, then an interpretation of breasts is quite impossible. Currently I hesitate to give this element of the carving any interpretation at all.

4) yes, the figure is in a kneeling position.
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Old 10th July 2018, 08:03 PM   #25
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I keep going back to totems and bears

Cheers
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Old 11th July 2018, 12:12 PM   #26
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When I see this handle it reminds me of Burmese carved ivory examples. I share two examples from Bob Hales book. The features that look quite similar are the wrist and ankle bracelets and then the motif from the corner of the mouth as pictured on one of the examples below. Makes me wonder if the handle and scabbard were inspired by Burmese work either as an export, trade or gift piece. I donít know the background of Scandinavian and Burmese trade or cultural exchanges but rather than try to fit this figure into Norse mythology I think we have to look outside the area for inspiration and Burma has the most relevant examples.
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Old 11th July 2018, 10:58 PM   #27
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Yes, certainly there are similar elements present in the carving shown in the lower image. What this may mean I hesitate to guess at.
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Old 13th July 2018, 02:06 PM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
Yes, certainly there are similar elements present in the carving shown in the lower image. What this may mean I hesitate to guess at.


Up to this point all we have been doing is guessing but sometimes that can lead us down a road of possibility and given that we will probably never know the carvers intention we are left to interpret what we see. My guess is that this was an export or political gift to the Far East. You see this in a lot of cultures. English plates with Asian theme made for that market for example. The Demonic figures in Burmese handles vary a good bit but you see some common themes. The tongue sticking out is a threat posture in the Far East. The ankle and wrist bracelets are very Burmese. The demons often match the attire of the people. The scrolling cloud like motif is very similar in the two examples. This is a very Far Eastern decoration.

I am not familiar with Scandinavian knives beyond being able to recognize one when I see it but I wonder if the dragon themed scabbard is common. If not, the scabbard decor in addition to the handle decoration both might suggest an export product to the Far East or some type of political or cultural exchange. Until examples of Scandinavian art appear with as many or more common features as this example I will lean towards a Scandinavian knife made in the Far Eastern style for export, political gift or even possibly a one off for a customer that had spent time in the Far East.
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Old 14th July 2018, 01:44 PM   #29
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Thank you R.Sword, for your interesting ideas.
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Old 11th September 2018, 09:41 AM   #30
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Default Puukko

Hi!

Here is one example of Finnish "Puukko" . This is not old-
perhaps 30 years-but model is old.Same type of Puukko has
been made I belive over 1000 years-or more. And many
areas had own type and style. Very famous are Middle-Area
of Finnland Puukko-kniwes. We call them name "Pohjalais-Puukko".

But Carelian area puukkos are too fine...and Northern Finland
"Lappland-puukko" (usually called "Leukku" -puukko) is own desingn and look near "art"...

End of Puukko normally make wood-but bones,metal and near all
is used. During wartime (WW2) Finnish soldiers used destroyed enemy aeroplane metal and bakelite and other materials...

Many modern Finnish puukko-factories are old-even hundreds of years.

I have quite many puukko-knifes. I'll take some photos when I have
a bit time. i don't own any "luxyry-puukkos"-but normal everyday
knifes I have.

regards Markku
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