How Russia Got Its Name

How Russia Got Its Name

In 921 A.D., Ibn Fadlan, an emissary from Baghdad, left the city with a caravan of camels and horses heading north. Baghdad was arguably the most sophisticated city in the world at that time, and the Islam it practiced was broad-minded and still very young as a religion. Fadlan journeyed 2,500 miles north to the land of the Bulghars (modern Bulgaria) to convert the local Turkic pagans to Islam, and while doing so he discovered people “as tall as date palms” (his words) who went nowhere without a battle axe, a sword and a dagger at their heavy leather belts. These gigantic men were tattooed in green symbols from their necks to their wrists and had come to the Black Sea ports to trade in walrus tusk ivory, furs, metal weapons and finely wrought jewelry. The locals called them the “Rus”, the red-haired ones, and even though the Vikings sailed back home to Scandinavia after trading, they left their name in those environs forever.


This is a bit of the lore I’ll be sharing this coming Saturday night during my show at Nova Arts in Keene, New Hampshire. Before launching into two long Norse myths, in these shows I always do my best to explain the spiritual outlook of the sea-tough Scandinavians, especially the Nine Worlds and the gods and goddesses, giants and dwarfs in whom the Vikings believed. It’s a fascinating and rugged mythology, and fun to learn about.

The tales are THOR’S JOURNEY TO UTGARD and THE MEAD OF POETRY, told with 12-string guitars. It’s a 90-minute show all told, pardon the pun. Grab a few friends and come to Keene. Doors open at 7 pm. Tickets are $25.

I hope to see you there.



An Adult Storytelling by Odds Bodkin

Saturday, Sept. 24th at 7 pm (doors open)

Nova Arts, 48 Emerald Street, Keene NH

Tickets: $25



Camp Bethel is beautiful and I’m looking forward to spending next weekend in the meadows and hills of Virginia. And, I might add, after the coldest spring in New England that I can recall, in the warmth of the South. I’ve performed at SOUNDS OF THE MOUNTAINS before, but flew in with a single 12-string guitar. This time, though, I’m driving down with two guitars and my Celtic harp, what you might call the full kit of instruments I need in order to widen my choice of tales to offer. Just this morning I’ve been listing which ones the audience might most enjoy. The Elf of Springtime. The Boys and the Frogs. Finn MacCool and the Big Man. Maybe The Storm Breeder, if a scary story works. Although I love playing scores on the 12-strings, the harp really is a kind of musical starship, one that helps me deliver a story to a place no other instrument I know of can. It will be fun to have it with me.

There will be lots of schoolchildren in the audience, and adults, who know well the tradition of storytelling, and I’ll be sharing the stage with Sheila Arnold Jones, Jim May, and Kevin Kling.

So if you know anyone who’d like to hear four storytellers at the top of their games, pass on the word.


SOUNDS OF THE MOUNTAINS Festival in the Blue Ridge Mountains

SOUNDS OF THE MOUNTAINS Festival in the Blue Ridge Mountains

April 27th and 28th I’ll be traveling to Fincastle, Virginia to join storytellers Jim May, Sheila Arnold and Kevin Kling for the Sounds of the Mountains Festival. I’ll bring my Celtic harp and 12-strings to tell tales to kids and adults.

If you know anyone in the region, please pass on the word!