The Folk Music of the Runestone Guardians.

If you were to ask me my favorite song or kind of music, I'd be at a lost, because I don't have just one. I don't really trust anyone who says they have only one, either. With so many kinds of music and genres, how can you pick a single favorite? Music influences our lives, and can even change the way we see the world. For authors like me, it gives the added bonus of bringing a story to life through inspiration.

Ever since I was a ten-year-old who learned my family came from Norway (not too unique - most white families in Minnesota have some ancestor from Norway or Germany), I was obsessed with learning everything I could. I managed to learn a little about the culture and language, and have plans to visit some day, but the coolest thing I discovered was the folk music. It had the power to bring me to a place I'd never been. So, as I'd write stories to wheel me away from my boring Midwestern lower-class life, I listened to music. As I got older and met friends with different music tastes and suggestions, my music expanded. The songs became as much a part of the stories and the words.

And now for the list of songs and artists that inspired me into creating my very first fantasy series:

Foreign Music

These were the songs that started it all, the heart and soul of the Runestone Guardian world. In the early stages of writing before I incorporated Asian, African, and Pacific Island cultures, the world was purely based on Scandinavian, German, and Irish heritage - since this is what I personally related too.

Helena Bøksle - Heiemo og Nykken, Elverhøy

“Hi, and welcome to my website! My name is Helene, and I love to sing and create music. Here you can find my latest projects, upcoming concerts, and maybe get to know me a little bit better. Music is all about inspiring people. My goal is to create music that speaks to people´s hearts. So, please listen and enjoy – or get in touch if you like!

— Helene Bøksle

Helena Bøksle is a Norwegian artists who takes inspiration from the mountains and fjords near her home. The first song of hers I ever listened to was Elverhøy. At the moment, my Norwegian isn't very good, and it was even worse when I first listened to her songs. I had no idea what she was singing! But, I could tell from the tone and style of her voice, and the fantasy and nature styled YouTube videos, that is was folk music right up my alley! I will admit, every time I hear her voice, I get shivers, especially listening to Heiemo og Nykken, a song covered by Bøksle and available to listen to here. For more information, check out the artist's webpage to learn more or view upcoming projects and concerts.

Celtic Women - Mo ghile mear, The New Ground.

Celtic Woman are THE band to listen to for Irish music. They're style is a bit more contemporary than folk, but beautiful none the lest. The kind of singing that makes your jaw drop and you go 'how are they doing that?'. Along with folksongs in Gaelic and English, Celtic Woman also preforms various covers. I believe I first saw them in seventh/eight grade on TV. I can't remember the exact song, but I remember watching the violinist skip around the stage like a joyful fox. I ended up in a rabbit hole of YouTube videos, listening to every song I could find. My favorite songs, and the ones that fit most with the fantasy series, are Mo ghile mear and The New Ground. The first is Gaelic for 'My gallant star', a slow burn that builds up to an exciting crescendo. The song struck me as a military chant. A group of soldiers returning to their home, battered and bruised, but alive, and greeted by their thankful families. The New Ground is inspired by the history of Irish Immigration and Ellesmere Island. The first documented immigrant to step onto the pier was a 15-year-old from Ireland. Between 1820 and 1860, Irish made up a third of the immigrants to America. They were escaping famine and poverty imposed by British Rule. Unfortunely, Americans were never welcoming to swards of foreigners entering their country. Irish families continued to suffer prejudice that made daily life difficult, especially when it came to finding a job. To learn more songs or about Celtic Woman, visit their website.

Blackmore's Night - Where are We Going from Here, World of Stone, Highland, 3 Black Crows, Far Far Away.

I did not know exactly what kind of music I was looking for until I learned about Blackmore's Night through a close friend in high school. After a few songs, I was hooked! The rock band dove further than Celtic Woman dared in the way of folk music, with historic instruments and fantastical vocals to match. From castles and knights, to crows and shadows, Blackmore's Night offers a long list of music that can drop you straight into Medieval Europe. Did I mention how cool the name is? It's named after the band's lead guitarist and songwriter, Richie Blackmore, and his wife and lead singer, Candice Night. And I thought Exley was a cool name. I can recommend any song from their playlist, but my top picks have to be Where are We Going from Here, World of Stone, Highland, 3 Black Crows, and Far Far Away. Where are we Going from Here struck me as a good song for the young heroes, because it was a real question they had. Where do you go when its up for you to decide? When the weight of the world is on your shoulders, and every path looks like a dead end. World of Stone was a battle song, filled with power and a sense of dismal hopefulness. When I went to Germany on a school trip, and riding the bus through the Alps, I had Highland on rerun, the perfect song to capture the beauty of the landscape. That, and I see Fire (original by Ed Sheeran, also covered by Celtic Woman). Three Black Crows was simple - how many songs have you heard with crows in them? Finally, Far Far Away played into my personal fantasy of escaping a dreary city life and escaping back into nature. Learn more about Blackmore's Night here, and check out their YouTube videos!

Faun - Walpurgishnacht, Tanz mit Mir

I discovered FAUN a year or so after Blackmore's Night through my Pandora station. Hearing the folk music, I immediately thought it was another BN song - until they started singing in German. Then I got excited. Not only had I found another awesome Medieval Band, I could learn songs to help my German (which I was taking in school at the time). I am a bit more fluent in this langue than in Norwegian, so I was able to pick up more of the lyrics and sing along. Walpurgishnacht (val - pur-gis- nocht) is my favorite, as the song is accompanied by an awesome YouTube video! Warning - it is very, very, very pagan (woman dancing around a fire at night and animal costumes) so take caution before sharing with your conservative Catholic grandmother. Tanz Mit Mir is what I imagine would be played in a medieval German dinning hall. A flirty gig about a guy trying to persuade a woman (barmaid?) to dance with him, and they go back and forth. Warning - it may give you the irrefutable urge to dance. For more info on FAUN, visit their website!

The Paul McKenna Band - Take Your Time, Terror Time

The Paul McKenna band doesn't have much in the way of theatrics like FAUN or Blackmore's Night, but oh my gosh - That VOICE! Based in Glasgow, Scotland, the band takes from Scottish and Irish roots. The songs are historic with a bit of whimsy. Take Your Time was a perfect song for Ylvana and Jay in Book I. It expressed fear in trying something new, gentle encouragement, and then euphoria at reaching new heights. Terror Time is about the changing of seasons, specifically into winter, or 'terror time' as it freezes and kills - a good song for anything set in the frozen northland. Read more about The Paul McKenna Band here.

Dougie MacLean - Ready for the Storm (Deanta)

Dougie MacLean needs little introduction after his hit Caledonia. The Scottish singer is known all around the world, and for good reason! When it came to his song, Ready for the Storm, I actually heard it as a cover by Deanta. Don't shoot the messenger, but.. I kinda liked their version of it a little more. The lead singer's voice was a little more haunty, while MacLean leans more towards wishful nostalgia. This song found its place later in the series, when two characters part ways, and have to navigate a new storm on their own.

Cathie Ryan - Raking and Roguing

Do you ever listen to a song that brings you to tears, but it's not a sad song? It's just so powerful, and hits a spot in your soul that makes you smile for the next three days? For me, its this song by Cathie Ryan, an Irish-American singer. This was another one of those songs that even though I fell in love with the vocals and the beat, I had no idea what I was singing, because the entire thing is in Gaelic! The cool thing is, a translation is available on the website. Raking and Roguing is a simple kind of 'drinking song' that anyone can tap their fingers to. I image it's also the kind of songs prisoners would sing in their cells, tapping against the iron, to keep spirits up.

Kate Rusby - I am Stretched on Your Grave

Another song that moved me to tears - this time in English! Kate Rusby is an English folk-singer and songwriter. I am Stretched on Your Grave is exactly what it sounds like - a haunty tune of sadness and loss, which a steady beat, almost like a soldier's march.

Whew! That was a lot of songs, and there's still a bunch more to go! I think I'll end the post here, and come back later with inspiration from other genera's like country and rock. If you have any medieval/folk bands or songs you recommend, feel free to comment them! I am particularly interested in learning some more stuff from South Asian and Pacific Island cultures! If they turn out to be a really great fit, I just might feature them on my blog.

Ha det bra!

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