We are saddened to report that Baron Olaf of Trollheimsfjord, known in the modern world as James Michael Revells, passed away very suddenly on January 9. He was 61. Baron Olaf was a long-time resident of the Barony of Stonemarche, but had moved south to Atlantia to be near his family last fall. He is survived by two daughters, two brothers, and three grandchildren.
His daughters chose to honor the importance of the SCA in his life by dressing him in his finest garb, including his coronet, for the funeral service. After the funeral his remains were cremated, that being the closest our modern age offers to the traditional Viking ship burial.
Baron Olaf of Trollheimsfjord at Market Day at Birka. Photo courtesy of Hlafidge Arastorm the Golden.
Olaf was a long-time participant in the SCA, receiving his Award of Arms in 1989. He leaves behind a lasting legacy in many ways – in long-running events he was instrumental in starting, in the children of friends in the Society who grew up thinking of him as Uncle Olaf, and in artisans who learned from him, and went on to become respected practitioners of the arts he taught and encouraged. One can read the breadth of the hole he leaves behind in the comments and remembrances being left on his Facebook pages (one under the name Olaf of Trollheimsfjord and one under Jim Revells).
He will be best remembered for being the man who started the Market Day at Birka event. Today, with typical attendance in the 1600-1700 person range, Birka is the largest event in the East Kingdom, unless one wishes to count Pennsic. It’s an institution, with more than a quarter century of history. And we owe it all to Olaf.
Back in 1989 he conceived a vision – an event recreating the famed Market at Birka in Sweden. It would have merchants from all over the Known World, and bear pit fighting in the Viking style, and Viking games. He presented this idea to the Barony of Stonemarche, and people agreed it sounded like a fun concept for an event. No one except Olaf really believed it would grow the way it has. He had faith in his dream, being ready to pass out fliers at Pennsic for it’s second year, even before the first one had taken place in the humble confines of the common room at his condominium complex. That first Birka had some issues, leading to him receiving a Burdened Tyger for his work as the autocrat, but it kept going. He ran it for two years, then stepped aside to let someone else serve as autocrat, but he’s always been at the heart of it, even when he wasn’t in charge of anything. In 2001 King Andreas and Queen Isabella recognized that and named him a Baron of their Court to honor his work in making Birka a landmark of the East.
He was also a fine metalsmith, making beautiful period jewelry. For those skills he was inducted into the Order of the Maunche in 2003. He was also widely known and respected for his willingness to share his skills, and to encourage beginners to take up the art he loved. Here too he leaves a legacy. In 2002 he was instrumental in proposing the idea of a Metalsmith’s Symposium, with an entire event full of nothing but metalworking classes. Once again he stepped up to the challenge of making his dream real and ran it for the first time. He set the pattern, and the event now has a 14 year history, across multiple kingdoms.
Most of all, he will be missed by family and friends for the kind of man he was – generous, honorable, and always there when he was needed.
Mistress A’isha bint Jamil