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April 2020 - Masters of Cache: Kar the Old

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This item is password protected and available to members of The Geocoin Club only. If you are a member of The Geocoin Club, you will receive the month's password in club newsletter email.

Design By: Chris Mackey 

Dimensions 45 mm Wide

Thickness4.0  3.5 mm

Finish Antique Silver
Enameling Soft Enamel

Trackable? Yes

Has Icon Yes

April 2020 - Masters of Cache: Kar the Old

Design notes from Chris:  

In the fall of 2006 I was incredibly fortunate to have a chance to design a geocoin featuring an infamous guardian of treasure, the dragon.  It would be based on the Central Europe version of the classic dragon I was introduced to as a child.  It was an intimidating challenge that I really enjoyed as I was diving into designing coins professionally for the first time.    I learned a lot in that experience both in designing coins and in digging up ancient tales of treasures and the monsters that guard them.

4 years later in the fall of 2010 I would once again tackle this project with a whole new perspective of experience.  This time I would illustrate the ancient mummies of North Africa.  It would once again provide a challenge and introduce me to new ideas in design and metal finishing techniques.

Years later, once again in the fall of 2012, the Griffon of Western Asia would become my next monster in what would now be a series in Masters of Cache.  Again, the evolution of styles and techniques had morphed with time.
Now, after a rather lengthy time (and once again in the fall... starting to see a pattern there), I've become captivated by the story of Kar, an ancient form of undead or lich in the far northwestern lands of Iceland.  It is a tale written from oral tradition going back as far as the 9th-11th centuries included in the Grettis Saga.  

Grettir, the subject of the Saga, is an avid explorer and archetype adventuring hero who travels far and wide facing fantastic challenges.  While exploring the lands of Norway he comes upon an island ruled by Thorfinn, son of Kar the Old.  Kar was a mighty viking who had accrued much wealth and who's thirst for more knew no bounds.  Even after he dies and his body is buried among his vast treasure hoard in a traditional Howe, a sort of man-made cave within an earthen mound, his spirit can not rest.  His son Thorfinn now rules, but the spirit of Kar now terrorizes all the other land-owners until they flee from the island so that Thorfinn now owns all the land and only his hand-picked men live in any kind of peace.  

Grettir senses the unrest on the troubled island during his stay and begins to wonder what troubles the land.  He probes the locals for answers and learns of the undead spirit razing the people in his never ending thirst for more wealth.  Grettir decides he must face this hoarding monster and destroy him by seizing his cache and driving him out.  The locals warn him against acting, but with the help of Audun of Vindheim, whom he had become great friends with, he sets out to right this injustice.

Grettir and Audun spend an entire day from dawn until dusk digging down into the Howe before finally breaking through.  Audun lowers Grettir on a rope and he descends into a massive treasure cache of gold, silver, all manner of treasures, and even the entire skeletal remains of Kar's warhorse surrounding the desiccated remains of Kar the old still resting upon his throne.  There is a great stench of death and rot everywhere, but Grettir resolutely begins gathering up the treasure.  As he's loading it all to be lifted up by Audun, he suddenly feels the icy chill of a skeletal hand upon his shoulder pulling him back into the darkness.  

Grettir and Kar begin an epic battle that wages back and forth the full length of the howe.  They knock over the throne, scatter the horse bones everywhere and fight all through the remaining night before Grettir finally gains advantage for just a moment and lops off the head of the lich and sets it to its final rest.  He places the skull among the bones, gathers of the treasures and brings them to Thorfinn, the lord of the island as the sun is rising.  

Thorfinn is amazed at the cache as it comes to be displayed, but recognizes it, too, for within the goods is a beautiful sword that is unlike any other.  He asks Grettir where he came by such a treasure and Grettir responds:
The monster is slain! in the dismal tomb
I have captured a sword, dire wounder of men.
Would it were mine I a treasure so rare
I never would suffer my hand to resign."

The curse is lifted from the land and as the wanderlust once again seizes Grettir, he moves on to new and more amazing adventures (for another 75 chapters of the Saga).  

The face side of this coin displays the lich in his skeletal state surrounded by his various treasures and skeletal remains.  It is surrounded by a bordering Torque of traditional fashion, an ancient mark of a ruling lord.

The reverse displays the skeletal grip of Kar, still grasping his prized sword and the ancient ravens of the Icelandic god Odin.  The ravens, Muninn and Huginn, are the messengers and guardians over the cycles of life and death among the lands of the far north.  They report to Odin on the changes in the cycles and the passing of spirits from one world to the next and seemed a fitting backdrop to the final end of the spirit of Kar the Old.  

Kar the Old is a fitting Master of Cache with his hiding away treasures in deep, dark holes where only the brave dare explore to retrieve.  I've since added caching in Iceland to my bucket list as well as hearing the oral tradition of retelling the Grettis Saga.  I hope you enjoy exploring the caches and countries of the far north and if you can't go there youself, maybe this coin can travel in your stead and record great adventures of caches and guardians along the way!

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