Dawson artist brings tales of Norway's patron saint to life in comic book
Artist Lucy Tokheim has created her first comic book, and tells stories gleaned from Norse legends, including that of Sunniva, the Irish woman who became the patron saint of Norway.
DAWSON — Lucy O'Laughlin grew up in Minneapolis in an Irish Catholic family before meeting her husband, Gene Tokheim, while they attended what is now Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall in the 1970s.
The couple immersed themselves in the study of Nordic folk arts. Lucy O’Laughlin Tokheim and her husband are celebrated today for the Nordic-themed stoneware they create at their studio in rural Lac qui Parle County.
Scandinavian roots run deep here
The Tokheims' works are a reinterpretation of the Norse folk tradition. They chose stoneware in place of wood. Gene is the potter; Lucy is the designer and visual artist and painter.
She is now also the author. In this case, it’s her first comic book, “ The Princess and the Boat Boy, Heroes of the Primstav .”
Its 32 panels over 36 pages tell the stories of heroes recognized on the Primstav, the Norse calendar. Until modern times, the Norse calendar was a length of wood that marked the seasons with symbols of agricultural and natural phenomena of importance along with those of the saints they venerated.
In the book, Lucy Tokheim tells us about one of the most celebrated: Saint Sunniva, the first patron saint of Norway.
For many years, Lucy Tokheim has been fascinated by the story of Sunniva. Sunniva was from Ireland, who went to sea and landed in Norway.
“Such an interesting story,” Tokheim said. “How could that be?”
It was during the era when Christendom was spreading throughout Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. Monasteries were being founded. There were those who discovered the Christian Gospel and literally put themselves to sea and let the winds carry them to places unknown to spread this new message of hope and love, she said.
This was a time when new ideas were freely exchanged and cultures mixed. Christianity brought a new message to people who faced often brutal, tribal existence.
“I have a personal life with God that is above my tribal loyalties,” she said.
This period of intellectual growth had always interested Tokheim. She said she took on this project as the pandemic isolated us. She devoted quiet hours in the Tokheim studio to reading and her research of the era.
These were also very busy times for the Tokheims. While the pandemic prevented visitors from coming to the studio, their online sales boomed, and they were as busy as ever with their stoneware creations.
She wanted to tell these stories in a comic book format, both due to her appreciation for the visual but also in the hope that it will allow young people to explore the rich stories that have always fascinated her. New to this art, she enlisted the artist Sophia Glock of Texas as a mentor.
“Don’t tell it, show it,” Tokheim said Glock coached her.
Unbeknownst to Tokheim, Glock was at work at this time on her own, debut comic work.
“Passport” by Sophia Glock has caught national attention. It’s described as an “unforgettable graphic memoir that reveals her discovery as a teenager that her parents are agents working for the CIA.”
Tokheim also credits Montevideo artist Abigail Spence with assisting her on the technical side.
But have no doubt. Her visual stories of people contending with challenges and questions we still know today are entertaining and insightful. That’s a reflection of the author’s research and passion and her visual talents for telling their stories.
The books are available at the Tokheim Gallery or online at Tokheim Stoneware at www.tokheim-stoneware.com.