Thursday 25 January 2018

Missed Classic: Erik the Viking - Sailing the Seas

By Ilmari

Before returning to North Sea, let’s take a look at the Pacific Ocean
You’ve all probably heard about Gulliver’s Travels - if nothing else, at least his visitation to the land of tiny Lilliputians. Some of you might have even heard that after this journey, Gulliver took a trip to a land of giants, with a name so unpronounceable that I am not even attempting to write it down. But if you haven’t actually read the book, you most likely do not know, that after all these fascinating lands and in addition few others, there occurs a moment in Gulliver’s odyssey, when he lands on Japan. Gone is the imagination, replaced with realism. Sure, Japan was an exotic land to 18th century Europeans, of which hardly nothing was known - and like so many writers of the time, Jonathan Swift had tried to create in his account of Gulliver’s travels a semblance of likelihood with a story of Gulliver travelling through well-known lands and experiencing a shipwreck. Still, from the modern perspective this sudden collision of real with imaginary creates a kind of jarring effect.

And you don’t need to go to 18th century writings to get that effect. Like plenty of nerds, I’ve had my Tolkien phase, when I simply had to read everything written by the master. After getting introduced to the fantasy world of Middle-Earth in Hobbit, I had to continue with Lord of the Rings, then came Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales. With nothing else to continue with I started something called a Book of Lost Tales. It was a story of an Anglo-Saxon traveller with the name Aelfwine finding his way to Britain, where elves still lived. He was told the story of Silmarillion - well, at least partially, because this book was apparently an earlier version of that story. What was even more astounding was that British Isles were revealed to be Tol Eressëa, a very notable place in Tolkien’s legendarium. Once again, what I had thought as fiction completely removed from the real world was actually meant to be situated within it.

Of course, this confusion over such a mix of fantasy and realism might well have been what Swift and Tolkien were after - confusion, which in Tolkien’s case is augmented by the literal flatness of the mythological world depicted in the Book of Lost Tales. It is a completely different matter, when such a confusion is caused by an adaptation of an existent work. The original Saga of Erik the Viking is situated in a clear fairy tale land. Sure, vikings were historical figures, but Terry Jones does not really care about the logistics of the actual viking society. Indeed, Erik’s journeys occur in flat Earth, which is evidently not true of the planet vikings lived in. Thus, it seems like a complete misunderstanding of the original, when an adaptation tries to outdo the original in realism and situate all the fantastic events in real places. The manual begins this by telling that Erik lives in Norway, the game continues it by mentioning some real locations and the clue sheet concludes by stating that all the places visited by Erik are authentic destinations of  viking journeys.

The geographical localisation is most evident in the game map. Like in all Level 9 games and in most text adventures of the time, the game world consists of separate screens, between which you move with commands N, W, E and S (and occasionally NW, NE, SW, SE, U, D, In and Out). The only twist in the game is that when you are on board Erik’s ship, you move the whole ship with these commands (the ship, of course, moves only on sea and Erik has to go out of the ship to move on land). Now, if some game location would in real world be, say, south of another location, you really have to move south to get from one to the other - and the greater the distance between these places, the more screens you have to go through. It is a bit surprising that the producers didn’t include an actual world map in the manual, where the players could have annotated their journeys. Fortunately, maps of the region can be found quite easily, so I made myself one.

This is still most likely an incomplete version, since I’ve yet to explore the whole game world

On the oceans

Let’s go exploring!

Sinking! What are you implying?


After a rather long streak of sailing, the ship began sinking and finally drowned. Solving this problem was more difficult than it should have been. Usually the game is quite forward about the possible exits in a screen. One thing it doesn’t say is that from the deck of the Golden Dragon Erik can go down to the hull, which I found out far later than I should have. In the hull, I found Medallion and Skates, but also a leak. Luckily, I had a hammer, nails and planks, with which to repair the ship.

There were some randomly moving things on the sea. There was mist that covered all the exits in a screen and dolphin that I don’t know what it does. And there was the sea dragon Erik had met in the book. The dragon was not really a problem, since I could always just move to another screen, when I met it, but it had to have some meaning. Again, I had been let down by game not revealing all the exits in a screen - I didn’t know I could climb up to the mast of the ship and from there to the nose of the dragon.

Bilbo Baggins didn’t have to do this

Within dragon’s nose I found a feather, which was clearly making the creature uncomfortable. After I had removed the feather, the dragon gave me Whistle. If I blew it, I could get the dragon to move Erik’s ship from one screen to a random location.

Now that I’ve gone through the general things on the ocean, lets go through all the individual locations I've discovered.

Enchantress’ island (Lofoten Islands)

Apparently vikings believed in resurrection

The beach I arrived at, after a deep fjord, contained some Driftwood, which was again one of those strange items causing a vision of some part of the ocean. The only other interesting thing on the island was a cave in which lived an evil enchantress. Erik had met in the book an enchantress trying to capture him, but it isn’t clear whether the enchantress in the game is meant to be the same person. Whatever the case, the enchantress tried to make Erik drink from Chalice full of poison. When I threw it on her face, the enchantress melted. Within the enchantress’ lair I found Mirror.

Iceberg (floating randomly in Arctic Ocean)

Who is living here?

For moving around on the iceberg, I had to be wearing the skates. Furthermore, there were some icicles preventing me going further in. By using whetstones and kindling to light the driftwood, I could melt these icicles.Within the iceberg I found a giant bedroom and a cold cellar with Plug. When I pulled the plug, water started pouring in and pushed Erik out. Finally, there was no iceberg left, but I still got the plug.

Gravel beach (Shetland Islands)

Looks boring

Here I found a nest of an eagle, who kept pecking me if I tried to take anything from it. I managed to pacify the beast by giving it some mutton. In the nest I discovered Bracelet and Monument, which both caused a vision of a place on ocean, and Bent Stick.

Slimy rocks (Orkney Islands)

Byre = cowshed; croft = a small piece of land

The world of Erik is really desolate - this time I found a cowshed, but no cows and no farmers.Still, within the cowshed I discovered a haystack and in it Needle. In addition, I also found Clippers and Spade.

Loch (Scotland)

So, who’s built this tower here?

The desolation continued. The whole of Scotland consisted of one empty tower with Ring on the top room, pool with mineral water and Amulet on a ledge. Getting the amulet was the first puzzle, where I had to look at the official clue sheet. It turned out that the bent stick I had found at Shetland Islands was actually a boomerang and throwing it brought me the amulet. After some experiments I noticed that rubbing the amulet returned me to the deck of Golden Dragon.

Jorvik wharf (Yorkshire)

Bustling metropolis

It shouldn’t be said that the fellows in Level 9 didn’t do their research: Jorvik was a kingdom in what is nowadays known as Yorkshire, ruled by Danish vikings. Unfortunately, just like all the other locations in the game, there are no people to interact with in the capital of the viking world. Just when I tried to take Cat, guards appeared and demanded two ounces of silver for the animal. Coincidentally, bracelet I had found on Shetland Islands was just two ounces. With scales I had taken from Erik’s home, I could prove the weight of the bracelet to the guards.

Shady cove (Denmark)

I didn’t know Christian God was so ecumenical

Here I found a church, which I approached kneeling and praying - a heavenly voice agreed to open the door to Erik, son of Odin (let’s not go to the murky theology behind this puzzle). Within the church I found the traditional exorcism tools, Book, Bell and Candle, which worked also as a light source.

Sheltered beach (Southern England)

Knock knock?

Here I discovered only a large granite slab, which I couldn’t budge or open.

Stone quay (Ireland)

Finally some plot development

I was instantly guided by large Spell Hound to a throne room where the wizard Al Kwasarmi spoke to me. The Hound and his master appeared also in the book, where they lived near the edge of the world (be sure to check that out next time you visit Ireland). Here, I just had to open an oak chest and note that the “great wizard” was actually just a pathetic little man. Al Kwasarmi regretted trying to trick me and promised to help, if I would just bring him the following ingredients:
  • The sound of a cat moving
  • A woman’s beard
  • The roots of a mountain
  • The sinews of a bear
  • The breath of a fish
  • A bird’s spittle
These ingredients happen to be in viking mythology also the fabled components of Gleipnir, a binding to hold the wolf Fenrir, which I seem to be destined to meet. I am hoping that this quest will have some bearing on finding Erik’s family, since otherwise I have no idea what to do.

At the request of Joe Pranevich


  1. In English at least, the book is titled "Gulliver's Travels" and you are right that it mixes adventures in fictional realms with occasional stopovers in real places. I'd say it was "magical realism", but it's really just a satire with episodes surrounded by connecting tissue. The visit to Japan happens at the end of the third part, the visit to Laputa, which is primarily concerned with ridiculing the idea of science for its own sake. As a kid, I recall reading a simplified version that only had the Lilliput story in it; I didn't read the rest until I was a teenager.

    The traveling at sea seems to be similar to how it was done in "Seas of Blood", but as I am about to play "Seastalker" and "Cutthroats" (both with sea-navigation parts), I am curious how they will handle it. You should link to your map at the end; I am curious how many "rooms" are between each location and how they are arranged.

  2. Ah yes, I was a bit too careless in writing the title of the book: "Gulliver's Travels" it is. You are quite correct in noting that the book is more of a satire than fantasy. Even so, I still find including Japan a bit awkward since it's even mentioned in the complete title of the third part: "A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib and Japan". It's similarly incongruous as would be a book called "Magical Lands of Middle-Earth, Narnia, Oz and Benidorm."

    As for the map, I quickly came to the conclusion that I wouldn't do a complete map of the ocean. The centre of the ocean seems to have a definite "shape", but the further to the fringes I've explored, the more random the connections appear to be. It's not just "going west and then east lands you an different square", but even "going west from the same square might land you into a different place". There also appears to be more mist around the fringes of the game map, which makes mapping hard. There are some clear limits, like Continental Europe,, but Western Atlantic and Arctic Sea seem just too chaotic for proper mapping.

    As for the central part of the game world, I've only made an incomplete map of the speediest routes from one ground location to another (for instance, I didn't bother to put down that I could go round British Isles). The central sea is mostly a quite straightforward grid, but there are a few places, where the sea squares don't match up.

    The entry squares to ground locations are always one square in size (of course, the ground locations contain often more than one square, in addition to the entry square). Usually one can approach the ground locations from any direction, but it's possible to exit a ground location.

    1. Hmmm, posted my comment a bit too soon. What I meant to say in the last sentence was that one can approach the ground locations from any direction, but it's possible to exit a ground location only to one direction.

  3. Feeding a dead sheep to an eagle... finding a needle in a haystack. Why do other games keep trying to remind me of King's Quest V?

    1. Maybe Roberta Williams just borrowed all her puzzles from other games?