Knight, Royal Peer, Laurel and Damn Fine Cook
“I’ve wanted to be a knight since I read about King Arthur when I was six. I wanted to find a group of people who would be trusted by their word,” Duke Gunthar Jonsson says. “Plus, I liked cloaks.”
Stumbling Across a Demo
He was in the US military when he first encountered the SCA, stumbling across a demo held at a Science Museum. “They let me hang out with them and invited me to a Populace meeting,” he says. So he played briefly before being shipped off to Sicily.
As Sicily was low in SCA members, he spent that year reading the Known World Handbook, kingdom newsletters and every back issue of Tournaments Illuminated. He was able to attend only one event during that time—a Drachenwald coronet at Castle Frankenstein—and got crash space from Viscountess Regina Romsey (currently residing in the Barony of Three Mountains). She remains, he adds, a friend to this day.
On his return to the States in 1984, Gunthar jumped into the SCA with both feet. “They created a monster,” he says. The first thing that drew him, he adds, wasn’t the fighting. He didn’t get into that until he returned from Sicily.
“I attended a fighter practice and the guys decided this great big Special Forces type would make a GREAT fighter!” Didn’t quite work out as planned, however. After getting duct taped into armor and given a stinging shot across the chest, Gunthar remembers thinking, I am a Ranger; I will not cry. When the swords started swinging, he considered becoming a Laurel, instead…then, they let him swing a sword at another fighter. That changed everything.
“My first fight, my first bruise. On him. After that I started giggling,” he says. “A lot.” Thirty years later, he’s still at it.
Beyond Heavy Fighting
The magic of the SCA kept him coming back: escaping a dreary world, being with friends, drinking, fighting, chasing women and dreaming of becoming something greater than he was. In a way, those are still the reasons he’s here—plus bacon.
He’s played in over half a dozen kingdoms—living in Ansteorra, Atenveldt, Meridies and what he calls “a pre-natal Gleann Abhann” as well as playing in Calontir, Midrealm, Outlands, An Tir and, naturally, fighting and cooking at Pennsic, Estrella and Gulf Wars.
Cooking? Oh, my, yes.
Over-achiever that he is, Gunthar is also a Laurel (AS 43), based on his cooking skills. Medieval food is a passion for him nearly equal with fighting. He’s the one who started the SCA Cooks email list, creating a network for other SCAdians passionate about period foods. In fact, he states How to Make Bacon is his favorite class to teach—even above and beyond fighting courses. And why not, he adds, “The students are so enthusiastic!”
Yet he will teach anything he can—if the student is open to listening. While his Sport of Kings heavy fighting classes will focus on teaching Ansteorran “Boxer” style and his “Control Method” for fighting single sword, he’s willing to share and explain what he’s doing and seeing.
“Because I can,” he says. “People let me teach them. That’s cool as hell.” If he’s beaten someone with a technique, he’ll show them what he did. If he’s beaten them while sparring, he feels better about teaching them. He’s adamant about never being That Guy. “You know, the guy who sucks at fighting but feels he has to tell everyone how to do it,” he adds. He’s seen it happen too many times.
But he loves to share his single sword techniques with other fighters because “some of my concepts are pretty radical to common single sword thought,” he adds. “So it is neat to see even experienced fighters suddenly realize a new way of looking at a weapon’s form.”
Even with his enthusiasm for single sword, Gunthar’s favorite skill is cooking. He knows a Duke should say “Footwork,” but he can’t do it. “I’m a better cook than fighter,” he says, “And it usually hurts less afterwards.”
Plus, you know—bacon.
Struggles…and a T-Shirt
He’s the first to admit to struggles about the SCA, however. He doesn’t fight as much as he used to and finds there are days when he just doesn’t have that spark. His last squire has been knighted and he feels he’s lost much of the fire he used to have.
Yet he still finds the SCA inspiring for what it does with and to the people involved in it. “This stupid costume party consisting of thousands of weirdos all over the world,” he says, “can still make magic, honor, thrills, tears, laughter, family, feuds, hate, love, passion, and a bubble of something special in the middle of this insane modern world.”
That’s one of the reasons he’s come to Sport of Kings this year. He plans to get together with old friends and make new ones, get his ass kicked in the fighting, see amazing countryside, fall in love with An Tir and, finally, take that struggling coal that’s been burning down a bit and make it blaze into a bonfire.
All of that—and a t-shirt of course.
Staff Writer, Sport of Kings