Here’s the scene: You’re a 9-year-old boy. You’ve recently died of a tragic illness and have passed on to the next world, where the forces of evil are stirring. While a witch lord plots to enslave the world’s population, your bravery is put to the test. You come to a forest where you meet a soldier. There is a foul creature afoot, he tells you, but he has not the heart to pass through the trees. Will you be brave enough? You step softly through the fallen leaves, your heart pounding, your hands trembling, overwhelmed with the knowledge that something wild is hunting you…
The Danes take their play seriously. So seriously that a full two percent of the population partake in Live Action Role Playing (LARP)—like Dungeons and Dragons brought to life, complete with costumes, nuanced back stories, and an armory of foam and replica weapons for settling scores. It’s not unheard to find a few thousand grown men and women dressed up like orcs and elves, playing out a Tolkien-inspired fantasy among the rolling hills of the Danish countryside.
On our third day in Denmark we were invited by Claus Raasted, the country’s leading LARPer, to take part in the grand spectacle. The scenario du jour was based on The Brothers Lionheart, a tale of good and evil that serves as a literary right of passage for Scandinavian school children. It wouldn’t be enough to just watch 200 Danish kids chase each other around with swords and shields. When we heard that a battle would be taking place in the forest just outside of Copenhagen, we wanted in.
And so it was that Matt was cast as the monster in the forest, a vicious creature with a dagger in his back, a 12-foot axe in his hand, and a growl in his belly so fierce that it brought the elementary school soldiers to the brink of tears. The full-length feature film, documenting every last blow of the ensuing battle, will be out soon, but in the meantime, a few glimpses of our LARP initiation.