Meet the Viking from Duvanje: Stipe Pleić from Tomislavgrad realized his boyhood dream, now he is a Viking named Ragnar Kavurson

Viking means the population that in the early Middle Ages lived in the area of ​​Scandinavia, i.e. the areas of today’s Sweden, Denmark and Norway. The most information about Norse mythology can be found in books, and the vivid portrayal of the Vikings in movies. Time travel is very possible. Stipe Pleić – Flick is living proof of that.

Pleić, who is called the “Tobacco Viking”, returned from Germany to his native village of Stipanjići near Tomislavgrad. Ever since childhood, he had an affinity to shape wood with a knife. Pleić learned about the Vikings in the series “Vikings” which he watched. Watching this series, he came up with the idea of ​​making an ax identical to the one in the series, and he believes that he succeeded. After that, the job of making axes increased, so he has made over 1,000 of them to date. In Pleić’s workshop, several examples of various axes are exhibited. Those with animal motifs in which a lot of effort and work has been invested cost more, but he does not know the price. In addition to the axes in the workshop, there is a target for ax throwers, shields and spears with Viking symbols. He often works to relax and exercise.

He was particularly influenced by the life of the Viking warrior Ragnar Lodbrok, who was a hero from old Norse poetry and saga, as well as his wife, the warrior Lagerthe. Pleić owns a real replica of the Viking house, which contains Viking objects that he made himself. In his native village of Stipanići near Tomislavgrad, he built a replica of a Viking house in which there are many items that he made himself, and his unique Viking axes attract special attention.

Pleić sits on his land like a real Viking king on his throne, he prefers to be addressed by his Viking name Ragnar Kavurson.

Pleić notes that he liked the Viking axes and their appearance. They had an unusual shape, while he had a penchant for working with wood, so he tried to make that one Viking ax himself. After the first one, he made the second one, and the others followed. While watching the series about Vikings, Pleić became more and more interested in Viking mythology, which is one of the most interesting and complex in the world, next to Roman and Greek.

After that, Pleić delved deeper into the story of the Vikings and began making other items from Viking everyday life. Everything he saw in the series he tried to make, from shields, swords, spears as well as chairs. Pleić built a drakkar, i.e. a Viking ship, and his plan is to build the Viking village of Kavurci.

“It was this Viking drakkar that sailed on Lake Buška. There was not enough interest in driving a drakkar from the citizens, so it is currently on display above the Viking House. However, he can quickly be trained and prepared for sailing,” notes Pleić.

Pleić attracted a lot of attention with his appearance as well as his lifestyle. After a certain time, he decided on the space of his birth house and realized that he could use it for useful purposes, because the very appearance of the house was reminiscent of those from the Viking era, and he began to arrange it in that style. His first idea was to build a Viking ship. He notes that the love for warriors and Norse mythology lasts a long time. In his old birth house, which had been empty for decades, he arranged an exhibition space and a relaxation area. He says that he does not regret returning from Germany because he works and enjoys what fulfills him and makes him happy. Freedom, art and creativity, all of this is provided by his birthplace.

Like most other people, Pleić works, but he uses his free time in a much more interesting way. In the afternoon, he usually draws and makes axes from late evening until the wee hours and considers it the most fruitful time for work. The manufacturing process is not simple because each ax is unique. Its customers are mostly lovers of Viking weapons and come from various parts of the world. The only machine he uses to make axes is a flex machine, while everything else is handmade, so they are all unique.

It is very interesting how he had visits from people from Sweden who are interested in his work.

Pleić invests a lot of effort and love in everything he does, which is evident. As much as he enjoys crafting items like knives, spears and shields, he admits that it’s not always easy, especially when it comes to battle axes. Although he does not make them with the intention of selling them, many people have wanted to buy them. He notes that he is trying to be a pioneer in Bosnia and Herzegovina and appears at many significant gatherings. He believes that he would like the love for this sport to spread. He is not a fan of traveling or big competitions.

He points out that the Vikings once passed through Bosnia in the distant past. There are Viking runes on a pillar in a Christian church in Breza. That pillar is located in the National Museum in Sarajevo. 

In Birbir in Croatia there is also a site of Viking people. Even Vikings and Croats fought together in southern Italy as mercenaries. 

When it comes to painting the axe, he says that it’s pyrography, which he works with a soldering iron and then with a pyrograph writing machine with fire, which he lightly draws, i.e. burns a red-hot wire on wood. He says that making axes is his hobby. The motifs on the axes are Viking, Celtic, Old Slavic… Nevertheless, he says that his favorite motifs are the tattoos of old Croatian women from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Younger generations show interest in works and ax throwing, which is a sports discipline that is widespread and replacing darts. Thus, in bars in the USA and Canada, they throw out dart machines and insert targets for axes.

When it comes to his hobby, the environment looked at it with disbelief at the beginning, but now his works are recognized as something interesting. He says that at first they ignored him, then disputed and were against him, but in the end they accepted him. Pleić himself sews a Viking wardrobe, which includes a belt, horn, etc. He notes that he also encountered the support of the municipal structures of Tomislavgrad as well as the friendly forestry department. 

Young people often come to visit Pleić’s house, where they even organize celebrations. The male visitors are interested in axes and the female visitors are interested in bows and arrows and demonstrating on the target. In addition, Pleić also creates Roman weapons, Viking spears, and his desire, as he points out, is to popularize King Tomislav, who was crowned on Duvanjsko polje in 925.

Pleić presents his works at almost all fairs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He participated in the Stolac Tarca. His main goal is to create a place where people will visit and find entertainment.

One of his skills is the old medieval skill of ax throwing. The ax was used by the ancient Vikings in battle as well as for hunting animals. Pleić ax targets are made of fir and pine wood measuring one meter by 75 centimeters. Recently, he has been making efforts to expand his knowledge to young ax throwers. He founded the first “Ax Thrower” Association in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and soon the first competition is planned, for which he has great support from his friends.

“It is an interesting fact that women, in most cases, shoot ax much better than men. This is especially visible when married couples come to visit us, women are more skilled at shooting. In addition, children are very interested in ax throwing at knightly gatherings. Of course, strict supervision is organized for that, and there is always an ax in the game,” says Pleić.

It is a very popular sport in the United States of America, Canada, France… In addition to Bosnia and Herzegovina, ax throwing clubs also exist in Serbia and Croatia, and they all adhere to the same ax throwing rules.

Pleić also built one bungalow, and the next venture is the construction of 13 more with the aim of eventually becoming an attraction and part of the tourist offer of Tomislavgrad. Despite the fact that now it seems like an unattainable story, he believes that with gradual work, he will soon realize this wish, which he wants to make Tomislavgrad and his village a unique tourist attraction.

“He is trying to make the Viking village a tourist attraction, that is, a place where people will come, socialize and gather. This especially applies to those who are familiar with Viking mythology, and the Viking series has raised a lot of interest. I tell everyone that they can come to visit the Viking Village, the entrance is free for everyone. There they can try their hand at ax throwing and shooting with a bow and arrow,” said Pleić at the end. 

Written by: Hazim Okanović

This story was written thanks to the generous support of the American people through the “Local Works” program of the United States Agency for International Development in Bosnia and Herzegovina (USAID). The content of the story is solely the responsibility of the author and the “Network for Building Peace”. The views expressed in the story do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.