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From Odin and Woden to Anglo-Saxons in Britain

wodin and his followers

woden and his followers

 

 

saxon right to rule2

In my previous article on kings and dynasties, I stated that I would look at each group separately in more depth.  In order to better understand the Anglo-Saxon rule in England, we need to have some history on who the Angles, the Saxons and Jutes were, and how they came to England in the first place.  This article is a brief look at that history.

You can view the previous article here: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/15/i-am-king-really-why-and-how/

I am King

Before we get into the rulers and their divine right to rule, we need to look briefly at the history of the kingdoms, the people and how they came to be in Britain. We will look at the Angles, the Saxons, and yes even the Jutes who seem to get overlooked and forgotten in the discussions of early Britain, I am also going to include a segment on one other group that gets mixed in with the rest but does have it’s own separate identity… that would be a group of Geats from the area of Sweden who made their contribution via the Wulfinga tribe who would settle in part of Britain.  I am including this group for two reasons. They did play an important part in the history of  Britain, and one of our past rulers was presumably a part of this group. The unfortunate Jarl Borg  belonged  to a distinctive Norse tribe known as the Gautar, a people referred to in English works such as Beowulf and Widsith as the ‘Geats’, and related to the Germanic Goth tribes which invaded the western Roman Empire. The Gautar have since been assimilated by the Swedes in the Medieval period.  Jarl Borg, as a powerful Geatish lord of near-kingly powers, may have been a member of the royal clan of the Wulfings (descendents of the wolf) who traditionally ruled over the Gautar of Ostergotland.

Sam Newton and others (including Rupert Bruce-Mitford), have proposed that the East Anglian Wuffing dynasty was derived from the Wulfings, and it was at their court that Beowulf was first composed.  

The Wuffingas, Uffingas or Wuffings were the ruling dynasty of East Anglia, the long-lived Anglo-Saxon kingdom which today includes the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. The Wuffingas took their name from Wuffa, an early East Anglian king. Nothing is known of the members of the dynasty before Rædwald, who ruled from about 599 to circa 624. The Viking invasions of the ninth century destroyed the monasteries in East Anglia where many documents relating to the rule of the Wuffingas would have been kept.

The last of the Wuffingas kings was Ælfwald, who died in 749 and who was succeeded by kings whose lineage is unknown.  The kingdom of East Anglia was settled by peoples from northern Europe during the 5th and 6th centuries. Historical sources relating to the genealogy of the East Anglian kings include the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and Bede‘s Ecclesiastical History, both compiled many years after the kingdom was formed, as well as lists produced by medieval historians, such as the 12th century Textus Roffensis, who may have had access to other sources that are now lost. Several of the Wuffingas kings are included in a pedigree of Ælfwald, contained in the Anglian collection that dates from the 9th century. In the pedigree, Ælfwald is claimed to descend from the god Wōden.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wulfing

jarl borg caressing his wife's skull

jarl borg caressing his wife’s skull

jarl borg planning revenge

jarl borg planning revenge

In my previous article about Horik and Ragnar, I did touch on the beginnings of the Angles and Saxons in Britain with their migration from their homelands as the Danish or Dani began to take over those areas.  This migration  included Jutes and Geats from the southern area of what is now Sweden. Keep in mind that this migration took place centuries prior to the Viking arrivals in late 700s and 800s. These earliest migrations began as the Romans were fighting to maintain control of this outpost known as Britannia. Another important fact to remember for our purposes here is that we are not looking at the areas of Wales, Cornwall, Scotland or Ireland in this discussion.

Little is really known about the Jutes, their migration to Britain or their eventual demise in that land. They most likely joined with their neighbors, the Angles and Saxons in the relocation to Britain when the Danes and Franks became more powerful and took over the home lands.  It is possible that the Jutes are a related people to the Geats and a Gothic people as it is mentioned in the Gutasaga that some inhabitants of Gotland left for mainland Europe. Large grave sites were found at Willenberg, Prussia (now Wielbark, Poland). The finds were attributed to the ancient Gutones, who may speculatively belinked to the much later Goths.

They settled in smaller  southern areas of England,  kent and Isle of  Whight.  If you look at this map of Anglo-Saxon England, you can see that Kent is fairly close to east Anglia where the Geats (Wulfings) settled. If the two groups were related or connected to each other, it would stand to reason that they re-settle in some close proximity.

The Jutes were a smaller group than the others and they seem to have rather quickly been assimilated into those larger groups, losing most of their previous individual history or identity. While it is commonplace to detect their influences in Kent (for example, the practice of partible inheritance known as gavelkind), the Jutes in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight vanished, probably assimilated to the surrounding Saxons, leaving only the slightest of traces.  The culture of the Jutes of Kent shows more signs of Roman, Frankish, and Christian influence than that of the Angles or Saxons. Funerary evidence indicates that the pagan practice of cremation ceased relatively early and jewellery recovered from graves has affinities with Rhenish styles from the Continent, perhaps suggesting close commercial connections with Francia. It is possible that being such a small group that they were more quickly assimilated into the Christian beliefs and culture as well. Some early historians speculated that they were victims of Ethnic cleansing by the West Saxons but later theories suggest that it was more a case of them assimilating themselves into the larger groups. What ever the reason, they disappeared as a group early on and played no role in the later settlements of  England by the Anglo-Saxons.

East-Anglia-11

 

 

Angles-Saxons-Jutes-&-Frisians during roman occupation of Britannia   map

Angles-Saxons-Jutes-&-Frisians during roman occupation of Britannia map

For our discussion, we are only going to focus on those areas that the Jutes, Angles and Saxons would conquer and settle in.  The following is an early map of  the home lands that the Jutes, Saxons and Angles occupied prior to the Danes took them over.

Angles_saxons_jutes in northland  map

Angles_saxons_jutes in northland map

This map gives a breakdown of where they originally settled in Roman era Brittania.

Anglo_saxon_jute breakdown in Britain map

Anglo_saxon_jute breakdown in Britain map

By the early 600s, this is what the kingdoms and settlements were beginning to look like with this, Angles and Saxons controlling much of the area and Jutes holding on to a few small portions. The native Britons were relegated to the areas of Whales and Scotland at that time. This is a precursor to the four main kingdoms that would remain and become vital power players in the future. By the  800s it would become Wessex, Mercia and Northumbria, with East Anglia remaining a small separate entity.

Angles,_Saxons,_Jutes_in_Britain_year_600  map

Angles,_Saxons,_Jutes_in_Britain_year_600 map

This is what the land looked like by late 700s, early 800s in the time of Ecbert.

Egbert_of_Wessex_map

Egbert_of_Wessex_map

 

 

The Romans left Britannia in the early 400s as the Angles, Saxons and Jutes began their migration to the area.  They left behind their buildings, their roadways, some of their culture and they left behind  their religion as well. By the time the Romans left Brittania, they were Christians. Some of their citizens and their priests would have chosen to stay in this land that they now considered home. As they became assimilated into the new cultures taking over the land, they would most likely have begun the process of  slowly merging and weaving together the two separate belief systems into a form of Christianity that those North people would understand and accept. By the 800s when the second wave of Northmen arrived, these earlier invaders and settlers had become  fully immersed in the Christian belief system with their previous Nordic beliefs long forgotten, set aside or kept secret. There would have been remaining sects and pockets of those who followed the old ways but this would have been in the more isolated, rural areas and even then, they would have kept it at a low profile so as not to draw attention or recrimination from the Church, which was becoming so much more powerful and controlling.

 

First we should look at the original migration of the Saxons, Angles and Jutes from their homeland to the areas that they each ultimately settled in Britain. They all came from the same general area, probably spoke the same language and most importantly, held the same beliefs. All of these early tribes followed Odin or Woden and they took their belief system with them to Brittania. The only difference in the belief system is that the Angles, Saxons and Jutes in Britain  followed this God as Woden while those who remained in the homeland used the word Odin..  Woden would eventually play an important part in determining the rulers of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.

gods of our saxon gods 1.sun god 2. moon god 3.god tiw 4. woden

gods of our saxon gods 1.sun god 2. moon god 3.god tiw 4. woden

The ancestor of the South Saxon kings, Woden was born at the beginning of time, his parents being the giant, Bor, and the giantess, Bestia, who came from chaos.

Woden was the Father God, the god of battle and death, the god of inspiration and wit, and, far from least, he was the god of learning. Woden was also the psychopomp of slain warriors, taking them back to Valhalla, his hall of the brave. Valhalla was situated in a joyous land called Gladheim, where Woden also had another hall with twelve thrones upon which were seated his councillors.

Woden was the great chief of the Aesir, a race of war gods who lived in Asgarth, the world of divinities. The god-chief had two ravens, Hugin (Thought) and Munin (Memory), who told him all that had happened in Milgard, the world of mortals.

Woden was in wedlock with Frigg, the goddess of fertility, conjugal love and motherhood.

Their eldest son, Balder, was the favourite of all the other gods and known for his matchless beauty and sweetness of character. He was the god of plants and good forces. He lived in a hall called Breithablik with his wife, the daughter of the god Nepr, and her name was Nanna. Forseti, their son, was the god of justice, peace and truth. He had a throne in his hall. This residence was called Glitnir, a palace which was embellished with silver and gold.

Balder was killed unintentionally by his blind brother, the god Hoder, with a bough of mistletoe, having been misled by the malicious Loki, the god of mischief, destruction and fire.

Woden and Frigg had another son who was killed in combat at the battle of Ragnasok. His name was Hermod. Since he had no children and nor did Hoder, presumably Aelle and Mealla (if they were royal) would have claimed descent from Woden through his grandson, Forseti. Woden also had a natural son called Vithar, by his concubine Grithir, who was a giantess.

Norway_Fjords woden

According to Norwegian myth the mountain caves in this land of fjords are peopled by supernatural giants called trolls, although they sometimes appear as dwarfs. Tradition also says that they read the Old Testament. Perhaps trolls derive their ancestry from a distant memory of neanderthals, as might the giants who are said to have existed in the chaos before the birth of Woden.

The traditional view has always been presented that the Anglo-Saxons made a great invasion of the land, destroyed everything in their path and took it over completely, wiping out all of the previous inhabitants or causing them to flee to the wilds and desolation of the west and northern portions. We have been told that, much like the second wave of Vikings, they were marauding, murderous heathenish Barbarians. This traditional view is slanted and biased in favor of the Romans, and the Christians who were able to write down their versions of what happened during that era. As with any history, there are two sides to every event and the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Were there great battles, burnings, pillaging and death? Yes, of course there were- on all sides.  If you were a villager or farmer of that time, you may not have even been sure quite who was destroying your life. You might have imagined that it was that group of Barbarians, those Saxons that your overlord mentioned… but you may not have been aware of what your overlord had previously done to incur that wrath? You may not even have completely understood all of the groups waging war against each other, or that those Saxons were aiding some neighboring kingdom that your ruler had caused to create an enemy of. If you survived to tell of the battle, your recollection would be only of what you experienced first hand, or what your ruler told you was the cause. You would have known little or nothing about any underlying reasons and you most likely have not cared because in your small world, you would have gone on with your struggle for life in those bleak and uncertain times.

 

The Romans had been in control of the area for 350 years by the time they decided to leave. What happened in Britannia should hold the Romans as much or even more accountable and responsible than the Anglo-Saxons. They left the territory in a vulnerable state, having already destroyed and weakened the native Britons’ ability to rule or govern for themselves. What followed was chaos that left the remaining residents fighting amongst themselves for control of the area. As I’ve already mentioned, some Romans chose to remain as they now considered themselves more Briton than Roman.  Many of them held bitterness and resentment of the Roman Empire for what happened. One other thing to consider is that many  of those who remained may also have been soldiers who had been conscripted into the Roman army from all parts of the Empire, probably including those places of the Saxons, Angles and Jutes.  Just because one was attached to the Roman Empire it did not necessarily mean they were Roman or even a Roman citizen.  When the Roman Empire began to fall, many one time citizens or allies would probably have returned their allegiance to what ever home land they were from originally or the land they were residing in when the fall came. Those Romans that remained became Romo-Britons, and retained their previous elite statuses and lands for some time. They became part of the Briton elite rulers who were trying to re-build and re-establish kingdoms within the country.  Rome made Britain a melting pot of cultures before the Saxons ever thought of arriving.

If you search through the histories to find that in between middle ground, you will find that the Saxons were not unknown to the Roman Empire or the Britons, nor were they necessarily the barbarians they were depicted as other than for the fact they were one of the many groups rebelling against the Roman Empire at the time. The Saxons were at one time part of that Empire, having been brought into it by the Foederati or treaty system that the Romans used to increase their armies. foederati and its usage and meaning was extended by the Roman practice of subsidizing entire barbarian tribes — which included the Franks, Vandals, Alans and, best known, the Visigoths — in exchange for providing warriors to fight in the Roman armies. Alaric began his career leading a band of Gothic foederati.

Saxons were mentioned as early as 350 by the Romans who were already dealing with Saxon defiance to their rule. It was during that time that Rome created a military district called the Litus Saxonicum (“Saxon Coast”) on both sides of the English Channel.  The Saxons were fighting ongoing battles against the Franks who were Roman allies.  It is possible that Saxon settlement of Great Britain began only in response to expanding Frankish control of the Channel coast.  An important clue to why the Saxons might have felt some justification in their continuing settlement of Britain is that before the end of Roman rule in Britannia, many Saxons and other folk had been permitted to settle in these areas as farmers. The Romans opened the door for them to move in…. perhaps because they were already thinking of  pulling out of the area and did not really care so much about who moved in next. The Romans may have thought that if the Saxon groups moved into Britain, they would be less of a threat on the rest of the continent.  For the retreating Romans, it may have been a case of “Fine, you want a place of your own…Here take this place and Good Luck with that!”

 

After the Romans retreated from Britannia, some of the remaining powers continued to use the Roman system and still maintained some connection to Rome even though The Roman Empire had made it clear that those who remained in this place would be on their own and should not expect assistance from Rome. At some point they did appeal to Rome for assistance in fighting the Picts and Scoti, and this is possibly how the Saxons entered the picture on a larger scale. They were not marauding invaders, they were invited into the country by both the Romans and the later rulers of Britain!

This early documentation by Gildas in the 6th century is interesting because while he does refer to the Saxons as enemies, he admits that they were invited- hired to help, and he gives a clue as to what the middle ground may have been.

In Gildas‘s work of the sixth century, De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae, a religious tract on the state of Britain, the Saxons were enemies originally from overseas, who brought well-deserved judgement upon the local kings or ‘tyrants’.

  1. After an appeal to Aëtius the Britons were gripped by famine while suffering attacks from the Picts and Scoti; some fought back successfully, leading to a period of peace.
  2. Peace led to luxuria and self-indulgence.
  3. A renewed attack was threatened by the Picts and Scoti, and this led to a council, where it was proposed and agreed that land in the east would be given to the Saxons on the basis of a treaty, a foedus, by which the Saxons would defend the Britons in exchange for food supplies. This type of arrangement was unexceptional in a Late Roman context; Franks had been settled as foederati on imperial territory in northern Gaul (Toxandria) in the 4th century, and the Visigoths were settled in Gallia Aquitania early in the 5th century.
  4. The Saxon foederati first complained that their monthly supplies were inadequate. Then they threatened to break the treaty, which they did, spreading the onslaught from “sea to sea”.
  5. This war, which Higham called the “War of the Saxon Federates”, ended some 20–30 years later shortly after the siege at Montis Badonici, and some 40 years before Gildas was born.
  6. There was a peace with the Saxons who returned to their eastern home, which Gildas called a lugubre divortium barbarorum – a grievous divorce with the barbarians. The “divorce settlement”, Higham in particular argued  was a better treaty and the ability to get tribute from the people in the east, under the leadership of the person Gildas called pater diabolus or Father-devil.

What this excerpt tells us is the Britons hired the Saxons, promised them  payment and supplies and then were unable or unwilling to carry through on the treaty. Other early writings mention that the Saxons were also promised land to settle and the Britons reneged on that as well. What ensued was a lengthy period of wars and battles between the Britons and the Saxons.

Gildas described the corruption of the elite: “Britain has kings but they are tyrants; she has judges but they are wicked”. This passage provides a glimpse into the world of Gildas, he continued: “they plunder and terrorise the innocent, they defend and protect the guilty and thieving, they have many wives, whores and adulteresses, swear false oaths, tell lies, reward thieves, sit with murderous men, despise the humble, their commanders are ‘enemies of God'”; the list is long. Interesting oath breaking and the absence of just judgements for ordinary people was mentioned a number of times. British leadership, everywhere, was immoral and the cause of the “ruin of Britain”.

Hengist and Horsa:

HegestAndHorsa hengist and horsa

The earliest accounts of the Saxon arrival are stories or legends regarding two Saxon brothers, Hengist and Horsa.  Bear in mind that these accounts were not written down until centuries later.  Both Anglo-Saxon chronicles and Norse Sagas give versions or accounts of the men.  Hengist and Horsa are figures of Anglo-Saxon history, which records the two as the Germanic brothers who led the Angle, Saxon, Frisian, and Jutish armies that conquered the first territories of Britain in the 5th century. Tradition lists Hengist (through his son, whose name varies by source) as the founder of the Kingdom of Kent. As with most of the stories, theirs was colored by the Christian Monks recording history of the time. What you need to do is strip all of that coloring away down the most basic part of the account. 

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry for the year 449 records that Hengest and Horsa were invited to Britain by Vortigern to assist his forces in fighting the Picts. Hengist and Horsa arrived at a place called Ipwinesfleet, and went on to defeat the Picts wherever they fought them. Hengist and Horsa sent word to the Angles describing “the worthlessness of the Britons, and the richness of the land” and asked for assistance. Their request was granted and support arrived. Afterward, more people arrived in Britain from “the three powers of Germany; the Old Saxons, the Angles, and the Jutes”. The Old Saxons populated the areas of the kingdoms of Essex, Sussex and Wessex. The Jutes populated the area of Kent, the Isle of Wight and an area of the adjacent mainland that would later be part of Wessex. The East Angles, Middle Angles, Mercians and “all those north of Humber” arrived from the region of Anglia (a peninsula in Southern Schleswig, Northern Germany) “which has ever since remained waste between the Jutes and Saxons”. These forces were led by the brothers Hengist and Horsa, sons of Wihtgils, son of Witta, son of Wecta, son of Woden.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hengist_and_Horsa

The Historia Brittonum records that, during the reign of Vortigern in Britain, three vessels that had been exiled from Germania arrived in Britain, commanded by Hengist and Horsa. The Historia Brittonum details that Geta was said to be the son of a god, yet “not of the omnipotent God and our Lord Jesus Christ,” but rather “the offspring of one of their idols, and whom, blinded by some demon, they worshipped according to the custom of the heathen.” In 447 AD, Vortigern received Hengist and Horsa “as friends” and gave to the brothers the Isle of Thanet.

After the Saxons had lived on Thanet for “some time” Vortigern promised them supplies of clothing and other provisions on condition that the Saxons assist him in fighting the enemies of his country. The Saxons increased in number and the Britons were unable to keep their agreement. The Britons told the Saxons that the Saxons’ numbers had increased, that they no longer needed Saxon assistance and that the Saxons should go home as the Britons could no longer support them.

Vortigern allowed Hengist to send for more of Hengist’s countrymen to come over to Britain and fight for Vortigern. Messengers were sent to “Scythia“, where “a number” of warriors were selected, and, with sixteen ships, the messengers returned. With the men came Hengist’s beautiful daughter. Hengist prepared a feast, inviting Vortigern, Vortigern’s officers, and Ceretic, his translator. Prior to the feast, Hengist enjoined his daughter to serve the guests plenty of wine and ale so that they would get very intoxicated. The plan succeeded. “At the instigation of the Devil”, Vortigern fell in love with Hengist’s daughter and promised Hengist whatever he liked in exchange for her betrothal. Hengist, having previously “consulted with the Elders who attended him of the Angle race,” demanded Kent. Without the knowledge of the then-ruler of Kent, Vortigern agreed.

This account by the Historia Brittonum is somewhat contradictory at best… If Vortigern wanted them out of the country, why would he have then allowed them to send for additional forces? What is does do though, along with other accounts is set a basis for the British Kings reneging on their promises to those Saxons they needed help from. Hengist most likely knew full well of this breech and responded in kind with his own betrayals.  The British Kingdoms were not just fighting the Picts and Scoti, they were fighting each other and would go to such lengths as using Saxon mercenaries to win their battles. What eventually happened was that the Anglo-Saxons fought to retain lands they had been given, as well as developing allegiances with some of those British Kingdoms.

 

I am providing this history of the Anglo-Saxon immigration to Britain because I feel it is important to see them in that middle ground of a history that has often portrayed them as the scourge of Britain. It is difficult to piece together what might have happened but many historians today have searched for that middle ground, that in between, those few grains of possible truth sifted out from the extremes.  There a number of theories on how and why the Anglo-Saxons may have become the dominant culture in Britain where by the 8th century, they were viewed as the locals and native Britons were viewed as outsiders or foriegners.  The name Welsh originated as an exonym given to its speakers by the Anglo-Saxons, meaning “foreign speech” (see Walha). The native term for the language is Cymraeg and Cymru for “Wales”.

Most agree now that they did not come in all in one invading force and wipe out the previous culture. It began as a small migration and settlement of them in places where they had been given land. The Roman Britons did not disappear, nor did the native Britons.  A  last battle took place between the original Saxon mercenaries and the Britons- a battle which the Saxons felt justified in fighting because of broken treaties.  the Saxons lost this last battle but were not defeated, decimated or thrown out of the country. A compromise seemed to have been reached and lands were divided up between the British elite rulers and the Saxons. 

Historian Nick Higham is convinced that the success of the Anglo-Saxon elite in gaining an early compromise shortly after the Battle of Badon is a key to the success of the culture. This produced a political ascendancy across the south and east of Britain, which in turn required some structure to be successful.  After this time there began the process of cultures merging together to form one new one.  The Bretwalda concept is taken as evidence for a presence of a number of early Anglo-Saxon elite families and a clear unitary oversight. Whether the majority of these leaders were early settlers, descendant from settlers, or especially after the exploration stage they were Roman-British leaders who adopted Anglo-Saxon culture is unclear. The balance of opinion is that most were migrants, although it shouldn’t be assumed they were all “Germanic”. There is agreement: that these were small in number and proportion, yet large enough in power and influence to ensure “Anglo-Saxon” acculturation in the lowlands of Britain.  Most historians believe these elites were those named by Bede, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and others, although there is discussion regarding their floruit dates. Importantly, whatever their origin or when they flourished, they established their claim to lordship through their links to extended kin ties. As Helen Peake jokingly points out “they all just happened to be related back to Woden”.

For a more in depth and detailed look at the Anglo-Saxon migration and theories of why they were so successful, you can start your search here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Saxon_settlement_of_Britain

Throughout history, the reputation of those earliest Saxons has been colored by the Christian accounts of them as heathens and barbarians that destroyed a land and culture… what is interesting and important to remember is that those same Christians were  in the process of completely wiping out that culture and belief system that they were blaming the Saxons for.  The Christians had already cleared the land of much of it’s previous beliefs by decimating and eliminating the old religious leaders- the Druids and driving out the followers who still clung to those beliefs. Those early Christian leaders were as much responsible for the terror and dark ages that would follow as the Saxons were.

The early Christians shaped our history by shaping our tales, our legends and myths of that time. They were responsible for such tales as the brave and virtuous King Arthur, his valiant knights of the round table who fought evil, injustice and the barbarians in effort to save England, to unite it against all of those evil and demonic forces. We all know those legends and myths that portray the Christian brotherhood in glory and present the Saxons as some of those evil invaders…  And, somewhere even in those tales there are probably small grains of truth as to possible figures of who Arthur might have been or represented, of battles that probably did actually take place. There are a number of King Arthur theories relating to the history of Britain during those dark ages. If you are interested, I have a previous article for you to read:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/from-the-creator-ancient-history-connects-the-norse-with-romans-and-king-arthur/

I would also suggest that you read Bernard Cornwell’s series on King Arthur. He strips away much of the myth and legend, and tells a tale more of the history and the battles that ensued after Rome left. He still leaves the Saxons in a rather bad light but he does not paint such a perfect picture of Arthur or the Britons either, so it kind of evens out the story a bit. It is an interesting perspective on the legend and does take into account the long lasting Roman influences left behind!

 

winter_king_uk-179x307

‘Once upon a time, in a land that was called Britain, these things happened . . . . and I was there, and this is how it was.’ The Winter King , like the rest of the trilogy, is narrated by Derfel (which is pronounced Dervel), one of Arthur’s warriors. This first book tells how after the death of Uther, High King of Britain, the country falls into chaos. Uther’s heir is a child, Mordred, and Arthur, his uncle, is named one of the boy’s guardians. Arthur has to fight other British kingdoms and the dreadful “Sais” – the Saxons – who are invading Britain. Arthur is supposed to marry Ceinwyn, a princess of Powys, but falls disastrously in love with Guinevere – ‘There have been many more beautiful women, and thousands who were better, but since the world was weaned I doubt there have been many so unforgettable as Guinevere . . . and it would have been better, Merlin always said, had she been drowned at birth.’

 To read an interview  with the Camelot Project, click on this link:  http://d.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/text/thompson-interview-cornwell

For another perspective on the story of Arthur and the Roman involvement, you could also watch one of my favorite movies…

Movie_poster_king_arthur

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Arthur_(film)

King Arthur is a 2004 action adventure film directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by David Franzoni. It stars Clive Owen as the title character, Ioan Gruffudd as Lancelot, and Keira Knightley as Guinevere.  The film is unusual in reinterpreting Arthur as a Roman officer rather than a medieval knight. Despite these departures from the source material, the Welsh Mabinogion, the producers of the film attempted to market it as a more historically accurate version of the Arthurian legends, supposedly inspired by new archaeological findings. The film was shot in England, Ireland, and Wales.  It gives a somewhat more historical perspective as well, but does still put the Saxons in the role as sole villains. I watched it recently while researching this history and found myself more seriously bothered by this representation than before! I am still searching for some sort of story that portrays the Saxons in a slightly more positive or at least more balanced light?

In the above movie, the Saxons are represented by their leader Cerdic and his son Cinric… They are of course the vicious torturing villains that we have come to expect Saxons to be. Of interesting note for Vikings fans, Cerdic is played by Stellan Skarsgard- father of Gustav Skarsgard who does such an incredible job portraying Floki!

stellan skarsgard cerdic4

In history, Cerdic was Cerdic was allegedly the first King of Anglo-Saxon Wessex from 519 to 534, cited by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as the founder of the Kingdom of Wessex and ancestor of all its subsequent kings… which of course would feasibly include Ecbert. I say feasibly because there was some dispute as to whether Ecbert was actually a d descendant.

The most interesting and curious thing about Cerdic’s history is that while his supposed royal pedigree traced him back to Woden, just as all of the other rulers’ did, it seems to have been added later. Historians think that at some point there was forged and alliance between him and  Bernicia, and he conveniently borrowed the earlier pedigree of Bernicia, tacking it on to his own. The reason for this was to perhaps give himself more of a royal/divine lineage than he might have originally had.  There is currently a thought that he was actually  was a native Briton, and that his dynasty became Anglicised over time.   This suggests that ethnicity was possibly not as important in the establishment of rulership within the proto-states of Post-Roman Britain as has been traditionally thought. Cerdic’s father, Elesa, has been identified by some scholars with the Romano-Briton Elasius, the “chief of the region”, met by Germanus of Auxerre. 

J.N.L. Myres noted that when Cerdic and Cynric first appear in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in s.a. 495 they are described as ealdormen, which at that point in time was a fairly junior rank.   Myres believed that,

It is thus possible … to think of Cerdic as the head of a partly British noble family with extensive territorial interests at the western end of the Litus Saxonicum. As such he may well have been entrusted in the last days of Roman, or sub-Roman authority with its defence. He would then be what in later Anglo-Saxon terminology could be described as an ealdorman. …

Some would disagree with Myres, as Cerdic is reported to have landed in Hampshire. Some also would say that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle proves that Cerdic was indeed a Saxon, however it does not prove that he had no Celtic blood.  Some scholars believe it likely that his mother was a British Celt who left for the Continent, or perhaps a Continental Celt. Geoffrey Ashe postulates he may be a son of Riothamus.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerdic_of_Wessex

Despite the conflictin history surrounding his origins, Descent from Cerdic became a necessary criterion for later kings of Wessex, and Egbert of Wessex, progenitor of the English royal house and subsequent rulers of England and Britain, claimed him as an ancestor.  As I mentioned, Egbert’s claim was dubious and is thought  by some to have been fabricated during his early reign  or his bid for that right to give him more legitimacy in his claim. Whether fabricated or not, it was accepted and he was allowed to trace his right back to Cerdic and to Woden….

cerdic is not happy

 

What ever the reasons or theories behind the Anglo-Saxons in Britain,  one thing is certain and evident. As a group, they succeeded where Rome and even the Britons themselves  failed. They entered into a land that even the Roman Empire had failed to conquer and succeeded for the most, so well that in the future they would be looked at as the locals and the native Britons would be considered the outsiders. They succeeded so well in fact that in the future, when the second wave of Northmen arrived on their shores, they looked at them as foreign Heathenish Barbarians.  By the time the Vikings arrived in the late 700s and into the 800s, the Anglo-Saxons had become a completely different culture and society that bore little or no resemblance what so ever to the past they had left behind.  But, had they truly left the past behind them, forgotten who they were originally?

 the Norse Sagas regarding Ragnar Lodbrok give reason to believe that perhaps these Saxons, Angles and Jutes had not completely forgotten their past or their heritage. Some versions of the sagas include passages that comment on how Ragnar’s Father, Sigurd Hring once counted a part of England as part of his realm. Another saga source also mentions that Ragnar Lodbrok went to the place in Angleland of which his forefathers owned.  This would tie in with the fact that the Angles who had originated in lands around Denmark had already migrated to parts of Britain as early as the 5th century. He visited this Angleland and was initially welcomed into their court of royalty. Then he was lured into visiting King Aelle in Northumbria and was murdered by him. I have addressed this connection in my previous article about Horik and Ragnar.

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/horik-and-ragnar-part-of-the-oldest-monarchy-in-europe/

The Angles were thought to be allies at one time with the early Danes who took over their land and were a partial cause for them migrating to Britain. The Saxons were in a similar situation at the time of their migration to Britain. As the Danes became stronger and more powerful, they began to overtake those lands and cultures near to them- mainly the Angles and Saxons, but they also took over much of Juteland as well causing these three cultures to migrate to that land which held more opportunity for them. It does stand to reason that these people would continue to hold some grudge or resentment of those who were initially responsible for their relocation in the first place. They may have assimilated into some new culture, but they would probably have their own old oral  histories of a past that included tales of this distant ancestral land that had been taken over by those others… some of those oral histories are included in poems and heroic stories such as Beowulf, Wulf and Eadwacer and Judith.  Another such early work is that of Widsith  from the Exeter book. The Widsith is an old poem that surveys the people  kings, and heroes of Europe in the Heroic Age of Northern Europe.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Widsith

 

I hope that I have not bored you or overwhelmed you too much with the history of these earliest Saxons. As I keep mentioning, it is important to know some of their history and see both sides of it considering the fact that they did integrate so fully and deeply into the culture that it became their own. As they settled into this new culture and land, they forged those alliances with the remaining British Rulers, became rulers of their own kingdoms and quite quickly took on the Christian religion once they realized the power behind that force. That is not to say that the Christian missionaries had any easy time of converting the Anglo-Saxons. What the Church did in order to accomplish this feat would leave long lingering misgivings and resentments from other Christian Kingdoms and dynasties. The Church had an extremely difficult time converting these Heathens, and resorted to the practice of diluting their religion into terms that the Pagan Saxons would accept. They set about comparing their Christ God to Woden, to telling their testaments and stories in relation to Woden and even went so far as to accept and approve of those earliest Saxon Rulers having divine right to rule on the basis of their genealogy connecting them back to being sons of Woden!  Eventually all of the Anglo-Saxon Rulers of those early Kingdoms of Britain would prove their right by tracing their lineage back to Woden and the Church put it’s stamp of approval on this, in fact in some ways encouraged it. There had to be some way of proving right to rule other than just by might in order to maintain some stability and not descend into the chaos once again. In the future, other loyal and Royal Christian dynasties would decry this as giving in to those Pagans, view it as watering down the religion and hold little regard for these so called  new Christian Royals.

Before we look at what the Kingdoms became and looked like in the time of our Anglo-Saxon Rulers such as Ecbert, Aelle, and yes even Kweni, I want to suggest an interesting documentary about the early Saxons and how their religion evolved. 

This is a preview clip of the documentary called From Runes to Ruins by by Thomas Rowsell, Jamie Roper and Anthony Leigh. It is all about Anglo-Saxon paganism. 

About the director

 
While studying my Master’s degree in medieval history, I was fascinated by the same mythology and legends that had inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to write The Lord of the Rings. Delving through old leather books and countless journals, trying to discover more about the forgotten religion of the Anglo-Saxon pagans, I couldn’t help noticing some familiar place names. It seemed that all the places from my youth were in some way connected to the history of the Anglo-Saxon heathens; whether it be the village of Thursley, named after Thor, which was near to my childhood home, or the ancient pagan barrows I used to camp on as a teen. I realised that through the landscape I had a personal relationship with the pre-Christian inhabitants of England and wondered how many other people had developed this strange fascination. Initially I had never intended to present From Runes to Ruins, but after the production house I was working with dropped the project, I no longer had the funds necessary to pay for a famous presenter. Financial constraints necessitated my stepping in to the presenting role, but this allowed me to put a personal slant on the documentary, using the pagan landscape of my own past to communicate the culture of a far more distant one. I hope that From Runes to Ruins sparks a new interest in the pagan religion of our Anglo-Saxon ancestors and also encourages people to look at the land itself as a beautiful, spiritual inheritance which brings us closer to nature, our ancestors and each other.
You can rent the entire video here:  http://fromrunestoruins.vhx.tv/
It is well worth  the 3.99 rental fee!
Now you know way too much about the early history of Angles, Saxons and Jutes in Britain… far more than you probably wanted to know! I do hope that it has given you some different perspective of the Anglo-Saxons, their reasons for moving to this land along with their justification for staying and fighting for it. Perhaps the next time you read a book or watch a movie about them, you will have some second thought about how they are portrayed.  In future articles, we will look at each of the four Kingdoms that remained during the later Vikings saga- Wessex, Mercia, Northumbria and East Anglia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TimeSlips: looking back and forward!

 

Timeslips cover

We’ve reached another huge milestone and once again it’s time to take a few moments to thank everyone who visits and travels through history with me! A few of you have been here since the beginning with me and I want you to know how much I appreciate your continued following through all of the paths we’ve taken in exploring history. Some of you arrived here via the Sims, where this all started, some made the journey through those mysterious Outlander Stones, and yet others have sailed in with the Vikings!  No matter how you have found us, many of you have chosen to stay on the journey.  I can not tell you how much it means to me, how much I appreciate your visits, your comments, questions, and your involvement in this site. I bid you all a gracious and heartfelt welcome and hope that you will continue to enjoy exploring the past with me!  As I mentioned, we have reached a personal milestone for me- 100,000 views! If you have been with me from the earliest beginnings, you will understand why this is such an amazing accomplishment for me.

I began this blog as a way to share my little fantasy world of the Sims 3, my builds, my characters and my stories within that context. One thing has been here since that initial beginning and that has been a life long love of history! I used that Sims platform to begin sharing my love of history, story telling and the weaving of those passions together. I am forever grateful to the Sims 3 for providing me with a basis to begin this journey!  If you look back in my archives, you will find the creations, the ideas and the stories that have led us to where we are today- in the middle of the Viking era with historical figures such as Ragnar, Rollo, King Ecbert, King Charles of France and others who will arrive in our future.

When I began building the castles and homes of history, I did it with the thought and premise that every building has a history filled with people, events and stories never told. I went on the idea that perhaps if one had such ability, they might be able to feel the vibrations, hear the sounds of that past and see the stories unfold in some way. Much of my early writing was a combination of building or renovation progress and the stories that came to life with that progress. I based it much on the way you might see it if you were renovating a historical building in real life. Each time you strip away a layer of paint or dust, you find a new layer, a new story of the past.

As I’ve mentioned, it all began with Sims 3, with castles, with royals, with history and fantasy woven together. Those creations, characters and stories were a huge part of  our beginnings here . While I have progressed from them, I have not forgotten them and I am proud of them. That early work enabled me to set a foundation for this blog that I have tried to keep in mind even today as I use other platforms such books and television to hopefully inspire and encourage you on your own explorations of history. My intent has always been to present history in a way that is interesting and captures your attention. I have always tried, from the beginning to present historical facts in a way that you might be curious enough to go off on your own search of history. In the past, I used the Sims 3 platform to weave together a long and ongoing look at history with a huge dose of fantasy… the Sims allowed me to explore that venue, that realm of vampires, fairies, witches and time travel and use them in telling the stories of the past. As I used that method, I always tried to incorporate actual events, facts and real life mysteries where ever possible along the way. Those early stories, while often fanciful did lead us through history from the present to the past and back again. Yes, I have taken a break from them, but as any writer can attest to, sometimes you need to step back, take a long break, and perhaps re-evaluate your work. The story remains in the background waiting for that time when you can return, re-focused with a clearer idea of where to go. That is where my story is… always in the back of my mind, always in my heart, waiting for that time when I can return to it and give it the proper attention and focus that it deserves!

In a way, my deviation and time away from the story is actually a way of doing more research into the past while keeping my original story and those characters that are now like a part of my family in mind. In some ways, the paths are always connected whether  or not you are ever aware of it. My mind continues to research, to piece together events and people together in relation to my beloved story of the past, the present and the future!

For those of you who have arrived later in the journey and have not searched this space for other bits of information, I can only suggest and hope that you take some time during your visits here to explore those other times, places and stories that are stored here! My archives have become a rather vast vault of time and history spanning from the earliest Roman history in Britain, to that now ever present Viking era that involves so much more than just the Vikings, it veers from tales and history of King Arthur to the mysteries of the princes of the tower. Our journey through time brought us to the world of Outlander, where we became lost in the Standing Stones and spent much time in the 1700s of Scotland and early America, and because of that trip, we found ourselves immersed in the world of the Vikings and early Saxon history! As a result, we are now on a journey through the early medieval period that includes those Vikings, Saxons, and everyone else in between that the Vikings influenced from the Frankish Empire to the creation of Normandy and the eventual battle for a united Kingdom of Britain, as well as future travels to Iceland, Ireland, Scotland, and possibly even on to earliest explorations of North America.

So, how do my early stories of history still remain connected to this present path we are on?  Well, for that you need to take a look at some of those early stories and where my characters have been in the past. First of all, you may need a short summary of how their stories actually began with a fantasy called Royals Castle and a young woman named Eleanor Deguille… my first blog entries covered the beginnings of her story and her life. She began at Royals Castle, traveled through time to various points in history, arrived in the present and then travelled back again. Throughout her story, she met a number of historical figures, viewed some important events and, her story introduced us to some other important characters who had their own stories to tell.

Lady Eleanor DeGuille through time and history, from a lonely child pawn of Royals to an uncertain romance, timeless friendship to a Mother's spirit within her guiding her journey and her destiny.

Lady Eleanor DeGuille through time and history, from a lonely child pawn of Royals to an uncertain romance, timeless friendship to a Mother’s spirit within her guiding her journey and her destiny.

Eleanor’s story was the start of this blog! If you are interested, you can read those earliest beginnings here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/eleanors-journal-entries/

For another look at Eleanor and how her life is woven together within the threads of history and legends, you can read this story about the legends of Avalon, Melusine the Water Goddes and my interpretation of that legend as it shows up through history with people such as Henry VIII and his ancestors making claims to being descended from Arthur and even Melusine! Melusine is a legend or tale that has it’s origins in early France, mainly Poitou, the low countries, and Normandy! She was often referred to as the  fairy of Normandy, or Bretagne. Connecting Eleanor to this legend gave her a more solid connection to the history of France.

Avalon cover1

Arthur and Vivianne

Arthur and Vivianne

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/melusinas-story-a-royals-link-to-avalon/

Eleanor Deguille’s mysterious life eventually connected her to the beginnings of tales of Britain, Romans  and a man named Arthur… that is was where her life, her time travel and her story began. While her story and the rest of it is steeped in the fantasy of those Vampires, Witches, Fairies and time travel, it is woven together with those real events of history. Eleanor’s story took her from that early beginning in the fairy tale realm of British history to the 1400s and 1500s of France, England and Scotland. In those earliest beginnings we met a man named Eric North. Eric’s story is just as important as Eleanor’s and it is a connecting point for that earliest time in Britain’s history. Eric’s story begins in the present day, and then goes on to tell the story of the earliest migrations of the Norse to areas of Northern Britannia as it was known then by the Romans who inhabited the isle. Eric began his life in one of the far off North places and made a journey by sea as a young child with his family to a place now known as the Isle of Skye on the coast of Scotland. He spent his youth growing up in that place which would eventually become Dunvegan Castle.  I used this place and this Castle as the setting for Eric’s birthplace and ancestral home because of it’s rich ties to early Viking history as well as it’s stories of such mythical things as the Fairie Flag. It’s location also lent itself well to making it plausible as a place that some of those earliest travelers might have made their way to. I have always attempted to make those  connections where ever possible when weaving together the fantasy and the history.

You can read part of Eric’s story here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/eleanors-journal72-erics-memories-a-time-before-vampyres-and-a-life-of-contradictions/

Eric in the Castle Eric's final farewell to loved ones

While Eric’s character and story are that of the fantasy realm, his story does make the connections from that earliest migration of the Norse, their settling in this new unknown place and their eventual plausible meetings with the Romans who were attempting to advance from the southern portions of Britannia into the northern portions which were already inhabited by groups such these ancient Norse and Picts…  Eric’s story tells of the rich history  those northern regions now known as Scotland. His story presents the earliest known legends and theories that go back as far as Egyptian migrations to that area!

You can find more of the ancient history of  the Romans and the Norse migration here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/from-the-creator-ancient-history-connects-the-norse-with-romans-and-king-arthur/

This early post explains some of the theories and thoughts on possible Egyptian migration to Ireland and Scotland!

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/from-the-creator-historical-information/

As to why I chose the Isle of Skye for the setting, you can read that here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/02/from-the-creator-some-historical-background/

If you go back and read some of these early posts, I think you will see how Eric came to play such an important part in my story, how he sort of took over the story with his life and his story and why he remains such an important connection for me on my path through history which has landed me in this time of the Vikings and kept me here for so long!

 

All of those early stories of history have led us to where we are right now, exploring the real history of all of those people that Michael Hirst and other creators/authors introduce us to! One such important person is Rollo, who we have seen claw his way out of the shadows and darkness of his early life to put himself on the path to his own fame and dynasty.

 

Portrait of Rollo's destiny. Credit to Ines Jagger of Vikings Aftermath group and to lindamarieanson of deviant art. 600px-Cronological_tree_william_I_svg

William the Conqueror AKA William I

Recently, I began reading a book about our Viking, Rollo’s descendant, William the Conqueror and was rather surprised to find a mention of the Fairie Flag in it. The Fairie Flag is one of those relics of Dunvegan Castle that I originally found so intriguing when researching a past for my character,  Eric.

Dunvegan cup, Fairie Flag and rory mors horn

Dunvegan cup, Fairie Flag and rory mors horn

fairy_flag_2

http://fairyroom.com/2013/01/fairy-flag-of-dunvegen/

More information on the history of Scotland, Clans, Dunvegan Castle and the Fairy Flag can be found in this early post:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/21/from-the-creator-some-history-of-clans-in-scotland/

Now, as I mentioned, the book I was reading was about William the Conqueror and Normandy so I was immediately puzzled and curious about this  reference to the Fairy Flag. The book is  The Lion and the Rose: William Rising by Hilary Rhodes. It is the first book in a series about William, his history and his conquest of England. Yes, it is historical fiction, but it is extremely well researched and I think it presents a great picture of the man and his path to the Crown of England. The author presents and provides some excellent resources and references as well as weaving together an interesting story!

http://www.amazon.com/Lion-Rose-Book-One-William-ebook/dp/B00L4K5GKE/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1433189138&sr=1-3&keywords=the+lion+and+the+rose

Fairie flag and Robert of Normandy

In the beginning of the book, William’s Father, Robert the Magnificent or Robert the Devil, travels to the Byzantine Empire where he meets the Empress Zoe, who shares a foreshadowing, a prophecy of his future with him. That prophecy is a bit of a puzzle for readers to decipher throughout the book or books. I found it interesting, intriguing and of course I had to go in search of answers!  The prophecy states: The fighting man and the wyvern and the fairie flag, all will come, and all will give battle, but it is the lion that reaches for the roots. I can not see the end of that. I can not see if it will be enough. The deepest roots can be ripped free. And there is a great ripping to come, aye.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_I,_Duke_of_Normandy

In attempting to make sense of this puzzle, there is one other piece of information that shows up on the same page and is an important clue. This bit of information ultimately gives us the answer to the puzzle of the Fairie Flag and links the entire story and history of Dunvegan Castle to that of the Vikings. That clue is found in the mention of one Harald Sigurdsson… otherwise known  as Harald Hardrada!

Harald_Hardrada_window_in_Kirkwall_Cathedral_geograph_2068881

Harald Sigurdsson (Old Norse: Haraldr Sigurðarson; c. 1015 – 25 September 1066), given the epithet Hardrada (harðráði, roughly translated as “stern counsel” or “hard ruler”) in the sagas, was King of Norway (as Harald III) from 1046 to 1066. In addition, he unsuccessfully claimed the Danish throne until 1064 and the English throne in 1066. Prior to becoming king, Harald had spent around fifteen years in exile as a mercenary and military commander in Kievan Rus’ and in the Byzantine Empire.

When he was fifteen years old, in 1030, Harald fought in the Battle of Stiklestad together with his half-brother Olaf Haraldsson (later Saint Olaf). Olaf sought to reclaim the Norwegian throne, which he had lost to the Danish king Cnut the Great two years prior. In the battle, Olaf and Harald were defeated by forces loyal to Cnut, and Harald was forced in exile to Kievan Rus’ (the sagas’ Garðaríki). He thereafter spent some time in the army of Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise, eventually obtaining rank as a captain, until he moved on to Constantinople with his companions around 1034. In Constantinople, he soon rose to become the commander of the Byzantine Varangian Guard, and saw action on the Mediterranean Sea, in Asia Minor, Sicily, possibly in the Holy Land, Bulgaria and in Constantinople itself, where he became involved in the imperial dynastic disputes. Harald amassed considerable wealth during his time in the Byzantine Empire, which he shipped to Yaroslav in Kievan Rus’ for safekeeping. He finally left the Byzantines in 1042, and arrived back in Kievan Rus’ in order to prepare his campaign of reclaiming the Norwegian throne. Possibly to Harald’s knowledge, in his absence the Norwegian throne had been restored from the Danes to Olaf’s illegitimate son Magnus the Good.

In 1046, Harald joined forces with Magnus’s rival in Denmark (Magnus had also become king of Denmark), the pretender Sweyn Estridsson, and started raiding the Danish coast. Magnus, unwilling to fight his uncle, agreed to share the kingship with Harald, since Harald in turn would share his wealth with him. The co-rule ended abruptly the next year as Magnus died, and Harald thus became the sole ruler of Norway. Domestically, Harald crushed all local and regional opposition, and outlined the territorial unification of Norway under a national governance. Harald’s reign was probably one of relative peace and stability, and he instituted a viable coin economy and foreign trade. Probably seeking to restore Cnut’s “North Sea Empire“, Harald also claimed the Danish throne, and spent nearly every year until 1064 raiding the Danish coast and fighting his former ally, Sweyn. Although the campaigns were successful, he was never able to conquer Denmark. Not long after renouncing his claim to Denmark, the former Earl of Northumbria, Tostig Godwinson, brother of the newly chosen English king Harold Godwinson, pledged his allegiance to Harald and invited him to claim the English throne. Harald went along and entered Northern England in September 1066, raided the coast and defeated English regional forces in the Battle of Fulford near York. Although initially successful, Harald was defeated and killed in an attack by Harold Godwinson’s forces in the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

Modern historians have often considered Harald’s death at Stamford Bridge, which brought an end to his invasion, as the end of the Viking Age. Harald is also commonly held to have been the last great Viking king, or even the last great Viking.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harald_Hardrada

 

Harald Hardrada could be considered as the fighting man of the prophecy, but what connection would that have in relation to the other parts, such as the Fairie Flag of Dunvegan Castle?  What does the Fairie Flag or Dunvegan have to do with this at all? Well, for that, you need to know the history of Dunvegan Castle, and the theories on the origins of the Fairie flag!

dunvegan8

Dunvegan Castle

dunvegan3

Dunvegan Castle2

 

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/from-the-creator-history-of-dunvegan-castle/

Although three individual Chiefs in the last seven generations have been comprehensively ruined by the apocalyptic difficulties caused by the unrelenting hostility from centralised government towards the Clan system practised behind the Highland line, they have remained faithful to the Rock. Dunvegan Castle is said to be the oldest inhabited castle in Northern Scotland, having been occupied by the Chiefs of MacLeod continuously, for over seven centuries and still today remaining the Ancestral home of the present chief, Hugh MacLeod of MacLeod, the 30th of the line, and his family.

Geneologies trace the origins of the McClures and the MacLeods to a thirteenth century fellow named Leod (1200-1283), the son of Olaf the Black, King of the Isle of Man, who in turn was the descendent of the eleventh century Norse King Harald Hardrada. Leod married Lady Macarailt, an heiress to Dunvegan, the birth of their two sons (Tormond and Torquil) marking the entry of the MacLeods into Dunvegan and the pages of history. Very simply, “Mac” is a Gaelic word meaning “son of” with Tormond fathering the MacLeods of Harris, and Torquil begetting the MacLeods of Lewis. (Incidentally, the McClure’s are the descendents of Tormond.)

 As to the theories on the Fairie Flag…  Legends, however fantastic or far-fetched they may appear to be, are rarely without some trace of historical fact. When a relic survives to tell its own story, that at least is one fact it is impossible to ignore. The precious Fairy Flag of Dunvegan, the most treasured possession of the Clan, is just such a relic …The traditional tales about its origin, some of them very old indeed, have two themes – Fairies and Crusaders. Fairy stories are difficult to relate to fact; they often occur as a substitute for forgotten truth. The connection with the Crusades can, however, be linked to the only definite information available as to the origin of the Fairy Flag – the fabric, thought once to have been dyed yellow, is silk from the Middle East (Syria or Rhodes); experts have dated it between the 4th and 7th centuries A.D., in other words, at least 400 years before the First Crusade. So was it the robe of an early christian saint? Or the war banner of Harold Hardrada, King of Norway, killed in 1066, or did it emerge mysteriously from some grassy knoll in Skye? The Legends are all we have to guide us to the answer.

So, there is our connection between Harald Hardrada, the Fairie Flag and Dunvegan Castle! Harald’s connection to the prophecy and to William the Conqueror is that he was one of the fighting men attempting to lay claim to the crown of England at the same time as William. He felt he also had a valid claim and chose to fight Harald Godwinsson for it. It is sometimes thought that his battle with Harald brought about the end of the Viking age, and the end of Harald’s rule of England as well. Harald Godwinsson and his forces defeated Harald Hardrata at the  Battle of Stamford Bridge but did not have time to recover fully before having to turn around and face William and his army at Hastings. The forces were well evenly matched and the battle was close. It is thought that had Godwinsson’s army been better rested and recovered from the previous battle with Hardrada, they would probably have been victorious in the battle of Hastings.

There is one  bit of information on Harald Hardrada that should be of interest to all of us who are waiting for the next raiding season of the Vikings Saga to arrive…

Harald Hardrada was a descendant and a member of the Fairhair/Finehair dynasty of Norway. A member of that dynasty is rumored to be arriving on our Viking shores soon! One Harald Finehair and brother, Halfdan the Black will be showing up as rivals and threats to Ragnar.

peter franzen4

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/vikings-season-4-coming-soon-to-a-village-near-you/

Harald Fairhair (Old Norse: Haraldr Hárfagri, Norwegian: Harald Hårfagre; c. 850 – c. 932) was remembered by medieval historians as the first King of Norway. According to traditions current in Norway and Iceland in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, he reigned from c. 872 to 930. Most of his life remains uncertain, since the extant accounts of his life in the sagas were set down in writing around three centuries after his lifetime. A few remnants of skaldic praise poems attributed to contemporary court poets exist which seem to refer to Harald’s victories against opponents in Norway. The information supplied in these poems is inconsistent with the tales in the sagas in which they are transmitted, and the sagas themselves often disagree on the details of his background and biography.  Two of his sons, Eric Bloodaxe and Haakon the Good, succeeded Harald to become kings after his death.

Harald_Hardrada_saga_ancestry

A last bit of interesting information on Harald Hardrada…. it seems that there has been some effort and attempt being made to make a bio-pic movie about his life. I just recently came across a few articles regarding the possibility of Leonardo DeCaprio producing and starring in such a movie. The articles are a bit dated though and I have heard nothing else about such a project. I am curious about it  and wonder if it is still going forward…. With all of interest now in Viking history, I would think it might do well!

http://www.slashfilm.com/leonardo-dicaprio-producing-and-could-star-in-viking-film-king-harald/

 

This battle for the crown of England was  much a case of family disputes and feuds over who had right or claim to that crown. Harald Hardrada had a claim based on his link to the previous ruler, Harthacanut of Denmark and England but realistically he had a very weak claim at best. Harald Godwinsson had no real claim either, the only with any true justifiable blood claim to the crown was indeed William the Conqueror, who was at least a blood relative- even though distant- of King Edward. So, in this sense, William would end up digging deep into the family roots and toppling all to claim the crown. The only other person with a better and legitimate blood claim was unfortunately a young boy with no hope of winning any battle for the crown.

The one other part of the prophecy that we have not mentioned yet is the wyvern.

A wyvern (/ˈwvərn/ WEYE-vərn), sometimes spelled wivern, is a legendary winged creature with a dragon‘s head and wings; a reptilian body; two legs; and a barbed tail.

The wyvern in its various forms is important to heraldry, frequently appearing as a mascot of schools and athletic teams (chiefly in the United States and United Kingdom). It is a popular creature in European and British literature, video games, and modern fantasy. The wyvern is often (but not always) associated with cold weather and ice, and it will sometimes possess a venomous bite or have the ability to breathe fire. The wyvern is a frequent charge in English heraldry and vexillology, also occasionally appearing as a supporter or crest.

In regards to it’s mention in the prophecy, a wyvern is used as symbol in one very  important place.  The Wyvarn is depicted as the symbol of Wessex, the home of Ecbert and his descendents including Alfred the Great and on to Edward the Confessor who left the future rule of England in such dispute and question that his witan/council even went so far as to search for a long exiled and hidden heir residing in Hungary!

After the Danish conquest of England in 1016, Canute had the sons of Edward’s half brother Edmund Ironside, Edward said to be only a few months old, and his brother, Edmund, sent to the Swedish court of Olof Skötkonun  (who was either Canute’s half-brother or stepbrother), supposedly with instructions to have the children murdered. Instead, the two boys were secretly sent either to Kiev, where Olof’s daughter Ingigerd was the Queen, or to Poland, where Canute’s uncle Bolesław I Chrobry was duke.  Later Edward made his way to Hungary, probably in the retinue of Ingigerd’s son-in-law, András in 1046, whom he supported in his successful bid for the Hungarian throne. Many years later when it became apparent that King Edward and his wife Edyth were not going to produce and heir, a search for any missing heirs ensued and Edward the exile was found in Hungary.

On hearing the news of his being alive, Edward the Confessor recalled him to England in 1056 and made him his heir. Edward offered the last chance of an undisputed succession within the Saxon royal house. News of Edward’s existence came at a time when the old Anglo-Saxon Monarchy, restored after a long period of Danish domination, was heading for catastrophe. The Confessor, personally devout but politically weak and without children, was unable to make an effective stand against the steady advance of the powerful and ambitious sons of Godwin, Earl of Wessex. From across the Channel William, Duke of Normandy, also had an eye on the succession. Edward the Exile appeared at just the right time. Approved by both king and by the Witan, the Council of the Realm, he offered a way out of the impasse, a counter both to the Godwinsons and to William, and one with a legitimacy that could not be readily challenged.

Edward, who had been in the custody of Henry III, the Holy Roman Emperor, finally came back to England at the end of August 1057. But he died within two days of his arrival. The exact cause of Edward’s death remains unclear, but he had many powerful enemies, and there is a strong possibility that he was murdered, although by whom is not known with any certainty. It is known, though, that his access to the king was blocked soon after his arrival in England for some unexplained reason, at a time when the Godwinsons, in the person of Harold, were once again in the ascendant. This turn of events left the throne of England to be disputed by Earl Harold and Duke William, ultimately leading to the Norman Conquest of England.  Edward the exile did leave an heir, a young boy- Edgar the Aetheling who was immediately made heir apparent or Atheling. When Edward died, the boy, a young teen at the time was too young to successfully wage a fight for the crown or win any war that was certain to follow. The council feared being taken over again by outsiders waiting for a chance to claim England so they chose instead to elect Harald Godwinsson to the rule. Edgar eventually found asylum in Scotland with Malcom III, who had married Edgar’s sister Margaret.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_the_%C3%86theling

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_the_Confessor

Wessex is often symbolised by a wyvern or dragon.

Both Henry of Huntingdon and Matthew of Westminster talk of a golden dragon being raised at the Battle of Burford in AD 752 by the West Saxons. The Bayeux Tapestry depicts a fallen golden dragon, as well as a red/golden/white dragon at the death of King Harold II, who was previously Earl of Wessex. However, dragon standards were in fairly wide use in Europe at the time, being derived from the ensign of the Roman cohort, and there is no evidence that it identified Wessex.

 

800px-Flag_of_Wessex_svg

Wyvern on early flag of Wessex

 

Why is any of this important in relation to where we’re at now in history with the Viking age?  It is extremely important because the Vikings of our Vikings saga as presented by Michael Hirst, and hopefully soon the onscreen version of Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Chronicles, will soon move on to the next years, the next era of the Viking history that includes so much more than just the story of Ragnar Lodbrok and his adventures. We will soon be traveling to the time when Ragnar’s sons and so many others make their own marks and contributions to history. We will see the beginning of Rollo’s great dynasty in Normandy take shape, we will see Ecbert’s grandson, Alfred the Great will take his place in history. The battles for land and claims to kingdoms will begin in earnest and we will witness all of it. As we do, I will continue to help weave the history and the stories together, and perhaps one of these days, I will even find time and inspiration to return to some of my original stories.  I hope that all of you will remain on the journey with me and enjoy all of it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vikings Season 4: Coming soon to a village near you!

 

peter-franzen-jasper-paakkonen-and-dianne-doan

peter-franzen-jasper-paakkonen-and-dianne-doan

Just a quick heads up on who will be arriving in Season 4! Peter Franzen, Jasper Paakonen and Dianne Doan will be sailing to our shores next raiding season.

Franzen, 43, will portray King Harald Finehair, a Scandinavian warrior and potential threat to Ragnar (Travis Fimmel), while Paakkonen, 34, is set to take on the role of Halfdan the Black, Finehair’s younger brother. Doan, on the other hand, will portray Yidu, a new and unique Chinese character who will have a big role in upcoming installment.

Franzen and Paakkonen are Finnish actors who both starred in the 2003 Finnish crime drama flick “Bad Boys,” which is also known as “Pahat pojat.” The film was the second most successful film in Finnish theatres after “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” in 2003, taking in $4.78 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

Franzen recently appeared in the action thriller film “The Gunman,” which also stars Sean Penn, Idris Elba, Ray Winstone, Mark Rylance and Javier Bardem. His U.S. TV acting credits includes “True Blood” and “CSI: Miami.”

Doan, on the other hand, appeared on ABC’s fairy tale drama “Once Upon a Time” in 2013. She played Isra in Season 2, Episode 18, titled “Selfless, Brave and True.” She will be next seen in the TV movie “Descendants” and in the comedy flick “Last Night in Suburbia,” which will be out later this year.

http://www.designntrend.com/articles/49961/20150505/vikings-season-4-to-introduce-three-new-characters-actors-who-are-playing-them-spoilers.htm

I can only make some vague guesses as to whether or not any of these characters could be based on history. I am guessing that Doan’s unique Chinese Character is probably a fictional one, but it would go along with the history and fact that the Vikings traveled around to a wide variety of places. Historically, they traded with any number of other countries and cultures, and many of their larger port cities or villages would see these different travelers, either as trading merchants or as traded slaves. It will be interesting to see how she arrives and what important role her character ends up playing!

diane doan2

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3999319/

Jasper Paakonen’s character of Halfdan the Black is most likely based on the real Halfdan the Black of Viking history. This Halfdan should not be confused with another Halfdan that is mentioned in history as a son of Ragnar Lodbrok…

Halfdan the Black (Old Norse: Halfdanr Svarti) (c. 810 – c. 860) was a ninth-century king of Vestfold. He belonged to the House of Yngling and was the father of Harald Fairhair, the first king of Norway.

According to Heimskringla and Fagsrkinna, Halfdan was the son of the Yngling King Gudrød the Hunter. Heimskringla also names his mother, as Åsa, daughter of King Harald of Agder, and his half-brother as Olaf Geirstad-Alf. Heimskringla relates that when Halfdan’s father was killed, Åsa took the 1 year-old Halfdan and returned to Agder, where Halfdan was raised. When he was 18 or 19 years old, Halfdan became king of Agder. He quickly began adding to his kingdom, through political negotiation and military conquest. He divided the kingdom of Vestfold with his brother Olaf and, through military action, persuaded King Gandalf of Vingulmark to cede half his kingdom. Based on the formulaic nature of his ties to his predecessors, his strong affiliation with Agder, and the failure of an early saga dedicated to him to name any family connections, some scholars have suggested that the linkage to the earlier Yngling dynasty of Vestfold was a later invention, created to associate a conquering Halfdan and his son Harald Fairhair with the family glorified in the Ynglingatal, whom he had displaced.

Halfdan next is said to have subdued an area called Raumarike. To secure his claim to Raumarike, Halfdan first defeated and killed the previous ruler, Sigtryg Eysteinsson, in battle. He then defeated Sigtryg’s brother and successor Eystein, in a series of battles. This established Halfdan’s claim not only to Raumarike, but also to half of Hedmark, the core of Sigtryg and Eystein’s kingdom. These details are only mentioned in Heimskringla.

Fagrskinna and Heimskringla both agree that Halfdan’s first wife was Ragnhild, daughter of King Harald Gulskeg (Goldbeard) of Sogn. Halfdan and Ragnhild had a son named “Harald” after his grandfather, and they sent him to be raised at his grandfather’s court. Harald Gulskeg, being elderly, named his grandson as his successor, shortly before his death. Ragnhild died shortly after her father, and the young king Harald fell sick and died the next spring. When Halfdan heard about his son’s death, he travelled to Sogn and laid claim to the title of king. No resistance was offered, and Halfdan added Sogn to his realm.

The narrative in Heimskringla then adds another conquest for King Halfdan. In Vingulmark, the sons of Gandalf of Vingulmark, Hysing, Helsing, and Hake, attempted to ambush Halfdan at night, but he escaped into the forest. After raising an army, he returned to defeat the brothers, killing Hysing and Helsing. Hake fled the country, and Halfdan became king of all of Vingulmark.

According to Heimskringla, Halfdan’s second wife was also named Ragnhild. Ragnhild Sigurdsdotter was the daughter of Sigurd Hjort, king of Ringerike. She was kidnapped from her home by Hake, a “berserker” who encountered her father in Hadeland and killed him. In turn, Halfdan had her kidnapped from Hake, so that he could marry her. Fagrskinna does not mention any of these details, but calls Ragnhild the daughter of Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, who in Heimskringlas version is her great-grandfather. Both sagas agree that Ragnhild and Halfdan had a son who was also named Harald.

Norwegian_petty_kingdoms_ca__860

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halfdan_the_Black

Jasper Paakkonen

jasper Paakkonen2 Jasper Paakanen

Jasper Pääkkönen (born 15 July 1980) is a Finnish film actor who has appeared and starred in over 15 films. According to a calculation published by Finnish tabloid IltaSanomat, Pääkkönen is “the most profitable film actor in Finland”[1] for having starred in numerous box office hits during his career.[2] Many of Pääkkönen’s films have made #1 in the Finnish box office, including Pahat Pojat (Bad Boys – a true story) which is the all time most successful film in Finnish box office. Other Pääkkönen’s commercial successes include Matti, Frozen Land and Lapland Odyssey. For his role in Pahat Pojat, Pääkkönen was awarded Best Actor Award in Brussels International Independent Film Festival. He has earned international praise from film critic Michael Giltz from Huffington Post magazine who called the actor “handsome and compelling” in his role in Lapland Odyssey. Film critic Leslie Felperin from Variety named Pääkkönen a “rising thesp, showing impressive range” at his starring role in Matti.[4] In 2006 the European Film Promotion introduced Pääkkönen as the Shooting Star of Finland  at the Berlin international film festival.

In 2009 Pääkkönen founded the Pokerisivut.com poker magazine together with film producer Markus Selin. In 2010 Pokerisivut.com was awarded Best Overall Affiliate at the London 2010 iGB Affiliate Awards.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jasper_P%C3%A4%C3%A4kk%C3%B6nen

Peter Franzen will portray a King Harald Finehair, a Scandinavian warrior and potential threat to Ragnar. My guess is that Hirst is tweaking the history and doing some combination of it in the characters of Harald Finehair and brother, Halfdan the Black.  In history, Halfdan the black was father to a son, Harald Fairhair!

Harald Fairhair (Old Norse: Haraldr Hárfagri, Norwegian: Harald Hårfagre; c. 850 – c. 932) was remembered by medieval historians as the first King of Norway. According to traditions current in Norway and Iceland in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, he reigned from c. 872 to 930. Most of his life remains uncertain, since the extant accounts of his life in the sagas were set down in writing around three centuries after his lifetime. A few remnants of skaldic praise poems attributed to contemporary court poets exist which seem to refer to Harald’s victories against opponents in Norway. The information supplied in these poems is inconsistent with the tales in the sagas in which they are transmitted, and the sagas themselves often disagree on the details of his background and biography.  Two of his sons, Eric Bloodaxe and Haakon the Good, succeeded Harald to become kings after his death.

The only contemporary sources mentioning him are the two skaldic poems Haraldskvæði and Glymdrápa, which have been attributed to Þorbjörn Hornklofi or alternatively (in the case of the first poem) to Þjóðólfr of Hvinir. The first poem has only been preserved in fragments in 13th century Kings’ sagas. It describes life at Harald’s court, mentions that he took a Danish wife, and that he won a battle at Hafrsfjord. The second relates a series of battles Harald won.

His life is described in several of the Kings’ sagas, none of them older than 12th century. Their accounts of Harald and his life differ on many points, and some of the content may be uncertain but it is clear that in the 12th and 13th centuries Harald was regarded as having unified Norway into one kingdom. Some modern historians have assumed that his rule was limited to the coastal areas of southern Norway though there is no contemporary evidence to support their claim nor any other concerning the life of Harald.

In Heimskringla, which is the most elaborate although not the oldest or most reliable source to the life of Harald, it is written that Harald succeeded, on the death of his father Halfdan the Black Gudrödarson, to the sovereignty of several small, and somewhat scattered kingdoms in Vestfold, which had come into his father’s hands through conquest and inheritance. His protector-regent was his mother’s brother Guthorm.

The unification of Norway is something of a love story. It begins with a marriage proposal that resulted in rejection and scorn from Gyda, the daughter of Eirik, king of Hordaland. She said she refused to marry Harald “before he was king over all of Norway”. Harald was therefore induced to take a vow not to cut nor comb his hair until he was sole king of Norway, and when he was justified in trimming it ten years later, he exchanged the epithet “Shockhead” or “Tanglehair” for the one by which he is usually known.

In 866, Harald made the first of a series of conquests over the many petty kingdoms which would compose all of Norway, including Värmland in Sweden, which had sworn allegiance to the Swedish king Erik Eymundsson. In 872, after a great victory at Hafrsfjord near Stavanger, Harald found himself king over the whole country. His realm was, however, threatened by dangers from without, as large numbers of his opponents had taken refuge, not only in Iceland, then recently discovered; but also in the Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands, Hebrides Islands, Faroe Islands and the northern European mainland. However, his opponents’ leaving was not entirely voluntary. Many Norwegian chieftains who were wealthy and respected posed a threat to Harald; therefore, they were subjected to much harassment from Harald, prompting them to vacate the land. At last, Harald was forced to make an expedition to the West, to clear the islands and the Scottish mainland of some Vikings who tried to hide there.

The earliest narrative source which mentions Harald, the 12th century Íslendingabók notes that Iceland was settled during his lifetime. Harald is thus depicted as the prime cause of the Norse settlement of Iceland and beyond. Iceland was settled by “malcontents” from Norway, who resented Harald’s claim of rights of taxation over lands, which the possessors appear to have previously held in absolute ownership.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harald_Fairhair

Peter Franzen:

peter franzen2 peter franzen3 Peter_Franzén4

Peter Franzén (born 14 August 1971) is a Finnish actor who has appeared in over 40 films and TV series. Of these, the most famous are A Summer by the River, Ambush, Mustan kissan kuja, Badding, On the Road to Emmaus, Rölli ja metsänhenki, Kuutamolla, Bad Boys, Dog Nail Clipper, Matti, Hellsinki and Kerron sinulle kaiken. For his role in Dog Nail Clipper, Franzén was awarded a Jussi Award for Best Actor  as well as earning praise from film critic Jay Weissberg from Variety magazine who called the actor “one of the most talented and versatile thesps in Finland”.

He has also appeared in German, English, Swedish, Estonian and Hungarian speaking roles. Franzén had a role as a Russian corpse in one episode of CSI: Miami, and more recently was cast for a small part as a police officer in the movie Cleaner by Renny Harlin. In 2009, Franzén had a small role as a Swedish Viking in the True Blood episode Never Let Me Go.

Franzén was born in Keminmaa. In 1999, Franzén moved to Los Angeles with his actress wife, Irina Björklund, where they have lived ever since.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Franz%C3%A9n

An interesting side note for these two characters… In some variations of the Norse history sagas, there is debate and difference of who Halfdan married. According to Heimskringla, Halfdan’s second wife was also named Ragnhild. Ragnhild Sigurdsdotter was the daughter of Sigurd Hjort, king of Ringerike. She was kidnapped from her home by Hake, a “berserker” who encountered her father in Hadeland and killed him. In turn, Halfdan had her kidnapped from Hake, so that he could marry her. Fagrskinna does not mention any of these details, but calls Ragnhild the daughter of Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, who in Heimskringlas version is her great-grandfather. Both sagas agree that Ragnhild and Halfdan had a son who was also named Harald.

What is most interesting for next season is that with the jump in time that Hirst has already confirmed,  I think that we will see many more portrayals and representations of actual, documented historical figures from Viking history. The history will become far more documented rather than legends as the groups move forward in their expansions and raids in various parts of the world!

So, Ragnar must not only contend with his current ailments and personal agendas in the future, he will also face fierce competition for his lands and his title on his home front! From the sounds of it, he had best recover quickly both in mind and body to face this new force waiting for him! As the Seer has reminded him, Things do not bode well for you Ragnar Lothbrok!

ragnar watches rollo from the boat