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Vikings Saga: Early days, The Wrath

I must write quickly now, so much is happening so fast that it is difficult to keep up with it all.

Ragnar and his men have left on their “secret” journey… but, as I have said previously, this is a small village and nothing stays secret for very long.  The Earl has spies everywhere and trusts no one… not even his wife, I think- though she does everything in her power to reassure him of her loyalties to him.  The village is quiet and all are on edge worried about the men and about Earl Haraldson’s cruel vengeance. Those in the Earl’s household will all go to great and desperate lengths to keep on his good side. For me, I try as best I can to stay out of the way of him. I think he is suspicious of me probably just because I am a new comer here so anything that goes awry could be blamed upon me as well as those men who have betrayed him. Even Siggy has mentioned that it might be best if I remain well out of his way during this time so as not to bring his anger towards me.

The Earl of course, knows full well of the voyage. As I said his spies are everywhere. His brother in law, Knut pretended to be willing to go along on the voyage and reported everything back to the Earl. One of the housecarls also reported the ship’s leaving to the Earl. That housecarl, Olafur proved he was otherwise disloyal to the Earl though and met a very bad end for it. The Earl caught him looking at and admiring Siggy, he suggested that if Olafur was wanting to bed with Siggy it could be arranged? That fool man was so gullible as to fall for the Earl’s trap. He was invited to Siggy’s bed and then killed for his disloyalty.  I do think the Earl is beginning to tread down the path of irrational madness…

At the Lodbrok farm, Lagertha is still angry, very angry at Ragnar for going on this adventure, and going without her. Ragnar made light of her desire and laughed at her suggestion that she go along. “Who would mind the children? Oh, I know, I shall stay here to cook and clean and tend to them while you go off to fight?” He disregarded her feelings on all of it and in the end he simply declared that she would stay at home on the farm in case Earl Haraldson should grow suspicious and attempt to take their land away.  She is up at the farm with the children, very discontent about all of this. Earl Haraldson did send men to inquire about Ragnar’s whereabouts, to which she made excuse that he was off trading for a few days. 

Earl Haraldson on one hand said he was unconcerned about this voyage because it was doomed anyway, a wild fantasy and those men would all perish at sea, on the other hand though, he was furious that people of his village had so defied him and listened instead to the ideas of Ragnar. He set about finding those involved in the secrecy and punishing them to show what disobedience to him would bring. The blacksmith who forged the anchor of Ragnar’s ship was confronted by Earl Haraldson and his men. At first he denied forging any anchor, but when Svein was about to seize his daughter, he gave in. Earl Haraldson ordered him to look at the flames in the firepit and asked what he saw. When the blacksmith answered that he saw his death, Svein pushed his face in the fire despite the blacksmith’s daughter pleading to leave her father be. It was a brutal and vicious reminder to us all not to cross Earl Haraldson. We all tread very quietly,  carefully … and prayed to the Gods that Ragnar and his men would return home soon.

Thank the Gods they did return safely! I will share their story as they told it, and as the newcomer to the village shared his own version of it?

The journey was a perilous and treacherous one for the men, as it was their first experience in this new boat and being out so far on the open sea. They were be set by a storm of great proportions and feared that they would all perish as Earl Haraldson had predicted.  In the worst of the storm, Rollo voiced his doubts and said the God Thor was angry with them and would strike his hammer to sink them all into the sea. Floki replied however, that Thor was not angry. Thor was celebrating their victory and their boat! Floki was so excited that he forgot he could not swim as he danced around the boat in the middle of the Storm!

Floki sit down remember you can't swim

After the storm, Ragnar ordered the ravens they took with them to be released. If they return quickly there is no land, if they don’t come back they have found land. When they heard the flapping of bird wings, Ragnar thought the ravens returned and his journey is in vain. However, the birds turned out to be seagulls, indicating they are close to the shores of England.

They set ground upon a place called Lindesfarne.  I do feel I need to add a thought here, a very serious and troubling one… one just as troubling as the thought of us travelers in some way affecting or influencing the path of history? I am beginning to feel that something else is very slightly off setting here. Could this time portal have taken us to some slightly different yet parallel version of our world??? There are just these odd discrepancies that show up and do not quite follow what we know as fact about our time line, our history. One of them is of course this event by Ragnar and his men that took them to Lindesfarne.  By all rights, from what we know, Ragnar and the Danes raided in further south areas such as this map shows. The Norse Viking raids were in the more northern portions. I know that we tend to think of them all as one group, but in reality, they were two separate groups with much the same intents. I am pointing these oddities out in my reports so that your researchers are aware of such discrepancies and can look deeper into it.

Lindisfarne793 northumbria modified rl 2

Lindesfarne was a holy Island inhabited by Monks since back to the 6th century.

In 793, a Viking raid on Lindisfarne  caused much consternation throughout the Christian west and is now often taken as the beginning of the Viking Age. The D and E versions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle record:

In this year fierce, foreboding omens came over the land of the Northumbrians, and the wretched people shook; there were excessive whirlwinds, lightning, and fiery dragons were seen flying in the sky. These signs were followed by great famine, and a little after those, that same year on 6th ides of January, the ravaging of wretched heathen people destroyed God’s church at Lindisfarne.

The generally accepted date for the Viking raid on Lindisfarne is in fact 8 June; Michael Swanton writes: “vi id Ianr, presumably [is] an error for vi id Iun (8 June) which is the date given by the Annals of Lindisfarne (p. 505), when better sailing weather would favour coastal raids.”

Alcuin, a Northumbrian scholar in Charlemagne‘s court at the time, wrote:

Never before has such terror appeared in Britain as we have now suffered from a pagan race. . . .The heathens poured out the blood of saints around the altar, and trampled on the bodies of saints in the temple of God, like dung in the streets.

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

I will share the event as it happened from both points of view as I have recently heard both sides of the story.

Their ship cleared the storm, came out of the mist, and the men saw off in the distance, their first glimpse of the new land.

ship in the mist first sight of the western land lindisfarn monastary

The isle of Lindesfarne was home to a monastery, whose monks were famed and honored for their writing/transcribing skills and their illuminated transcript.

Lindisfarne-ep2

During the worst rage of the storm, the Monks attempted to calm themselves in prayer and chantings…. One young monk could not so easily be calmed. He kept insisting that the end was near, he could feel it…

a storm is coming to lindisfarne

Athelstan goes to the Father of the monastery to tell him Judgment Day has come. The Father does not want to hear of it and orders Athelstan to go back to his dormitory to pray God for forgiveness, as everything will be well when the storm passes.

Monks pray for salvation

The storm does pass, or so they think? One of the monks is walking along the beach and spies the boat coming from the mist. He runs to warn his brethren, who take shelter from the coming intruders.

an unseen storm in the mist

the storm arrives

Ragnar and the others march up to the Monastery, expecting and looking forward to a battle…They have been cooped up on a boat for a long time and are ready to fight!

the storm marches inland The storm hist Lindisfarne Monastary and walks through the door

This odd, not what they expected at all? These strange men cowered in their building not even trying to defend or protect themselves!

 

Ragnar was surprised and puzzled by these men on their knees with their heads bowed, chanting in their strange language. Rollo was disgusted with their feeble reaction and refusal to even defend themselves. He lost control of his short temper and killed the leader of the group. Panic erupted amongst the monks and they were quickly slaughtered by the men while Ragnar solemnly stood by watching.

Ragnar puzzled and a little disappointed at the reception

The Vikings were expecting at least some sort of fight

The Vikings were expecting at least some sort of fight

Not much of a fight

Ragnar went on to search through the buildings with a few of the men. They came upon a strange sight. A room filled with treasure, all left out in the open, unguarded or protected.  Ragnar is puzzled but delighted with this find. All of this treasure just sitting here for the easiest taking that they had ever encountered! Still, it was strange was it not?  Surprised the treasures are left in the open, Leif wonders if their God protects it somehow?

Treasure found right out in the open

Treasure found right out in the open

No women, no mead, no worthy fight 

their god's treasure

their god’s treasure

Ragnar wanders around the room looking at the treasures and then looks up at the adornment on the wall. His comment on all of it is, “This is their God dead nailed to a cross he can’t protect anyone what good is he?”

This is their God dead nailed to a cross he can't protect anyone what good is he

This is their God dead nailed to a cross he can’t protect anyone what good is he

While the men wandered around the room gathering treasure, Ragnar spied something else… he found a young monk hiding in the corner holding tightly to another strange treasure, a book!

 

An even stranger treasure a book

An even stranger treasure a book

Even more surprising and puzzling to Ragnar, this young monk spoke their language?

and the treasure speaks their language

and the treasure speaks their language

Unable to control his frustration, he confronted the monk with harsh comment, ” Of all the treasures here, you chose to save this thing…Why?”

of all the treasures here you chose to save this  Why

of all the treasures here you chose to save this Why

 Ragnar asked Athelstan about the. It is the Gospel of St. John.  Ragnar wanted to know why the monk chose to protect that instead of any treasures, Athelstan answered that without the word of God there could be only darkness. Rollo entered the room, saying it was a strange place with only men. When he notices Athelstan, he insisted on killing him but Ragnar forbade it. He thought  the monk was worth more alive than dead. Surprised, Rollo insisted that they are equals and tried to kill Athelstan anyway.  Ragnar pushed him  back, causing Rollo to angrily chop the Crucifix in the room in pieces and tell Athelstan that is how much he respected this God!  Meanwhile, Floki enters a room with many holy papers. Unable to read the odd writings, Floki burnt one of them eventually set the Monastery on fire.

Floki finds more strange writings Look how easy it burns floki paper and fire

The monastery was destroyed along with most of the valuable works within it at the time. Althelstan was taken as slave along with a few other surviving monks and was brought back here to Kattegat.

leaving Lindisfarne with their treasure Athelstan the monk the slave the friend the peacemaker between two worlds

Ragnar with his treasure athelstan

I will write more about their return and the consequences of it later. For now, I just want to share that this Athelstan is in possession of one of the remaining books from Lindesfarne. I believe it may be a portion of the highly important and valuable relic books, The Lindesfarne Gospels? He states that he holds the Gospel of St. John and values it above all else, keeping it close to his person at all times. I have not wanted to call undue attention to myself or cause any further suspicions regarding my situation, or his, so have not asked to see the book as yet. I can not determine whether it might be one of the original portions of the books, or a copy that he might have transcribed for himself.  I do have concern that is could be another of those oddities or slight discrepancies which I referred to earlier.

Lindesfarne Gospels: The Lindisfarne Gospels is a Christian manuscript, containing the gospels of Matthew, Luke, Mark, and John and the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The manuscript was used for ceremonial purposes to promote and celebrate the Christian religion and the word of God (BBC Tyne 2012). Because the body of Cuthbert was buried in Lindisfarne, Lindisfarne became an important pilgrimage destination in the 7th and 8th centuries and the Lindisfarne Gospels would have contributed to the cult of Saint Cuthbert (BBC Tyne 2012).

The Lindisfarne Gospels manuscript was produced in a scriptorium in the monastery of Lindisfarne. The pages of the Lindisfarne gospels are vellum, made from the skins of sheep or calves and evidence from the manuscript reveals that the vellum used for the Gospels was made from calfskin.  The text of the manuscript is written “in a dense, dark brown ink, often almost black, which contains particles of carbon from soot or lamp black”.  The pens used for the manuscript could have been cut from either quills or reeds, and there is also evidence to suggest that the trace marks (seen under oblique light) were used by an early equivalent of a modern pencil. Lavish jewellery was added to the binding of the manuscript, now lost, later in the eighth century.

There is a huge range of individual pigment used in the manuscript. The colours are derived from animal, vegetable and mineral sources.  While some colours were obtained from local sources, others were imported from the Mediterranean, and rare instances such as lapis lazuli would have been imported from the Himalayas.  Gold is only used in a couple of small details.  The medium used to bind the colours was egg white, but it could have also been fish glue in certain places.  Backhouse emphasizes that, “all Eadfrith’s colours are applied with great skill and accuracy, but…we have no means of knowing exactly what implements he used”.

The manuscript’s pages were arranged into gatherings of eight, and once the sheets had been folded together to make a group of pages, the highest page was carefully marked out by pricking, which was done by a stylus or a small knife.  The holes were pricked through the gathering of eight leaves, and then each individual page was separately ruled for writing with a sharp, dry, and discreet point.

The Lindisfarne Gospels are impeccably designed, and as Backhouse points out vellum would have been too expensive for ‘practice runs’ for the pages, and so “preliminary designs” may have been done on a wax tablet (a device that is hollowed out wood or bone with a layer of wax). Wax tablets were an inexpensive technique to create a first draft because once the sketch was presumably transferred to the manuscript the wax could be warmed and flattened for a new design or outline.

Due to Viking raids the monastic community left Lindisfarne around 875, bringing with them Cuthbert’s body, relics, and books including the Lindisfarne Gospels (BBC Tyne 2012) and the St Cuthbert Gospel. It is estimated that after around seven years the Lindisfarne community settled in the Priory at Chester-le-Street in Durham where they stayed until 995 (where Aldred would have done his interlinear translation of the text).  After Henry VIII ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, the manuscript was separated from the priory.  In the early 17th century the Gospels were owned by Sir Robert Cotton (1571–1631) and in 1753 became part of the founding collections of the British Museum.

Lindisfarne_Gospels luke

Lindisfarne_Gospels luke

lindesfarne gospels Matthew

lindesfarne gospels Matthew

Lindisfarne_Gospels John

Lindisfarne_Gospels John

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

I only voice my thoughts and wonderings here because it has been pointed out that he was found in the relics/treasury room holding on to the book for dear life in attempt to protect it. He is more concerned much of the time about the safety of the book than he is about his own safety. Whether he treasures it now because it is his only link to his previous life and faith or because it is even more important than anyone here realizes, understands or cares about is unknown. Even if it is only a copy he has written for himself, it would still hold much value and importance as a remaining book from Lindesfarne. 

 

The young man is in much dire circumstances and danger right now. His fate will be decided soon as Earl Haraldson calls for a meeting to decide the fate of all involved in this voyage. I worry that his wrath will be harsh and cruel to all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vikings Trivia: Who is Princess Kwenthrith?

 

Ok, Ok, I know most of you are thinking, “Enough already, Why haven’t you left yet? You should be well on your way to Kattegat by now!”  Well, I am almost ready to leave- in fact I am headed to Lindholm Hoje near Aalborg Denmark and you will get that update on Friday! For now, I just wanted to share this one bit of historical data with you. I am currently trying to finish up some reading and thought you might enjoy the comparisons. This latest book gives us a look at that most interesting of characters in Saxon England.  She recently showed up on King Ecbert’s doorstep, and I thought she sounded familiar so of course I had to do a bit more research of my own on who she might be?  I am always interested in the back stories of who various characters might be based on…

I’m quite sure many of you who are following the Vikings Saga are just as curious about this woman as I am!

Princess-Kwenthrith-arrives-at-Wessex-1024x682 Kwenthrith1 Kwenthrith2

Yes, it’s Princess Kwenthrith in the flesh and wanting more flesh, manly flesh, womanly flesh… but not animal flesh!

Princess Kwenthrith is the young daughter of the late King Offa of Mercia and sister of the late Prince Kenelm, who’s since been sainted by the pope, something the outspoken Kwenthrith finds laughable since her brother, she claims, raped her when she was twelve.

Rumors abound that the princess killed her brother, the heir-apparent to Offa’s throne, setting off a nasty civil war, herself being one of the leading claimants to the Mercian crown. Realizing the advantage of influencing the Mercia’s future, King Ecbert seeks to ally himself with the princess, at least for the time being. He welcomes her to Wessex with a grand feast, where she engages Athelstan in conversation about his experiences among the Northmen. Kwenthrith proceeds to ask the flustered monk about the liberal sex life of the Northmen, and how much more “natural” it seems.

She later shares King Ecbert’s bed, though he is unfortunately finished (and quite exhausted) before the princess has had enough. The king sends in three of his guards  in an attempt to satisfy her seemingly insatiable sexual appetite.

When King Ecbert hires a company of Vikings as mercenaries, after a stunning victory against them in battle, the princess strolls through the ranks, remarking that she would like to breed with them, that she would certainly produce “giants” with such men.

 

Now, as I mentioned, her story sounded vaguely familiar to me so I had to dig up the rest of her story. Of course, names have been altered in the saga… probably to protect what ever innocent victims there may have been, or to not libel the woman’s name just in case she perhaps was not quite as wretched and rather depraved as she appears in history? What ever the reason, there was indeed actually a daughter of King Offa of Mercia and she did have what might be considered a not so savory reputation- that is putting it nicely!

Eadburh Saxon serial killer?

Eadburh Saxon serial killer?

women-in-power-eadburgh-r

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

Eadburh (Old English: Ēadburh), also spelled Eadburg, (fl. 789-802) was the daughter of King Offa of Mercia and Queen Cynethryth. She was the wife of King Beorhtric of Wessex, and according to Asser‘s Life of Alfred the Great she accidentally killed her husband by poison. She fled to Francia, where she is said to have been offered the chance of marrying Charlemagne, but ruined the opportunity. Instead she was appointed as the abbess of a convent. Here she is said to have fornicated with an English exile. As a result she was eventually expelled from the monastery and ended her days begging in the streets of Pavia.

Personally, after reading her story, I think they should include more of it into the saga? There are times when actual history is just as interesting, possibly even more so than any fiction you might create around it! For example, according to history, she most probably knew Egbert- maybe even very well before her arrival on his door step. Her Father,  Offa of Mercia and Beorhtric of Wessex, sent Egbert into exile but on Beorhtric’s death in 802 Egbert returned and took the throne. 

I recently came across an interesting book on her told from her point of view!

Lost dreams by jayne stone

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23384062-lost-dreams

Women have always had a tough time in politics. Over twelve hundred years ago, Eadburg made a name for herself as one of the most powerful queens of the early middle ages, and her reputation for malevolence is documented in a contemporaneous biography of King Alfred the Great. Was she truly evil, a tyrant and a murderer, or could her reputation have been part of a double-standard smear campaign by later generations of male chroniclers? Read her story, and you decide.

She is one of those people in history that little is known about, and most of what is recorded about her is from the opposing/winning side and the men in power at the time as is so often the case. This story looks at her life and some of the recorded events from how she might have experienced and perceived it as a woman.  She willing admits to some of her supposed misdeeds and character flaws but gives her own reasonings for them and explanations as to why she acted in the way she did. I recommend it for that reason and besides that it’s a rather fun read and contains some excellent words of wisdom from women throughout history as chapter headings!

Added update: I’m almost finished with the story of Eadburh, only have a few pages left but can’t quite bring myself to come to the end of it yet. After all of her various tragedies- yes, some or most of which she probably brought on herself… but still I will be sad to see her pass on even though she has been ready to go for quite some time. I still stand by my initial thought that Michael Hirst should have just presented the character known as Princess Kwenthrith as this real historical person. He has used much of her story in Kwenthrith’s background so really, what need was there to change her name/identity for the show? I am really looking forward to seeing what direction he takes her in but now after reading about her history and reading this version of her story, I will be stuck on comparing Kwenthrith to the Eadburh that I have come to know?  I do have to say Thank You to Jayne Stone for this provocative and thoughtful rendition of the woman behind the rumors… Ohhh, and thank you too, Jayne for not leaving her die in the Church yard alone. I really thought that was going to be the sad and most pathetic end to her life right there! I do also have to amend my previous comment on this being a fun read? It was not a fun read as in light and amusing by any stretch of imagination. It was a fun read in the sense of  how she approached Eadburh’s depressing, often tragic circumstances and balanced it with enough lighter moments of her life so that we still always hold out some hope for her even in the end. Jayne Stone took this much unknown woman with an at best sketchy reputation- at worst, an outright murderer- she made her come alive and made me care about her. Jeeeesh, she even made me care about the little dog, Poot! I think I felt as bad for him as I did for some others who met a horrible end!