First of all, I do apologize for the delay in my post and review of last week’s events. It’s been a bit hectic and chaotic here in Paris! Our visit is not going as well as planned and everyone, including me, is at their breaking point! Our people are wounded, sick and dying faster than we can care for them or count the dead. I do have to admit right now that while I will be sad at this season ending, especially in such loss to all of us… I am mentally and emotionally exhausted and am in desperate need of a real vacation after this! Somewhere warm, quiet and filled with luxury will do me just fine at this point! I also apologize for the extreme length of this post! I usually try to break them up but am running behind this week and did want to make sure I got it all posted!
Another attempt was made to get inside Paris… this time it was planned and executed by Lagertha and Rollo. I do want to say that even though it too ended in complete and utter disaster, it could be looked on as success in some ways. They did get inside this time, and Rollo did end up making a name and great reputation for himself as a result of the attack. In fact, the Franks were so impressed with his actions that they wanted to know more about him! I will touch on that later.
What I want to bring up now is the initial portion of the attack in which Lagertha and her shieldmaidens made a covert stealth move to the bridge and eventually made their way inside without notice. The reason I mention this is because when I first heard of the plan for the bridge, I was reminded of part of the actual attacks in history. I should have said something right then and made my own suggestions… but alas I am not in a position to give out tactical advice and be taken seriously.
In the attack of Paris in 885-886, which Rollo was involved in… For two months the Vikings maintained the siege, making trenches and provisioning themselves off the land. In January 886 they tried to fill the river shallows with debris, plant matter, and the bodies of dead animals and dead prisoners to try to get around the tower. They continued this for two days. On the third day they set three ships alight and guided them towards the wooden bridge. The burning ships sank before they could set the bridge on fire, but the wooden construction was nonetheless weakened. On 6 February, rains caused the river (still filled with debris) to overflow and the bridge supports gave way. The bridge gone, the northeast tower was now isolated with only twelve defenders inside. The Vikings asked the twelve to surrender, but they refused, and were all subsequently killed.
That is of little consequence here and now. They went with Lagertha’s plan to sneak into the city and open the gates for Rollo’s army of warriors. It was not without it’s own hazards and death but Lagertha held up her end even while watching her shieldmaidens get dowsed with boiling oil. She fought fire with fire, and set the gates flaming so Rollo’s group could enter. My own personal thought is… Ok, now the damn gates are permanently open for quite a while- those gates can’t just be replaced over night! Wouldn’t it be relatively easy for us to swarm through there at a later time? Just a thought… now back to what actually happened!
The gates were on fire and easily knocked down for our men to enter.
This is where it all once again, started to go so terribly wrong for us!
While the Franks were initially surprised by this attack, they were quick to man their defense which as usual for them included advance war machines. While Odo set about preparing this defense, a worried Gisla prepared her women and warned them not to be taken alive by these barbaric heathens.
As our Viking warriors raced into the hall towards the inner city, they were suddenly met with the Frankish secret weapon… a literal wheel of death!
This wheel is truly a grisly weapon of mass torture and death as it rolls down the hall over our men who can not out run it fast enough!
Rollo was not deterred by it though, he was determined to get into this city and some machine was not going to stop him!
While Odo, his army, and yes, Gisla watched in some amazement and even awe, Rollo fought like a mad man… a true berserker against them all!
Eventually even Rollo had to admit defeat, retreat, and haul ass out of there!
During this battle there is something else to note… that would be the true spinelessness of this King Charles. I actually had some empathy for Odo as he attempted to get Charles to at least go down and show his face to his troops as a way of inspiring them to fight. Count Odo begged the King to make an appearance for the sake of the Holy Mother. He even tried to spur Charles on with a reference to Charlamaigne, his Grandfather, how Charlamaigne would have put on his armor and fought with his men. Charles replied to these requests first by stating that if the Holy Mother was on their side protecting them, then what did they need of him? His response to the comment about Charlamaigne was, “I am not him, I am not my Grandfather Charlamaigne” I’m sure that Odo’s thought at the time was one of, No unfortunately for all of us, you are not… you are a worthless and spineless imitation of any King and we are stuck with you!”
Now back to Rollo and his retreat for self preservation in order fight another day… As I mentioned earlier, this was actually a success for him in some ways. His actions during this fight brought him fame, attention and even some respect in the eyes of the Franks, and his retreat ensured that he would still be alive to appreciate it later!
During the battle, our warrior Sigfrid and our wanderer Sinric were captured and brought before the court where their fate would be decided, not so much by Charles- for he stayed mostly silent during this event, his mind thinking of other things- but by Odo and by Gisla… it is here that we find out the thoughts these people were having about our Rollo. There was much discussion about what to do with these prisoners, whether they were of any value or not?
during the discussion, Odo wants to know of the great warrior that managed to take down their machine with his bare hands. Everyone is speaking of this wild and brave warrior? Sinric replies, “That is Rollo, brother to the King Ragnar… he fights like a crazed bear!” And, so Rollo’s fame and reputation have begun… to the Franks he will now ever be known as that wild Viking warrior bear!
Odo decided that Sinric would be of future use to them and so spared his life. To Odo’s credit, he did make some attempt as well to spare Sigfrid’s life by suggesting that he as an earl might be worth bartering for? He was shot down by a now somewhat more petulant Gisla, who demands that Odo bring her his head if he cares anything for her. Now, possibly Gisla was thinking that after such a disaster, her people needed to see themselves in more control of this situation? Perhaps she felt that they were so cowed and awed by the actions of Rollo that they needed to see a different side of these Viking warriors… they needed to see one taken down and conquered by death. Perhaps she felt that her people needed to see a Viking warrior die in front of them to counteract the now legendary fighting of Rollo. What ever she might be attempting to achieve in this situation, the reality was that she came across as the petulant demanding princess that she could probably be quite often. Odo was not exactly in favor of the idea but if it would score him points in Gisla’s favor, he was willing to go along with it. After all, it was just another heathen they were killing… This came down to a sort of compromise between Odo and Gisla. Odo got to keep the different one, Sinric and Gisla got her wish for Sigfrid’s head.
Sigfrid would eventually lose his head but, he would have the last laugh before it was finished!
Odo shows he does have some compassion for a dying man’s last wishes and goes along with Sigrid’s request…
Sigfrid pulled back his head at the last minute and the axe went through the man’s hand…
Needless to say, Odo and Gisla did not see the humor in it…
Sinric tried to hide his laugh but sigfrid laughed loud at his own last revenge on the Franks, because Damn it was funny, and Odo would probably even admit in private… probably not Gisla right now, because she is showing her more childish pouting side!
Speaking of Gisla’s more childish pouting side… she showed it again later at a meeting with the King and Odo. Please understand, our siege of Paris may not be completely successful but we are having some profound affect on the city. Our efforts have also been helped by the fact that a serious case of the Plague has arrived in the city as well. On a historical note, a case of unidentified plague and pestilence were documented during Ragnar Lodbrok’s attack on Paris during 845. In the historic account, the plague entered the Viking camp… which could be the cause of such sickness that is currently overtaking ones such as Ragnar…
The Vikings finally arrived in Paris on either Easter Sunday, 28 March, or Easter Day, 29 March, entered the city and plundered it. During the siege, a plague broke out in their camp. The Norse had been exposed to the Christian religion, and after first praying to the Norse gods, they undertook a fast, acting on the advice of one of their Christian prisoners, and the plague subsided.
We will return to what is going on in our camp later.
Inside Paris, the plague and lack of food supplies are decimating and demoralizing the population. Odo as a competent commander realized this and was willing to admit that they must end this siege by negotiating with the Northmen. Gisla shows her youth and some lack of understanding of the direness of the situation. She is insistent and determined that they keep fighting at all costs, else they shall have failed themselves and their people. Gisla may be courageous in the face of battle but she as yet lacks the wisdom to accept that sometimes one must retreat or compromise in order to live and fight another day. Odo does understand this and while he is not happy about this defeat and giving into the Northmen, he knows that it must be done.
What is interesting to note here is that in history, it was Odo who opposed the negotiating and giving in to the Northmen.
To the frustration of the Parisians who had fought for a long time to defend the city, Charles stopped short of attacking the Viking besiegers, and instead allowed them to sail further up the Seine to raid Burgundy (which was in revolt), as well as promising a payment of 700 livres (pounds; 257 kg). Odo, highly critical of this, tried his best to defy the promises of Charles, and when Charles died in 888, Odo was elected the first non-Carolingian king of the Franks.
The Gods do not abandon Ragnar and while he is far from well by any means, he rise with some clarity and renewed inner strength to go on. I believe what both Gods were telling him was, “It’s not your time to come with either of us yet, but rest assured that when your time does come, we will be here waiting for you and it will be your choice which resting place to choose.”
After the disastrous latest siege attempt, as I mentioned, our camp was at odds with each other on how to proceed next, especially after the Franks showed up with an offer of gold and silver to end the siege. They brought Sinric along as their prisoner translator and I did feel quite bad for him coming back into camp tied to a rope such as he was! Ragnar could do little more than listen from his bed on the side while Bjorn stepped up and took control of the meeting.
Everyone stood by and let Bjorn take charge of the meeting, but at the end, Rollo stepped forward to rescue our Sinric!
It was after this meeting that the bickering got out of hand and it was rather apparent that we were falling apart as a team?
Bjorn responds with because 1000 men are dead and many more injured or sick, and soon it will be winter and we will starve…is that not reason enough?
As I said, the arguing and bickering were getting us nowhere except mad at each other!
Ragnar listened to it from his bed and finally could take it no longer. He dragged himself up and decided to put an end to the discussion once and for all… if they wanted to be mad at someone, let it be him… at least they would be united on one front then!
The only two who made effort not to be phased and remain calm, besides Bjorn, were Rollo and Kalf… who were both wise enough not to show fear or agitate Ragnar any more than he already was!
Ragnar’s question to Bjorn, “What does a King do?” Bjorn answered with, “He rules”
Ahhhh, he probably would have went on much longer with this tirade against everyone but he was interrupted by a sudden inconvenient attack…
This put a bit of damper on his speech as everyone watched in some concern for their King who was now puking up blood in front of them…
Ragnar regained his composure and took Sinric off for a more private meeting.
All Bjorn could do was shake his head at his Father’s tirade, his audacity to rub failure in everyone’s faces and laugh in some resignation at Ragnar’s actions which would be par for the course with his Father! He is so used to his Father’s behaviors that even this does not surprise him.
Ragnar has managed to put them all down, remind them of their failure and let them know that now they would do it his way. He would meet with this Odo and decide for himself whether to negotiate terms with them. The next morning, he did just that. He left early, taking no one with him but Sinric as his translator and met privately with Odo.
I do have to add here that after seeing Rollo and Sigfrid, I am thinking that Odo’s reaction to seeing a bruised, battered and ailing Ragnar was more one of this is your King??? But, he did not let on to that thought and made every attempt to bargain with Ragnar.
Why is the 5000 lbs not enough? Well, because in history they offered 5670 lbs… why short yourself when you have a feeling you could get a little more out of them!
The Siege of Paris and the Sack of Paris of 845 was the culmination of a Viking invasion of the kingdom of the West Franks. The Viking forces were led by a Danish chieftain named “Reginherus”, or Ragnar, who traditionally has been identified with the legendary saga character Ragnar Lodbrok. Ragnar’s fleet of 120 Viking ships, carrying thousands of men, entered the Seine in March and proceeded sailing up the river. The West Frankish king Charles the Bald assembled a smaller army in response, but as the Vikings defeated one division, comprising half of the army, the remaining forces retreated. The Vikings reached Paris at the end of the month, during Easter. After plundering and occupying the city, the Vikings finally withdrew after receiving a ransom payment of 7,000 French livres (2,570 kilograms or 5,670 pounds) of silver and gold from Charles the Bald.
There was also a small matter of something else Ragnar wanted in addition to the money… Ragnar stated that he wanted to baptized!
Of course, the Bishop takes issue with this request and tells Ragnar the only place he will be going is to Hell and not Heaven!
Ragnar has his own response to the Bishop, possibly resulting from his earlier vision and meeting with both Gods. Ragnar tells the Bishop, “That is not your decision to make!”
When the bishop tries to put off the baptism, Ragnar shows his understanding of the religion and the significance of the symbolism in baptism. “This is a man of God and this is water so you will do it here and you will do it now!”
The bishop has little choice but to baptize Ragnar on the spot with all of the Frankish men watching.
Now comes the most difficult part to understand or make sense of. Has Ragnar truly converted to Christianity? Has he indeed foresworn his Pagan Gods and beliefs for this Christian belief? Is he truly dying and hoping desperately to reunite with Athelstan in that Christian Heaven?
First of all, let’s look at the fact that he has carried this out in secret, not wanting his Viking followers to know about this act. Is this because he is ashamed of his act, his denial of the Pagan Gods and he knows that his group would not understand or accept his decision? Well, that could be a remote possibility, but my thought is that he’s done it in secret because, no his group would not understand, but not for the reasons we would assume. He’s doing it in secret so the Frankish men will all see it and believe it wholeheartedly- that is who he needs to convince with this act. They need to firmly believe that he is a changed and converted man. If he told anyone in his group about this, one of them would surely blow this whole thing! They would not understand how, even if he doesn’t believe in it, he could take this act of denial of their Gods so lightly. This is an ultimate act of blasphemy on both the Christian and the Pagan side so how could he commit this act. Well, if one looks at it from Ragnar’s perspective, it really isn’t such a betrayal because he does have some belief in both Gods. As I mentioned earlier, I think Ragnar looks at the Christ God as another one of the many Gods. If baptism is what this one God requests as an act of faith, he doesn’t have a problem with it. He does know though that everyone else would or will have a problem with it and he doesn’t have time to deal with all of these arguments right now! What he needs to do right now is prove to himself, to others and to Athelstan that he can get into the city… that his plan will work better than theirs. In order to do that, he needs to have everyone believe he is truly dying and he has converted to Christianity!
In order to understand this possible plan of Ragnar’s you need some background history. In history, it was Bjorn Ironside who accomplished this successful plan at the town of Luna, Italy. In 860, Björn led a large Viking raid into the Mediterranean. After raiding down the Spanish coast and fighting their way through Gibraltar, Björn and Hastein pillaged the south of France, where his fleet over-wintered, before landing in Italy where they captured the coastal city of Pisa. They proceeded inland to the town of Luna, which they believed to be Rome at the time, but Björn found himself unable to breach the town walls. To gain entry, he sent messengers to the bishop to say that he had died, had a deathbed conversion, and wished to be buried on consecrated ground within their church. He was brought into the chapel with a small honor guard, then amazed the dismayed Italian clerics by leaping from his coffin and hacking his way to the town gates, which he promptly opened, letting his army in.
Now, realistically, even Ragnar can not pull this off on his own. He has to have help from someone he trusts completely. He puts his life and his trust in his son, Bjorn to help him accomplish this plan!
So, in answer to the questions, Does Ragnar die, does Ragnar convert to Christianity… My personal predictions are, No Ragnar does not die anytime soon- he still has some matters to attend to in England in case anyone has forgotten about that! As far as converting, Ragnar will see no need to convert as the Gods have already spoken to him. He has already seen both Gods and he believes that both can exist.
Now, before we finish this book of epic length proportion, I might as well add a few other last thoughts. Is Floki still in danger… well, yes probably at some time in the future. Ragnar has not forgotten about his betrayal. But, as for Floki’s loss of Helga… Helga is still watching out for him from a distance so maybe there is hope there yet?
In Kattegat, Aslaug is taking her responsibilities and duties as Queen far more seriously. And, this time I agree with her treatment of this misguided, ignorant, martyr type missionary who wandered into their village attempting to convert them by insulting them, calling them names and deriding their religion. Obviously this man failed every class he might have taken in how to win friends, influence people and properly guide people into conversion. In my personal opinion, he deserved everything he got for his arrogance and his refusal to think outside the box when dealing with other cultures. A poor pathetic excuse of a missionary he was, Athelstan himself would have been hard pressed not to show this man the error of his ways. Aslaug did give him opportunity to come to some compromise and ease his way out of the situation and their village. He refused, and assumed that his God would over come, his God would rule mightily and make him a hero in the eyes of these people… His God would perform such a miracle that the villagers would be awestruck and immediately converted. What he forgot was that one can not use miracles like this else they would not be so special, would they? His God and Aslaug showed him the error of his ways!
The missionary envisions a great miracle….
What he gets is a heated dose of reality!
Later that evening, Aslaug takes a moment from care of her children to calmly condemn the missionary to death.
Ok, I shall end our book here and we shall look at Wessex in a separate post… because I am quite sure you are now as exhausted as I am!