Previous Vikings post: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/11/viking-saga-the-beginnings/
To Mrs. Graham of Crag na dun Time Travels,
My dear Mrs. Graham, I am writing this short message for you and sending it along with those travelers returning to your time. I will continue to update you in this way for as long as possible. If anything should happen to me along this journey, I am sure that the group will make every effort to inform you as quickly as they can. I am reasonably settled for now in the household of Earl Haraldson and his wife, Siggy. I am not at all sure whether it is really such a good place to be but for the time being it is relatively safe and I am comfortable. I have met a young woman named Helga, who is helping me to fit in here and make the acquaintances that are necessary for our research. Your associate, Gunnar has been a great help as well, though I sometimes think he doubts my ability to handle this assignment. Young Helga seems doubtful too, about my abilities? She does not think I am quite capable of training to become a shield maiden, or a farm help… or much other help, I fear. She has advised that I remain within the Earl’s household for now and learn what I can there? I do think that she and some others, of whom- I am not sure yet, are using this to their advantage so as to know more about what goes on with the Earl and his wife? It seems there are many here who are not so fond of their overlord and do not trust him. I understand their misgivings, as I do not truly trust him either, nor do I entirely trust his wife, Siggy. But, so far, she has treated me well so I can not fault her for that.
Vikings episode one recap:
I am lucky that Gunnar was able to provide good reference and status for me to enter this household and be more of maid and some time companion to Siggy and her daughter, Thyri. They are often busy with their own activities and have no need of me so I do have some free time.
Right now it is quiet here. The men of the village have returned from their summer raids to the east in the Baltic areas. They were successful but do not bring back as much as Earl Haraldson had hoped for. The men complain that this is because those areas are poorer and poorer each year and there is little left to raid for. It will all be discussed at the soon coming Thing.
In the pre-Christian clan-culture of Scandinavia the members of a clan were obliged to avenge injuries against their dead and mutilated relatives. A balancing structure was necessary to reduce tribal feuds and avoid social disorder. It is known from North-Germanic cultures that the balancing institution was the thing, although similar assemblies are reported also from other Germanic peoples and others.
The thing was the assembly of the free men of a country, province or a hundred (hundare/härad/herred). There were consequently hierarchies of things, so that the local things were represented at the higher-level thing, for a province or land. At the thing, disputes were solved and political decisions were made. The place for the thing was often also the place for public religious rites and for commerce.
The thing met at regular intervals, legislated, elected chieftains and kings, and judged according to the law, which was memorized and recited by the “law speaker” (the judge). The thing’s negotiations were presided over by the law speaker and the chieftain or the king. In reality the thing was dominated by the most influential members of the community, the heads of clans and wealthy families, but in theory one-man one-vote was the rule.
Everyone is busy planning for this gathering and there is not much for me to do as Siggy is well competent and skilled in her handlings of such gatherings. She gave me leave to spend some time with Helga to visit the area families and farms. I have had chance now to meet the family which you are so interested in. Ragnar Lodbrok and his brother Rollo have returned from their raiding. Ragnar is a farmer when he is at home. He lives up in the hills with his wife, Lagertha and their two children, Gyda and Bjorn. They seem like a nice enough young family?
I have made the trip up to their farm a few times now, and I begin to wonder how happy they really are? Ragnar does not seem content or helpful as a farmer… He is most often off wandering through the woods and visiting others, leaving most of the farm work to Lagertha and the children. Lagertha is busy trying to look after the children and the farm, and often she does not seem all that happy either? There is talk that she used to be an honored and fierce fighting shield maiden but now she is tied down to the farm while her husband continues to go off on raids. From some her comments, I gather that Lagertha would much prefer to be raiding and adventuring with the men! I am sure that she loves her children and is willing to give up anything for them but I think that she must feel much frustration and disappointment with the path her life is on right now. To have given up her previous life as a warrior to settle as farm wife is not how I think she envisioned her life’s path…
Shieldmaiden: A shieldmaiden (Old Norse: skjaldmær, Danish: skjoldmø, Norwegian: skjoldmøy, Swedish: sköldmö, German: Schildmaid) was a woman who had chosen to fight as a warrior in Scandinavian folklore and mythology. They are often mentioned in sagas such as Hervarar saga and in Gesta Danorum. Shieldmaidens also appear in stories of other Germanic nations: Goths, Cimbri, and Marcomanni. The mythical Valkyries may have been based on the shieldmaidens. The existence of shieldmaidens is heavily debated but scholars like writer Lars Magnar Enoksen and scholar Britt-Mari Näsström argue evidence for their existence, while scholar Judith Jesch disagrees citing lack of hard evidence.
Lagertha was, according to legend, a Viking shieldmaiden from what is now Norway, and the onetime wife of the famous Viking Ragnar Lodbrok. Her tale, as recorded by the chronicler Saxo in the 12th century, may be a reflection of tales about Þorgerðr Hölgabrúðr, a Norse deity.
Her name as recorded by Saxo, Lathgertha, is likely a Latinization of the Old Norse Hlaðgerðr (Hladgerd). It is frequently rendered in English-language sources as “Lagertha”, and has also been recorded as Ladgertha, Ladgerda or similar.
Young Bjorn is caught in the middle of his parents frustrations and quarrels, tries to play the peacemaker, and is impatient to be grown! Gyda, the daughter is a quiet girl who wants to please her family in any way possible. She is a sweet girl and loved by all of her family.
As I mentioned, neither Ragnar or Lagertha seem all that happy with their current situation, though they by all rights should be? They have a nice solid farmstead, a piece of land of their own- which many do not have. They have been blessed with two fine children, life should be good for them… they should be happy and content with what they have. They are both stubborn, fiercely prideful and frustrated with their lives. Their quarrels are as fierce as they are and often young Bjorn is literally stuck in the middle, trying to keep the peace!
This family and household does not seem to be quite as happy as it appear on the surface?
There is also something else going on in this home… something that has to do with brother Rollo? Rollo is as stubborn and fiercely prideful as Ragnar and Lagertha, and it turns out that he also has some not so brother-in-law type of feelings for Lagertha. There is some reference to the past and to Lagertha’s time as mighty shield maiden, as well as a hint that there may have been some sort of relationship or what ever one might want to call it, between Rollo and Lagertha in the past? Rollo still harbors feelings for her and Lagertha makes it clear that there is nothing going to happen again between them.
Lagertha’s last comment to Rollo definitely stung his pride! Yes, there is certainly some sort of turmoil going on in this family!
Lagertha is also upset with Ragnar because he is taking Bjorn to the Thing this year to have his manhood ceremony. She thinks he is too young and can wait another year for it, but Ragnar pays her no mind and takes the boy anyway. She must have been very upset because she did not go down to the village for the event!
Bjorn receives his arm band and becomes a man!
Besides the manhood ceremony- which was of course a highlight of the gathering, at least for Bjorn, there was then serious discussion about the raids for the next year. Ragnar got himself into much trouble with suggesting that they try going west instead of east? He went into a lengthy explanation of what he had heard about lands in the west and was scorned, and also warned by Earl Haraldson, who wanted to hear none of such nonsense!
Earl Haraldson warns Ragnar in very clear terms that he will do as he is told… You are a farmer, you should be content. He suggests that should Ragnar not follow his orders, that piece of land that he owns could easily go to someone who is loyal and obedient to him!
Ragnar, being the stubborn one that he was, was not dissuaded by Earl Haraldson’s threats. He set about a plan to do things his own way and prove Earl Haraldson wrong…
I must confess here that I have concerns about a few things that Ragnar had in his possession? He stated that he received them from a traveling wanderer, and I have to wonder if one our travelers set in motion this whole event? Could he have received these two very important and very curious items from someone in our time traveling group?
Ragnar had two very mysterious and curious objects which he felt would help them easily navigate their way to those lands he had heard of in the west.
And, the second item, a sun stone… which Rollo was even more skeptical about than the water compass!
Lagertha’s initial response to Ragnar’s idea….
Ragnar was determined that these items and one other thing would be their key to getting to that new land. The other thing was a new and different type of boat that his friend, Floki was building. Where did Floki get his ideas for this new kind of boat? He said it came from the Gods as visions, but there were times when Floki didn’t seem as sure about his boat idea as he had insisted in the beginning? Could one of our travelers have influenced this strange man as well?
Ragnar took all of his earnings from the year’s raiding and sank it into this boat building scheme… He put his trust in those two odd items from a wanderer and strange visions from a strange man! He planned a secret trip to this new land and convinced some of his friends to go along on the promise that they would split the rewards evenly between them.
Floki built his boat, then was amazed that it actually worked!
The group eventually set sail for this adventure thinking that no one would find out? Really, Ragnar… this is a very small village, when half the men suddenly go missing for a length of time, of course people are going to know about it! Earl Haraldson is not too concerned however, because he says that will most likely be the last they ever see of those foolish men!
They set sail and Floki is still continuously amazed and shocked that his boat is sailing and not sinking. It’s a long journey into the unknown and everyone has their doubts about the compass and the sun stone working, about whether they will survive the ocean and the storms to see a new land! One thing was certain… Floki loved his boat! Even in the worst of the storms when they thought they might not survive…
All of floki’s previous doubts and panic over the boat’s sea worthiness were forgotten and he insisted that Thor was just celebrating the building of this boat by proving it’s sea worthiness! He even forgot that he could not swim!
After the storm and the darkness…
There was land, a new uncharted land on which a Viking Storm was about to land!
I must close this message for now but wanted you to know of my concerns about whether one of our traveler’s may have inadvertently… or worse, purposely influenced and changed the course of history? We may never know but I feel it is important to share this deep concern with you and I do feel it warrants further investigation on your part. There is little we can do about it now, the course of history has been sent down this path whether by our hands or by the hands of fate. I feel great changes are coming to this small village of Kattegat and I am in the middle of it. I have not time to go into all of the details of what has been taking place but have just given you the most important facts relating to it. I do have one other concern that troubles me greatly with all of this turmoil taking place around me.
This Earl Haraldson who is the overlord and Chieftain of Kattegat… he is, I believe, a very troubled man who is struggling to hold on to power in the midst of all of these changes to his small world. It is said that he was once a great Warrior, honored and respected but that has changed in recent years due to a horrific event. I am only mentioning this because it is one of those events that is still somewhat of a mystery and I believe it will haunt both the Earl and his wife, Siggy until their deaths. The Earl and Siggy had two other children, two sons who were brutally murdered/ assassinated in a style of direct disrespect toward their Father. Their heads were cut off, place against their backsides and they were left in a shallow grave. The murderers were never found. The Earl buried them humanely, kept locks of their hair as memory, then turned bitter angry and distrustful of everyone. He is now a grim and cruel man who sees enemies behind every corner. Siggy does her best, what ever is necessary to keep his wrath and anger at bay. She speaks little of this tragedy but it is obvious that she holds deep pain over the loss and it will affect her in many ways for the rest of her life. She holds close to her remaining daughter, Thyri. I believe that she will go to any length or level she feels necessary to protect this last child of hers. I worry in these difficult and dangerous times for women, should anything ever happen to Thyri, how will Siggy cope with such another loss? I find that while I do not necessarily trust Siggy, I do like her. I hope that she will one day find some peace in her life and perhaps some true happiness? I should not like to see her become as bitter and vengeful as her husband has become, but often I can see her mind going down that path…
As I have mentioned, this is a very troubling time here in Kattegat and I fear it will only get worse. I believe we are all in some grave danger here as the tides and the times change. I will try to keep you updated as much as possible. Hopefully we will be able to remain here and not have to flee for our lives should things take a turn for the worse. My messenger is well trusted and will deliver this letter to you personally. Due to the serious contents and concerns I am sharing, I am sure that you would agree it best for it not to be sent to the public agency.