Thoughts on Outlander season 2 Finale

Before I take the somewhat risky journey back into the often volatile world of Outlander, I just want to share a few other thoughts and update you on my absence. As many of you know, I have taken a break from posting in order to focus on my family history research. Because of my work schedule, family commitments and events, I currently have little time to devote to my personal passions such as the family history, history in general, and this blog. 

Many of you are also aware that this spring, I took a much needed vacation to Britain in order to explore some of that history I am so passionate about. The journey was not without it’s moments of frustration and even panic. It was a journey of self discovery and soul searching. During the trip, there was a point when in the middle of that soul searching and panic, I reached out to who ever might be listening above or beyond this plane and asked for some guidance. It was in those moments of silent conversation with myself and those I could feel around me that I was reminded of my ties, my connections to all of those ancestors who came before me. It was an odd moment of reflection or revelation that I should take some time to refocus on what was truly important to me, take time to pause and change my direction or my path. It’s been a few months since that trip and I have found myself more driven and determined to work on my family history. That research has pretty much taken over what little free time I have. The direction of the research also changed in that I am no longer quite so interested in the far distant and ancient past- though I am still intrigued by it. Now the focus of that research is more one of a slightly more recent past in which my ancestors all made the choices and decisions to make the journey to a new land and a new beginning in America. They came from England, Wales, the Netherlands and Germany in search of that freedom that this new country would offer them. Some came for religious freedom but others came because there was little left for them in their homeland. I find myself now interested even more in those individual stories of survival in this new land. I have come to a point in the research where I feel like I can rest a bit from it and now sort through their stories and their journies to eventually share them here.

Some of you are probably wondering what on earth this all has to do with Outlander? Well, quite simply, it has everything to do with Outlander because in reality, Outlander is just such a story- an ongoing story of how and why a family came to be in this new America. It is an epic saga of one family’s journey, of their life, of the choices they make along the way and the reasons for those choices, of the people who become a part of their world and influence the paths they each take in life. It is in some ways a reflection of our own family histories. We each have stories of the past locked away within our family histories… granted, hopefully ours do not include time travel, standing stones and other such intriguing fantasies, but if we search through our family histories, we will all most likely find some of those well kept, well guarded secret skeletons in our closets that me may or may not be comfortable in the discovery of.  

My recent research has inspired more of an interest in the Colonial history of America, from the earliest times when my Puritan ancestors made the difficult decision to immigrate, the later years of industrial upheaval in England when other ancestors lost their economic livelihoods and made the journey out of economic necessity, through the period of the Revolution for independence here when those ancestors had to choose sides- you might think or assume that should have been an obvious no question about it decision but if you look deeper into those lives you will find that it was truly a difficult decision for many of them. As I learned more about my own ancestors and their lives, I was drawn back to the stories that Diana Gabaldon tells of that time period through the lives of Jamie and Claire Fraser and their family legacy.

For the most part, I have tried to remain outside of the realm of Outlanderia after the first season’s debut. I did this for a few reasons. First of all, while I did enjoy the first book of the series, I would not say that I was all that much of die hard obsessed fan in the beginning. In fact, in retrospect, had I read it when it originally came out and had to wait years for the next installment, I probably would not have bothered picking up the next book. Because I read it more recently and the next book was available on sale, I went ahead and read the second one just to find out what happened… I was not overly impressed or enthused with that one either but by then I was intrigued and getting a bit sucked into the overall story and people in it. So, of course since the third book was readily available, I thought I might as well just read it. I can honestly say that while I was not all that enthused with the Pirate aspect of Voyager, the rest of that book totally sucked me into the world of Outlander. From then on I admit I became somewhat of an obsessed fan of the books. I will say that my obsession in tame compared to that of many other fans.

When Starz took on the challenge of presenting this saga to us, I was as excited as anyone at the prospect of seeing the story come to life. I did enjoy that initial introduction to the story but as it progressed, I found myself struggling with some aspects of it. One of those aspects I struggled with was the overwhelming tide of Outlander fandom and storms of aggressive heated and sometimes confrontational debate over show versus books, readers versus non-readers. Then there is the continuous ongoing flood of debate, controversy and intrusion into actors’ personal lives- which in my personal opinion takes away from being immersed in the character they are portraying. Another issue for me was of course the fact that I was not as interested or invested in the first story or even the second story other than in how they lead up to the rest of the stories.

One added issue for me with the first season was that I can honestly say that I am probably one of the minority of fans who does not look at this series as a romance/love story of Claire and Jamie. For me, that is really almost secondary compared to the rest of what is involved in this saga. As I watched season one, I had the feeling that it was becoming or would become more of a romance story and I really was just not interested in seeing it go that route. As a result, I stepped back out of the raging storms of Outlander and chose to remain for the most part, a silent observer.

I did not impatiently await or endure any typical droughtlander in anticipation of season 2 because well, because as I’ve already mentioned, it was not one of my favorite books anyway so I had no real emotional investment in how it would be presented other than in how it would be presented in relation to future seasons. I was happy to see that it did not go the route of being the “breathtaking” romance of Jamie and Claire. It was a fairly realistic representation of what they went through during that time and I for one appreciate that! I am not going to go into all of my thoughts on the entire season here but I do have to say that I think I enjoyed it more than season one. I am also not going to address the changes and deviations made from the book to the show. They have already been hashed over and debated to no end by everyone. I understand why the changes were made and personally I am looking forward to seeing what differences the future brings between the two stories. I’ve tried hard to separate the show from the books but find that having read the books, it is almost impossible not to make comparisons between the two. I am enjoying the differences that the show is presenting and I look forward to seeing how it takes the story along  possible alternative paths. I am looking forward to seeing how the story plays out with some changes.

****Spoilers, Yes there are spoilers! This is your warning!”

season2 finale3

Through the Stones or not... One must stay, one must go for the sake of innocents

Through the Stones or not… One must stay, one must go for the sake of innocents

For now, I am just going to give my personal thoughts on the finale and the introduction of my two favorite people- Roger and Bree! I will readily admit that I was and am emotionally invested in the story from this point on and I was concerned about how these two characters would be represented. I also admit that I do have some  initial reservations about Sophie Skelton and whether she can fully portray Bree as I know her in my head… Then again, I have to remind myself that I had these same reservations about Catriona Balfe in the beginning and she has completely won me over! So, with that in mind, I am giving Sophie benefit of doubt and going with a feeling that she will eventually find her footing and capture that essence of Bree that Ron D Moore and others must believe she’s capable of doing. I did find that I was more comfortable with her performance and portrayal after watching the episode a second time with a more open mind and a thought towards that overall awkward situation that she finds herself in.

Bree on better terms with Claire

Bree on better terms with Claire

Roger and Bree at Fort William

Roger and Bree at Fort William

Don't be dragging him into this fantasy!

Don’t be dragging him into this fantasy!

I did see some glimmers of that inner Bree so I am going to assume that Sophie has actually managed to give us a fairly accurate portrayal of that younger Bree caught in the difficult and awkward situation that she was placed in at the time… As I’ve said, I’ve liked Bree from the beginning. I never saw her a spoiled brat who treated her Mother so awful. She was a young woman who as Claire mentioned, was just like her Father- stubborn to no end with a fiery temper. She is also a young woman who suddenly discovers one of those skeletons in the closet, discovers that her parents have lied to her for her entire life. Put yourself in Bree’s shoes for a few moments and imagine that your own Mother told you such a story? Would your reaction really be so much different than hers was? Would you have immediately just have accepted such a story and said, “Ohhh this is all so exciting and wonderful for all of us!”  My one thought while watching this all play out on screen was actually that I wished Bree had shown more of that temper! I was waiting for her to completely explode and destroy the room in that fit of uncontrolled rage and frustration over the entire situation.

If it hadn't been for the battle of Culloden OMG Stop just stop... I was not bored

While so many others are venting and bashing on spoiled Bree, I’m sitting here enjoying her outbursts and her evolving sarcastic humor. I watched it all play out and had the same thought as I did with the book.  I thoroughly enjoyed the way they managed to merge the book events with the limits of the show with Bree’s thought and suspicion that something was not exactly right with her parents’ relationship and that there was something, some incident that they had kept secret. When people stay in a bad relationship “for the children” and assume that their children do not know something is wrong, they are not giving their children enough credit…Children sense things and usually know far more than we are willing to admit. Bree loves both her parents but she knew instinctively that there was something not quite right with their relationship.

Bree: Sometimes it seems like you didn't really love him.

Bree: Sometimes it seems like you didn’t really love him.

Bree My Mother lives in another world2

As to the character of my dear Roger Mac… I initially had a few doubts about Richard Rankin portraying him but that is due to the image I have stuck in my mind of him from the books. After the first few moments of watching Richard’s performance, I was already seeing that other image merge with the new image of Roger- so well done Richard Rankin! You’ve managed in one episode to assure me of your ability to transform yourself into my Roger Mac. I need to add here that I put off watching the finale because I was in the middle of re-reading the Fiery Cross which involves some very serious life struggles for Roger.  I knew I was going to have a difficult time regrouping from those events that have such a profound life altering affect on Roger so I waited until I was finished with the book before watching. I have to say that seeing Roger in the show helped ease my left over sadness. To see him awkwardly trying to impress Bree, to watch the beginnings of his and Bree’s story made me smile! An added reminder here for others who had some difficulty with this portrayal of Roger… I’m not really sure what you may have been expecting but Richard Rankin presented us with just exactly what Roger is at this point in his life, a university history professor, a rather reserved and quiet young man who was raised by a minister. Roger is a work in progress and Richard Rankin shows us that. He stumbles, he falls, he fails, he is not some perfect Highland Warrior type and he knows this. Richard Rankin gives us that somewhat imperfect guy who is immediately infatuated with Bree and can not hide it very well. He has also captured that quirky sense of humor and dry wit that he and Bree will share as time goes on. 

We meet Roger and Fiona

We meet Roger and Fiona

Roger's rat satire

Roger’s rat satire

roger describing frank he was a snappy dresser wore his hat down over one eye

roger describing frank he was a snappy dresser wore his hat down over one eye

I think we found your incident

No stay it's your house after all

No stay it’s your house after all

Roger Ummm what don't look at me like that cause really I think you're crazy too I'm just trying to be polite about it So you're saying my ancestors are a war chief and a witch..2. Roger it's not important if I believe it or not she believes i2t

My Mother's insane Hmmm a sentiment echoed by daughters everywhere.... no mine really is

One other performance I want to give my highest praise and appreciation of is that of Catriona Balfe in her transition to a much older, wearier and somewhat wiser Claire. My only comment to this older and wiser Claire would be to those watching the situation with her daughter play out… Really, what did you think Bree’s reaction would be to such a story? Did any of you honestly think or assume that on being told such a story, anyone would react any differently than Bree… or for that matter Roger. Of course their immediate reaction is that the woman is insane. Bree is horrified that her Mother has apparently went off the deep end while Roger is a bit more restrained in his reaction but is trying to hold it together for benefit of Bree. 

 

Claire raises her glass to the Reverend

Claire raises her glass to the Reverend

Claire on her own mission to remember that other world Claire visits Culloden and adds her own thoughts

Yes, Claire’s visit to Lallybroch left me in tears

visions of Jamie at Lallybroch

But, I did have one other thought when I saw the condition of Lallybroch… please not the very small for sale sign by the steps. 

lallybroch circa 1968

sending Fergus to Lallybroch for two purposes...

How do I explain that I traveled through time and got pregnant without making myself sound like a lunatic

Really what did you think the reaction would be?

Really what did you think the reaction would be?

 

 

I was moved to tears by Claire’s haunted memories of the past, and the other thing I was personally moved by was the narration of the events at Culloden… that was Tobias Menzies/Frank’s voice was it not?

Claire walking through Culloden field while what sounds like Frank's voice narrates the event

Claire visits Culloden while Franks voice narrates the events that took place

Clan Fraser

 The remaining events of the past played out as I expected- Claire was not at the battle, she could only recall events leading up to that point- we should see the actual event unfold in bits and pieces in future seasons. I did cry as she remembered sending Fergus off to Lallybroch with the deed and for his own safety. And in my mind, I was saying my own goodbye to Murtaugh with much sadness. I was even moved to some tears over the demise of Dougal and his gut wrenching feeling of ultimate betrayal from Jamie. Yes, Jamie was acting in self defense and protecting Claire, and yes Dougal made more than his own share of bad decisions that led to this action, but his loyalty to the cause was indisputable and Jamie knew that. 

I'll guide the men to safety but ken this then I'll return to die with you

You've betrayed us all of us

You’ve betrayed us all of us

Dougal: I'd rather be hung drawn and quartered than be known as a traitor to the cause and my king

Dougal: I’d rather be hung drawn and quartered than be known as a traitor to the cause and my king

Dougal's despair

Now, having this book and season finished, I have to admit that I am suffering a bit of droughtlander if only for the fact that I am so looking forward to Voyager and, to Drums of Autumn. I am thrilled that we’re assured of seeing at least these next two seasons because for me this where the adventure of their life truly begins to unfold. I even look forward to that nasty encounter with a much changed Geillie Duncan. Speaking of Geillie…

Gillian Edgars future psychopath

Geilli of course believes you need a human sacrifice...

Geilli of course believes you need a human sacrifice…

And she's off to make history...

A few last thoughts to keep in the back of your mind while waiting for the future… I’ve always believed that Frank knows far more than we think, and hopefully the show will give us some that- at least in flashback form. 

letter from Frank asking rev to quit searching for Jack He's not the man I thought he was

letter from Frank asking rev to quit searching for Jack He’s not the man I thought he was

Frank knows more than we think and some of it has to do with Roger’s story…

roger's plane again

 

 

 

Time travel dilemma: From Last Kingdom to Vikings Saga and back again…

****Warning**** Spoilers involved in this post for Last Kingdom series and Vikings Saga!

Ahhhh Okay, I wrote this post quite some time ago and never got it finished… Many of you are probably thinking to yourselves, “Why bother with it now since we’ve already seen what happens with the Vikings return?”  Well, yes we have seen what happened when the Vikings returned to Paris but we have also been given a glimpse further into a future that will coincide on some level with the events taking place in that parallel universe of The Last Kingdom. We have also been given an interesting clue that directly relates to the premise of this original post. While much of the anticipation and preview concerns the sons of Ragnar, there is one other very important young man that did not get included in the preview of the future. Just because you did not see him does not mean that he will not be important to that future when the next generation  heads  to England. Everyone is so entranced and fascinated with others such as Ivar or even Ubbe that they pay little attention to others who will play an important part and role in the events that take place in England.

 

adult sons of Ragnar

adult sons of Ragnar

Ivar

Ivar

Ubbe

Ubbe

 

I  admit that after my first visual immersion into the Last Kingdom world, I had difficulty transitioning back to the Vikings Saga world. When I wrote this piece back in October, I knew that I would have some trouble adjusting to the altering worlds and their differences. Now that I have experienced the first half of Vikings Season 4 and had some time to adjust to it, I find that some of my earlier thoughts actually have merit and possibility here in this fantasy world of revised history.

 Before I present this prequel type narrative, I want to take time to give some praise and credit to Mr. Hirst for his work on this season so far.  As most of you who read this blog know, I have at times been rather critical of Hirst’s creative license and adaptation of history. What I saw in the first half of this season was some redirection on his part back from the all out historical fantasy realm. True to his assurances, he has steered Rollo in a direction that more accurately portrays his history… yes he did have to put Rollo in that most difficult position of much hated betrayer of his own people but in my opinion, he has done so in a way that also shows Rollo’s inner struggle with that decision- one that I believe will come full circle in the second half of the season.

At the end of the battle Rollo is in pain emtionally as well as physically

At the end of the battle Rollo is in pain emtionally as well as physically

 

I also appreciated the historical aspects that Hirst touched on with Ecbert’s power play in Mercia as well as little Alfred’s pilgrimage to Rome. I will discuss all of this in future posts.  

Wigstan to ecbert you shelter for your own interests and purpose another of my mad descendents Kwentirith whose only claim to the throne is by way of killing her uncle and her own brothers.

Wigstan to ecbert you shelter for your own interests and purpose another of my mad descendents Kwentirith whose only claim to the throne is by way of killing her uncle and her own brothers.

For now, I want to stick to the subject that I originally wrote this post about so many months ago. As I spent time in the Last Kingdom, I became quite fond of one Viking in particular, Guthrum.  As my time there came to an end for an undetermined and unforeseeable future, I found myself torn between him and my other loyalty, Rollo.  People scoff at this loyalty and often accuse me of being a betrayer and traitor… I know that I must hold my head up and stand firm in spite of these words. There have of course been instances as well where my stand for Guthrum has been questioned but I stand firm in that too. In some ways, the two of them are quite similar- their early pasts are not much known about, they went their own ways and made compromises to their Viking beliefs in order to accomplish their personal goals of victory and success. Both Guthrum and Rollo accepted Christianity (at least on the surface) to reap the benefits that the Church backing would bring them…

The importance and the future of Guthrum

The importance and the future of Guthrum

As you read through my earlier thoughts and my dilemma at the time, you will find historical information- as much as there is- on Guthrum which may help you in figuring out his role and his his historical importance or relevance in both the Last Kingdom and in the future of the Vikings Saga.  I do need to say here that since so little is actually known about his early history, I have no qualms or issues with Hirst’s creative license with his back story! I am looking forward to seeing Hirst’s version of him, although I readily admit that I am most partial to the Guthrum I already now know in Last Kingdom. Hirst has his work cut out for him as far as presenting me with a version of Guthrum that comes close to the one I already know!

Guthrum God of rome strike me down

 

My earlier time travel dilemma (written back at the end of October)

In just a few months, I shall be packing my bags and heading back to France to join my friend Rollo as he follows his destiny in founding the Kingdom of Normandy. I am having a worrisome visit here in Wessex. Things are not going so well here even though this King Alfred will soon achieve some glory and begin his life long quest to unite England. This land is in the midst of upheaval and war between Saxons and Danes right now… much a different place than when I visited Ecbert’s home earlier. I think this Standing Stone method of time travel has some flaws in it? I truly believe now that they send us not only to different points in time, but to some sort of parallel version of history as well. I had my suspicions about it previously but now I am quite sure of it… When next I return to the future, I am going to have a serious discussion about this with that Mrs. Graham of Craig Na Dun Time Travels!  

craigh_na_dun_time tours

I will share more of what has happened in this Wessex with Alfred, the Dane Guthrum and the warrior Uhtred later. Right now I want to share some thoughts on what I may find when I return to Rollo and those other Vikings.  I hear much speculation, assumption and even accusations on what Rollo’s actions may bring in the future. I also hear many rumors and assurances from a certain other authority that Rollo’s destiny and story will play out as our history reflects it. In the midst of all these swirling rumors and predictions, I have also heard another King will make arrival… a Norse King by the name of Harald Finehair and his brother Halfdan the Black will be showing up, for reasons as yet unknown.  I make mention of these Norsemen because I do wonder what their story will entail, what reason will they have for their appearance and of what consequence if any, will this be for Rollo?  I do not presume to know the future… or the past in this case. I am not a seer, although there be some in these times who have suspicions about me because occasionally this altered state of history makes some match with what I know of our version of history.  

Right now, I am sitting here somewhat rather comfortable and safe for the time being in the sanctuary and seclusion of a Viking version of  Royal residence.  I can not say more but will only leave it at this… I shall never complain about Viking camps again after having spent some time with Alfred’s group in the swamps!

Eilswith in the swamp

I can not say which was worse, living in the swamp or having to endure that Eahlswith’s company for a length of time. The time spent with her was intolerable and being unable to take any more of it, I sought my refuge instead with Guthrum of East Anglia! I enjoy his company and he enjoys mine… we shall leave it at that. He has ensured my safety and has offered protection as I attempt to find a suitable place from which to make my next journey.   In the past I have used various standing stone sites and even some ancient boat burial grounds. My current dilemma is finding such a suitable site here in East Anglia during Guthrum’s time. Were I still in Wessex or any western portions of the Isle, I should have no difficulty finding sites, for they are plentiful in other regions of the land. But, here in Guthrum’s Kingdom of East Anglia, there are few such Stone circles or most ancient of sites. 

My other dilemma is of course the time line and trying to ensure that I arrive in the same altered place and time that my other Viking friends are in. That may be the most difficult problem to solve since I do firmly believe that other place and time is very seriously altered as far as it’s time, events and people. The history that I reside in right now is fairly stable and reasonably accurate as far as people and events. That does not make it any easier to live here but at least I have some idea of what will take place and I can also be reasonably certain of travel points which will fit my needs and send me where I need to go back and forth in time. It is that oddity of time lines that I am concerned about right now.

Here with Guthrum, I know well the time and area that I am residing in.  The year is 878 and Guthrum recently signed the Treaty of  Wedmore with Alfred. 

Guthrum gets baptized

Guthrum gets baptized

guthrum: I've heard mention of this heaven

guthrum: I’ve heard mention of this heaven

Under the Treaty of Wedmore the borders dividing the lands of Alfred and Guthrum were established, and perhaps more importantly, Guthrum converted to Christianity and took on the Christian name Æthelstan with Alfred as his godfather. Guthrum’s conversion to Christianity served as an oath or legal binding to the treaty, making its significance more political than religious.  Politically, of course, Guthrum’s conversion to Christianity did nothing to loosen the Danish hold on the lands that Guthrum had already acquired via conquest.  Instead it not only garnered Guthrum recognition among Christian communities he ruled, but also legitimized his own authority and claims. By adopting the Christian name of Æthelstan, which was also the name of Alfred’s eldest brother, Guthrum’s conversion “reassured” his newly acquired subjects that they would continue to be ruled by a Christian king rather than a heathen chieftain.

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

I also know that I could remain here fairly safe under Guthrum’s protection for some time if I were so inclined to do so. Guthrum will uphold his end of this treaty. Guthrum upheld his end of the treaty and left the boundary that separated the Danelaw from English England unmolested. Guthrum, although failing to conquer Wessex, turned towards the lands to the east that the treaty had allotted under his control free of interference by Alfred. Guthrum withdrew his army from the western borders facing Alfred’s territory and moved eastward before eventually settling in the Kingdom of Guthrum in East Anglia in 879. He lived out the remainder of his life there until his death in 890. According to the Annals of St Neots (ed. D. Dumville and M. Lapidge, Cambridge 1984), a Bury St Edmunds compilation, Guthrum was buried at Headleage, usually identified as Hadleigh, Suffolk.

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

kingdom of guthrum mapalfred1

I know that I can travel safely throughout this area of East Anglia that Guthrum controls, but to go elsewhere in the land right now would be unwise and unsafe as Guthrum reminds me. The battles and wars will continue on for some length of time throughout much of the land. Guthrum can only guarantee safety to a certain extent and does not want to provoke or incite any additional revolt or uprising just to ensure my protection in travel to a place because of my odd whimsy… He has stated that he would prefer that I just remain where I am but because of his regard for me, is willing to indulge this strange fascination of mine regarding ancient monuments and such . So, I must find a place within our realm that may or may not connect me to that other realm that Rollo is now residing in.

Along with finding such a site, I must also find some connection between the two realms such as some sort of factual information shared by both realms even though the timelines may be different.  I must look at the times, the people and the events which took place in that other realm and find some connection here in this history.  There is so much that is distorted in that other realm of Viking history, including of course the major issue of the timeline… how do I determine a connection to get me back to the correct place?  When I made the journey from there to here, I used those Stones in Wessex and thus landed into this more accurate history. I would have to assume then that those Stones predate all of these changes in timelines and history- they would thus take me back and forth between time and between realms in accordance with my thoughts. Tis extremely complicated and difficult, this time travel process- do not assume that it is as easy as just walking through the Stones!  As I mentioned, those Stones of Wessex are not available to me, nor are any people of Wessex who might provide some sort of connection to that other past or realm. 

It is almost impossible to ascertain some linking time, place or person to that other Viking realm. Out of all of the people there, I would guess though that my friend Rollo is most out of place and time and he is the one person that I want to get back to. As far as I know, in that other Viking realm, the great Heathen Wars have not yet occured… Ecbert is still alive, Alfred is still a baby… that would put their time period feasibly around the years of 840 to 850s. In accurate history, Ecbert died long before Alfred’s birth. Ecbert died in 839 and Alfred was not born until about 849. Ragnar’s sons are still very young-far too young to yet be involved in those wars that began in 866, so my assumption of a time frame around early 850s might be close approximation except for Rollo.  Rollo in our history as we know it, was not born until about 846… putting him close to the same age as Alfred.  For some reason, I believe that if I look at Rollo and his history, that may be my key to getting back to him in that other realm. My reason for this is that a certain authority on the Rollo of that other realm of Vikings history (aka Michael Hirst) has implied many times that Rollo’s destiny and path there will remain fairly close to that of the history we know of him in this realm.  I keep thinking that perhaps if I know more about Rollo’s truer history, it might take me back to him in that other realm. I know it is far fetched reasoning, grasping at proverbial straws  but tis all I have to go on at the moment! I try to remember all that I have read about other versions of Rollo’s history in hopes of making some connection between the Rollo of this realm and the Rollo of that other place.  I keep thinking of all of this and it is driving me to distraction, of which Guthrum comments upon- asking me of where my mind wanders to so much of late.  Of course I can not tell him of everything- he already thinks I am touched by some spirits. His reasoning and comment on that is these spirits do not seem dangerous and other than my often strange ideas and ways, I am of entertaining and sometimes useful value to him so he pays it not much mind. 

As I ponder on Rollo of this history and Rollo of that other realm, I suddenly begin to wonder what Guthrum might know of the Rollo in this world, or possibly any others who might serve as some connection. As I have mentioned, the year here is now 878 looking towards 879 and Guthrum has some peace in this East Anglia. But, before this peace occurred he fought with many of the other Viking armies throughout the land, knew many of these warriors and probably still keeps some form of contact with some of them.  Perhaps Guthrum is my key to unlocking this puzzle? Why did not I not think of this earlier and realize that my spirit guides, my sisters of fate had set me on path to him for more reason than just to escape the confines of Eahlswith’s court and company. Guthrum is the one person who could be my link to that other version of history.  I must use Guthrum’s knowledge and possible connections to my own gain and advantage.

I am not so concerned right now about Alfred or the English for now though if I were to ask, Guthrum probably knows much more than he lets on about all of them.  I am more curious and interested in the Danes and others here who might prove to be of some connection to that other realm. Guthrum is happy to talk of his acquaintances, his comrades and the various victories they have achieved but talks seldom of any early connection he might have with any of them.  Of course, Ubba the great warrior son of Ragnar Lothbrok is dead now, as is his brother Ivar and another brother Halfdan. Guthrum sighed and shook his head as if to clear his thoughts, “Fine warriors all of them, now gone on to Valhalla together”  I ask him about the other brothers I had heard of such as Bjorn Ironside and Sigurd Snake in the eye… Guthrum thought again and said that  Bjorn did never come here and was not a part of these wars. “Bjorn has been occupied with his own raiding in other parts of the world.”  As for Sigurd, yes Guthrum did mention of him being with his brothers in the battles against Aelle and Osbert at Northumbria. Guthrum laughed and said how Sigurd was probably the wisest of all of them even though none thought so at the time… Sigurd took a daughter of Aelle as wife and returned to their homeland with her.  All of these things I had read varying accounts of in the future where they would appear in different versions of the Norse Sagas.  Guthrum was speaking of the basic beginnings of these events before they were embellished on over the centuries so I could see the truth in these events. But, none of this really helped me so I asked him of one other of which I knew and was most curious about. Did he know of a man called Rollo or Hrolfr Rognvaldsson?

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

This question caused Guthrum some puzzlement and then suspicion. “Why should you ask of him? How would you know of him, he is not part of this war, has sworn no oath or allegiance to any here and if he has fought it is only for his own personal gain…not that there is any wrong in that mind you, every man must look out for himself first, especially if as with Rollo, there is little family backing or love between them.”  He paused and still eyed me with some doubt before going on with what little he knew of this man Rollo. He had heard some stories that the man was a relative of Rognvald Eysteinsson whose family rules an Isle in the far north, Orkney. That family is bound and connected to Harald Fairhair, a King of Norway. Guthrum added, “There is little love between the Danes and the Norse, the only reason we have fought together here is to achieve an equal goal of land and wealth. Now that is some accomplished, we will try to avoid each other and stay to our separate territories. They can have those lands in the north, no one else should want them anyway!”  He laughed at that, then grew serious again. “This Rollo that I know of, he is a loner and seeking his own gain, fortune and reputation. He is not much attached to that family in the north or where ever… so there may have been some bad blood or feud along the way? He fights now for who ever serves him best. He has fought in some battles here, some in the north, and even some in Ireland.  Now he raids in Francia with Danes, Siegfried and his partner Godfried.”  Guthrum laughed and voiced a final thought, “I have heard that this Rollo is a man of such appearance that women are much attracted to him even when they should be fearful of his kind.  I think you have heard stories of him from other women and now ask about him because even you are curious and desire to see him. You must remain curious because I will not send you on to Francia and I do not think he plans to return to this land!” Guthrum paused before adding, “Besides I have heard that he has found a Frankish woman  that suits him well…” 

Rollo victorious

rollo to gisla don't be afraid... Gisla I can't wait for the games to begin

I just smiled and nodded my agreement. I assured him that was my only intent, womanly curiosity had gotten the best of me and I would be content to remain curious… He was not so gullible, did not fall for my agreement quite so easily. Before departing my company that night, his words were a sterner reminder. “You will remain in this land and there will be no trips across the sea!”

 

After his leaving, I am left alone again in the peaceful quiet of this room. Guthrum has gone to spend the evening with his warriors… the hall will be much noisy and boisterous with ale flowing. He has made his supposed commitment to the Christian God as per Alfred’s request and I do think that he has some belief but only as far as to count this God among the many others as so many others do the same. He puts on good display of this religion when need be but he allows his men the freedom of their own beliefs and he is far from the pious zealot that Alfred is. Guthrum’s court is far more friendly and merry to the point of raucous and rowdy. The few wives and women of this place generally retire to their rooms and allow the men their enjoyment. Guthrum believes that this time serves his men well. They gather together like this in some solidarity, celebrate their survival, release their pent up energies and frustrations.  Guthrum says that they need this time together and it makes for better warriors. He also says that in this way, they are all together in one place and he can watch them easier to see what is going on… once they have drunk some ale, he often sees who may be likely to cause trouble, which men do not get on with each other, who might be plotting betrayal and which men are truest and loyal to himself and to the Danes in general. 

I spend the rest of the evening thinking over what little information he has provided. It certainly is not much and I can see little value in it. Most of it, I already knew of and I can not see how it will help me.  His description of Rollo is vague and he professes not to know much about him or his history but for some reason I feel as though he is keeping something from me. What he does know though seems quite similar to my Rollo… some sort of troubled childhood and early family problems which have caused him to seek his own destiny separate from his family and hold few if any close family ties. He has been in this land before, involved in some battles and possibly made some other connections or acquaintances along the way but as Guthrum says, he is unlikely to return here and has chosen to seek his fortunes in Francia.  I remember Guthrum’s mention of those other men that Rollo has joined… Siegfried? Could that be the same Siegfried who was with us in Paris? My mind goes back to that battle and I must calm my nerves as the visions of that horror wash over me and leave me much shaken. I suddenly recall reading of Siegfried and this partner of his, Godfried! I dig through my chest to find my worn leather bag filled with scraps of  parchment, and anything else capable of being scratched and scribbled upon over the years. These writings are quickly strewn across my room as I search for one that contains the story of Siegfried and Godfried… finally I find it within a document about the Frankish city of Trier.

 

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/31/from-treveri-to-trier-from-celts-to-vikings/

vikings in trier1

I stare at the words on this parchment… this was the siege of Paris in which Rollo and Sigfried were involved. The one that eventually led to Rollo’s destiny of Normandy, the one that we were all at together. This is the time and place that I must somehow get to. It is only 879 right now so I suppose that I have two options. I could remain here with Guthrum in East Anglia for a few more years and try then to sail to Francia in the spring of 886, but that would really not work because I would arrive there at the right time but this would be a different version of the event and a different Rollo who would not know me at all. No, I must still try to find a way to travel to this other parallel and altered world in order to find the correct Rollo. I must either find some spot here in East Anglia to attempt the trip from or convince Guthrum to allow me to sail to Francia and find a spot there to attempt the trip forward in time and place. I do suppose that much of this will depend on what events will be taking place here in that future- how safe would it be for me to travel forward to that year and land in this place as it will be altered according to what ever is taking place in that other world? Along those same lines, I must try to think of what will be happening in Francia during that time and where would I even find a site in that region that might suit my needs? These are the very serious dilemmas that time travelers must concern themselves with! To further complicate the time travel issues, I must also contend with this matter of alternate realities and worlds.

I think on this problem for some time as I attempt to enjoy what time I have here with Guthrum. I know not if or when I might see him again and I do like him. He speaks little of his past and there are times when he reminds me of Rollo or who Rollo may become in the future.  It seems to me that Guthrum has done much like Rollo in putting distance between his past and even other Danes here now to achieve his own goals and his own fame or reputation. I know that he was and is a well respected warrior leader of these Danes but with this Kingdom of East Anglia, he has carved out his own place, is working to have peace here and is working towards some longer lasting goal for this Kingdom. He does not speak of the earliest years of this war or how he became leader of the Danish war chieftans, nor does he speak of how they managed to gain such foothold in East Anglia to begin with… His words are that it was war, a war in which difficult decisions must be made in order to win. His reason seems to be, first you must win enough to have equal balance or hopefully upper hand, then you can make concessions and negotiate for that which you truly desire. What ever his reasons or theories, they seem to have worked for him. I would like to tell him or warn him of the future- one that will not bode well for East Anglia.

I should like to warn him that this trouble and demise will come not from his own doing, but that of his somewhat less than capable young heir. I know next to nothing about this young man named Eohric but sometimes called Guthrum. This young man’s existence is somewhat similar to that of Ecbert and his son Aethelwulf…  Guthrum never speaks of a wife but does call this young man son at times… at others, he curses the boy wildly and refers to him as a waste of seed. He has on occasion commented that this Eohric is about as capable and trustworthy as that English by-blow Aethelwold. I hate to be bearer of such news that in the future, Eohric will indeed team up with Aethelwold and that will be the downfall of everything Guthrum has worked for.

Guthrum and Aethewold

Guthrum and Aethewold

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

 As I said, I should dearly like to warn him but I do not want to be considered as a seer… Guthrum has little time for that sort of nonsense and Ubba’s reliance upon seers is still fresh in his memory.

Ubba's sorcerer, Storri

Ubba’s sorcerer, Storri

Storri has learned the hard way do not mess with brida

Storri has learned the hard way do not mess with brida

No, tis bad enough that he thinks me a bit addled, it would not do for him to view me as a sorceress or seer! I would like to remain on his good side, in his good graces. All I do for now is try to suggest that he keep a firm eye and hand upon Eohric and try to steer him the right way. I think Guthrum knows the youth is much of a lost cause and disappointment but can not bring himself to completely set him aside… besides, there is no other heir at this point and Guthrum does not seem keen on naming anyone else who might prove as useless as Eohric. It is Guthrum’s problem and I can not concern myself with it- my problems are many enough as it is without trying to sort out all of his as well! 

For the time being, I content myself with traveling throughout East Anglia with Guthrum, learning more about this Kingdom, it’s people and it’s history. I keep hoping to find a site which might call to me and be a means of travel to that other time and place.  

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

All of those months of searching and wondering about some connection. Imagine my surprise and my relief  to find that the connection is indeed  with Guthrum himself! He seldom spoke of his past, his connection to the sons of Ragnar… it seemed to be a rather touchy subject with him that would oft put him in a foul mood so I did try to make no further mention of them. One night however, he was in a somber mood.  I asked what bothered him and he mentioned only that he thought of his home, his youth and the Mother he so vaguely but fondly remembered. I did not want to pry or cause him to react in a bitter way as he had in past recollections of his earlier years so I chose simply to sit next to him and softly add  thoughts of missing my own family at times. He spoke so quietly as if to only himself, it was difficult to hear his words as he murmured a name from my distant past with those of Kattegatt.  I heard him say that familiar name of Torvi…

no tears from torvi she is resolute she is viking

never mind... torvi's mind is working over time

it is easy all you have to do is turn point and pull the trigger

Torvi has inherited Erlandeur's crossbow

 

Perhaps though, it was a much common name so I did not seek to question it.  He sat there for some length of time staring out our small window at the stars before he continued his wandering thoughts of a long gone childhood, “They are all gone now, all those who were a part of my life but I remember them. I remember all of it even when I try to forget.” He closed his eyes for a moment as if to see them, to hear them again. “I think of her often, as do I think of the other one, Lagertha who gave me wise counsel as a young child.”  I tried to hide my surprise at the mention of Lagertha but there was no need for he was lost in his own world of memories. “I took much heed of her words so long ago, she advised me to keep my friends close for some of them would die all too soon and the others would betray me. That counsel has kept me alive to this day.” 

Lagertha tells Guthrum she must leave

Lagertha tells Guthrum she must leave but that he must remember to keep his friends close for some of them will die and others will betray him.

Guthrum's destiny

Guthrum’s destiny

Lagertha assures Torvi that her son is well and she has no doubts the Gods have great plans for him

Lagertha assures Torvi that her son is well and she has no doubts the Gods have great plans for him

 

I had not words in response to his remark but rose to stand behind him, place my hands upon his shoulders and stare out at the night sky with him. I attempted to offer some small measure of solace and assurance to his thoughts as I whispered, “I will not betray you or your heart, Guthrum.”  There was an odd comfort in our silence together as we each watched the stars that night thinking of the past and of the future. 

My thoughts turned to my own memories and my reasons for this journey… It had begun so long ago as a gift with ulterior purpose. I had received my wish to travel back in time, to experience this time period on condition that I document the events, not interfere and discover the mysteries surrounding all of these people. I had been forewarned and cautioned not to form attachments to any one person or side but to be unbiased in my observations.  I felt now as though I may have failed in that objective. To live this long in this time and not form personal attachments or take a side in events was nearly impossible. I also felt that one portion of my objective was complete as far as I could tell in both of these worlds that seemed to be converging on each other. Rollo was now where he should be, on his path to shaping history as we know it. Perhaps there was no need for me to make that dangerous time travel journey once more? Perhaps I could just remain here now with Guthrum for what would remain of his life.  I knew that as far as history would record, Guthrum would remain here in East Anglia and continue his peace with Alfred. He would not return to his homeland and his life would be centered on this Kingdom that he had won. That thought brought me some measure of peace and I was content now to remain here with him in this history.  Perhaps over time, he would share those events of his youth and I would then learn of what happened to all of those others. 

My only nagging concern was that of these two different worlds coming together, merging together… there was little I could do about that but I did wonder if it had been destined to happen from the beginning or if it was the result of our time travel? All that I could really do now was try to decipher some of the events that would lead up to this convergence. I did not want to go back again to that earlier time again and I did not want to go home to the future yet. No, I would remain here where I was for now and make some effort to find out about those differences in history by the only means available to me now, listening to the stories that these people around me would tell of the past.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discovering Aberdeen’s history: Start at the Tolbooth!

As I mentioned in my previous post, we did not originally plan to spend much time in Aberdeen and did not really know much about the city or it’s history.  Our  intent was just to fly into Aberdeen and then quickly head out towards Inverness.  Naturally, most people want to see Inverness or Edinburgh but really, how often do people list Aberdeen on their list of places of must visits for history or anything else?  I will be the first to admit that we were initially quite disappointed when we had to alter our plans and eliminate Inverness from our tour. Our first depressing and foreboding thought was one of, “Well this is just great, now we’re stuck in Aberdeen for three days. What are we going to do with three days in Aberdeen?”  At the time, we really had no other choice but to rather petulantly and grudgingly accept our fate and try to make the best of it.  At the end of three days however, we were complaining because we did not have enough time to see everything.  My personal thought as I left was of how and when I could make another visit!

Aberdeen city of history

The disaster that led to our longer stay in Aberdeen was actually one of  fate or the powers above intervening on our behalf. It provided us an opportunity to explore, discover and appreciate a city that in my personal opinion does not get nearly enough credit for it’s historical importance or it’s present day contributions. What I want to do is share some of what we discovered and maybe change your mind about Aberdeen.  Hopefully by the time I’ve finished, you will be interested and inspired to look at this city not just as a stopping or transfer point on your way to those other places, but as a destination in itself.

First, let’s look at why we even decided on Aberdeen as our starting point for our trip rather than one of the other flight options. Our original plan was to do a driving tour. We knew we wanted to visit Inverness as well as Edinburgh so when we looked at the map, we saw that Aberdeen would be a good option. It is located on the coast a few hours north of Edinburgh and also only a few hours from Inverness. The drive from Aberdeen to Inverness would take you along the Castle trail. The Aberdeenshire area of Scotland is most famous for the number of Castles located there (My main reason for wanting to back)! 

This is a map showing various sites of interest close to the Aberdeen area. Yes, there are even Standing Stones nearby- I will be doing more research on them!

castles near Aberdeen

This map shows Aberdeen in relation to Inverness and Edinburgh. I do want to add here that because of the way our plans were altered, we were unable to fit Inverness into our schedule.  It is very easily doable to take the train from Aberdeen to Inverness, then train from Inverness to Edinburgh. When I checked the train time, it states about a 2 1/2 hour trip from Aberdeen to Inverness. That is not the purpose or focus here though so I am not going to go further into it here other than to say that our experiences with the train and bus systems were great. I will definitely go that option in any future trips!

map showing Aberdeen

Now you understand our main reason for choosing Aberdeen as starting point and why we were looking at it as just a quick stop over. Fortunately, we were inadvertently rewarded with that unexpected longer stay to get to know Aberdeen better!

What we found in Aberdeen was a fascinating history that stretches back at least 8000 years. Besides that history, we discovered a city that is friendly and welcoming but  not a kitschy, over done or over crowded tourist magnet.  There is a wealth of history to be explored here but that is not it’s truest wealth, asset or value.

1969 considerable deposits of crude oil were discovered in the North Sea. Since then, North Sea Oil has come to eclipse Aberdeen’s traditional industries, employing an estimated half a million people living in and around the city. Aberdeen’s port has been improved and developed to serve the off shore oil rigs with the result that most of the fishing fleets have been moved along the shore to Peterhead. Economically this so called “European Oil Capital” has left other Scottish cities behind – indeed, by some accounts it is the wealthiest area in the UK outside the southeast of England.

Aberdeen is a Scottish success story. Any visitor to the city will be impressed by the lively bustle of its streets and the ceaseless activity in the port. The impact of the petroleum industry is undeniable, but in some senses it should not be seen as a development which entirely breaks with the past: Aberdeen has always been a successful port city and has always had an internationally minded economy. Today this  University City is home to around a quarter of a million people and provides cultural diversions for all ages. For the visitor its grand granite buildings, which shimmer like polished silver, its distinctive neighborhoods, its harbour and sandy beach, provide other, more natural, attractions.

Throughout our stay, we observed that the city seems to be undergoing  massive renovation and construction in just about every area from the outskirts of the airport to the city center and all points surrounding it. Do not let that deter or sway you from visiting the area! Our taxi driver pointed out that this work is all much needed and deserved by the city that has contributed so much financially to the UK and it’s about time they got something back! He took all of the construction in stride and gave us a pleasant and much amusing trip from the airport to our hotel near the city center.  I have to say that everyone we encountered during our stay was friendly and helpful with suggestions and commentary about their city.  One other added bonus- everything was less expensive than in Edinburgh! 

As I’ve pointed out, we didn’t know much about the city so one of our first stops was the Tourist information center located near the city center. They went out of their way to help us with everything from free maps to writing notes and directions on the map for us, to giving advice and directions on using the bus system along with which bus to take to different areas. They also offer a variety of day tours to activities and sites outside the city making it very easy to many of those sites if you’re not driving.  One added suggestion on the bus system that they pointed out- besides the city buses, there are buses going to many of the outlying villages and sites you might want to visit. We did not have extra time for those options but the staff will happily fill you in on how to get to certain sites- such as which bus to take, where you can catch the bus and what times they run.  Because we knew so little about the city or it’s history, they suggested we start with a quick tour of the Tolbooth museum which happens to be right across the street from them. I did mention that there is a great deal of renovation and construction going on throughout the city- the Tolbooth block/building is no exception but do not let that deter you from your visit!

Tollbooth tower renovations

Tolbooth block and buildings undergoing renovations

tollbooth and townhouse plaque

plaque on building next door to Tolbooth

Tolbooth Museum

The Tolbooth Museum is one of Aberdeen’s oldest buildings and one of the best-preserved 17th century gaols in Scotland. It features displays on local history and the development of crime and punishment through the centuries. It  provides a unique experience in the form of its atmospheric 17th and 18th century cells, original doors and barred windows. Displays include the Maiden and the blade of Aberdeen’s 17th century guillotine as well as some animated cell inhabitants. Regarding the animations-they were not scary. This is not a spooky type tour. I have heard a few people comment that they were a bit disappointed or let down as they were led to believe it would be more of a ghost, haunting or scarier type experience with more visual effects. If that is what you are looking for, this does not fit that category. It was a bit eerie and haunting but in a realistic way of getting a feeling of what it was like to be incarcerated here back then. 

banner-ackobites-cell

tolbooth museum

 

While the supposed main focus or purpose of the museum is it’s history as gaol or jail, it does provide an excellent introduction to the history of Aberdeen. It is a free tour and probably takes less than hour to do…  we spent a bit longer in there because we had an excellent tour guide who was very informative and gave much additional insight to the overall history. The first half of the tour is about the history of Aberdeen with displays and dioramas of the earliest beginnings of the area that originally consisted of two separate villages. Once our guide realized we were very much interested in the history, he probably went into more depth on it than usual. He seemed rather excited to share the added history with us and we enjoyed all of it! During the first portion of the tour, we learned about some of the early  events and people that had connections to Aberdeen. These important connections go back as far as the Picts and much of the history can be found around Aberdeen yet today.  The legend of Saint Machar tells that Machar was  a companion of St Columba on his journey to Iona.  God (or St Columba) told Machar to establish a church where a river bends into the shape of a bishop’s crosier before flowing into the sea. The River Don bends in this way just below where the Cathedral now stands. According to legend, St Machar founded a site of worship in Old Aberdeen in about 580. He ministered to the Picts around Aberdeen. For this reason he was described anachronistically as the first Bishop of the see of Aberdeen.  The church was also the site for another legend surrounding William Wallace. After the execution of William Wallace in 1305, his body was cut up and sent to different corners of the country to warn other dissenters. His left quarter ended up in Aberdeen and is buried in the walls of the cathedral. 

 

Robert the Bruce also had a connection to Aberdeen. In 1136, David I began the development of New Aberdeen north of the River Dee, and the earliest charter was granted by King William the Lion about 1179, confirming the corporate rights granted by David I, which gave trade privileges to the burgesses. This charter is the oldest surviving charter. The city received other royal charters later. In 1319, the Great Charter of Robert the Bruce transformed Aberdeen into a property owning and financially independent community. Bruce had a high regard for the citizens of Aberdeen who had sheltered him in his days of outlawry, helped him win the Battle of Barra and slew the English garrison at Aberdeen Castle. He granted Aberdeen with the nearby Forest of Stocket. The income from this land has formed the basis for the city’s Common Good Fund, which is used to this day for the benefit of all Aberdonians.

Aberdeen is also home to King’s College, one of the oldest universities in the British Isles.  In 1495, William Elphinstone, the relatively newly appointedBishop of Aberdeen, petitioned Pope Alexander VI on behalf of King James IV to create the facility to cure the ignorance he had witnessed within his parish and in the north generally. A papal bull was issued in February 1495 (1491 in the calendar of the day) founding the university; a royal charter later that year recognised Aberdeen’s status as equal to that of Scotland’s two existing universities at Glasgow and St Andrews. As a former professor at the University of Paris, Elphinstone modelled the university very much on the continental European tradition. Hector Boece, a fellow professor at Paris, was awarded the status of first principal of the new institution. It would not be until 1509, with the issuance of a charter by Elphinstone, that university life at King’s truly began. Construction of the chapel began in 1498; it was consecrated in 1509 and dedicated to St Mary. By 1514, the university had some forty-two members in the form of both staff and students.

Once you finish your tour of the Tolbooth, you can easily find monuments to William Wallace and Robert the Bruce on a walk around the city. You can take a city bus to Old Aberdeen to tour St. Machar’s Cathedral and King’s College. You can also easily take a bus to another site, the Gordon Highlanders Regimental museum which I will talk about later. 

William Wallace monument in Aberdeen

William Wallace monument in Aberdeen

William Wallace monument inscription 1

William Wallace monument inscription 1

William Wallace inscription 2

William Wallace inscription 2

Robert the Bruce monument in front of Marichal College building in Aberdeen

Robert the Bruce monument in front of Marichal College building in Aberdeen

Marichal College building in Aberdeen, now used as offices

Marichal College building in Aberdeen, now used as offices

St Machar's Cathedral in Old Aberdeen

St Machar’s Cathedral in Old Aberdeen

King's College entrance in Old Aberdeen

King’s College entrance in Old Aberdeen

gordon highlander museum2 gordon highlanders museum

 

The only thing you won’t be able to find is Aberdeen Castle! The Castle was situated on Castle Hill, a site today known as the Castlegate, near the City center.  

Castlegate area today

Castlegate area today

Mercat cross at city center

Mercat Cross at Castlegate area near Tolbooth Musuem in Aberdeen

You will see the unicorn throughout Aberdeen and other places in Scotland as it is Scotland’s national animal! You will also find mercat crosses in various cities of Scotland. A mercat cross is the Scots name for the market cross found frequently in Scottish cities, towns and villages where historically the right to hold a regular market or fairwas granted by the monarch, a bishop or a baron. It therefore served a secular purpose as a symbol of authority, and was an indication of a burgh‘s relative prosperity. Historically, the term dates from the period before 1707 when Scotland was an independent kingdom, but it has been applied loosely to later structures built in the traditional architectural style of crosses or structures fulfilling the function of marking a settlement’s focal point. Historical documents often refer simply to “the cross” of whichever town or village is mentioned. Today, there are around 126 known examples of extant crosses in Scotland,  though the number rises if later imitations are added.

Aberdeen’s mercat cross history would go back to that earlier history when it received  Royal Burgh status from David I of Scotland (1124–53). 

The cross was the place around which market stalls would be arranged, and where ‘merchants’ (Scots for shopkeepers as well as wholesale traders) would gather to discuss business. It was also the spot where state and civic proclamations would be publicly read by the “bellman” (town crier). The cross was also the communal focal point of public events such as civic ceremonials, official rejoicings, and public shamings and punishments, including executions. Some crosses still incorporate the iron staples to which jougs and branks were once attached. This would be the reason for it’s close proximity to the Tolbooth, which would often hold public executions right outside their door.

Despite the name, the typical mercat cross is not usually cruciform, or at least has not been since the iconoclasm of the Scottish Reformation. The cross atop the shaft may have been replaced with a small statue, such as a royal unicorn or lion, symbols of the Scottish monarchy, or a carved stone displaying the arms of the royal burgh, or, in the cases of ecclesiastical burghs or burghs of barony, the bishop’s or feudal superior‘s coat-of-arms. Thus the reason for the Unicorn at top of Aberdeen’s mercat cross.

Five crosses: at Edinburgh, Dundee, Perth, Aberdeen and Preston (modern Prestonpans) were supported by a drum-shaped understructure, known as a cross-house, with a platform reached by internal steps or ladder. In the case of Aberdeen‘s late 17th-century cross the platform is supported by a series of open semi-circular arcades. 

 

close up of unicorn at top of mercat cross

Close up of unicorn at top of mercat cross

 

views of city center city center view of black friars pub

The castle was surrendered to the English in 1295 and on 14 April 1296, the English King, Edward I arrived in Aberdeen and stayed in the castle as part of his tour of the east coast of Scotland having defeated the Scots.  However the next year, after defeating the English at Dunnottar Castle in 1297, William Wallace marched his men to Aberdeen during their campaign to retake the east-coast for the Scots.

They found the English hastily preparing to leave in an armada of one hundred ships. The speed of Wallace’s arrival from Dunottar caught the English unawares and at low tide the stranded ships were attacked in the harbour, the crew and soldiers slaughtered, the cargo taken and the ships burnt. The English Sheriff of Aberdeen, Sir Henry de Lazom had been left in charge of the Castle, but during the chaos of the attack he defected, declaring it in the name of the Scottish King, John de Balliol.  This account of William Wallace’s actions and victory in Aberdeen would certainly explain or justify why the English may have sent a portion of his executed body back to Aberdeen! 

It is thought the castle and fortifications were burned down  by King Robert the Bruce in June 1308, during the Wars of Scottish Independence immediately following the Harrying of Buchan. Bruce and his men laid siege to the castle before massacring the English Garrison to prevent its use by the English troops of Edward II. It is said the Scots showed no mercy but “slew every man who fell into their hands. Edward I, indeed, had already set the example of executing his prisoners, and it was not to be expected that the other side would fail to follow the same course”. On 10 July 1308, English ships left Hartlepool to help the English garrison.  However, by August 1308, Gilbert Pecche and the last troops had all been forced out of the city. Following the destruction of Aberdeen Castle, Bruce marched his men to capture Forfar Castle.  Legend tells that the city’s motto, Bon Accord came from the password used to initiate Bruce’s final push and destruction of the castle.  Bon Accord translates to Good Agreement. 

In the first part of the Tolbooth’s history tour, you will find a diorama display of the earliest days of Aberdeen.  At that early time, it was still two separate villages and there were three hills. The city began as two separate burghs: Old Aberdeen at the mouth of the river Don; and New Aberdeen, a fishing and trading settlement, where the Denburn waterway entered the river Dee estuary.  The city was burned by Edward III of England in 1336, but was rebuilt and extended, and called New Aberdeen. The city was strongly fortified to prevent attacks by neighbouring lords, but the gates were removed by 1770. 

Aberdeen was in Pictish territory and became Gaelic-speaking at some time in the medieval period. Old Aberdeen is the approximate location of Aberdon, the first settlement of Aberdeen; this literally means “the mouth of the Don”. The Celtic wordaber means “river mouth”, as in modern Welsh (Aberystwyth, Aberdare, Aberbeeg etc.). The Gaelic name is Obar Dheathain (variation: Obairreadhain) (obar presumably being a loan from the earlier Pictish; the Gaelic term is “inbhir”), and in Latin, the Romans referred to the river as Devana. Mediaeval (or ecclesiastical) Latin has it as Aberdonia. You can see a remnant of the Pictish history on a tour of St Machar’s Cathedral.

Pictish carving at Machar's Cathedral

Pictish carving at Machar’s Cathedral

pictish cross stone information at Machar's Cathedral

pictish cross stone information at Machar’s Cathedral

Over the centuries, the rivers were diverted at various times and two of the three original hills disappeared. Aberdeen Castle sat on Castle hill (Castlegate). This is the only remaining hill. The other two hills were Port hill where the early City Gate was, and St. Catherine’s hill which has been completely leveled. Those three hills are represented on the city’s shield of arms and on the city’s banner flag by three towers.  

coat of arms for Aberdeen

coat of arms for Aberdeen

City Banner flag of Aberdeen

City Banner flag of Aberdeen

 

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The second half of the Tolbooth tour went further up the stairs to the cells with history of the jail and it’s various inhabitants from some early witches, a pirate, a lot of debtors, and some Jacobites after the rebellion of 1745. As he talked about the Jacobites, our guide gave us some insight from the standpoint and perspective of ones who were not Jacobites but suffered consequences and affects of the various rebellions. His comments and thoughts gave me pause for thought and inspired me to learn more about all of the sides, the reasons and complexities of so many events taking place over the years,  which combined and culminated in the last Jacobite rebellion.  Most of the tour history on the cells and inhabitants dealt with the period of that last rebellion and later. If you look at Aberdeen’s earlier history and the date the prison was built, it most likely played a part in the rebellions and civil wars during the 1600s. 

The Tolbooth was built between 1616 and 1629 by Thomas Watson, a master mason from Old Rayne. The Wardhouse of the Tolbooth was the prison for both the Royal Burgh of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire until the 19th century.

Over the centuries The Tolbooth has witnessed, and often played a part in, some of the key events in Aberdeen’s and Scotland’s history. During the 1745 Jacobite rebellion, when the Duke of Cumberland stayed in Aberdeen in order to put down the rebellion here before leaving for Culloden, he posted troops on the steeple of The Tolbooth to watch out for rebels and very visibly display the reasserting of royal authority. After the rebels had been defeated at Culloden hundreds of rebel prisoners were brought back to The Tolbooth where they were interrogated. In the mid-18th century The Tolbooth was one of the many places associated with one of the darkest episodes of Aberdeen’s history. A number of Aberdeen’s merchants and magistrates organised the kidnapping of hundreds of children from both the town and countryside. These children were then stored in various places, including The Tolbooth, before being transported to the Americas and sold as indentured servants.

Regarding the Tolbooth’s involvement in that darker part of Aberdeen history- the child slavery mentioned above, the Tolbooth museum was more recently involved in opening the curtains of that shrouded more secret history. On 11-06-07 the city of Aberdeen pulled back the curtain on a dark part of the cities history. At the Tolbooth Museum “Open to the Public” they had re-enactments of a very dark part of Aberdeen’s past history and helped to tell the stories of those children.  You can read the story of one of those abducted children here:

The Tale of Peter Williamson   http://unknownscottishhistory.com/articleseventeen.php

The Tolbooth stopped being used as a prison in the 19th century and was replaced by Aberdeen’s first ‘modern’ prison, the Bridewell, built on what we now call Rose Street. The Tolbooth remained in use during the time the Bridewell was opened and after, when the Bridewell was replaced by the East Prison on Lodge Walk, as a holding prison. The Tolbooth survived when the new Townhouse was laid out. The front of The Tolbooth was encased in granite, but the rear of the building still shows its original sandstone with its 17th century battlements. 

For anyone interested in history, this museum is an excellent introduction to the history of Aberdeen. It was my first stop on the way to learning about Aberdeen’s long, turbulent past and how it fit in with the rest of the many events that shaped and forged what Scotland has become today.  My only caution to those visiting the museum- it is not suitable for anyone with mobility difficulties as the only way to reach the museum is by way of very narrow medieval type spiral type steps up to the different levels. Because of the building, there is no way to provide any assistance or other option to reach the upper levels- my meaning in this- there is no way for them to say install a lift or elevator.  It is also probably not suitable or appropriate for young children who would not really understand much of the history presented. 

You can plan your visit to the Tolbooth for early in the morning and then head out to all of the other sites of interest within the city. After our visit to the Tolbooth, we went to the Maritime museum which was fairly short walk from city center. This museum gives you a great history of Aberdeen’s long connection to the sea as a port city from it’s earliest beginnings to it’s present day importance in the oil industry. There are a number of hands on activities for children and it also currently has a toy history exhibit which everyone will find interesting and fun!

Aberdeen maritime museum early diving suit at maritime museum robot diver at maritime museum

After the Maritime museum, we went back up to city center and embarked on a self guided walking tour of the city. The maps provided by the tourism office were excellent and we found it easy to find our way around the city. We stopped at St Nicholas Kirk which is easy to spot due the Arches. It is close to city center and you really can’t miss it!

St Nicholas Arch

St Nicholas Arch

St Nicholas kirkyard information

St Nicholas kirkyard information

walkway to St Nicholas Kirk

walkway to St Nicholas Kirk

graves and tombstone in St Nicholas kirkyard

graves and tombstone in St Nicholas kirkyard

St Nicholas Kirk

St Nicholas Kirk

We continued our walking tour and eventually found the William Wallace monument. It was a long walk but we had a beautiful day for it and the city was full of sites and scenery to view.

views of the city

Later in the afternoon, we returned to city center and headed out in the opposite direction with a trek down to the harbor, the old fishing village neighborhood of Footdee or Fittie. The guidebooks and tourist info are a little misleading about this area… it is not a living history village but is an actual residential neighborhood with it’s buildings still being those old stone cottages from the days of the original fishing village. It was a nice walk down to the harbor and beach though. You can walk along the seawall walk behind the cottages towards the beach area. 

footdee seawall walk footdee-fittie

north sea coast3 North sea coast at Aberdeen north sea 2

On our walk back up from the beach we found a great little pub called Fittiebar. You won’t find this pub/bar on the tour guides. It is not one of those trendy touristy type places, it is in the working neighborhood of the docks. There is nothing fancy about it. It is a casual comfortable working class place to grab a pint, a plate, relax and probably enjoy the company of regulars and friends. The menu is on the board listing the specials for the day, though the Bartender/server did laugh and mention that one of these days they get posh and order some real menus… My personal advice- don’t change a thing! Possibly the best part of the experience was seeing her mix up the batter for our fish with an addition of beer from the tap! 

fittie bar2

Fittiebar in Aberdeen

IMG_7531 fittie bar menu

That was our first day in Aberdeen! In my next post, I will share more of our stay in Aberdeen along with more of it’s history. This awesome Granite city so full of  interesting history that I am intrigued and fascinated with all of it! As I mentioned in the beginning, everyone is so interested in the other cities and places such as the Highlands and Edinburgh that Aberdeen and the area around it does not get the attention it deserves!  I look forward to returning and exploring more of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazing Race adventure from Aberdeen to Dublin!

Before I share our adventure, I just want to apologize for my lack of posting for the past month or so. Much of that time was spent preparing for this journey and then embarking upon it. I also want to let my Vikings Saga followers know that I will eventually catch up with my show thoughts and reviews but it will probably be after this first half of the extended season has ended! I am behind in my viewing but have kept up with what is going on so far… my one thought right now is, who is going to be left at the end of this half?  Most of the adult older generation seem to be falling quickly- not that some of those falls all are such a bad thing! Also for Vikings fans, much of my tour included Viking related history in the various cities along with more ancient Roman history. One example of the Scandinavian history and influence was found on ceilings in Edinburgh! A number of tours pointed out the ceilings that showed the earliest Scandinavian motifs and designs.

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For Outlander fans and followers, I did just catch the season 2 premier and am looking forward to the rest of the season. I loved the way they’ve presented Frank’s side of the situation… but then again, I am a Frank fan anyway so I was thrilled with this scenario. I will be attempting to add more Outlander related posts throughout this upcoming season!  Some of my tour did include Scotland and Scottish history pertaining to the time period of the Jacobites and the rebellions but I will also be sharing some additional insights provided by various tour guides. One of the most insightful guides was at the Tolbooth museum in Aberdeen who shared some of the Jacobite history and how it affected others who were not Jacobites but suffered just as much through the various rebellions.  We also visited the Gordon Highlanders Regiment museum which gave us insight into years after the rebellion and how those regiments held onto their highland heritage. I will go into more of that insight and history in a separate post about Aberdeen.

banner-ackobites-cell tolbooth museum tolbooth2 gordon highlanders museum dirks with accessories gordon highlander museum2

 

In other miscellaneous news updates, I just want to share some recent comments about one of my favorite book series. I read this a while ago but didn’t have a chance to post it until now… author Elizabeth Chadwick shared a bit of  interesting and hopeful news about her William Marshal series! She has mentioned that the rights to it have been purchased for possible eventual filming! “my Marshal novels have had the rights bought by a film company recently – hooray!!. I have historical consultancy rights on board and they are looking at making a two hour pilot. There is still a long way to go and it still might not happen, but the spark is there.”  She posted this on her Goodreads page recently and I was thrilled to hear of this possibility. 

One last important update and forewarning… In order to accommodate all of the pictures involved with this vacation, I have had to begin culling older pictures from my media library! I am trying to cull only the unattached photos but I know from previous experience that sometimes those photos are attached to a post. If you are browsing through older archived posts and notice missing pictures, I do apologize for that but there is little I can do about it at the moment. I am running close to my media limits and after the expenses of this vacation, I can’t quite afford to upgrade yet to a higher limit!

 

Amazing Race adventure!

From Aberdeen to Dublin

Now, on to the main focus of this post, our Amazing Race adventure that began in Aberdeen, Scotland and ended in Dublin, Ireland. I have say that while this was truly an epic and awesome tour, it really did feel like Amazing Race with all of it’s challenges, roadblocks and detours. After spending so much time pre-planning this trip, we ended up scrapping the well laid plans and truly winging it. From the very beginning  hurdle/challenge in Aberdeen, I felt like Phil Keoghan was going to show up in front of us and tell us “I’m sorry but you’ve been eliminated” before we even started the race.  

Now that we have survived and won our personal race, I can look back on all of it and admit that some of the challenges and difficulties were caused by our own miscalculations and mistakes. The first massive setback was our ordeal with the third party rental agency that we had booked our car rental from. The car rental plan turned out be a disaster that ended with us losing the money we had pre-paid on the car rental as well as now having to completely alter our original plan of driving… In retrospect, that did turn out to be a huge hidden favor or blessing because realistically the driving idea was not so great as we originally thought.  At the time, however, this roadblock did create some initial moments of panic for us- as in, “Now what the hell do we do?”  Luckily, we are resilient and adaptable, and the panic quickly subsided. Our panic eased but our continued and still lingering irritation with said car rental agency has not disappeared. They cost us a lot of cash and time that could have been used to much better purpose than having to continue to wait on them! To make a long story short, we arrived in Aberdeen on Monday morning and our ordeal with car company dragged out till Wednesday. On Monday, they assured us that all of the problems could be taken care of and we could pick up a car on Wednesday with no extra charges… When we returned there on Wednesday, a different agent told us there was an enormous additional charge, that she did not know anything about any previous promises or assurances made to us and that she could not honor any such promise. The most frustrating part of that experience was that we had wasted much time on waiting around for the rental car company. If we had not been assured a resolution to the situation, we would have planned our time in Aberdeen differently! There were some excellent day tours available through the local tourism office that we could have taken advantage of had we not had to bother with waiting on that damnable car rental agency. One good thing to come from that horrific beginning was that we did get spend more time exploring the city of Aberdeen and it’s history!

william wallace monument1

Initial panic and frustrations aside, we opted for plan B… yes, we did have to quickly devise plan B but it actually worked out far better than the driving plan. Plan B was to check out the train system and alter our entire trip around it.  We should have just planned that route from the beginning, but as we all know, hindsight is 20/20.  This new much altered plan meant we had to eliminate some previously planned sites but it did allow for more time in the places we did visit. It also eliminated the stress of trying to drive, which my daughter admitted later was a good thing!

Our new plan gave us three and a half days in Aberdeen, three days in Edinburgh, two days in Cardiff, two days in London and one final day spent in Dublin.  

Overall, this all worked out so much better than our original plan and most of the hotels and booking agencies were very helpful with the changes we had to make to all of our reservations. I say most because there was one agency and hotel that turned out to be even worse than the car rental… I need to voice my still very seething frustration and outright disgust with Booking.com and with the Abbey Court Hotel in London! We had no problems what so ever with Hotels.com or with any other hotel during our trip but my personal advice, based our experience,  to other travelers would be to avoid booking.com and Abbey Court Hotel! Perhaps my view of Abbey Court was biased because of our experience with them in conjunction with booking.com and the fact that each party insisted on blaming each other for the problems. Perhaps my disgust and ill temper with them was due to sheer exhaustion by then and I am being overly harsh with them, expecting too much from them based on my experiences with the hotels in the other places we stayed. I did try to tell myself that.  I also made serious attempt to rationalize that this was London after all, and for the price we were paying, we should not really complain too much about the room condition… that being somewhat rationalized, I was still left with the fact that the staff was rude and passed off the issue on to others rather than trying to admit any blame or even appease us in any way.  I was also left with the overheard complaints of other guests about various aspects of the accommodations and service. That all being vented, the only plus for them was the fact that they were located close to Paddington Train Station as well as close walking distance to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Then again, so are a vast number of other hotels in that area- you should look into any one of those other hotels rather than Abbey Court!

Do not let the exterior facade of Abbey Court deceive you,  it looks so lovely on the outside…

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We’ve already discussed the attitude and general behavior of the staff, so no need to rehash that. We’ve already accepted that it’s London, should we really expect much more from an inexpensive hotel in a crowded city providing desperately needed rooms for the massive numbers of tourists. But, lets just look at exactly what you find once you’ve taken your chance on that ohh so lovely facade of Abbey Court.  First of all, you get no key card- nope, you get an old fashioned key which you have to turn into the front desk each and every time you leave the building. Ummm, one other thing to go along with that key and the door to your room… You get no door knob!

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You get a door latch that sticks, and once inside you kind of get the feeling you’ve been locked into your room/cell. 

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I understand that space is at a high premium in London, but really this room gave me a severe case of claustrophobia along with nightmares! If you feel you can deal with it, then by all means go for it- after all, you are in London and may not plan to spend much time in the room anyway…

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That’s it, that’s what you get for a room as opposed to say, what we got for the same approximate price at a Travel Lodge in Dublin? Actually, I think the room in Dublin cost much less than the one in London, but that is not really unexpected.

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My final observations on Abbey Court Hotel… WiFi is extremely limited free time and not very reliable- I suppose they want you to use it up quickly so you will pay for any additional required use. There is also no attached restaurant, well there is one connected to them but it is a separate entity and there is no room service available at all. They do offer some sort of breakfast downstairs in their basement but I was not up braving the cost or the quality of that experience. They do also offer some shuttle services to airports but when I checked on the price of shuttle to Gatwick, I realized it was far cheaper to just take the train from Paddington Station. 

Ok, I feel better now for having done what I feel is my traveler’s civic duty in forewarning you about my personal experiences with some fails. I did not give the name of the car rental agency because I will admit that part the issue with them was a serious lack of communication or understanding on all sides. We could have made better choices about that situation so we do take some partial responsibility for that failure.

This was just a brief overview of the tour. In upcoming posts, I will share our experiences and thoughts on each individual city that we visited as well as some additional information on dealing with the trains and buses in each area. 

Upcoming city posts: Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Cardiff, London, Dublin

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book review: A Year of Ravens

I need to break from our Viking adventures for a few moments to share some thoughts on an excellent book! Before the Normans conquered, before the Vikings invaded, before the legends of Arthur, before someone invited Saxons to settle, the island of Britannia was already home to numerous separate native Celtic tribes that together would be knows as the Britons. These tribes were the original kingdoms of the island and just as any other kingdoms would, they fought with each other for domination and control of the land… until one outside force arrived and began to take control. In AD 43 the Roman Empire began its conquest of the island, establishing a province they called Britannia, which came to encompass the parts of the island south of Caledonia (roughly Scotland).  This Roman invasion and domination would last until some time in the 5th century. 

The Celtic tribes were varied in their reactions and acceptances of the Roman conquest. The Roman conquest was a gradual one that actually could be seen as a somewhat peaceful and benefitial  alliance between the tribes and the Roman Empire. In common with other regions on the edge of the empire, Britain had enjoyed diplomatic and trading links with the Romans in the century since Julius Caesar‘s expeditions in 55 and 54 BC, and Roman economic and cultural influence was a significant part of the British late pre-Roman Iron Age, especially in the south.

Between 55 BC and the 40s AD, the status quo of tribute, hostages, and client states without direct military occupation, begun by Caesar’s invasions of Britain, largely remained intact. Augustus prepared invasions in 34 BC, 27 BC and 25 BC. The first and third were called off due to revolts elsewhere in the empire, the second because the Britons seemed ready to come to terms. According to Augustus’s Res Gestae, two British kings, Dubnovellaunus and Tincomarus, fled to Rome as suppliants during his reign, and Strabo‘s Geography, written during this period, says that Britain paid more in customs and duties than could be raised by taxation if the island were conquered. 

During this early time of Roman involvement, many of the tribes were fighting between themselves and in some cases they sought the assistance and intervention of Rome to strengthen their sides. By the 40s AD, the political situation within Britain was apparently in ferment. The Catuvellauni had displaced the Trinovantes as the most powerful kingdom in south-eastern Britain, taking over the former Trinovantian capital of Camulodunum (Colchester), and were pressing their neighbours the Atrebates, ruled by the descendants of Julius Caesar’s former ally Commius.  In fact, when Claudius eventually mounted his invasion and takeover, it’s intent was to force a reinstatement of client King Verica, who was an exiled king of the Atrebates.

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map showing locations of Celtic tribes in southern part of Britain during Roman occupation.

Map_of_the_Territory_of_the_Brigantes.svg

Map showing the Brigantes tribe region during Roman occupation

 

I am only sharing this very basic pre-history of the Roman involvement to point out that during the lengthy process of their conquest, there were tribes that willingly chose to ally themselves with Rome, either for economic benefit, political advantage or in some cases, perhaps they saw a larger picture and felt that resistance was not in their best interests.  Because the tribes looked at themselves as separate entities rather than a unified force against one opposing force, they were unable to come together in the beginning stages to prevent a take over that many of of them did not see coming in the first place.  In a way it directly relates to future invasions of their land by the Saxons and then by the Vikings. It could be said that Rome’s occupation of the island destroyed their unity and ability to fight as a that one united force… but, realistically it might better be said that their unity was not there in the first place and it allowed for a situation in which Rome could conquer them. Had they been able to come together from the beginnings of the rebellions, there are times when they could have defeated the Roman forces.  Boudicca’s rebellion was one of those times and events. 

Her rebellion was enough of a crisis to cause Emperor Nero at the time to seriously consider pulling all Roman troops and involvement out of Britain at this early time in their occupation. Unfortunately, despite earlier victories, her army made crucial mistakes that led to their final defeat. Her forces vastly outnumbered the Romans in the battle of Watling Street and had they chosen a different strategy that what they did, they should have been able to win that last battle. For what ever reasons, they chose to meet the Romans head on in a battle of open ground. Previous victories and successes by Briton forces and others against the Romans and each other were won not by head on battles but by more surprise attacks. It also did not help matters that the army brought with them their entire villages and placed them at the edges of the battle location thereby allowing for the slaughter of everyone, not just the army involved in the battle. 

 

With that bit of pre-history and thought in mind, we can move on to the main focus of this post! The book, A year of Ravens is an excellent historical fiction look at one event where the Britons could have managed that defeat and been successful at their attempt to drive the Romans out of their land. It looks at the event of Boudica’s rebellion from all perspectives- the Romans, the Client Kingdoms, the ones who were intent on rebellion against the massive strength of Rome, and from the standpoint of those who had little say in the event. 

The book is a unique collaborative project by seven authors with seven separate yet connected stories of the events leading up to the final battle and aftermath. It addresses the issues that I touched on in the pre-history discussion including reasons for a Client Ruler’s acceptance and alliance of Roman governance. It also gives us an understanding of various Roman perspectives. Not every Roman was stereotypical bad nor did they all agree with what was taking place. In that same line, not every Briton was good or a true believer in the rebellion. 

A year of Ravens

by Ruth Downie, Kate Quinn,Stephanie Dray, Vicky Alvear Shecter, S.J.A. Turney , Russell Whitfield, E. Knight

Britannia: land of mist and magic clinging to the western edge of the Roman Empire. A red-haired queen named Boudica led her people in a desperate rebellion against the might of Rome, an epic struggle destined to consume heroes and cowards, young and old, Roman and Celt . . . and these are their stories.

A calculating queen sees the sparks of revolt in a king’s death.

A neglected slave girl seizes her own courage as Boudica calls for war.

An idealistic tribune finds manhood in a brutal baptism of blood and slaughter.

A conflicted warrior hovers between loyalty to tribe and loyalty to Rome.

A death-haunted Druid challenges the gods themselves to ensure victory for his people.

An old champion struggles for everlasting glory in the final battle against the legions.

A fiery princess fights to salvage the pieces of her mother’s dream as the ravens circle.

A novel in seven parts, overlapping stories of warriors and peacemakers, queens and slaves, Romans and Celts who cross paths during Boudica’s epic rebellion. But who will survive to see the dawn of a new Britannia, and who will fall to feed the ravens?

These separate stories come together so well to tell a larger story of Briton and of Rome, of  mistakes on both sides that brought about the rebellion. In telling their separate stories of one particular point in time and one event that had such an impact on the history of Britain, these seven authors have created a vivid and realistic picture to show us all of the sides. It is grim, harsh and gritty, and fault is laid on all of those sides for the decisions and actions that led to the battles of Boudica. Yet, despite all of the fault and harsh reality, there is an underlying message of  understanding, forgiveness and hope amid such a dark future that lies ahead for so many. Boudicca’s rebellion has failed but her legend will live on to inspire others in the future. 

One of the most interesting and compelling stories for me was not that of Boudicca herself, but of another Queen for the most part forgotten in history. The story of Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantes in northern Britain at the time. Cartimandua or Cartismandua (reigned c. ad 43 – c. 69) was a 1st-century queen of the Brigantes, a Celtic people living in what is now northern England. She came to power around the time of the Roman conquest of Britain, and formed a large tribal agglomeration that became loyal to Rome. Our only knowledge of her is through the Roman historian Tacitus, though she appears to have been widely influential in early Roman Britain.

Perhaps we know little about her because her story is one of loyalty to Rome. Author Stephanie Dray’s interpretation of this little known Queen provided such a detailed look at this woman who would have been considered a traitor to the Briton’s cause. It presented an understanding of some of those reasons why a ruler would choose alliance and loyalty to Rome to ensure the future of their people- even if the people did not appreciate it, resented the decision and would choose to spit on said ruler’s grave… As Cartimandua points out in this story, “At least my people will be left alive to spit upon my grave!”  She may have been hated by her people but she was able to look beyond that hatred and be at peace with the decisions she made in order to buy her people time and life in an uncertain future.

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

Another of the stories that caught me up was the story of Duro the Iceni warrior and Valeria the Roman wife turned slave. Both of these characters were fictional but came truly alive and believable through Kate Quinn’s story telling. This is the story of an aging battle hardened and weary warrior who is Boudicca’s most ardent supporter and leader of her army- second only to her and the council… Duro is the old warrior set in his ways and beliefs, struggling with changes that he can not accept. Valeria at first appears as the stereotypical Roman wife also set in her Roman ways and beliefs. On the surface their relationship is one of detest for each other and the other’s ways. They are on opposite sides in every way possible but underneath all of the opposition and hatred, there is a level of understanding between them. They both know that should the other side win, their own personal life and future will cease or change forever. Duro continues to look to the past he remembers before the Romans but Valeria reminds him that it is wishful thinking and that past will never be again. Valeria reaches within herself to find a person, a warrior that she never knew existed… she will fight for life and survival no matter what, and she can appreciate that Duro has taught her that. Valeria is young enough and strong enough to change her ways of thinking in some ways and to understand that her world has changed. She is on the verge of some new life while Duro is at the end of his and know it. He can not change as his world is changing but Valeria gives him the one thing that matters most to him in the end… a renewed relationship with a son that he spent years pushing away. This story leaves an open ending with Valeria embarking on a new journey, a renewed life forever changed by her experience and her relationship with Duro.  This is about as close to a romance as any of the stories get and it is one that left me wondering about the what ifs… and the future for Valeria on her return to husband. My personal what if was this… what if Boudicca’s army had listened to advice and won the battle? Where would that have left Duro and Valeria?  I could actually see some of that version that Duro dreamed of!

All of the stories were excellent. I have only chosen to highlight the two that touched me the most!

This overall story is balanced with more than enough historical research to enrich the fiction that is woven around the often limited facts. I found myself completely swept up in the individual stories and not wanting them to end. I was left with an overwhelming appreciation of the writing and the history, an almost obsessive need to know more about all of the people whether real or fictional and the events that were taking place during this time. While it began as an effort by the various authors to tell Boudicca’s story, what it did was tell the story of so many others involved in the history taking place during her life time. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To kill a queen… or not

The title of this Vikings episode is a bit misleading in that no Queen actually meets her death in this episode! Ohhh, so sorry for that spoiler. And, on that spoiler note- if you have not watched the current season yet and do not want spoilers, please exit the page immediately! This page as well as most of the other Vikings episode related pages here does contain spoilers. There, that is your warning!

This article is a look at the darker side of attempting to kill a queen and my personal thoughts on all of it. We’ve already looked at the lighter moments and now we must visit the usual harsher, darker facts with all of their possible underlying meanings or future consequences.  Before we get into my thoughts, I want to suggest another article regarding the history involved in this episode. Patricia Bracewell has shared her views here and it is well worth reading! 

http://www.patriciabracewell.com/2016/02/vikings-4-episode-2-kill-the-queen/

I mentioned that the title is misleading because no Queen actually dies. There is great attempt and thought of killing one Queen outright, and then there is underlying and possible wishful thinking of killing a Queen- or at least wishing she were dead… 

I am going to talk about that wishful thinking first because that is the one that bothered me the most and left me conflicted once again. This underlying thought or wish involves Ragnar and Aslaug. Please keep in mind that I am not really a fan of either one of these two and am generally critical of both their behaviors. While I am not a fan of Aslaug, towards the end of last season I did see some redeeming attributes to her character in her dealings with Porunn and in the way she dealt with the Christian priest. Aslaug may be sneaky, manipulative, loose moraled and power hungry but she is a firm believer in the old ways and beliefs. That being said, she stood her ground in defense of those beliefs and suffered for them. In the first episode, when Bjorn arrested Floki, you could see the doubt and concern on her face.  Bjorn is arresting Floki for the murder of Athelstan, a Christian that many of those villagers-Bjorn included had expressed the exact same feelings and fears about as Floki did. 

even aslaug is not too sure about bjorn's decision

even aslaug is not too sure about bjorn’s decision

There a great number of fans out there who feel that Aslaug is the evil incarnate equivalent of Rollo and that she got exactly what she deserved in this episode. What is conflicting for me is that these are generally the same people who take a moral high road, condemning Rollo and the Christians while praising Ragnar and all things Viking.  In this instance, Aslaug took a stand for the old beliefs, for the threat to those beliefs and she gets condemned for it.  Fans who are so outraged by Rollo’s behaviors such as “raping” a slave girl and treating Siggy so badly, applaud Ragnar’s treatment of Aslaug in this instance with their voices of “she deserved it”.  I guess she “deserved it because she had the nerve to question Ragnar’s authority, his rule and thus proved herself once more disloyal to him because she placed her loyalties to the Gods above that of her King. Realistically, there are so many other offenses that she could have been justifiably  punished for had they been public knowledge (and, I think that with Ragnar’s habit of keeping tabs on everyone, he does know of those offenses). To me this event just shows that Ragnar is losing control of his well maintained facade of calmness under pressure. 

Floki had a valid point when he made the statement that he was loyal to the Gods first and foremost and would continue to put his religion above his loyalty to Ragnar. I am not necessarily condoning Floki’s action either in killing Athelstan. He knew it was wrong, he knew what the consequences would be. If he felt so strongly that Athelstan and Ragnar’s involvement with the Christian were such a threat to his personal beliefs and his loyalties, then he should have chosen to walk away from Ragnar right then rather than resort to the secretive killing that he did.  

aslaug stands up to ragnar for floki because he's right what did he do so wrong he killed a christian.

aslaug stands up to ragnar for floki because he’s right what did he do so wrong he killed a christian.

Ragnar is correct when he makes the comment, “This is not about religion, this about loyalty and respect…” Ragnar has chosen personal power and control over the more moral and ethical reasoning of what is good for the people. He has brought this debate or issue over Floki down to the most personal of levels- a dispute between two one time friends who now differ in their most basic core belief systems. Neither of them will back down from their belief that they are right and because of that, everyone else will be dragged into the dispute and suffer for it.   The problem with Ragnar’s current thinking and method of leadership is that it as turned to one more of fear than anything else. These people have experienced his better side of ruling for the good of all of them and now thrust into a position of following him not so much because they trust his judgement but because they most likely fear they will suffer the same fate as Floki.  There are times when instilling fear is necessary, but that sort of thing generally happens in the beginning of one’s rule as a means of gaining some control over a situation or group of people. It usually does not play out so well to use the fear tactic against those who originally on your side and assumed that you were on theirs.  

As floki mentions, there comes a point in one’s life when one must make a decision on whether or not to follow a leader based on one’s personal ethics, morals and beliefs. In a way, Floki’s decision to follow his own conscience speaks of what others will have to decide in the future. Do they follow Ragnar blindly without question just because he is their leader no matter what he decides to do… or do they at some point begin to question his motives, his personal agenda and his methods? This is much the same position that Ragnar and his followers were in when they questioned King Harald’s rule and Horik’s rule… Ragnar is now putting himself close to that same category as those two leaders that he fought to bring down. 

ragnar is losing control this is not about christians this is about loyalty!

ragnar is losing control this is not about christians this is about loyalty!

Ragnar is outraged that Aslaug would even think of taking Floki’s side in this. He is determined that he is King and he is right no matter what and anyone who would question his actions is guilty of disloyalty or treason. His rage causes him to lose control and he strikes out at Aslaug, knocking her down… the look on his face is one of utter contempt and that underlying thought of wishing he could do more to her, wishing her dead. To be honest, I was waiting for him to add a final blow or kick to her while she was down on the floor. 

ragnar takes his anger out on aslaug

Ragnar takes his anger out on Aslaug

Realistically, the situation between Ragnar and Aslaug comes down to them both wishing the other was dead! The rather sad part about Aslaug’s story direction in the show is that in the Sagas, Aslaug remained loyal to Ragnar and went so far as to sew him a magic shirt to protect him against the Snakes she foresaw for him in England. Unfortunately, I do not see Aslaug sewing him anything in the future other than possibly a shroud!

I guess this pretty much rules out that majic shirt to protect from snakes

While Aslaug’s treatment did not sit well with me, the even more disturbing event was the fallout of this personal quarrel for others, mainly Helga and her daughter. Her situation apparently did not sit too well with Ragnar either because he did appear genuinely bothered by her situation.  It could be said that Helga brought about her situation on her own by helping Floki to escape in the first place. While that might be a fair assumption, it does nothing to detract from the true emotional torture that Helga was enduring by being caught in the middle of this argument. She has to stand by and watch her husband tortured for his refusal to give up on his personal beliefs, his denial of any wrongdoing, and his unwillingness to compromise those values even in the face of suffering to his family. In fact, he goes so far as to use Helga’s emotional tie in still loving him as a means of saving himself. He is as guilty and as stubborn as Ragnar in this situation and is only thinking of himself. 

helga tries to stop the children a difficult reunion to watch

I do have to mention here that as much as I feel for Helga’s pain and the suffering she endures, she does bear some responsibility and some blame for the events that brought her so much pain and grief.  First of all, my one frustrated thought with her actions began when she subjected little Agriboda to that visit with Floki tied to the stake? Was she perhaps hoping that the sight of his child seeing him like this might spark some balancing thought in Floki’s head? Some thought of “What am I doing to my family, should I not have some care about them above my own needs or thoughts?” If that was her intent, then of course it failed miserably and Floki used Helga’s feeling to manipulate her into doing something she knew was wrong.  When Ragnar asked her later why she did it, she made a comment about love… She allowed her love of Floki to take precedence over her love of her child. Perhaps this is why she must suffer a torture far greater than that of Floki. 

My other thought is one of Why is Helga living down here in the cold, in a way at the edge of nowhere… Has she been shunned by the others or has she set herself apart from everyone because she feels some guilt for the part she has played? Her present circumstances also bring us back to Aslaug. Aslaug who stood up and defended Floki’s actions yet apparently felt no concern for Helga’s situation. What ever the reason, Helga is living a destitute life and her child is suffering because of it. 

helga and abrigoda living in cold at the edge of nowhere

helga and abrigoda living in cold at the edge of nowhere

agriboda is sick and coughing helga tries to comfort her while ragnar says I don't blame you...

agriboda is sick and coughing helga tries to comfort her while ragnar says I don’t blame you…

Ragnar does show some concern for her welfare and leaves a bag of food for them.

ragnar does take pity on helga and leaves a bag of food for her

ragnar does take pity on helga and leaves a bag of food for her

Later we see how the actions of everyone, including Helga have played a part in the greatest torture and pain… the loss of an innocent child. While Floki may be suffering extreme physical torture at the hands of Ragnar, Helga is experiencing the far greater torture of having to bury her child and probably coming to the understanding or realization that she must share some guilt in this senseless death brought about mainly because two men were too self involved and egotistical to waiver on their mindset, and because she put her feelings for Floki above the needs of her child. It was a sad, painful event to watch and there was a moment when it seemed that even Ragnar might have some feelings of his own complicity in this death.

burying an innocent child

does this death have any affect on ragnar well he does step in and dig the grave...

does this death have any affect on ragnar well he does step in and dig the grave…

a few moments of compassion

a few moments of compassion

The one thing I did not understand was when Ragnar asked Helga if she had told Floki… How could she have told floki when Ragnar has him already enduring his own personal torture???

floki is enduring his own punishment so really how could helga have told him of agriboda's death

 

In contrast to Helga’s actions and the result of them, on the other side of the sea in Wessex we see a far different version of a Mother’s struggle to keep her child alive. And, it comes from the one woman you would probably least expect it of given her previous behaviors. From what we’ve seen of Princess Kweni in the past, I have to say that I did not expect her to have much Motherly instinct or concern for her child other than for how she might use said child to her own advantage. 

In our return to Wessex, we saw an outright attempt to kill Queen Kweni- and not an attempt from those in Wessex… though I have some doubts or suspicions on who might have actually instigated this overthrow and ousting of her. Ecbert’s response to the event was along the lines of “save the child, just be sure to keep the child alive no matter what” He had no concerns for Kweni’s survival.

There was the usual disagreement between Ecbert and Aethelwulf over how to put down this rebellion and rescue those being held hostage- Kweni and her son. There was also dispute and dissent from the local Noblemen over having to call their troops up for this event. Ecbert does take note of those balking at the deployment and actually gives them some foreshadowing sound advice…

Ecbert and Aethelwulf have some disagreement over how to proceed.

Ecbert and Aethelwulf have some disagreement over how to proceed.

I am quite certain that this Nobleman and the one next to him may eventually feel some pain of retribution for their dissenting remarks… As we’ve seen in the past, Ecbert does not forget who made what comment.

wessex noblemen balk at having to raise their armies

wessex noblemen balk at having to raise their armies

Ecbert must explain the necessity of keeping a standing army ready because Ragnar and those Northmen will most assuredly return to our shores!

ecbert must explain the necessity of keeping a standing army

ecbert must explain the necessity of keeping a standing army

Aethelwulf is in charge of leading an army into Mercia to rescue Kweni and child.

Ecbert and Aethelwulf present a united front despite their differences.

Ecbert and Aethelwulf present a united front despite their differences.

aethelwulf is in charge of training the army.

aethelwulf is in charge of training the army.

As Aethelwulf trains and prepares his forces, in Mercia a damsel in distress awaits rescue…

a damsel in distress in a tower...

a damsel in distress in a tower…

The battle was intense and brutal but despite some minor problems and setbacks, Aethelwulf held his own in this battle. He is not the only one that held their own. Locked in the tower with armed guards, Kweni proved her warrior spirit and her Motherly instinct!

and it's aethelwulf to the rescue... maybe?

and it’s aethelwulf to the rescue… maybe?

 Aethelwulf is having a few problems defeating his foe...

Aethelwulf is having a few problems defeating his foe…

aethelwulf I should have ate breakfast

why waste arrows when rocks work just as well

why waste arrows when rocks work just as well

While Aethelwulf was battling the tower, Kweni waged her own defensive attack against foes who meant to harm her and her child. She did it armed with nothing but a seriously scary needle, a blanket and a human shield. This woman was in a life and death battle for the life of her and her child and she was determined to win!

A seriousl scary looking needle!

A seriousl scary looking needle!

well that needle is good for something anyway

well that needle is good for something anyway

kweni's found her battle mode

Kweni shows her warrior battle mode

kweni must have heard about Einar's tactics of using a human shield

kweni must have heard about Einar’s tactics of using a human shield

Kweni fights back with the rage of a Mother

Kweni will fight to the death for her child

Kweni does have a motherly instinct after all nobody messes with her baby

Kweni does have a motherly instinct after all nobody messes with her baby Magnus!

Eventually Aethelwulf does come to her rescue and her response is perfect!

Aethelwulf finally makes it to the top of the tower to rescue damsel kweni

Aethelwulf finally makes it to the top of the tower to rescue damsel kweni

kweni's response... what took you so long!

kweni’s response… what took you so long!

In a way, Helga’s story and Kweni’s have that parallel contrast that Hirst loves so much. We have Helga as one who has basically lost her way, her will and seems in some way to have given up the fight. On the other hand, we have Kweni who against all odds, has lost none of her fighting instinct to survive and keep her child alive.

A mother's will and way

To Kill a queen… the lighter moments!

Before we delve into all of those serious moments, questions and thoughts, let’s look at the somewhat lighter moments of trying to kill a queen or just thinking about killing one in Ragnar’s case. Part two will deal with the darker serious thoughts. 

First of all, I have to say that for me personally, some of the best moments were just watching Bjorn on his trek into the wilderness. Maybe it’s just because being from the northwoods winter wilderness of Minnesota, the scenery and his day out on the ice brought back some memories of home for me. I could relate a bit to his ice fishing and have experienced the activity in a similar fashion. When I was little, my Dad used to take us out on the lake without benefit of fancy ice houses or such for us… No, no comforts of a nice warm fish house for us- although, we did drive the car out on the lake and when our whining got too much for him, we were allowed to warm up in the car! So, let’s enjoy Bjorn’s trek into the wilderness and his day on the lake!

bjorn in the wilderness bjorn's out on the ice having a good day fishing bjorn ice fishing... bjorn gets in some ice fishing

When ice fishing, it’s a good day when you catch anything!

That's a good size fish Bjorn too bad fishing contests won't start for another few hundred years at least... but it's a keeper

And, realistically Bjorn’s got what looks to be a pretty well equipped cozy little cabin up there… honestly, I’ve probably stayed in worse places. Seriously, roughing it and learning to survive in the wilderness- how bout you forget the cabin and try winter camping for a few nights, Bjorn! 

bjorn fishing bjorn's cabin in the woods bjorn enjoys the fish and his cabin

Ok, enough of Bjorn’s survival vacation in the woods. Floki was off on his own survival excursion. While it was a far more serious and dangerous one than Bjorn’s there were some entertaining and questionable moments to it… such as this one

wonder boy super hero ubba

That’s right, Ubba has already begun his ascent to super hero! He seemingly leads the search for Floki and needs no wilderness tracking lessons because he already knows more than the men of his village.

Ubba the boy seems to be in charge of this search for floki

Ubba the boy seems to be in charge of this search for floki

Meanwhile in Wessex, there’s a battle going on to save damsel in distress. Kweni’s in the tower of Mercia and Aethelwulf’s doing his best to rescue her but he’s having a few small problems…

aethelwulf I should have ate breakfast

In Paris, Rollo’s problems seem minor compared to those of everyone else! He spends some time attempting to bond with Odo and Roland… and perhaps teach them a bit of battle strategy?

I know... let's play boats

Odo likes the idea…

odo is impressed with rollo's demonstration

Roland… not so much!

odo translates he's telling us to build more boats roland's still not impressed

let's play boats

Male bonding time over… Rollo gets a makeover, is not so impressed with it and makes a slight error in judgement.

rollo gets a makeover

rollo gets a makeover

rollo is not impressed with this new stylist

rollo is not impressed with this new stylist

rollo tries to impress gisela

Yes, I am sorry to say… the majority of us would have to agree with Gisela’s reaction to Rollo’s attempt at chivalry, courtly manners or whatever it was he thought he was doing!

rollo's attempt to impress hilarious

Advice to Rollo: Pay close attention to who you take your visual clues and lessons from… the fashionista and foppish tailor is probably not your best bet as one to learn your courtly manners from. Pay more attention to Roland in the future- he may end up being a traitor and a player but he is a safer bet for moderate and appropriate social etiquette than the tailor!

be careful who you take lessons from

Speaking of Roland… even in the middle of  a serious and slightly difficult moment, he pulls off the gentlemanly overtures.

roland still the gentleman

Now look how that subtly played apology worked out for him!

roland and therese continue their game

 

Back in Kattegat, there were some very dark and serious moments. To ease my mind, I suppose I tried to find the dark humor…

I guess this pretty much rules out that majic shirt to protect from snakes

And, in Wessex, Judith did provide a startled moment of humor for me…

judith thinks she sees her athelstan...