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Vikings: In defense of my friend Siggy!

 

 

 

A new dawn, a new voyage and adventure draws near now and our past is just that. As we head to this unknown future, we must try to put the past behind us and begin anew? As many of us know, that is much easier said than done? The past will forever follow us, haunt us and even be our guide at times, no matter how hard we try to forget and forgive, to say it does not matter? We carry those memories with us deep inside our minds and our hearts and they shape our destinies whether we would admit it or not… In the past years, there have been many hurts, many betrayals, mistakes and misgivings on all our parts which we must tell ourselves to set aside for a new beginning, a fresh start, and for some of us- a final revenge upon past misdeeds. We know not what tomorrow will bring or what path our fates will lead us upon. We can only hope for the best, pray that our Gods are on our side and choose wisely.  We can listen to the Seers, the prophecies, the Volvas and perhaps rely upon them to tell us what the future might hold for us. In the end though, it is us who decide our own destinies, for although the Norns, the spinners of fate, or as Christians believe-God sets our course on life, we are free to choose our path, our way. As some Christians believe, God has given us free will and it is up to us each moment, each day to make the right decisions.

Most of my Norse friends believe that the Norns set us upon our path, our destiny and determine our fate in life? They are with us from the moment of our birth, spinning, weaving and often twisting the threads of our life and as such they determine the outcome of our life.

800px-Norns_(1832)_from_Die_Helden_und_Götter_des_Nordens,_oder_Das_Buch_der_sagen Norns three women spinners of destiny

Norns are female beings who rule the destiny of gods and men, twining the thread of life. They set up the laws and decided on the lives of the children of men. Their names were Urðr (that which became or happened) related with Wyrd, weird (fate), Verðandi (that which is happening)  and Skuld (that which should become, debt, guilt).

In younger legendary sagas, the Norns appear to have been synonymous with witches (Völvas), and they arrive at the birth of the hero to shape his destiny. It seems that originally all of them were Disir, ghosts or deities associated with destruction and destiny. The notion that they were three, their distinction and association with the past, present and future may be due to a late influence from Greek and Roman mythology.

The Valkyries (choosers of the slain), were originally daemons of death. They were female figures who decided who will die in battle, and brought their chosen to the afterlife hall of the slain. They were also related with spinning, and one of them was named Skuld (debt, guilt).  They may be related to Keres, the daemons of death in Greek mythology, who accompanied the dead to the entrance of Hades. In the scene of Kerostasie Keres are the “lots of death”, and in some cases Ker (destruction) has the same meaning, with Moira interpreted as “destiny of death” (moira thanatoio :μοίρα θανάτοιο) .

The Germanic Matres and Matrones, female deities almost entirely in a group of three, have been proposed as connected to the Norns and the Valkyries.

Two men on horseback meet three women. All are in Elizabethan dress.

Macbeth and Banquo meeting the three weird sisters in a woodcut from Holinshed’s Chronicles.

In Anglo-Saxon culture Wyrd (Weird) is a concept corresponding to fate or personal destiny (literally: what befalls one). Its Norse cognate is Urðr, and both names are deriven from the PIE root wert, “to turn, wind”, related with “spindle, distaff”.  In Old English literature Wyrd goes ever as she shall, and remains wholly inevitable.

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

For many, the belief that the Norns have already determined our fate or our path and we can not change it is equal to the Christian Monks and church saying that what ever happens to us is God’s will. It is a fatalistic view and one that does not take into account or approve of our thinking for ourselves, for our questioning our circumstances or our station in life… It is a thought that the Gods, or God has willed my life to be this way and I should not attempt to change it. It is a concept or thought that they have chosen us to either suffer or glory for some reason that we should not question.

I myself have seen far too much suffering and pain over the past years to believe fully that it is the choice of  Gods, or God! I think that this is often a way for men of power to somehow attempt to absolve themselves of personal responsibility or guilt in such events! 

What ever the future holds for us, I will face it knowing and believing that we can steer our course on the voyage of life, make decisions on our own that will guide us through troubled waters… and that we must take responsibility for our each our own decisions and actions. I will go through this life forever more questioning and doubting why the Gods, or God causes us to suffer but I will still hold on to faith that, for everything there is a reason? I will hold faith that in the end, there are fair, just and honorable people with compassion in their hearts whether they be Christians, Northmen, or any other believer. There must be a way for the hatred, the bitterness and the battles of power hungry men to come to some peaceful conclusion. I will also hold faith that someday, the lot, the value and the life of women will see a change for the better. I did see some change in the future, but in many ways, it was becoming as treacherous and difficult as it is now?

 

As I wait for the next voyage that is so soon upon us now, I have not time to write of everything which happened in our past that leads us to our next moves. I have time only for a few last thoughts of those things that left me with the most heart ache, the most concern and the most puzzlement as to what will happen next?

first of all, I must address the rumors and the accusations upon my good friend, Siggy. She has made some grave mistakes and bad decisions… have not we all at one time or another? But, I will stand for  her and deny the claim that she is not a Whore! Siggy is not a Whore… now, that Princess Kwentirith of Mercia- she has most certainly earned and warrented the title of Whore? But, Siggy’s actions of late do not constitute the label of Whore. In my definition and estimation, a Whore is one who is not choosy about their partners, who has few scruples about their actions and does not have care or concern about said actions or activities. Siggy’s situation and her resulting actions were done for only one reason in her mind, and it was not as many think, just for benefit of herself!

I have stated previously, many times, that Siggy’s situation was precarious to say the least? She was in fear for her life and that of her daughter, Thyri at first, and you must understand that all women were in some ways dependent on men for their survival. Very few women were of such high state or power that they could completely make their way in life, rule themselves or make their own choices without the backing of men. Siggy knew this, all women knew this! Siggy lost her place in life and society when Earl Haraldson died and had to find her own way. In the beginning she was able to navigate the tides of change and could accept those changes with help from Lagertha, along with some thoughtful guidance from Athelstan.  She also had some thought, some assurance and protection from Rollo in that beginning. Rollo, who then had faith and belief that he would be an equal to his brother, Ragnar, offered her protection and the opportunity to regain her station in life as his wife.

After Haraldson’s death, Athelstan helped Siggy make her peace and make a new beginning in Lagertha’s household. This was by no means an easy thing to do for Siggy, but she did it. Siggy is a woman of pride and she had to swallow all of it in going to Lagertha. She begged forgiveness for her husband’s actions and she offered herself as servant to Lagertha’s houselhold.  Lagertha showed her compassion and her true judge of character in accepting Siggy into the household, not as a servant- but in the end as a true and valued friend. It was a friendship that would last, would survive through everything.

Athelstan paves the way for Siggy and Lagertha

Athelstan paves the way for Siggy and Lagertha

siggy begs forgiveness and charity from lagertha

siggy begs forgiveness and charity from lagertha

Siggy is doubtful but hopeful with his words

Siggy is doubtful but hopeful with his words

puzzled and untrusting looks at Siggy's offer to serve

puzzled and untrusting looks at Siggy’s offer to serve

Lagertha is uncomfortable with the offer as well

Lagertha is uncomfortable with the offer as well

Siggy and Lagertha formed their bond of friendship and Siggy became a source of great strength and comfort to Lagertha in the worst of times. These two women knew the meaning of friendship, and understood well the importance of women sticking together, supporting each other no matter what each one’s circumstances. It was during this time when the men were off in England that they faced together, one of the most difficult battles that women will ever face… the battle, the fight that men will never quite understand no matter how hard they might try? Men fight their battles and their wars on the field, most often against their enemies. Women fight their greatest battles, and so often lose at them, in attempting to give birth to one they already love and cherish. Their struggle, their fight often ends in the loss of that one they fight so hard to save? And, if they do not lose them in child birth, they lose so many children early in life that often their hearts close against the pain of such loss. They will often become distant and detached, appearing cold hearted towards their children, preparing themselves against another painful  loss. Siggy knew well of these feelings, having lost her two sons and almost losing her daughter Thyri, not to death, but to the inevitability of  marriage.

What began with fears about Ragnar’s safety across the sea brought hopes and dreams of their own future and then turned to something much more tragic.

A long time ago the seer prophecied that your father would have many sons that is how I know it's a boy

A long time ago the seer prophecied that your father would have many sons that is how I know it’s a boy

at home some mother daughter bonding time

at home some mother daughter bonding time

While Ragnar was in England thinking of great treasure and of revenge… Lagertha was at home in Kattegat fighting a losing battle for the life of their son.

Women would oft stand a better chance on the battle field than in the birthing bed

Women would oft stand a better chance on the battle field than in the birthing bed

death and tragedy strike at home

death and tragedy strike at home

the loss of their son

the loss of their son

the hardest fight to lose is one for the life of your child

the hardest fight to lose is one for the life of your child

 

siggy tries to comfort lagertha

siggy tries to comfort lagertha

So, while Ragnar was glorying over his victory in England, he failed to realize that in every reward from the Gods, there is a price to pay?

 

staring at his hard won treasure Ragnar little realizes what he has lost in return for it waving goodbye to Aelle

He returned home to greeted with the sadness that his much precious and prized next son had been lost. After that, there was much doubt in his heart that Lagertha would bear him more healthy sons and he eventually looked at the appearance of a young Aslaug as the Gods’ answers to his doubts? It was while he was off on a journey to aid King Horik that he was faced with the temptation of Aslaug and could not resist that temptation? It was also during this time while he was enjoying himself that the greatest of tragedies beset our village of Kattegat and everyone in it.

I do wonder at times if Siggy does not carry guilt and some kind of unbearable remorse that she can never quite forgive herself for in light of what occurred? It was certainly not her fault in any way, but I know that any one of us in the same situation would feel the same thoughts and wonder if we have caused such death in some way, and if we are then unworthy of forgiving ourselves… No one has ever set blame upon her for it, but in these situations, no one needs blame us- we blame ourselves for eternity and carry some form of unsaid guilt within our hearts forever. It began when she returned from a visit to a cousin who had just lost a child to sudden illness. We thought nothing of it at the time, such things happen all too often in this life.

After Ragnar and the men left on their journey, Lagertha was filled with fear and doubts which she could not shake from her thoughts. Much of it, I am sure had to do with the loss of her baby and her mourning that loss.

a somber family at home  Gyda worries over Lagertha You haven't eaten in three days

a somber family at home Gyda worries over Lagertha You haven’t eaten in three days

She was overcome with some undefinable fear that she felt hovering around her, like shadows in the corners, she called it?

I have fears  it's sometimes better not to know if fears will come true

I have fears it’s sometimes better not to know if fears will come true

Some of that fear had to do with Ragnar and her conclusion was, “Ragnar is in danger from himself!”

lagertha thinks Ragnar is in danger from himself

lagertha thinks Ragnar is in danger from himself

 

Later, Siggy returned home from her visit to relatives and complained of not feeling well? At first we thought she was just overly tired from her journey, but she quickly became very sick!

Siggy  tells of her cousin's son who died suddenly of a sweating sickness

Siggy tells of her cousin’s son who died suddenly of a sweating sickness

siggy complains of not feeling well

siggy complains of not feeling well

siggy becomes very ill

siggy becomes very ill

Suddenly, our entire village succumbed to the deadly illness. Everyone one us suffered and so many died that we could not keep up with caring for the sick and burying the dead? We suffered the loss of young and old alike, and in the end we lost our loved ones. Sweet innocent young Gyda was taken and so was the much loved Thyri.

the dead and dying in Kattegat

the dead and dying in Kattegat

the sickness strikes all and lagertha tries to care for them the great hall filled with sickness sweet young gyda falls ill I am going to die I know I am gyda asks for Athelstan but he is too weak to come to her athelstan is stricken athelstan comforts thyri he is too late  gyda has passed on as wellthyri has passed on horrified and grief stricken siggy holds her daughter

With Thyri’s death, Siggy felt that she had now lost everything? It would have been so easy for her to give up completely right then… as she had nothing left to live for in her mind. Lagertha had lost a baby, and now Gyda, but she did still have Bjorn and a husband left. She had reason left to fight but Siggy did not have that. Lagertha summoned her faith and called upon the Gods to help us. In the end, I do think that the only thing which save the few of us left alive and put an end to the sickness was the fact that custom and beliefs required us to burn the dead and their belongings along with them!

lagertha makes an offering to the gods in hope of stopping the sickness burning the dead

The only remaining comfort and solace for Siggy and Lagertha came in the knowledge that their daughters would travel together to the other side? And, in some way, I think that may have even strengthened the bond between them in this life, that thought that Gyda and Thyri would ever be together waiting on the other side and watching over them.

gyda's death2

gyda’s death

Our village and our people were decimated and nearly destroyed by this plague but there was little time to mourn the loss before even more chaos and destruction hit us. Ragnar and his men returned only to tell of Rollo’s betrayal and of a new battle for King Horik against Jarl Borg. Rollo was so filled with doubts about his own self worth and about Ragnar’s treatment of him that he chose to side with Jarl Borg in this war. The saddest part in all of it was the fact as Lagertha put it, it was not any war of our concern until Ragnar chose to involve us in it! For the life of me, I still do not quite understand all of the reasonings and motives behind all of it? It started as a land dispute between King Horik and Jarl Borg. Ragnar offered his services to King Horik in negotiating some form of agreement or settlement of the dispute. For all practical purposes, Jarl Borg was most probably in the right in his refusal to settle the matter! But, as it is done and over now, that is of little consequence and will not heal the hurts caused or bring back the dead.  After a deadly and vicious battle in which Rollo lost all reason, gave in to bloodlust, killed those who had once been friends and very nearly killed Floki, the battle was ended when Rollo regained some semblance of sanity and admitted that he could not kill his own brother. For all of this death and carnage, the battle did not even result in a victory for either side! They set their differences aside and decided that it would be far better choice to join forces and raid England together than to kill each other! The only one who really lost in this matter was Rollo.

The group returned home with Rollo as prisoner, now disgraced and dishonored, waiting for death. Rollo was really the only person, the only thing that had kept Siggy going on after the death of Thyri. When they brought him back, she did not desert him or give up on him even though he had given up on himself!

rollo in chains

rollo in chains

Siggy did not give up on Rollo even though he kept telling her to leave him be and let him accept his fate.

siggy comes to offer some comfort

siggy comes to offer some comfort

Eventually there was a judgement and the Lawgiver made the judgement to spare Rollo’s life but that did little to ease his mind or his heart? Rollo had lost all faith in himself and deemed himself unworthy of care or concern. He said it would have been better if he had died than to now live in such disgrace and dishonor.  The one person to pull him through this deepest inner battle was Siggy! She refuse to give up on him and forced him to face his demons. Now, at this time, Rollo was at such rock bottom that one could not really say that Siggy was doing this for any benefit to herself. Because, really what use or benefit was a drunken, has been warrior to anyone? Rollo did not have useful connections or grand wealth that would benefit her in the long run… he had nothing and he bluntly told her of this many times! Why would anyone choose to align themselves with him during this time other than out of true care and deep feelings for such a person?

At his lowest point, she had to revive him from having passed out in a snowbank! She most likely saved his life that night and did he care or thank her for it? No, he did not! He wanted to wallow in his self pity and destruction but she would not let him.

siggy bluntly revives a drunken rollo

it will be a long hard climb back up for Rollo

He finally sobered up and decided that he would leave Kattegat. He thought to sneak out of the village without even telling her of his leaving but she caught him and finally lost her temper with him!  She bares her heart to him and tells him, “I have lost everything, my sons, my husband, my daughter, my own worth, I will not lose you as well!”

I have lost everything my sons my husband my daughter I will not lose you as well

I have lost everything my sons my husband my daughter I will not lose you as well

Determined to reach him, she uses the force of the Gods on him, “The Gods have offered you a second chance at life and you would throw it away!”

the gods have offered you a second chance at life and you would throw it away

the gods have offered you a second chance at life and you would throw it away

siggy forces rollo to face himself

siggy forces rollo to face himself

Her final push to his limits is to hand him a seering hot knife and tell him to go and speak to Ragnar or else just end his life right now and be done with it once and for all!

 

go and speak with your brother or take this blade and kill yourself right now

go and speak with your brother or take this blade and kill yourself right now!

 

rollo takes the blade

rollo takes the blade

He could not do it, proving that there was still some spark of hope within his soul. Siggy saved his life and his soul on that night! She did not do it for her own gain, for any great rewards, she did it because she cared so deeply for him!

Rollo did go to Ragnar begging for forgiveness and some second chance at life with his brother. Ragnar was loathe to trust him again but did accept him once more as brother. He refused to allow Rollo to raid with them though… which in the long run was probably a good thing because Rollo eventually saved Ragnar’s family from the revenge of Jarl Borg!

Why should I forgive you or ever trust you again?

Why should I forgive you or ever trust you again?

begging for second chance with Ragnar

begging for second chance with Ragnar

Rollo was relegated to remaining at home while the others planned another raid to England. It was previously decided and agreed upon that King Horik, Ragnar, and Jarl Borg would raid together? But, King Horik changed his mind at the last minute and decided that he did want to include Jarl Borg in the raid. This decision would have disasterous consequences for all later on? King Horik was a devious and manipulative man who would use any means to ensure he got what he wanted?

I will not go into all of the details of his manipulations but it was during this time that Siggy began her own desperate attempts to fight for Rollo’s causes. She entered into the most dangerous of games at this time, taking great risks to herself and her own self worth. After having lived with Earl Haraldson, Siggy was well versed in the ways of dangerous political and power games that men will play and she entered into this world with the only assets she had available, her body… Yes, some would say that this makes her a whore, a prostitute and an ultimate betrayer of Rollo. But, in reality, this was much the way of the world back then, and is even now though we are loathe to admit it! The difference between Siggy’s motives and actions, and those of one such as that Princess Kwentirith is that Siggy did feel guilt, remorse, even disgust with herself at times. And, she did what she did for one sole purpose, Rollo! Siggy entered into a dangerous game, one which she could not back out of in the middle of it. It was one of those situations that you put yourself in, knowing full well the possible consequences and one that you know you must follow through on even when it turns far uglier than you ever imagine?

siggy tries her hand swaying horik

siggy tries her hand swaying horik

 

Siggy was not above using her body if need be to survive.

Siggy was not above using her body if need be to survive.

 

It was also during this time that Aslaug made her appearance in Kattegat and forever changed many lives… and not in a good way! This was a mess of Ragnar’s own making but the rest of us had to suffer it’s consequences! I have no love for Aslaug, and neither does Siggy. The woman was basically good for one thing- making sons for Ragnar. He fell for her wiles and temptations, and in the end lost Lagertha and his son Bjorn because of it. Lagertha chose to leave rather than be degraded and humiliated by Ragnar’s lust for this woman. I do not blame her in the least, but it was heartbreaking to see her go and be left with the haughty and useless Aslaug as leader of the household! We made attempts to get along with her… what other choice did we have?

From the moment of her arrival, she flaunted her pregnant self in front of Lagertha and assumed such an air of superiority over everyone that it was difficult to feel any fondness for this woman!

aslaug arrives

aslaug arrives

Siggy’s heart was with her friend Lagertha and she tried to console her in this matter but knew that Lagertha would not content herself with staying in this situation.

siggy tries to help Lagertha

Siggy tried to help Lagertha through the mess but knew that Lagertha would not stay in such a situation

Lagertha made her choice to leave and our hearts broke for her! It was a wretched and tear filled goodbye between friends.

lagertha prepares to leave friends they have become and friends they will remain a heartfelt goodbye between friends

Lagertha’s parting words for her husband were filled with contempt and disgust, “You insult and humiliate me, I have no choice but to leave!”

you insult and humiliate me I have no choice but to leave

you insult and humiliate me I have no choice but to leave

Bjorn chose to leave with his Mother… so Ragnar had traded one loving wife and son for another younger one who might produce more sons for him?

leaving ragnar is it possible to replace one son with another

And then what did he do? Why, he immediately left her with us to deal with as he went off to raid England again! He also left Rollo behind…

rollo watches the others leave

rollo watches the others leave

Aslaug did make half hearted attmepts at friendship with Siggy and Siggy forced herself to put up with the woman. No one was fooled and all knew that it was a friendship in name only!

aslaug attempts friendship with siggy siggy's response yes women must stick together more

aslaug attempts friendship with siggy siggy’s response yes women must stick together more

let's not fool each other you were once where I am now and perhaps you would like to be here once more

let’s not fool each other you were once where I am now and perhaps you would like to be here once more

As I mentioned, it was fortunate that Rollo did stay behind because it only his skills and his thinking that saved us when Jarl Borg chose to seek revenge upon Ragnar. He attacked the village and took it over while Ragnar was in England raiding with King Horik. and we were relegated to surviving up in the hills with the wining and useless  Aslaug and her sons. It was truly one of the worst times of my life, having to listen to her constantly!

To make a very long story shorter, Jarl Borg maintained control of Kattegat for a great length of time but we all managed to survive and eventually the village was taken back. Some years had passed and then to our great relief and pleasure, Lagertha returned to us for a time with Bjorn. He was now grown, a fine young man he was too! He and Lagertha returned to help fight for Kattegat and they did stay for a time. Lagertha eventually said she must leave and go back to her husband… a different sort of mess that we were unaware of at the time. But, she left Bjorn with us. He wanted to stay with his Father now.

There was still much intrigue and political maneuvering during this time and Siggy still played her dangerous game. She was greatly troubled though by her circumstances and her feelings. At one point, she visited the Seer and admitted her bitterness and resentments over the way her life had turned out. She wants to know if the Gods will ever smile upon her again.

siggy visits the seer are you unhappy do you think the gods have cheated you

siggy visits the seer are you unhappy do you think the gods have cheated you

i-want-my-old-position-back-i-am-bitter-i-am-angry-everything-i-had-everything-has-been-taken-from-me.

i-want-my-old-position-back-i-am-bitter-i-am-angry-everything-i-had-everything-has-been-taken-from-me.

I want to know will the gods ever smile on me again

I want to know will the gods ever smile on me again

The Seer’s answer to her is that the Gods always smile upon brave women like the sirens whom men desire and yet fear so much?

The gods always smile on brave women  like the sirens who men desire and yet fear

The gods always smile on brave women like the sirens who men desire and yet fear

Siggy took his words as some indication that she should continue to follow the path she had chosen no matter how dangerous, treacherous and disgusting it would become. At a meeting of the men after their return from another disasterous trip to England, Rollo and Siggy listen closely to King Horik’s plans for revenge and to his plans of once more joining forces with Jarl Borg? Rollo is suddenly in a much higher and more valued position…

it should be you rollo you know him better than anyone

it should be you rollo you know him better than anyone

siggy and rollo listen closely to horik's plan of revenge on king ecbert

siggy and rollo listen closely to horik’s plan of revenge on king ecbert

At what cost was this to Siggy though? Siggy had firmly entrenched herself in these games of politics and could not back out evenly when the cost became higher than she could stomach. She was visited by Horik and his son and at first thought it was a simple meeting, one which would just assure Horik of her willingness to help him in his cause and ensure some better circumstance for Rollo. She did not imagine what far more devious, deceptive and degrading game he played? She assumed that he would not involve his son in such actions, but that was where she was so very wrong!

siggy entertains horik and his son.

siggy entertains horik and his son.

everything I do I do for Rollo

everything I do I do for Rollo

if rollo rises I rise also     And you need my help

if rollo rises I rise also And you need my help

Horik does involve his son! “I want my son to undertand the games we play, you and I play, and Ragnar tries to play.”

I want my son to start to understand the games we play  you and I play  Ragnar tries to play

I want my son to start to understand the games we play you and I play Ragnar tries to play

my son is ignorant of these games and strangely ignorant of other things as well

my son is ignorant of these games and strangely ignorant of other things as well

I want him to enjoy the attentions of an experienced free woman

I want him to enjoy the attentions of an experienced free woman

Siggy suddenly realized just how far Horik was willing to drag her down to have complete control over her in her desperate attempts to ensure Rollo’s rise…But, she also did realize that she could not quit in the middle of such a treacherous game. For fear of her life and that of Rollo, now she must carry through with this because this act showed just how merciless and soulless Horik was. He would have no qualms about seeing her and Rollo done away with should she not comply with his wishes now. Especially now that she had admitted her feelings for Rollo and that she would do anything to ensure his rise in life.

how far does siggy degrade herself to help rollo rise once the game has begun one can not just quit or back out in the middle of it horik watches and siggy will not forget how low he has forced her to sink

and so siggy will go on with the game now because she must

and so siggy will go on with the game now because she must

Siggy may have played the whore because she felt desperate enough for Rollo’s future that she would have done anything for him, but that did not mean that she did it willingly or because she enjoyed it. Her disgust in herself was evident and she would never forgive Horik for putting her in such a position. There in lies the difference between Siggy and the ones such as Kwentirith!

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/vikings-trivia-who-is-princess-kwenthrith/

kwentirith inspecting the northmen Kwenthrith1 kwentirith talk to me of love and death

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Vikings: The beginnings of Rollo and Siggy

 

the wrath of a shieldmaiden

Still some time left to fight/vote! I will close the poll on Saturday… which is as we all know, Valentine’s Day- a day for love, peace and togetherness! So, no matter who wins or loses the battle, we will put down our shields and celebrate a well fought battle! The Shieldmaidens have come from behind and are currently the favored odds on favorites but that could change at a moment’s notice so continue to fight!

Now on to our memories of the past…

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/02/09/vikings-past-and-future/

As I told of earlier, we all attended Thyri’s wedding and wept to see her put up such a brave front in the midst of this arranged marriage which would bring Earl Haraldson such great profit and alliance with greater powers who might prove helpful should he face revolt again in the future.  The rather repulsive and disgusting groom, Earl Bjarni was a cousin of  King Horik, whom we would all meet later…  Haraldson took great pains to stress the importance of this marriage and alliance to Siggy and remind her that the marriage was about far more than just Thyri’s happiness. 

Thyri  tried so hard to maintain her dignity and hold her head high going into this marriage no matter how grieved she was at her fate. As we attended the wedding feast and watched her, we all felt such sadness for the girl.  I think of course, none was so sad as Siggy? 

just go on and remember to look happy

We were all surprised by Rollo’s appearance at the wedding feast for Thyri, the one who had once been used a promise- a pawn- to gain his allegiance to Haraldson? We all knew well that Haraldson now viewed Rollo as a traitor and was watching him closely to see if he would lead to Ragnar? Why would Rollo take such chance as to show up at this time? Did he not know, realize how much danger he was in from Haraldson? Why would he do this… many say it was because Rollo did not think ahead, did not think of consequences, acted on his impulses rather than common sense. At times, I would have to agree with those words about him.  In this instance, I believe though that Rollo perhaps thought this might be the best time to approach Earl Haraldson? Haraldson would not want a blood letting or fight to mar his daughter’s wedding to Earl Bjarni. He would not want Earl Bjarni to know so much about what other real problems there were within his small kingdom… it would not look good to have this more powerful Earl see that he was in a battle for control of his people?

What ever his reasons were, he chose to approach the Earl on this night.  Later that evening he met with Haraldson outside and confronted him about being followed and harassed for no other reason than being Ragnar’s brother.  He tells Haraldson, “You own everything I do not want to be on the outside I want to raid and fight that is what I do.”

Tell your thugs to stop following me it's a waste of time Ragnar is dead.

Tell your thugs to stop following me it’s a waste of time Ragnar is dead.

You own everything I do not want to be on the outside I want to raid and fight that is what I do.

You own everything I do not want to be on the outside I want to raid and fight that is what I do.

Earl Haraldson gives thought to Rollo’s words and advises him that he may work on the boats until such a time as Haraldson makes a decision on his trustworthiness?

Siggy watched this meeting from the shadows and did not trust that any of it would go well? I have said often that I do not know for sure of what may have transpired between Siggy and Rollo before this night… I only know that on this night, Siggy made her choice to involve herself more deeply in Rollo’s life.

siggy watches and listens to rollo and haraldson

Rollo watches Siggy in the shadows

Rollo watches Siggy in the shadows

Now, normally Siggy did not involve me in her personal affairs so much and I appreciated that. There are times when the less we know about certain things, the better off we are? But, after this night, she did ask me to help her? She put it more as helping Rollo than her… she swore he was in grave danger and would not take serious heed to warnings of Haraldson’s deceptions or his hatred of all Ragnar’s family.  I did not know what she thought I could do to help in this matter but she said that all I need to was make some excuse for her absence if any should ask after her? She was determined to meet with Rollo even though I did warn her that she was putting herself in equally grave danger? What if Haraldson should find out of this? Siggy shook this off and told me in confidence that those many were right about Rollo- he was too trusting, and too often believed people’s promises to him…

She arranged a meeting with him to warn him of the danger.

siggy and rollo meet secretly in a whare house

siggy and rollo meet secretly in a whare house

rollo believe me get away he hates you

rollo believe me get away he hates you

I've come to warn you

I’ve come to warn you

 

you must leave at once

you must leave at once

 

Her warning was in vain though, because as he made to leave, he was set upon by Haraldson’s men.

as he goes to leave he is set upon by haraldson's men

as he goes to leave he is set upon by haraldson’s men

Haraldson showed his truest hatred and seemed to take great relish in his torture of  Rollo?  I did never mention my thoughts on this to Siggy, but I think perhaps he knew something of Siggy’s involvement with Rollo and thus took even more revenge on the man?

I will admit to my small part in helping Siggy to find where Rollo was being kept… I was but a maid moving around the grounds and could more easily hear of things than she would be privy to? I think Haraldson did not trust her so much either now… I did help her into that room and then waited in shadows outside for her.  She was overcome with her grief, and guilt, I think at the treatment of him? I mention guilt because I do think  she knew in some way that this was far greater torture and punishment than called for on any level? Was it guilt because she did not warn him sooner, or was it guilt because she had in some way been a part of this? I do not know, for she never spoke of it after this.

beaten and tortured but not killed siggy sneaks in to see him

beaten and tortured but not killed siggy sneaks in to see him

Before I could warn her to leave, Earl Haraldson showed up and found her in the room with Rollo.

very suspicious now

Earl Haraldson is very suspicious of Siggy being in the room but chooses to say nothing of it

 

now a prisoner of haraldson

Siggy looks on in silence as Earl Haraldson approaches his prisoner.

siggy looks on as haraldson threatens more torture

siggy looks on as haraldson threatens more torture

where is ragnar lothbrok

where is ragnar lothbrok

Siggy kept her silent vigil as Haraldson continued to take his revenge on Rollo, asking him “Where is Ragnar Lothbrok?” It did no good to so continuously torture Rollo for he did not know!

rollo barely alive earl haraldson

Only a few knew of Ragnar and his family’s hiding place far up in the hills and woods at Floki’s home.  He had been close to death when young Bjorn searched for Floki and begged him to help. Helga was there with Floki and later told me the story of how Bjorn had shown up asking for help. They took the family in and hid them well with only those few closest to them ever knowing the truth.

desperately seeking floki bjorn meets Helga

I must speak with floki

I must speak with floki

what are you doing here boy My father is dying you must help us

Despite his disgust for the priest Athelstan, floki grudgingly admitted that there was some worth to him and all of them worked feverishly through the next weeks to keep Ragnar alive.

hidden away at floki's cabin ragnar heals.

hidden away at floki’s cabin ragnar heals.

During that time Athelstan learned much more about the Norse Gods as Floki and the others shared stories to help pass the time.

they tell athelstan stories about their gods how the water was made and how the ice came helga tells the story of how the earth was created

Athelstan could not hide his interest and his fascination with their stories…

athelstan is fascinated with the stories

Their peace and Ragnar’s healing was interrupted by Torstein’s arrival to tell them of Rollo’s capture and torture.

Torstien comes to warn of trap and of Rollo's torture

Torstein comes to warn of trap and of Rollo’s torture.

Ragnar was far from recovered of his wounds but decided that it was time to face Haraldson anyway and put end to the matter one way or another. Let the Gods decide on his fate in this battle…

 

tell me if he refuses

He sent Floki to  Kattegat with message and challenge Haraldson to a personal combat with him, making it clear that if Haraldson refuses then shame will stalk him forever and Odin will never allow him into his halls.

 

In Kattegat, Rollo’s life as well as the rest of ours hung on edge… Siggy must find some way to convince Earl Haraldson that Rollo meant naught to her, that she was as loyal and faithful as ever to the Earl and that she would stand with him no matter what.  She knew now exactly what her husband was capable of doing to any or all of us that he might view as traitors to his will and his cause. It only  Floki’s arrival and message from Ragnar that saved us all, that is my personal belief on it.

I must remind all who read this that despite the thought that the story is of  just Ragnar and his glories… it is not! It is so much more than just a telling of Ragnar Lothbrok’s life. Many often think only of Ragnar, of his deeds but I am here to tell the stories of those others like Rollo and Siggy along with others who often fell into the shadows of Ragnar’s larger than life exploits.  I must tell the story as I see it, as I know of it from the perspectives of all of those who shared in the events of his life, good and bad such as they were.

Siggy and Rollo, they are my friends and their stories matter just as much as Ragnar’s or anyone else’s.  Ragnar’s actions dragged all of us into this change of our world whether we should liked to have gone or not. Such is the case of Siggy and Rollo. In order to understand how they came to be who and what they are now to each other, we must see what happened to both of them in those early years to bring them together.

Despite what Siggy might have felt to Rollo at the time, she did love her husband once upon a time. She loved the man he used to be not the one he had become before the deaths of their sons, before the coldness and bitterness set in on him and the need for power and control at all costs took over his life and his mind. When Floki arrived that day with Ragnar’s challenge, I think that she feared the worst for us all no matter what the outcome? If her husband won, all those who might have sided with Ragnar or even been connected to him in the slightest of ways would see their own deaths as well as his. If Ragnar won? Well, if Ragnar won, her husband would die… and where would that leave her and her daughter, Thyri as well?  In those few days before the challenge she sought to find peace with herself and with her husband.

Floki arrived with his message, the challenge of personal combat to Earl Haraldson from Ragnar

floki delivers his message to haraldson

floki delivers his message to haraldson

The Earl’s henchman, Sven makes comment about how ridiculous this challenge is. Ragnar Lothbrok is nothing, a wanted man- how dare he think to issue such challenge to one such the Earl?

he has high opinion of self   Well he is a descendent of Odin

he has a high opinion of himself, doesn’t he? Well he is a descendent of Odin.

Floki tried to remain unphased and continued his speech about how bad it would look for the Earl to refuse such challenge?

others are moved by his speech

After some thought on it, the Earl agreed to this challenge, knowing it would be the death of either Ragnar or himself.

 

After the challenge was accepted, the worst fears and doubts were faced by all?

Haraldson prayed to his Gods but found no signs or answers…

 

 

haraldson praying to the gods

haraldson praying to the gods

give me a sign I can not feel your presence

give me a sign I can not feel your presence

Siggy watched on as the man that she had loved for so long gave up the fight before it had even begun.  In those darkest hours, she remembered who he had been and felt his pain. She stayed by him trying to comfort him, give him some peace and some strength to fight this battle for as I said, she feared what his loss would mean for her and Thyri… and she had loved him deeply once. It was those memories she held to as she tried to give him that courage, that warrior self that he was losing now.

siggy watches as he throw the idol down on the alter

siggy watches as he throw the idol down on the alter

It was during those hours that Haraldson admitted his respect, his honor of Ragnar Lothbrok. “He is what I used to be… ambitious, restless and he was right about the west. But, then I knew that in my heart.

He is what I used to be ambitious restless and he was right but I knew that in my heart

He is what I used to be ambitious restless and he was right but I knew that in my heart

He acknowledges, “Tomorrow I must kill a man for whom I have the utmost respect for.”

tomorrow I must kill a man for whom I have the utmost respect

tomorrow I must kill a man for whom I have the utmost respect

Siggy, at a loss for words, hands him back the locks of hair from their sons. in attempt to give him some added support and belief, she whispers, “Believe at least in them if not yourself that the Gods are with us.”

believe at least in them if not yourself that the gods are with us

believe at least in them if not yourself that the gods are with us

They passed the long night together and I do think that they both knew in their hearts that this was their closure, their goodbye to one another?

siggy and haraldson before the coming challenge

Thyri spent the night with her new husband and tried not to think of the future, or of the coming battle between her Father and Ragnar Lothbrok.

thyri and her new husband

thyri and her new husband

Her husband of course wanted to know more of this, of this man Ragnar Lothbrok but Thyri refused saying, “I do not talk of him, he is my Father’s enemy.”

who is this Ragnar everyone talks of  I don't talk about him he's my father's enemy

who is this Ragnar everyone talks of I don’t talk about him he’s my father’s enemy

 

Lagertha spent that night voicing her own fears…

savoring a few private moments before floki returns

savoring a few private moments before floki returns with the answer

Let us leave this place, go away from here. There are other places we can go to and live in peace…

let us go away there are other places we can live in peace

let us go away there are other places we can live in peace

 

Daylight came and everyone made ready for this final battle between two warriors, each for their own honor. For that is what it came down to, two men fighting for their personal honor. Two men, one who could not let go of the past and one who embraced the future. In the end, they honored and respected each other for in each other, they saw themselves.

the battle begins

the battle begins

In battle, they were well evenly matched and both fought honorably knowing that in this their final battle, an honorable death to one of them would be the only outcome.

they throw down their weapons and it's hand to hand combat the battle continues he loses his shield and haraldson throws his down too ragnar strikes from behind ragnar offers some comfort to the dying man Odin is here to take one of us  So I shall dine tonigh at the high table with Odin

At the end, Earl Haraldson lost the battle but Ragnar assured him of his well done fight and his journey to Valhalla.

ragnar helps his leaving come quicker

ragnar helps his leaving come quicker

Siggy’s worst fear had become reality. She kneeled next to her husband and made a last effort to save him

siggy tries to stop the leaving and blood letting but haraldson pushes her hand away he is ready to go

but he pushed her hand away and said, “Do not grieve, Tonight I shall be drinking with our boys”

tonight I shall be drinking with our boys

tonight I shall be drinking with our boys

As her husband died there in front of her, Siggy found her last strength…

his life fades away

She stepped back from her husband and loudly proclaimed her loyalty to Ragnar Lothbrok in a voice which demanded the respect of everyone else standing out there.

 

Hail Earl Ragnar

Do not tell me this did not take great courage on her part, as did her next action… a final action she took to save her daughter’s future. While everyone was standing there in stunned shock, she grabbed a knife and went to Thyri’s husband, Earl Bjarni, stabbing him to death.

before anyone realizes what she is up to Siggy grabs knife and stabs thyri's husband

before anyone realizes what she is up to Siggy grabs knife and stabs thyri’s husband

It was not until that act was completed that she walked away from the crowd in her own dazed shock.

in a daze she walks away from the crowd

in a daze she walks away from the crowd

The Earl’s henchman, who will forever live in my mind by the name of Piggy Henchman- I shall not honor him with his given name, he does not deserve that respect! He tried still to hold on to power after the Ear’s death, commanding the men to kill Ragnar.

piggy henchman attempts still to give orders

piggy henchman attempts still to give orders

pointing to ragnar he gives the order to Kill him

pointing to ragnar he gives the order to Kill him

Rollo calmly picked up an axe and finished the henchman’s miserable life!

rollo picks up an axe

rollo picks up an axe

attack on the henchman

attack on the henchman

At that end, he still thought there might be some chance? The man looked like he was debating on whether to pull the axe out or not?

an axe to his chest

an axe to his chest

 

For everyone in the village, this whole event became a blur of so much shock and change that it was difficult to sort it all out until much later. Suddenly in a matter of moments, Ragnar Lothbrok was now the Earl of Kattegat! All of the men immediately wanted to make their allegiance to him known, and be sure that there was no question or doubt about the event that had given him this honor. He was quickly swept into the Great Hall, in much of a stupor and daze himself.

still in some shock himself he looks dazed as he heads to the Earl's throne

still in some shock himself he looks dazed as he heads to the Earl’s throne

the men immediately swear their allegiance and fielty to him

the men immediately swear their allegiance and fielty to him

 

He tried to dissuade them all, saying there was no need as they were all his friends. They would not be argued with and insisted on this ritual. Then came an old man up to the throne, whom Ragnar did not know so he asked him his name and what his intent was?

the next time you go raiding you take me I am old I want to die in battle and enter valhalla with honor

the next time you go raiding you take me I am old I want to die in battle and enter valhalla with honor

 

give me the chance to die with honor in battle and join my companions

give me the chance to die with honor in battle and join my companions

The old man’s words were sincere and heartfelt, but Rollo was never one for tact or subtly made a less than honorable comment to the man. This was one of those time when many of us wanted to reach over and slap him for his unthinking remarks as Tostig took his oath of allegiance to Ragnar!

tostig steps forward to swear his oath

tostig steps forward to swear his oath

 

Rollo is blunt and has little tact at Tostig's oath of from this day forward he replies well it won't be too long then

Rollo is blunt and has little tact at Tostig’s oath of from this day forward he replies well it won’t be too long then

 

Later, Rollo made his own oath of allegiance and loyalty to his brother. Ragnar insisted there was no need because Rollo had already suffered greatly in showing his loyalty.

there's no need for you to swear you have already suffered and shown your loyalty

there’s no need for you to swear you have already suffered and shown your loyalty

Rollo is adamant about swearing his loyalty

never the less I will swear my oath to you brother

never the less I will swear my oath to you brother

Rollo speaks from his heart. He vows his loyalty, wishes Ragnar good fortune from the Gods and his last words are ones that he believes Ragnar will hold to? “I hope that we will ever be equal now, my brother”

I wish you good fortune always I hope the gods remain with us

I wish you good fortune always I hope the gods remain with us

I hope we will ever be equal now my brother

I hope we will ever be equal now my brother

Rollo speaks from his heart, and he thinks that his brother does as well? But, this was one of those moments when Siggy and many others were right… Rollo puts too much trust and faith in some, he still believed then that his brother would treat him as an equal in their relationship?

 

at rollo's words of equal Ragnar's look changes

at rollo’s words of equal Ragnar’s look changes

Rollo firmly believed that Ragnar would treat him as an equal, as a partner… When he came upon Siggie and Thyrie making plans to flee for their lives, he made a promise, a statement to Siggy that said as much.

Siggy and Thyri prepare to flee for their lives

Siggy and Thyri prepare to flee for their lives

Siggy was in a panic thinking that Rollo had come to do Ragnar’s bidding and put end to them as well.  After all, it was much a common practice… she was expecting such and was in a hurry to escape with Thyri.

have you come to kill us because Ragnar told you to  It is often the way the new Earl does

have you come to kill us because Ragnar told you to It is often the way the new Earl does

“Even if we don’t die, everyone will shun us like a bad smell nor take us in even though we have nowhere else to go”  Siggy had told me of this earlier and bade me go to Lagertha to swear my allegiance and offer my services to her.

even if we don't die everyone will shun us like a bad smell or take us in even though we have nowhere else to go   They won't

even if we don’t die everyone will shun us like a bad smell or take us in even though we have nowhere else to go They won’t

Rollo offered her his own protection and swore none would kill her or Thyri, much less Ragnar.

no one will force you to go anywhere if I vouch for you

no one will force you to go anywhere if I vouch for you

ragnar won't kill you

ragnar won’t kill you

Rollo believed he would hold equal status with Ragnar and offered marriage to Siggy… Thus began their long and complicated relationship!

would you not like to be married to another Earl  What do you mean who

would you not like to be married to another Earl What do you mean who

Of course, it must be said that this offer came after he realized that his wishful thinking of some future with Lagertha was just that… wishful thinking and nothing more. He had witnessed a moment between Ragnar and Lagertha where he knew that there was nothing between them save his unshared feelings for her.  That moment when Lagertha announced that she was carrying another child of Ragnar’s, Rollo’s pain at that was so visible. He could not hold his feeling within and so it was afterwards that he made his offer to Siggy.  If he could not have Lagertha, then he would have an Earl’s wife for his own…. Rollo and Siggy’s relationship began out of hurt and desperation on both their parts but they did come to care deeply for each other.

As they observe the death Lagertha announces her pregnancy rollo watches them walk away rollo looks on at the two of them together I know you're a boy the seer told me By all the Gods you have made me a happy man

Rollo and Siggy have a love that many do not understand… It was not born of fairy tales of childish dreams and fantasies. Their lives have been painful and oft filled with darkness. But, sometimes love is painful and it grows from those darkest and deepest cuts to the heart.

Rollo and siggy

 Siggy’s heart and soul were broken, Rollo gave her a way to go on, to come out of that darkness and reach for life again. Rollo’s heart and spirit were broken as well, and he was filled with doubt. Siggy gave him strength and purpose over the years to keep fighting the doubts, to be a better man. Theirs is a story of two troubled and broken people fighting from the ashes of life to survive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

A woman’s worth is in her… hands and her mind

As we read and view history now, there is much emphasis, attention and focus on the battles, the conquests and wars. We watch the historical docudramas and fantasies play out in books, movies and the small screen, and we make much of those warriors and their great or not so great feats. We give great attention, admiration and acclaim to those women throughout history who were involved in the battles- real or imagined. We are generally presented with an image of women of great beauty, tremendous courage or spirit, or we get a portrayal that puts the woman as down trodden, abused and of worthless status.  Women are seldom depicted, portrayed or given attention/acclaim for the other  status or contributions which the majority of them back them actually held or made. 

Anglo Saxon women stitch their way into history

Aelle and judith

 

We typically assume that a woman’s worth or value was set in stone. We have this impression that it was tied to the status she was born into, to her physical attributes, and to her ability to breed. In some ways, yes it was tied to those things, but there were other ways that she could be deemed of great value or asset to her family, her household, her village or her kingdom. These abilities would not necessarily bring her great fame or recognition in future generations but they would ensure that she survived and more important for us in those future generations, her family survived to create a next generation that probably benefited from her untold, unknown contributions. 

I am not going to downplay the fact that a woman’s life was difficult in the past, no matter what rank or status she was. Then again, a man’s life was  no less difficult during those times. Nobody had a truly easy time of it back then.  What I want to talk about today though, is the thought or idea that there were ways for a woman to achieve some status, some value and some degree of upward mobility in those early medieval or dark ages. Ways that were not dependent upon her family status or wealth, her appearance, her fighting ability/ spirit or her breeding capacity… because realistically, looks faded quickly in those times and they would have faded in some direct proportion to her success at breeding! In order to make it through those times and create a next generation, every survivor whether man, woman or child had to have some fighting spirit to a certain extent so that asset that we deem so noble and great now would have been viewed  in a context of  the woman’s value being based not on her fighting spirit or ability but just on the fact that she was not weak of body or mind. Her breeding ability would not be apparent at first appraisal or trade negotiation but would be more based on her family history of breeding and on her health. 

rollo and gisla

Of course for the wealthy noble families, a woman’s worth was directly based on her family’s wealth, bloodlines and connections to power bases. Her appearance had little to do with her value and neither did her fighting spirit other than she should have enough spirit in her to fight to survive and to keep her household intact and alive in event of a siege when her spouse was off fighting elsewhere. Every woman should have that attribute.

What I am looking at are those other attributes, abilities, talents or  that a woman could use to her advantage whether she be high ranking nobility, a mid level family member of some noble household, low born serf, or even a slave child. No, I am not going to touch on that one “profession” or “skill” that women have used to their advantage probably since the beginning of time!  I will leave that for some other discussion. There were any number of other ways and skills that a female could use to her benefit and advantage throughout time. Most of those abilities were learned skills that also involved some innate or gifted by God talent. These skills, as I’ve already mentioned, would not give them great fame or recognition other than in their personal sphere of influence. They were however, most often extremely necessary skills that would ensure the survival of the entire community in which they lived. These women possessed skills in areas that we give little thought or credit to now. They were the midwives, the healers, the cooks, the dairy maids, the spinners and weavers of cloth, and the needle workers.  Every woman was expected to have some fundamental knowledge and ability of these skills, even those most noble and Royal women. These were skills essential to keeping a household or community alive and then of thriving and prospering.   A woman who was talented or gifted in any of these skills was deemed of some high status or value to her community and as such was rewarded well for her skills so that she would remain within that community. These women were often well known through out their local areas and regions. Their skills were prized and their families, their Lords or owners and those above them would usually make effort to ensure that the women were well compensated or cared for, well treated, healthy and loyal to their benefactors. Much as a man might be prized or valued for his fighting abilities, his horsemanship, his metal working, woodworking or seamanship, these women were looked at as valued commodities. Their value was tied to their skill or their ability in a certain area that had nothing to do with Noble lineage, appearance or breeding capacity.  Yet, while the men with certain skills could go on to make names and recognition for themselves, be rewarded with monetary wealth, land grants or positions that would eventually bring them to Noble status, the women were largely forgotten and became just a backdrop for the fabric and tapestry of history that they helped to create.  They might become wives of those men, they might gain entry to some Noble status by being a part of a much coveted inner circle of women but for the most part their names, their lives and their contributions are long forgotten and generally passed off as unimportant in the great events of history. We will never know who they were, but we can see remnants and reminders of those unknown women, those untold stories even today as we view some of what they created and left as their communal identity.

siggy tries to help Lagertha

The women that I want to give credit to and shed some light on are those women who so often receive little or no attention acclaim for their contributions. These are those women who, so early in history, picked up a needle and thread, and began to not just clothe the rest of us but to leave a piece of themselves and their story in everything they sewed. These are the women we give no thought to, that are relegated to the backdrop of history. These women and their creations in that hidden, protected and shrouded space of a women’s bower  solar, or even the confines of a nunnery  are considered or deemed of little interest or importance in a story. Their creations, their accomplishments and their life’s work are portrayed as insignificant, mundane, and of no real consequence or value… after all it was just women’s work? It was often just women’s work, skill and efforts that kept an injured bleeding man alive after an accident or a battle. Caring for the wounded was part of a woman’s work and quite often, a woman who had great skill with a needle would be called upon to stitch up wounds as well. 

medieval women sewing 3

I want to look a bit at those unknown women, the history of their skill or art and give you a perspective on how such a talent might have allowed even the lowest born or captured slave girl an opportunity to rise above her circumstances. I am not going to delve into the entire history of sewing or stitching here. I want to put into some perspective or relation to the early medieval history of the Viking era and forward from that.  The reason I put it in relation to the Viking era is that the type of stitching that the Anglo-Saxon women became so recognized and renowned for is their embroidery skills that may have had origins in early Danish needle work. I put it in relation to slave girls because many of the girls who were taken and sold into slavery by early Viking raiders were children of farmsteads and villages of many various places. They were not necessarily the poorest, untrained or unskilled lowest forms of humanity that we would imagine or picture them as. Girl children were generally taught the basics of stitchery from their earliest years and would have carried that knowledge or skill with them where ever they went in the future. Many children were sold as household slaves to families that could afford that luxury and not all of them were sorely abused but actually valued as some sort of asset by the household.  Slaves were a costly investment, a valuable asset, and it would make little sense to abuse them and completely destroy their value.  Even in the early Saxon times of England, slavery was a somewhat common circumstance. 

Take for example, young Uhtred and his friend Brida… they were initially slave children but became part of the family…

Uhtred with his medallion

Brida, however, was not a girl who showed much interest or talent in stitchery!

brida's humor

Rather than seeing the often worst case scenario of a slave child (I am in no way advocating or promoting slavery in any way!) Try to see the possibility or scenario in which a child sold or captured into a slave situation is not quite so misused or abused but becomes in some way, a part of that household- granted a lowest member but still, a valuable working asset to it… Imagine a girl child who has some rudimentary knowledge or skill and displays some interest and talent in that said skill.  The art of stitchery was not one which everyone had skill, talent or patience for. It also took a great deal of time and many hands involved to create any finished product. A child who displayed any skill or talent for it would immediately rise in value to the person or family they were attached to. Any small girl slave who showed such talent would probably be looked on favorably, treated well and further trained in this art. In this way, depending on her skill and talent, she might eventually be rewarded for her services and her loyalty to the household. This young girl who started as slave in the household or community might feasibly be rewarded with her freedom and become a valued member of the larger community. She had a God given gift or talent that she used to her benefit and advantage, improving her circumstances. Perhaps she then married a skilled member of the community whose ability or skill was also valued. Her needle skills would have moved her to a status that allowed or enabled her to be worthy of such a man within that society and as such a valued couple, their children would be of better circumstance or status. They train their children in their skills and the children also inherit their talents, which makes them even more valuable in this system of society… and within a few generations, any slave status is for the most part forgotten other than in some dark family history or in some reference to lowly beginnings leading to good fortunes. Future generations might use these beginnings in order to make themselves look better to those might have some cause to rebel against them or resent their present status. It might be used also as a reminder to family members not to forget their own more humble beginnings when relating to the serfs, peasants or slaves now under them.

judith trying to remain calm

I mentioned earlier the connection between the Anglo-Saxon needle work and art and that of Scandinavia. The history of needle work goes back to the earliest beginnings of time and every culture or society had knowledge and skill of it. From those earliest beginnings of just sewing a seam together to create a functional piece of clothing became an art form that even those earliest of people used to decorate and embellish their clothing. The basics of those hand sewn stitches have remained unchanged to this day.  The art of embroidery has been found worldwide and several early examples have been found. Works in China have been dated to the Warring States period (5th-3rd century BC).  In a garment from Migration period Sweden, roughly 300–700 AD, the edges of bands of trimming are reinforced with running stitch, back stitch, stem stitch, tailor’s buttonhole stitch, and whipstitching, but it is uncertain whether this work simply reinforced the seams or should be interpreted as decorative embroidery.   It is during the mid 9th century with the intermixing of Scandinavian or Viking culture and the Anglo-Saxon culture that we see the beginnings of the needle work art that the Anglo-Saxons would become so recognized for.  The Anglo-Saxons may have had already begun this process and progress in the artwork but it after the arrival of the Scandinavians that we see tangible evidence of their work. It was probably during these times too that the variations in stitching from Scandinavia, Francia and other places all began to merge together in the sewing rooms of once more isolated English kingdoms. It was during this time period that the women of Anglo-Saxon England- the ones who did the majority of  any sewing back in this time- began to be more exposed to so many other variations of patterns, materials, textiles and threads of other far off places and cultures. The Vikings brought with them all of those other varied exposures to the world and when they began to settle in Anglo-Saxon, so did all of those cultural experiences. 

I am going to focus on the needle art of embroidery here, which is what the Anglo-Saxons became most renowned for.Normally we tend to think of embroidery as smaller stitched designs on clothing, pillows, towels. We don’t envision this work on a large wall hanging scale. When we think of large scale designs and stitching we think of tapestries.  There is a difference between the tapestry art and the hand sewn needle work known as embroidery. The term tapestry generally refers to weaving on a loom and is most often thought of in terms of heavier wall hangings or rugs. The tapestry did not reach a level of high point, widespread availability or use in Europe until about the 13th century. Prior to this, the wall hangings would have been the hand stitched embroidered creations that women would work together on as a group, often requiring years to complete. 

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

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

During these dark  daunting early centuries that were filled with fear, bloodshed, battle, death and destruction all around them, women would take solace or possibly find some sort of peace in one activity that allowed them to escape for a time into a realm of another place… one where they could create their own world. In a world so controlled and dominated by men, this activity became one of the few things that they could have complete control over.  The women took a necessary, mundane chore of sewing and turned it into a creative art form that we remain in awe of to this day.  When we look at examples left of their work today, we seldom think of the process that went into their creations back then. We seldom give thought to the conditions they worked in to create these pieces of art that often they considered as just an adornment or embellishment to add some color or variety to their otherwise plain and similar garments. 

judith and her cross 2

judith's cross to bear

judith’s cross to bear

This type of hand stitching required a great deal of skill as well as keen eyesight, fine motor abilities, hand to eye coordination, extreme patience along with such abilities as being able to differentiate between colors and patterns. In addition to these skills, there must be one involved who was talented and skilled at drawing out a pattern with a piece of charcoal on to a piece of material because that is where the entire process began. Before a woman or group of them could begin the stitching process, the background material had to be prepared for them. In our current day, we can easily find almost any pattern and transfer it to a background. In their day, the transfer process was just as involved and detailed as the sewing process.  It required a finely skilled and talented artist to draw out the idea with the charcoal which was then sewn over and expanded upon by the sewers.

If the woman in charge of the project, or whose idea the project was could not draw, and most of them could not- just as most of can not now- she would have to find someone who could put her idea or concept on cloth for her. This would take some of the control out of her hands and put her at a slight disadvantage but she could generally regain artistic control once the initial pattern or design was set for her. If it was a small project such embellishing a personal gown or a tunic, she could and would most likely work on it alone. If were something larger, say a wall hanging, bed covering or draperies, it would probably be worked on by a group of women. Often these larger projects would be a group involvement from beginning to end. The women would decide together what image or design they wanted to create, they would all be included in overseeing the drawing of the design and they would stitch it as a group effort… much like in future generations women would work on a quilt together. These group projects might be designed for a wall of a great hall that they were all familiar with as visitors or residents. It could be a done as a special gift from the group of women in honor of a Wedding, or some other celebration or commemoration, or in many cases it might be created as a gift or donation to the Church.  Of the few remaining pieces of work, the majority are church finery or vestments. 

There was another crucial requirement and note of importance as well… the cost involved in the materials.  The materials, threads and needles were dearly expensive back then. Great caution and care were taken to ensure that none of these items would be wasted, misused or otherwise damaged by one who was not proven to be capable, experienced or talented in this skill.  Most any woman, be she lowly peasant serf woman, warrior shieldmaiden, or common farm wife could sew a basic seam together, manage to mend a rip or tear, or even place a few simple decorative stitches upon a garment but few women had the time,  the skill or creative talent to do much more than that.

vikings_gallery_1_3-P lagertha vikings_gallery_1_5-P lagertha and daughter gyda and lagertha

Imagine for a few moments, one of your favorite small screen shieldmaidens, Lagertha of Vikings Saga… Look at her and her family. When she was a young farm wife and Mother, she managed to adequately clothe them all but realistically she did not have time to  spend on decorating their garments lavishly, nor did she probably have the creative skill necessary or the keen interest in it. She accomplished the basics and that was about it.

katheryn-winnick-stars-as-shield-maiden-lagertha-in-history-channels-vikings

lagertha caught in middle of father and son

lagertha caught in middle of father and son

lagertha and her shieldmaidens

In more recent years, she has spent most of her time in warrior mode but she does show that she appreciates the finery of much more intricately and well detailed sewing. Somewhere in Hedeby, in England or in Francia, there have been women involved in the hand stitching of her dresses. Those women have most probably been well compensated in some way for their efforts. If they did not receive some benefit or reward for this time consuming work, they most likely would not continue to do it. You will never know anything about these women but when you see their work, you will appreciate it and remark upon it’s quality and fineness. What is important for you to keep in mind when you look around you in the various settings of the time is that every single piece of clothing, every wall hanging, table cover, blanket or drapery hanging was sewn by hand!

silence as judith tries to find courage to tell aethelwulf her condition

silence as judith tries to find courage to tell aethelwulf her condition

in wessex judith has given birth to a son

 Another example would be the Lady Judith and the ladies of her small court… Judith may have some skill, talent and inclination towards this activity but it is highly doubtful that she has time to devote towards this effort, what with other responsibilities she might have. What Judith would do is have this group of ladies in her service devote time to these endeavors.  In choosing her ladies, she would of course first have to choose women of high rank and noble status but should she come across a young girl or woman with exceptional skill but not status, she could always find ways to fit such a talented one into her circle- even if it is on the edge of it and all of the household members know that the woman is there only for her skills. For the woman to be included in any way would be a step up for her, one that if she has any common sense or reasoning at all, she will understand the benefits and advantages of.  This young woman may have begun her life in the village and found ways to display her innate talent in the decoration of her own clothes, those of her family. Seeing her talent, neighbors and others in the village might have bartered or traded with her to adorn their garments as well… her skills would eventually come to the notice of those of importance and thus she would gain the entry or footing within or around the nobility for herself and her family. Will she ever reach far enough up to attain some form of noble status? Probably not, but she will have raised her family to another level up,  achieved some added level of comfort and security for them so she has proven her worth and value just by that accomplishment. 

ragnar's christian conversion is marched through the streets of paris for all to see and celebrate

my lady judith you have been found guilty of adultery

During the 800s  the Church was becoming a much more powerful force to be reckoned within England,  people were becoming increasingly devout and the Church would take advantage of this religious devotion. Noblewomen would begin to concentrate much of their creative talents in the needle work art to show their religious devotion to the Church. The women would spend vast amounts of time and energy on creating master pieces of hand stitched artwork for the adornment of the Church, and it’s priests. These gifts were not just donations to show the family’s devotion.  It is during this time that the quality and skills of these devout Anglo-Saxon women began to be recognized throughout the Church’s broad sphere of influence. The Church and Priests praised these works, appreciated them and set a great deal of worth or value on them. The families- the women were well aware of the value and would use the gifts as bargaining tools to garner favor with the Priests. A donation of such a finely worked altar cloth, wall hanging or even clothing item to the Priest or Bishop could go a long way in being pardoned or forgiven for some transgression or in a favor/request being approved. 

A great many women during this time also sought solace and sanctuary within the Church’s cloistered walls. As the wars and battles took over their lands and their lives, many women found refuge in the cloistered and protected walls of the Nunneries and Convents. Some of course were sent there as punishments by husbands or families.

 i-am-a-bride-of-christ-i-can-not-show-my-face-to-any-man-i-am-not-any-man-i-am-king-ecbert


i-am-a-bride-of-christ-i-can-not-show-my-face-to-any-man-i-am-not-any-man-i-am-king-ecbert

Other young girls were given to the Church by their families as a show of the family’s devotion or patronage of the Church.  And, yet other young girls and women sought out the sanctuary willingly for varying reasons ranging from true devotion and commitment to having no where else to go.  If one had no where else to go, the Church was usually willing to take them in, provide for them and hopefully train them for a life devoted to God’s calling.  Many of these young women were taught the needle work skills and if they showed talent for it, they would continue their training in the art. The most talented of these women would go on to spend their lives devoted not so much to the Church but more in some devotion to their craft, their art.  These women benefited from the seclusion of the Church sanctuary that allowed and enabled them to completely focus on their creativity without having to concern themselves with outside distractions such as husbands or breeding a new generation. They were still faced with the battles that would often end up taking place within their confines, the destruction and decimation that took place all around them, but in many ways they were safer and better off within the holy walls than they would have been outside of them.  

You might ask or wonder how the women who resided within the cloistered walls of a nunnery, devoted their lives to God and to their art form would be considered of value or worth to their family’s future. Granted, these women would not have been responsible for creating a next generation but often times they were directly responsible for a next generation benefiting from their efforts or contributions. Within these holy walls, these women were often looked upon with great favor and praise from those in higher levels of power such as Bishops and Cardinals. Their talents were highly valued and they often rose in status or position of their own type of power within the constraints of the convent. As a result of their talents and  creations, their order or Nunnery would rise in acclaim and fame… the women may not have needed or desired any material wealth or gain, but they might find themselves in positions to ask for some boon or favor for family outside those walls. These women were not above or beyond bartering, bargaining and negotiating for rewards that might help their families… in fact they were often quite good at it. In some ways it was expected of them by their families- it was part of the reason for giving a child to God. This child was often given to the Church with some expectation that the child would rise in status there and become the family’s inside connection to the Church’s power base. During the early medieval times, the women of the Nunneries were a power base that was extremely important and influential. 

During the dangerous centuries, the consecrated life became identified more exclusively with monasticism. Nuns and monks clustered in large houses organized according to a variety of rules that emphasized discipline and routine. The day was divided into segments for sleeping, eating together, performing manual labor, and always, chanting the office in a perennial outpouring of praise to God. Women responded in great numbers to the attraction of this life. They planted new communities on the frontiers of the Christian world, contributing to the process of converting barbarian tribes.

Queens and noble women who inherited great wealth, and could, according to the laws of the Germanic peoples, deploy that wealth as they saw fit, established houses for as many as two hundred women. Managing land and legally presiding over the inhabitants, these great abbesses were intrinsic components of the new feudal ruling class. They sent troops to war, held court, and enjoyed all the rights of noble men. Each monastery stood autonomous (though increasingly these became standardized under the Benedictine Rule). From the sixth through the tenth centuries, abbesses generally came from local ruling families, and they educated young women and helped to preserve the intellectual heritage of the ancient world. The original literary work of some of these nuns survives, most notably the histories, poetry, and drama of Hroswitha, a tenth-century Saxon nun whose learning may even have extended to some knowledge of Greek.

http://www.ctlibrary.com/ch/1991/issue30/3019.html

 

Sewing for a household or a community was time consuming chore that required a number of women and hands to complete the task. Those who owned large landholdings were responsible for a great many people under them. Part of this responsibility including feeding and clothing all of those workers that were part of the extended household or holding. A responsible Lord would provide sets of basic clothing for his underlings at least once a year. The way one’s workers looked directly reflected on the Lord… a poorly clothed or fed worker showed a lacking on the part of the Lord. If you were to visit a holding where the workers were dirty, poorly dressed and fed, and thus unhappy, you would take notice of that and remember it… If you were of equal or higher standing, you might not be inclined to visit this holding again and you might also be somewhat less than favorable in your dealings with this land holder. If one of these poor workers were for some reason leave this holding (could you blame them?) and end up seeking service at your holding, you might take them in and use them to your advantage- in finding out more about what is going on at that place. 

 

Because the chore of sewing was such a major effort and undertaking, entire rooms or floor of a residence might be set aside for it’s purpose. This space may have been in close proximity to the Lady’s personal chambers or even connected to it. It did need to be a space of good lighting though and as much as possible would have been situated with windows to help with the lighting.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

1400660855p23crypt-c-jigsawdesign-publishingandpetersmith medieval sewing room

A kind of hierarchy also developed within this domain of women. Less skilled or capable women would be assigned more menial tasks as cutting and sewing basic garments for the underlings- although at times, every woman would participate in this task in order to get it done in time to hand out the garments. Women with a bit more skill were allowed involvement in sewing for higher ranking family members and such… and finally the most  skilled and talented women would form the most highly prized and coveted inner group that did the fine stitching under the direct supervision of the Lady or Matron of the holding. Even if such a woman was not so talented in this area, she was still in charge and although she did not have talent, she would have a keen eye for the finished product and it’s quality. She might appoint one of her ladies that were more talented in the art to be her supervisor in this area.  We have already discussed how a young girl or woman might gain entry to this rather hidden space. Once she gained her entry based on her talent and hand skills, she must also be intelligent enough to maneuver her way through this hierarchy of women. She would not be well accepted, and she would find resentments against her from some of these women. This inner circle was a highly coveted place to be because it put them in close proximity and ear of the Lady. They could use this position to influence the Lady and possibly her husband. If they could gain much favor with the Lady, they could reap added benefits for their own families. No matter how talented a young woman was, she would not go far or succeed in this space if she did not have some wits about her!  This inner sewing sanctuary was far more than just women sewing- it was about women vying for their own power and it probably would have been just as dangerous in that secluded sanctuary as it was out on the battle field. At least on the battle field, the fighting was out in the open and you could determine your enemies… in this women’s battle field, the enemies could be well hidden and disguised as your friend- a friend who might be willing to stab you in the back if it meant favor or advantage for her over you. Make no mistake, a woman intent on power can be far more of a threat than a man with a sword!

We have looked at the history, the importance, the Church’s involvement in this art form and I hope that I have shown how a woman’s innate God gifted talent for this handiwork or craft of stitchery could be considered as her worth or value. I think that I have shown too, that besides her talent or skill, she must also have a keen intelligent and creative  mind in order to use this skill or talent to her advantage and benefit. Without the fortitude to think ahead, think on her feet, use the common sense and reasoning that God also gave her, this woman’s talent means little or nothing. It would take the talent and the keen mind working together for a woman to use this gift as her value, her worth and move her family upwards to some better position in life. 

I have also mentioned the fact that while these women will ever remain unknown and most of their accomplishment are long destroyed and forgotten about, there are still remnants and reminders of their creative talents with us today. These unknown women were the creators of such historically important works as this… 

This piece of embroidered stitching is one of the most important remnants left to us. It is the Bayeux Tapestry which details the events of William the Conqueror and the battle of Hasting. 

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

bayeux tapestry bayeux tapestry2 bayeux tapestry7

There is a great deal of mystery and controversy over it’s origins and creation but there is a general consensus that it was made in England and created in the Anglo-Saxon tradition. Some theories and trains of thought propose that is was commissioned by Bishop Odo.

Scholarly analysis in the 20th century concluded it was probably commissioned by William’s half-brother, Bishop Odo, who, after the Conquest, became Earl of Kent and, when William was absent in Normandy, regent of England.

The reasons for the Odo commission theory include: 1) three of the bishop’s followers mentioned in the Domesday Book appear on the tapestry; 2) it was found in Bayeux Cathedral, built by Odo; and 3) it may have been commissioned at the same time as the cathedral’s construction in the 1070s, possibly completed by 1077 in time for display on the cathedral’s dedication.

Assuming Odo commissioned the tapestry, it was probably designed and constructed in England by Anglo-Saxon artists (Odo’s main power base being by then in Kent); the Latin text contains hints of Anglo-Saxon; other embroideries originate from England at this time; and the vegetable dyes can be found in cloth traditionally woven there. Howard B. Clarke has proposed that the designer of the tapestry was Scolland, the abbot of St Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury, because of his previous position as head of the scriptorium at Mont Saint-Michel (famed for its illumination), his travels to Trajan’s Column, and his connections to Wadard and Vital, two individuals identified in the tapestry. The actual physical work of stitching was most likely undertaken by female seamsters. Anglo-Saxon needlework of the more detailed type known as Opus Anglicanum was famous across Europe. It was perhaps commissioned for display in the hall of his palace and then bequeathed to the cathedral he built, following the pattern of the documented but lost hanging of Byrhtnoth.

Another thought or speculation is that King Edward’s wife Edith of Wessex had some involvement in it’s creation. After the events at Hastings, Edith was the sole remaining senior member of the Godwin family to survive the Norman conquest on English soil, the sons of Harold having fled to Ireland. She remained alive until 1075 and lived in seclusion but was paid all due respect by William. She died at Winchester on 18 December 1075.  Matthew Parisrecords a tradition that her death brought an end to an illness from which she had been suffering at some length. She was buried together with her husband in Westminster Abbey and her funeral was arranged by William. The northern author of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Manuscript D, reports:

Edith the Lady died seven nights before Christmas in Winchester, she was King Edward’s wife, and the king had her brought to Westminster with great honour and laid her near King Edward, her lord.

Edith was brought up at Wilton Abbey. She was an educated woman who spoke several languages, skills she probably acquired at Wilton. She remained attached to it, and in later years rebuilt its church.  Her niece, Gunhild of Wessex, would also be educated at Wilton.

The Vita Edwardi emphasised her piety. She helped Giso, the Bishop of Wells, secure the endowments of his see, and gave lands to Abingdon Abbey, but the monks of Evesham alleged that she had the relics of many monasteries brought to Gloucester so that she could select the best for herself. When Gervin, abbot of Saint-Riquier, who was visiting the English court, rejected her kiss of greeting, she took offence. Edward reproved her, and she accepted the rebuff, even going on to urge English churchmen not to kiss women, although they did not object to the custom.

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

Some of the mysteries surrounding the tapestry would point to the idea or thought that Edith could have had some connection to it’s creation. First of all, Edith maintained close connections to the Church and it’s power base throughout her life. She was well known as a pious and devout woman loyal to the Church and it’s leaders. She probably did have some connection or knowing of Bishop Odo and perhaps this creation was a sort of co-sponsored project.  Harold is shown as brave and his soldiers are not belittled. Throughout, William is described as “dux” (duke) whereas Harold, also called dux up to his coronation, is subsequently called “rex” (king). The fact that the narrative extensively covers Harold’s activities in Normandy (in 1064) indicates that the intention was to show a strong relationship between that expedition and the Norman Conquest starting two years later. It is for this reason that the tapestry is generally seen by modern scholars as an apologia for the Norman Conquest. Certainly no one was going to come out and renounce William’s actions, not even the Church was willing to do that. But, this project or creation could have been seen or meant in an underlying way to make some appeasement for the events.

Edith would have maintained some strong connections and influences with the various convents and may have been responsible for setting up and arranging for the stitchery do be done at certain selected ones. This would have been looked at as a great favor and honor to a convent selected to do such work.  Only convents with the most skilled and talented sewers would have been selected for this honor. 

The artistic context of the work could also lead back to Edith. Edith was a child of some Danish heritage and would have most likely learned some Danish variations of stitchery during her youth. Many of the Convents made use of these variations as well, showing the Danish influences in Anglo-Saxon sewing.  Tapestry fragments have been found in Scandinavia dating from the ninth century and it is thought that Norman and Anglo-Saxon embroidery developed from this sort of work. Examples are to be found in the grave goods of the Oseberg ship and the Överhogdal tapestries.

A monastic text from Ely, the Liber Eliensis, mentions a woven narrative wall-hanging commemorating the deeds of Byrhtnoth, killed in 991. Wall-hangings were common by the tenth century with English and Norman texts particularly commending the skill of Anglo-Saxon seamstresses. Mural paintings imitating draperies still exist in France and Italy and there are twelfth century mentions of other wall-hangings in Normandy and France. A poem by Baldric of Dol might even be describing the Bayeux Tapestry itself.  Therefore, the Bayeux Tapestry was not unique at the time it was created—rather it is remarkable for being the sole surviving example of Middle Ages’ narrative needlework.

On a final note to this discussion, I just want to leave you with some examples of what these Anglo-Saxon women locked away in their bowers and their nunneries were responsible for eventually creating.  Opus Anglicanum or English work is fine needlework of Medieval England done for ecclesiastical or secular use on clothing, hangings or other textiles, often using gold and silver threads on rich velvet or linen grounds. Such English embroidery was in great demand across Europe, particularly from the late 12th to mid-14th centuries and was a luxury product often used for diplomatic gifts. Their beginning of the art form in the 800s culminated in the more famous stitched master pieces of later years.

Some earliest remains of Anglo-Saxon needle work during 8th and 9th centuries

Anglo -Saxon Embroidery - A Fragment of the Maaseik

Anglo -Saxon Embroidery – A Fragment of the Maaseik

cuthburt_maniple_c909

cuthburt_maniple_c909

An example of Viking era needle work in 10th century. The original clothing items were found in the Mammen graves.

The so called Mammen finds date from the late 10th Century. The main find was the grave of what appears to be a high ranking man. He was dressed in several layers of woollen fabric (2/1 twill), most of which was decorated in some way.

The fragments contained several motifs worked in stem stitch. It is impossible to tell the original colours of the fabrics and the threads used to embroider them, as they are all now a dark brown colour (altered by elements in the soil in which they were found). However, it is possible that they were once brightly coloured.

mammen_full_outfit Viking example of Viking stitchery in 10th century

mammen_full_outfit Viking example of Viking stitchery in 10th century

http://medieval.webcon.net.au/extant_mammen.html

 

opus anglicanum

opus anglicanum

anglo-saxon examples of needle work

anglo-saxon examples of needle work

This example shows the use of beadwork within the needle art 

medieval stitchery with beadwork

This is an example of the needle work art as it progressed into the later 13th and 14th centuries.

Butlerbowden_cope later example of opus anglicum about 1330

Butlerbowden_cope later example of opus anglicum about 1330

Finally, this is an example of the size of some of the creations and present day efforts to maintain and repair the works as much as possible without interfering with the original design.

Alice-Cole-Conserving-a-Cope

Alice-Cole-Conserving-a-Cope

After reading all of this, I only hope that you come to have a better appreciation and understanding of the idea that a Woman’s worth and value could indeed be in her hands and her mind!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vikings: Where do we go from here?

Ahhh I have spent some time trying to recover from the past months and while I am now finally clean, well fed, warm and dry, I believe  my mind is still suffering from the aftershocks and affects of  that difficult time across the river in our Viking camp when so many lives were lost and other lives were unraveling before one’s very eyes. We all know well now exactly what happened out there when Ragnar Lothbrok decided that so many lives were expendable so that his plan to conquer Paris would be the successful one… When he chose to rule with his emotions and not his head- just the opposite of what he advised his son, Bjorn to do in the future.

Can you do that Bjorn  can you lead with your head and set your heart aside

People can make excuses and try to justify Ragnar’s actions all they want to… many try to excuse him by saying that he is sick and perhaps not thinking so clearly as he otherwise might be, others justify it in that he is King and he has just done what needed doing to ensure that this campaign was successful after all of the failure we endured. Yes, I will admit, he is very sick and could still possibly die from his injuries. He brought his injuries upon himself though,  when he as King, allowed his warriors to attempt a siege led by Floki, knowing full well that it would fail and cause Floki such self shame. Ragnar knew from Athelstan that this city was impregnable, and so must be conquered by some other means. He knew this when he allowed Rollo and Lagertha to make another attempt and fail yet again. And, then after those failures, he chose to rub all of their faces in their defeat and say, Now we will do it my way because I am Ragnar Lothbrok, I am King.  I believe he had this plan in his head from the beginning, that is why he prayed early on to Athelstan and asked him to forgive what he was about to do. 

Well, Ragnar Lothbrok, King… You have achieved your greatness, your fame and your reputation.  You have won your great victory and conquered Paris just the way the Seer prophesied. “Not the Living, but the Dead will conquer Paris” I suppose I should congratulate you on this accomplishment, but all I can think of is the other part of that prophecy. “and it will not bode well for you Ragnar Lothbrok!”  My thoughts are of how much it has cost you to achieve this feat, and whether it will be worth it for you in your end.  I believe that when it comes your time to meet the Gods, all of the Gods- yes, even the Christ God- you will face some judgement for your actions.   I also believe that you will have to answer to your beloved Athelstan, one whom you used and mistreated just as much as others who have cared about you.  You will pay your price for these events Ragnar Lothbrok, for there is always a price to pay for great reward and favor of the Gods. 

I also see that the bear will be crowned by a princess which does not bode too well for you King Ragnar!

I also see that the bear will be crowned by a princess which does not bode too well for you King Ragnar!

ragnar seeks advice and recieves a criptic answer that does not bode well for his future

ragnar seeks advice and recieves a criptic answer that does not bode well for his future

ragnar crawls out of his coffin ragnar eyes the bishop who told him he would go to hell

ragnar at least I know I will be reunited with Athelstan

Athelstan and the Gods will await your arrival and your judgement based upon your choices, Ragnar Lothbrok… Perhaps you have finally fallen out of favor with them all? What you have forgotten is that while yes, we all are free to make choice, there are always consequences to those choices- even for one once so favored as you, Ragnar.

Athelstan appears

Gods wait not for batte but for choice

But, I think you are perhaps beginning to realize this…

ragnar watches rollo from the boat

There is an old saying that the wheel of fate turns for all of us. Sometimes we are up and other times we are at the bottom… I believe that your turn at the top is now finished, Ragnar and you must ride the wheel on the downward turn. Perhaps the Norns, the spinners of fate will catch you before you fall, perhaps not? You have made the choices that brought you to this point.  Personally, I began to doubt  you when you dallied with Princess Kwentirith beyond what was called for as allies and presumed to chide Lagertha for her dalliance with Ecbert.

up with the skirts   no it's not what you think1 A loss for words  what do you say after you've let someone piss on you1

Yes as did you Ragnar so shut your face2

I lost my faith and trust in you when I found out about how you killed that innocent survivor of the massacre in Wessex so that no one else would know of that event and blame you, judge you, or spoil your plans for Paris. You were willing to do this and yet you hold blame against Floki for killing Athelstan- whom he deemed a serious threat to you, your people and your beliefs. In reality, Ragnar, you bear responsibility in the death of your friend Athelstan as well as Floki.  Yes, Floki killed him but if you had not been so insistent on having your way and winning in the competition for friendship over Ecbert, Athelstan would have remained in Wessex and I do believe he would have been safer there under Ecbert’s protection! You placed him in the middle of danger when you knew how your people felt about him and about Christians.  And, now one day, ironically, your sons will fight to the death against Athelstan’s son Alfred and some of them will lose their lives in that battle! Ecbert tried to tell Athelstan his future lie in Wessex, but he was too swayed by your begging of him to stay with you. Had you such true regard and concern for him as you profess, you would have set aside your desires and advised him to remain in Wessex. Now, do you feel some guilt in his death or do you just blame Floki for all of it.

ecbert is disappointed with athelstan's decision

ecbert is disappointed with athelstan’s decision

ragnar kills the survivor and sends him to his family and the gods.

ragnar kills the survivor and sends him to his family and the gods.

ragnar comes to the rescue

ragnar to floki  You killed Athelstan

In a sense, you used Athelstan just you have used and taken for granted all of the others who have cared for you. You have assumed that they will forgive you, that they will remain faithful and loyal to you no matter what… You used them, set them aside, caused them to doubt themselves, and when it was convenient or needful, you take them back and “forgive” them for whatever grievances they have supposedly done against you.  If you feel they can be of some use to you in the future, you lead them along, allow them to feel worthy of your “forgiving spirit”.  From Lagertha, who loved you, still loves you yet… who’s only fault was that she could not bear you another son, to Rollo your brother who you have taken for granted and treated as less than you until he finally believed it himself.  Aslaug, you used to give you more sons and then disregard, and we know how you have treated floki- your oldest and loyal friend. Even  traitors whom you should have killed outright, you have held on to for some questionable useful purpose that lies only within your mind and no one else’s…yes, Erlandeur, who you should have put to death along with his Father, you have allowed him to live and to become a part of your group… why is that? Why did you not just put him out of his miserable existence when you should have and been done with it!

ragnar to erlandeur I had no choice as a result of other people's actions

ragnar to erlandeur I had no choice as a result of other people’s actions

All of your choices and your using of these people who called you friend, family, ruler, came to a head in this recent deception of yours. The only two people that you seemed not to have showed your anger,your distrust, and your resentment of were your son, Bjorn and one other person? I watched this person with some interest and now wonder why it is that you did not lash out at him, and why he remained so calm throughout this all? This is one person that I would have assumed that you would find some fault with just for the fact you hold grudges and resentments as well as some jealousy over who your ex-wife, Lagertha chooses to dally with… even though as she has reminded you, you really have no right to pass judgement on her considering your own past behaviors with Aslaug. I find it odd that while you seem to know everything that goes on behind your back and obviously have spies everywhere, you have chosen not to question Kalf or hint at any suspect of his secret doings with Erlandeur, nor have you given any show of disapproval on him desiring your ex-wife. No, you save that show of displeasure just for Lagertha as if it is only her fault… You openly welcomed Kalf into the group because you were in need of his ships and his men, so do you go so far as to throw Lagertha into the deal just in order to receive what you want from Kalf? What else is going on perhaps, between you and Kalf that you are keeping a secret… another game of treachery and deception such as was played with Erlandeur’s Father, King Horick? Is there something else that you want or need from Kalf besides his ships and his men?  I only ask because at this point, I have become as distrustful as you, Ragnar Lothbrok!

Despite my knowledge of Kalf’s previous plan for deceit and revenge upon you and your entire family, I can not seem to help myself from liking the man. Since embarking on this raid with us, he has shown himself to be a fine, courageous warrior and has remained calm in the face of everything that has happened. When you were raging at everyone, he stayed steady and unfazed by your tirade. His points made during the discussions have had merit and he has really said nothing against you, but only brought up facts that all would agree upon. Your baptism struck a nerve with all of your people and he is right that they would never follow a Christian King at this point in time. It was Erlandeur who responded with the suggestion that someone needs to kill you. Kalf was only stating the easiest and most convenient way of you no longer being ruler… no bloodshed or death, they would just choose another King, that would make things easier for everyone.

Kalf says his own last minute prayer to the gods

Kalf is realistic in his appraisal of the situation  They have probably run out of food

Kalf is realistic in his appraisal of the situation They have probably run out of food

Kalf tries to remain unphased and calm through Ragnar's tirade

Kalf tries to remain unphased and calm through Ragnar’s tirade

 

Kalf: no christian king will ever rule our world  it's unthinkable it goes against all of our gods

Kalf: no christian king will ever rule our world it’s unthinkable it goes against all of our gods

 

Later after your method of attack was successful and the warriors all walked past you on their way into the city, there were telling looks from them and from you as to their feelings and yours about your deceptive plan. They were much as would be expected, except when it came to Kalf.

ragnar and rollo floki and ragnar

The most painful look came from Lagertha, and from Bjorn, who is once more caught in the middle of your differences. I believe this is a final betrayal and act of mistrust on your part, Ragnar for her. Even though she still loves you, I do not think she will be able to forgive this act from you.

lagertha and bjorn

The look from Kalf was not of surprise or shock, nor was it of betrayal on your part. It seemed to be one more almost of acceptance or some possible prior knowledge? It was as though he expected you to have pulled off something of this sort… and there was no look of revenge or anything else in your eyes either?

kalf entering the city kalf does not look all that surprised at this turn of events ragnar and kalf

Later when the group met to discuss your deception and decide what to do, Kalf also remained calm. I could be very wrong but it felt like Kalf knew something of this plan when Lagertha was yelling at Bjorn about having kept this secret. It could of course, also have been his concern for Lagertha’s feelings and her future reactions to this event that caused his look because as I have said before, I believe he truly cares about Lagertha. He would understand how all of this will hurt her.

kalf's look when lagertha is yelling at bjorn about having kept this secret

kalf’s look when lagertha is yelling at bjorn about having kept this secret

kalf remains silent and somewhat calm throughout this discussion

kalf remains silent and somewhat calm throughout this discussion

as bjorn speaks of leaving a presence in paris kalf turns to look back at erlandeur and at rollo

as bjorn speaks of leaving a presence in paris kalf turns to look back at erlandeur and at rollo

What ever personal agenda or plan that Kalf and Ragnar may be holding together must wait to be seen.  My only hope right now is that it does not hurt Lagertha… because you, Ragnar have done more than enough to hurt her.  She needs no more pain from you! One thing I find telling is that I think you know how this will affect her. When she passed you going into the city, you could not look at her. Surely you know, you understand that this was the ultimate betrayal in her mind. If you held any thought of maintaining some level of relationship with her, I fear this final act has cost you that possibility. That you did not trust her with this secret, then you allowed her to pour out her  deepest emotions for you while thinking you had died… No, I do not think she will forget or forgive this action on your part. My one other fear is that if Kalf  was somehow a party to any of this and kept it from her, he will not be forgiven either. I hope too that she does not hold resentment towards Bjorn for having only done what you requested, demanded of him- not as Father, but as King.

a grieving lagertha waits for bjorn's announcement

a grieving lagertha waits for bjorn’s announcement

and yet I think the wind of odin will rescue you carry you to vallhalla where we will rejoice we will drink and be merry and love again

and yet I think the wind of odin will rescue you carry you to vallhalla where we will rejoice we will drink and be merry and love again

there we shall meet again to fight and drink and love one another once more

there we shall meet again to fight and drink and love one another once more

 

a grim look from lagertha does not bode well for her feelings about this

a grim look from lagertha does not bode well for her feelings about this

back at camp people are pissed  Lagertha puts it bluntly why did you not tell us earlier did you not trust any of us

back at camp people are pissed Lagertha puts it bluntly why did you not tell us earlier did you not trust any of us

bjorn's response to all of them  I did what my father asked the way he wanted me to do it

bjorn’s response to all of them I did what my father asked the way he wanted me to do it

 

Bjorn's comment to all of them: He is still King.

Bjorn’s comment to all of them: He is still King.

Bjorn is not to fault in any of this. He has simply did what he was told by his King, whether he agreed with it or not, because as he put it, Ragnar is still King. Bjorn is a good man, fair and honorable… I wonder how much tension or strain this act will put on him. Did you think of that, Ragnar? No, I am sure you did not because your thoughts have been for yourself, your fame, your reputation, your own personal desires. You admitted to Ecbert that you were corrupt, I just did not realize how corrupt you had become until these recent events.

our people are over joyed with the treasure

Your cunning and clever ruse to capture the city worked just as you planned… but, you could have save untold grief, and lives had you chosen to trust us and lead us in this plan to begin with rather than use all of us, prove to all of us how incompetent we were and how much greater you are. And, you did this last act purely to prove to us that you are smarter, better, greater than the rest of us. To prove that you could indeed conquer the city, and what has it gained you? Has it gained you our respect, our continued loyalty to you, our continued trust in you? No, it has not… if anything, you have created an even wider and deeper wedge between yourself and your people with this action. Are we so grateful for the added wealth you have brought us that we will overlook our misgivings and our distrust of you? On the surface, momentarily, the great wealth will only appease us for a short time. After that, our thoughts will turn to how many loved ones we lost in this raid… our thoughts will also turn to the lingering underlying doubts of your true sincerity and belief in the Gods and the old ways. That baptism and your placing Athelstan above your family and your people will always hover in the thoughts of all those who were here to witness all of this.

In his way, floki has been right in his words that you have betrayed him, betrayed your family, your people- those you are supposed to lead with a clear head, and you have betrayed the Gods as well as your friend Athelstan.  When Lagertha, Rollo and Floki put forth their truest feelings of you and then saw you alive, they knew that you will one day use those words against them just as you did turn on them with your angry tirade earlier.

That is exactly what you have already done with Floki. In your bitter resentment and anger at him for killing Athelstan, you set him up, used him as a scapegoat and now will not rest until you have seen him completely shamed and punished. Well, I have news for you Ragnar, it not your decision, your choice or your right to punish Floki for his actions. You think that you can usurp the power and the judgement of the Gods in such matters. It is up to the Gods to choose Floki’s fate or punishment for any wrongdoing on his part- it is not for you to decide on your own. Does that remind you of anything?

floki expresses his own pain at the news floki's confession or non admittance of guilt but it made no difference you thought oh it's just floki No need to bother about floki  he's just a fool floki volunteers to stay... why because he does not want to get on a boat for a long trip home with ragnar floki has a hard time believing what he is seeing ragnar's knowing look at floki  just wait floki until I am recovered from this ragnar  floki come here

You would do well to remember what you so bluntly told that Bishop when he vowed you would not see Athelstan because you would be in Hell…”That is not your decision to make!” Of course then you took care of that with yet another personal revenge killing. You could have just taken your hostages and left, but no, you had to extract that bit of personal grudge and revenge in killing the man in the middle of all the citizens of Paris… So, much for your thinking with your head and not your heart and your emotions. There was really no need for that killing and in doing it you just showed the Christians of Paris what vicious and cruel barbarians we could be. If it was your intent to completely destroy any positive thoughts they might have about us as a people, you certainly succeeded with that act! Thank you so much Ragnar Lothbrok for reinforcing their fears and hatred of us. In one move, you managed to destroy any of the teachings and lessons that your valued friend Athelstan had tried so hard to help you understand. In your rage against the man who told you that you would not meet Athelstan again, you basically slaughtered him in cold blood- probably thereby ensuring that if and when you meet Athelstan again, there will be a consequence, a high price to pay for that deliberate, unnecessary killing.

ragnar to the bishop that is not your decision to make ragnar eyes the bishop who told him he would go to hell

I am not sure what you expected of Rollo.. did you think he would react differently to the news of your supposed death than he did? Did you for some reason think that he would be remorseful and guilt filled in his last words to you? Did you assume that he would grieve and mourn your loss, and beg you final forgiveness of him for any wrongs he might have committed against you in the past? I think that you were not all that surprised with his reaction to your “death” unless of course, you viewed him as you view Floki, you assumed that he had learned his lesson and would be forever in your shadow, remaining loyal to you after his previous attempts to break away and out of your shadow. Did you think that you had managed to quell his deep resentments and your hold over him would remain even after your death? Well, if you believed that, then you were probably taken back at his reaction and his words to you. Rollo made no apologies, he was honest and forthright in his last thoughts towards you, whether you wanted to hear them or not… and when he saw you alive, he still held no guilt or apology in his look towards you. His look was more of disgust and resignation at your latest act!

Rollo speaks of how the Gods protected him from the christian magic but won't protect Ragnar because of Athelstan.

Rollo speaks of how the Gods protected him from the christian magic but won’t protect Ragnar because of Athelstan.

floki talks to Rollo of Ragnar's betrayal and how it is Athelstan's fault

floki talks to Rollo of Ragnar’s betrayal and how it is Athelstan’s fault

rollo is saddened at the news

rollo is saddened at the news

rollo's last honest words  I've always resented you  the gods have always seemed to favor you

rollo’s last honest words I’ve always resented you the gods have always seemed to favor you

it's just funny that the gods took you first I always thought they favored you but I guess we both were mistaken.

it’s just funny that the gods took you first I always thought they favored you but I guess we both were mistaken.

I am sorry you're dead but we all must die eventually

I am sorry you’re dead but we all must die eventually

rollo is not especially happy to see his brother alive

 

ragnar's look at rollo just you wait too brother we shall have words about this later

ragnar’s look at rollo just you wait too brother we shall have words about this later

After the siege when the discussion came of what to do next, you were still too ill to make any decisions so it was left up to Bjorn to lead, with his head and not his heart. When the talk turned of needing a group to remain as they would return in the spring to raid once more, I am sure that Floki volunteered because he did not want to endure a lengthy boat ride with you, Ragnar… could anyone blame him for that?  But, Rollo stepped in and volunteered instead. At first, Bjorn questioned why Rollo should have any reason either for staying, but he let the subject drop and agreed with Rollo’s decision. Bjorn made that decision in what he thought were the best interests of the group. Should you want to hold it against him later, and I am sure it will come up… please let me remind you right now ahead of time, there was no malice or misintent in that decision. Bjorn was doing what he thought was right at the time. Realistically, there was no one else he could trust to carry this out. He did not know Kalf well enough to trust him with such endeavor and there was the matter of Kalf’s strange friendship with Erlandeur- that alone was enough cause for some lack of trust!  He knew that Floki was not capable of such a mission, and at this point he probably lacked some trust that even Lagertha would carry it through and not do something out of spite in her anger right now towards Ragnar.  Besides that fact, it must be someone who the French would take seriously as threat and respect in some way. Rollo fit that requirement.

floki volunteers to stay... why because he does not want to get on a boat for a long trip home with ragnar

floki volunteers to stay… why because he does not want to get on a boat for a long trip home with ragnar

rollo stops floki's offer

rollo says no you have no reason to stay here floki  bjorn looks on puzzled.

rollo says no you have no reason to stay here floki bjorn looks on puzzled.

bjorn: and what reason do you have uncle?

bjorn: and what reason do you have uncle?

rollo does not give a reason but bjorn decides that rollo will stay

Later there was great celebration of our victory but Rollo did not participate in it. He stood apart and spent much time in deep thought… I know that he was thinking of the Seer’s earier prophecy to him about Paris. Rollo believes in the seer, in the fates and in the Gods. He accepts that the Norns, those spinners of fate shape and weave our destinies and we must follow where they lead us. Thankfully, he has come to understand that we do have choice about how we conduct ourselves on that journey! He has already become a much different man than Ragnar gives him credit for. Months ago, he would have been passed out under a table or fighting some drunken grudge matched brawl.

or well  rollo  he's still having some difficulties

The mention of Ragnar sends Rollo into a rage

The mention of Ragnar sends Rollo into a rage

siggy bluntly revives a drunken rollo

But, this night he was serious and putting his thoughts towards an uncertain future. The Seer was certainly on his mind as he thought about those words “The Princess will marry the Bear and you will be there to witness it.  If you knew what the Gods have in store for you, you would dance naked on the beach in joy”

rollo stands apart during the party he watches paris and thinks of the Seer's words to him the seer's voice in rollo's head  You would go down now and dance naked on the beach in joy

Rollo watching Paris and hearing the Seer's voice of If you could see what the gods have in store

Rollo watching Paris and hearing the Seer’s voice of If you could see what the gods have in store

Did he perhaps think that night too, of that young woman on the tower wall that he could not get out of his head? At the time, I could give him no explanation for I knew not of her either.  That meeting would come later and we would then more clearly understand the Seer’s prophecy!

gisla keeps watching rollo  who is this warrior

Within a few days after that celebration, the decision was announced that Rollo and a group of Warriors would remain here on the banks of Paris for the winter while the rest of the group would travel back to Kattegat. I can not say for sure the feelings of all of those who were leaving that day… I am not sure exactly what their sentiments towards Ragnar were, I think they were most of the opinion that he would not even survive the trip home as sick as he still was. And, I believe that many were probably hoping that should be the case…he is still their King, but that does not mean that they are necessarily all loyal to him any longer. Many have mumbled and uttered their doubts about his rule so it would not surprise me to hear in the future of some revolt against him.  My personal thought on the matter is this. If it was not your intention or desire to be Earl or King, and it was the fault of everyone else, then perhaps you should do your people and yourself a favor and service by stepping down from this role that you so insist that you never wanted in the first place! Your son Bjorn is proving himself more than capable and worthy of such leadership. Give up this rule to Bjorn and let him lead. People would back him and follow him more willingly than they will continue to follow you now.

Rollo and his group of Warriors stood watching as the ships headed out, leaving all of them to a new future and destiny…

Rollo  and his warriors stay behind as the ships depart.

Rollo and his warriors stay behind as the ships depart.

Rollo watching the ships leave him in france

During the next few months, we remained in that camp waiting and not looking forward to spending a winter in this dreadful place. It was cold, damp, dirty and rather disgusting! It was only ever meant to be a temporary camp for the duration of the raid and now with the smaller group of us here- mostly warrior men, and only just a few of us women who remained, we were face with the unenviable task of trying to make this camp habitable for the duration of the winter. The men were and are loyal to Rollo- that is why they chose to stay- but they were  frustrated with this down time and they were becoming increasingly bored and thus irritable and unpredictable. I followed well Rollo’s instructions to stay well away from the men for my own safety!

the viking camp preparing for a long battle

viking celebration mass

During this time, Rollo spent much of his time training his men, and learning as much as he could from Sinric. Sinric was a great help to all of  us with his knowledge of the Franks and the language. Yes, he is a strange man but I have become quite fond of him. He has taught us all a great deal about this culture and how to fit into it in some way. Rollo is determined that the Seer is right and his destiny lies here in Paris. When I question him about Ragnar, he simply replies that he must do what is right for him now. The one thing that pleases me most… he seems quite happy here without interference or judgements from Ragnar every time he turns around. He is in charge here, his men follow him willingly and all seem quite loyal to him.

Of course, the Frankish citizens of Paris were concerned about our continuing presence… We were unaware of it at the time but there seemed to be much disagreement within the upper ranks there on what to do about us. The other puzzle would and will be in the future is who is this man, Roland? What part, what role does he play in our future here? He seems to hold a rather high and well trusted position in their group. We often encounter him on visits to the camp from their soldiers and with Count Odo. He also seems quite close to Gisla…

Roland, Gisla and odo watching the camp  gisla wonders why they are still here

Roland, Gisla and odo watching the camp gisla wonders why they are still here

roland,  a man to keep an eye on in the future

roland, a man to keep an eye on in the future

and here again we have a long pause on Roland and.... here comes roland once again

yes here comes roland yet again

Now, as to the disagreements within their court… they are naturally concerned about any future raiding we might be planning for the Spring but were unsure as to what to do about this event. Much of the unrest and disagreement was between Charles and his daughter Gisla. At the beginning, he was thrilled with his supposed victory over us and made reference that his Grandfather Charlamagne would be so proud of him now!  The Princess Gisla was quite open in her annoyance and irritation with her weak willed Father…

gisla is not buying her fathers insistance that they will be better prepared next time

gisla is not buying her fathers insistance that they will be better prepared next time

gisla starting to annoy Dad  her comment about charlamagne rejoicing  are you sure about that

gisla starting to annoy Dad her comment about charlamagne rejoicing are you sure about that?

Ohhh now charles claims grand reference to his grandfather charlamagne

Ohhh now charles claims grand reference to his grandfather charlamagne

gisla's look  I may be foolish and stupid but you're a pathetic weakling

gisla’s look I may be foolish and stupid but you’re a pathetic weakling

From all accounts that I have now heard, Charles was becoming much annoyed with his daughter’s behavior. He did have other serious matters to attend to besides her complaints and criticisms.

gisla starting to annoy Dad  her comment about charlamagne rejoicing  are you sure about that charles with a rather unhappy Gisla at the mass

Yep, that little dig is going to cost you gisla

Yep, that little dig is going to cost you gisla

 

Gisla was also having some altercations and disagreements with Count Odo at the time… he was insisting on holding her to a marriage agreement and she was having none of it!

Odo approaches Gisla about that marriage proposal

Odo approaches Gisla about that marriage proposal

gisla's response to odo this is neither the time nor place for this discussion

At some later point, Charles had a family dinner discussion with his daughter where he first brought up the subject of what to about the Vikings. He explained that they could not endure another such raid and must find a way to come to some terms with us. The discussion quickly turned sour when Gisla made disparaging remarks about any such idea and how much more it would cost them.

gisla asks a rational question so what are we to do  charles waves the servants away before he answers gisla's sarcasm is starting to grate on charles again  surely one of your brothers will come to our aid gisla listens as charles goes on about how his brothers hate him and do not care if he fails charles they will return again that is why rollo has remained

There was a lengthy discussion, debate and disagreement before Charles finally came forth with his plan of  action. His plan was to offer this man, Rollo a vast amount of wealth, land and Gisla’s hand in marriage in return for an agreement to protect the city of Paris from future raids. Needless to say, Gisla was less than happy about this idea and Charles had to remind her that besides being her Father, he was her King and Emperor. “I am your King, your Emperor and you will do as I say!

charles ooops then I guess I will have to recall our our offer charles I must offer your hand in marriage

charles  yes I am your father but I am also your king!

charles yes I am your father but I am also your king!

gisla this is count odo's doing  because I refused to marry him he wants have me thrown to the dogs

gisla this is count odo’s doing because I refused to marry him he wants have me thrown to the dogs

gisla you have already made them an offer without even consulting me

I am your father your king and your emporer and you will do as I say in this

I am your father your king and your emporer and you will do as I say in this

It was around this same time that the Frankish emissaries sent the proposed agreement to Rollo. Sinric acted as translator in explaining this agreement to Rollo.

you will be given great wealth and lands plus the hand of the princess in marriage  Rollo what must I do in return  defend paris against your brother

you will be given great wealth and lands plus the hand of the princess in marriage Rollo: what must I do in return? defend paris against your brother

Now, Please do not assume or accuse Rollo of taking this matter lightly, for he did not! You, Ragnar Lothbrok, and others may look at this as yet another betrayal from Rollo, but considering all of the things you have done to others lately, you have no right accuse or blame Rollo in this. Rollo has never waivered in his belief in the Gods, or the fates that lead one’s destiny. He has had to weigh this offer over in his head, debate on it with his men and choose which path was best for them to follow as a group. If you think this such an easy decision, you are wrong. But, as I have said, Rollo firmly believes that the Seer was now correct in his prophecy.  Rollo has made this choice, and his men have followed him. He did not go to that meeting with Charles and Gisla on his own. He went surrounded by his men, his group of warriors that would stand to reap the benefits and bounty of this agreement along with Rollo!  Why do they choose to follow him on this path? Because, I think, like many of the others in their Viking group, they have become disenchanted with Ragnar’s rule, they do not trust Ragnar any longer, and they see the advantage of this path. Rollo will share his land and wealth with them and if this alliance goes as proposed by Charles, Rollo and this group of Warriors will become the founding Noblemen of a new land, a new Kingdom called Normandy… Land of Northmen.

the warriors staying behind with rollo for the winter

As I have said, this is if all goes well and as set out in this agreement. Their first meeting did not go quite as well as would have been thought. Rollo and his men were dressed in their finest for this initial meeting, having been assisted as always by our Sinric. Sinric accompanied the group to act as mediator and translator.

rollo and his warriors take a look at their new way of life

 

rollo looks around the room and thinks Ohhh Hell yeah I can deal with this

Charles is cordial and welcoming to the group while Gisla and Odo look on silently…

charles welcomes rollo

I was not allowed into the hall to attend this meeting but was able to peer in from the doorway along with so many other curious onlookers. My first thought of Gisla was, “What on earth is she wearing on her head!” It looked like a modern day lampshade to me but I guess, we’re in Paris now- where they are already fashion forward and trend setters. At first, too, she looked rather regal in her bearing and appearance, but that quickly changed.

charles introduces gisla she is not going to go into this meekly or quietly

charles introduces gisla she is not going to go into this meekly or quietly

I was watching her and it was obvious that this young woman was not at all happy. Suddenly she jumped up from her throne and the tantrum began! Whoa… ummmm this was not exactly what we expected? I guess we all sort of assumed that this young woman would be a willing participant in this arrangement, that’s what we get for assuming anything!

What ensued was a long winded tirade and rant from her in which she called Rollo every sort of vile name and vowed that she would never do such thing as give up her virginity and her virtue to such scum and heathen barbarian as him…

Here she is Rollo here's your new bride

Well, here she is Rollo, your new bride to be!

It was indeed a full blown temper tantrum and hissy fit if ever I’ve seen one. Charles was uncomfortable and embarrassed by it, and it just went on and on…

charles has a look of concern over his daughter's rant

Rollo and his men were not sure what was going on at first…and she was rattling on so fast that it was difficult for any of us not fluent in the language to make out everything she was spitting out at him.

Rollo is listening intently.  So Rollo how much french have you learned yet?

Rollo is listening intently. So Rollo how much french have you learned yet?

rollo's look to sinric   she doesn't like does she?

rollo’s look to sinric she doesn’t like does she?

Charles next thought during her rant if you blow this I'm giving you to Odo

During her rant, Rollo did manage to pick out a few words… Rollo is used to young women even of her age already having had some experience with sex… They are after all, much more open minded about sexual activity.

rollo is she saying what I think she's saying

Rollo: wait I know that word... virgin... ahhhh Gods above No what she's a virgin?

Rollo: wait I know that word… virgin… ahhhh Gods above No what she’s a virgin?

Sinric's thought ummm I don't think I should translate this...

Charles  Oh my God someone shut her up charles  Ohhh please god don't let him get mad at me and say no... I hope he didn't understand any of that

As I did mention, she just kept going on with her speech…

gisla he disgusts me he makes me want to vomit

Thank the Gods, Rollo finally had enough and called a halt to her tantrum with one look…

rollo Hmmmm so are you finished now is that all you can come up with  I've been called worse

rollo Hmmmm so are you finished now is that all you can come up with I’ve been called worse…

One look, one smile and a simple Hello in French! That was the end of her rant, and the end of the public meeting.

 

rollo's thought Haaaaaa I understood every word I think you owe me even more money and land for taking her off your hands...

rollo’s thought Haaaaaa I understood every word I think you owe me even more money and land for taking her off your hands…

As of right now, the negotiations on this treaty are still being worked out. It’s all about those finer little details such as the asking of more land and wealth considering the recent antics and behaviors of one Princess Gisla. After her public display, Rollo is in a much better position to demand more wealth in this deal… word will quickly spread around France of her behaviors and it might be difficult now for Charles to get another offer for her even if she is a Princess… If she does not change her behaviors, Odo may well be the only other willing taker for her. 

As for me, Rollo has insisted that they show me courtesy and treat me as a Noble guest… I will do my best to keep my eyes and ears open here at court for any information that might prove useful to the group. He has chided me for my ongoing outbursts of continuing anger at Ragnar though and advised me to let it go for now. It is not for me to concern myself with this situation of which we can do nothing about anyway. He does assure me that he is taking it all into serious thought and will deal with when the time comes. Until such a time does come, I should enjoy myself here and learn as much as possible about the land and these people so that I may be of use in helping the others to adjust to this their new home and life.

I contain my outbursts to the privacy of my chamber and I can not help but occasionally cry tears of anger and frustration over all of these past events that have led us here. I have found great comfort though in enjoying the luxuries of this place…such as maids to attend me. And, I will never get enough of the glorious hot baths and having my hair washed and done up by these excellent maids, though I do admit to feeling somewhat guilty for them having to haul those buckets of hot water and fill this tub for me on a such a regular basis. I do my best to treat all of them well with great kindness and reward so I seem to have become a favorite for them. Now, my only problem is that Count Odo seems to have taken great interest in me as well…Ummmm no Thank you sir, I do appreciate your flattery but, I have heard those whispered rumors as to your particular tastes and I can not say that I am on  the same page or wave length as you regarding such activities…

As long as I am going to spending some time here though, I would not mind knowing more about this mysterious Roland…. He seems friendly enough, and he is one of the better looking men I’ve met here so far? It also helps that he is not a Priest… I swear this place is over run with men of God, and from what I have seen and heard, they are not nearly so Godly as they would have one believe! Just one more look at the mystery man at court!

yes here comes roland yet again odo and roland visit the camp to find out why they have not left yet and here again we have a long pause on Roland

Ahhhh and one last thought before I go…. besides everything else, I have taken Rollo’s suggestion and done a bit of shopping here in Paris!  Of course, in order to shop for new garments, one must have them hand made, custom designed and sewn for you. But, it is such a rare treat to not have to sew it myself and to say, if even just smirking to myself, “Ohhh do you like it? I got it on my last trip to Paris!”  I will be making a trip to England in the near future to check on my friend Judith… Perhaps I will bring her some of these styles! Here are but a few samples of what is popular right now.