Originally published in a Sealions Tale Oct 93
The Jarls of Krakensfjord
My great-grandfather was Harald Hrolfson, Jarl of Krakensfjord in the land of Norway. I know little of him save that he was tall and broad shouldered like most Vikings and was red bearded and blue eyed. Of my grand-mother I know only that she came from Byzantium, was dark eyed and dark haired and she was named Claudia.
At the time that Harald the Lousy, known to history as Harald Finehair, tried to untie all of Norway under his rule. My great grandfather joined with several other jarls in opposition to Harald. A battle was fought between King Harald’s men and the jarls men. King Harald’s men proved the luckier and Jarl Harald was slain.
After the battle Harald the Lousy sent one of his war chiefs to be the new Jarl of Krakensfjord. This did not sit well with Harald Hrolfson’s three sons who hite Harald, Hrolf and Olaf. The three Haraldsons planned together to slay King Harald’s jarl and set Harald Haraldson as the true Jarl of Krakensfjord.
The plan of the Haraldsons was discovered and Harald and Hrolf were taken. Olaf, the youngest, managed to elude capture and with the help of friends escaped to the Viking lands in Scotland.
Olaf Haraldson was red bearded and blue eyed like his father but his mother showed through in his shorter statue and his brown hair. When he had been in Scotland but a short while he met and married Ingrid Helgasdotter the niece of one of the friends who helped him escape from Norway. Ingrid was honey haired and grey eyed and only slightly shorter than Olaf.
With the help of friends Olaf and Ingrid settled a farmstead in Scotland. They had three children, a son Harald (named for his grandfather and uncle), and twin daughters; Helga and Ingrid. Two other children there were who died young.
The quite life of a farmer does not settle easily on the son of a jarl, always Olaf brooded on how he might be able to regain Krakensfjord and take revenge on King Harald. In the year 937 the Scots drew up plans to invade and conquer the Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria. They invited the Vikings living in Scotland to join them and swell their army. Here Olaf saw the chance to gain battle fame and booty, perhaps enough to allow him to return to Norway and regain all that had been lost. Olaf and his son Harald joined the invaders.
At first the Scots were successful in their invasion but when word of their incursion reached the Saxon King Aethelstan her raised an army and met the Scots and Vikings at Branocburg. In the battle Olaf Haraldson was slain and Harald Olafson was wounded and taken captive.
II Harald Olafson
Harald Olafson was at that time 23 years of age. He favored his grandfather in that he was taller than his father but favored his grandmother in his brown eyes. From his mother came his frame which was not as broad as his fathers.
When King Aethelstan’s thane asked Harald who he was Harald replied that he was Jarl of Krakensfjord as now indeed he was. The thane knew not where Krakensfjord was but spared Harald’s life in the hope of receiving geld for Heralds release. In time word came from Norway that no geld would be paid for the son of Olaf Haraldson and so Harald was kept as a thrall by Thane Eadred.
There was at the court of Thane Eadred a cleric; Brother Barthalomule who was a good hearted if somewhat simple friar. Brother Barthalomule labored among the few pagan thralls which Thane Eadred held in order to bring them to Christianity. The good cleric even persuaded the Thane to give to pagans who would become Christian their freedom and a small farmstead as reward. Many there were who embraced the new religion that they might gain their freedom but the neck of a Viking is very stiff and Harald refused to gain his freedom in this way and so remained a thrall.
After a time there came to work in the thanes’ household a serving girl by the name of Miriam. Miriam was dark haired and green eyed and when first Harald Olafson beheld her he became enamored of her. With each passing day his desire grew stronger and when at last he had a chance to speak to her he told Miriam of his love. Miriam told Harald that she felt love for him also but, “I will not marry a thrall.”
Harald was much distressed, he did not wish to submit to the will of his captors yet his love for Miriam was like to consume him. At last his love proved the match even for his pride and Harald Olafson submitted to be instructed in the Christian faith by Brother Barthalomule. Upon christening Harald took as his Christian name Norman which means Norseman.
Norman and Miriam were very happily wed and Norman having grown up on a farm took to that life with much more ease than his father had. In time they had two children, a son, Finn and a daughter Ingrid.
III Finn Normansson
I was born on the 13the day of July in the year 949. Of my childhood there is little to tell and less that is pleasant. My mothers’ people did not accept me because my father was a Viking. For this reason I do not accept them and prefer to think of myself as a Viking rather than a Saxon.
I inherited the Norseman’s thirst for learning and did well in the classes Brother Barthalomule taught for the sons of the village and nearby farms. The friar seemed to take a interest in me and taught me what little Latin I know. I believe that he was hoping that I would become a cleric like himself. From my father I learned the Norse tongue and runes.
Of children I knew only one, Aelfthryth, whom I remember fondly. She alone saw beyond my parentage and treated me as a friend. I might have married her in time but her parents saw how things were headed and arranged a marriage to one of Thane Eadred’s sergeants.
The sergeant, Godwin, was several years older than I and had been my chief tormentor when I was a child. He may have married Aelfthryth just to keep her from marrying me. Certainly he did not love her for he would beat her when he was drunk which was often.
The beatings stopped for a while when Aelfthryth, became pregnant with their first child but resumed again more severely when the child turned out to be a girl. So frightened of Godwin was Aelfthryth that she did not tell him of her second pregnancy until it could no longer be hidden. This child, a boy, was stillborn and shortly thereafter Aelfthryth received such a severe beating that she died.
I might have tried to kill Godwin then but for the cool council of my parents. My mother reminded me that Godwin was skilled at arms and might slay me even while drunk. My father told me that if I should slay Godwin the Saxons would seize upon that as an excuse to kill me.
I bridled hard at their council but in the end I could not deny the wisdom of their words. I left Northumbria and traveled for a while as an itinerate scribe. Eventually my travels lead me across the channel to Normandy where I entered the service of Duke Richard the Lion.
I rose rapidly in the Dukes service due mainly to the fact that I spoke the Viking tongue. Few in Richards’s court understood the Norse tongue despite the fact that most of their grandfathers were Vikings. By dictating to me in Norse Duke Richard could keep his correspondence secret.
It was at Duke Richard’s court that I developed my taste for good wine. I also trained at arms for the better part of two years under one of Richard’s captains. The buffets that I received convinced me that I have neither the speed nor the strength necessary to be a swordsman.
I did discover that I have some skill with a thrown ax or knife and I still practice with those weapons. I hope someday to return to Northumbria.