As part of my author guest blog series I am proud to present another guest blog spot.
I am very excited and
Would you like to be a part of my author guest blog series? Please contact me! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Now without further adieu here is Ian’s awesome guest blog.
And don’t forget to check out his new book:
From the inaccuracy of the Northmen deliver us, O Lord.
by Ian Stuart Sharpe
Vikings are everywhere. There probably haven’t been so many marauding warriors or mighty Norse gods trudging through our homes since the Great Heathen Army of 865. They are on TV, on the silver screen and on bookshelves the world over. And somewhere in the melee, as we approach the pinnacle of Peak Viking, you’ve doubtless seen or heard a desperate prayer on the lips of a frightened monk, “A furore Normannorum libera nos, Domin”.
Deliver us from the fury of the Norsemen. It was part of the litany of anguish, howled by the pious all over Europe during the Viking Age, as the “miserable heathen” descended on their shores.
The fact is though that the phrase is apocryphal. No one said it.
The closest documentable phrase is a single sentence, taken from an antiphony for churches dedicated to St. Vaast: Summa pia gratia nostra conservando corpora et cutodita, de gente fera Normannica nos libera, quae nostra vastat, Deus, regna, “Our supreme and holy Grace, protecting us and ours, deliver us, God, from the savage race of Northmen which lays waste our realms”
Well, that’s close enough you might think. It gets the gist across: the Vikings were murderous raiders, who raped and pillaged their way across Christendom. Why quibble?
My answer is this: if you are happy to let one thing be wrong, where do you draw the line? Why is it any less egregious than, for instance, horned helmets? And if we are wrong about such a commonly quoted phrase, what else are we mistaken about and why?
When writing the novel, The All Father Paradox, I was trying to build a world, a rich and cohesive world with a detailed history, geography, and people. The novel is set in the Vikingverse, an alternate timeline which results when Odin escapes his doom at Ragnarok; a parallel Earth where Vikings rule seas and stars with restless fleets.
But I quickly discovered, I wasn’t able to give my imagination free rein, because people have prejudices and misconceptions about the Norse that go back centuries, all the way back to Lindisfarne and the Great Heathen Army. It doesn’t help matters that TV shows like History Channel’s Vikings pile on the anachronisms. To create an authentic alternate reality, I realised I would have to strip away layers of detritus, the garbage that people thought they knew about the Viking Age.
You might wonder where we first got the wrong idea in our collective consciousness. Was it the Victorian obsession with Wagner’s romantic, noble savage? Perhaps it was from the endless frames of Marvel footage and comic strips from the past seventy years? Or is it something deeper, something more insidious, tied to the very fabric of our social order?
We are all accustomed now to this modern age of alternate facts and mistrust, where the digital world spreads disinformation quickly. People need their monsters, their demons to abjure. It’s so ingrained in our psyche, that the Pope himself recently condemned fake news, saying that it’s a “sign of intolerant and hypersensitive attitudes, and leads only to the spread of arrogance and hatred.”
In his World Communications Day message, Pope Francis went on to say: “Disinformation thus thrives on the absence of healthy confrontation with other sources of information that could effectively challenge prejudices and generate constructive dialogue; instead, it risks turning people into unwilling accomplices in spreading biased and baseless ideas.”
I’m not going to take issue with organised religion here, but I do think that there is an element of Holier-Than-Thou hypocrisy in these words. Because the Northmen weren’t really savage despoilers or mindless heathens – the Church just needed to paint them that way. They were the original purveyors of fake news. Fake chronicles, etched on vellum.
There is no doubt that the Norse could be unpleasant, but this was an age of mayhem, where raids and warfare were common even amongst Christian princes. Charlemagne, the much-vaunted Father of Europe, spent much of his reign trying to extirpate not just the pagan faith but also customs like the right of assembly, an early form of tribal democracy. ‘Let them listen to the lector not the lyre, our house is not wide enough to hold both,’ he said, dismissively. His form of Christianity was based around Divine Providence and ceremonial majesty, with conversion at the point of a sword. There was no room for free willed Northerners.
There is even a school of thought that says that the raids on Lindisfarne and other monasteries were made in direct retaliation for Charlemagne’s massacre at Verden, where he ordered the deaths of 4,500 Saxons. The North quickly learned the lesson of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
And now it is high time for a rehabilitation, a rebuilding of the Viking reputation. So that is what I have set out to do, in the Vikingverse series.
So then, what is the truth of the matter, you might ask?
Don’t take my word for it. Northern mercenaries had willingly served in Imperial armies for gold, and then crafted their own unique civilization beyond the borders of Rome – so much so that the Byzantine historian Jordanes described Scandza (Scandinavia) as the ‘womb of Europe’. In our own period, the great Arnold Toynbee wrote of “The Forfeited Birthright of the Abortive Scandinavian Civilization” (published in A Study of History, Volume II, Oxford University 1934), detailing a fascinating and rich culture, on the brink of success. This summer, I visited a dozen museums across Denmark where archaeology attests to art, trade and craft without compare.
What if this world persisted, untainted by the blemishes of the Catholic church? A rich and cohesive world, it’s diverse people able to grow and prosper without the rigidity of Latin or the shadow of Chalcedon. An alternate truth maybe, but one unshackled by the lies of the past.
Ian Stuart Sharpe is the CEO of a tech start up. As a child he discovered his love of books, sci-fi and sagas: devouring the works of Douglas Adams, J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Pratchett, and George MacDonald Fraser alongside Snorri Sturluson and Sigvat the Skald. He once won a prize at school for Outstanding Progress and chose a dictionary as his reward, secretly wishing it had been an Old Norse phrasebook. He lives in British Columbia, Canada.
What if an ancient god escaped his fate and history was thrown to the wolves? Churchwarden Michaels thought it was just a run-of-the-mill crazy old man who stood in the graveyard, hellbent on studying the 1,000-year-old Viking memorial there. But when things start changing and outright disappearing, Michaels realizes there is more to this old man than meets the eye. Now, Michaels finds himself swept up in an ancient god’s quest to escape his destiny by reworking reality, putting history—and to Michaels’s dismay, Christianity itself—to the Viking sword. In this new Vikingverse novel, storied heroes of mankind emerge in new and brutal guises drawn from the sagas: A young Norse prince plots to shatter empires and claim the heavens; a scholar exiled to the frontier braves the dangers of the New World, only to find those “new worlds” are greater than he imagined; a captured Jötunn plants the dreams of freedom during a worlds-spanning war; a bold empress discovers there is a price for immortality, one her ancestors have come to collect. With the timelines stretched to breaking point, it’s up to Churchwarden Michaels to save reality as we know it.