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#HistFicThursdays - On Bur Oak Ridge - Jenny Knipfer - Book Excerpt

  Today, I'm delighted to hosting Jenny Knipfer once more, this time with the next book in her Sheltering Trees series: On Bur Oak Ridge . I'm sharing a short extract, but first, let's meet the book... “The plot has its twists and turns to keep readers intrigued…to the very end. A great comfort read that will soothe the spirit with renewed hope and faith.” Readers’ Favorite five-star review  A HISTORICAL NOVEL OF FINDING HEALING AND A SECOND CHANCE AT LOVE In the early 1900s, quiet and reserved Molly Lund finds refuge from her past at the Nelsons’ farm in Minnesota. In an attempt to turn a new page in her life, Molly works at making peace with her losses and coming to terms with the disfiguring burns on her face.  Samuel Woodson, the Nelsons’ hired hand, carries his own cares. Split from his family and bearing a burden of misplaced guilt for an act that haunts him, Samuel – seeing past Molly’s scars – draws her out of her self-protective shell.  Molly and Samuel form a frie

#HistFicThursdays - Horrible Histories 6 - Vikings

Today's #HistFicThursdays blog is a little bit different. The Horrible Histories songs I've shared so far have all been about specific people. Today, we're looking a little bit broader...

Meet the Vikings: 

I have to say, the song above is my favourite Horrible Histories song! Both the songs in today's blog are my sort of music, even though they're not a lot like each other. But the music matches the theme and - without talking too much about the genius of the musicianship (my day job coming into play here) - these two songs show two very different sides of the Viking impact on Britain.

The song above is what we are led to believe all Vikings were like. A couple of years ago, on a return from my sister's book launch in North Lincolnshire, we visited Lindisfarne. It is commercialised now, not a great deal like the Holy Island the monks had established there (although the earliest reference to this name appears to have been some 200 years after the Viking raid). But, if you're able to escape the throng of people for a second, it is worth just staring out across the water and trying to imagine how calm it must have been and how incredibly terrifying it became as summer arrived accompanied by a brutal and unprovoked attack.

Lindisfarne may not have been the Vikings' first visit to Britain, but it was certainly the one which caused the biggest impact.

In the song, they explain that "comets crossed the sky that night", but I prefer the take of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles that fiery dragons were seen flying through the sky. It is incredible how these superstitions carried such weight at that time. Omens, and the interpretation of them, played a significant part in everyday life. In The Year We Lived, Robert (half Saxon, half Dane) finds himself caught between these two conflicting worlds when he is confronted with the return of the white hart. Any page of these Saxon annals will reveal the presence of an omen somewhere along the way and, after the events of 793, they were wise to look out for them.

One can almost imagine that, as the dragon was seen in the heavens, the Saxons read it as a threat while the Vikings beheld it as a blessing. After all, many daring figures in Norse mythology would set out to slay dragons and collect their hoard, and the hoard of church wealth which they found at Lindisfarne must have seemed like a fulfillment of this. Having spent my childhood in Orkney, I was very familiar with one of the most famous pieces of historic graffiti: the Maeshowe Dragon, etched into the stone of the neolithic tomb, a token left by the Vikings who raided it. We know they took shelter there, perhaps the dragon was added as a guardian of something left behind, or perhaps it was a picture of who met them there.

But, while this is the lasting image of the Vikings, their lasting legacy is another matter. Time for another song!

One of the strangest things about studying "The Vikings" as a topic at school, was how different the same topic was on moving south of the border. Living in Orkney, then moving to North Lincolnshire, my schools were all in Viking heartland. But what a different tale there was to tell across these two hotbeds of Scandinavian invasion! In the song, they talk about splitting the "isles diagonally from southeast to northwest" [and then they say that Alfred ruled the rest, but don't even get me started on how erroneous that line is], and this shows just how big a gap between the Danes and the Norse Vikings there was. If there was a physical gap like this, it stands to reason there was an equally sizeable cultural gap.

But this song makes a good point. The Vikings were not just invaders. They settled and integrated with the native people. By the time The Year We Lived is set, Robert's Hall is a mixed collection of Saxons, Danes, and Normans within the Fenland, and this was how the Scandinavians stretched their own culture into the what was to become the jumble of modern Britain.

I love that this song makes reference to place names, too, although one of the most common suffixes of Viking decent in this part of Scotland is missing from it: -ster. Crowvus HQ is situated in StempSTER, a sure sign that, despite having a settlement on this site which predates the Vikings (the broch at the bottom of the garden!), it was the Vikings who created the farmstead which has maintained its purpose for the past 1,000 years.

These two different songs show two very different, but equally Viking, sides of the centuries around the turn of the first millennium. Neither is more or less Viking than the other, although the one we tend to recognise is the first one. Throughout history, the truly successful cultures have realised that war and battle can only take you so far. Integration is imperative. As part of an upcoming anthology, I've written a short story relating to another conquest, but this quote from the story seems to sum up the Vikings pretty well too:
"A great leader seeks peace after conflict.”
The same thing can be said of a successful culture.


  1. What a fascinating post! Of course, the stereotypical view of Vikings is one of rampaging marauders, hellbent on destroying everything in their path. But I suppose there were those who realised that they might just settle down here after all the pillaging and what-not, so they'd better not completely destroy everything! It certainly helps to remember that the Vikings were all individuals, and not just one solid mass; there would have been the peace-keepers as well as the war-makers 😊


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