The Marriage Proposal
The Chieftain's Return
As the ocean's spray fell upon his face like a gentle rain, Sigmundr Brestisson breathed in the salty sea air. The waves were rough, but the sky was blue, and the wind's favorable for his return to his homestead in Skúvoy, in the Faroe Islands. Sigmundr's smile quickly turned into a sour grimace as he remembered back to the first time he had gone to Norway to meet King Olav Tryggvason after converting the islands to Christianity by Olav's royal decree....
It seemed that not even the weather wanted Sigmundr to visit Norway that spring. Twice he was forced to turn back by high winds, dangerous waves, and torrential rain. His third attempt was finally successful, but after meeting with King Olav, he had almost wished that he had failed to reach the Norwegian shores once again !
King Olav Tryggvason was a vain man who constantly needed to prove himself superior to others. He often challenged his guests to contests of skill, strength, and endurance, for which his visitors were reluctant to compete, and even more terrified to try and win. Sigmundr's visit was no different. Archery, swordplay, swimming, and feats of strength, such as rock lifting, were among the many games that the Chieftain of Skúvoy was " asked " to participate in. Sigmundr might have been able to defeat the king in several events, especially the swimming contest, but fear of reprisals prevented him from trying his best.
Acting subservient to King Olav allowed Sigmundr to become a member of the king's inner circle, and he soon received an invitation to a great feast that was to be held in honor of his Housecarls. The horns were seldom half filled that night, and Olav had more to drink than most. While the king was telling stories of his exploits, that were clearly embellished, he noticed that Sigmundr was wearing a gold ting upon his arm. King Olav, who hated to be outdone by anyone, asked for the ring, agreeing to give the chieftain in return an item of equal value. Sigmundr, however, made the mistake of refusing the king's offer.
" My Lord ! Jarl Hakon gave me this ring to me personally, and therefore I cannot give it to you. " Sigmundr told him in an apologetic tone.
The king was not pleased ! In a drunken rage Olav staggered up off of his seat and pointed his finger at the startled chieftain, who feared for his life.
" For your brazen behavior in my hall I curse that ring upon your arm. From this day forward the luck you have received from that gold ring shall leave you, and that same ring, that has given you such honor, shall one day be your bane ! " he shouted at Sigmundr.
Luckily for the Chieftain of Skúvoy the king's Housecarls intervened and prevented any violence from taking place that night in the hall. By morning, when the king finally awoke, the whole matter was forgotten, and no further threats were made against him by Olav.
Sigmundr grinned wickedly when he thought of how, not long after those fearful events King Olav was killed at the Battle of Svolder when he jumped overboard and drowned to avoid capture. One of his adversaries at that fateful sea battle, Eirik Hakonarson, the Jarl of Lade, shortly thereafter invited Sigmundr back to Norway as a gesture of friendship. Unlike his time with King Olav, Eirik treated him well, making him one of his Housecarls, and giving him all of the Faroes as well. And now, with the help of the harvest-tide he was returning to Skúvoy, to his wife and children.
The chieftain turned away from the other sailors so they could not see him laughing as he remembered meeting his wife while in exile in Norway. Sigmundr had met Turið Torkilsdóttir while visiting Dovrefjell, in Norway. Turið was the daughter of Thorkil Barfrost and Ragnhild Thoralfsdottir, and Sigmundr was attracted to her at first sight. So much so that he went out of his way to visit Dovrefjell twice more over the coming years just to see her. And the last time, after staying for five years with them, Sigmundr finally summoned the courage to ask Thorkil for his daughter's hand in marriage. The father could hardly deny the union as his daughter was already pregnant with his child.
The wedding, and feast held afterwards, were lavish affairs held on Jarl Hakon's farm near Throndheim. The festivities, which included games, all night drinking, and more food than his guests could ever hope to consume, lasted a full week. All those who were invited said it was the finest wedding feast they had ever attended !
That fall, when he returned to Skúvoy with his bride Turið, and his first born child Tóra, he was full of hope and dreams for their future. Many of his aspirations were not only accomplished back in Skúvoy, but greatly exceeded. He had with Turið four more children, all boys, in quick succession. The addition of Toravulur, Steingrimr, Brandr, and Heri, gave him what every warrior of status wants, heirs !
Although he had been greeted warmly in Skúvoy, upon his return from Norway, there were many factions in the Faroe Islands which did not welcome him back. Sigmundr Brestisson had made many enemies when years ago, with King Olav Tryggvason's decree, he had converted the islands to Christianity. At the Ting in Torshavn, ( Thor's Harbor ), he had tried to be civil about the conversion by reading the Norwegian king's order, and instructing the folk of the islands that this was now the law of the land. Those who were gathered there that day, however, were greatly angered by the decree, and attacked Sigmundr and his men, and they barely escaped with their lives.
The man who led the opposition to King Olav's wishes was a chieftain named Tróndur í Gøtu, ( Thrond of Gate ). Realizing that he could not reason peacefully with such a violent man, Sigmundr gathered up his men and paid a visit to the rebellious chieftain at his home on the island of Eysturoy, in the middle of the night. Without a warning of any kind Sigmundr and his warriors broke into Tróndur's home and dragged him out into the cold night. Sigmundr had the local chieftain's head placed upon a rock and unsheathed his sword.
" Accept the Christian God, and his son Jesus Christ, or I will cut off your head, and let the devil himself torture your soul forever ! " he had screamed at the startled chieftain with his sword held high ready to strike.
Tróndur í Gøtu was not an unwise man. He could have denied the existence of this new God, and his son, but if he did this he knew that he would never be able to exact his revenge upon Sigmundr and his men for forcing their religion upon the good people of the Faroe Islands. So, to spare his life, and to later be able to avenge what he saw as a gross injustice done to his people, Tróndur agreed to convert, and to never again lead an uprising against Sigmundr, or the laws of Olav Tryggvason.
As Sigmundr caught sight of Skúvoy looming off on the distant on the horizon he remembered the bittersweet day when he forced Tróndur í Gøtu to be baptized at the church he had built on his homestead. On that day he thought he had finished his duty to convert the islands to Christianity, but what he had done in fact was to make a whole host of new enemies.
And now, as he looked out at his homeland with mixed emotions he wondered what he was coming home to. Would there be peace in the Faroe Islands, or would constant rebellions rule over their future like an evil king ? Only time would tell !
- End Chapter 1
- Next : Chapter 2 : The Ting
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2017.