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Recap / A Thing of Vikings Chapter 14 "Relationships"

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Book I, Chapter 14

The initial Norwegian outreach to Berk, notwithstanding popular belief otherwise, was actually instigated by Magnus the Good's regent, Einar Eindridesson Thambarskelfir (c. 980-1047), of the Lade jarls, not Magnus the Good, although he was an enthusiastic supporter of the idea.

Originally an opponent of King Olaf Haraldsson, Magnus's father, Einar supported King Cnut the Great's efforts to overthrow Olaf. Those efforts succeeded in 1028 AD, sending King Olaf and his family into exile. Olaf returned two years later after the death of Cnut's first viceroy, Haakon Ericsson, in an attempt to regain his kingdom, and died at the Battle of Stiklestad (29 July 1030 AD), defeated by a peasant army led by Kálfr Árnasson, Thorir Hund and Hárek of Tjøtta. Einar was not present at the battle, but this was more due to happenstance than intent—Einar was visiting King Cnut in London when the battle was joined. The purpose of his visit was to petition Cnut to make him the new viceroy of Norway.

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The petition failed; Einar was not given the viceroyalty over Norway, and neither were any of the other Norwegian nobility that had supported Cnut. Instead, Cnut chose his fourteen-year-old son Sveinn as viceroy and Sveinn's mother, &A Elig;lfgifu of Northampton, as the boy's regent and therefore the effective ruler of Norway. This decision infuriated Einar and the others who had supported Cnut's overthrow of King Olaf, as each of them had wished to be named as regent over Norway, and Cnut had promised each of them the position (or so they claimed). Sveinn and &A Elig;lfgifu's subsequent viceroy reign was seen as oppressive due to new laws and taxes, and was marked by intense resistance on the part of the Norwegian nobility.

In 1035 AD, Einar, acting in concert with Kálfr, betrayed Cnut's viceroys. Traveling to Yaroslav the Wise's court in the Kievan Rus', the two chieftains found Olaf's eleven-year-old illegitimate son, Magnus, who had been left there by his father to be fostered in exile by Yaroslav and his wife Ingegerd. Returning to Scandinavia with Magnus, they allied with King Anund Jacob the Coalburner of Sweden, Magnus's step-uncle, to place Magnus on the Norwegian throne as a puppet ruler to the noble chiefs.

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Political machinations quickly followed, and Kálfr was quickly outmaneuvered by Einar. Using Kálfr's direct involvement in the death of King Olaf against him, Einar depicted himself as blameless, and managed to have Kálfr incriminate himself by showing how he killed the boy-king's father with a stab to the neck. Einar became Magnus's new regent and effective ruler of Norway, while Kálfr and Thorir were driven into exile. Magnus, reportedly furious, wished to have them executed, but refrained from doing so on the advice of his godfather, Sigvatr the Skald.

His primary rivals gone, Einar spent the next half decade as the de facto ruler of Norway; even when Magnus reached his majority and assumed some level of legal power, Einar made certain to keep the young monarch dependent on him.

This status quo, however, was broken by one of Einar's miscalculations. Hearing of the tamed dragons and dragon-riders of Berk from a traveling skald in the spring of 1041 AD, he dispatched one of his minor rivals in the court, the herald Yngvarr Arlaksson, to make contact with Berk, reasoning that either his rival would be killed by fearsome Norse dragon-riders or they might potentially make an ally of the same.

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This backfired, as Berk—and Hiccup Haddock and his associates in particular—were not what he had expected.

Corpus Historiae Berkiae, 1396

Tropes That Appear In This Chapter:

  • Absence of Evidence: While it is agreed that there is a mole planted among their newly freed thralls, Fishlegs ends the meeting by pointing out that they don't have the sufficient amount of evidence to properly hypothesis who it is yet.
  • Actually a Good Idea: Wulfhild comes up with the idea of doing battledore (a game usually played by children) but on dragon back.
    Fishwings: That's genius[!]
  • Altar Diplomacy: Magnus confesses that he was originally going to set Hiccup up with Wulfhild and he with Astrid as a means of appeasing his advisors before he saw that Hiccup and Astrid were together. Instead, he switches gears and asks Hiccup how he can propose to Ruffnut instead.
  • Best Friend: Despite how long they've known each other, Magnus confesses that Hiccup might be his very first actual friend.
  • Disabled in the Adaptation: In Dragons: Riders of Berk, Gothi took a vow of silence after losing her friends to a snow wraith. Here she is physically mute after surviving the pox years prior.
  • Good Feels Good: Gothi feels nothing but pride in Hiccup since the peace he made with the dragons resulted in the freedom of nine thralls.
    With a bow, she took it and walked up to the first of the freedmen, a fiery redhead, holding his iron collar in his hands. She motioned for him to kneel. After a moment's confusion, he did so, and she dabbed her fingertips into the blood and marked his cheeks and forehead with it, forming the runes for freedom and man. Then, as he rose, she took his collar that had marked his servitude and lack of humanity, dipped it into the blood, and threw it into the fire, and then her new tribesmate turned and introduced himself to his chief, as a person... and not as a possession.
    Nine more times she did the same, smiling the whole while. As the priestess of the gods, she had many duties. Of those, many were sad and depressing. The fact that they hadn't had to hold more than a handful of funerals, and nearly all of those for natural causes, since the dragons had made peace... that would be enough alone for Hiccup to have earned her own loyalty.
    But this...
    This was pure joy.
    And they were here because of him.
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: When Stoick asks Gothi if the gods will be offended if Astrid winds up pregnant with his grandchild out of wedlock by the time they make it back to Berk, she just laughs at him.
    No, the gods would not take offense. Frigga and Freyja would not stand for it.
  • Loose Lips: Maghnus is put on the list of suspects who could be the potential mole because he is a skilled brewer and "drunk people talk."
  • A Mistake Is Born: Magnus confesses that he had an illicit affair with a chambermaid that bore a bastard girl. While he took responsibility and acknowledged her as his daughter, she won't inherent anything due to how their laws and politics operate.
  • Mundane Utility: Gothi uses her Terrible Terrors to help her harvest her crops.
  • Never the Obvious Suspect: Spitelout rules out Heather being The Mole because it would be too obvious and might have been given to them to be a Red Herring.
  • Nice to the Waiter: While discussing Altar Diplomacy, Hiccup is ready to warn against involving Snotlout in any way before Magnus assures him that he won't leave his half-sister to Snotlout's limited mercy after seeing how he treats the castle staff.
  • Slave Liberation: While most viking tribes practice thralldom (often by kidnapping free people and enslaving them), here it is noted that whenever Berk has done raids, they kidnap their thralls just to free them afterwards due to their anti-thralldom policy. Stoick is just grateful that with Adalwin giving him thralls as tribute, he does not have to stand his ground against their former owners this time. Spitelout even considers threatening other villages to give up their thralls as payment for not pillaging them, but Stoick shoots that down, citing that they'll just go and buy/enslave more thralls to replace them.
  • Too Good to Be True: It does not take long for Stoick, Fishlegs and the rest of the village elders to suspect that one of the thralls is actually a spy planted by Adalwin just by the sheer convenience alone.

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