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Recap / A Thing of Vikings Chapter 17 "...And Partings"

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Book I, Chapter 17

Most historical analyses of King Magnus I of Norway focus excessively on the larger figures in his life—his regent, wife, sister, friends, and dragon, most typically. Insufficient focus tends to be given to a quieter figure in Magnus's life, a state of affairs that is ironic, due to the man's profession as a skald.

Sigvatr Þórðarson (a.k.a. Sigvatr Tordarson, 995-1044), King Olaf's court skald, has a distinct tendency to stay in the background in most depictions and discussions of the king's life. This is unsurprising, as the man's sagas are one of the few primary sources on the periods of King Olaf's life and the childhood of his son, with over three hundred surviving verses of his poetry; in those sagas, he spent his efforts recording the efforts and achievements of others than those of his own. Furthermore, by the time Magnus reached adulthood and his alliance with Berk, Sigvatr had become a background figure in the king's court. However, this does him a disservice in his impact, as many subsequent historians have focused on the influence of Hiccup Haddock and Einar Thambarskelfir upon the king, and ignored Sigvatr's.

Sigvatr was made Magnus's godfather when Magnus was born, was responsible for naming the baby (after Karla Magnus—King Charlemagne), and had been the skald and friend of King Olaf for years prior, also serving as the king's stallare (marshal). He traveled with Olaf and Magnus when they fled to the Kievan Rus', raised young Magnus in exile, and returned with him when Einar Thambarskelfir came seeking a puppet he could control. Even then, Sigvatr continued to act as mentor and father figure to the young king, counseling kindness, moderation, temperance and forgiveness. It was due to Sigvatr's advice that Magnus refused to have the men who had killed his father executed, which would have removed two of Einar's rivals for power permanently.

Sigvatr's influence on Magnus's personality, as the sole consistent father figure in the young man's life, is noticeable in many areas. These include Magnus's interests in the arts and sagas, his noted tendencies towards dramatic gestures, and a general bearing that was regularly referred to as gregarious and outgoing—an impressive achievement for someone who lost his home and his father by the age of six, his mother in his teen years, and who lived in exile for most of his childhood.

Dragons of the North: Profiles Of The Viking Lords, Waterford University Press, 1733

Tropes That Appear In This Chapter:

  • Love Confession: Magnus proposes to Ruffnut by writing a song for her.
  • Mythology Gag: After Magnus woos Ruffnut with an original love song, she counters it with "For the Dancing and the Dreaming" from How to Train Your Dragon 2.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Heather recognizes the poem that Chestnut reads as having been written by Fishlegs to her and acknowledges it.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: When Snotlout gives his reasons for leaving, Astrid gives a savage verbal beatdown.
    Astrid: Do you really think that Hiccup 'took' me!? Do you really think that you had a chance!? You bloody ass, I am my own person, and you don't get to treat me like some thing because you want me! I'm with Hiccup because I want to be! Because he's a good man, you lout, and you aren't! Did you really think that I would choose you? You, who has all of the worst attitudes of what it is to be a Viking!?
    Snotlout: But you said that I was one when I hit those eyes with a hammer[!]
    Astrid: Because it was heroic, and it was awesome, but now you're just acting like a whiny child! Acting like I have no choice! Thinking that I'm just some kind of thing for you to fight over with Hiccup! Blaming Hiccup for your own failures! I wouldn't want you if you were the last Viking on Berk! You're so amazed with yourself you forget that the rest of us might not be!


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