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Hunding's Saga - 48: Gytha's Welcome for Ivar, and Hunding's Silence

Updated on May 10, 2019

Bosanham, while not a king's garth, would be Ivar's home until he came of age

An earl's garth - fortified residence - the large hall similar to the kind of building Godwin would have had constructed for him at Bosanham
An earl's garth - fortified residence - the large hall similar to the kind of building Godwin would have had constructed for him at Bosanham | Source

'Welcome!' Gytha saw Hunding and Ivar with their escort, shown by one of her ceorls to the hall.

'Welcome Hunding - Ivar, so good to see you again! My, how you have grown!' Gytha showed them around Godwin's garth when the earl had to leave to oversee work on a new church in a nearby hamlet.

Ivar stayed close behind Hunding until Gytha talked him into going for a walk with Svein, Harold and Tostig. Then they talked long and earnestly, Hunding and Gytha, about Gunnlaug and about Ivar. Knut's older sister Astrid had tried to mother Ivar, Hunding told her, and Gytha assured him she would look after Ivar as she would her own. There were the children to play with as well, after all.

He would lack for nothing, love, food, clothing and he would above all know the world around him. And he would soon see how he fitted in with Godwin's kindred. In short, there was nothing he would not lack or learn. Hunding was happy he had secured his son the best home he could possibly find for him. There was only one thing he could not do for him. He could not tell Ivar he was his father. That was what Knut told him. The lad had to go on believing he was Ulf's son, although he could not go about saying so in Roskilde. There were those Danes who resented Ulf's closeness to the king even though he had sided with the Norse Olaf Haraldsson and Svear king Olaf Skotkonung against Knut at the Helgeaa - the Holy River - in Skaane a decade or so earlier. These same Danish nobles might easily take it on themselves to rid Knut of another 'freeloader'.

Hunding thanked Godwin the following morning for all he had done - and would do - to help Ivar settle down with his sons and daughters.

'Farewell Hunding', Godwin gave him a bear-hug and took his hands in his., 'We will do everything we can for Ivar, short of wiping his backside for him. That much he can do for himself, I hope!'

They both laughed at that. Hunding was given a farewell hug and kiss by Gytha. He ruffled Ivar's flaxen hair fondly and bent to look the lad in the eye,

'We will meet again soon - I swear, Ivar. Be good for your aunt Gytha and be upstanding. Look Godwin in the eye when you speak to him - let him know you think well of him. You have some brothers now -'

'I have brothers, Uncle Hunding. Svein, Beorn and Osbeorn are my brothers', Ivar glared up at Hunding, reddening.

'I know you have brothers in Roskilde, Ivar', Hunding put his seaman's hands on Ivar's shoulders. The lad tried to shake his hands off, but he did not have the strength. 'These sons of Gytha are more your age, you will learn much from them, believe me. Godwin will make a man of you'.

'I do not want to be a man. I am a child!' Ivar reddened, his eyes glistened. Tears were close to being shed again.

He stood and Ivar suddenly began sobbing, clutching at Hunding's breeks as though he did not want to be parted from him. The anger in him rose and fell. Hunding felt awkward, but grinned for the sake of Svein and Harold, standing by, watching their new 'brother'. He would get over it, they knew, not that they had ever had to go through what had befallen Ivar in his young days.

'Farewell!' Hunding stepped away from Ivar whilst Gytha held him tightly, lovingly, like a mother.

'Farewell Hunding, we will meet again!'.Gytha waved, and waved again together with her sons.

Ivar tried to hide his hot tears at seeing Hunding sail away to the narrows on 'Braendings Slange'.. Not that they would know, that would be the last they saw of him. Ivar would see him again, more than once until he too lost touch with Hunding. He would leave word in Jorvik, to say that his ship had gone down in a storm off the Faeroer. For the time being he would keep his pain to himself.

For now Hunding stood at the steering oar, all thoughts of Ivar put to one side. The mouth of the inlet he had to steer through narrowed when the sea drained away again, and he did not want to be stranded here. The time would come for him to think back on Ivar's plight, left here with outsiders even though Gytha was an aunt - not blood kin, however. After all, the lad was of his and Gunnlaug's making, but he was not to know this. Not for many years, if at all.

His, Hunding's first course when he entered the Solente, would be for the narrows between Centland to the west and Artois on the Picardy shore, then to strike north-west for Harwic. The old haven lay where inlets and creeks led away northward from the mouth of the Themese. Here he had dealings with an East Seaxan trader by the name of Burgheard. Jorvik beckoned from there. Here he was, a Dane, and he thought of Jorvik as home. What was the world coming to?

Leaving Bosanham again - Hunding heads for Jorvik and beyond

Braendings Slange leaves Bosanham under sail for the east coast and Jorvik
Braendings Slange leaves Bosanham under sail for the east coast and Jorvik | Source
Hunding's next stop after loading 'Braendings Slange' was the Faeroe Islands
Hunding's next stop after loading 'Braendings Slange' was the Faeroe Islands | Source
Like a world created by the Dark Elves... The Faeroe Islands - two main islands and many uninhabitable by man, crowded with sea-birds
Like a world created by the Dark Elves... The Faeroe Islands - two main islands and many uninhabitable by man, crowded with sea-birds | Source

There was a trader at Torshavn who dealt in furs...

He also dealt in walrus tusks that Hunding bought for carving by Jorvik's craftsmen close to the river near Koppargata, the street of the barrel-makers or coopers. Asgeir Brusason was a friend by now, who made Hunding welcome. The small haven of Torshavn at the southern toe on the western isle of Streymoy was a welcome sight after being buffeted by wind and rain between Sjetland and the Faeroer, the dwellings and workshops built against the rocks with beams from broken-up ships to support the turf rooves.

'How come you have walrus tusks like this, when walrus never come here?' Hunding asked Asgeir once.

'It all comes down to who you trade with', Asgeir laughed and touched one side of his nose.

Hunding nodded and asked no more. He did not need to know, and Asgeir knew he was unlikely to go that far north himself. Jorvik's craftsmen might have thought the tusks longer than they were used to. They were content just to work it, so Hunding kept up this friendship. After all, did the hospitality not measure up well against that of his links in the Eastern Sea?

He stayed a week with Asgeir and his woman Jarngerd, the time of year for sailing fast coming to a close.

'I must sail, my friend', Hunding told Asgeir, 'or the winds will come around against me!'

'So you must, so you must. You have what you came for and more. I shall keep you no longer'. Asgeir gave him food, water and ale to go back with. At least one landing would be called for - maybe on the Katanes coast to the south of Orkney for the first time. From Katanes he would steer around to the east for the Firth of Forth and on to Beruvik. A landing on Lindisfarena would bring hospitality from the brothers of the small abbey, and shelter on the lee of the island.

Finally Spurna came into sight to the west. Hunding swung the steering oar to larboard and 'Braendings Slange' veered westward, passed Grim's by, on to where the Ose flowed into the great river and joined with the Treonta to the south.

'Had we left it another few days, I fear we would have ended our days on the great sea to the west', Ogmund told Hunding. Ogmund was Aesc's son, Aesc having said farewell to his sea-going days. His wife Wulfgifu had talked him into trading for himself. Now Ogmund fulfilled Skuli's tasks on board. Skuli had fallen overboard and drowned off Ribe on the way back to Jorvik, drunk on Calvados Hunding had bought for himself at Rouen, a little way inland from the mouth of the Seine.

Another stalwart, Tofig had bought himself a ship at Ribe, to trade from his father Gyrth's hall in Kerteminde. Many of his old friends and crew from the old days had finished with going to sea. Osferth was now dead and Wulfwila took over his trade with her husband. So Hunding leaned more and more on Ogmund. A new crew sailed 'Braendings Slange' now, young men from Jorvik and the old Danelaw.

As Hunding steered the ship past Richale his young crew took down the sail, ran the oars out and heaved against the outgoing tide, past the mouths of the Hvarfe to the west and the Deruwent to the east, upriver to Jorvik's staiths.

No wife warmed his bed for him, no children ran about his home. Wulfwila's own three children ran amok amongst the trading ships and warehouses, yelled at by their mother, mildly cursed by their father. So in the evening, after his wares were stowed, he sought a woman in an ale house who would keep a bed warm for him.

How long would he keep this up, he wondered as he lay on his back with his whore lying on her belly. Would his seafaring skills fail him before he could give up life on the open sea? Would his riches be for nought? He had a son, the lad's mother long since in his fond thoughts, but the ways of men got in the way of his own life and Ivar was left to think of Jarl Ulf as his father. He rolled over and fell asleep after dousing the rush light with his thumb and forefinger.

Next - 49: Gotland and Eastward Again

See description below
See description below | Source

The story behind the legend. Earl Godwin's offspring would include several earls, a queen and a king. He was not without his share of heartache. A wife bestowed upon him by Knut, one of the king's sisters, would die not long after the marriage. His youngest son Wulfnoth would be taken by Robert of Jumiege to Normandy as hostage. His eldest and favourite son, Svein, would be accused of treason and abducting the abbess of Leominster - on whom he sired a son, Hakon - and he would die beset by robbers on his way home from pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Another son, Tostig, would be stripped of his earldom in 1065 and fall fighting beside Harald Sigurdsson near York in late September, 1066.

Read on...


Jorvik - Koppargata, known now as Coppergate where barrels, cups and household vessels were made on a site near the river (burnt down by the Normans to create a gap for observation, no-one could creep up on them using the houses for cover
Jorvik - Koppargata, known now as Coppergate where barrels, cups and household vessels were made on a site near the river (burnt down by the Normans to create a gap for observation, no-one could creep up on them using the houses for cover | Source

© 2014 Alan R Lancaster


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