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Hunding's Saga - 47: Hunding's Errand, Ivar Is Taken to Bosanham for Safe-Keeping

Updated on May 16, 2019

Where the Skagerrak meets the greater Western Sea...

Braendings Slange leaves Roskilde Fjord in early morning mist
Braendings Slange leaves Roskilde Fjord in early morning mist | Source

As they rounded the northern tip of Jylland into the North Sea near Skagen, 'Braendings Slange' was buffeted by a stiff westerly wind.

Skuli called for the beitass to be run out to steerboard, to catch gusts from that quarter. Hunding knew that with it the ship would be ushered faster by the wind, past the mouth of the Skjeld where freebooters - sea-borne robbers - were known to lurk. These Frieslanders were ready to drive passing trading ships into the shallows and hold them hostage.

Hunding looked over one shoulder to where Ivar stood, eyes still streaming from the biting wind. The lad tried to hide his tears, afraid his uncle would take them for home-sickness. Hunding smiled, an assuring smile meant to assure the lad he would be treated as one of the crew. Whether it was taken that way, Hunding did not know. He looked astern, past Ivar, at Skuli who waved to catch his eye. He pointed eastward to Slesvig where it abutted on Seaxland. There were ships, two of them far to the east and heading south-westerly to cut into the course Skuli was taking.

They would see eastern Centland soon, where Sceapig lay off the mainland. Beyond that was the great river mouth of the Temese where King Harthaknut had ships standing by, ready to sail to the aid of traders against the Frieslanders. He hoped they would be able to outrun these ships on the sea's iron-grey anvil. Braending's Slange left her wake trailing across Njord's mares' tails as Skuli pushed the steering oar away from himself. She needed the beitass now, sailing almost into the wind, catching the stiff north-westerly wind in one corner of her sail.

The sails seemed to gain on them. On Hunding's new course they should have been hard put to trail, let alone catch up on Braendings Slange.

Yet there they were, closer now. The shipmasters could even be seen at their prows, men beside them clenching war-bows. Others beside them held spears at the ready. Hunding felt he could even smell their sweat.

'Faster, faster!' Hunding hissed to himself through clenched teeth. He thumped one hand into the other, looked over his left shoulder and at the coast ahead. His crew was doing their best, he knew, but it was almost as if Braendings Slange was stuck in mud. Tofig was by his left now, also watching the sails. They seemed a growing threat, even though the Skjeld had long since been left behind with its low mud islets and shallow channels.

Hunding turned to look forward past the carved prow, the gold and flame-red daubed serpent-head. He scanned the open sea to steerboard for Aenglish sails, for Harthaknut's ships, paid for - albeit grudgingly - by the Danegeld tax levied on every thegn, ealdorman and earl. Were they to fall prey to these Frieslanders? Then at last, to the larboard quarter, sails were seen past Sceapig.

The Frieslanders' shipmasters must have seen the new sails, out to the south-west. They came on still, yet had little else but to turn to haunt the sea roads around the outer islands such as Helgeoe and Sylt. Now help was on its way Hunding could put his thoughts back to taking Ivar to his aunt, Gytha, at Bosanham near the West Seaxan shore. Earl Godwin, the lad's uncle would want to see him whole, unharmed.

Even if they had been boarded by the Frieslanders - God forbid! - Ivar would be well looked after as a prize worth ransoming. The same could not be said for the crew, however. Dane and Frisian were old foes, thorns in one another s' sides! They might be made to leap overboard onto the spits or mud flats and drown - if no-one came by to save them - or they might be put to the sword, a swift end worthy of a warrior.

All would now be well. The sails he saw to the west were nearer now. The king's sea arm would keep Ivar from undue harm. Skuli kept to his course, as veering away now - even to catch the best of the wind in the sail - would tell Harthaknut's shipmasters that they, too, were freebooters. The sails to the north-east had fallen well back and on course back to the Bight, west of the Elbe and Hammaburg to prey on the Frankish ships. At length to the west the nearest of the king's shipmasters came within hailing.

The fellow boomed, a Seaxan butsecarl with a chain mail coat already donned for a fight with our Frisian friends,

'Who are you?'

'I am Hunding Hrothulfsson and this is my ship Braending's Slange. We are heading for Earl Godwin's haven, Bosanham, to take his nephew Ivar. The lad is to live with the earl and his kin for some time. Wave to the king's man, Ivar. Can I know your name, shipmaster?'

Ivar dutifully waved and squinted with the sun glinting low on the sea. They were sailing south-westward now, past Dofnan close to the easternmost point of Centland. With a following wind they might make landfall before the light failed.

'I am Wulfweard, and my ship is the aptly-named West Seaxan Maiden. Do you not think she is slender above the waist, Hunding, like a maiden?'

'You mean fat-arsed?' Tofig chortled under his breath. Hunding grinned, but Wulfweard took it Hunding's grin was in friendship. There was no way he could have heard Tofig.

'And fat-arsed with it', Wulfweard laughed out aloud, together with his crew. Tofig nearly choked with laughter. Wulfweard could plainly read Tofig's thoughts and tutted, 'I see your friend also thought of that, Dane. Let it not be said our wit is any less sharp!'

'Well, Ivar, you will soon be safe and sound with your aunt Gytha', Hunding told the lad. He wished he could tell him, even now, that he was his real father. But he had sworn an oath, and if word reached Harthaknut that he had broken the oath - aye, even Knut's son knew of it - there would be no hiding from his wrath, save perhaps in the east.

Ivar merely nodded, wordless, and shivered once more. He had never been away from Sjaelland. The furthest he had been taken was to the south of the isle, away from the clutches of the West Norse king Magnus when raids from the north began to plague the Danes. Even Harthaknut had been made to hide at one time, until he and the young Magnus met and hammered out a treaty. The furthest he had ever sailed was the mouth of Roskilde Fjord, not even as far as the Kattegat. He was glad his trials would soon be over, could not know that one day he would sail east to Holmgard with his half-brother Osbeorn, and prayed to see the welcoming bosom of Gytha.

'He does not say much, does he?' Tofig said to Hunding after Wulfweard had sailed back north-eastward on West Seaxan Maiden.

'He is young yet, not a lot worth speaking of has happened to him', Hunding answered. He knew little of what had happened in the Danish isles during his years in Jorvik. 'Nor do we wish to turn him into a chatterbox. He will learn he has a tongue soon enough'.

Tofig grinned, stepped back and ruffled Ivar's white-blond hair before striding toward the stern to take over again from Skuli. Ivar stared crossly at Tofig's back, then turned to look up at Hunding. He did not know his uncle very well, not having seen him very often over the years. Hunding had kept himself away from Ivar, although it had pained him not to see his son. Would he ever have a son he could call 'his own'?

Haestingas swept past to their steerboard side, its narrow inlet hiding trading ships in the haven behind, thickly wooded hills behind leading up to the Andredes Weald. Pefense soon came and went, Anderida the old stronghold overlooking the sea to the south and flooded land behind guarding against landward attack, not that raids had been made there by the West Seaxans for many a year.

Soon the land swept away toward the north, wics - or inlets - scarring the coast until at last the ship headed past sandbars between straits into a wide way. There were two bays, Bosanham's being the one to the right, shallow and sandy. Braendings Slange slid onto the sandy foreshore. Some stones grazed her keel, but these were no threat to the ship, Hunding knew.

Fishermen on the foreshore watched idly, drawing out their nets to look for breaks. Other men and womenfolk came down to the strand to ogle the ship. Children laughed and squealed as the seamen ruffled their fair hair as they awaited the earl's men. Skuli made the steering oar safe and those crew still aboard stowed the oars. Herjolf oversaw the work whilst Hunding sat Ivar on the ship's wall.

Tofig was on the strand, waiting for Ivar to drop into his arms once Hunding let go of him.

'Do not be afraid, Ivar. Tofig is down there', Hunding comforted the shivering lad. 'He will catch you'.

'I am not afraid, Uncle Hunding', Ivar lied. 'I am cold and hungry'.

'We shall soon change that', Hunding grinned and shoved the lad forward. Tofig did catch him, but fell back on the sand, Ivar sprawling on top of him. The bystanders laughed, Tofig laughed - even Ivar laughed

'Well, that was a landing we shall not forget in a hurry!' Tofig joked. When he stood the earl was on his way. Ahead of him strode his eldest son, Svein. Svein, like three younger brothers, had a Danish name given to him by his mother, Gytha, sister to the Jarl Ulf thought by Ivar to be his father.

'Hunding Hrothulfsson, I am happy to see you again! Is this our kinsman Ivar? Mother will be glad to see you again, Ivar', Svein took the lad's hand. He was about five years older than Ivar, a strapping lad who filled his father with pride. 'We shall teach you how to handle yourself in battle, young man'.

Behind Svein was Harold, one of two sons given Aenglish names - the other, being Leofwin, still played with wooden swords. Harold was a little older than Ivar, stouter, a youth well versed in the use of sword, axe and spear,

'Fear not, Ivar. We will let you find your way around before we launch you into winning battles! I am Harold, and my younger brother here is Tostig'.

A maiden came next up to Ivar, perhaps the same age as Svein,

'You are Ivar?'

'I am', Ivar answered warily, not knowing what or where this would lead to.

'Welcome to Bosanham, Ivar', she held out a small, pale hand. 'I am Eadgytha, my two sisters here behind me - where are you?'

Eadgytha turned and tugged at her sisters' hands to bring them forward.

'They are not usually shy, Ivar. This one, 'Eadgytha slapped the first on her back, 'is Gytha, like mother. The one behind her is Gunnhild'.

'Welcome, Ivar', Gunnhild pushed forward and kissed Ivar on his right cheek. Gytha held back and smiled, then raced back up the strand to where Earl Godwin ambled.

Earl Godwin laughed out aloud,

'Ivar, your aunt awaits us all in the hall. Hot food awaits everyone. We shall build you up, young man. Your father would never know you from one of his warriors!'

'My father is dead, my Lord', Ivar blurted out, and stilled his tears.

'You will be a man', Ivar told himself.

'Come, Ivar. Think of me as a father, as that is what I shall be to you. We will look after you, guide you and teach you. One day you will be like Svein. Tostig here', Godwin playfully slapped Harold's younger brother on the back, 'is already learning well. As you and Harold are almost of an age, you can live together in his room'.

'Aye, father, there is room with me. Ivar will be another brother', Harold took Ivar's bag from Tofig and they all made their way to Godwin's garth, its high timbered walls towering behind the nearest dwellings and inns.

Hunding, Tofig, Skuli and Herjolf strode onward behind Godwin and his kindred, toward the hall with its high gabled doorway end looming above them as they entered into the smoky, torchlit half-dark. A high-bosomed lady in a long, loose blue gown strode toward Ivar, her broad smile seeming to light up the gloom for Ivar.

'Aunt Gytha!' Ivar let himself be wrapped in her foxfur stole and they stood long, as one.

'Welcome, Ivar', she said quietly, bent forward and kissed her nephew on his forehead. 'Welcome'.

'Let the feasting begin', Godwin called out to a roar of approval. 'Drink hail!'

*This episode of Hunding's Saga serves as an introduction to the saga of Ivar Ulfsson, "RAVENFEAST - Farewell to Legend", with its follow-ups "OVERTHROWN - The Dream Fades" , "OUTCAST - Storm in the Kingdom", "BETRAYED - The Net Tightens", "WAYFARER - Long Road North" and "LANDWASTER - Cry In The Wilderness2., See the "RAVENFEAST" page on this site).

Along the Frisian North Sea rivermouths toward the Jutish Coast

Braendings Slange is chased along the coast off the mouth of the Scheldt by Frisian freebooters - one of the pursuers' ships can be seen aft of Hunding's ship to larboard
Braendings Slange is chased along the coast off the mouth of the Scheldt by Frisian freebooters - one of the pursuers' ships can be seen aft of Hunding's ship to larboard | Source

Introduced to his kinsmen through Gytha - his aunt, to all who don't know his real father - after a long crossing from Roskilde to Bosanham (Bosham, West Sussex), Ivar will spend much of his adolescence and adult life in Aengla Land. This book delves into the background of Earl Godwin's clan, fighting alongside Knut at the Battle of Holy River - Helgeaa - his earlier marriage to one of Knut's younger sisters ending in her death and marriage to Knut's sister-in-law Gytha. The book unravels many mysteries and dark, unexplored areas in 11th Century England around Godwin's relationships with his offspring, his kings and low points - a good read.

Bosanham (Bosham) enters the RAVENFEAST SAGA...

Bosham enters the RAVENFEAST saga in book four, BETRAYED, when Ivar takes kinsman Magnus Haroldson there after he is wounded fighting the Normans and the fyrd in southern Devon near the River Tavy. Ivar had gone inland to Tavistock with the Dublin Danes under Ketilbeorn. Ivar loses his prized axe during the fighting here, made for him by his old friend Andvari.

Magnus, thought to be dead, is taken aboard ship and gives everyone a fright when he wakes on the Isle of Wight. After a short stay in Bosham, Ivar and his friends leave Magnus in the care of an old friend, Aelfric - now priest - before leaving for Wales and the North.

Bosanham, (Boaham, west from Chichester, West Sussex)

Godwin's garth at Bosham would have looked like Drengham here, away from the tidal reach
Godwin's garth at Bosham would have looked like Drengham here, away from the tidal reach | Source

© 2013 Alan R Lancaster


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