Guest Post: "Warning – Shocking News Ahead" by Gina Conkle

Welcome Gina as she talks about her research for “Norse Jewel.”

That’s how my research about Vikings circa AD 1000 felt: one shock wave of surprise after another. Some pleasant, some not so pleasant.
I’ll share my surprising three, but first let me set the stage for how Norse Jewel was born.
In 1999, I traveled to Sweden not planning to fall in love with the country or its museums, but I did. After that vacation, I devoured Viking fiction and non-fiction. Then, our family welcomed our second child and time demands changed happily toward my sons.
Then, I picked up a favorite non-fiction book, Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga. At the same time, I watched the movie “Gladiator.” That’s when the seed took root.
What if a Viking chieftain wanted to lay down his sword like Maximus and live a farmer’s life? That’s how Norse Jewel was born, but there’s more.
As a lover of history, I wanted to write historical romance rich in detail (okay, as much as the romance genre allows). So, more research was needed.
That’s when I learned some shocking facts about Vikings:
1. Thralls (slaves)
Throw out everything you think you know about slaves in history. Time to take an altogether new viewpoint when it comes to Vikings and their thralls. Yes, some slave women were used and abused. But, if you read the sagas, you’ll find a lot of lusty women…female thralls count high in that number. In fact, some thralls gained their freedom and stayed in the northlands. And happily so! Metal workers were especially valued, slave or free.
2. Divorce
While the rest of Europe forbade divorce for centuries, or made you pay half a kingdom to obtain that decree, not so with the Norse. A woman need only gather a witnesses at her lintel (doorway) and proclaim several times that she was no longer married to (insert husband’s name here) and then repeat the proclamation by the marriage bed. The divorce was final. Custom held that women left with what she came to the marriage with and any young children. Boys would return to their father’s keeping when they reached a “certain age.”
3. Heroism
You probably think converted Viking leaders threatened their people with “Convert to the White Christ or else…” You’d be right on some counts. But, there were great men, strong leaders with huge hearts, like Olof Skotkonung of Sweden. Olof converted to Christianity in the early 1000s. He was bothered by the Norse siddur, the “9th Year Blot.” Every 9 years 9 goats, 9 chickens, 9 men… Whoa! 9 men?!? Yes, human sacrifice died out in other Nordic regions, but the Vikings of Sweden held fast, honoring Odin with sacrifices (some say well into the 1100s). King Olof worked for peaceful conversion in Svea (Sweden) but was ultimately exiled by his son, Anund Jakob. Anund Jakob, it was said, walked and talked like a man with a full beard by the time he was 14. And, at the age of 14, Anund Jakob gained enough backing to hold onto the “old ways” and sent his father into quiet exile.
Dig deeper into history, and you find all kinds of surprises, shocking good, and shocking bad, but surprises worthy of a story nonetheless.
Thank you for letting me be part of your day and for the opportunity to be part of your blog. I appreciate it and hope you enjoy Norse Jewel.

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