The War Wolf – Let’s Read and Discuss 11

This is a very reflective piece, an opportunity to examine the thoughts of both Tostig Godwinson and Harald Hardrada on the eve of battle. I wanted to represent them both as real people, not just historical personages. Of course, there is a degree of artistic licence on my part. The accounts of both Tostig and King Hardrada are unreliable. Tostig believed that he was misrepresented by his own brother, Harold, and Hardrada had spent a lifetime building an reputation as a fearsome Norseman and becomng hte most famous Viking of his day. It is difficult when no firsthand accounts exist from people who actually knew them to define their real characters. What appears in this chapter is entirely supposition on my part, but I enjoyed writing it and I think that it works to set out the probably frame of mind before they begin the attack on York.

I see Tostig as an embittered man. It is difficult not to. He was the third son of Eorl Godwin of Wessex and had been the Eorl of Northumbria himself. His fall from grace was quite unusual in that the people themselves rose up against him. At a time when he needed support his elder brother abandoned him. I think that that betrayal, as he saw it, was now Tostig’s chief motivation. In the prologue we see Tostig attack the village of Grim’s By in Lyndsey, today’s Lincolnshire. Tostig did actually attack Saxons settlements in 1066, first in the Isle of Wight, then along the southern coast before turning north and landing several times in the east of the kingdom. King Harold could not spare the fleet, which was needed to defend the coast against the expected Norman invasion, but he did challenge Tostig with a force of both men and ships at Sandwich in Kent. I think that Tostig must have realised that he could never raise a force strong enough to challenge Harold on his own, so he left off raiding small settlements and sailed to Norway and recruited Harald Hardrada as an ally.

For his part, Hardrada is pursuing a diplomatic mission; keeping his Viking allies happy. He leads the largest invasion force to set sail from Scandinavia, bit as observed earlier it is a coalition of men from various countries; not an entirely Norwegian expedition. To impress his audience aboard his impressive ship King Hardrada recounts tales from his youth. He traveled widely and served as a mercenary captain in Byzantium. Hardrada even offers them some observations on why people under siege in a walled city are, in his opinion, easier to defeat than those who take the field against him. His final comments regarding the government of those who he has conquered also reveals that his motives for invading England are very different to Tostig’s.

Below is a PDF file of the chapter under discussion. Please, click on the link and enjoy.

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