Ingibjorg’s Story

Ingibjorg of the Holmbyggjar

My name is Ingibjorg. My mother was Gudrun, daughter of Gunni and Sinfjotli, and sister to Ulrik of Ranrike. She died when I was young. My father was Ragnar, who held land in Jutland, near Fyrkat. Ragnar was always on bad terms with our neighbours because they argued about the rights to the best pasturelands.

My father arranged for me to marry his friend, Halldor, who held land adjacent to my father’s. We lived there well enough for some years. Our first son was called Arinbjorn, and was a promising lad. We also had a daughter Dagrun, who is a fine weaver and a delight to me.

But the feud between the landholders escalated. One spring, my father was ambushed and killed on the way to the shieling, and later that year much of our livestock was stolen. It was clear that we had little chance of getting compensation for any of these injuries, because our neighbours had given fine presents to all the powerful men in the region. We lacked their wealth and could not match their gifts. My uncle Ulrik had lands in England, and he invited us to settle there with him, being near kinfolk and without allies in our own land. I consulted with Hraefna, who can see the fates of men, and she announced that we would be lucky in England, so we determined to leave our own lands and venture abroad.

We crossed the ocean in Ulrik’s ship, the Black Pig. We took our remaining followers (a few slaves and relatives) and our children. We settled with Ulrik at Hólmr, on the Island of Osea near to Maeldune. [1]

The land at Osea was rich, and Ulrik had learned enough of English ways that he was on good terms with the Anglo-Saxon people who dwelt thereabouts. I was sorry when he and Sigrid returned to Ranrike, but enjoyed being mistress of the household in their absence.

The settlement prospered, and my husband soon decided he could leave us for a while and sail to the new lands in Iceland seeking walrus ivory, cloth and furs. I counselled against this because Hraefna had said that our luck lay in England. He disregarded my advice and took Arinbjorn with him to seek greater wealth and reputation than he could easily gain as an English farmer. Ulrik did not favour this venture, and he and Valgard Ulriksonnr took the Black Pig up the Baltic, so Ragnar and Arinbjorn sailed on a ship owned by a Norwegian named Thorolf, who I considered to be ill-favoured.

I was devastated but not surprised when word came that my son and husband had perished at sea. I could not show my grief because a woman of strong character must organise the household and continue to talk cheerfully, to offer hospitality and to maintain the connections with her kinfolk.

Our family’s luck in England continued to be good. What with Valgard’s frequent journeys to trade eastwards, and travellers like Alf Silversmith passing through, the settlement at Hólmr sees many visitors and it is always a pleasure to make them welcome and hear the latest news. It is my desire now to be known as a skilled woman and a generous hostess, and to ensure that the farm prospers for our remaining children. It is of the greatest importance to me to foster good relations with our neighbours, as I do not know how long the Danelaw may persist here, so close to Wessex. Our children must be marked with the cross in due course, though I hope that they will respect my wishes enough to bury me in the traditional fashion with my finest clothing and ornaments, so that I will be fitly attired when I go to Freyja’s hall, Folkvang. If they will spare me in addition a horse and wagon I will be well contented.


Notes

  1. Maldon, in the Blackwater estuary, Essex. [back]
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