Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Guest Author, Renee Vincent on Northmen Vs. Irishmen in the 10th Century

Please join me in welcoming guest author, Renee Vincent to History Undressed! Renee is the author of the fabulous Emerald Isle Trilogy--which today I am thrilled to be the first to swipe the sheet off of the cover and reveal her third book cover in the series, The Fall of Rain. Being an Irish girl myself, I have soft spot for the Emerald Isle, and anything that is related to it.  Without further ado, I give you Renee's historical article...

Northmen vs. Irishmen in the 10th Century
by Renee Vincent


Generally speaking, one of the first or perhaps the most famous of appearances made by the Northmen was in 793 AD, when a small band of armed men attacked the monastery of Lindisfarne (a small island off the east coast of England) and mercilessly killed the peaceful monks of the abbey where they stood. Not only did they thieve the riches from the monastery, but they also slaughtered the cattle to restock their ships. To the Christian world, including Ireland, this was an outrage. And just as word quickly spread of this atrocity, so did the number of reoccurring attacks on other monasteries, particularly those along Ireland’s coasts and rivers.

Eventually, Ireland became the perfect place for the Northmen to set up winter camps when excursions were put on hold until the warmer seasons. Over time, these temporary encampments developed into settlements and even flourishing ports. The Northmen started to trade, intermingle, and adapt to the customs and culture of the Gaels, but there were still those Irish, who did not like the “foreigners” who swept into their country like a vicious storm. Many of the Irish, noble and ignoble alike, had come into brutal contact with these pagan people, and had lost their loved ones to raids, skirmishes, or even the slave trade. The thought of actually allowing these Northern people to integrate within their own country—which had so far remained impervious to outside influences—left more than a bad taste in their mouths.

The High King of Ireland, Niall Glundubh, had quite possibly the worst grudge of anyone. He had demonstrated great efforts to unite the constant warring Irish clans into one huge force in order to rid their lands of the Northmen, starting with those who controlled Baile Átha Cliath (Dublin). But there were some lesser kings who were left questioning the probability of this victory—if not the morality of it—given that some had already formed alliances with the Northmen and even married their daughters to them. Joining this campaign would have been a blatant betrayal of those very collaborations. Veritably, there were grown sons born of Irish and Norwegian parents, thus further complicating matters. What seemed to be a clear-cut battle between native and foreigner, had now evolved into an obscure civil war.

This is the very time period when my Emerald Isle Trilogy takes place—when there was more at stake than just a claim on Ireland’s flourishing port, but the very alliances made between Christian and pagan men, how ever unlikely it seemed.

It has been argued that the seafaring Northmen brought the “world” to Europe’s ports and boosted its very economy with the expansion of their trading routes. There is no doubt that they also brought terror and destruction by the edge of their swords, but unfortunately, it seems that this horrific image has gone down in history as the stereotype of what the Northmen were like as a whole.

As in any culture, there are those whose actions defy the moral code of society, and those people often gain recognition and the privilege of the written record. The “Vikings” were no different. Most of the documents we have today, although colorfully descriptive and poetically versed, are from the partiality of the victimized monks who described only the few renegades driven by the spoils of piracy and plunder. We do not get the full picture of the other Northmen whose lives did not involve pitiless rape, arson, and thievery.

Most of the Scandinavians who came to Ireland were Norwegian. They were simple craftsmen and merchants looking to make an honest living with trade, or farmers aiming to settle upon lush lands following the depletion of Norway’s natural resources—while still upholding the role of a warrior if the duty arose. Whatever their course, there is something to be said about the fearless men who bravely picked up their families and left their homelands to journey on an open sea in the hopes of making a new life for themselves.

Along with courage, these men made and kept oaths of loyalty, both with their gods and their brothers in arms. It was not likely that oaths were broken, as doing so would have called to question one’s honor, and during this time, a man’s character was either his glory or his shame.

These men were also family men; a people who stood closely together, sometimes living together in the same longhouses and raising each others’ young as their own. This was not done for poverty sake, but as an opportunity for the younger generation to learn specific crafts and strengthen bonds within the group. If a lad aspired to be a blacksmith, he’d be fostered by the local blacksmith, if one did not run in his own family. It was a convenient, if not logical form of apprenticeship.

But as much as we’ve come to discover the Northmen’s high regard for kinship, it still did not get in the way of independence. When a lad grew of age, he was free to stay at home or live abroad. There was no disappointment if a son wanted to venture out and find new lands for himself.

In truth, this was the spirit of the Northmen. Their vitality for adventure, as well as their unsurpassed nautical intelligence, helped them to perfect the most versatile sea vessel of their time. Their ships were sturdy enough to withstand the treacherous storms of the open sea, yet shallow enough to slip up rivers and streams. They understood clearly the concept of latitude and could even navigate their ships in the darkest of night using the Pole Star.

One last misconception I feel worth mentioning, is that contrary to popular belief, the Northmen were relatively clean for men of the Early Middle Ages. They groomed themselves often, employing the use of braids and clips in their hair, various rudimentary bone “picks” for their teeth and ears, and within the realm of credibility, bathed more frequently than their European neighbors. This has been suggested to be a purposeful tactic, as they were well aware that in order to gain the attention of a noble woman, one’s hygiene could play a factor in her willingness. And if you look at the most common find in excavated Scandinavian gravesites, aside from weapons, it would be the comb.

I hope this has given you a new insight on “Vikings,” and yet on the same token, an empathetic sense of pride for the Irishmen who withstood, sometimes complied with, and, yet, ultimately survived the men of the North.


Emerald Isle Trilogy By Renee Vincent
RæliksenMac LiamThe Fall Of Rain

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Buy Renee Vincent Books Now At:

39 comments:

Sarah Hoss said...

Thank you so much for a very informative and wonderful post. I really enjoyed reading about the Northmen. I love history!

The covers look so attractive together. The Fall of Rain looks great and I can't wait to buy her book too!!!!

Renee Vincent said...

Sarah: You are too kind, my dear! I love that cover and I think it's my favorite now. Thanks also for reading my post on the Northmen. I just can't get enough of them and love to talk about them with those who are interested.
Good luck in the contest!

Avery Flynn said...

Renee this was amazing. I love the detail about the comb being one of the most commonly found artifacts - besides weapons, of course. You really sucked me in and the book cover looks great!

Renee Vincent said...

Thank you Avery! Having your feedback on the post is very important to me and it's why I love to write about the Vikings...to teach about the Norse, without the reader realizing it, through a beautiful love story.

Thanks for taking the time to comment and good luck in the drawing!

Chicks of Characterization said...

What a interesting and informative post! Thanks so much for shaing!

I visited Lindisfarne a few years ago, the village where the attacks happened is a very quaint place, steeped in history!

Love your new cover, Renee!!!!!

Best of luck!!!

Andrea

Virginia C said...

Hey, Renee : )

Terrific post--compelling imagery! How wonderful to see all three covers for the "Emerald Isle Trilogy" side by side! I can hardly wait for the arrival of "The Fall of Rain" : )

Congrats on the release of "Silent Partner"! Sending you much love and wishes for great happiness and continued success : )

Renee Vincent said...

Andrea: Lindisfarne is definitely a place I want to visit when I hop over to Europe. I'm even hoping I get stranded there! haha
Thanks for following my tour!

Virginia: Ah, there you are...I was hoping you'd peek in and see the cover. I'm in awe when I look at the three books together now. It's really a breathtaking series of covers. So happy right now and that I have friends like you to share this grand moment with!
Good luck in the contest!

Michelle Bledsoe said...

Renee,I have never read a book set in this era. You have made me very curious. Now I must add these books of your to my list. Will I live long enough to read all these new books I am finding? LOL

koonie2888(at)yahoo(dot)com

Lizzie Walker said...

Renee, I had read about the Vikings via author, Sandra Hill. She has traced her family roots back to the time frame you write about.

I find the Northmen fascinating. Sandra writes about her people with much humor but she also show the intelligence, financial savvy and the cleanliness that is rarely known about the Vikings.

It's wonderful to have another voice taking the myths away and spreading the truth (however flattering or unflattering it may be) to your readers.

I can't wait to read this third book.

Renee Vincent said...

Michelle: I do hope you let your curiosity win and read my books in this series. I really think you'll enjoy them. Thanks for following me on this tour!

Lizzie: I swear, you and I are carved from the same mold. The things I found out about the Norse (quite different from what we were taught in schools) fascinate me and I'm so glad to know someone else appreciates the impressive dynamics of the Scandinavian culture as much as I do. Thanks for being here with me.

Suzanne Barrett said...

Very nice, informative article and gorgeous cover. Well done, Renee.

Jean P said...

That was such a fascinating post, I really enjoyed it. Such interesting history. Thanks for sharing.

skpetal at hotmail dot com

Renee Vincent said...

Thanks Suzanne! Great to see you here! Good luck in the contest!

Jean: Great to see another returning face! And thanks for commenting...glad you liked the content.

Hales said...

What a fantastic post Renee whoot. I loved reading about the comb too and the images you ebedded are breathtaking but not as breathtaking as your new cover!

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

Nicely done, Renee. And they're the most beautiful covers!

Christina Wolfer said...

Having read Raelikson (and loved it), the history given above really ties together the beautifully tragic love story. Not just the one of Daegan and Mara, but also the love Daegan had for the land, his family and his nobility.

Now I need get Mac Liam read before The Fall of Rain comes out. Love the cover, btw. Congrats, Renee!

Diva J. said...

Great post, Renee! History is a secret passion for me and I love learning about it. Definitely never heard of the Northmen before. Yes, I agree with above, your book covers are beautiful. :)

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I was reading the last part of your post to my DH since he carries some of the Norweigian blood whereas I am half Danish. He says he can't see a problem with their grooming for the enjoyment of a woman. :)

Loved this post and getting such a descriptive accounting of the arrival of the Northsmen. It is always amazing at cultures merge and how it all started.

Thanks for all the info, Renee.

librarypat said...

Interesting post, Renee. As is often the case, it is the atrocities that are highlighted when recording the intrusion of one group into another's territory. It is only part of the story. Peace will ensue either through domination or negotiation and the groups will learn to live together.

I have Raeliksen. Mac Liam is on my Wish List and I'll have it by the time The Fall Of Rain comes out. I haven't much time to reread, so I like to read a series right together so the story line and characters are fresh in my mind. The new cover is lovely. I look forward to reading the trilogy.
Good luck with the release of The Fall Of Rain.

Clancy said...

Renee, Loved the history lesson. I'm always in need of one :)
The covers are gorgeous!!

Pommawolf said...

This time period grab my attention when I first reading historical romance so many years ago. Some of the fascination because my desire in wanting learn where my birth name came from, and the beauty of Ireland, Scotland and all rich history. Also my husbands family Nordic family history later added to the fascination, and his families link to the american west history. The delightful rich history of the old west was not quite clear between my husband and I until we started piecing the irony of us ending up together. *S*
Thank you for th wonderful info. It is a learning experience. :}

Gabriella Edwards said...

The first novel I started writing so many moons ago is historical. The genre has always been my first love since opening Woodiwiss' The Flame and the Flower. That inspired my writing ambition. I now have two historicals in the making with a few other premises outlined. :-) So yeah, I loves me the history!

Renee, my friend, LOOOVE the new cover!

Anita Clenney said...

Wonderful post. Loved the history lesson and the pictures!

Renee Vincent said...

Hales: Wow! So glad to see you here! Oh I love all this company. And thanks for sharing your thoughts on the cover. The feedback on it has been amazingly positive and I couldn't be happier! Good luck in the contest!

Cindy Spencer Pape: Coming from you - the author with some astounding covers yourself - that means the world to me! Thank you for being here and sharing in my unveiling today!

Christina Wolfer: I'm so glad you understood Daegan and could feel his noble character resonating through my choice of words. Can't wait to hear what you think of Mac Liam!

Diva J: You've heard of the Northmen - they are just "Vikings", but I prefer to call them what they called themselves. And I'm so glad to meet a fellow history lover. Thank you for coming here and reading my post. Good luck in the contest!

Paisley: Oh your DH sounds delightfully funny! Love his humor. And I am so pleased to meet you too. I wish I could say I had some Norse ancestry in me...you lucky woman!
Good luck in the contest and thanks for following me through this tour.

librarypat: Well said. And I just wish schools would teach both sides of the story instead of the one-sided lessons of all Vikings being greedy, murderous, pillaging pagans. Especially now when there is evidence proving otherwise. Those history books really need an update!

And I cannot wait to hear your thoughts on the trilogy. I so understand about waiting til the three books can be read in succession.
Thanks for entering the contest!

Clancy: Thanks so much for visiting with me. I love my Celtic Clan!

Pommawolf: I love your stories Darcy! Thanks for sharing them with me. I am so happy to see your avatar following in on my blog tour.

Gabriella: There's my girl! And yes, you KNOW I want to read that historical woman. Get that thing finished!

Thanks for visiting with me...I know you've been busy so it means a lot to me that you took time to be here. (((hugs)))

Renee Vincent said...

Anita: Thank you! *squee* So glad to see you here with me. What an honor it is!

Carol L. said...

Thanks so much Renee for this wonderful post and enlightening us about the true Vikings story. Your covers are beautiful.
Carol L
Lucky4750@aol.com

Brenda Woody and Steve Tindle said...

Enjoyed the history lesson. The third book cover is now my favorite. When will The Fall of Rain be released? This is the last book of this series; I know you will be sad to bring the stories to an end. Do you think you will carry any of the characters into another story?
Brenda

Renee Vincent said...

Carol: Aww..thank you so much! This feedback is very good for me as I was wondering what others thought. I was a bit too biased to give an honest opinion. Thanks for being here with me!

Brenda and Steve: the third book is my favorite now too. It will be released December 2011 and yes, a story will be carried over in another book called The Temperate Warrior. This book is about Gustaf (Daegan's older brother) and Æsa's story...continued from where Mac Liam leaves off.

Thanks for supporting me in this blog tour by visiting with me! Good luck in the contest!

Linda Acaster said...

Renee, it was a wonderful post and I really liked the photos.

Living in the UK I was able to fly across to Dublin a couple of years ago to view The Sea Stallion when it over-wintered. At 90ft and so shallow it looked as if it would break its back at the first wave! The Norse knew well how to build ships.

[For others, The Sea Stallion is a replica of a Dragon Ship excavated in shallows in Scandinavia (could be Denmark)and carbon dating discovered the wood came from Ireland, proving that Dragon Ships weren't just-for-show coastal waters but were true sea-going.
Sea Stallion

marybelle said...

I love my history. My family were originally from Denmark. My mother always said I had Viking blood running through my veins - usually when I did something wild & woolly.

marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Renee Vincent said...

Linda: Oh, I bet that was so amazing to see that ship! What I wouldn't give to see that or better yet, take a ride in a longship! You are one lucky woman!
Do you have pictures of it? I'd love to see it...

Mary: Love that story. It brought a huge smile to my face as I could just hear a mother saying that to her unruly child. Wish I had some of the blood in me....

Thanks for visiting HU and entering my contest!

Suzanne Barrett said...

Renee:

Thanks for that bit of history. I think the cover for The fall of rain is the most beautiful yet. Love it!

Angela Drake said...

Found the part about the Northmen paying such close attention to their cleanliness very interesting. That isn't something we've often associated with earlier times. Thanks for that info. Enjoying your tour!
Angela

lisagk said...

This was an interesting post. It seems they had a bit of the "It takes a village" lifestyle.
thanks for the contest.
lisa gk at yahoo dot com

Renee Vincent said...

Suzanne: Thanks for the compliment on the cover. I, too, LOVE that one!

Angela: yes, that was one of my favorite aspects of the Northmen too - their cleanliness. To me that was both cunning and wise.

Lisagk: Thanks for stopping by. You are entered in the drawing and I wish you luck.

susan said...

Needed this article as it has shown me another side to Northmen and I am so into Irish books and such. Vikings led a tough life and I know they did it without any thoughts. It just had to be done. I would love to read your books and hope to be entered here in hopes I can get a little luck of the Irish and be a winner. Thanks for sharing this all with us. susan Leech garysue@dejazzd.com

Teresa K. said...

Renee,

This was fascinating informantive. I didn't realize the Northman invaded the Iris also. I read about them going into England and defeated the Saxons. However I didn't know they did all that to the Irish Monestary's. Very interesting. You never cease to amaze me Renee.

Teresa K.
tcwgrlup41@yahoo.com

mbreakfield said...

I have always found the viking culture to be of great interest. thanks for the article
marlenebreakfield(at)yahoo(dot)com

Renee Vincent said...

Susan and Teresa K...thank you so much for swinging by and reading about my research on the Norse. Good luck in the drawing!