Welcome to the Sunday blog! This week Fenrir is answering Juliana’s question. Juliana said…
I would love to talk to Fenrir! What would I ask him? Hmm… maybe I would ask if there was anything from his old life that he missed and what he is happy to be rid of!
Ah, I miss the raiding! Blóð ok sorg, and down we’d rush like a hot wind from hell upon our unsuspecting neighbours. I mean our internecine battles, not the shore raids over the sea: those were too easy, at any rate until we ran into the warrior monks of Fara.
No, winters were for viking around on our own unforgiving soil, expanding our Torleik territory and filling it with sheep, cattle and women by our glorious birthright of pure, unthinking savagery. Up would leap the neighbours, and then we’d all set to, hewing, smiting and slaying, left, right and centre. Grand times!
Or so I tell my Caius, on high summer nights like this, when the lights of sunset never quite fade from the sky, and only migrate slowly northeast until they become the lights of dawn. I tell him because I love to see the disapproving little crease slowly appear between his eyebrows, and the corners of his mouth – far too sensuous, even after forty summers (yes, we’re both old men now), to suit a Christian abbot – turn reprovingly down. “Fen-rir,” he’ll say eventually, if I keep up the tease long enough, as if giving me my full name, second syllable a reproachful growl, should be enough to tame the wolf (ah, which it was, long ago and a thousand times over since then), “Fen-rir! All your learning, all your long years of civilisation! Can it be that you really regret such barbarity?”
And, “No, indeed,” I will say to him, putting an arm around his shoulders by the remains of our hilltop fire, looking out over the land – Broccus’s land, which he inherited, and which we visit now and again to make sure that the half-brother princes aren’t quarrelling too ferociously over the huts and the mud. “No, indeed, just as you, my fine abbot, never regret your rollicking days here with old Broc, dashing about on his puddle-hopping war-ponies. Just as you never regret the day you first hitched up your cassock and led your so-called men of God into wild-eyed battle against the Vikingr. Yes, heaven forfend we ever look back!”
What a gift I have, even now, for making him flare up! It’s as good as a trip back to old days indeed, to make him leap up, stalk around the fire, grab whatever dusty great tome he’s managed to barter our good Dun Abbey lambs, calves or mead to obtain, and recite for me chapter and verse on the virtues of gentleness. Scratch the surface of my noble lord of Dun, and there’s the guttersnipe still, Broc’s firstborn, sparks in his eyes, blissfully unaware of the irony of teaching me Christian submission at the top of his lungs, calling as he does so on a whole savage pantheon of Broc’s old gods to strike him down if it isn’t all true. He keeps it up until I start to laugh, and then he drops the book (oh, so carefully, no matter how far I’ve incensed him), and then I have my work cut out to get away from him fast enough to give him the run he needs off down the slope, out of sight, sound and the range of prying village eyes, down to the brakes of ferny, moss-carpeted willows where he can catch me, tackle me down, and show me for himself just what a bloody gentle, civilised soul he is these days.
But when we’re done, how glad I am to take him back to his fireside and his book. How willingly I listen to him reading through the night, puzzling out, one thorny ethical knot at a time, the thread of our new days and ways. Dun is a beacon, an island, and from its defensible heights (own well, rocky ramparts in three directions), we shine what light we can into a dark world. Abbot Aelfric and his kind won in the end, you see. The Christianity of lonely shores, of singing seals and beloved old hermits who were saints in their own lifetime – all that’s gone now, dried up by the dogma and scorching moral torches of Rome. So, what Cai and I miss most from our old days – unthinking violence, the hunt, the chase, the kill – has to be, has to be the very thing we’re most glad to leave behind. Unless we can master ourselves, how shall we dare seek to teach other men? How shall we dare say, “You must learn, learn all you can about yourself, your soul, the ways of other souls around you, the workings of the world you live on as it dances round its sun – yes, that is the dance, and let no Roman Churchman tell you otherwise, tell you that you and you alone occupy the centre of God’s creation – or you and all other bright souls like you will fall into a black, appalling ignorance whose consequences may be eternal, and whose bitter message that you and you alone are right in your beliefs will prove a deadly harvest to those who come after you”?
No chance of that, in Abbot Cai’s ministry.
Harper: mind if I put in a word, gentlemen? I had no idea that Fen had quite so much to say, but he, like many of us, finds himself compelled to speak out firmly and stand his ground these days. Thank you for that great question, Juliana, even if it did set him off.
Next week we’re back off to Cornwall, where Toni will be meeting up with Lee and Gid. Toni says…
I would love to talk with Lee and Gideon. I don’t think I could pick one or the other, since I love them both and I love them together. Not sure what I would ask them. Maybe just how they are, how they’re doing with all the changes in their lives, how Tamsyn is, what’s next for them.