my name is Gudrun. I live on a farm with my father Olaf,
my mother Sigrid, my Aunt Frith, my brothers Svein and
Egil, my sister Unn and baby Thora. My cousin Harald also
lives with us. He, and his mother came to live with us
after my Uncle was killed in a place called Jorvick, far
away to the west."
"We also have a thrall (you would
call him a slave) to help on the farm. His name is Thord,
and he used to be a neighbour of ours until he lost all
his possessions and couldn’t pay everyone he had
borrowed money from. He was given to us as a thrall at
the thing (you might call it a court) as he had borrowed
food and money from us. Because we are free people and
have our own farm, we are called karls".
"Today I am very tired. We were
all up very late last night because it was the ceremony
of Frey. He is the god of new life, and we always have
a feast for him at planting time. We have a statue of
him that gets decorated with lots of flowers and carried
through several villages. In our village, we sacrificed
a whole goat for him, but in the next village they could
only find a chicken. That means our crops will be much
better than theirs this summer. I am glad I don’t
though we were up very late, we still have to get up at
sunrise. Egil and I have to feed the pigs and chickens,
after we have washed our faces and combed our hair. I
have a lovely comb made from deer antler. I have it hanging
from one of my brooches that hold my tunic at the shoulders.
All our special things are carried there to keep them
safe. Mum is making griddlecakes from ground oats, which
we will eat with butter and honey; we will also have buttermilk
to drink. It is still very cold so I have my lovely warm
cloak to wear over my dress and tunic."
"After breakfast, I will help Mum
milk the cows. We grow and make everything that we need
on our farm. I have heard that you have places called
shops where you can buy anything that you want, but here
in our village there is nothing like that at all. We have
to make everything ourselves. I will use some of the milk
to make butter. We pour the milk into a tall thin barrel
and then I have a special stick, which I have to thump
up and down for ages until butter starts to form in the
milk. Any milk that isn’t turned into butter, we
call buttermilk and use it as a drink. Egil is supposed
to help with this but he sometimes slips out when Mum
isn’t looking and goes off down to the stream to
sail his boats or fight great battles with his friends.
However Dad, Svein and Thord will need him to help scare
away the birds after they have planted the oats and the
barley. The birds would eat all our seed and leave us
with nothing to eat, if we didn’t chase them away.
Next month, Egil and I will have to weed the crops to
make sure that the seedlings get enough light and water
it is well after midday. I have heard that you have a
meal at this time, but we don’t. There is still
lots of work to do. I have to grind the few remaining
ears of oats and barley that we have left from last year
to make flour. I have two round flat stones to do this.
The top stone has two holes in it. Father put a handle
into one to allow me to turn the stone, and the other
hole is for putting the grain into, so it drops between
the two stones and gets ground up as I turn the top stone.
My sister Unn used to do this every day, but she has a
really good job working for the Jarl (the local chief)
and his family. She helps in the kitchen there, and is
always busy. The Jarl has lots of feasts and banquets
for other Jarls."
"Soon, when all the crops have been
planted, Father will sail west with the Jarls. They will
go to that big island that is now called Great Britain,
to trade. Grandfather used to tell stories of his grandfather
and how they used to just sail over to the island and
took anything that they wanted. Of course they did have
to fight for it, but the people that lived there were
really scared of them and ran away most of the time. Nowadays
we trade with them rather than fight. There are many Vikings
that live over there now. We even have a king over there,
and although he doesn’t rule the whole island, the
main part in the middle is all Danelaw."
now, having worked for hours already, I still can’t
go out to play. All girls and woman must learn how to
weave cloth. I am getting quite good at it although I
can’t do some of the fancy patterns that all Vikings
love yet. We have used all the wool that we clipped off
our sheep last summer and spun it into a yarn. Now we
use a loom to turn it into fabric. Sometimes the fabric
is used for clothes, sometimes it is for blankets and
sometimes it is used for sails for the boats."
" We use lots of bright colours.
For the colour red, we use the root of the madder plant,
for blue, we use the leaves of the woad plant, for green,
we use club moss and for yellow, we use a plant called
dyers rocket. Aunt Frith has just finished weaving a sail
for the brand new boat that my cousin Harald is building
with the shipwright. The Jarl will be using it when he
and father sail to Great Britain this year. They will
be back in time to bring the harvest in. I think Harald
will probably be going with them for the first time this
year. He is really looking forward to it. He struts around
the village now showing off his new trousers. All the
young men think these are very fashionable because they
are really tight, but all the old men laugh at the teenagers
and think they look ridiculous."
"Soon Mother will begin making the
evening meal. We will be eating wild boar tonight. Father
caught it two days ago and I can’t wait. I love
the taste of boar. We will be eating it with some of last
year’s turnips that have survived the winter. It
would have been really nice to have some berries to put
in with it, but they are all finished now. It will make
a nice change to have meat for dinner. Most of the time
we eat vegetable stew, but we sometimes have chicken,
pork from our own pigs or occasionally beef. We usually
eat these in the autumn, because we don’t always
have enough fodder to keep all our animals alive over
the winter. "
Tonight will be fun. Svein has made himself
a new flute so he will play alongside Harald and we will
have some music, and Egil and I are learning how to play
hneflalfl (it is a bit like your chess). I can usually
beat Egil but I have never won against Svein. He is really
good at it and can sometimes beat the older men.
Thord will be busy making and sewing
on new soles for our shoes. They have to be replaced very
frequently but rather than throw the whole shoe out, we
just put new soles on them. Father will be relaxing. He
spent a lot of evenings making, mending and sharpening
all the swords and knives and now he is ready for his
trip across the sea.
We will all go to bed quite early because there is lots
of work to do tomorrow!"