Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Oaths of the Heroic Age

When gatherered around a mead-hall, listening to a poet recite episodes of history, what would be more relevant and vital to the heads of the warriors and wives therein than tales of other warriors in other kingships, and the complications that occured there, the predicaments of men and women, and how they were resolved?
When Hnaf's Sister married Finn, when then Finn attacked without warning Hnaf, killing him, half his tribe, and Hnaf's Sister's Son, what was the word of Finn worth, who was now leader of these men? And husband of Hnaf's Sister? What was she to do? What were the thanes to do?
Finn and Hengest (leader of Hnaf's followers) made peace, and gave gifts. That both men would be equal. This peace was made on solemn oath, that they would live like brothers. Neither leader nor led would break the truce, and neither would talk of evil things or remember the past: that Finn had killed their leader. And Finn swore any who stirred up such hatred, who "brought back the past," would be silenced. What should a thane do? What of the oath of loyalty to his lord? who he must die protecting or die avenging for his own honor's sake?
Hengest hated Finn. He waited and planned. He could never forget. He longed for home, but revenge came first. One day a thane dropped a sword in his lap, and the time had come. He drove the sword through Finn's belly, and all the men painted the Finn's hall red in the work they had waited for. They looted all Finn's possessions, and took the queen Hnaf's Sister back to the land she'd longed for.
As you might imagine, the hall of listeners erupted in loud pleasure of laugh and drink.

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