By: Robin Ingle
One of the most romanticized groups in history has to be the Vikings. There are countless legends, books and films about the Viking age. However, there are also countless misconceptions about the Vikings as they were certainly not as exotic and glamorous as they are frequently portrayed. While they did pillage and raid villages and monasteries which were primarily along the coastline, the Vikings also spent a great deal of time trading and farming. Also, they were very active in the slave trade and made a lot of their riches by selling the “thralls” (slaves) in the Middle East and Europe. In her short story, Tyrker’s tale, Robin Ingle provides an accurate and engaging portrayal of Viking life. If you are a fan of well-researched historical fiction, with a touch of romance and adventure thrown in, then this is the tale for you!
Essentially, the story follows the life of Tyrker, a slave who is owned by the Viking, Eirik the Red. Tyrker has a number of duties which are given to him by his “owner”, but the most important is to teach Eirik’s son’s swordsmanship and also act as a guard to his master’s son Leif. Tyrker gains the respect of his owner and sons, as well as the other thralls. He is a great warrior in his own right, and even shows his devout loyalty to Eirik by jumping into a freezing lake to save Leif and Tosti from a certain death by drowning. However, when Tyrker falls in love with the cooks’ assistant Runa, his loyalty and very survival come into question. Thralls are prohibited from entering into any type of romantic relationship and the consequence for disobeying this edict could mean a severe punishment…up to and including death. Will this secret romantic relationship be discovered? If so- what will be the ultimate fate of Tyrker and Runa?
Personally, I do not tend to be a huge fan of short stories. I find they often do not provide enough time and detail to fully present and explore the many required elements of fiction. This typically leads to less than full reader engagement. However, in this case I found Tyrker’s Tale was very effective at engrossing the reader into the story. It was a very well written tale which provided effective character, setting and plot development.
As the story was told from the point of view of Tyrker, we are able to get great insight into his background, feelings and emotions. His character is developed very well in quite short order. His strengths, flaws and integrity develop rapidly through the story. We are also able to see notable character development in secondary players such as Eirik. Not simply just a figurehead, Eirik is shown to be balanced, fair and wise as the tale progresses. For those who have heard Viking tales about Eirik the Red in the past, this presentation may be the exact opposite of what is expected. This ability to aptly develop these characters so well is a credit to this short story and the author.
When we are dealing with historical fiction, it is critically important to have an accurate portrayal of the time and place. Unlike many other genres, the setting does not just come from the imagination. Instead, it is the result of a great deal of research and effort. If it is erroneous, the author will lose trust, and hence a reading audience, very quickly. Once again, Robin Ingle does a great job with this in her tale. Instead of presenting a stereotypical Viking story full of violence and mayhem, she shows the very true setting of a typical Viking homestead. Much of their time was invested in farming, and they used thralls to help them in their labors. The slave trade was also a key part of their economic viability. Ms. Ingle did her homework as her story setting is described beautifully…and accurately!
The theme of this tale can most assuredly be seen as “the pursuit of love at all costs.” It is an engaging romantic theme which would attract readers from young adult and up. There are some sexually suggestive scenes, but nothing overtly explicit is presented.
I truly enjoyed this short story and it even surprised me quite a bit. Be that as it may, it left me wanting more. I want to see more of Tyrker’s life and struggles in the harsh tenth century conditions. For that very reason of a feeling of incompleteness, I would give it 4 instead of 5 stars. Make no mistake however, it is a great short story!
4 Viking Stars for this one!