Godiva: The Viking Sagas
In a small town of Coventry, a beautiful brave young girl grows up in an ideal world. She is loved and treasured. She grows up learning Christian songs and loves to be in the abbey with her friend sister Osburga. Sister Osburga though elderly is young in spirit and makes a great listener. She guides this free-spirited girl, Godiva, in doing what is right.
King Canute, the ruthless Viking, is determined to conquer England. He uses brute force and kills all who come in his path without mercy. His quest is for power: any sign of weakness in himself or anybody else is despised. No one knows this better than his wife, who was forced into the marriage for political reasons.
One fateful day, King Canute invades England, he has allies among the English Noblemen, who join him in treason. The little town Coventry is completely destroyed, the abbey is burnt, people ruthlessly butchered. In a single day, Godiva loses her parents and all her belongings. Godiva’s life is spared when sister Osburga distracts the soldiers and is captured instead. She dies a painful death, being burnt on the stake, for defying the king’s authority and refusing to bow before him. King Canute is haunted by her peaceful countenance and the song that she sings while being burnt for many years to come.
The Earl’s son, Leofric is disillusioned and confused. His brother has joined the enemy forces as a traitor to his country, his father is advising him to keep the appearance of loyalty to the enemy king for his and the country’s safety. He is against the violence used by King Canute to gain power. He accidentally meets Godiva who is hiding from the enemy and rescues her from the attack of a soldier. He then provides a home for Godiva and her brother, making lasting friendship.
Many years later, Godiva is a beautiful young woman. The country is in disarray, the farmers suppressed and anyone speaking against the king openly executed. Leofric and Godiva are married and Leofric assumes the position of an Earl. In the meanwhile, the king seems to have changed too. He envisions a great kingdom and he has realized that force does not produce loyalty. He now wants an ally with Leofric in the making of this great kingdom. Leofric is torn between the loyalty expected from the king and his wife’s beliefs. Godiva is still bitter about the loss of her parents and her friends at the hands of this king and wants justice for the farmers. When she realizes that her hatred for the king is affecting her, she tries to forgive him.
Leofric on the other hand has to deal with riots that have broken out because of the taxes that were imposed. Leofric is forced to use the military to suppress the riot, but his wife Godiva comes in between and pays the taxes of the entire town with her family jewelry. There is a rift between them which widens when the king announces that taxes cannot be paid by an individual on behalf of a person. The news of this event spreads and riots break out all over the country.
Now the king has an offer to make to suppress the riots- If Godiva will ride on a horse naked at the peak of a pagan festival, as was the custom during the festival, the taxes would be cancelled.
He knows that doing this is against Godiva’s belief and that if she were to do so, she would be excommunicated from the church. He is sure that she would not do it.
The farmers in the country prepare themselves for battle against the military forces. Leofric realizes that loyalty to his own people is what he had promised when he assumed the post, loyalty to the king was secondary. He joins the battle on the side of the farmers.
Godiva considers her options. She has to decide between saving her people or loyalty to the church. As she ponders over it, she realizes how Jesus was unclothed on the cross, and reasons that she could do it too.
She arrives at the battle field, just on time, and does what is required, while the crowds shame her for being a Christian woman who has accepted to follow the pagan tradition. At the end of her walk, she is received by her husband and brother and the king himself. King Canute has a change of heart. He asks for the forgiveness of the people and embraces Christianity.
The country is governed with faithfulness and dignity thereafter and all live happily ever after.
The story is written in a simple style, does not require knowledge of complex vocabulary or deep reflection. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading it as a simple read. What struck me most was Godiva’s effort to come in terms with religious beliefs versus her relationship with the one God. Reading the book also helped me understand a bit about history, the story is written true to dates. I would recommend the book to young girls who are trying to find their path in belief. Ideal as a present or a weekend read.
You can get the book on Amazon here.