“Once upon a time…” began Morag, expecting her unsettled father to continue.
“Once upon a time…” she repeated, more insistently, concentrating all of her six-year-old energy into winning Olaf’s attention.
“Daddy! Once upon a time…!” she demanded, but Olaf was busy in thought and hushed conversation with two of the village’s best warriors.
“Come along, Morag darling,” soothed her mother, Astrid, “Daddy has important work to do.”
“But he always tells me a Saga before bed!” pleaded Morag, trying to control the whine in her voice.
“Why don’t I tell you one instead?”
“It’s not the same. You don’t know the Sagas that Daddy knows.”
Astrid knelt down so that she and Morag were eye to eye and, with a twinkle in the brilliant blue of her own, she grinned at her daughter and said “No, but I know much better ones!”
“Better?” Morag’s energy was suddenly changed. “Really? Better?”
“Really. But you must get ready for bed before I tell you any.”
That night, Morag got ready for bed faster than ever before.
Astrid tucked the furs up around her daughter’s body and nestled in beside her.
“So you want to hear a Saga before bed?” she teased.
“Yes, Mummy! You said your Sagas were even better than Daddy’s!” Morag reminded her.
“Ah yes, so I did. Now, let’s see what you think… Once upon a time – that’s how all Sagas begin, isn’t it?”
“Yes!” squealed Morag, with excitement levels so great she could burst.
“Well, once upon a time, in a land just like ours, there lived a strong and fierce Shield Maiden. Have you heard this one?”
“Is it you, Mummy? Is this your Saga?” whispered Morag.
“No, not me, my baby, but another Shield Maiden.” Astrid whispered back.
“What’s her name?”
“This is the Saga of Turid the Invincible.” began Astrid.
“Turid!” Morag muttered to herself as she settled in to hear a brand new story.
Astrid went on, “Turid the Invincible had grown up as one daughter in a family of sons. Her father was a merchant who traded with people near and far and each time he’d return to his home shores, he’d bring his family rare and wonderful gifts.
Turid’s brothers would receive weaponry unlike anything seen by Viking eyes and Turid would wait, eagerly, to be given her own. But, every time her father returned home, Turid would receive different presents from her brothers’. Her gifts would glitter like the stars in the night sky. They’d be colours she had no names for. They’d be rare and rich and wondrous. But they would never be weaponry.
Turid knew that she was lucky to receive gifts at all. She knew that her father did not need bring anything back but himself. But the more her brothers trained with their armory, the more she began to feel pangs of jealousy. So she made a decision. She too would train.
Turid began training in secret. She would watch the manoeuvres of her brothers and mimic them. She’d make an effort to remember everything she saw them do and she would teach herself to do it.
By the time she was 14, she was strong and capable and she was ready.
She woke with her brothers and followed them to the training yard. They were confused as to why she was there. They teased her about wanting to watch the warrior men.
And then she began.
The boys were all awed by her prowess.
She quietened any doubts by the time she had defeated her third opponent.
But she had no weapons of her own so knew that she would never be able to go into a real battle.
The next time her father set sail on a merchant expedition, Turid took all of the shiny, glittery, colourful stones and metals he had given her over the years to the armorer and asked him to melt them into a new creation.
“One week later, Turid arrived to join those boarding the long ships ready to go raiding.
Without a word, she strode forward and took her place in front of the ship.
On her arm was the most brilliant looking shield that had ever been seen. It was golden and glistening. It was encrusted with jewels, the colours of the rainbow. And it was the most amazing thing anyone had ever seen.
“That shield made Turid the Invincible a name known throughout the Norse kingdoms.
And it made Turid invincible in battle.”
Astrid finished her story and looked down to gauge Morag’s reaction.
Morag was lying there with a look of utter delight and amazement on her face.
“So? Morag, how was Mummy’s Saga? As good as Daddy’s?”
“Better!” whispered Morag hurriedly just before Olaf joined them on the bed.
“What’s better?” her burly father asked.
“Having Mummy and Daddy tuck Morag in at night!” answered Astrid, with a wink to Morag.
Both of her parents gave her warm, loving hugs and lots of kisses before leaving Morag to fall asleep.