Good Dose of History
the fifth century, Huns and Romans vied for power in Europe,
making subjects and slaves of all in their paths, including,
according to Joan Schweighardt in Gudrun's Tapestry, the Burgundian
Thuets, a tribe to which the novel's heroine, a chieftain's
daughter, Gudrun, belongs.
who lives among the Huns with the spiritual presence of her
dead Frankish lover, introduces herself as a Thuet "valkyria
[valkyrie] with the power to alter events." Nordic gods
and other supernatural creatures had been present in the Thuets'
daily life at Worms. The story of the mistletoe hitting Balder
through the connivance of Loke [Loki] was one that Gudrun
related frequently to her silent, innocent youngest brother,
Guthorm -- sadly without its moral striking home. Gudrun had
had trouble understanding how the Romans could believe in
other gods since her gods created the world. Gudrun asked
one of her older brothers when she noticed a Roman soldier
praying to what her brother said was a Roman god:
how is it possible that our gods created the world for man
to live in it?"
This disturbed her:
"But the thought of the Roman gods looking down from
Valhalla, mingling with our own gods, or perhaps warring with
them, began to frighten me."
But she made a place for it in her mind so that she can later
understand when her only friend, a Christian, talks about
her forgiving god.
her journey to reach the Huns, Gudrun's lover Sigrun had wanted
to produce an adequate bride price for her. Following the
path of a dwarf dragon, Sigrun found a cache of the gods'
gold and a Wodan-forged, cursed, but all-powerful sword. Carrying
the cursed gold and sword, Sigrun ran into another self-styled
valkyrie, Brunhild, with whom he formed a tragic alliance.
When Guthorm, persuaded by his big Loke-like brother (who
had taken possession of the cursed sword as part of Guthrun's
bride price) that he's just playing a game, hurls a real sword
at Sigrun, Sigrun retaliates instinctively and just as fatally.
After the death of her lover and favorite brother, Gudrun
falls into a trance. When she recovers she takes it upon herself
to present the sword to the person in the world most deserving
of its curse, Attila.
most of Gudrun's plan goes less than smoothly, Attila is pleased
with the sword, which, for a time, appears to make him invincible.
Attila's fortunes begin to change, he decides to marry the
person who had brought him so much military success, his prisoner
Gudrun. This puts Gudrun right where she wants -- alone in
the dark with the detested, most cruel monster who is also
responsible for the death of her remaining brothers.
Tapestry flows gracefully from present to past instead of
leaving glaring cliffhangers to mark each transition. Yet
the reader is eager to see where each step in Gudrun's journey
will lead. Dealing with Nordic legend as part of life leads
the author occasionally to use a mystical or mythical reality
instead of rigidly scientific explanations for events -- like
Gudrun's sight. This gives Gudrun's Tapestry a poetic beauty.
The tapestry of the title is 25 stitched frames depicting
the major events in Gudrun's pre-Attilan life. Love and self-sacrifice
are twin themes of the tapestry as well as being Gudrun's
own heroic attributes.
an expert in the Norse Eddas or the Huns, my pleasure in reading
Gudrun's Tapestry was unclouded by worries about accuracy
was said to have died of a nosebleed on his wedding night,
but here dies of poison, seems well within the realm of the
possible, as does the leg-up Gudrun gives to the future Germanic
over evil. The Burgundian Thuets survive with the help of
the Franks, and, as we know, the Thuets' remaining enemy,
the Romans, will face their own downfall in a few years.
(R) thedailystar.net 2005