Josefine Ottesen
  prize-winning Danish author
Presentation > Books > Fantasy tales > The Warrior

The Warrior

Høst & Søn, 2001/2002/2003

This trilogy is inspired by the Icelandic Sagas and draws both linguistically and thematically on the Norse literary tradition.

Link to The Warrior (Krigeren) website (Danish)
Extract from On the Furthest Island
Extract from Behind the Castle Walls
Extract from Across Open Water
Author's comments



As a small child, Odd was found washed up on the shore of the island of Berkanas. He has since been held as a slave by the sorceress who wants to give the young man back to the sea as a sacrifice.
Odd himself secretly dreams of becoming a warrior in the King's Guard, but the path to his goal is not only interminable; it also turns out to be bloody and full of deceit.


”One can feel it like life blood. It is world class.” Steffen Larsen, Politiken


”The Warrior is totally on the same level as Harry Potter, the Lyra trilogy (Philip Pullman) and many other big series I have read.” Morten 16 år.

 


 


 

Pillaging and berserk fury are part and parcel of warrior life and Odd is second to none in battle. All the same, life in the king's guard brings him closer to the king's unpredictable son, Ansur, than he would like.


”Behind the Castle Walls is as exciting as Prince Valiant and as deep as a lucid dream. It cannot be bettered.” Steffen Larsen, review in Politiken newspaper.


”I think these books are just totally cool. They're some of the best books I've ever read!” Sabrina, 13 years old.

As commander and warrior, Odd has achieved everything he dreamed about, but life at King Ansur's court is dominated by intrigue and power games. For Odd, support of his king is paramount, but which path is the right one?


With Across Open Water Josefine Ottesen has completed her trilogy about The Warrior and fearlessly written herself into the international authors' league.” Benni Bødker, Børn og Bøger (Children and Books).


 

 


 

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Extract from On the Furthest Island :

Ragni stepped outside and took a deep breath. He preferred standing out here in the pouring rain to being inside the filthy hut.
Shortly after, the old man returned with a young lad. He was tall and well-built with flame-red hair. Ragni reckoned he was about fourteen to fifteen summers. Even if he was so big that he could easily be taken for somewhat older, he was still totally smooth around his chin. The young man avoided eye-contact with Ragni but the bard got a glimpse of a pair of hard, grey-green eyes.
"I'm not going in there. I hate that stink." The boy's voice was low and tense.
"That's not your decision, Odd! You belong to the gydje1 and she gets what she wants." The older man shoved the young one through the doorway and Ragni watched them disappear into the darkness beyond.
As soon as Odd came in the door, it was closed behind him. The stench of the many herbs that were stewing on the fireplace, mixed with the reek of filth, made him feel faint.
"Get your clothes off, Odd!" commanded the gydje. She had now bound all the thongs and held the magic bone-rattle in her hand. She was naked except for a large feather adornment on her head. The head-dress was made from the feathers of all the seabirds that lived around the coast and she looked, if possible, even more disconcerting than normal. If he'd had the courage, he would have refused, but like almost everyone else, he was afraid of the power of her sorcery.
Unwillingly, he pulled off his hide tunic and trousers. He forced himself to look down at the ground, because, despite his fear of what was going to happen, it was hard for him to keep his eyes off the naked young women. They swept past close to him in the small, stuffy room, taken up with carrying out the gydje's orders.
"Moa, give him this," she croaked, and the smallest of the girls passed him a cup containing an indefinable, foul-smelling liquid. He turned his face away, but Moa whispered anxiously, "Drink it, Odd - if you don't she'll turn you into a pig."
She stood quite close to him and for a moment her fresh smell overcame the nauseous stench in the hut.

 

As she raised the mug, the sensation of warmth from her arm confused him so much that he drank the contents in one mouthful.
It tasted bitter and rotten and he almost threw up, but straight away, the whole room began to spin and he fell heavily to the floor.
Even though he wanted to move his limbs, he couldn't. It was like he was paralysed. His heart beat furiously in panic, while the girls dragged him over to a bed of straw. His thoughts went around his brain like sticky porridge. Would he now be sacrificed to Berkana? But sacrifices usually took place on the Isle of Birds, which lay off the coast, not here in the hut!
The three young women began to drum monotonously on large, flat hand drums. The gydje sang with a hoarse, scratchy voice. Odd felt like he was being lifted and hurled downwards through a long, dark passage. Fear tore at him, as he realised that the gydje had forced him to join her on her journey into the underworld.

Note:
1. A gydje is an ancient Nordic word for a woman who is a cross between a priestess and a sorceress - she gets her powers from the goddess she serves. The male equivalent is a gode.


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Extract from Behind the Castle Walls :

 "Is everyone here?"
Ragni Bard looked at the bunch of expectant young men. They were waiting to go away to North Island to prove that they had the strength and stamina to serve in the King's hyrde2.
"Where's Trond?"
The bard looked around for the stocky, bow-legged warrior, who was responsible for training the young.
"He'll be here shortly," growled the King, "He's helping Ansur get ready."
"For what?" asked Ragni in amazement.
The King gathered his cloak with its ferret-skin lining tightly around him. Even though the sun was about to rise in a cloud-free sky, there was an autumn sharpness in the air.
"He's taking part in the warrior training this year. It's time he found out what it's like to be in battle."
"But…"
Grathe agitatedly stroked his beard.
"Perhaps you don't think my son is ready to fight on an equal footing with the other young men taking their hyrde test?"
At the King's sharp tone, the bard held his tongue, but he had his own ideas on the subject. The young heir had never shown either interest in or a special aptitude for the craft of the warrior, but Ragni knew as well as the King that, if Ansur was to follow his father as ruler of Flatsea, he would need to earn the respect of the men.
Trond arrived at last. He stamped furiously over to the men with Ansur right behind him.
He began the roll-call.
"Steinar Jankelsson!"
"Yes," replied the young thane's son.
"What've you got in the trunk?"
"My weapons and a change of clothes."
"Open it!"
Steinar bent over the carved chest's shiny bronze clasp and opened the lid. Trond rummaged around in the contents, took out a battleaxe and a knife and slammed the trunk shut.
"You're already carrying a bow, arrows and shield. That's good. Take the axe and the knife." He handed him the small hand weapons. "The trunk can stay here. You have all you need."
"It…"
"I know your father well, Steinar. He's a great man and a skilful warrior. I hope you take after him."
Steinar said nothing more. Several of the other young men began to sort between what they needed and what could be left behind.
Trond continued with the roll-call.
"Ash of Great Island?"

 

Ash answered and Trond nodded contentedly. Ash was big and well-built and he had a friendly smile. He was one of those who had done best in the initial tests, because he was not only strong and skilful with his weapons but also good at thinking carefully about situations. Trond had great expectations of him.
"Keel of Long Island?"
"Here," replied a slight young man and Trond wrinkled his forehead slightly. The bard had insisted that Keel should be included, even if he had not been among the best in the tests. Ragni pointed out that King Grathe didn't have much use of good warriors if he had no-one to steer the ships, and Keel came from a long line of seamen and boat builders.
"Odd?" Trond looked around after the big redhead, who had surprised everyone by completing all the tests convincingly.
The young man nodded. "Do you have a family name?" Trond wanted to know, but before Odd could reply, Steinar said, "He has no family, just call him Bumpkin. That's what we call him."
Odd clenched his fists. Steinar would not leave him alone, that much he knew. Ragni had previously warned him against challenging men who stood before him in the King's favour, but he had a burning desire to challenge the thane's son to a duel.

Note:
2. Hyrde - Old English word for guard.


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Extract from Across Open Water :

 "Autumn will soon be upon us. It won't be long before it's time to collect the taxes."
For a brief moment, Toke's words hung in the air, before the King replied, "Odd has taken over Eik's duties. He'll have to collect the tax the thanes owe me."
Toke leaned back, allowing Isar to take over. "Is that a good idea, my lord? Odd is young and inexperienced."
"It will be as I say. Odd has assisted Eik several times. I have no reason to believe that he's not capable of performing the task to my complete satisfaction."
Ansur glanced at Hagal, the sea-goddess's gydje1, who was also present at the King's council. She nodded imperceptibly and he continued, "I want Odd to take over Eik's position in every way, also as commander-in-chief for my personal hyrde2."
The three other chieftains looked at the young red-haired warrior who a short time ago had taken charge of one of the four fylking3 in the hyrde. Vegge nodded slowly. He knew Odd of old and had only good words for the new chieftain. Toke, who was the oldest, leaned forward towards his new companion and said, "What do you think, Odd?"
"I do as my King requests. I've taken an oath on that."
"There is no shame in asking for help and advice when one is inexperienced."
Isar, who was not only a chieftain, but also served as gode1 to the powerful war-god Kauna, spoke calmly. He was quite clearly unhappy with Ansur's choice of Odd. He himself would have put Steinar Jankelsson in Eik's place when the old chieftain fell in battle in the summer campaign, but he was still fully prepared to help the young man. If it had been up to him, Odd would have served in his fylking, Kauna's Warriors, along with the berserkers and shapechangers instead of under the rule-bound Eik. Isar was in no doubt that the new chieftain had the power of sorcery, but Eik and the old king, Grathe, had not allowed Kauna's gode to instruct him.
"What about Wendel's tax?" Vegge's voice was sharp. "He still hasn't paid what he owes from spring."
Silence reigned again around the table. The Earl of Northland had been vanquished in battle by King Grathe and his daughter married off to Ansur, but Wendel didn't consider that he owed tax to Ansur, since it was Ansur's father he had given his oath to.
"Let it rest." Hagal's response was muted but all could hear what she said.
"I have consulted with the goddess - she says we should leave Wendel alone for the time being."
"If we let him off the hook now, it won't be long before he turns up in Flatsea with a battle-ready force." Vegge got to his feet in a hot temper. Toke grunted in agreement.

 




"What do you think, Isar?" In measured tones, Ansur addressed the man his father had used for advice and to speak with the gods.
"I can't answer you until I've had time to listen to the great Kauna's wisdom," replied Isar bitterly, angry that Hagal had once again been given the opportunity to advise the King before he himself got to know what was going on. When Ansur earlier in the year brought Hagal to the castle from Berkana's island, Isar had thought she would just satisfy the young king's lusts in bed. It was most inconvenient to him that the beautiful young woman now had greater influence on the King's decisions than he himself.
"And what about you, Odd?" The King met the young man's look with a smile. Ansur was just as gentle and friendly with his blood brother as he had been cold with Isar.
"I'll leave that question to the more experienced among us to express themselves," said Odd. "I know about the tax collection here along Flatsea's coasts and I take that on without hesitation. Earl Wendel and Northland I know little about, but will happily take part in a campaign up there if you find it necessary."

Notes:

1. Gyde/Gode: see note under Extract from On The Furthest Island.
2.
Hyrde: see note under Extract from Behind The Castle Walls.
3.
Fylking: old Nordic word for a group of free men who have sworn allegiance to a king or nobleman.


 

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Author's comments:

I regard the three volumes of the story about The Warrior as a kind of completion of my apprenticeship as an author. Altogether, I have worked on the novel for five years and it has been an unbelievably exciting and rewarding process. It has been a huge joy to be allowed to follow Odd from when he is a withdrawn and hostile boy and to experience how he, in the course of the novel's three volumes, develops his own life and becomes capable of using his strength and power in his own way.
As with The Rainbow Stone, I spent a lot of time researching this novel, a process through which I have become very much more knowledgeable. Now for example, I know how to fight with sword and staff and how to dock a Viking ship!

 


Foto: Naja Schønemann