This is my story. My autobiography, my reflection on the life I lived, as I remember it, from my time as a four year old child, though I have memories even before that, until my savage end, and the entrance to something beyond.
There are many things I accomplished in my life. I have pride in being the progenitor of great works of poetry, law, leadership and transformation. I bow my head however at some of my despicable acts, though at the time I convinced myself they were true and right and in the best interests of all. Many times though, the interest was mine alone. I’m not saying that I was a good man or a bad man. I was a man of my age and circumstance. I was blessed with certain capabilities but the good becomes balanced against the less good.
I came into this world in the early morning of the 16th of July in the year of our lord 1179. More than a millennium after the birth of our lord Jesus Christ. He was our lord because we were of the Christian faith. As a child I knew nothing of other faiths. This belief was our life, there was no other idea of thinking any other way, no other way to carry on with life other than the Christian way. I knew nothing of Allah or Mohamed, Krishna or Vishnu or even the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. It was not until many years later that I learned our people were forced to abandon our real Gods and take up with the Christian God or suffer consequences. It was then I learned of Odin, Frigg, Thor, Loki, Balder, and many others. I felt these were my Gods but I feared the wrath of the priests and Sturla’s ghost, should I show any affinity.
Squeezed from the belly of my mother, Gudny, daughter of Bodvar, wrapped in a woolen sheet by the vinnukona and placed in a basket near the hearth. I was not aware of this, of course, as I had no memories of my life until I was near the age of two.
My father Sturla, son of Thordar, would not have been with Gudny to witness my birth. He would have had much more important business to attend to, as Godi and head man of our clan, the Sturlungar. His was the face I recall from my earliest memory. A feast or celebration of some kind. I was perhaps two years old, still fed on sheep’s milk and gruel, just learning to chew meat. I held a small short sword, made from wood, which I struck upon the head of a worker’s child and made cry. My father laughed. It made me laugh and I struck the child again and brought his wailing to a halt as he tried to gasp for air. Sturla swatted my head, I remember, put his face close to mine with the admonishment that when you have beaten a man, he is beaten, anything beyond that is unnecessary and will only bring ill feelings of others upon you.
He took away my short sword and gave it to the beaten child. Sturla was my God then, how could it be any other way.
When you are a child every day of your life is long, every happening a learned and memorable experience that stays with you forever, even if buried deep in your memory. I remember being lost alone, standing in the stream beyond the view of our longhouse. A first memory of abandonment, calling for my father or mother only to have them not come to me. I have memories of cutting my feet upon sharp rocks and having Gudny wrap them with poultices made from green plants. I remember looking upon the dead face of the neibour child, her body wrapped in a winding sheet. They called her Puffin, like the bird. I imagined her flying up to heaven. There were many buried back then, mostly children, some just born, some ravaged by sickness or small plague, many who simply starved.
I remember climbing from my sleeping pallet, running naked through the longhouse, burning with fever and Gudny pleading with her God for me to live.
Most of all I remember the boisterous, garrulous feasting celebrations, filled with the smells of roasting meats and the taste of sweet breads and drink that tasted awful to me at the time. My brothers Thordur and Sighvat mimicked the actions of our father, trying best to show they were like him. Thordur less so than Sighvat. And our father, sometimes kind and sometimes cruel but always the father, to be obeyed and even feared.
I was filled with pride when Sturla told me I was now grown enough to go with him and my brothers to the Althing at Thingvellir. I did not know what this was of course, just that I had become a real person in my father’s eyes.
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