The second Act of the Icelandic Trilogy draws to a close, as Brida Hauksson finds herself outmaneuvered on all ends in the ongoing struggle against the Christians.
“Our blood is in this land.”
In the Cross and the Hammer, we saw the Norse play the role of the invaders and Catholics as the invaded in conquered Ireland. For the last two issues, the roles have been reversed, and the shades are more noticeably greyer. Despite the fact that we have followed the exploits of the Hauksson bloodline for the past five issues- Ulf (the founder of the dynasty) in the first three, then Brida in the last two- it is quite clear to us that theirs is a history steeped in the blood and deceit of a generations-long struggle against their rivals, the Belgarssons. With the latter’s ranks now bolstered through the support of the Christians, however, it is hard not to root for the Haukssons’ side as Brida wages a futile war against the spreading monotheistic influence. That has long been a strength of Brian Wood’s writing- to win readers over through the depiction of complex, clearly-motivated characters. And it’s no exception in here, as well.
At the end of another slaughter, Brida finds a welcome surprise in the form of the long-awaited return of her brother, Mar. She is eager to discuss the plans of a united front against the Christians, but then Mar gives her the shock of her life when he announces that he has been converted. It’s a downhill ride from there on.
One after another, Brida is subjected to a long line of humiliations- whether be it the baptism at the hands of her long-hated enemies or her treasuries being siphoned off to the Christians as holy tribute- and we can’t help but echo Brida’s thoughts about the survival of the Haukksson heritage in the face of this assimilation. She eventually suffers a breakdown and storms off into the vast plains. There, she finds the source of a faint hope that she might- just might- be able to ensure the endurance of her bloodline through the oncoming generations, and amidst tears of joy, she resolves to find strength in that hope.