Whilst the characters and their deeds in these books are imagined (with the exception of the Saxon King Ecgberht of Wessex), the historical context of the Wolves of Dumnonia series is authentic. All of the locations mentioned in this book existed in Rathulf’s time, and where possible I have used the contemporary names for those places. For instance, Escanceaster = modern day Exeter; Konstantinoupolis = modern day Istanbul. In the case of the settlements on Sognefjorden and its various branches, I have applied the typical Norse naming convention of the day, which was the owner’s name + the Old Norse term for homestead/settlement (‘by’). Rathulf’s and Thorvald’s home is thus known as ‘Thorvaldsby’.
The major events in which Rathulf and Aneurin play a part are also real – a battle is noted in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle between the Britons of Devon and Cornwall in 825AD for example – as are the details of the landscape, towns and settlements, day-to-day ways of life and living conditions, dress, behaviour, religious beliefs, customs and laws. Dumnonia existed as an independent British realm during Rathulf’s lifetime, and it is the events that are recorded in the contemporary Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that sparked the idea for the Wolves of Dumnonia series.
Wherever possible I have endeavoured to remain true to history in these books, but there may be one or two details which may not be 100% accurate, either because the historical record is unclear, or I have simply got it wrong. For this I apologise; it is in the most part unintentional. There is one particular aspect of history, however, where I have applied a touch of licence: Sigvald’s claim that he journeyed to Konstantinoupolis to fetch Tariq. Whilst the Vikings did find their way to the fabled capital of the Eastern Roman Empire during Rathulf’s lifetime, it was not until slightly later – in the early 900s – that Vikings had made it a regular holiday destination. Indeed the Vikings were so admired by the Byzantine emperors for their physical prowess that they were invited to join the Emperor’s elite personal protection force, known as the Varangian Guard. These were mostly Swedish Vikings (the ‘Rus’). Nevertheless, the Norsefolk of Rathulf’s time were avid traders and storytellers, so it is highly likely that Ra would have heard (undoubtedly inflated) tales of the splendour of the glittering eastern city. Less likely would be Sigvald’s journey from Sognefjorden in Norway all the way to Konstantinoupolis to procure Tariq; but that’s what makes it such a remarkable tale, isn’t it?
A second act of licence is the Viking attack on the monastery of St Germanus in 808AD. It is highly likely that the monastery was attacked during the Viking Age (probably more than once), but as these same raids led to the destruction of monastic records, we can’t know for certain that such a raid took place in that particular year. It is also worth pointing out that Rathulf’s reaction to seeing the city of Escanceaster (Exeter) for the first time (this happens later in the series) may suggest that the city was larger and more imposing than it was in reality, or would certainly seem to us by modern day standards. But remember that Rathulf comes from a tiny farmstead in a very remote part of the world and he has never seen anything bigger than a village, nor has he ever seen buildings made entirely from dressed stone. So coming upon the bustling walled town of Escanceaster – capital of Dumnonia – would have been an amazing and overwhelming experience for this Norse country bumpkin.
A note on the dropping of the ‘r’ at the end of names
and nouns: It is common in Old Norse texts for names and nouns to be appended with an ‘r’ (e.g. Sigvaldr, Rathulfr, Thorvaldsbyr, Ullr). This is all to do with Old Norse grammar. The Old Norse writers used this ‘r’ suffix to define the nominative case of a noun or, in plain English, the subject of the sentence. This distinguishes the subject from the direct object of the sentence, the latter being in the accusative case (i.e. no added ‘r’). Clear as mud? Here’s an example: “Rathulfr threw the bucket at Alrik. Alrikr then threw a mug back at Rathulf.” Obviously it would quickly become irritating and confusing for the reader if I were to follow the correct Norse grammatical rules, so in the interests of simplicity, I have chosen to dump the extra ‘r’ altogether.