Mastodon The Writing Desk: Special Guest Post by Eric Schumacher, Author of Wolves of Wagria: A Viking Age Novel (Olaf's Saga Book 3)

15 November 2022

Special Guest Post by Eric Schumacher, Author of Wolves of Wagria: A Viking Age Novel (Olaf's Saga Book 3)

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It is AD 972. Olaf Tryggvason and his oath-sworn protector, Torgil, are once again on the move. They have left the Rus kingdom and now travel the Baltic Sea in search of plunder and fame. But a fateful storm lands them on the Vendish coastline in a kingdom called Wagria. There, they find themselves caught between the aggression of the Danes, the political aspirations of the Wagrian lords, and the shifting politics in Saxland. Can they survive or will they become just one more casualty of kingly ambitions? Find out in this harrowing sequel to the best-selling Forged by Iron and Sigurd's Swords.

Inspiration for Wolves of Wagria

Since Wolves of Wagria is the third book in a series, I will start at the beginning and provide the impetus for the series as a whole before getting into this book specifically. 

To this point, my stories have taken place in the Viking Age. I was not yet done telling tales from this fascinating, turbulent time, despite having spent years researching and writing Hakon’s Saga. I knew I had at least one more saga in me, and so I began to search for a suitable character and story that stood out to me.

I landed on Olaf for a number of reasons, the least of which were his raiding years. His raiding was not so unlike many other Vikings that came before and after him, nor are the stories of his violence. No. What made him truly stand out to me was his arc as a character. He begins his life as a noble, becomes a slave, and rises again to the throne of Norway. 

It's a life that began as a pagan and ended as a Christian, though a Christian known for his violence rather than his goodwill. And, it was a life filled with adventure and exploits. There was much there to work with and I wanted to explore it more. I wanted to unearth the man, not the myth, and put meat on his bones. Who was this handsome, gifted, violent character? 

In addition, Olaf’s life spanned the known world of the Vikings: Scandinavia, the Baltic kingdoms, the land of the Rus, Constantinople, Germany, France, Ireland, Scotland, England, etc. In him was also a chance to explore each of those places in the 10th century. That, too, really piqued my desire to write about him.

However, I knew two things from the beginning. First, I knew I wanted to write a book from the first-person perspective, since I had just spent years writing from the third-person POV. And, I knew I could not tell this story through Olaf’s eyes. As I read more about him and his life, I felt I would have a difficult time building the audience’s sympathies for him. 

He is indeed fascinating, but he is also a head-case. For that reason, I decided to tell his tale through someone else’s eyes. Someone close to him. In the pages of the old sagas, I found a reference to his childhood friend, Torgil. That, I decided, would be the narrator. 

The first book in Olaf’s Saga tells of Olaf’s childhood and his frightening life on the run from his kin-killing cousins. The second novel, Sigurd’s Swords, explores Olaf’s adventures in the land of the Rus. This novel dives into his tumultuous time in what the Vikings called Vendland.

Only, my research uncovered an area that I had never heard of before and a kingdom and people who have long since vanished. A place called Wagria ruled by a prince named Burislaf.

Finding Burislaf and Wagria

Vendland is a general term used to describe the southern shoreline of the Baltic Sea. At that time, the population of that shoreline were Western Slavs, whom the Scandinavians called Vends (or Wends). The sagas tell us that Olaf is brought to the court of a king named "Boreslaw" (Burislaf), who had three daughters. Some have thought this Burislaf to be the son of the Polish king, Meiszko I, who existed at that time. But there were problems with that. 

First, the timing was off. Meiszko I’s Burislaf wasn’t born until roughly AD 967, which would make him only five years old when this story unfolds. There was no way he could have had a daughter (let alone three) at the time that Olaf was in Vendland.

Then, there was an issue of alliances. The sagas tell us that Olaf goes to fight with Burislaf when Otto II calls upon him. Not only did Otto II not become sole king until AD 973, but even if Burislaf, son of Meiszko I, were of fighting age, his father owned no allegiance to the Holy Roman Empire. Not to mention at the time of this particular fight, Meiszko I was actually fighting the Germans, not allied with them. So, it had to be another Burislaf. 

It was then that I ran across Omeljan Pritsak’s study on Olaf called "On the Chronology of Olaf Tryggvason and Volodimer the Great: The Saga's Relative Chronology as a Historical Source." In it, Pritsak suggests that the Burislaf in question may have been a Slavic king ruling the realm of Wagria.

At that time in history, Wagria was a West Slavic kingdom located to the southeast of Danish Hedeby in what is today Holstein. Then, the Wagrians were a constituent tribe of the Obodrite confederacy that stretched along the south Baltic coast, though they owed allegiance to the Christian kings of Germany, namely Otto I and later, Otto II. While not much is written about Wagria or its leaders, the case Pritsak makes in his study is compelling and plausible, both from the standpoint of timing and alliances. 

HIstorical fiction writers attempt to stick closely to known history. The problem with writing about Vikings is that many of the sagas were written decades and even centuries after the historical figures lived. There are very few contemporary resources, and many of those mention historical figures by names that could apply to many different people. 

Still, I do my best to match historical references to saga tales, while still telling a page-turning story. My research was telling me something didn’t add up. Pritsak’s study had similar questions and offered a plausible suggestion. And so I chose Wagria as the center of the story’s action. 

Much happens in Wagria during Olaf’s time in the kingdom, but I will not divulge any secrets here. You will have to read the book to learn all about his time and his adventures in that almost-forgotten place. 

The book releases on November 15, but you can pre-order it today for 50% off the normal price. I hope you enjoy it!

Eric Schumacher

Praise for Olaf's Saga

"The ability to bring history alive and the capability to put the reader convincingly in a past time and place is the hallmark of a master historical fiction novelist, qualities Eric Schumacher demonstrates in this novel and others he's written." - Preston Holtry, author of the Arrius Trilogy

"Eric Schumacher writes so well that you're there, while thanking the gods that you're not. I can't wait for the next book to see what the Norns have planned for Torgil, Turid, and Olaf." - Amazon customer

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About the Author

Eric Schumacheris the author of six novels and one novella, all set in the Viking Age. By day, Schumacher is a brand storyteller and PR consultant for early-stage companies. By night, he ventures into the past, using known history and ancient tales to create stories about real people living in turbulent times. From the earliest age, Schumacher devoured books about castles and warrior kings and Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Those stories, coupled with a love of writing, led him to the completion of Hakon’s Saga (published by Legionary Books), which tells the story of the young Norwegian king, Hakon Haraldsson, and his struggles to win, unify, and protect what was not yet Norway. Find out more at Eric's website: and find him on Facebook and Twitter @DarkAgeScribe 


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