Bernard, Your books have been a great enjoyment for me. They have also left me with a number of questions, and so, having just finished the Last Kingdom, I will pose a few of these. First, I notice you include the Yule service, and as part of it the blot, which was the scene where the prisoner and animals were sacrificed. You did not include the Sumbel, I noticed, which by my understanding is an equally important part of the ritual, and I was wondering if there was a reason for this. I know almost all of Norse celebrations are some manifestation of the Sumbel, but as some one who celebrates Yule today I was curious on your reason for this as an author.
Secondly, you reference the removable dragon heads a lot. Is there evidence of the prows being removable, as from what I have read in the sagas, all ships had such prows, but my understanding of the ships we've found is that none we have recovered today have had such prows. Is there any documentation of these removable dragon-prows?
Third, you use the name Snorri for more than one minor character. Is this a reference to Snorri Sturluson, who came years after? And is the name Ragnar a tribute to Ragnar, the father of Ubba, Ivar, and Halfdan? Or did you have some other reason for choosing the names?
Fourthly, you describe the fighting of the Norse in the shield wall. You compare it to Roman fighting, but I have found a very hard time of finding accounts of battle outside the sagas that are consistent, and many external of the sources I have contradict the sagas. How much is really known about the combat styles of the time, and their applications of the weapons?
Fifthly, and yes, I know this is a lot of questions, and some are based on your opinions as a writer, so I am sorry, but I come to an end with this last one. So, fifthly, you describe thegns as men who had land and could command troops but were not nobility. I know the word thegn means "servant" in Norse, and was wondering how the translation applied to them being commanders and leaders of men, but having no rank of their own. Thanks, and sorry for dragging out the questions. Your books have given me great pleasure, and your characters may be the best of any historical fiction I've ever read. Keep writing, and thanks for all, Theo