Louvre Grand Gallery, a bit of sculpture & Dinner in Saint Germain

There is more Paleolithic art at one site in southern France than in all the rest of the world at 20,000 years ago. The world’s first representational art belongs to France although the area around Kiev is closely tied to the early artists of France. For a long, long time the only pigments people had were in the black-gray-white range or the brown-ochre-gold range, no greens or blues. France is the first place on Earth to begin working with blue and green, but the entire art of making those pigments was lost the rise of the great civilizations of the Near East and, of course, flourished in Greece and Rome.

Medieval times saw a great revival of art in religious contexts (my own love for medieval art is perhaps born of the fact that I recognize all too well the primitive skill sets and difficulties with composition and perspective that characterize medieval painting). Then, by 1300, especially (or only) in Italy, something else happens and somehow, the Louvre (and the Hermitage, France and Russia again) make extraordinary efforts to collect that art. Of course, there’s still plenty of art left in Italy! But the Louvre has the most astonishing and instructive display of Renaissance art, when the joy of bright pigments returned to painters (with the possible exception of Mantegna – if I didn’t know better, I’d think he was poorly paid for his paintings, which are dim and dark, and done at the same time as Ghirlandaio’s amazing paintings which are shown opposite early Mantegna). One can only suppose that Mantegna was, in his way, painting what he saw – an early impressionist. I have to say I prefer the intense, bright colors. Skies really do appear to be that blue in real life, why not show them?

Yes, a lot of the paintings are religious, but what a glorious time for honoring mothers and children. Perhaps it was because so many women – perhaps one in five – died in childbirth before modern medicine that men, as priests or as artists, valued the feminine, especially mothers. Back then, people really believed in their God – and the painters were exceptionally literate in all things Biblical (most of them). But it’s not just the Bible that shows up on the walls, it’s also Greek mythology – the painting of Themis and Peleus is one of my favorites, showing a happy bacchanalia going on below their thrones in the sky – divine Feminine and Masculine looking on approvingly. The satyrs are pretty naughty.

The Madonnas are all different. They are all serene and composed, but some look sad and wistful as they think of their baby’s fate, others seem more focused on treasuring the baby, while the baby looks sad. The baby almost always has an expression of wisdom beyond his years, as he should. Some of my favorite paintings are of the Annunciation, a theme that means more and more to me as years go by. The paintings of the elderly Elizabeth, long past the age of child-bearing and barren, receiving the news that she’s going to give birth to John the Baptist (not John the beloved apostle – the other one, Jesus’s cousin) depict a woman caught between faith and common sense (aren’t we all?)

We didn’t get to the Medieval Collection on this, our13th trip to the Louvre, and we spent 5 hours. There was a time when that would have seemed like way too much time. But this time, it was like seeing old friends, particularly the faces of the two D’Este sisters. Isabella D’Este, the most lettered woman of Renaissance times and Duchess of Mantua would be delighted to see her image in so many paintings (her studiolo paintings are all in a row in the Grand Gallery, and the altarpiece that depicts her husband – by Mantegna – is across from those, although the Louvre has loaned two of her portraits to the new Louvre Lens project). I’m convinced that the handsome Conditierri portrait is that one of the old Severino brothers, staunch supports of the Este’s and of the Sforzas.

Many artists seem to have a hard time transitioning from mythologically/Biblically themed art to portraiture (Boticelli’s portraits are nothing like Leonardo’s) and one can see that specialization in the Renaissance is leading to new art movements. However, it’s hard to understand Impressionism – or Neoclassicism or Modernism – without a good look at the Renaissance. For Leonardo, the only thing I can figure out (for the Madonna of the Rocks) is that he wanted that strong, forceful composition (and in the painting of Mary sitting on the lap of Saint Anne, he wanted something that hadn’t been done before – and he certainly achieved it, again, in terms of composition). Salai’s face keeps turning up in Leonardo’s paintings (Salai is the subject of Saint John the Baptist, whose sly smile is repeated in Leonardo’s famous – but rarely exhibited nude of Salai, done while Salai was posing for John the Baptist – and generously exhibited in Los Angeles at the Italian-American institute a year or two ago). Leonardo writes of the difficulties of painting without the subject right in front of him (and of a series of techniques for doing so), but Salai was always there – almost until the very end of Leonardo’s life and is probably the person who sold the painting now known as Mona Lisa (a misnomer if ever there was one) to François I.

The Louvre now recognizes formally that the Belle Ferrioniere might be Beatrice D’Este (whose childhood statue by Romano is in the Italian sculpture room elsewhere in the Louvre – we did manage to stop by and see her – and I couldn’t believe the number of pieces in that Italian sculpture room that I had neglected to really admire on the many other trips to the Louvre). The portrait of Ludovico Sforza’s mistress (Lucrezia) is also in the Grand Gallery (Beatrice was his wife – something like 25 years his junior), attributed to the “School of Leonardo” but done by Leonardo & Co. during the same period when Beatrice sat in the Salla de Assi for her portrait by Leonardo. Her sister, Isabella D’Este was supremely jealous of the fact that little sister got her portrait done by Leonardo. I believe Leonardo finished the portrait posthumously as Beatrice died in childbirth at about the same time that he was painting her. I also have the fantasy that it was this portrait that Tolstoi saw in the Louvre and incorporated into the famous scene in War and Peace, when a young, unloved wife dies in childbirth and a portrait is painted of her looking reproachfully out at the world ever after.

I don’t try to rank the parts of the Louvre any more, but I do like the big format French paintings better than all those Roman heads they have. Odalisque never fails to make me smile and to remember how good certain shades of blue look next to human skin. David, Íngres, Le Brun (her self-portrait in Neo-Classical style might be easy to miss among all the paintings, especially with Napoleon taking up all that space with his coronation across the room), all the masters who led to Impressionism are there. I’m reading a biography of Picasso, who was delighted to move to Paris (he had exhausted his copying of his favorites in El Prado), and I know that these were paintings that Manet, Monet, Renoir and Matisse (among many others) treasured and copied from as they were learning. There was a little boy about 8 years old with colored pencils and a lot of talent copying one of the Îngres paintings.

We managed to dash over to Marly, Puget and Khoursabad Courts just as the sun was beginning o set and had most of it to ourselves. Louvre was open until 9:45 and after going in circles through cuneiform and getting sidetracked by Ninevah (Sumeria is the world’s first civilization according to V. Gordon Childe, whose definition of the term is the most widely-accepted – and it is a marvel to see pieces that are already so sophisticated and tell so much about a culture and are 4,500 years old). I agree with the Code of Hammurabi – if you are adopted, your *real* parents are the ones who raised you and anyone who returns to the “house of the ones who are the blood relatives” and abandons their real parents is an ungrateful and immoral person. On the other hand, I hope the Code doesn’t prohibit curiosity and love toward all the people who help make us who we are. I don’t think it does – I know exactly what it means and I thought of my amazing real dad, back in Santa Paula, impatient for me to get home – because my well-being and safety is so important to him.

Later on, after sitting in the pink sunset near the Carrousel Arch and then going down into Saint Germain for an absolutely amazing dinner at Au 35 (thanks to Paris forum members for that recommendation), we realized we were more or less on Parisian time. Although we arrived for dinner at just after 10 pm, we weren’t the last people to come in and the place was gently bustling. My husband’s beet and tomato gazpacho (soupe froid) was perhaps the most interesting part of the meal, and if I could figure out the yellow pepper sauce that accompanied my poached egg appetizer (I know, it’s the height of decadence), I’d be very happy. I am not an expert in Bearnaise sauce, I only know what I like and each morsel of my plat was enhanced by it, if I chose to abandon the delicate and perfect flavors of the unsauced potatoes, mushrooms and beef to use it. Now I realize I’ve never actually had good mushrooms before (these tasted in a way like mushrooms back home, but the intense richness of the flavor was something I’ve never tasted). It’s only been a few hours since I ate that meal and I’m already wishing I had more mushrooms. Too full for dessert (we had eaten at the Louvre Carrousel food court because we got up too late to eat any sort of regular lunch or breakfast – we had excellent couscous and garbanzo beans and vegetables – but in portions large enough to feed three people on each of our plates – so if you choose the couscous place at the Louvre – and I would recommend it for a basic, fast food type meal – you might consider ordering just one lunch for two people; let me know if two people can even finish one lunch there).

I knew before going to Au 35 that they made good steaks (and I know another few places to get good steaks in Paris; I find that many places have entrecôte on the menu but really, you’re better off skipping steak unless you can see that others are enjoying it – or you have read a review). With Brouilly as our wine, two entrées and two plats, our bill came to a mere 88€ (and we had three items on our plats). We were the only English speaking people there.

An older and distinguished looking French couple were seated just before us. They had two éntrees and two desserts – no mains at all. He was wearing cream colored pants, fisherman sandals (at 70 years of age or thereabouts, I imagine he is placing comfort before style but his green sweater was beautiful) and she had on cream pants, a cream top I’d described as within the “peasant” genre, but her scarf – which I could never have tied in that manner if my life depended on it, was one of those big square ones but not shiny silk, instead an abstract set of prints in mostly blues, she had on velcro-closed Birksenstock type sandals and a giant red tote (birkin-shaped but definitely not a Birkin) that really set off her outfit.

The waitress at Au 35 spoke English, but humored me by also speaking French and we both resort to using whatever words got the meaning across. Almost everywhere we go, people are interested in California (and the sea, and how lucky we are to live near it) and almost everyone has a cousin or brother or someone who has lived somewhere in SoCal for awhile. Au 35 is near the René Descartes school of medicine and Science-Po, and there were some very lively and interesting art gallery openings going on in the neighborhood. After dinner, strolling down the street, we could enjoy window after window of contemporary art – a good appetizer for today’s event, which is seeing the Angel of the Bizarre at the D’Orsay and seeing the D’Orsay in general.


Da Braose Past: Part 2

Black Will de Braose earned his lasting nickname in a couple of ways.  He had black hair, which did not come from his Swedish ancestors (but we’ll try to figure out how he came by it, it won’t be too hard).  But, it was rascal nature and his slyness that made the nickname stick.  He was apparently very handsome, and more than charming.

His illustrious ancestry (going back to Ymir the Frost Giant) came to England and Wales by a circuitous path (see my earlier blog post on Braose Part One).  For many generations, Will’s ancestors were blonde-haired, blue-eyed Norsemen, living in primarily Sweden, Norway and Denmark, but also representing Goths, Fins and Gutlanders.

Just after the fall of the Roman Empire, Will’s ancestors included Rurik Skane von Holland, through Rurik’s great grandson, Rorik Slingeband, King of Lethra.  His patrilineal Swedish ancestors managed to marry a 4X great granddaughter of Slingeband himself.  The name Harold was given to Slingeband’s son, a name that would remain very popular in the Scandinavian lineages and, of course, the Rurikids who founded Russian Kiev were of the same lineage.  The actual Rurik who went to Russia came later, the name was very popular and was certainly a dynastic name.

Well before the Norman conquest, the daBraose line had ties to the British Isles – to Celtic Britain.  The offspring of the Swedish nobility and Slingeband’s lineage would go to marry into the lines of the first King of Scotland and, apparently, the first person to claim title to Ireland.   This occurred not by moving to Ireland or Scotland, but by importing spouses, mainly women from Scotland and Ireland.

The Scottish import was Grelod of Caithness Duncansdottir, born around 898 A.D., and already the “Ness” of Scotland is imported into Nordic vocabulary, with this bride.  Her grandfather was Kenneth MacAlpin, 1st King of Scots.  She must have brought prestige with her, and her son, Hlodvir, married the Princess of Ireland, Audna Kiarvalsdatter, obviously another Norse clan member.  So, at this time, the Norsemen were already claiming Ireland, while Scotland was still fiercely held by the Picts.  Looking over MacAlpin’s Pictish ancestry, we see mostly generations of Picts and other Celts, with perhaps one or two previous drops of Scandinavian ancestry.

The island kingdoms of Ireland and Scotland, therefore, began to be influenced by Scandinavia and other Norse cultures (and vice versa).

Sigurd Holdvirsson, therefore, was Irish-Norse, Pictish and Norse.  His fortunes were about to rise.  His descendants would sit on the thrones of Scotland and marry into the family of Vladimir I, Saint Vladimir, of Kievan Rus, not to mention other aristocratic families of Europe.

We can see this as a kind of geographical-marital breakthrough.  Up until the times of Sigurd (who was born around 970 A.D.), Scandinavian Norsemen sought some marital alliances with Goths and Gutlanders, and the occasional Fin, but mostly married within their own lands of Norway, Sweden and Denmark.  As they cast their marital/political alliance nets further, they manage to marry into the nobility of both Ireland and Scotland.  Obviously, boats played a huge role in this type of courtship and marriage.  A peninsula-bound people, the northern Scandinavians managed first to grab and hang onto Denmark, then to gradually spread their influence.  At the same time, one of Sigurd’s ancestors, Harold Hilditton, King of Lethra, had an ambitious grandson, Rurik of Novgorad, who was brought into what is now Russia by locals seeking to hire strong men to civilize and quell local disputes and rebellions.  Since no one could manage to emerge as head of all the small Russian and Prussian groups, it took a strong man – Rurik – to accomplish that.  Within a few generations, his descendants were marrying all over Europe and into the best families.

It is from this Russian connection that part of the de Braose family name arises, even though the family had little Russian blood, they were Rurikids themselves, cousins of the Russian lord, as shared descendants of Harold.

Sigurd’s son, Bruce/Brusse, would end up taking the Caithness lands in Scotland as his demesnes, thus bringing Black Will’s patriline onto the soil of the British Isles, finally breaking the connection with Scandinavia, at least in terms of geographic residence.  This was accomplished when Sigurd himself, whose grandmother was the Scottish lass from Caithness, took a Scottish wife, Anleta MacKenneth of Scotland.  He moved to Scotland and prepared the way for Bruce to become the lord of Caithness.  Bruce married well, and from Scandinavia:  a Gotland princess.  Notice the similarity between the names Scotland and Gotland.  Clearly, at that time, the Scandinavian and Celtic languages and customs were close together, probably due to common ancestry, but also due to continual melding through marriage.

Bruce’s son, Ragnvald Brusse/Bruce, was elevated to the title of 19th Earl of Orkney, a thoroughly Scottish position, even though not part of the Scottish mainland – instead, Orkney is an archipelago leading back to Scandinavia.

It is Rognvald who married the Russian princess.  Remember, they share a common ancestor.  Her 4 times great grandfather is King Harold is his 10th great grandfather). How could this be?   Well, it might not be.  On Rognvald’s side, there are some suspect connections, in particular, the bastard son of King Harold (with so many intervening generations).  The fact is, Rognvald’s family claimed descent from the King of Lethra, and everyone believed it so.  The fact that their genealogy had so many extra generations hints that, perhaps, it is not quite accurate.  The bastard son, Thrond, does not have historic dates that are firm.   Harold himself though certainly existed and died in a sea battle, the Battle of Bravik around 770.  Thrond may well have been his first son, while the Russian princess descended from one of his younger sons, Halfdan of Frisia.  It’s clear that Harold’s progeny spread out through the Nordic world, and remained in powerful positions.  Thrond started having children early in life, while Halfdan did not.  Halfdan had at least two sons, one early (by a concubine) and one late (by a wife).  This pattern of waiting until late in life to marry and produce legitimate offspring is seen throughout the Norman world.  Rurik of Novgorod was the son of Halfdan.

Now, it’s possible that Rurik is the one whose line is fictionally related to Harold, as opposed to Rognvald’s.   Thrond is shrouded in mystery, but a person named Thrond did exist and was progenitor to the de Braose line, and his son was called Eystein Throndheim, a man who was also known by the Nordic title Jarl (Earl), indicating a man who had land and vassals.  Since Eystein died in 710 (and there are historic records to support this), it’s not possible that Eystein is the descendant of Harold.  

When Rognvald arranged his marriage to the Princess of Kiev, Vladimir I’s daughter, it’s possible that his family made up the connection to Harold and were able to get away with it, since no one at the time would have known that Thrond was born too early to be the properly connected ancestor.  By the time Black Will lived, the entire family would have been taught the whole story.  Fictive ancestors are, it turns out, as important in constructing relationships as actual ones.

But here’s the amazing part.  Did you catch the name “Bruce” up above?  Bruce or Brusse, it was (same pronunciation, different spelling).  Everyone thinks of Scotland, nowadays, when they hear this name (or of some boy born in 1950’s America).  But B’Roos probably meant “Born of the Roos.”  You see, the Kievan Rus and the Scots B’Roos families were closely related, linguistically and genetically.  Whether or not Harold of Lethra was ancestral to anybody, all of these males (all R1a1a Y chromosomal pattern) shared a common ancester – and they knew it.  So, for Rognvald B’Russi (another spelling) to marry Ardogia Vladimirovna de Russia was nothing less than a standard distant cousin marriage, and one that, as everyone always hoped, spanned the breadth of the ancestral domains (from Scotland to Russia).

It’s not that the Scottish came from Russia, or the Russians from Scotland but that both groups share common ancestry and knew it, in the late 9th century anyway.  B’russi because Briouze, which became Braose within a few generations.  By marrying into the Royal Family of Kiev, who was certainly descended from Harold of Lethra, the family thereby insured that the family myth became true:  all future sons and daughters were, in fact, descendants of Slingebland and Harold – and Vladimir I.

Rognvald’s son, Robert, was not quite as farflung in his quest for a bride, but he didn’t settle for a local girl.  Robert, now a descendant of Norsemen, Picts and the Rus, sought to unite himself with another Celtic people:  those of Brittany.  Brittany’s language was probably closer to that of the Picts at that time, but it’s possible that the Swedes and Danes didn’t see themselves as speaking a language that was all that different from Celtic.

At any rate, Robert married the daughter of Alan, the Duke of Brittany (a vast and powerful kingdom compared to Orkney or Caithness), a girl named Emma.  The fact that all of a sudden we have Bruces, Roberts and Emmas (as opposed to Rognvalds and Thonds and Eysteins) is a testament to how historically influential the rising and expanding Normans would become.  Whether we call them Norsemen or Normans, they are moving southward, into the vacuum left by the fall of the Roman Empire, and with techniques that are perhaps even more enduring than those of the Romans, at least in terms of our current names for persons.  There are lots of living Roberts, Emmas and Bruces.  There are quite a few Harolds as well, and some Vladimirs.  But hardly a Rognvald or Hlodvir or Grelod to be found in the English-speaking world (and I assume you’re English-speaking, because you’re reading this).


Family Histories: De Braose

One of the reasons anthropologists record genealogies is that they show change. People have records of their families, or they remember. Both are valid ways of understanding a family. Families are part objective biology (and I love when I can get mtDNA or Y chromosome markers or autosomal markers for the people I study). They are built on marriages too.  The people who provide DNA to a child and the people who raise children can be different or overlapping sets of people. And that’s nothing new, although many people on the New Right will tell you a false story about the past: there were no good old days of “family values” as they mean it.

I suppose that’s one reason I got interested in the topic. What changes? Are the French correct (they usually are). La plus ça change…

But it’s also about the family mythology, what a family tells itself about who it is, what its founding principles are, what’s “born” into them. I am a lot like my dad – but I am not biologically related to him. When I say I’m a lot like my dad, I mean that I share many things that may be proven to be inherited, so it was fascinating to find that my both my dad and I are a good deal French and Scottish (but I have more English, both Norman-English and Saxon-English…and we both have a Celtic background, going way back). We are lots of other things too. Most families are.

The example I chose to illustrate the fun of genealogy as a way of viewing European prehistory is the de Braose family.  Aficionados of the Norman conquest of England will know who they are).  To the rest of you, they could be “any family” of ancient times. They are reasonably good example of a family that kept track of itself, plus, modern genealogists and scholars had added to whatever they would have known themselves.

There are literally thousands of ancestors of Black Will de Braose, infamously excecuted  by Llywellyn ap Gruffydd, the Last True Prince of Wales. And despite his early death by hanging, Black Will had a lot of descendants through his three daughters (I am descended from two of those daughters).  Black Will’s wife was Eva, the daughter of one of history’s good guys, William Marshall, the Protector.  While Black Will was known for his treachery, he came by it rightly, as his parents were the murdered William de Braose and the unfortunate shrew Maud de Braose.  Good guy William Marshall’s descendants and Bad guy William de Braos’s families joined together.  Most of us have both devils and angels in our nature.

Technically, the de Braoses can trace their roots back to…God…or Odin. But that’s true of all families with Norman roots, so we can move on. Some say it wasn’t Odin, but Ymir, The Frost Giant.  Personally, I’d rather be descended from Ymir than Odin, so I’m going to stick to that story.  I’ve got some tall relatives somewhere.  Ymir may well be the first to take a name with the -mir pattern to it, in European mythology (and it may be before the Indo-European push into Persia and India around 6000BP).

So let’s say that Ymir and Odin stand for the mythical progenitors of one set of ancestors of the de Braose family.  The first known mortal of their line was almost as mythic as the gods:  Tuisto, First King of Germany.  Now, it wasn’t called Germany back then (and it still isn’t, by the Germans, they call it Deutschland).  More about that in a later post.

There has to be a First King somewhere along the line.  In anthropology, we haggle over who’s a “Chief” and who’s a “High Chief” or a “War Lord” and then…what constitutes a “King.”  I think there are two main views on this:  1) translation is nearly impossible and it’s we anthropologists and linguists who make decisions about how to interchange these terms over time; and 2) there’s some kind of intuitive basis to awarding the title of “King,” which while varying somewhat from culture to culture, remains something like “Top Dog” of a large geo-political entity.  Or “Top Cat.”  (We will encounter some Lion Hearts and very few wolves or dogs in this genealogical journey).

Unfortunately, Tuisto is often said to be the First Mortal Human, which puts him in a tricky time period.  The real Tuisto (because someone has to be the European ancestor of the de Braoses) must have lived as many as 1000BP.  At any rate, his children are largely mythical and span enormous amounts of time, as do the early progenitors of most lineages.  Maybe it was a clan name.

Anyway, Tuisto is the grandfather of all the -mir Kings of Europe, and specifically, of the Norse, Gothic and Burgundian Kings (who span proto-Germano-Celto-Slavic in terms of word origins), men like Ingae, who ruled over the Nordic lands, as well as Burgundy, while his brother Irmino gave rise to the Herminones.  Yes, the echoes of Greek are in the language, because we’re speaking of a time when it’s really proto-Indo-Euroean that’s being broken into fragments, and the naming system shows that.

A third brother, Njord or Nord of Nortun, goes on to found (you guessed it) the Nordic/Scandinavian branches of the family.  A real Njord of Nortun lived at around the year 200 A.D., so we’re entering times that comprise history – if you’re speaking of Greece or Rome or bits and pieces of the Roman empire.  There isn’t any writing in Norway or Sweden at 200 A.D., but apparently the Romans have heard of a Njord (or two or three, again, maybe a clan name).

It’s possible that Njord was not the de Braose ancestor, that it was someone named Nerthus, or that Nerthus (as is claimed in some rec0rds) was a son of Njord.

At any rate, either Nerthus or Njord had a son named Frey av Svitjod (probably pronounced S-wv-ih-t-vyod).  Yes, it sounds both Nordic and Slavic, as this guy is an ancestor to both – and to the Norman French (and so, to the de Braoses).  He ruled over a place called Uppsala until 299 (being born in 235).

Oddly, the place name Uppsala has long intrigued me.  It sounds vaguely Greek, like the name Ypsilanti (home of the Three Christs of Ypsilanti; more on that in another post, maybe).  Again, we are probably looking at placename characteristics from a period when many of the short sound sequences were already taken.  Uppsala, of course, is in Sweden, overshadowed by the newer city of Stockholm, but at the time, Uppsala was a royal stronghold and emerging “city” of Sweden.  To my surprise, when I first began to study prehistory, I learned that anthropologists and prehistorians use the word “city” very loosely.  Early cities probably had no more than 1000-1500 people, but compared to the Paleolithic fishing settlements upon which they are based, that’s a 300-1000% increase.  Population boom occurred just as Frey av Svitjod becomes known, probably no coincidence.  He seems to be historical, and note the Celto-Slavic patronymic construct:  av instead of ap, as it would be in Wales.  We can safely assume that the patriline was already of keen importance at this time, around 300 A.D.

Did Black Will de Braose know he had a Swedish ancestor?  Probably, in some vague way.  He knew he was Norman-French, and the Normans knew they came from Scandinavia.  Frey would have had blue eyes, of course, and been of the R1a1a Y chromosomal pattern.  He can be seen as one of the founders of the lineages that would eventually be the Vikings, but also control pre-Romanov Russia, much of Prussia/Poland/Germany, the coast of the Atlantic all the way south to Normandy.  And, of course, in 1066, his descendants would conquer England.

Not much is known about Frey’s wife, but by the time of his grandson, he and/or his son, Young Frey (Yngvi-Frey) were making political alliances with other high chiefs/Kings.  Specifically, the grandson Fjolnir Yngi-Freysson married the granddaughter of the King of Kvenland (a place which was made up of part of contemporary Finland and part of contemporary Norway).  These people would have been seen as distant relatives and of a similar level of grandeur to Frey’s family.  Notice that history records the last name, still patronymic, as Yngi-Freysson instead of av Yngi-Frey, but that two lineal relatives’ names are combined in the last name.  These people were proud of their patriline and wanted to make sure that the grandkids remembered who their progenitors were – and, sought to keep their high status by reminding everyone of Frey (who must have been quite the warlord in his day, as certainly, artifacts of war abound in Scandinavia of this period).

Fjolnir’s son was named Svegder Fjolnirsson (also spelled Fjolnarsson), so the -sson ending is entrenched by that time.  Naturally, Svegder’s son has the “last name” of Svegdasson (note the contraction of Svegder’s name in making the last name).  Would people still have remembered Frey by then?  Perhaps not.

While retaining their lands in Sweden, one Frey’s Great-great-great-great grandsons would establish lands for himself in Denmark, marking an incursion onto the mainland, the advance of the “Vikings” into Northern Europe.  These people were of course considered among the Barbarian Tribes encountered by the Romans, and if one remembers their history, these people are well connected to the troubles the Romans had in conquering northern Europe.  Frey’s 5-times great grandson, Rij,  established himself as the First King of Denmark, and while it is said (by Romans and their descendants) that these people had no writing, in fact, of course, they had a Runic system of notation that went beyond petroglyphs, and petroglyphs are already a fairly sophisticated extra-somatic system of marking down meaning.  While the Romans looked to the north and saw “barbarians,” the barbarians thought of themselves as comprising orderly Kingdoms, with signs of status and wealth.  The Romans were more lavish, had a fast empire, but the descendants of Frey must have also felt quite expansive by around 400 A.D.

The de Braoses are descendants of the King who stayed behind in Sweden, Domaldr, not his brother, Dan ‘the Magnificent’ of Denmark (Rij’s father, and an alternate candidate for the first King of Denmark, as he is the one who conquered the place and secured it for his son, Rij).

As time went on, the great grandchildren and further descendants of both Domaldr and Dan would intermarry in state weddings uniting the chiefs of Sweden with the Kings of Denmark.  While Dan’s line prospered, Domaldr’s line fell back into the ranks of lesser chiefs, as Domaldr and his line did not manage to hold very much of Sweden and other families rose to power, families with which Domaldr and his descendants had to contend and, eventually, to whom they had to pay homage and be vassals.  They did not become poor or landless, though, because 6 generations after Domaldr, they managed to marry a son, Yngi Alreksson, to the granddaughter of the new King of Sweden, Dagr the Great, about whom little is known except that he was now in charge of most of what is modern Sweden.  Yngi Alreksson likewise kept his status fairly high, as his children married well and his great grandson married a granddaughter of the King of the Goths, and their son married back into the ancestral line by marrying a descendant of Dan the Magnificent.  About 10 generations had passed before this “cousin marriage” took place, so although the two were cousins, they were not very closely related.  Since all of these people were blue-eyed, blonde-haired and spoke inter-related languages and had similar kinds of Runic symbols, they must surely have seen themselves as natural allies.

By the time Dan’s and Domaldr’s line reunited in the production of Aldis the Great Otarsson of Sweden, it was about 600 A.D. and the Roman Empire was falling.  The number of northern peoples who took part in the fall of Rome is rather a long list, and Aldis is not mentioned as directly involved in any events taking place in Rome.  His distant cousins, of course, were very involved.  Since marriages were now being worked out in a web that encompassed Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and the Goths of Northern Germany, it is very likely that Aldis, who held Sweden together against any encroachment from the mainland, would have heard of the great Latin-speaking empire to the South.  It is also possible that, as peoples of northern Europe swept into the former Roman empire, looting and taking over towns, Sweden was less of a target and, being difficult to reach, a military society, and ruled by a central ruler, it was well on its way to establishing itself as a state.

The mother of Aldis’ 3times great grandson, Olafr Treehewer Ingaldsson was the descendant of a newish King, the King of Gutland (another Nordic Kingdom).  The Kings of Gutland were noted for being “mild”, Gutland taking its name from its founding Lord, Gauti or Goti (probably a Goth setting out to establish a demesne for himself).  Goti is also a son of Odin, possibly a historic Odin and not a reference to the God, but going around saying one is a son of Odin certainly had connotations.  Goti, whoever he was, proclaimed himself as both royal and semi-divine, easily earning a title of King, in English.

The fact that so many of these ancient kings traced their lines to their gods, or to Odin in particular, shows that it’s not just the Greeks, Romans, Hebrews or Hawaiians that had these kinds of stories.  Rooting the distant past in some connection with divinity:  being a direct child of God, or made by God, is a part of everyone’s past.  That Olafr’s wife, Gauthilde (literally, daughter of Gauti) could claim that her grandfather was divine must have made her quite a desirable bride.  We can conjecture as to whether Olafr knew his own divine genealogy – I think he did.  We can conjecture whether he viewed it as symbolic, or was even cynical about the entire divinity business.  I doubt that he was cynical.  I tend to believe these people felt that divine beings lived in their immediate past and that they were connected to them.  Their right to rule over others came directly from this divine connection.

The fact that it was more than 20 generations for Olafr, though, may mean that he, like his later descendants, would not have been so keen on claiming divine ancestors.  After all, while his ancestors included many Kings and Queens, they also included people more properly thought of as peers or aristocrats.

But, one thing is clear.  Lineage is important in those days in ways that we moderns can only perceive from a distance and try to understand.