Blog Cabinet of Curiosities

Cabinet of Curio-stories – A Viking Slave Collar

Today I welcome Ken Hagan who writes historical fiction set in the age of the Vikings. Here, he explains how an artefact from a museum inspired his story.

Dublin was the hub of the Slave Trade in 10th Century Europe

For the Norse kings and warrior merchants of Dublin, overseas trafficking of war captives was a vital element in their seafaring economy, as was the raising of lucrative ransoms for men and women of noble Irish blood, whose families could afford the huge booties of silver and cattle demanded for their release.

A Viking Market for the Free Movement of Labour

In the latter half of the 20th century, during my university years in Trinity College, Dublin, there were a startling number of archaeological finds under the city. Excavations have since revealed the extent of the old Viking port of Linn-dubh under modern-day Dublin. From artefacts and architectural remains it is possible to imagine the context, in which a ruthless warrior class controlled the eastern estuaries of Ireland, before finally being expelled in the 11th century.


Viking Age iron slave collar found at St John’s Lane, Dublin

This cruel iron shackle is the starting point for my story, in which Kregin, a young Ostman sentenced to exile from Iceland for manslaughter, becomes a luckless captive, a slave on the black river isle of Inis-dubh, awaiting shipment overseas.

Kregin and the daughter of an Irish Chieftain, a young child, whom he befriends on the isle of slaves, plan an escape by sea. Their bid for freedom ends in failure. They are re-captured as war looms between Irish clans and their Viking invaders.

 This horrifying reality was the historical setting chosen for Forged in Blood, ‘Warrior in Exile’, Book 2 of my trilogy, Viking Odyssey.


More about Viking Slaves can be found in this National Geographic Article here

Did you know?

A ‘thrall’ is a slave or serf in the Viking Age.  Thrall is from the Old Norse word praell, meaning a person who is in bondage or serfdom. The Old Norse term was lent into late Old English, as þræl. The English derivation thraldom dates from medieval times, and so the verb “to enthrall” means literally to enslave.

So an enthralling book is one which holds you in bondage!

Forged in Blood by Ken Hagan is available from and from


Forged in Ice – what inspired my new Viking Saga by Ken Hagan


Today I welcome Ken Hagan to tell us what inspired his new novel, the first in a Viking Trilogy.

Ken: My thanks to Deborah for inviting me as guest author. 

Forged in Ice is set in 27829574._UY500_SS500_960AD. It tells the story of a boy and his family who leave the Norse Kingdom to live in the sparsely populated colony of Iceland — risking their lives in a hazardous voyage across the Atlantic.

My interest in the Viking Age was first aroused during my university days in Dublin, a city steeped in Viking history. The Viking settlement, on which today’s city centre is built, has yielded significant archeological finds, including ankle-fetters and neck-irons that were fastened to slaves. The infamous slave trade centered on Viking Dublin will feature in the second book of the trilogy to be published later this year.   

Reading the Icelandic Family Sagas really got me hooked. In them I discovered a new dimension to the Viking Age. Here was humdrum family life, the struggle of men and women to survive in a hostile climate, petty disputes between neighbours that erupt into feuds, stories of fraud and double-dealing, but also feats of sporting prowess and courage, honest intentions, love and loyalty.

Women are strongly portrayed in the Sagas. We see to what lengths they will go to assert their rights, and what influence womenfolk have on the outcome of events. It is not hard to understand why some commentators have argued that women were the sources for many of the original spoken sagas.       

During 1990s I travelled on business to Sweden and Norway and, while there, I was able to expand my knowledge of Viking culture. Visits to sites of Viking graves revealed sophisticated spiritual constructs of the afterlife. And elsewhere, beautiful full-size replicas of longships demonstrated for me how truly advanced, by comparison with the rest of Europe, was the technology of Viking shipbuilding.

I am indebted to Professor Neil Price, Uppsala University for my understanding of the Viking mind, for my insights into the Viking view of the world, many of which I have tried to weave into the tapestry of my books. Dr. Price is Chair of Archeology at the University of Uppsala, Sweden.  His major work, The Viking Way: sub-titled – “Religion and War in later Iron-age Scandinavia” (ISBN 978184217265) is regarded as an authoritative source of material and provides rare insights in the field of Viking research.

FORGED IN ICE is published by Endeavour Press.

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Thanks to Ken for stopping by my blog.