Rolf ‘The Red’ MacCanna – 796-846

This is the first in a series of Irish books that relate to the treatment of the Irish at the hands of the English and others.  Rolf comes from a family of Druids and wants to be a Druid priest. But he has a poor memory, he is a dreamer and not focused.

Rolf sees his entire family killed by the invading Vikings in 796 A.D.  He flees but joins up with a puppy who becomes his companion.  They are captured by Vikings, but spared because the Viking chief, who is short and squat, wants Rolf to marry his daughters to produce tall, slender grandsons. Rolf is taken to Norway for a time to live with the Vikings.  He lives worshiping Odin and Thor.

Eventually Rolf escapes back to Ireland and tries to learn the Druid sagas, some 350 entire stories by heart.  Although he can write in ogham, he is forbidden from taking notes and must memorize everything.  He fails the trials twice and just manages to escape with his life.  The penalty for failure of the trials is death.

When he is rejected by a Druid priestess, he roams the land as a hermit for seven years. Eventually he meets a Christian lady and marries her.  He can accept Christianity because they are permitted to write down their beliefs.  He becomes a healer.

When Rolf’s wife dies and his children have left, he leaves home and wanders Ireland once again, eventually becoming a monk at a monastery.  He serves as their healer and solves several mysteries for them.  He struggles all the time to forget his Druid traditions and sneaks out secretly to cut the mistletoe on the sixth night of the new moon.  He spends some time on Skellig Michel in complete isolation and is drawn more closely to his Druid past than to Christianity. When he is near to death, he asks his fellow monks to give him a Christian-Druid-Viking funeral.

This story adheres as closely as possible to the true traditions of the Druids.  Some of their beliefs may seem odd to us today, but they were a most intelligent people although extremely individualistic and at times mystic. The brutality of the Vikings has not been exaggerated, but it is believed that they were every bit as bloody as depicted here. This is not recommended for youth.


reference:  Vikings