MEETING AT THE MARKET I
Welcome to a continuing serial set in the Danelaw of the early eleventh century. At the 2015 Market at the Square in Urbana, Illinois, Micel Folcland manned a table once a month. We released a new installment every month, at our appearance at the Market. We tried to keep them as related to common everyday life in the Anglo-Scandinavian culture of the, and we tried to deal with matters of history and culture that were largely unknown and that would provoke question and thought. We were glad to answer any questions that might be posed, and we still are!
Beornræd was shaken awake by his mother before sunrise, and within moments, he was wide awake. Today was the great market, and he had been looking forward to attending it since they had gone to the last a month ago. Last night, the waggon had been loaded with grains grown by his father and with textiles that had been woven by his mother, and she said, “Harness the oxen. We’ll be off!”
With a grin, he sprang out of bed and pulled on tunic and braises, slipped into shoes and ran out to fetch the oxen and to harness them to the waggon. He was by now fourteen and being given the responsibilities of adulthood, and he welcomed the status, trying to do his best. By the time he was finished, the first red fingers of dawn were filling the skies. His father climbed onto the waggon and said, “Let’s get going!” When his mother and brother joined them, the waggon began to roll.
It was only an hour from the farm to the market, but the father did not tarry. They rolled down the path, over a hill, past a wooded glade and then onto the old Roman road. The stones were burnished and worn from centuries of traffic, but it was not overgrown and was smoother than the unpaved pathway had been. Still the wooden wheels creaked and groaned, and they jostled in their seats as the wheels made their way across the stones of the old road, and they joined in with the others traveling toward the market.
Their fellow travelers were no doubt merchants as well. Most were neighbors, and Beornræd already knew them, though some had traveled much farther and were known only from being seen at earlier markets, perhaps even in previous years. He was fascinated. There was Uhtred, who would sell onions, leeks and turnips from his farm. Beyond him was the smith, Rædwulf, whose cart clattered with his wares and the contents of his repair shop. He did original work as well and “signed” that work with a maker’s mark of R, for he was proud of his ability. And far ahead, Beornræd could see the cart of Alric, who carried milk and eggs. He smiled, since there would be so much and so many to see, and he had not seen many of them for months.
As they rolled along, Beornræd’s younger brother, Brunstan, said, “Will we have trouble finding a spot?”
“Nay,” said the father, “Not in there days…”
Beornræd closed his eyes and smiled anew, for he knew that a tale from his father was coming up, and his father was an excellent storyteller.
“When I was your age,” the father said, “The market was not chartered, and merchants set up as they were able. Many were the fights and disputes. I remember when old Æthelhun was knifed by a merchant who disliked where he set up. There followed a great struggle, and many people had their heads knocked about!” He sighed. “Things have become so much safer after the market received a charter, even if the tolls are greater than they were then.” He laughed. “But I would not want to go back to those days!”
In a while, the roads began to convert, joining together in a great hub, and the oxen were guided to a space close to a bridge over the river. It was by then quite bright, and the day looked warm and clear, and the Father smiled and said to the mother, “Today will be a good day…I can tell!”
The mother replied, “That it will be” and looked around excitedly herself.
—to be continued