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The Witches of Vardo: THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER: 'Powerful, deeply moving' - Sunday Times

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The first is the doctrine of demonology. Begun around the 1620s by a Scottish governor, demonology spread throughout Europe. Its influence in Vardo is best seen in the story of a learned couple from the south of Norway, Ambrosius Rhodius and Anne Friedrichsdatter Rhodius, who were imprisoned at Vardohus in 1662. Ambrosius was an astrologer and physician (the two believing to be complementary sciences), but he was considered politically dangerous because he predicted the result of an ongoing war (we’re guessing it wasn’t favorable). Anne was known for being outspoken, and got into a disagreement with the governor. During the witchcraft trials in Finnmark in northern Norway, during the seventeenth century, 135 persons were tried, 91 of whom were executed, most of them at the stake.’ – Author note (On Fact and Fiction). Through the Sami characters, the story reveals not just the Sami culture and beliefs, but also the issues faced by indigenous tribes due to the external rulers. This was the best part of the book. P. S.: The mention to the Sámi made me research them and find they’ve always been persecuted and pushed to conversions, it made me want to find more and read from their natives and hear their songs. To make their voice heard louder. They who’ve withstand, these natives to the Laplands with their gods and reindeers, with their songs and colors.

The misogyny, patriarchal society and the downtrodden status of women is contrasted against the strength of the women characters. The Lutheran religion is also highly restrictive condemning dance, song and outspokenness of those accused. Equally the rights of Royality are accepted. The women are largely dependent on the men for their status and provisions. The incidences of rape are blamed on the females. All these issues are sadly relevant still in various degrees the world. The issue of accusations of witchcraft and prejudice, ignorance and cruelty (which was graphically described) did make me feel indignant. Thanks to the opening of this striking 2011 memorial, many more people are now aware of what took place in Vardø and across Finnmark in the 17th century. The Vardø witch trials In 2011, a memorial was opened at Vardø to commemorate those killed in the trials. The Steilneset memorial has also served to raise awareness of this dark chapter in Northern Norway's history.Set in Norway in 1662, The Witches of Vardø is a beautifully told historical fiction tale about a group of women accused of witchcraft. When Zigri starts an affair with the merchant’s son, she is denounced as a witch and taken to the island of Vardø to await trial. Her daughter Ingeborg is determined to rescue her from a terrible fate, so joins forces with Maren, the daughter of the infamous witch Liren Sand. Will the two girls be able to save Zigri and the other women accused of witchcraft? Those in the witches hole are not the only women captive on the island. Noblewoman Anna Rhodius has been sent to Vardø in disgrace. She has lost everything, but what will she do to regain the King’s favour and return to her previous life of privilege? Barbra from Vadsø was pointed out by Maren as one of those who had been flying with Dorthe on Domen. Barbra said that Maren had accused her, encouraged by doctor's wife Anne Rhodius, who had been exiled from Oslo to northern Norway with her husband because of conflicts in Oslo, and that the doctor and his wife had pointed out the wife and daughter of one of the members of the court as witches. This was ignored and Barbra was burned with four other women 8 April 1663. This powerful work of historical fiction draws on the records of the witch trials in 17th Century Norway, focusing on the lives of a number of women caught up in these events. Like with Burial Rites (which is also inspired by a true story, that of the last burned witch, which also happened to be in the Nordic country of Iceland) I found this to be a tremendous story of women and womanhood.

The King may be all-powerful, but these women shall show the world an even greater power. For they shall not burn. Whilst this book is women's historical fiction, it is based on actual people and events from the 1600's; and as a woman reading of these events, I found myself whipped up with righteous indignation at the unscrupulous treatment of women in the 1600's during the witch hunts and trials. The men characters are particularly disgusting, although none of the women characters are particularly likeable either (with the exception of Maren), but you can empathise with the women's plight nonetheless.

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Perhaps it was this remoteness that caused Finnmark to suffer a much higher rate of witch accusations than anywhere else in Norway. I'm not sure what to think of this book. It's well written style-wise, the characters are well constructed... the author's intentions are noble. But I feel conflicted about the ending. History Makers: Female Writers Dominate the 2023 William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award Shortlist Beyond these beliefs, historical events were at work that spurred the panics on. In 1617, Norway suffered a particularly violent storm on Christmas Eve. What should have been a happy time was marred by tragedy — of the 23 boats out to sea when the storm hit, a total of 10 boats and 40 men never returned. At the time, Vardo and neighboring Kiberg only had 150 residents each — so to lose 40 of the 300, all of whom were men or young boys, was a significant blow to the region. The villagers wanted a reason for the storm and the deaths. Two women, Mari Jøgensdatter and Kirsti Sørensdatter, were tried as witches responsible for the weather. Mari confessed, and other witches were tried. Mari was convicted and burned at the stake in January of 1621, marking the first death in the Vardo Witch Hunt of 1621. Within six months, 11 more women were convicted and burned.

The story highlights the systemic misogyny and patriarchal mindset of that era. The blind belief in religion and royalty also comes out clearly. Roggen, Vibeke (2014-09-29), "Ambrosius Rhodius", Norsk biografisk leksikon (in Norwegian) , retrieved 2019-10-25 The story is told in mostly two POVs, that of one of the teens, sister and daughter of other accused, and the other the noblewoman’s. With some Nordic stories in between parts.

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These Witches of Vardø are stronger than even the King. In an age weighted against them, they refuse to be victims. They will have their justice. All they need do is show their power. About This Edition ISBN: The switch between the chapters between Ingeborg and Anna gave an interesting different perspective to the story - both their history and life within the fortress. I particularly liked this book as it is based on historical events and, as many books do, it highlights the terrible inequalities and dreadful misogyny that have far too frequently been part of world history, and indeed currently still exist. As events unfold we discover the absolute terror that women faced as they knew any event in nature and within their society could lead to them being accused of witchcraft and ultimately burnt to death at the stake, the injustice is papable. Once they had been accused and transported to Vardo they were imprisoned in a ‘witch hole’ and tortured until they confessed. Except for the Sami boy Zare, none of the characters felt likeable or acted sensibly. Some of the characters change their minds randomly just to change the direction of the plot.

There is hardly anything happening for a great part of the story. A whole lot of energy goes in setting the scenes but there is hardly any action. It was too slow even on audio.

This book tells the story of three women and their fight for survival against the persecution of witchcraft. It’s slow going especially in the beginning but so worth it to push forth and dive into this dark, cold, violent, vibrant and fiery story where women suffer, die, but also persist and find happiness, searching inside for their inner lynx, their fierceness and royal-ness.

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