Norse legend speaks of two brave warriors who embarked on a treacherous journey, skiing from Lillehammer to Nidaros (Trondheim) while carrying the infant Hakon, son of King Hakon Sverresson.
The warriors were out to protect him from being murdered by Croziers, soldiers loyal to the Bishop and his puppet King, the malevolent Magnus, in the days of the Norwegian Civil War.
The rescuers of the young Hakon were birkebeiners, whose name is derived from their birch leggings.
The legend of these "birchlegs" is retold in a vivid and exciting work by Jeff Foltz, "Birkebeiner: A Story of Motherhood and War." (Maine Authors/www.birkebeinerthenovel.com, 260 pages)
The 19th century artist, Knud Larsen Bergslien, immortalized this epic journey in his painting "Skiing Birchlegs Crossing the Mountain with the Royal Child" - a reprint of this striking work adorns the book's jacket. Despite its artistic merit, the author finds Berglien's interpretation of this saga a bit wanting.
He cannot conceive of Hakon's mother (Inga) parting with her son under such dire circumstances. A mother would risk everything, including her own life, to protect her only child.
Thus, "Birkebeiner" becomes not merely a story of civl war, but a timeless epic of maternal sacrifice and bravery as the heroic Inga joins the warriors Torstein and Skjervald in their harrowing trek to save the life of young King Hakon.
"Birkebeiner" is an exciting piece of historical fiction. Foltz has a talent for transporting his reader to the days of 13th century Norway and this perilous crossing to save the great King Hakon IV of Norway.
In the Norwegian birkebeiner cross country ski race, which commemorates this heroic event, the participants carry packs weighing 3.5 kilograms which is roughly the weight of an infant as they cover the 54-kilometer course.
At the New England Book Festival, this novel received honorable mention in the general fiction category.
Mr. Foltz will be in Iron Mountain at Book World on Sunday, Feb. 26, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. for signing this memorable book.