Faces in the Fire

The Women of Beowulf, Vol. 1

Faces in the Fire

By Donnita L. Rogers
2013 | 258 pp. | 15 ills. | 978-0-86698-801-8 | Paperback 5.5 x 8.5 in
$15.95 |

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Growing up female in a Viking world of rough men and horrifying monsters is a tall order for any girl. Freawaru, daughter of a sixth-century Danish chieftain, does not have to kill the night-walking Grendel monster herself; the powerful Beowulf takes on that challenge. Freawaru must contend with other assaults both from within and without that demand her wits and intellect.

First she must learn how to use and control her goddess-given gift: the ability to see the future. In her father’s hall she is challenged by her sly and lecherous older cousin, and by the mysterious rune-master who may be a madman.

On a broader stage, she is challenged to act as peace-weaver between tribes, marrying a rival chieftain to end an ancient feud. In her husband’s hall she is faced with a mother-in-law who wishes her dead — unless she can produce a son. Should she fail, and the feud break out again, she will be forced to make a new life for herself in a foreign land.

Donnita L. Rogers taught Beowulf in high school and college for many years before tackling the women’s side of the story. Now retired, she travels abroad researching background for her historical fiction. She and her partner, Don, divide their time among an island cabin in Canada, a farmhouse in Minnesota, and a river home in Texas.

“In her book, Donnita Rogers uses an informed imagination to lead us back into a pagan world where women’s voices were loud and clear, their actions essential to the weave of tribal life, and where their fears, their ambitions, their dreams seem surprisingly like our own”
Benjamin Bagby, performer of Beowulf and other medieval epics


“The detail with which Donnita Rogers draws us into her early Scandinavian world is astonishing. She presents the Freawaru of Beowulf as a seeress with involuntary and nightmarish visions who is skilled in the use of herbs and runes (giving clear instructions for the use of each), and she also appropriates recent archaeological discoveries at Lejre in Denmark to create a tangible material setting. But above all, lively conversations erupting into action propel us through Freawaru’s life story to a surprising conclusion that invites us to look forward to Rogers’ next novel: Book II of “The Women of Beowulf.”
Marijane Osborn, University of California at Davis