On the Windeby Estate in 1952, peat cutters discovered a body. Though the corpse looks relatively new, it’s actually ancient—buried in the peat bog for more than 2,000 years. Researchers come to the conclusion that it’s that of a teenager. But how did this Iron-Age teen die? And perhaps more importantly, how did the teen live?
Lois Lowry, author of The Giver, Number the Stars and dozens of others, explores what this individual’s life and tragic death might have looked like.
Lowry imagines the body was that of a young teen girl named Estrild, who wants to break free from her expected role in society and become a warrior. However, in her Iron-Age village, women are simply expected to bear children and work from dawn to dusk. With her friend Varick’s help, Estrild trains in secret, learning how to hold a shield, wield a sword, and tie her hair into the knot that warriors wear. In the spring ceremony when the warriors are named, Estrild will learn her fate.
While Estrild is fighting, Varick is fighting for a place in society—any place. His mother died at birth and his father died in battle only a few short years later, leaving their young crippled son to fend for himself. In exchange for the materials of his father’s weapons, Varick is allowed to sleep in the forger’s shed and work for food.
But though he isn’t of much use to the community, Varick loves to learn. He studies nature and analyzes the anatomy of any animal he can. When the forger falls and dislocates his hip, Varick’s skills are put to the test. The greater test remains how one so weak and poorly cared for can endure the hard life before him.