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The Saxon Stories is a series of Historical Fiction novels by Bernard Cornwell, set during the reign of King Alfred the Great, who is fighting to keep England from being overrun by the Danes. The stories follow Uhtred of Bebbanburg, who is captured by the Danes during a raid and adopted by the warlord Ragnar the Fearless. Uhtred lives among the Danes until Ragnar is slain by one of his shipmasters, Kjartan. Uhtred ends up serving King Alfred, ruler of Wessex, who controls the only English kingdom yet to be conquered by the Danes. Much of the story revolves around Uhtred's conflicting loyalties to the Danes and King Alfred, as well as his personal desire to reclaim Bebbanburg from his uncle, who claimed it after Uhtred was taken captive.

As of now, there are six books in the series:

  • The Last Kingdom (2004)
  • The Pale Horseman (2005)
  • The Lords of the North (2006)
  • Sword Song (2007)
  • The Burning Land (2009)
  • Death of Kings (2011)


Originally, Cornwell intended The Saxon Stories to be a trilogy, yet decided to keep writing after The Lords of the North. He has stated that there may be seven or eight stories in the series eventually.


This series of books provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Haesten is either this or Faux Affably Evil.
  • Anti-Hero: Uhtred
  • Anti-Villain: Erik.
  • Arranged Marriage: Uhtred finds himself in one. Not only does his bride have a substantial debt to her name, she's also a pious Christian while he's a staunch pagan. They get along about as well as you'd expect.
  • Author On Board: Uhtred loathes Christianity, and is more than happy to tell the reader how he feels about it. Likewise, most of the openly Christian characters are shown to be zealous and dogmatic to the point of stupidity (Gisella being the main exception that is not a Bad Ass preacher). In fairness, Uhtred seems to have developed a grudging respect for the Christian God and some of the followers (providing they are badass or hot enough).
    • In-Universe and in reality. A common theme in Cornwell's writing is a strong anti mainstream christian streak, as well as an anti authoritarian streak.
  • Ax Crazy:
    • Ragnar's sister Thyra becomes this at the end of the third book.
    • Brida showed some signs of this in her childhood. Skade in the fifth book probably counts as this.
    • Probably? Her preferred method of intimidation is SKINNING PEOPLE ALIVE. And she enjoys it.
    • Brida is something of a Nimue Expy from the Warlord Chronicles. Nimue goes completely insane though.
    • Skade is Nimue Up to Eleven.
    • Also Jarl Sigfried.
    • Arguably, Uhtred himself. Count the times he's suggested to Alfred that Murder Is the Best Solution
  • Badass: Uhtred
  • Badass Preacher: Father Pyrlig. Father Beocca, when he strides into a pack of man-eating dogs and exorcises Thyra's personal demons with a heartfelt prayer.. Also Father Willibald who went into battle armed only with a stave of wood.
  • BFS: Steapa's sword.
  • Capulet Counterpart: Erik.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Haesten.
  • Cool Boat: The Wind Viper, later the Seolforwulf. Justified in that the Norseman were renowned for their shipbuilding skill.
  • Cool Sword: Both of Uhtred's swords, Serpent-Breath and Wasp-Sting.
  • Dark Action Girl: Skade
  • Deadpan Snarker: Uhtred. And Pyrlig, and Finan, and Ragnar the Younger, and Ragnar the Elder, and...pretty much every warrior in the book except for Steapa.
  • Death by Childbirth: Uhtred's wife Gisela in the fifth book. Justified in that it was far more common in the period in which the story takes place.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Uhtred on occasion and Alfred.

 Uhtred: *after sentry asks who they are* I'm Matthew, *points to Steapa* he's Mark, *points to Father Coenwulf*, he's John and the other fellow couldn't make it.

  • Dirty Coward: Haesten again. Though he actually can fight when he has to.
  • Dont Do This Cool Thing: Uhtred frequently remarks before he tells how he did something awesome that it was actually really stupid and risky and it only worked because of luck/fate.
  • The Dragon: Uhtred is this to Alfred's Big Good.
  • Dumb Muscle: Steapa Snotor
  • Evil Uncle: Uhtred's uncle Ælfric takes Bebbanburg for himself, even though Uhtred is the rightful heir.
  • Famed in Story / The Dreaded: Uhtred becomes both of these quite quickly. Killing a dangerous Viking warlord in single combat will do that. He becomes more and more famous as time goes on.
  • Family Theme Naming: Uhtred's father, son, brother and one cousin (and presumably most of his paternal ancestors) are all named Uhtred.
  • Five-Man Band:
  • Faux Affably Evil: Jarl Sigfried.
  • Four-Star Badass: By Sword Song/The Burning Land.
  • Friendly Enemy: Haesten and Uhtred despise each other, though it can be tough to tell with all the seemingly good-natured snarking they slip in between te death threats.
  • Galley Slave: Uhtred becomes one in the third book. Unsurprisingly, he gets revenge.
  • Hidden Depths: Uhtred loves architecture and building, though he's not particularly skilled at it. He also tends to get philosophical whenever he thinks about how much better the romans were at everything.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Æthelred of Mercia. In the historical notes of the fifth book, Cornwell admits there is no evidence that he ever displayed the bastardry he does in the novels.
    • Subverted with Bishop Asser. He always acts like a total dick to Uhtred, but the narration frequently points out that he has an excellent reason for doing so.
  • Ironic Nickname: Steapa is nicknamed "Snotor" which means "clever" in Old English. Ironic because Steapa is anything but.
    • On the other hand he shows glimmers of not being as stupid as he first appears.
  • Identical Grandson: Ivarr the Boneless' relatives. Also a fan theory as to a possible connection between Derfel and Uhtred. It helps both are big, blonde and clever warriors who love their adopted people and dislike bards intensely. Occasionally extended to Sharpe, since Sean Bean plays him as a big, blonde...yeah a familiar pattern emerges.
  • Jerkass: Uhtred is arrogant, rude, and not above killing people who piss him off. Somewhat justified by the time period, as kindness and mercy were not considered good traits for Anglo-Saxon warriors. He does show signs of Jerk with a Heart of Gold, as he is disgusted with those who mistreat children and will generally give people chances to prove themselves.
    • He seems to have mellowed throughout Sword Song/The Burning Land/Death of Kings, moving firmly into Jerk with a Heart of Gold territory.
    • He does show kindness and mercy in the earlier books, e.g. Guthred, he's just rather sparing with it. He's also almost universally decent to women, the only significant exception (Skade) was justified seeing as how he had just seen her torture a man For The Evuls.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Occasions where Uhtred outright murders someone are almost always this.
  • Lady of War: Aethelflaed
  • Lightning Bruiser: Finan.
  • Long Bus Trip: Uhtred's first wife Mildrith, who joins a nunnery and is never mentioned again.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: A standard feature of Cornwell's writing.
  • Mighty Glacier: Steapa's fighting style, at least as compared with Uhtred's Lightning Bruiser. It should be noted that Steapa is considered the better fighter, even by Uhtred.
  • Named Weapons: Uhtred names his sword "Serpent-Breath" and his seax "Wasp-Sting". Justified, as everyone else in the books names their weapons, and it was a common thing in the time period.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Ivar the Boneless and Harald Bloodhair, to only name a couple.
    • Ragnar the Fearless, Kjartan the Cruel...
  • One Steve Limit: Averted because of the culture, but in the case of the Historical Domain Characters Ragnar Lothbrok and his sons, Cornwell saw fit to refer to them as "Lothbrok" and "Lothbrokson" (an invented term) because he used "Ragnar" and "Ragnarson" for his fictional characters. Since "Lothbrok" is really an epithet referring to the historical Ragnar's outfit, the characters are essentially called "Furry-Pants" and "Son of Furry-Pants".
  • Perspective Flip: To Cornwell's earlier novels The Warlord Chronicles, which were about Britons (Welsh) fighting the Anglo-Saxons (English), who eventually win. The Welsh are only minor antagonists to the English in this series. It's as if Cornwell wrote a series about French dragoons, sort of.
  • Shout-Out: References to King Arthur become this since he is the Warlord of The Warlord Chronicles.
  • Smug Snake: Though Haesten would probably count as a Magnificent Bastard if he didn't always lose, often through bad luck or incompetent allies.
  • Storming the Castle: Uhtred does this on several occasions. It's awesome.
  • The Strategist: Uhtred, Alfred as well except that he's more of a political than a military strategist.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Father Beocca, often described by Uhtred is a very unattractive man, ends up like this.
    • To be fair he also saved his wife from madness, implied to be as a result of capture and possibly demonic possession. As with all his books, Cornwell leaves this one very ambiguous.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The whole series is narrated by Uhtred many years after the fact, so some of his deeds may be exaggerated. Also a reason why Uhtred doesn't really like bards.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Uhtred believes this to be so, and often quotes wyrd bi∂ ful ārǣd ("fate is resolute"), a line from the Anglo-Saxon poem The Wanderer.
  • You Killed My Father: Ragnar the Younger, son of Ragnar the Fearless who adopted Uhtred, slays Kjartan in revenge for his father's death.
    • Subverted with Uhtred himself, he seems to bear no ill will at all towards the Vikings who killed his father and brother and prefers Ragnar the Elder to his own father.
    • He did attack Ragnar the Elder head on first time he met him, but he was about 9 and had a crap sword. From Ragnar's point of view, Hilarity Ensues.
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