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The story is set in the medieval period and begins with Sir Ethelred, a superstitious but tolerant pagan knight, caught in a storm at sea with his Christian tutor and friend, Aribert. He was returning from a visit to a Count’s daughter, who his wealthy but overbearing pagan father wanted him to marry. Desperate to survive the storm, he invokes the Saxon god Woden to save him, promising to sacrifice the first person to greet him at his home. The weather calms, and Ethelred returns home. Happy to have survived, he immediately greets his wife. He quickly remembers his vow and starts off to his father’s house the next morning, determined to bring the matter to the priests of Woden. Upon arrival, he finds his father dead on a funeral pyre. Ethelred inherits his father’s estate and becomes the Baron. He then goes to consult the priests of Woden, who declare that Lidania can live if she renounces her Christian faith. She refuses, and prepares to be sacrificed for Ethelred’s vow. Upon seeing this, Ethelred converts to Christianity and declares that he would sacrifice himself with his beloved wife. Right before they are killed, Lidania’s brother Lucius arrives with a declaration from the sovereign, a convert to Christianity, prohibiting human sacrifices to Woden. After Ethelred’s conversion, most Saxons in Britain convert, and he and Lidiana live to see their granddaughter married to the King of England.
Literature in English, British Isles
Wilkinson, Sarah Scudgell. Ethelred and Lidania; or, the Sacrifice to Woden. c. 1805.