There are certain headline events which echo through the ages, such as the raid on Lindisfarne which started the Viking Age and other events which were once known and have now been largely forgotten. In the second category are the events of 794 where the Northumbrians fought back.
The precise reason for the Viking raid has long been consigned to annals of forgotten history, but one thing is certain. Once one Viking felag (or fellowship of warriors) had successfully raided, others undoubtedly tried their hand.
|12-century depiction of a Viking invasion source: Wikipedia|
Sure enough, Symeon of Durham records that 794 brought yet another raid. Rather than returning to Lindisfarne, the raiders struck lower down at Jarrow. This time, however, the raiders did not have it all their own way. First the raider’s chief was killed in a violent clash with English warriors. Then a great storm which became known as St Cuthbert’s storm struck, swamping the Viking long boats and making it impossible for them to escape. Symeon states the survivors were put to death.
|reconstructed Viking long ship source Wikipedia|
It is interesting that the raid that gets remembered is the one which succeeded, and not the one which didn’t. One of the reasons might be that Alcuin did not feel the need to write emotive letters about St Cuthbert’s storm. He seemed to be using his considerable writing skills as a call to action. Obviously because Northumbria had succeeded in defeating the Viking threat, his skills were not required. However, I suspect that Northumbria itself was not shy in making its success known.