Sidroc is Jarl of South Lindisse. Godwin is Lord of Kilton. The first fought his way, literally, to wealth and power. The second was born to it, but has had to fight hard to defend it. One is heathen, one Christian. Both have desired Ceridwen. Both men are willing to go to almost any lengths to get what they want. And despite their manifold differences, each has an insight into the other which outsiders cannot share.
Here is the pivotal moment in The Claiming, where after their rescue from the Idrisid slave ship, Sidroc tells Ceridwen they will not be turning back to Angle-land:
He looked up at the sky a moment before answering. “There is another trading post, in two days’ time. We will go ashore there.”
None of this made sense, and I repeated it in wonder. “Two days? And further East?”
He nodded his head, Yes.
“We have already gone so far East. You told the Idrisids your men would be looking for you. Should we not then head back and try to find them?”
It took him some little time to respond. “My men will not find me,” he said, and then looked me full in the face. “I do not want them to, for then I will have to kill them.”
It took a moment for me to understand all this. When I finally spoke, it sounded as if my voice came from afar. “Am I then your captive?” I asked him.
He did not answer, and I went on in a whisper. “You do not want to go back.”
And here is a moment in The Hall of Tyr which shocked Ælfwyn. Godwin has just arrived at Four Stones, searching for Ceridwen and Sidroc, who have vanished.
As we were gathering for the evening meal I saw Asberg in the side passage. “What did Godwin say to you?”
His mouth twisted and I thought he would not answer, but I urged him on with my eyes.
“He asked if Sidroc would kill his own men.”
I took a slow breath to recover myself, and reached for Asberg’s arm. “Asberg,” I asked, “do not ride alone with Godwin. Please to take another man with you, your young cousin or whoever you will.” His eyes widened, and I knew I had injured his pride as a warrior. But now I feared Godwin, and did not want Asberg to be alone with him. “If you find anything together, you will have a rider to send back with word,” I urged.
But Asberg did not need my excuse. “I have seen him fight,” he said; for he had been with Yrling when Godwin had killed him. “I will take another man,” he ended.
Ælfwyn’s shock – the faithful Asberg’s too, being asked such a thing – reflects what they cannot know about each man. It feels inconceivable that Sidroc could be capable of the very thing that he is about to tell Ceridwen he would do if he must.
Here, later in Tyr, Sidroc is speaking to Ceridwen the morning after he killed Godwin:
His voice hardened once again. “He would have killed me if he could, and taken you and raped you. Do not think he would not have killed that thegn of his, too, if he thought he had to. He would have. And it was he who killed Yrling. I have not forgotten that.” He stopped himself. “What matters now is that he is dead, and you are unharmed.”
Would Sidroc truly have killed his own men if they had discovered him? I do not think he would have, but looked for some other way to foil their intentions that he return home. But he can imagine doing so; he has had to play that out in his mind. Would Godwin have killed his horse-thegn, Worr, who had served not only him, but Gyric and their father Godwulf before them? Godwin has become a deeply ruthless man, and I think Sidroc was right; he would have, if he thought he had to. The two men are linked in their knowing of what the other was not only capable of, but likely to do.
The greater difference between them lies in this: Sidroc wants Ceridwen’s happiness. He wants her, to be certain; but he let her know in The Claiming that he would take her back to Wessex if she truly insisted. Godwin wants only his own satisfaction, and is willing to wrench Ceridwen away from her beloved new home and life to get it.
Have you thought about this, the similarities and differences in the two men, protagonist and antagonist?