The Family — Cassidy and Her Viking Prince

Ken Jones

Staff member
Cassidy and Her Viking Prince

Of the several secrets that the Family maintained among themselves perhaps the saddest was the one that pertained to Cassidy and the man she loved. His name was Søren Åstrup and he was her Viking Prince.

At age 17, Søren had been a foreign exchange student living with a family in Cassidy’s hometown and attending her high school. There he became a favorite student due to his easy going personality, sincere interest in others, and attempts at American sports. Never the greatest athlete, he attempted to play football, basketball and baseball. In each he made the team simply because of his hustle and friendly attitude. Even emerging from the bottom of a football pile he would have a smile and be ready to give it another go.

He did however excel in one sport—fishing—and weekly would head down to the local piers to try his luck. By the time his year was up as a foreign exchange student he had mastered the area’s piers and been able to catch almost all of the species most desired by the anglers on those piers—corbina, spotfin croaker, halibut, bass, barracuda, and bonito, while also having some great fights with large leopard sharks, shovelnose sharks and bat rays.

Truth be told, Søren had a little help. On an early trip to the pier he had met the Family, or at least those members who were in the early edition of the Family. His obvious love of fishing, his enthusiasm, his willingness to listen and learn, and the respect he showed the Family quickly won their trust. Unfortunately most of Søren’s pier trips were on the weekend while most of the Family’s visits were on weekdays. Nevertheless the “young Dane” visited his friends whenever he had a chance.

The fish were different from those back home in Denmark but his already skillful techniques, and quick learning ways, proved successful. As an amateur ichthyologist he dutifully recorded every catch and studied every species of fish, and though sometimes the “local” names for the fish were confusing, he also studied and knew the scientific names. Truth be known, he was, even with his limited time at the piers, more knowledgeable about the local fish than many of the regulars—at least in the scientific sense. Perhaps only those in the Family shared his scientific and recreational interest in fishing.

In school, he was intellectually at the top of his class. Good looking, charismatic, and friendly to all, he became one of the leading students at the school. He also became a notable date for the girls. But he was having too much fun to become romantically involved, even though many of the girls would have been quite willing.

A younger girl, Cassidy, only 15 at the time, spoke to him a time or two but primarily watched, and admired him, from a distance. She was an underclassman, the tops in her class, and in many ways her strengths and attributes matched those of Søren. But she too was far too busy to be involved with romance and though Søren was very appealing she figured she was simply too young to attract his attention. That assumption was wrong for Søren had taken considerable note of the young beauty. Nevertheless, he never asked her for a date, a fact that at times perplexed both Cassidy and Søren himself.

Two years later young Cassidy became a foreign exchange student in Denmark auspiciously assigned to a family in Humlebæk, a small, seaside village north of København (Copenhagen). Although most famous as the location for the world-class art museum Louisiana, it was also home to her former schoolmate Søren Åstrup, by now a second year student of ichthyology at the Københavns Universitet (University of Copenhagen).

As popular as Søren had been at her home school, so was she at his school, and it was only a short time before she was invited to the home of one of her new friends, Märta Åstrup. There she met Søren once again and finally they had the time to make the connection that seemed pre-ordained. Of course it wasn’t destiny that had filled out the foreign exchange papers. Cassidy had read of Søren’s hometown and that information, together with her interest as an art student, led to Humlebæk being her first choice among Denmark’s many enchanting towns.

Unlike Søren during his American adventure, Cassidy’s Danish dating list was limited to one person—Søren—and within a short time the infatuation turned to love. Although both were attractive, charismatic, and intellectually at the top of their class, they also both maintained a friendly, down-to-earth, good-natured understanding of life and people. Somehow they were able to maintain a connection with all around them without compromising their gifts of intelligence and well-toned education. They exuded warmth even while the humor of their wit, their erudition, their bon mot, would seem to have separated them from many. Yes, there was also a physical side to their love but their mental, spiritual and worldly outlooks seemed to bond in a way rare to most couples and that was what helped to make them so special. People tended to be overwhelmed by the “rara avis” couple but to Søren and Cassidy it was just their common way of life.

Søren of course wanted to show Cassidy his beloved Denmark and on Saturdays during the school year they would often travel in his small car throughout Sjælland (Zealand) looking at the historic sites, art and architecture. Cassidy, although a brilliant student who had received A’s in all subjects, had evidenced little appreciation for history in school, an attitude that mirrored that of most American students. Cassidy received good grades in history because she worked hard, not because she loved the subject. To Cassidy the sites were initially of interest only for their art, architecture, and what seemed to be romantic settings for her time with Søren.

To Søren, history was both important and intriguing. Denmark was a very small country, and even though wealthy, educated, and much respected, most of Denmark’s glory seemed to rest in its storied past—the time of Vikings and noble kings who had ruled and influenced a wide swath of land from England to much of Scandinavia. Denmark had, in a way, once been a big fish in a small bowl whereas now it seemed a small fish in a very big bowl. But Søren’s love for history and his Danish heritage was infectious. The stories told by Søren combined with the ability to see actual sites, to see the tombs of famous kings, and to walk the hallways of famous castles not only impressed Cassidy but helped her to begin to appreciate history, not only that of Denmark but also that of her homeland.

Søren had a special affinity for Helsingør’s Kronborg Slot (Kronborg Castle) a mighty fortress that is better known as Hamlet’s Castle of Elsinore, but his most prideful times were spent at the Domkirke (Cathedral) in Roskilde. The 800-year-old cathedral, containing the tombs of 38 Danish monarchs, offered a quick course in Danish history, and was undoubtedly his favorite site. Cassidy loved two nearby spots, Hillerød’s Frederiksborg Slot (Frederiksborg Castle), the most beautiful and romantic castle in Denmark (if not in all of Scandinavia), and the simple but elegant Ringstedlund in Rungsted, home of Baroness Karen Blixen, better known as Isak Dinesen, author of Out of Africa. There, amidst the beautiful gardens and stately home, Cassidy felt as though she herself was on a grand adventure.

Seemingly as important to Søren as the famous historical sites were the small piers and wharves that seemed to dot every coastal village. He was a master of fishing from these piers and caught an amazing number of fish—mackerel, plaice, sole and even the larger sea trout in season.

But fishing, and studying the fish that he caught, was only part of the reason he visited the piers. Cassidy learned that Søren’s love for pier fishing had started at an early age when, as a young boy, he would accompany his father on fishing trips to many of the same piers. Martin Åstrup, a learned and wise man, and a leading figure in the country, easily could have fished from the more productive boats. However, he felt the piers gave him a chance to study life in Denmark. He said they provided a glimpse into the “Danish soul.” Martin would fish while conversing with those he considered most important—the common man—and instilled that love of the piers and their sociological nature into Søren.

Although wealthy by many standards, Søren’s love of his country and its sensible attitudes precluded the elitist attitudes sometimes seen in the rich. The values instilled by his father, and the common-folk discussions he continued to enjoy at the piers, helped guarantee that fact.

Of course Søren and Cassidy loved København and they spent many a romantic night at the magical Tivoli, but it was near the foot of the small, understated statue of Der Lille Havfrue (Little Mermaid) that Søren proposed marriage to Cassidy, and where she accepted. By year’s end it had been decided that Cassidy would apply to college in Denmark and that the two would wed upon Søren’s graduation in two years.

Surprisingly the news did not shock Cassidy’s parents, they had visited Denmark during Cassidy’s Easter break and had fallen in love themselves with the tiny land and its famous hygge (sense of cosiness). Two weeks with Søren and his family had left them with admiration and a sense of connectiveness to their projected in-laws. They felt lucky to have Søren, his family, and Cassidy’s newly adopted home in their future. They would certainly miss the close contact they had always had with Cassidy but couldn’t find fault in her decision.

Both Søren and Cassidy studied hard in school while their love matured and strengthened. In what seemed a mere flick of the eye, Søren had finished his initial studies, Cassidy was finishing her second year at the university, and their wedding was at hand. The service was held at the Asminderød Church, a Romanesque parish church built in the 12th century and the church Søren’s parents and paternal grandparents had been married in. The church was simple in design and adornment but rich in the atmosphere of history. Cassidy said she could actually feel the 800 years of emotions, faith and hope contained within its walls; the simple edifice seemed to give one more glimpse into why Denmark is such an exceptional land.

Following the wedding, and the nearly all-night-long dinner and party (with perhaps a few too many celebratory skoal salutes), Søren and Cassidy got a few hour’s sleep before departing on the long planned honeymoon—what Søren called “A Sampling of Scandinavia.”

Soon after their breakfast they traveled to Helsingør where they would catch the ferry and its short, two-mile-long ride across the narrow Øresund (sound) to Sweden’s Helsingborg. Before departure, Søren made sure to check out the mackerel fisherman casting their lures from the promenade adjacent to the ferry slip. Then on to the ferry and soon they were off. As the ferry pulled away from shore both gave a short salute to the mighty Kronburg fortress that sits just a short distance upshore from the ferry landing. With a big grin Søren theatrically blew a kiss to his beloved homeland, Denmark, in case their ship should sink.

Forty minutes later they were in Helsingborg and began their journey through the southern part of Sweden on way to Stockholm. In Stockholm they stayed on the Gamla Stan, the small island (and Old Town) with its Riddarholmskyrkan (Riddarholm Church) that contains the tombs of Swedish monarchs. Although interesting, Søren declared it was no match for Denmark’s cathedral in Roskilde. Nevertheless, he was forced to admit that the plethora of impressive buildings perhaps entitled Stockholm to be called Scandinavia’s second greatest capital. Of course the greatest would always be Copenhagen, of that there was little doubt. Nor was the Swedish beer a match for Copenhagen’s Carlsberg or Tuborg. At least according to the Gospel of Søren.

Naturally Søren also made time to visit the anglers who were seen fishing the waters that ringed the island. Those waters, in the center of one of the world’s great cities, contained fish, including large salmon, that brought forth fishermen to its shores much of the year. Begrudgingly, Søren admitted that the local fishing might be the single advantage Stockholm had over Copenhagen.

Next up was a drive back through the middle of Sweden north to Norway. Glorious forests, lupine covered meadows, 101 moose crossing signs, and a single moose, provided an idyllic break from the big city atmosphere of Stockholm.

Only two days were spent in Oslo, Norway’s small but beautiful capital city. Søren loved the Vikingskipuset (Viking Ship Museum) while Cassidy was amazed by the human statuary of Vigelandsparken (Frokner Park). Both stood at the podium in the main hall at Rådhuset (Oslo City Hall) where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded each year and each accepted their prize most gracefully while filming one another with their cell phones. Both admired the waterfront and its boats offering up fresh shrimp from nearby waters while Søren made sure to check out the local fishing that was available from boat and wharf. Søren once again had to admit the fact that a neighboring Scandinavian capital was actually impressive. But again, he said, it was no match for his beautiful Copenhagen.

Next was the incredibly scenic ride to coastal Bergen with its stunning fjords and hills. Both Søren and Cassidy agreed that the picture-book setting of Bergen was one of the most beautiful sites they had ever seen and both hated it when the time drew near to move on to the next phase of their trip. However, it was soon time for a leisurely drive back to Oslo before heading south to visit Sweden’s Bohuslän coast north of Göteborg. It would be the last area they would be visiting before heading home and starting their normal life as husband and wife.

A highlight of the Bohuslän coast was the weekend they would spend at Havsateljén, an enticing cottage located on a small pier at the Lysekil Havshotell in Lysekil. Although at first it sounded a little unromantic to Cassidy, it turned out that the cottage was a favorite site for wedding parties and honeymooners. Søren could fish from the pier and visit the local aquarium, Cassidy could sunbath and swim, and both could enjoy the enchanting view from their own private pier.

In addition, it was only a short drive to Fjällbacka, a tiny village whose softly pasteled homes are scattered amidst the ragged rocky outcroppings of the area. One lure of the town was the fact that it had once been the site of Ingrid Bergman’s summer home and that it contained a statue overlooking the water where her ashes were scattered. The statue, and its shoreline area, was a reverential spot for Cassidy, a cineast who became a huge Bergman fan after watching the actress play Ilsa in the movie Casablanca. Søren would always be her Rick Blaine and she would always be his Ilsa Lund.

A special amenity for Søren at Havsateljén was the ability to use the pier’s small sailboat and he intended to make use of that privilege. Although Søren spent most of his leisure time at the coast on the various piers, he had learned to sail and was becoming quite adept at the sport; this would give him further chance to practice his skills. After a wonderful dinner, and a beautiful night on the pier, Søren rose early to go sailing amongst some of the nearby islands and skurries that make Bohuslän’s coast so famous. Cassidy decided to stay back, do a little reading, and perhaps visit the town and its shops.

The last image Cassidy had of Søren was the special smile, wave, and kiss that he threw to her as he exited the pier in his boat. As Cassidy bathed and got ready for her walk into town, she was unaware of the unusual and unexpected summer storm that descended on the area. A malevolent storm, heavy with black clouds, deafening rain, and powerful winds, greeted Cassidy upon her emergence from the bath and it was obvious her walk would have to wait.

More worrisome was her concern for Søren. She knew Søren was a skilled sailor who had traversed ugly seas at home but you still always worry. Worry began to turn to fear by noon when he was nearly an hour late in returning. By 1 P.M. she had notified the hotel’s manager that he was late and soon after a search began. For hours there was little word. Søren had disappeared but most felt he had probably sailed into one of the small islands and taken shelter from the storm. And, given the electrical disturbances from the storm, it was easy to see how he might have lost telephone contact. However, late in the day, pieces of the small boat that Søren had planned to sail amongst the region’s islets were found. His body was missing.

Cassidy refused to believe he was lost or had drowned and spent several days waiting for his return. She cleaned his clothes and each night lit a candle near the window still somehow thinking beyond reason that it might guide him back to her. But the Gods of Scandinavia can be every bit as cruel as those in ancient Greece. Søren did not return and eventually the police declared him dead even though they never found his body. Cassidy was devastated, and refused to ever say out loud that he was dead, but she did once again visit Fjällbacka and its sad statue. There, amidst a silent and private outpouring of tears, she bid goodbye to Søren, the one true love of her life.

Cassidy didn’t know how she could go on with life, or even if she wished to continue, but in time she returned to Denmark and finished college. Denmark though is a small country and it seemed wherever Cassidy went there were sights that gave haunting remembrance of the time that Cassidy and Søren had spent together. Those memories proved too painful and eventually Cassidy decided she should return to the United States. Søren’s parents, who had grown to love Cassidy and considered her a true daughter, were heartbroken but understood her pain. In her honor they had made a small pendant copied from one found in an ancient Viking burial ground. On its back were the names Cassidy and Søren along with the Viking sign for love. She would wear the pendant for the rest of her life for it seemed to brush her skin with the same tenderness that Søren had once shown.

Back home, Cassidy moved into a solo apartment and eventually began a successful position as an art curator at a famous Los Angeles art museum. Art in its many forms had always intrigued Cassidy and now her life centered on that art. She worked long hours, took minimal time off, and spent vacations at other art centers. She seemed content and satisfied with her job.

Relations with others was more complex. Though popular, her manner had become somewhat detached and unemotional. Co-workers found her both friendly and helpful but she had few close friends. Men who would be attracted by her beauty and intellect soon found she was unavailable. She simply had no interest in a new romance; she would always love Søren. No one could or would replace the Danish Viking that held hold of her heart.

One day, quite by accident, Cassidy discovered the Family at the pier. A friend had invited her to lunch on the pier and the visit sparked a long-forgotten memory of a story Søren had once told of a group at the pier, a group he considered his friends. After lunch she found the Family and seemed to bond almost immediately even though she never really considered herself a fisher. It might seem a strange group to some, but it was a group of good people often doing good deeds. Søren’s death had toughened Cassidy in many ways but also left her vulnerable. The Family at the pier seemed to portray that same sense of hygge that she had felt in Denmark, a sense of cosiness (and perhaps closeness) that was needed to bring out the kindness that had remained hidden away in her heart for many years.

She also remembered the words of Martin Åstrup and the counsel he had given Søren regarding piers and the humanity they contained; she had heard the message and would share in that direction. Cassidy became one of the strongest and most nurturing members of the Family and they, in turn, would be the only ones on the pier privileged to hear the story of her husband Søren and to see the small pendant that seemed to permanently adorn her neck, the pendant proclaiming the love of Cassidy and her Viking Prince.

Lay him down
Dress him fine,
Weave flowers in his beard;
For he is loved,
He is mine,
Paid for with my tears.​

Battles over,
Warrior King
Respected by his peers;
Hold his image
Sing his songs
To echo through the years.​

Upon the waters
Send him well.
Let the flames begin;
Valhalla waits
While my heart breaks
And yearns to burn with him.​

“Viking Funeral” — Michele Brenton​


Well-Known Member
As in many love stories, a bit of tragedy deepens the emotion felt by the reader. Well done, Ken.
Reminds me of Darcie Farrow by John Denver.
At some point in life, I think we're reminded of the loves we may have lost and the ones that came along and saved our lives. Keep it up.
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Well-Known Member
What? No more family?
If not, I could use an epic finale.
I grew up on sitcoms and MASH, Mary Tyler Moore and Cheers! come to mind.
For instance, what eventually happened to Alberto?
I loved how Steinbeck capped Cannery Row with Sweet Thursday. The sight of Doc Riding off with Suzy as Fauna, Mac and the boys wave goodbye takes some of the sting off the image of Ed Ricketts finishing his workday and heading to his final rendezvous with the Del Monte Express.
Can't wait.