The next day, Eric explains the painting to the men from the Swedish National Museum.
It's a scene from an ancient legend, showing the sacrifice of King Eirikr, who died on this very island. When the crops had failed for three straight years, the king let himself be slaughtered to appease the gods. Spooky.
In fact, Eric tells them, the name of the place they're at—Blest Island—actually means blood. "To bless means to sacrifice, and in blood."
Awkward. The museum guys thank Eric for his time and start the shuffle toward the door.
That did not go well.
Later, Eric thinks to himself about the painting. Is his subject outdated? Do people not sacrifice anymore? Nope. As long as people are suffering and loving and losing, there will be sacrifice.
A mother who dies in childbirth? That's a sacrifice, and no one's going to convince him otherwise.
Days later, Merle and Bridget finally hear from Eric. He sends a note to let them know he's gotten his answer from those fancy museum guys.
To say they don't like the painting is an understatement: They say that Midwinterblood "is a creepy, scandalous scene of dubious historicity and is no more relevant to us, modern men, than a scene of cannibalism from the darkest Africa."