Song of the Vikings
As I’ve mentioned before, My Own True Love and I are in countdown mode for a history nerd trip to Iceland. As a result, my head is full of Vikings. *
We’re going on a tour based on Nancy Marie Brown’s excellent Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths. The heart of Brown’s book is the thirteenth century Icelandic poet, chieftain, and schemer Snorri Sturluson, whose poetry is the source of much of what we know about Viking culture and Norse mythology.** Brown uses Snorri as a lens through which to discuss Norse mythology, the complicated world of medieval Iceland, and the even more complicated aesthetics of skaldic poetry.*** Some of the most interesting parts of the book deal with the cultural impact of Snorri’s poetry on later artists–think Wagner, Tolkien, Gaiman, Marvel Comics.
Brown is an excellent story teller. If you’re interested in Tolkien, Vikings, medieval history, or the roots of Thor and Loki, I strongly recommend Song of the Vikings.
Stay tuned for breaking news from the field.
*Not to mention hiking boots, sunscreen, flexible layers, water bottles, and an overseas phone plan.
**It’s important to point out that the Viking period is generally defined as lasting from the eighth through the eleventh centuries. When he’s writing about the Iceland of his time, he’s a primary source; when he’s writing about Norse mythology he’s an oral historian. Or at least that’s my humble take on it.
***James Joyce is a breeze by comparison.
I read this book a year or two ago and struggled with it. Having no background killed me! I’ll have to revisit it now that I know more.
My trick for when I’m floundering because of no background: head to the children’s section of the library!