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Much like Greek and Roman mythology, Norse myths are still with us. Famous storytellers from JRR Tolkien to Neil Gaiman have drawn their inspiration from the long-haired, mead-drinking, marauding and pillaging Vikings. Their creator is a thirteenth-century Icelandic chieftain by the name of Snorri Sturluson. Like Homer, Snorri was a bard, writing down and embellishing the folklore and pagan legends of medieval Scandinavia. Unlike Homer, Snorri was a man of the world—a wily political power player, one of the ...
Much like Greek and Roman mythology, Norse myths are still with us. Famous storytellers from JRR Tolkien to Neil Gaiman have drawn their inspiration from the long-haired, mead-drinking, marauding and pillaging Vikings. Their creator is a thirteenth-century Icelandic chieftain by the name of Snorri Sturluson. Like Homer, Snorri was a bard, writing down and embellishing the folklore and pagan legends of medieval Scandinavia. Unlike Homer, Snorri was a man of the world—a wily political power player, one of the richest men in Iceland who came close to ruling it, and even closer to betraying it… In Song of the Vikings, award-winning author Nancy Marie Brown brings Snorri Sturluson’s story to life in a richly textured narrative that draws on newly available sources.
“An important undertaking...The first English-language book published on Snorri in 30 years…Readers will feel affected by the loss of this powerful and complicated man.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Nancy Marie Brown has taught me that the roots of this part run deeper than I knew — down through “Norse Gods and Giants” to the imagination of a gouty poet, historian, and lawyer drinking beer in his hot tub eight centuries ago.” —The Boston Globe
“From magic swords and giants’ gloves to murders in dank cellars, Brown’s story of Snorri Sturluson’s Iceland raises some interesting questions about the literary cannon and shines light on an author whose history could easily have lost.” —Portland Book Review
"'Snorri is the Homer of the North,’ says Brown in this wonderfully evocative biography, rich with Norse myths, told against the stark backdrop of Iceland in the middle ages…thanks to his ‘wizardry with words’ he lives on in our imaginations, inspiring the likes of Richard Wagner, Neil Gaiman and Tolkien, whose Bilbo Baggins is like Snorri himself: ‘fat, cowardly, clever, a collector of old lore, and overly fond of his food and drink’. A remarkable insight into a lost world of magic and myth, best read with a flagon of golden mead – Odin and Snorri's favourite drink.”—PD Smith, The Guardian
"For readers who've long sensed that older winds blow through the works of their beloved Tolkien, Song of the Vikings is a fitting refresher on Norse mythology. Without stripping these dark tales of their magic, Nancy Marie Brown shows how mere humans shape myths that resonate for centuries—and how one brilliant scoundrel became, for all time, the 'Homer of the North.' " —Jeff Sypeck, author of Becoming Charlemagne
"In medieval Iceland, one of the most remote corners of the known Earth, a very un-Viking Norseman named Snorri Storluson crafted the heroic mythology on which rests everything from Wagner's Ring cycle and the Brothers Grimm to Tolkein (who considered Snorri's work more central to English literature than Shakespeare's) and even the evils of Nazism. In "Song of the Vikings," Nancy Marie Brown brings to vivid life this age of poetic Viking skalds, of blood feuds and vengeance raids, of royal intrigue and fierce independence, when the barren, beautiful landscape of the North was haunted by trolls, giants and dragons - all of which Snorri, the most important writer the world ever forgot, captured for eternity."—Scott Weidensaul, author of The First Frontier
"With wry wit and graceful prose Nancy Marie Brown takes us back to medieval Iceland and introduces us to perhaps the greatest storyteller of the period, Snorri Sturluson. Her depth of knowledge of the era, the rugged landscape, the Vikings, and their lifestyle is impressive." – Pat Shipman, author of To the Heart of the Nile
“For lovers of Medieval history, Norse legend, and myth in general, "Song of the Vikings" is a must read. Nancy Marie Brown has transformed her extensive knowledge of thirteenth-century Iceland into an accessible and interesting book. Bravo!”—Marilyn Yalom, author of Birth of the Chess Queen and How the French Invented Love
“Drawing upon her broad knowledge, Nancy Marie Brown not only skillfully situates Snorri’s powerful voice, his tales and his (mis)deeds, in their context, she also adeptly illuminates his modern appeal and curious afterlife in popular culture. This is a sober, well-informed, and imaginative take on Norse mythology.”—Gisli Palsson, author of Travelling Passions and professor of anthropology, University of Iceland
"Nancy Marie Brown, a clear and careful writer, has crafted a compelling evocation of Snorri Sturluson in his place and time, the Icelandic-Norse commonwealth of the turbulent thirteenth century. Although Snorri always remains at the center of this tale, Song of the Vikings is in many ways the biography of an entire, unusual people. Medieval Icelanders struggled for hundreds of years with their political allegiance, religious adherence, social structure and their remote island home itself with its awesome challenges to human existence. Furnished nine hundred years ago with the Latin alphabet, Icelanders began writing remarkable narratives of their own lives and of their Norse heritage—and clever, wily Snorri has long been considered by many scholars foremost among the medieval authors of Iceland as well as the leading power broker of his day on the island.
Nancy Marie Brown concludes her Song of the Vikings in truly constructive fashion with an absorbing essay on the reception of medieval Icelandic literature in the modern world, confirming the indelible signature of this sophisticated people on the texts of our global civilization, from Wagner and Tolkien to Thor (from Marvel Comics) and A.S. Byatt. Like her earlier The Far Traveler, on the expansive journeys of the Norse, Nancy Marie Brown’s Song of the Vikings belongs in the hands of every discerning student of Western civilization."—Patrick J. Stevens, Curator, the Fiske Icelandic Collection, Cornell University Library
Map of Iceland in Snorri's Time vi
Snorri's Family Tree viii
Preface Gandalf ix
Introduction The Wizard of the North 1
1 Odin's Eye 9
2 The Uncrowned King of Iceland 37
3 On the Quay at Bergen 69
4 Norse Gods and Giants 103
5 Independent People 137
6 The Ring 171
Further Reading 235
Posted May 21, 2013
Brown is a fantastic author. She tells an enthralling tale trecking both the tales of the gods, and Snorri's life. I found this book impossible to put down, and it was a great resource for an essay on 13th century Iceland.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 20, 2013
This engaging biography describes the life of Snorri Sturluson, a powerful 12th-century Icelandic chieftain and the author of the poetic Edda - one of the oldest surviving documents of Norse mythology. As a novice of Viking history, I found this book fascinating and informative - though I suspect that there is much speculation and Brown isn't always clear when she is speculating and when she has hard evidence for her claims. As such, I think this biography would be enjoyed by people who are interested in learning a bit about the Vikings, but not experts on the subject.
Brown started each chapter out with a legend out of Snorri's Edda. Often, she told how this legend differs from other known versions and/or how it has effected modern culture. The rest of the book describes Snorri's life - his youth in the household of "the uncrowned King of Iceland," his marriage, his rise to political power, and his downfall. She seemed to get most of her hard evidence from a few primary documents and an outwardly biased biography written by Snorri's nephew, so often she had to fill in the gaps by saying "it's possible it happened more like this, since his nephew's story doesn't really jive with Snorri's personality." Of course, that makes me wonder if she had just as much positive bias towards Snorri as his nephew had negative bias. Overall, though, I'd say this biography was a success. When there is so little information available, and when the book is intended for a popular crowd rather than an academic one, such speculation is necessary - it makes the book more fun.