Ahoy! Yes, I’m back again and I’m starting to fly through this reading challenge. Book number 3 is done and on the read pile. I’m feeling quite impressed with myself, although I have bought four books this month so the to-read pile isn’t exactly shrinking.
Also I’m having a very good week, I had some very good results back from uni and I’m feeling rather pleased with myself which led to stuffing chocolate into my face and Star Wars: a New Hope.
So! The Vinland Sagas, the Norse Discovery of America:
This is my copy of the book, as you can see it is another old book, its one of my many charity shop finds, the pages are mostly brown with age. Why this book? Out of all of the books in the world why this one? My best mate is Norwegian, through him I’ve discovered a love for Scandinavia, I like Vikings, and I was a little curious from the title I guess. This was a wildcard choice in my reading challenge, its quite a short book, and its a translation. The introduction tells much of suspect history, the Saga’s themselves, (there are two of them) belong to a history of saga writing and a lot of theory on the reality of the history behind the Sagas. Supposedly Sagas were written and delved out to the people to help stave off ignorance.
It’s kind of interesting, they aren’t written particularly prettily or elaborately. They’re a little more like a historical record, or a matter of fact telling with very little excitement or suspense (particularly the first). But enjoyable none the less as it is a record of journey and the lives of several Vikings (male and female). The second Saga is a little more elaborately written as if story telling had began to adopt embellishment if my assumption is correct and the second Saga came later. The second Saga is also a little less violent, as in the first one of the women kills a host of men and women with her bare hands.
Generally I feel as if there’s not much I can say about this, perhaps if my history was better or if I had a greater interest in Viking activities I may have gotten a little more from it. My history is a little clearer now when it comes to the affairs of Scandinavia, I have a patchy knowledge of somethings that I’ve been told. But more than anything I quite like being able to land these Sagas in with somewhere I’ve visited. Borgund Stave Church, was built around 1180 which is a similar era to when these Sagas were set.
I also have a rudimentary knowledge of the differences between New Norse and Old Norse, linguistically there is a struggle in Norway between dialects and a struggle to preserve dialect. Old Norse is closer to Icelandic and an older dialect, closer perhaps to what the Vikings would have spoken. Adding to this, if I remember correctly, Iceland is the reason Sagas like these were written and told, as Iceland became a cultural hub providing story telling to the masses. It’s a lovely connection to be able to make. Certainly it creates romantic images of a wintery Tower of Babel in my mind surrounded by a hard and fierce people.
Certainly, all Sagas are embroidered and to what extent is really up to historians to debate. But I enjoyed this book, even if the introduction just furthered my limited knowledge of Viking affairs. It may have been my wildcard pick and already in my collection, but ordinarily this is certainly not something I would have read without a little challenge and encouragement.