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Song of the Vikings; Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths

Song of the Vikings; Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths

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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 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.
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.

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Publish date: Oct 30, 2012
Added to Scribd: Oct 03, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercialISBN:9780230338845

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song of the vikings
Copyright © Nancy Marie Brown, 2012.All rights reserved.First published in 2012 by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN® in the U.S.—a division o St.Martin’s Press LLC, 175 Fith Avenue, New York, NY 10010.Where this book is distributed in the UK, Europe, and the rest o the world, this isby Palgrave Macmillan, a division o Macmillan Publishers Limited, registered inEngland, company number 785998, o Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG216XS.Palgrave Macmillan is the global academic imprint o the above companies and hascompanies and representatives throughout the world.Palgrave® and Macmillan® are registered trademarks in the United States, the UnitedKingdom, Europe, and other countries.ISBN: 978-0-230-33884-5Library o Congress Cataloging-in-Publication DataBrown, Nancy Marie.Song o the Vikings : Snorri and the making o Norse myths / Nancy Marie Brown.pages cmIncludes bibliographical reerences and index.ISBN 978-0-230-33884-5 (hardback)1. Snorri Sturluson, 1179?–1241—Criticism and interpretation. 2. Old Norseliterature—Inuence. 3. Literature and society—Scandinavia—History. I. Title.PT7335.Z5B76 2012839’.63—dc232012012031A catalogue record o the book is available rom the British Library.Design by Letra LibreFirst edition: October 201210 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1Printed in the United States o America.
FoS. Leonard Rubinstein,Samuel P. Bayard, and Ernst Ebbinghaus 
 
Contents 
Map of Iceland in Snorri’s Time 
vi
Snorri’s Family Tree 
viii
Preface 
Gandal ix 
Introduction 
The Wizard o the North 1
On
Odin’s Eye 9
Tw
The Uncrowned King o Iceland 37
Three 
On the Quay at Bergen 69
Four 
Norse Gods and Giants 103
Five 
Independent People 137
Si
The Ring 171
Acknowledgments 
207
Notes 
209
Further Reading 
235
Index 
238

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the_hibernator reviewed this
Rated 4/5
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 affected 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.
amberfib reviewed this
Rated 3/5
As someone who is interested in Viking lore, this book was incredibly interesting. I enjoyed learning about Snorri's life and how events shaped his work. The mythology and lore woven into this biography were also intriguing and added another layer to what could have been simply "another dull biography." While I did enjoy this book, there were many assumptions that could not be backed up apparent in this book. Brown inserts her own voice and her own opinions quite often, but rarely does she include any substantial proof to support these views. Other than that, this book was highly enjoyable. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about Norse mythology and those who created the stories.
bobvtreader reviewed this
Rated 4/5
AN interesting history and biography of Snorri. Learned that the genealogy of Iceland is complex. Excellent read, especially for anyone interested in myths etc.
stephenbarkley reviewed this
Rated 4/5
Have you ever wondered where Tolkien came up with the name Gandalf—or, for that matter, Bifur, Bafur, Bombor, Nori, Ori, and Oin? These all come from Norse mythology, the folktales of Iceland. If you want to learn anything about Norse mythology, you'll end up studying Snorri Sturluson, the definitive scribe of these tales.Despite the reputation of Islanders, Snorri was no archetypal Viking. He was a rather portly ruler who used political power to make a fine life for himself. Brown's book is chiefly a biography of Snorri, with Norse myths sprinkled throughout to shed light on his character.One of the most interesting (and tragic) elements of Islandic history in the 1200s was the heavy-handed influence of Christianity. Bishops from the mainland tried to rein in the excess of the island's residents with little success. As a Christian, it's difficult to read how closely Christianity was tied to the politics of the day. (A cynic may offer the same criticism today!)Norse poetry is another curious topic that Brown covers in some detail. Rather than an aesthetic exercise, Snorri's poetry was essentially a word-game where the reader was expected to mull over the phrases to ken what the poet was actually talking about.This book is dense. At times it is difficult to follow the various unfamiliar names and places. Still, a close reading is rewarded with a solid understanding of the foundations of Norse mythology.
sebastianhagelstein reviewed this
Rated 5/5
Song of The Vikings tells about the life, rise to power, and subsequent fall, of Snorri Sturluson. Born in Iceland in 1178, Snorri went from foster child to Chieftain, to Law Speaker at 37 years old– the only elected position in Iceland’s government, to the uncrowned King of Iceland. By the age of 40 he held seven chieftaincies, and “wielded more power than any Icelander before him.” Along the way he wrote many sagas, such as the Edda, Egil’s Saga, and Heimskringla. His alliances, built over the years, slowly fell apart as he made new enemies, even of his family. Snorri ended up being murdered in his nightgown, hiding in his cellar.As a writer, Snorri had a great and lasting influence on literature and western culture through his writings. Snorri is credited with writing most, if not all, of the Norse myths. Snorri influenced such writers as William Blake, Sir Walter Scott, The Brothers Grimm, Longfellow, Tennyson, Ibsen, Wagner, Tolkien, Thomas Hardy, Ursula LeGuin, and Neil Gaiman, among others. Many fantasy writers are also indebted to Snorri. With illustrations, photos, a map, Snorri’s family tree, notes, and a further reading section,
pmtracy reviewed this
Rated 4/5
Who the heck is Snorri Sturluson? I had no idea until reading this book but I was amazed to find the impact that this writer of 13th Century Icelandic sagas has had on literature. The book provides a very detailed narrative of Snorri's life while making references to the effect that events were having on his work. There are also some similarities drawn between real people and the mythic characters that Snorri brought to life. There are a few short snippets of his sagas and some Nordic mythology is reviewed but this is a book about Snorri, not his work. There are numerous references to the Prose Edda and other works so it might be helpful to the reader if they have actually read one or more of Snorri's sagas prior to reading this book.Modern authors have drawn heavily from Snorri. What I found most interesting is the constant tension between fire and ice in Snorri's writing and this appears in George R.R. Martin's works. Neil Gaiman's American Gods is also based on Snorri's Nordic mythology. Snorri even influenced design motifs popularized during the American Arts and Crafts movement in the work of William Morris. However, the greatest borrower was J.R.R. Tolkien. Characters from his popular works were lifted directly from Snorri. Even the concept of "one ring" comes from a story of Odin and Loki in the Volsunga Saga. The structure of Skaldic poetry was shown to be intricate and complex; the formation of which was like building a puzzle. Puzzles and riddles appear often in Tolkien's work. Those of us that enjoy modern epic fantasies owe some thanks to Snorri.After reading Song of the Vikings, I have a new appreciation for Nordic contributions to our language, literature and culture.
jbd1 reviewed this
Rated 4/5
I confess, I don't know much about Norse mythology, but Nancy Marie Brown's Song of the Vikings makes me want to go out and read as much about them as I possibly can. Brown's book is partly a history of the Icelandic sagas themselves: where they came from, how they've been passed down over the centuries, and how they've been used (and misused) in literature and politics. But it's mostly the story of one man, Snorri Sturluson, who is largely responsible for the fact that we know much about these Icelandic sagas at all. Some of them he recorded, others of them he seems to have come up with himself.Brown tells Snorri's story to the extent it's possible to do so, weaving his complex biography into the story of his writings and the stories which inspired them. It's quite a tale, worthy of the sagas!The final chapter traces the long life of Snorri's stories as they were told and retold, translated and published, read and understood and put to use by later writers, from Tolkien to Wagner to Gaiman. The book would be worth it for that single chapter alone, but the rest is also well worth a read. Fascinating stuff.
streem2134 liked this

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