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  • Clive Gilson

Vikings

Updated: Dec 14, 2019

Viking mythology is part of the body of myths of the North Germanic peoples, stemming from Norse paganism and continuing after the Christianisation of Scandinavia, and into the Scandinavian folklore of the modern period. The northernmost extension of Germanic mythology, Viking and Norse mythology consists of tales of various deities, beings, and heroes derived from numerous sources from both before and after the pagan period, including medieval manuscripts, archaeological representations, and folk tradition.


Viking mythology has been the subject of scholarly discourse since the 17th century, when key texts were brought to the attention of the intellectual circles of Europe. By way of comparative mythology and historical linguistics, scholars have identified elements of Germanic mythology reaching as far back as Proto-Indo-European mythology. During the modern period, the Romanticist Viking revival re-awoke an interest in the subject matter, and references to Norse mythology may now be found throughout modern popular culture.


The Vikings, who’s traditions this collection focuses on, were seafarers, mainly speaking the Old Norse language, who during the late 8th to late 11th centuries, raided and traded from their Northern European homelands across wide areas of Europe, and explored westwards to Iceland, Greenland, and Vinland. The term is also commonly extended in modern English and other vernaculars to the inhabitants of Norse home communities during what has become known as the Viking Age. This period of Nordic military, mercantile and demographic expansion constitutes an important element in the early medieval history of Scandinavia, Estonia, the British Isles, France, Kievan Rus' and Sicily.


A romanticised picture of Vikings as noble savages began to emerge in the 18th century and this developed and became widely propagated during the 19th-century Viking revival. Current popular representations of the Vikings are typically based on cultural clichés and stereotypes, complicating modern appreciation of the Viking legacy.


Continuing the theme of stories from northern lands, Tales from the Viking Isles concentrates on the Sagas taken from Viking isles, such as Iceland and The Faroe Isles. These forms are also known as family sagas, and were often told by the “skald” bards. For the most part these sagas take the form of prose narratives and are mostly based on historical events that took place in the 9th, 10th, and early 11th centuries. Many of these sagas are focused on history, especially genealogical and family history, and reflect the struggle and conflict that arose within the societies of the early generations of Island settlers.


The stories in this volume are taken from various collections including Andrew Lang’s Coloured Fairy Books, Jennie Hall’s Viking Tales and Nora Kershaw’s Stories and Ballads of the Far Past. They include original sourced from previous collectors such as Jón Árnason and collections such as Islandische Märchen and Neuisländischen Volksmärchen.

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