Song of the Vikings, by Nancy Marie Brown

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

Written by Nancy Marie Brown

Reason for Reading: This book was provided by the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review. 

Review
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. 

7 thoughts on “Song of the Vikings, by Nancy Marie Brown

  1. Sounds like a very interesting. I really want to know more of the Vikings as I too know very little.

    Lately I have read a few history books and biographies where the facts are obscure due to the passage of time and the author thus has struggled. Currently I am reading The Rise of Rome by Anthony Everitt and this is a major issue in this book. It is indeed a challenge for both reader s and writers.

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  2. Yes, sometimes it's unavoidable to speculate in books like these – but I always appreciate reviews which tell me what sort of book it is…highly academic vs. popular, etc. I'll read books that are either, but it's good to know what I'm about to read! 🙂

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