Philip Parker

Norse Code

Beyond the Northlands: Viking Voyages and the Old Norse Sagas

By

Oxford University Press 317pp £25 order from our bookshop

The Vikings entered history with a bang. The year 793, marked by their unheralded attack on the monastery of Lindisfarne, where they descended like ‘stinging hornets’ and ‘fearful wolves’ to enslave or slaughter the defenceless monks, has become a somewhat predictable prelude to most histories of these Scandinavian raiders. Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough’s new entry into the genre is no exception, but Beyond the Northlands soon diverges from its more run-of-the-mill companions. For this is history as the Vikings might have told it, not from the dusty annals of their victims, but through the medium of the sagas, those collections of boastful tales forged in the harshness of northern winters, in which heroic misdeeds and judicious exaggeration were often privileged over narrative rigour or the small matter of facts.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Since Dylan’s commercial and ideological heyday, the intrusion of sociology, semiology and post-structuralist thou… ,
    • 'One of the reasons for its longevity is that it has virtually nothing to say about science and technology at all,… ,
    • 'The characters in many of these stories are trapped in the obsessive present tense of their own thoughts; in the m… ,
    • 'Libraries, for much of their existence, have embodied in microcosm many of the characteristics of the totalitarian… ,
    • 'Moss and Cynthia buy several properties through which to launder their ill-gotten gains, take lots of drugs, have… ,
    • 'Never mind the imperial cult. This is the cult of Boris. What happened to Rome?' From the LR archive:… ,
    • Thirty-two years ago this month, we published Muriel Spark's short story, 'A Playhouse Called Remarkable' Read it… ,