The Viking Age: A Reader

The Viking Age: A Reader

Edited by Angus A. Somerville and R. Andrew McDonald

University of Toronto Press, 2010
ISBN: 9781442601482

Publisher’s Synopsis: The diversity of the Viking world is illuminated in more than 100 readings contained in this primary source reader. The Norse translations, many of them new, are straightforward and easily accessible for students. The introductions contextualize the readings while allowing the sources to speak for themselves. All unfamiliar terms are explained unobtrusively in the body of the text. Thirteen black-and-white illustrations and one map provide visual context.



Chapter One: The Scandinavian Homelands
1. The Voyages of Ohthere and Wulfstan
2. A Description of the Islands of the North

Chapter Two: Scandinavian Society
3. The Lay of Rig
4. Politics in Harald Finehair’s Norway
5. Hoskuld Buys a Slave
6. How the Hersir Erling Treated His Slaves

Chapter Three: A Glimpse of Ninth-Century Scandinavia
7. The Life of Anskar

Chapter Four: Early Religion and Belief
8. The Norse Creation-Myth
9. Ragnarok: The Doom of the Gods
10. A Prophetess in Greenland
11. Odin’s Wisdom and Arts
12. Odin Welcomes Eirik Bloodax to Valhalla
13. Odin Hangs on Yggdrasil
14. Odin and Human Sacrifice
(a) The Death of King Vikar
(b) The Deaths of Domaldi and Olaf Tretelgja
15. Sigurd, the Earl of Lade, Sacrifices to the Gods
16. The Temple at Uppsala
17. A Temple in Iceland
18. King Harald Gormsson and the Land-Spirits
19. Norse Funeral Practices
(a) An Arab Description of a Viking Funeral
(b) Snorri’s History of Burial Practices
(c) Odin Orders Cremation and Becomes a God
(d) The Death of Baldur the Good
(e) Gunnar’s Burial Mound
20. The Living Dead
(a) Gunnar’s Posthumous Poem
(b) Grettir’s Fight with Glam

Chapter Five: Women in the Viking Age
21. Unn the Deep-Minded Takes Control of her Life
22. Queen Gunnhild Has her Way with Hrut
23. The Prowess of Freydis, Daughter of Eirik the Red
24. A Warrior-Woman
25. Gudrun Drives her Sons to Take Revenge
26. Gudrun Osvifrsdaughter’s Incitement of her Sons
27. The Goading of Hildigunn
28. Betrothals from the Sagas
(a) The Betrothal of Olaf Hoskuldsson
(b) How Unn Mordsdaughter Found Herself Betrothed
29. Divorces from the Sagas
(a) How Gudrun Divorced Thorvald
(b) Vigdis Divorces Thord Goddi
(c) How Aud Dealt with her Humiliating Divorce

Chapter Six: Viking Warriors and their Weapons
30. The Accomplishments of a Viking Warrior
(a) Earl Rognvald Kali on Being a Gentleman
(b) Gunnar Hamundarson, the Ideal Warrior
(c) Olaf Tryggvason, King of Norway
31. Berserkers and the Berserk Rage
(a) Odin’s Berserks
(b) The Rage of Skallagrim and Egil
(c) Egil Fights a Berserk
(d) Grettir Fights a Berserk
32. Weapons
(a) King Magnus Barelegs Dresses to Kill
(b) The Sword Skofnung
(c) Sigmund, Sigurd, and the Sword Gram
(d) Saint Olaf’s Sword, Hneitir
(e) Viking Age Swords

Chapter Seven: Fjord-Serpents: Viking Ships
33. King Olaf Tryggvason Builds the Long Serpent
34. Harald Sigurdarson’s Splendid Ship
35. King Sverrir’s Mariasud
36. The Great Ships of King Hakon IV
37. Animal Heads on the Prows of Ships
38. Sea-Battles in the Sagas
(a) A Hard-Fought Sea-Battle at Bute
(b) Olaf Tryggvason at the Battle of Svold
(c) Rognvald and Thorfinn the Mighty Fight It Out in the Orkneys
(d) Earl Rognvald in the Mediterranean
(e) The Battle of Fimreite (Norafjord), 1184

Chapter Eight: “Sudden and Unforeseen Attacks of Northmen”
39. On the Causes of the Viking Expansion
40. Viking Raids on England, 789-850/1
41. Alcuin’s Letter to King Athelred, 793
42. An English Gospel Book Ransomed from the Vikings
43. Viking Raids on Ireland, 795-842
44. The Martyrdom of Blathmac, 825
45. Irish Resistance to the Norsemen
46. Franks and Vikings, 800-829
47. The Northmen in France, 843-865
48. The Annals of St-Vast, 882-886
49. An Account of the Siege of Paris, 885-886
50. Vikings in the Iberian Peninsula
(a) Ibn al-Kutia
(b) Ibn Adhari

Chapter Nine: “The Heathens Stayed”: From Raiding to Settlement
51. Viking Activities in England, 851-900
52. The Vikings in Ireland, 845-917
53. Ketil Flatnose and his Descendants in the Hebrides
54. Earl Sigurd and the Establishment of the Earldom of Orkney
55. Runic Inscriptions from Maes Howe, Mainland, Orkney
56. Runic Inscriptions from the Isle of Man
57. Rollo Obtains Normandy from the King of the Franks

Chapter Ten: Austrveg: The Viking Road to the East
58. The Piraeus Lion
59. The Rus
60. The Rus Attack Constantinople
61. On the Arrival of the Varangians
62. A Muslim Diplomat Meets Viking Merchants
63. River Routes to Constantinople
64. A Norwegian Soldier of Fortune in the East
65. Rus Expeditions to the Middle East

Chapter Eleven: Into the Western Ocean, The Faeroes, Iceland, Greenland, and Vinland
66. The Islands in the Northern Ocean, ca 825
67. Sailing Directions and Distances in the North Atlantic
68. The Western Ocean
69. Adam of Bremen on Iceland
70. Icelandic Accounts of the Discovery and Settlement of Iceland
(a) The Book of the Icelanders
(b) The Book of Settlements
(c) The Saga of the People of Eyri
71. Skallagrim’s Landtake in Iceland
72. The Settlement of Greenland
(a) The Book of the Icelanders
(b) The Book of Settlements
73. The King’s Mirror on Greenland
74. Adam of Bremen on Vinland
75. The Norse Discovery of Vinland
76. Thorfinn Karlsefni in Vinland

Chapter Twelve: Viking Life and Death
77. Advice for Sailors and Merchants
78. Egil in Youth and Old Age
79. Svein Asleifarson’s Viking Life
80. The Jomsvikings Meet Their End
81. The Death of Gunnar
82. The Burning of Njal
83. The Death of Thormod Kolbrunarskald

Chapter Thirteen: From Odin to Christ
84. The Conversion of the Danes under Harald Bluetooth
85. Olaf Tryggvason and the Conversion of Norway
86. A Poet Abandons the Old Gods
87. The Christianization of Norway under Saint Olaf
88. The Conversion of the Icelanders
89. The Conversion of Greenland
90. The Conversion of Orkney
91. Christianity in Sweden
92. Christianity and the Church in Norway
93. The Travels of King Sigurd, Jerusalem-Farer

Chapter Fourteen: State-Building at Home and Abroad
94. Harald Finehair and the Unification of Norway
95. State-Making in Denmark: The Jelling Stone
96. State-Making in Denmark: Unification and Expansion
97. Knut the Great and the North Sea Empire
98. The Earldom of Orkney at Its Zenith

Chapter Fifteen: The End of the Viking Age
99. The Battle of Clontarf, 1014
100. The Battle of Stamford Bridge, 1066
101. The Decline of the Earls of Orkney
102. The Battle of Largs, 1263

103. Advice from Odin

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