Want to know more about the Vikings? Here are five books that talk about the Norsemen, including their combs and their language.
By Angus Somerville and R. Andrew McDonald
University of Toronto Press, 2013
While this book might only be 160 pages, it is one of the best introductory guides to the Vikings and covers a lot of ground. It is designed to be a textbook to be used in undergraduate classes, but it also offers a quick read with a few pages given per topic. The first chapter starts with the question ‘Who were the Vikings?’ and goes on to look at how the Vikings expanded across northern Europe. The second chapter looks at the social and family history of the Vikings, and how they converted from Norse paganism to Christianity. The third chapter offers biographies of six men and two women from the Viking Age, including Egil Skallagrimsson and Erik the Red. The fourth chapter asks ‘How do we know about the Vikings?’ and covers the various sources that exist, including the sagas and Norse poetry.
Lilla Kopar, of The Catholic University of America adds in a review: “The Vikings and Their Age is a handy guide for navigating the vast and sometimes troubled seas of Viking Studies. It offers a concise and colorful introduction to the history, society, and culture of the Viking world, masterfully integrating documentary records, material evidence, and literary texts. Through its critical engagement with source materials, references to current scholarly issues, and presentation of select individuals, objects, and texts, the book is also a methodological guide to the study of the Viking Age. Whether approached as a stand-alone volume or as a companion to the authors’ comprehensive The Viking Age: A Reader, it could serve equally as a helpful undergraduate textbook or as an engaging and informative jump-start for graduate students with an interdisciplinary interest in the Viking Age.”
By Steven P. Ashby
Amberley Publishing, 2013
This book is about life in the Viking Age, explored through one of its most important and recognisable artefacts – the hair comb. While objects such as swords and battleaxes may be more familiar to us, these tell us little about daily life in the Viking Age. The comb is different; it was a familiar object in Norse society, while simultaneously holding great symbolic power. The Viking Age comb still holds a fascination today, not merely for its technical sophistication or aesthetic appeal, but for what it can tell us about the people who made and traded combs, and those who lived and died with them. The comb repeatedly intersects with quotidian existence and provides an invaluable window into a distant society and culture.
Excerpt: Why Combs?
Notwithstanding the above, the reasons for a book on a subject as apparently esoteric as Viking haircare may require some clarification. To the archaeologist, early medieval hair combs are familiar and useful artefacts, being relatively frequent, dateable finds from urban excavations in the British Isles and northern Europe. Their lives were much shorter than other forms of material culture (such as buildings), and it has been suggested that they were rarely curated or passed down the family line (though we will come back to this question later in the book). This means that where their styles are easily recognisable, combs make extremely useful archaeological dating tools.
Edited by Letty ten Harkel and D. M. Hadley
Oxbow Books, 2013
The study of early medieval towns has frequently concentrated on urban beginnings, the search for broadly applicable definitions of urban characteristics and the chronological development of towns. Far less attention has been paid to the experience of living in towns. Articles include:
- Living in Viking-Age towns (David Griffiths)
- Towns and identities in Viking England (Gareth Williams)
- Viking Dublin: enmities, alliances and the cold gleam of silver (Emer Purcell and John Sheehan)
- Beyond longphuirt? Life and death in early Viking-Age Ireland (Stephen H. Harrison)
- From country to town: social transitions in Viking-Age housing (Rebecca Boyd)
- Childhood in Viking and Hiberno-Scandinavian Dublin, 800–1100 (Deirdre McAlister)
- Whither the warrior in Viking-Age towns? (D. M. Hadley)
- Aristocrats, burghers and their markets: patterns in the foundation of Lincoln’s urban churches (David Stocker)
- More than just meat: animals in Viking-Age towns (Kristopher Poole)
- No pots please, we’re Vikings: pottery in the southern Danelaw, 850–1000 (Paul Blinkhorn)
- Of towns and trinkets: metalworking and metal dress-accessories in Viking-Age Lincoln (Letty ten Harkel)
- Making a good comb: mercantile identity in 9th- to 11th-century England (Steven P. Ashby)
- Craft and handiwork: wood, antler and bone as an everyday material in Viking-Age Waterford and Cork (Maurice F. Hurley)
By Elizabeth Ashman Rowe
Verlag Fassbaender, 2012
The famous but legendary Danish Viking Age king Ragnarr, who was nicknamed “loðbrók” (“Shaggy breeches”), was extremely popular in medieval Iceland. Some Icelanders claimed he was one of their own ancestors, others maintained that the kings of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark could trace their lineage back to him. All said that his son Ívarr was one of the most notable Vikings in England. But were any of these stories true? This book investigates the legend of Ragnarr and his sons from historical as well as literary perspectives and uncovers the startling origin of his nickname, significant dates in the development of the legend, and the surprising role of clerical authors in spreading his story.
By Jesse L. Byock
Viking Language 1 is an introduction to Old Norse, runes, Icelandic sagas, and the culture of the Vikings. The 15 graded lessons include vocabulary and grammar exercises, 35 readings, pronunciation, 15 maps, 45 illustrations, and 180 exercises. Journey through Viking Age Denmark, Iceland, Greenland, Norway, Sweden, Britain, Russia, and Byzantium with original Old Norse readings of Vikings, Norse mythology, heroes, sacred kingship, blood feuds, and daily life.
Review by Nancy Marie Brown: “Viking Language 1 by Jesse Byock is the book I was looking for 30 years ago when I decided I had to learn to read the Icelandic sagas in the original.”