By Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough
Within the loss of life days of the 8th century, the Vikings erupted onto the foreign degree with brutal raids and slaughter. The medieval Norsemen can be top remembered as monk murderers and village pillagers, yet this can be faraway from the total tale. through the center a long time, long-ships transported bushy northern voyagers in every single place, the place they not just raided but in addition traded, explored and settled new lands, encountered surprising races, and launched into pilgrimages and crusades.
The Norsemen travelled to all corners of the medieval international and past; north to the wastelands of arctic Scandinavia, south to the politically turbulent heartlands of medieval Christendom, west around the wild seas to Greenland and the fringes of the North American continent, and east down the Russian waterways buying and selling silver, skins, and slaves. Beyond the Northlands explores this international during the tales that the Vikings instructed approximately themselves of their sagas.
But the depiction of the Viking global within the previous Norse-Icelandic sagas is going a long way past ancient proof. What emerges from those stories is a mix of realism and delusion, quasi-historical adventures and unique wonder-tales that rocket a ways past the horizon of fact. at the crackling brown pages of saga manuscripts, trolls, dragons and outlandish tribes jostle for place with explorers, investors, and kings.
To discover the sagas and the area that produced them, Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough now takes her personal journey during the dramatic landscapes that they describe. alongside the best way, she illuminates the wealthy yet usually complicated saga money owed with a number of different facts: archaeological unearths, rune-stones, medieval global maps, encyclopedic manuscripts, and texts from as far-off as Byzantium and Baghdad. As her trip around the previous Norse global exhibits, through situating the sagas opposed to the disclosing historical past of this different facts, we will be able to commence a minimum of to appreciate simply how the area used to be skilled, remembered, and imagined via this certain tradition from the outermost fringe of Europe such a lot of centuries ago.
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Extra resources for Beyond the Northlands: Viking Voyages and the Old Norse Sagas
In short, not all inhabitants of early medieval Scandinavia were vikings. Not even vikings were vikings all the time. The only people who were vikings all the time were men whose parents had named them ‘Viking’. The word doesn’t refer to an ethnic or cultural group in its entirety, but to an activity and its participants. The Anglo-Saxons knew this too: more generally they referred to Scandinavians as þa Deniscan (the Danes) or Norþmen (Northmen/Norwegians). The two terms were relatively interchangeable; a ‘Dane’ could be used to describe any Scandinavian, as we see in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry about the murder of the king’s official, where both Norþmen and Deniscan are used.
Weapons gripped in their gnarled, sea-weathered hands, the vikings fell upon Lindisfarne ‘like stinging hornets’ and ‘fearful wolves’, as the twelfth-century writer Symeon of Durham described it. They plundered the monastery, dug up the altars, and seized any valuables they could find. The monks were cut down where they stood, or taken to the sea to be drowned. 2 No eyewitness accounts survive of the bloody strike. The only testimony from the monastery itself is a memorial stone made in the following century, perhaps commissioned by the monks to remember their butchered brothers.
Originally it was bound in a priceless leather cover studded with jewels and metals—a ‘treasure binding’—made by a hermit and goldsmith named Billfrith. 634–87), who had led the community at Lindisfarne and is patron saint of northern England. When St Cuthbert’s coffin was opened in the nineteenth century, eye-wateringly expensive items from seventh-century Lindisfarne were discovered inside, including a comb made of elephant ivory, an embossed silver altar cloth, and a golden cross studded with garnets.
Beyond the Northlands: Viking Voyages and the Old Norse Sagas by Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough