Beyond the Northlands

Beyond the Northlands : Viking Voyages and the Old Norse Sagas

4.1 (166 ratings by Goodreads)

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In the dying days of the eighth century, the Vikings erupted onto the international stage with brutal raids and slaughter. The medieval Norsemen may be best remembered as monk murderers and village pillagers, but this is far from the whole story. Throughout the Middle Ages, long-ships transported hairy northern voyagers far and wide, where they not only raided but also traded, explored and settled new lands, encountered unfamiliar races, and embarked on pilgrimages
and crusades.

The Norsemen travelled to all corners of the medieval world and beyond; north to the wastelands of arctic Scandinavia, south to the politically turbulent heartlands of medieval Christendom, west across the wild seas to Greenland and the fringes of the North American continent, and east down the Russian waterways trading silver, skins, and slaves. Beyond the Northlands explores this world through the stories that the Vikings told about themselves in their sagas.

But the depiction of the Viking world in the Old Norse-Icelandic sagas goes far beyond historical facts. What emerges from these tales is a mixture of realism and fantasy, quasi-historical adventures and exotic wonder-tales that rocket far beyond the horizon of reality. On the crackling brown pages of saga manuscripts, trolls, dragons and outlandish tribes jostle for position with explorers, traders, and kings.

To explore the sagas and the world that produced them, Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough now takes her own trip through the dramatic landscapes that they describe. Along the way, she illuminates the rich but often confusing saga accounts with a range of other evidence: archaeological finds, rune-stones, medieval world maps, encyclopaedic manuscripts, and texts from as far away as Byzantium and Baghdad. As her journey across the Old Norse world shows, by situating the sagas against the revealing
background of this other evidence, we can begin at least to understand just how the world was experienced, remembered, and imagined by this unique culture from the outermost edge of Europe so many centuries ago.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 352 pages
  • 160 x 239 x 21mm | 716g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 52 Colour illustrations
  • 0198701241
  • 9780198701248
  • 344,409

Table of contents

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Review Text

Adventurous scholarship. Times Literary Supplement, TLS Books of the Year 2017
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Review quote

With a clever and engaging style, the author marries interpretations of Norse sagas with historical references, creating a detailed analysis of Viking evolution and worldview with clarity, humor, and a sense of relevance... Thoroughly researched and well rooted in historical and literary context. * Library Journal * Barraclough produces an intoxicating fusion of travelogue, history and saga... What emerges is a surprisingly complex portrait of Viking culture... Beyond the NorthlandsR is a magnificent contribution to the understanding of a fierce and poetic people. * Shelf Awareness, Starred Review * [Barraclough's] book stretches our imaginations in time as well as space, combines literature, archaeology and personal observation, and reminds us of many works more than half-forgotten even by scholars. Blessedly, for all the rigor of the endnotes, there is not a trace of academic obfuscation. Truth is stranger than fiction, yes, and more fun too. * Wall Street Journal * Moira reviews one of the funniest, and most fascinating books on the Norse Sagas that she's ever read ... Lively ... entertaining ... (I mean, you don't expect to find yourself honking inelegantly over the Vinland Sagas) * Moira Briggs, Vulpes Libris * draws upon the Norse sagas and historical sources to take a lively and entertaining approach to her subjecy which will appeal to the casual reader. * Leon Burakowski, Shropshire Star * what may chiefly distinguish [Eleanor] from other Viking scholars is her lively style. [...] Many well-chosen colour illustrations further bring her picture of adventurous Vikings, and their varied roles, vividly to life. * Harry Mead, Northern Echo * A BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker does that delightful trick of weaving lightly worn serious scholarship into a publisher- and educated general reader-pleasing "journey" narrative, as she serves up sagas and the world that inspired them in this well-illustrated book. Her voice is charming, wise and just the right side of whimsical as we meet "the jaculus and his posse of teeny tiny dragonlets", Skraelings, Snorri, Snaefrid's smelly corpse and Soviet-era Kievan
Rus. Includes a knighting with a walrus penis bone; a beguiling TV series doubtless awaits. * Times Higher Education * A delight ... a book that provides us with a highly entertaining and informative sense of the real Norse world-view. * Philip Parker, Literary Review * A book that is entertaining as well as erudite... There is no doubting Barraclough's meticulous and insightful scholarship. * Hana Videen, Times Literary Supplement * [An] excellent, erudite, yet light-hearted glimpse into Norse culture, exploration and the melding of story and history. Filled with interesting facts, pop culture references and quirky asides, this is an immensely appealing, accessible resource, whatever your level of knowledge. * Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat and the Rune series * Barraclough provides a confident, compelling narrative of their brutal, challenging world and a valuable companion to their sagas. * Diana Bentley, Minerva * A vibrant account that evokes the spirit of the Viking age in a thoroughly entertaining, yet historically sound, fashion. * Philip Parker, BBC World Histories * Adventurous scholarship. * Times Literary Supplement, TLS Books of the Year 2017 *
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About Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough

Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough is Assistant Professor in Medieval History and Literature at Durham University. In 2013 she was chosen as one of ten BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinkers, in a competition to find young academics with the potential to turn their research into programmes for broadcast.

Eleanor's research often takes her to the chilly Nordic climes of Scandinavia, Iceland, and Greenland. Whilst researching this book, Eleanor had many far-flung adventures of her own: bumping along on the back of an Icelandic horse whilst exploring Norse ruins in Greenland, sailing ice fjords under the midnight sun with a caribou hunter, and searching for Norse rune-stones in Sweden. Her proudest moment came when travelling across Arctic Norway, where she was knighted with a walrus penis bone in
Hammerfest and became a member of the Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society.
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Rating details

166 ratings
4.1 out of 5 stars
5 37% (62)
4 42% (69)
3 16% (26)
2 5% (9)
1 0% (0)
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