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.
A vibrant account that evokes the spirit of the Viking age in a thoroughly entertaining, yet historically sound, fashion. * Philip Parker, BBC World Histories *
Barraclough provides a confident, compelling narrative of their brutal, challenging world and a valuable companion to their sagas. * Diana Bentley, Minerva *
[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 *
A book that is entertaining as well as erudite... There is no doubting Barraclough's meticulous and insightful scholarship. * Hana Videen, Times Literary Supplement *
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 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 *
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 *
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 *
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 *
[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 *
Barraclough produces an intoxicating fusion of travelogue, history and saga... What emerges is a surprisingly complex portrait of Viking culture... Beyond the Northlands is a magnificent contribution to the understanding of a fierce and poetic people. * Shelf Awareness, Starred Review *
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 *
Vikings 1: Inroads from the Sea 2: Fire and IceNorth 3: In the Lands of the North 4: North of all Northmen 5: Where the Wild Things AreWest 6: Westward Ho! 7: New World 8: The Way the World EndsEast 9: Eastern Promise 10: Set in Stone 11: Far-Travelling BeastsSouth 12: Journey to the Centre of the Earth 13: Sailing to Byzantium 14: World's End Epilogue Notes Sagas in Translation Index