The Viking Age: A Reader, Third Edition

Edited by Angus A. Somerville and R. Andrew McDonald

© 2019

In this extensively revised third edition of The Viking Age: A Reader, Somerville and McDonald successfully bring the Vikings and their world to life for twenty-first-century students and instructors. The diversity of the Viking era is revealed through the remarkable range and variety of sources presented as well as the geographical and chronological coverage of the readings.

The third edition has been reorganized into fifteen chapters. Many new sources have been added, including material on gender and warrior women, and a completely new final chapter traces the continuing cultural influence of the Vikings into the twenty-first century. The use of visual material has been expanded significantly, and updated maps illustrate historical developments throughout the Viking Age. The Norse translations, many of them new to this collection, are straightforward and easily accessible, while chapter introductions contextualize the readings.

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Product Details

  • Series: Readings in Medieval Civilizations and Cultures
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 552 pages
  • Illustrations: 14
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 9.0in
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Quick Overview

Who were the Vikings, and do they deserve their unsavoury reputation? Through over 100 primary source documents, this fascinating collection weighs the cultural importance and lasting influence of the Vikings.

The Viking Age: A Reader, Third Edition

Edited by Angus A. Somerville and R. Andrew McDonald

© 2019

In this extensively revised third edition of The Viking Age: A Reader, Somerville and McDonald successfully bring the Vikings and their world to life for twenty-first-century students and instructors. The diversity of the Viking era is revealed through the remarkable range and variety of sources presented as well as the geographical and chronological coverage of the readings.

The third edition has been reorganized into fifteen chapters. Many new sources have been added, including material on gender and warrior women, and a completely new final chapter traces the continuing cultural influence of the Vikings into the twenty-first century. The use of visual material has been expanded significantly, and updated maps illustrate historical developments throughout the Viking Age. The Norse translations, many of them new to this collection, are straightforward and easily accessible, while chapter introductions contextualize the readings.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Series: Readings in Medieval Civilizations and Cultures
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 552 pages
  • Illustrations: 14
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 9.0in
  • Reviews

    "This book is a gift to anyone teaching (or being taught) the Vikings – an affordable compilation of essential literature, contextualised with critical introductions. The editors provide a whole course of reading in one volume, and this third edition is now updated with a major new section on gender and a review of the Vikings’ complex legacies from medieval times down to today."


    Neil Price, Uppsala University

    "The third edition of Angus Somerville and Andrew McDonald’s The Viking Age: A Reader is to be welcomed by everyone interested in the Vikings and their world. This significantly revised edition of their classic sourcebook provides even more material than was available in the two previous editions. The entirely new section on responses to the Vikings shows how they have provoked inspiration among writers through the centuries. An expanded section on gender brings in materials that more fully illustrate the complexity of interrelationships and identity. The occasional change of texts in the other sections makes this an appreciably different book from the earlier versions and keeps it in the forefront of modern scholarship."


    Benjamin Hudson, Pennsylvania State University
  • Author Information

    Angus A. Somerville, now retired, formerly taught Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon at Brock University. Somerville was a contributor to the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary.


    R. Andrew McDonald is Professor in the Department of History at Brock University.
  • Table of contents

    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 (Rígsþula) 
    4. Politics in Harald Finehair’s Norway 
    5. Hoskuld Buys a Slave 
    6. How the Hersir Erling Treated His Slaves 

    Chapter Three: Early Religion and Belief

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

    Chapter Four: Women in the Viking Age 

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

    Chapter Five: Viking Warriors and Their Weapons 

    29. 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
    30. 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
    31. 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 Six: Fjord-Serpents: Viking Ships 

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

    Chapter Seven: “Sudden and Unforeseen Attacks of Northmen”
     
    38. On the Causes of the Viking Expansion 
    39. Viking Raids on England, 789–850/1 
    40. Alcuin’s Letter to King Athelred, 793 
    41. An English Gospel Book Ransomed from the Vikings 
    42. Viking Raids on Ireland, 795–842 
    43. The Martyrdom of Blathmac, 825 
    44. The Life of Saint Findan 
    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 Eight: “The Heathens Stayed”: From Raiding To Settlement 

    51. Viking Activities in England, 851–900 
    52. The Martyrdom of Saint Edmund
    53. The Vikings in Ireland, 845–917 
    54. Ketil Flatnose and His Descendants in the Hebrides 
    55. Earl Sigurd and the Establishment of the Earldom of Orkney 
    56. Runic Inscriptions from Maes Howe, Mainland, Orkney 
    57. Runic Inscriptions from the Isle of Man 
    58. Rollo Obtains Normandy from the King of the Franks 

    Chapter Nine: Austrveg: The Viking Road To The East 

    59. The Piraeus Lion 
    60. The Ru¯ s 
    61. The Ru¯ s Attack Constantinople
    62. On the Arrival of the Varangians
    63. A Muslim Diplomat Meets Ru¯ s Merchants on the Volga River 
    64. River Routes to Constantinople 
    65. A Norwegian Soldier of Fortune in the East 
    66. Ru¯ s Expeditions to the Middle East 
    67. The Yngvar Runestones 

    Chapter Ten: Into the Western Ocean: The Faeroes, Iceland, Greenland, and Vinland 

    68. The Islands in the Northern Ocean
    69. Sailing Directions and Distances in the North Atlantic 
    70. The Western Ocean 
    71. Adam of Bremen on Iceland 
    72. 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 
    73. Skallagrim’s Landtake in Iceland
    74. The Settlement of Greenland 
    (a) The Book of the Icelanders 
    (b) The Book of Settlements 
    75. The King’s Mirror on Greenland 
    76. Adam of Bremen on Vinland 
    77. The Norse Discovery of Vinland 
    78. Thorfinn Karlsefni in Vinland 

    Chapter Eleven: Viking Life and Death 

    79. Advice for Sailors and Merchants 
    80. Svein Asleifarson’s Viking Life 
    81. Egil in Youth and Old Age 
    82. Children 
    (a) Young Grettir Helps around the Farm 
    (b) Children Mimic Adults
    (c) The Child is Mother of the Woman 
    (d) Choosing Sides in a Game 
    83. Games and Entertainment 
    (a) A Horse-fight from Njal’s Saga 
    (b) A Horse-fight from Grettir’s Saga 
    (c) A Throwing Game from Bard’s Saga 
    (d) Games at Sand from Hord’s Saga
    (e) Entertainment at a Wedding Feast at Reykjaholar from The Saga of Thorgils and Haflidi
    (f ) Mock Lawsuits from The Saga of the People of Ljosavatn 
    84. The Jomsvikings Meet Their End 
    85. The Death of Gunnar 
    86. The Burning of Njal 
    87. The Death of Thormod Kolbrunarskald 

    Chapter Twelve: From Odin to Christ 

    88. Early Missions to the North: The Life of Saint Anskar 
    89. The Conversion of the Danes under Harald Bluetooth 
    90. Olaf Tryggvason and the Conversion of Norway 
    91. A Poet Abandons the Old Gods
    92. The Christianization of Norway under Saint Olaf 
    93. The Conversion of the Icelanders
    94. The Conversion of Greenland 
    95. The Conversion of Orkney 
    96. Christianity in Sweden 
    97. Christianity and the Church in Norway
    98. The Travels of King Sigurd, Jerusalem-Farer 
    99. The Journey of Abbot Nikolas Bergsson from Iceland to Jerusalem 

    Chapter Thirteen: State-Building at Home and Abroad 

    100. Harald Finehair and the Unification of Norway 
    101. State-Making in Denmark: The Jelling Stone 
    102. State-Making in Denmark: Unification and Expansion 
    103. The Martyrdom of Alfeah (Saint Alphege) 
    104. Knut the Great and the North Sea Empire
    105. The England Runestones 
    106. The Earldom of Orkney at Its Zenith 

    Chapter Fourteen: The End of the Viking Age 

    107. The Battle of Clontarf, 1014 
    108. The Battle of Stamford Bridge, 1066 
    109. The Decline of the Earls of Orkney 
    110. The Battle of Largs, 1263 

    Epilogue 

    111. Advice from Odin

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