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Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths
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Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  199 ratings  ·  48 reviews
Much like Greek and Roman mythology, Norse myths are still with us. Famous storytellers from JRR Tolkien to Neil Gaiman have drawn their inspiration from the long-haired, mead-drinking, marauding and pillaging Vikings. Their creator is a thirteenth-century Icelandic chieftain by the name of Snorri Sturluson. Like Homer, Snorri was a bard, writing down and embellishing the...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 30th 2012 by Palgrave Macmillan Trade
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(showing 1-30 of 1,034)
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Matt Fimbulwinter
Less myth and more Snorri than I was expecting based on the author's essays on

I found that in parts it devolved into lists of names who were related to other lists of names who... were really dull.

Also, the weasel words are really heavy in this book. There's a whole lot of "Snorri may have..." or "Snorri could have..." Given that the book was plugged as taking us behind the curtain of the Edda, that the evidence pretty much boils down to the author's opinion was a bit of a let down.

Adam Wiggins
Norse mythology and the viking sagas are the basis for almost all modern fantasy, starting with Tolkien and up through Game of Thrones. And almost everything we know about Norse mythology comes down to us in the 800-year-old writings of one man: Snorri Sturluson. This book is his biography.

Snorri was not primarily a skald (aka bard or poet), or a writer. Storytelling was a hobby; his day job was amassing power through politics and war, eventually leading to him becoming the lawspeaker at the Alt...more
Resistance is Futile
This engaging biography describes the life of Snorri Sturluson, a powerful 12th-century Icelandic chieftain and the author of the poetic Edda - one of the oldest surviving documents of Norse mythology. As a novice of Viking history, I found this book fascinating and informative - though I suspect that there is much speculation and Brown isn't always clear when she is speculating and when she has hard evidence for her claims. As such, I think this biography would be enjoyed by people who are inte...more
Much of what we know of the Norse Gods and legends apparently were preserved and embellished upon by an Icelander of the 12th and 13th centuries, Snoori Snurluson. Most of the chapters start with a story of one of the Gods or legends and then the author skillfully weaves elements of Icelandic/Norse history and Sturulson's biography therein to make an easily read narrative. The last chapter also starts with a Norse legend, some Sturluson biography and Icelandic/Norse history but the preponderance...more
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So, a few weeks ago we saw the new Loki movie—excuse me—Thor movie and I was like, by Odin’s beard! It has been too long since I read up on Norse mythology (which according to my records was in 2011)! I came home, hopped on to the website for my local library and found this book.

Song of the Vikings is an interesting read because it links a few different vectors of Norse mythology. There is a little bit of...more
Heidi Wiechert
I received a free copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads. FTC guidelines: check!

This book was very different from anything else that I've read. I have a background education in Greek and Roman mythology, but knew very little of the Norse legends and mythology. The snippets of myth that Brown included in this book were excellent. I wish that she had put more of that in there.

The historical person of Snorri was fascinating in that I had no idea what Icelanders were up to in the 1100s. It...more
Song of the Vikings was something I really wanted to love, but I was disappointed when I finished the book. Ultimately, we are given a lot of information about Snorri and how the Norse myths were compiled, but the myths themselves are merely secondary. If you're interested in learning more about who Snorri Sturluson was, and how we arrived at the myths we have today, then there is certainly a great deal of valuable information here, but I was hoping for more discussion about the role of Viking m...more
An enjoyable read!
Gail Goodrick
While it's easy to get bogged now in the all the characters who play a role in Snorri's life, the story is fascinating. What a violent lot those Icelanders were! Especially interesting was how important Snorri was in setting down some of the ancient stories of the gods and how influential those stories were on later authors and writers. The book made me want to see Iceland for myself!
Dave Maddock
Tom Shippey recommended this book in one of his classes at Mythgard. Therefore when I happened upon it at the bookstore (with his recommendation printed on the cover), I had to buy it.

The book is equal parts a primer on Norse culture and a biography of Snorri Sturluson. It can get a little hairy in the middle trying to keep all the names and places in your head, but if you are interested in vikings and their literature--and you should be--then this would be a pretty good place to start.
Sylvia Walker
Colleges and universities everywhere should erect statues celebrating Snorri Sturluson! If it were not for Snorri, we would know nothing about the Norse myths, about Thor or Odin, Odin's 8-legged horse and his two ravens, Thought and Memory, about the World Tree, Freyja, beautiful Baldur, and all of the rest. Without this knowledge, Tolkien wouldn't have written the "Lord of the Rings", nor Neil Gaiman, "American Gods." Nancy Marie Brown is a storyteller, too, who really brings to life medieval...more
This is a hard book to categorize. I certainly enjoyed it; I love imagining history. That being said, it's hard to tell what parts of this are fact and which are fiction; which are the history, and which are Brown's extrapolations, her filling in the blanks of Sturluson's life? (It's an interesting juxtaposition, in that Brown embellishes what we know of Sturluson's life, just as Sturluson embellished the tales he collected in the Edda). It's absolutely a fun read, but I'm just not sure that you...more
Phew! This was one rough for me but rewarding nonetheless.

As someone who has always been intrigued by Icelandic and Nordic culture but doesn't know enough about their mythology, I thought this would be an interesting book to try out, so I was happy to win a copy from Goodreads. I was nervous at first and actually asked some previous reviewers before I entered if I should even bother without having any real background knowledge, but people said to try it out, so here I am.

The truth is that, havin...more
I wrote this review for the Historical Novel Review, where it was first published.

Norse mythology has long held the fascination of historians, writers, and artists. We know of Odin, Loki, and Thor. We know of Ragnarok and Valhalla and Fenrir. We know of Valkyries and Vikings. The literary, musical, and cinematic worlds have all benefited from delving these depths. And Snorri Sturluson stands at the heart of it all.

His name is known almost exclusively to scholars of Scandinavian history and cultu...more
Who the heck is Snorri Sturluson? I had no idea until reading this book but I was amazed to find the impact that this writer of 13th Century Icelandic sagas has had on literature. The book provides a very detailed narrative of Snorri's life while making references to the effect that events were having on his work. There are also some similarities drawn between real people and the mythic characters that Snorri brought to life. There are a few short snippets of his sagas and some Nordic mythology...more
It bills itself as a revolutionary approach to the work and life of Snorri Sturluson, the accepted author of the "Prose Edda", and the compiler of important kennings and metrics for would-be skaldic poets. Unfortunately, it reads more like a junior high level blog entry about the cool things the author has read.

While the passages about Sturluson are "interesting" in the sense that some would see them as fun to read, the so-called "new information" the author uses to support her points are rarely...more
Sep 25, 2013 Daniel added it
I keep wavering on how to rate this book, so have resolved to write a brief reflection rather than accord it any stars.

I picked the book up last week at the Barnes & Noble in Walnut Creek, California and felt a certain kinship for the author when I read her preface on Gandalf. It was like finding a literary twin, another person who, as an adolescent, delighted in Tolkien's work and sought to explore his sources. This passion has led Nancy Marie Brown to study Icelandic literature, wherein th...more
I was drawn to this one by the Tolkien connection, but there was actually a lot more about Snorri Sturluson than about the myths that inspired Tolkien. Not surprising, actually, given the title. I did learn quite about about the Icelandic ruling class in the Middle Ages, which was mildly interesting. My previous impression had been that the Vikings were peaceful farmers when at home and only murderous thugs when visiting places like England and France. Turns out that they were murderous thugs at...more
Joy H.
Added 11/6/12
Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths (ebook)(2012)
by Nancy Marie Brown
(Heard about this book via VPR radio 11/6/12.)

This book is about Icelandic (i.e., Norse, Viking) literature and how it has given us so much of the mythology we now find in the writings of Tolkien and other writers. It's a book about Norse mythology.

The book tell us that the Icelandic bard, Snorri Sturluson, was the original source of this mythology.

Although I really enjoyed reading about the life of Snorri Sturluson in context of his writing of some of the sagas, the Edda, and the Heimskringla in easy-to-read language, I found there to be too many assumptions in this book. By that I mean, getting from one thing to a conclusion with no proof. I also found several irritants in the book. I have read Egil's Saga many times, and never once, in any edition I have read, does it name him as a Berserker. Nancy Marie Brown may THINK he's berserk, bu...more
Nathan Dehoff
Much of what we know about old Norse mythology comes from Snorri Sturluson, a thirteenth-century Icelandic poet and chieftain. Sure, there are earlier references that provide hints, but it’s Snorri who wrote out a collection of the myths from the creation of the world to its destruction at Ragnarok. This book interweaves the story of Snorri’s life with his work and legacy. Snorri himself is said to have been quite clever and able to amass a lot of power for himself, but also rather cowardly, dyi...more
This is the second book by Nancy Marie Brown that I have read. As with the first book, this one was well-researched and well-written. I had heard of Snorri Sturluson but didn't realize that he had written the Eddas nor the other works attributed to him. His life certainly was unique and worthy of a biography, particularly one that focuses on his massive contribution to northern European literature. His influence on Tolkien alone is noteworthy. I knew that Tolkien was a literature expert and phil...more
Sep 25, 2012 Kate rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: books
I picked up this book for research into the daily life of Iceland at the time period, and it was incredibly handy for that. It's also just a straight up enjoyable read on its own terms: Snorri Sturluson's life has a touch of the epic to it, full of kinship binding, material successes, revenge, love, and an (overly-)ambitious man.

There's a lot of speculation in the work, which is inevitable since Brown has only second-hand resources to use, and those are scanty on the psychological details. The w...more
I heard the author on NPR and because of my heritage, was curious about the Norse myths. It would help to have a detachable crib sheet for keeping all the people straight, especially murderously combative family members. The political history of Iceland and Europe at that time is fascinating. I picked up a copy of the EDDA and may add to this later.
This book provides an excellent introduction to the life and times of Snorri Sturluson, author/compiler of Norse mythology. The complex and volatile leadership structure of Iceland is described as are the political relationships with Norway and England. Snorri's rise and fall from power are laid out in detail. The style and format of Norse poetry is explained, and also the importance of being an accomplished poet in society.

For anyone interested in learning about 13th Century Iceland and the cul...more
The fascinating life of the Icelandic chieftain, poet and scoundrel, Snorri Sturluson told through his famous rendering of Viking tales and Norwegian Kings. I would have liked there to be more on the effects of Snorri's works on contemporary culture, but it definitely makes you want to read Snorri and his cultural and literary descendants.
Samuel Valentino
I've always wanted to get through Snorri's Edda, and this book gave me the background information I needed to do so! I now know why the Edda was written, and, more to the point, why it is so boring. But I also now know about it's author, the times he lived in, and how much we owe to him for what little knowledge of Norse mythology that we have.

In addition, it is well written and an enjoyable read. Now to plow my way through the Edda!
Samuel Zaber
The line between a good, or even great, biography and a really excellent biography lies in the biographer’s ability to tell their subject’s story and also connect it to the larger world. Nancy Marie Brown’s biography of the Icelandic poet and political schemer Snorri is an excellent example of biographies that tie together people and the times they lived in. Not only a biography of a Snorri Sturlason this slim book (It’s only 208 pages in the hardcover.) covers Iceland’s history and lore. Using...more
Paul Mitchell
Fascinating! This work really examines the life of the man behind the manuscripts from which we get the majority of Norse mythology. I'm unable to read compilations of Norse myths the same, now. I was, at first, sad that more of Sturlusson's myths and writing weren't examined or shared in more detail, but the book was still highly enjoyable! I might agree with Tolkien that Sturlusson and Norse texts deserve a place next to Shakespeare.
Nils Ragnar
Interessant, men alt i alt en ikke helt vellykket blanding av en Snorrebiografi og om sagnene og sagaene.
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Nancy Marie Brown is the author of The Abacus and the Cross, The Far Traveler, and other nonfiction books. She has 30 years’ experience as a writer and editor. From 1981 to 2003, she wrote about science for an award-winning magazine published by Penn State University. She earned a master’s degree in comparative literature from Penn State, where she specialized in the Middle Ages. Freelance since 2...more
More about Nancy Marie Brown...
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“All illustrate the “theory of courage,” which Tolkien called “the great contribution of early Northern literature,” meaning both Icelandic and Old English literature. It is a “creed of unyielding will”: The heroes refuse to give up even when they know the monsters—evil—will win. For that is the big difference between Snorri’s Ragnarok and the Christian Doomsday. Odin and the human army of Valhalla do not win.” 0 likes
“My bald pate bobs and blunders, I bang it when I fall; My cock’s gone soft and clammy And I can’t hear when they call.” 0 likes
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