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The Broken Sword

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  5,228 ratings  ·  489 reviews
Thor broke the sword Tyrfing to save the roots of Yggdrasil, the tree that binds earth, heaven and hell. Now the elves need the weapon for their war against the trolls. Only Scafloc, a human kidnapped and raised by elves, can hope to persuade Bolverk the ice-giant to make Tyrfing whole again. But Scafloc must also confront his shadow self, Valgard, the changeling in his pl ...more
Paperback, 274 pages
Published September 2002 by Gollancz / Orion (first published 1954)
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Daniel it is the original 1954 edition for the Fantasy Masterworks edition.

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Jul 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Why is this book not more popular?

Written four years after The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and published the same year as Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword is a fantasy masterpiece. Combining Norse myth and legend, English and World myth, with historical fact and setting, this tells a legendary tale economically and with a fable-like tone.

Adventurous and entertaining as well, the only reason I can think that it has been less successful than its Englis
In a stunning development certain to send shockwaves through the world of Fantasy Literature, The Lord of the Rings, long considered by many to be the "Greatest Epic Fantasy" of all time, has been bitch-slapped and bitch-smote by Poul Anderson's 1954 dark fantasy epic, The Broken Sword. Anderson's story is now loudly demanding at least a share of the top honors. Such recognition would be welcome and long overdue according to fantasy icon Michael Moorcock who believes that An
Bill Kerwin
Mar 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The Broken Sword is an essential work of heroic fantasy, as important to the development of the genre as Eddison and Tolkien, Howard and Leiber. If it is neglected today, that is partly because it is unique: it stands alone, not part of a multi-volume saga or the trilogies that are fashionable today. But it is also neglected, I believe, because it is a cold book, literally cold in its setting (most of it takes place in winter), but metaphorically cold as well. It is a grim tale, full of hardship
J.G. Keely
Feb 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, fantasy, novel
Every young medium, if it wishes to be taken seriously as an art form, must find a way to present mature stories. Movies began to take themselves seriously in the thirties, comic books began their struggle to elevate themselves in the late seventies, and videogames have been trying to achieve greater depth for the past few years.

Yet, like any rise from adolescence to adulthood, this reaching for maturity is always an awkward period. It is marked by overcompensation, by the striking of certain po
Dec 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Matthias by: Bradley
Many ages ago, when majestic forests dominated our lands and little cottages of hay and wood were the only thing protecting the hairy humans from the elements, tales were not just tales. The stories passed down from one generation to the next held Truth. The stories read in those days were never forgotten. They were carved in trees and stones, they were carried with the water and the wind, they were illuminated by the stars and the moon. The tales were everywhere as mountains harboured dwarves a ...more
Mar 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Poul Anderson is an authors' author. Wait, I already said that in my review of Tau Zero. Now I will talk about his versatility, The Broken Sword is nothing like his sci-fi books that I have read before, and it is so very different from Tau Zero that it is hard to believe the same author wrote both books. I can not imagine Arthur C. Clarke writing this, or even Heinlein, whose only fantasy Glory Road is still very Heinlein in style.

The Broken Sword is one of Anderson's comparatively few fantasy n
Mar 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
"It was a cool spring dark with the moon nearly full, rime glittering on the grass and the stars still hard and bright as in winter. The night was very quiet save for the sighing of wind in budding branches, and the world was all sliding shadows and cold white light."

Published in 1954, Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword is one of the forgotten giants of early modern fantasy. The book remains an astounding influence of several important writers in the genre.

Set in medieval England, the book feature
mark monday
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to mark by: Lyn
There is a broken sword and there is a broken thing, a changeling, the story's villain. There is a man and a woman and both shall be broken as well; love shall bind them and love shall break them. There are elves that rape their prisoners and trolls that mourn their lost daughters; Odin disguised as Lucifer and Lucifer coming to mock and offer no succor, even to those who swear fealty. There is a White God, bringing change: all shall fear Him. There is a wintry saga, cold and bleak: The Broken S ...more
The Broken Sword: A dark fantasy classic of Norse mythology
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword (1954) was selected by David Pringle in his Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels, and is highly praised by Michael Moorcock, whose character Elric of Melnibone and his demon-possessed sword Stormbringer are directly inspired by The Broken Sword. The audio version is narrated by Bronson Pinchot, who has an amazing vocal range and narrates with passion.

To get right to t
Dan Schwent
Jun 24, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, 2010
Imric the Elf Earl steals a human baby and leaves a changeling, Valgard, in his place. Little does he know the changeling will start the worst war the elves have ever seen. But what of Skafloc, the child that was taken, and the broken sword given to him as a baby by the Aesir?

I originally picked this up because Michael Moorcock frequently cites it as an influence on his Elric saga. Upon reading it, I can see what he means. The Broken Sword has a lot of the epic feel of the Elric saga, complete w
Michael Fierce
Mar 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Lord Of The Rings, and elves


There are hundreds of good fantasy books, several that can be considered classics. Only a few can be compared in any fashion to the The Lord of the Rings. For me, this is one of them.

It may not be as grand or as ambitious as LOTR, but The Broken Sword is recognized, by several in the know, as an unheralded classic by Poul Anderson, a major fantasy & science-fiction master, and this book, a personal favorite of mine.

The Broken Sword was first published in 1954, the same year as The Fellowship of
Dec 16, 2014 rated it liked it
Originally reviewed at Bookwraiths Reviews

The Broken Sword is a modern Norse myth that both dazzles and disappoints with its tale of unwitting mortals caught in the web of gods.

When just a newborn, our hero Skafloc is snatched from his mother’s breast due to the machinations of a disgruntled witch, who hates the babe’s father. This crone tricks Imric, a mighty lord of the elf-folk, into substituting a half-elf, half-troll changeling named Valgard for Skafloc. Thereafter, the two babies grow up
1954. The same year that The Fellowship of the Ring came out. And yet, this is arguably a better book.

What? No way! But what about JRRT's depth of world-building, the gradual easing of modest characters into epic ones? What about the language? How could a single fantasy novel by a popular SF author outdo one of the standards of literature?

Easy. Make characters as sharp and bright as arrows, fit them into the bow of a world, and let them fly straight and true. Give them immediate adventure, no su
DNF at 80%.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that I'm SO CLOSE to the end, and why would I give up when I've already gotten this far?

Because I'm fucking bored out of my mind, that's why.

I heard that this book was a must read for fans of Tolkien, and so when I saw that it was read by Bronson Pinchot on Audible, I snagged it. Woot! Yay for me, right?

Wrong. This book was slow torture for me to listen to. I figured I could bang it out in a day while cleaning my house, and that's what
Mike (the Paladin)
Oct 10, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Here's another where I wish we had either a 10 star system or a half star system. This book is better than a simple 3 star might indicate. The problem is that I don't like it as much as many 4 star books...or many of the books I've rated four(4) stars. I'll note again here that I'm not trying to rate this or any book on things like, quality alone. I suppose I basically rate on what I think of as overall enjoyability.

This book is exceedingly well written. Based on several types or areas of mythol
This is a perfectly pitched, brutally poetic epic of Norse gods and Vikings and the machinations between them and the various fearsome and mysterious beings of Faerie. Anderson pulls off the astonishing feat of breathing new life into this saga, one of the sorts of tales that have been told for centuries, by wholeheartedly committing to his passionate approach with a grand fervor and no small amount of heart. Bracingly vivid, powerful, and tragic, and my first foray into literature based on Nors ...more
Jonathan Terrington
The Broken Sword is a imagined mythology by Poul Anderson in the Norse style. It features poetry and adopts the style of the Norse myths I loved as a child. For that very reason I give it a four star rating and only because of the tragic nature of its plot do I avoid giving it the full five stars.

This is an excellent introduction for anyone interested in looking at the style of Norse mythology. I admit it's not perfect but Anderson apes the traditional Norse style very well while also creating a
Feb 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
I was really excited about reading The Broken Sword, because when I first toyed with the idea of buying a book by Poul Anderson -- this was actually the first I bought, it's just took me longer to read -- I realised how closely it was based on the style of the Norse sagas I've studied. It draws on the mythology, of course, and the path of curses and thwarted love and raiding echoes that of the sagas, but it also echoes their form: the narration, especially to begin with, is very much like a saga ...more
This read like a Norse saga told at breakneck speed, with hardly a pause to catch your breath. It also read like a mix of faerie tale and Nordic myth, with its inclusion of elves typical from Anglo-Saxon and Celtic lore and creatures that are a trademark of Norse lore, adding also the gods and demigods from both sides, and in tone and style of storytelling, it's reminiscent of the Saga of the Volsungs (the protagonist and antagonist main leads have strong elements from Siegmund and his sons Sinf ...more
Feb 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook, fantasy
This novel is a fantasy that blends Western religion with Norse mythology. An elf kidnaps the young baby Scafloc, and in his place substitutes a changeling named Valgard. Because of his inhumanity, Valgard becomes evil, and does some really bad things. He takes refuge among the trolls, where he becomes a feared warrior, bent on revenge on the elves.

The story is dark, with not a trace of light-heartedness. It is common practice for "good" Vikings to go off and pillage, as do most of the other rac
Sep 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A classic of the first water, full of magic and revenge and inappropriate relations, told in masterfully-crafted prose. When AElfrida, wife of Orm the Strong gives birth to a son, a witch rushes off to tell Imric the Elf-King who, that being his nature, immediately goes off to father a son on a captive Troll princess, which son he can then leave as a changeling when he takes Orm's true-born son.

The boys, Valgard (the changeling left in human lands) and Scafloc (the true-born son, fostered by the
Jun 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf-masterworks
Tagged/shelved by me as as an "SF Masterwork", this is actually a "Fantasy Masterwork". It is the 32nd published by Gollcanz in that line. And it deserves to be a masterwork.

Set in the British Isles between the arrival of Christianity and the loss to mythology of the elves and giants and trolls and the pantheons of Scandinavian and Irish gods, The Broken Sword is a sweeping tale of a human child stolen by a Fae noble, and the troll changeling left in his place, that becomes his dark and monstrou
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very compelling novel that reads exactly like the old sagas.
Anderson successfully modelled his prose and mixed myths and Nordic legends into a convincing story of betrayal and destiny.
Jun 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First I want to note this most recent Fantasy Masterworks edition has a wonderful introduction by mastercritic, geek, and fellow bookworm Michael Dirda. (Love that guy!) Dirda notes in his intro that there are two versions of THE BROKEN SWORD in existence, as Anderson made revisions to the text in the early 70's. (I assume that would have been for the Ballantine Adult Fantasy line of books, but Dirda didn't mention that.) The text Gollancz has reprinted here is the more savage and brutal origina ...more
Aug 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1paper, fantasy, 2fiction
I re-read this due to my friend Stephen's glowing review. I'm glad I did. The mythology was excellent. It's been a lot of years since I've read anything by Anderson, although I liked his books quite a bit when I was younger. I think I bought this in the late 70's, have had it around ever since & am glad I hung on to it. It was a fabulous read, a type of fantasy I rarely see any more. Very reminiscent of Beowulf - I know of no higher praise. I think one reason I didn't rate it higher before was b ...more
Juho Pohjalainen
A great epic opera this is, with few of its equal in the world. You've got tragic heroes, somewhat sympathetic villains, morally sketchy elves and trolls, horny vikings, badass women who take control of their destinies, gods playing mortals like pawns in the background, magic and mystery, and terrible terrible ending that you could sort of see coming from a mile away but that will still shock you.

One of the very best.
Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Much harder and slower reading than I first thought, many words being in Middle and Old English, which nonetheless were perfect for the related times.

The story is interesting, drawn from Scandinavian, Irish and English myths, with conflicts between Christianity and Pagan Gods. Most probably the dark and grim creatures and happenings are closer to the original folklore than in other works, Anderson not being afraid to include bloody murders, rapes, cruel gods. Battles are masterfully told, b
Ben Loory
Feb 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The evil done in the world was never all troll work," said Illrede quietly. "It seems to me that you have done a deed more wicked than any of mine in bringing that blade to earth again. Whatever his nature, which the Norns and not himself gave, no troll would do such a thing."
"No troll would dare!" sneered Skafloc, and rode in upon him.
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The perfect epic fantasy tale, all in under 300 pages (and from 1954). This is a timeless masterpiece. A rich tale, with elegant prose, weaving ancient mythology and lore, romance and action. Although not the biggest fan of Nordic mythology or epic fantasy generally, I was spellbound from beginning to end. There are several themes here that I think could have quite possibly inspired Neil Gaiman's American Gods, such as the clashing of old vs new gods, and the power of peoples' beliefs in shaping ...more
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Effortlessly lyrical and brutal, with a dash of dark sharpness, The Broken Sword evokes authentic grandiose of olden Nordic mythology.

Surprisingly captivating for a story with such traditional fantastical elements, and with legendary hero types battling evils. It must indeed be it's earnest handling of the folklore inspired motifs that result in the very credibility of the saga - making it both epic beyond mere 'typical high fantasy', as well as geographically grounded, while also managing a tou
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Pseudonym A. A. Craig, Michael Karageorge, Winston P. Sanders, P. A. Kingsley.

Poul William Anderson was an American science fiction author who began his career during one of the Golden Ages of the genre and continued to write and remain popular into the 21st century. Anderson also authored several works of fantasy, historical novels, and a prodigious number of short stories. He received numerous a

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