According to the Old Norse Landnámabók – ‘the book of settlements’ – the first Scandinavian settlers to make their home in Iceland were Ingólfr Arnarson, his wife Hallveig Fróðadóttr and his brother Hjörleifr. According to the legend, they left Norway in 874 after a violent feud, sailing west towards a land of which they hadContinue reading “Iceland: legends of the north”
Silver and gold, weapons and slaves, shields and long-ships: these, we might imagine, are the proper accoutrements of the sea-borne rover… knitwear not so much. But unless we are foolish enough to believe in the sword & sorcery stereotype of the barbarian-in-naught-but-furry-loin-cloth, a hard life on the north-sea margins demanded proper clothes. And, whilst fursContinue reading “Silver, swords and wool”
“beardlessness, the sagas suggest, was not a desirable attribute. In the Saga of Burnt Njal, the eponymous hero is mocked as a ‘beardless old man’ (Old-Beardless) and his children as ‘little dung-beards’ (Dung-beardlings).” My editor once told me that I have a ‘marauding beard’. I’ve never been able to decide whether she meant that theContinue reading “The Marauding Beard”
The September issue of BBC History Magazine is still on news-stands, featuring my article on forgotten battles of the Viking Age. I was delighted to make it onto the cover: Here’s an extract from the pre-publication draft:
But what does it mean for a story to be ‘true’?