Silver, swords and wool

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”

The Marauding Beard

“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”

BBC History Magazine: the battle of Hengest’s Hill

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:

Vikings in Russia

Scandinavians traditionally do rather well at the Winter Olympics – for perhaps obvious reasons – but their Viking ancestors would have been no stranger to some of the delights of Sochi. Skis were used and valued in the North. Earl Rognvald I of Orkney boasted that (among several other skills) he could ‘glide on skis’,Continue reading “Vikings in Russia”