Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Traveling with a Viking Woman

The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman, by Nancy Marie Brown.

I never thought too much about Vikings before someone in our book club recommended we read this book. Silly me, I thought we were going sailing with a woman in a male-dominated society. But what the author, Nancy Brown, does is trace Gudrid's travels with the aid of stories told in six Icelandic sagas.

In addition to the sagas, Brown uses scientific evidence to back up the stories. A brief overview: in the 1960s, archaeologists discovered a Viking settlement, including a longhouse, in northwestern Newfoundland. Brown believes the longhouse was Gudrid's. Then in 2001, a team of scientists found what they believe is Gudrid's last house, buried under a hay field in Iceland.

Brown gives the reader a clear view of what the Vikings were like, and how they interacted with their surroundings. I was quite taken with their bravery. And I got a laugh out of their commonplace expressions, such as "Sail south until the butter melts, then turn right." There are also little tidbits, like why the witch flies on a broomstick (that's another story altogether.)

The sagas Brown used in her research were: Njal's Saga, Laxdaela Saga, Eyrbyggja Saga, The Saga of the Greenlanders, The Saga of Eirik the Red, and Grettir's Saga. Of course, each saga is a little different, depending on where the writer came from and who's in the family lineage. But they seem altogether lighthearted, and reminded me of stories about Greek gods.

After reading this book, I now want to read one of these sagas, just for fun. They have been translated into English, so I just might, one of these days. I did find the names a little hard to keep up with, but I would recommend The Far Traveler to anyone interested in exploration, archaeology or women's studies.
Note: many in my book club felt this book was too tedious, and that the story jumped around too much. I still thought it was worth reading, especially if you are interest in archaeology.


Cozy said...

This sounds like a great book and it is from a culture I don't know much about. I am going to see if the library has it tomorrow.

palleikodesigns said...

Sounds awesome! I've done a lot of religious and cultural reading about the Norse/Asatruar and the Celts. This sounds very interesting. I now a few people who would be interested in this book. Thanks for sharing.

knitting dragonfly said...

Thanks for the info on the book, it looks like something I would be interested in.

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