Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Sea Wolves: A History of the Vikings

THE SEA WOLVES by Lars Brownworth is a chilling history of the Vikings, and their conquests across England and Europe around 800 AD. It was a dark age of blood and violence, and this book shows how one’s twisted religious beliefs can influence how a man acts against those who are not in the club: with a club. The Vikings believed in Norse gods who were jealous rivals, hoarders, plunderers, and murderers. In their mythology the world would end bathed in blood, as hellish creatures fed on everyone (except for two gods who would survive to start the whole process over again.) Naturally, taking this positive message to heart, they also plundered, raped, and killed, showing no mercy to innocents (kinda like ISIS.) One Norseman called another a “child lover” for not wanting to participate in the blood sport of tossing live babies into the air and catching them on the point of a spear. They invented a game similar to hockey, and were heavily into fitness as well as other sports. Did anything good come of all the pillage and cruelty? Well, they settled Iceland, founded Dublin, and created the trial by jury method of law. Of course back then if you were found guilty, you could be thrown into a pit of vipers, naked. Where, no doubt, you would sing original Norse songs in praise of Odin (Supreme creator, God of Victory and the Dead), even as snakes bit into your flesh. Or you’d have your eyes put out by a hot brand. (More screaming than singing, in that case.) Life was brutal and short, and the Vikings accepted it would be, never doubting their society or its beliefs. Narrator Joe Barrett keeps the pacing of the history steady in an engaging, entertaining way, and is good at creating accented dialogue in places used as illustration of the historical characters in the book, evoking whatever humorous or dramatic edge is needed. 

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