Norse sagas

20th April 2001 at 01:00
WHAT A VIKING! By Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom. Franklin Watts pound;10.99. SIGHTSEERS: Viking World. By Julie Ferris. Kingfisher pound;5.99. GOING TO WAR IN VIKING TIMES. By Christopher Gravett. Franklin Watts pound;10.99. Viking variety is on offer in these books. For younger readers, What a Viking is the story of Bjorn. The narrative takes him from fights in Byzantium and Dublin to bodyguard duty in Jorvik, before he marries and becomes a farmer. Factual writing, in a different font, fills in the historical context, with markets and artefacts, gods and festivals. This is a good introduction to a dynamic culture.

The other two books are suitable for key stage 2. Julie Ferris's Viking World is set out as a travel guide. Using photos and artwork, it tells travellers howto dress, what to eat and how to shop for souvenirs. Accommodation in a long house may be hot and crowded, but drunken feasts and poetic frenzies can be entertaining. A raiding party or a visit to a colony are also eloquently promoted. The book is a fun "guide" to Viking life, and the supporting information is used reliably and presented with clarity.

Christopher Gravett's Going to War in Viking Times focuses on axe-blades, feuds and "blood money". Attractive pages on the gods of battle and their talismans include explanations involving sagas, Valkyries and Valhalla. The book offers explanation as well as exposition, giving space to the causes as well as the methods of raiding.

Domestic virtues are mentioned, but battles are more to the fore.

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