Review: Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths

Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths
Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths by Nancy Marie Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I mostly enjoyed this biography of the medieval Icelandic poet Snorri Sturluson, which is interwoven with an introduction to the Norse mythology that Snorri helped preserve. It is engagingly written and its non-linear structure allowed Ms. Brown to pull in modern texts (such as Tolkien and Lewis) inspired by Snorri’s work. However I was a bit frustrated with the loose (and sometimes missing) citations of quotes throughout the book, as well as the author’s repeated referencing of “one translator” or “a modern translator” without giving the translators’ names. I bought this book as a launching point for further study of Icelandic mythology, but many of the items I now want to explore (especially quotes that I would love to record and repeat) were not cited nor did they contain enough key words for me to look up the source texts on my own. I would have rated this book 5-stars if the chapter-by-chapter notes section had been more complete.

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4 thoughts on “Review: Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths

  1. I’m surprised you had trouble with the notes–I try to be quite comprehensive. They’re not just chapter-by-chapter, but are keyed to page numbers and phrases on each page. If you don’t have page numbers in your copy, you must be reading an ARC and not the finished book (which also has an index). If you have specific questions about a source, I’m happy to answer them.

    • Sorry it took me so long to reply. I am reading a trade copy that I purchased at a bookshop while on vacation. There were numerous little instances of missing reference hints, but the one I’m the most curious about is on page 181 of the paperback edition. In the first paragraph, you mention “Poems from the 1300s cite it in derogatory ways.” The paragraph goes on to quote lines from several poems, however neither the titles of the poems nor the poets are named. In the notes section for page 181, there are only notes about content from the last paragraph: “Outside Iceland matters were worse.” I would love to know who and where the quotes in the first paragraph came from.

      • Yes, you’re right, it’s buried a bit. It’s so hard to get the right balance of comprehensiveness and ease of use when the publisher limits the number of pages for notes. I think you’ll find what you were looking for here: Judy Quinn, “Eddu list: The Emergence of Skaldic Pedagogy in Medieval Iceland,” Alvísmál 4 (1994), pages 87-88.

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