Book review: An easy-to-read saga

Doug Warne
KKNW Scandinavian Hour

If you wanted to read the history of the first king of all Norway, you might find yourself examining Old Norse books like the Heimskringla. However, the language would be difficult, as well as the sentence structure and even the way the authors conveyed interesting items. As an outgrowth of academic study, Norwegian activist Marcia Lee Liaklev has created an easy-reading book about those times. The title pretty well tells what you will find inside: The Seven Wives of Harald Fairhair: 1st King of All Norway Circa 850 to 933 AD: A Viking Saga.

The book is admittedly a work of fiction, but one based on facts found in the Heimskringla. This saga was compiled by Snorre Sturlson from documents written from the ninth to 12th centuries, now lost. From descriptions of the lineage of kings and their famous battles, this work veers to fiction as it paints a picture of Harald’s life and his many wives.

In her introduction, Liaklev points out that Harald Fairhair was not a myth but a real, living person and a superhero of the Viking Age. As a people, the Old Norse were very religious. Not in the sense of today’s Christian way of thinking but devout in observance of sacrifices and other acts that showed devotion to their chief God, Odin.

Harald’s story is not only that of a great man who ruled his people for 70 years at a time when the life expectancy of man was much shorter. It is also the story of a people who immigrated to a land in the north that was ripe for the taking. An even greater ruler, one who was so great that he was revered as a god after his death, led those people. This man was Odin, who once lived in the region of the Black Sea. Journeying from the plains of Asaheim in Asia Minor over the frigid waters of the Baltic Sea was a momentous task. But it allowed Odin’s people to escape from the conquering Romans. In the north, Odin and his three sons became conquerors themselves. Harald Fairhair could trace his roots back to these early conquerors.

The book is large format and the writing is simple to read, with easier vocabulary and shorter sentences than many novels.

This article originally appeared in the May 5, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.