Friday, 13 November 2009

The savage beauty of maligned marauders

WHEN we think of the Vikings, most of us probably conjure up images of Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis slugging it out in the famous Hollywood blockbuster.

The film was based on legendary tales from the sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok and his sons who are among the many colourful characters featured in Robert Ferguson's masterly book The Hammer And The Cross – A New History of the Vikings.

Tracing the history of the Vikings is notoriously difficult as they weren't literate and their culture was based on an oral tradition of sagas, eddas and the poetry of the skalds. As a result they're frequently portrayed as marauding hordes intent on little more than raping and pillaging.

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