Skip to main content
Scandinavia, Iceland, Greenland, and the Vikings
  • The Viking Age

  • Meet the Aesir: Norse Mythology & Cosmology

  • How Snorri Saved Civilization: The Icelandic Sagas

  • The Vikings Head West

  • Viking Women and their World

As we sailed between former Viking outposts, this series of Viking-related explorations delved deeper into the colorful lives of these visionary explorers who were the dominant economic power between the Fall of Rome and the Crusades.  We examined the power vacuum in Europe, which the Vikings filled thanks to their revolution in shipbuilding and the urge to explore beyond the horizons of their own world.  We also saw the Vikings control an empire that ultimately stretched from Greenland to Kyiv, and we considered the legacy they left Europe when the Viking Age came to an end. 

We considered the lives of Viking women, who shared their brothers’, husbands’, and sons’ thirst for adventure and power.  We examined the challenges of life on the home front as well the battlefield, and reviewed the stories of bold and brave women in the sagas and real life.

We also examined Norse mythology and cosmology more closely, learning how it survived and was preserved in Iceland by Snorri Sturluson in his magisterial Prose Edda. We met deities such as Thor, Loki, Odin, and Freya as well as the other mythical creatures who inhabit the nine worlds of the Norse cosmology.  Finally, we explored the rituals and festivals of the Norse pagans, which still resonate in our own traditions today, and we looked at the ways this rich belief system has inspired Western literature from Wagner to Tolkien and beyond.

Recommended Reading

Non Fiction and Biography

Historian, bioarchaeologist, and broadcaster Cat Jarman applies forensics to uncover new and fascinating details about the Viking Age, and, more importantly, the Vikings themselves.  A riveting read!

Viking scholar Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir examines the lives of Viking women and the roles they played.  Drawing on known sources and the portrayal of women int t the legendary Sagas, Friðriksdóttir helps us understand the passions and motivations of Viking women.

Enjoy my podcast interview with Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir about the book.

An intriguing look at the ways in which Viking culture survived through the ages, and its impact on our own culture.  This is an excellent fusion of storytelling and science, archeology, and myth.  I found much that was thought-provoking in it!

Janet Hartley’s magisterial history of Russia through the vehicle of its largest river begins with ground-breaking research about the trading networks along the Volga at Bolgar and Itil.  Enjoy my conversation with Professor Hartley about the book for the New Books Network podcast.

Michele Hayeur Smith’s ground breaking work on Viking era textiles reveals new information about the role of women in this dynamic period.

Magnus Magnusson takes a look at the more peaceful side of the Viking world, considering their art, trade, and pioneering technology.

John Haywood traces the fantastic arc of the Viking Age and its legacy.  Compelling and entertaining!

For fans of the Icelandic Sagas, Jesse Byock’s Viking Age Iceland is an invaluable guide to the history behind the legend, with particular emphasis on the development of Iceland’s powerful tradition of law.

The Vikings were obsessed with dying good deaths, and this book delves into just why that was.  Was it the drive to join the mighty in Valhalla?  To ensure that those who came after had respect for a life well-lived?  And was it this obsession that drove the Vikings to conquer much of Europe? Tom Shippey explores these issues and much more besides.  This is a fantastic insight into the Viking mindset.

This richly illustrated collection of essays by leading scholars examines the Viking era, way of life, achievements and legacy from different angles.  An excellent primer that is both informative and entertaining.

Neil Oliver delves into new research and archeology to reexamine and challenge traditional assumptions about the Viking world.  A refreshing and engrossing study for Viking enthusiasts.

Could you be a Viking?  This race of intrepid marauders was also highly adept at integrating into the societies that they terrorized, ultimately adopting the habits, religion, language, and names of their adopted homelands.  This is a highly acclaimed look at this phenomenon.

Ibn Fadlan’s account of his trip to the Volga, or “The Land of Darkness” is one of the more compelling and entertaining accounts we have of the Viking traders.

Lars Brownworth’s highly readable account of the Vikings seeks to go beyond the myriad of stereotypes about Vikings and look at the laws they made and the stories they told.

Neil Price’s authoritative new study of the Viking Age caused a stir when it was first published.  Highly engrossing and filled with colorful anecdotes, this is an excellent foundation book on the entire Viking world.

The Vikings didn’t go on violent raids every day.  They had homes and families and farms.  This appealing book dives into that everyday life, pulling together interesting facts about how the Vikings lived their lives.

Yale historian Anders Winroth’s highly readable primer on the Vikings and their age.  If you are looking for a good starter book on Viking society, economy, religion, culture and warfare, look no further.

An excellent account of the arc of the Viking age from raiders to traders, pagan to Christians, marginalized to integrated.  This is a thorough and enjoyable read that gives an excellent overview of the sweep of Viking history.

The magnificence of Viking weaponry, tools, and longships is beautifully chronicled in this delightfully illustrated guide.  A wonderful gift for a teenager just discovering the Vikings or a life long fan.

Without the Viking longship, the Viking empire would not have been feasible or possible.  This authoritative study of this maritime phenomenon from the British Museum draws on information from the Roskilde 6 ship from Denmark.  An excellent introduction and detailed and informative book on this fascinating topic.

The multi-faceted Neil Gaiman turns his talent to the rich trove of Norse mythology.  The result is this incredibly engaging, eminently readable new interpretation of the classic stories of Thor, Odin, Loki, Freya, and the gods and goddesses of Asgard.

Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough journeys to the actual geographic settings of the mythical Icelandic sagas — the best and most vivid account we have of Viking history.

Noted historian Tom Holland considers the pervading fear of the End of Times, which gripped the known world in the approach to the millennium.  The terrifying Viking raids were seen as a sign of this impending doom.  But when the world didn’t end, both the Christian and pagan worlds had to come to a better understanding of each other.  This is a fascinating study into the mindset of the early medieval European.

Anders Winroth of Yale University considers the conversion to Christianity by the Vikings in a new context, examining the political and economic implications withim the wider framework of European history.

An excellent study of the important movements in trade and commerce in Medieval Europe, including a detailed and informative look at the Hansa.

This recent study of the history of the Baltic States examines the significance and legacy of the Hansa in detail.  Highly recommended!

Michael Pye’s exploration of the people and politics of the North Sea is an engrossing read — his narrative style is addictive and he delves into topics that are not ocovered in detail in other studies of the region. Highly recommended as is the audio version.

This brilliantly-illustrated coffee table book is out of print, but available via second-hand dealers.  For those looking for a more in-depth study of the Hansa, this is the best. The chapters cover life in the Hansa towns, guilds, art of the age, shipping, laws, and commerce.  A treasure trove of information about the Hansa.


The Sagas of the Icelanders

Penguin Classics’ authoritative translation of the Sagas of the Icelanders.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s English translation of the Norse tales of Sigurd the Völsung and The Fall of the Niflungs. 

Nancy Marie Brown delves into the fascinating life of Snorri Sturluson, the 13th-century politician, diplomat, writer, and visionary, who is responsible for the preservation of the epic sagas of the Norsemen.

The thrilling tale of Gudrid — a Viking woman who sailed to North America — has long been considered a mere legend.  But modern-day archeologists aren’t so sure.  This is a fascinating story of the meeting of legend and exploration.

Watch, Listen, Learn, and Enjoy

Audio recordings, podcasts, lecture series, TV series, and films

This magnificent radio play inspired by the Icelandic Sagas follows the travels of Gudrun, a Viking woman of Iceland who confronts the growing influence of Christianity in Scandinavia.  Beautifully acted, this play offers a vibrant portrayal of the world at the dawn of the Middle Ages.

Gudrun’s own saga continues in the second half of this marvelous radio play based on the Icelandic Sagas.

A beautifully produced audio version of the famous Saga of the Volsungs, tracing the heroic deeds of the Viking clan of Ragnar Lothbrok.

Veteran Audible narrator Simon Vance narrates this intriguing examination of the myths and mysteries of “The North” formed in antiquity by the Greeks and known as “Hyberborea.”

The Widow Queen has all the qualities of a historical saga in the tradition of Bernard Cornwell, Sharon Kay Penman, or Philippa Gregory. Set in the Baltic littoral, the story begins in the last years of the 10th century; just when Christianity is on the rise in the former Viking homelands, and the sea kings of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden are pitted against one another for their newly minted crowns. [Read more of my review of this engrossing saga on my website].

The triumphant sequel to The Widow Queen sees Swietoslawa regain power, as she assists her son, Canute in grasping the throne of England.

Michael Hirst’s second epic Viking series features the unlikely (but deliciously interesting) pairing of Harald Hadrada and Leif Eriksson and his sister Freydis.  The clash of old Norse beliefs and the rising power of Christianity is the central theme to this gripping first season!

Follow the changing fortunes of Saxon Uhtred, who is caught between the world of the ruling Danes and the emerging power of the Saxon kingdoms during the reign of King Alfred.

An hour-long exploration of King Alfred’s defeat of the Viking forces at the Battle of Edington by Melvyn Bragg and his guests.

An hour-long discussion of King Athelstan with Melvyn Bragg and his guests.

An hour-long discussion of the Battle of Stamford Bridge — the hard-fought battle between English forces and Vikings, which so weakened the English that they were easily defeated three weeks later by the Normans at the Battle of Hastings.

An hour-long discussion of the Norse Gods with Melvyn Bragg and his guests.

An hour-long exploration of The Volga Vikings, who plied the mighty river along the North-South trade route to Byzantium by Melvyn Bragg and his guests.

An hour-long discussion of The Icelandic Sagas with Melvyn Bragg and his guests.

Noah Tetzner brings passion and drive to this expansive, multi-season podcast, dedicated to the Lost History of the Vikings.  With mini-series within the podcast about different topics, interviews with eminent scholars, and news of new archeological discoveries, this one podcast has it all!  I always learn something from these episodes!

Michael Hirst’s blockbuster series is based on the Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok and his sons from the classic Icelandic Sagas.  This series is well researched and thoroughly enjoyable though viewer discretion is advised because the subject matter does inherently contain a good deal of violence.

This page contains affiliate links and ads.  Any purchases you choose to make via these links may net me a small commission from the retailer.  I use these funds to support the maintenance and development of this website.  If you do choose to purchase anything via these links, thank you very much for your support!