Sunday, July 04, 2021

The Norsemen: Explorers, Traders, and Warriors: Life As A Viking by Allison Lassieur

From ghoulies and ghosties

And long-leggedy beasties

And things that go bump in the night,

Good Lord, deliver us!

And to that earnest prayer from the Dark Ages might be added Viking raiders. Their narrow longboats, capable of crossing oceans and sailing up shallow rivers, were the scourge of the coast of eastern Europe, making sudden attacks on cities and villages, monasteries and village churches alike at will. What was with those guys?

The population of Scandinavia had grown, the growing season for farmers was short, and fertile land was mostly taken, forcing young men to take to the sea and, in blitzkrieg attacks, loot the people along the shores of the North Sea. When they went bump in the night, it was bad! But for those Norse warriors, life also was, as the saying goes, "nasty, short, and brutish."

The narrow wooden Viking longship heaves and creaks beneath your feat as you sail away from your homeland. You carry only clothing, some food, and your armor and weapons.

There isn't much left for someone like you. Is that land you see? What adventures await you?

In Allison Lassieur's Life as a Viking: An Interactive History Adventure (You Choose: Warriors) (Capstone Books), a young would-be warrior sails south in a dreki (dragon) boat, indentured to his leader-captain, in this choose-your adventure book for young readers which boasts three complete story lines, 51 choices, and 24 potential plotlines not all of them with happy endings for their character. But with this young Viking, the reader gets to experience vicariously some of the significant events of this historical period--beginning with the bloody raid and looting of the rich monastery of Lindisfarne in 793, in which not only gold chalices, but also priceless illuminated manuscripts were taken or destroyed, the capture of the town of Dublin in Ireland, the conquest of Eoforwick, now the city of York (or Jorvik), the battle and death of the Saxon king Aethelred, and the treaty with his successor Alfred (the Great) who agreed to give the Vikings half of the Saxon lands to be called the Danelaw, the deaths of the Viking leaders, Halfdan, Ubbi Ragnarsson, and Ivar the Boneless, the defeat of the Viking Harald Sigurdsson at Stamford Bridge by the Saxon king Harold Godwinson, and the death of that last Saxon king, by the Norsemen of France led by William the Conqueror (known as the first Norman king of England) whose successors ruled England for centuries.

Young readers who choose this book to share the adventures of their Viking alter ego will learn a lot of history along the way to spark continuing interest, and although the putative hero winds up dying in at least half the scenarios, they will get some understanding of the big events of the period and how it shaped the modern world. Far more than cartoon characters welding axes, the Vikings were  explorers, traders, navigators, and makers and keepers of  a significant part of European history. Author Lassieur provides an appendix with a timeline, glossary, bibliography of books and websites, and  an index to help readers see the big picture and polish up those reports.

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