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Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga [Paperback]

William W. Fitzhugh , Elizabeth Ward
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
RRP: 21.52
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Book Description

30 April 2000
Replete with color photographs, drawings, and maps of Viking sites, artifacts, and landscapes, this book celebrates and explores the Viking saga from the combined perspectives of history, archaeology, oral tradition, literature, and natural science. The book's contributors chart the spread of marauders and traders in Europe as well as the expansion of farmers and explorers throughout the North Atlantic and into the New World. They show that Norse contacts with Native American groups were more extensive than has previously been believed, but that the outnumbered Europeans never established more than temporary settlements in North America.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Smithsonian Books (30 April 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560989955
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560989950
  • Product Dimensions: 27.5 x 22.1 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 443,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Liking Vikings 16 Feb 2010
I bought this book a few years ago to add to my pretty extensive library of Viking related books, and it deserves its place on the shelf.
Although focussing on the Norwegian/Icelandic movement West to Greenalnd and America, it has a wealth of general info on the Norse.
Lavishly illustrated with many colour photos. Often the artifacts shown have no scale to help you determine size, nor are dates ascribed to them, which to my mind is a drawback.
There is also a good deal of information on the native peoples of the arctic with whom the norse had contact.
The time scope of the book goes beyond what is usually defined as the Viking Age and into later medieval material, but this is appropriate as it completes the story and, in any case, it is generally held that the Western Norse were conservative and may well have been "vikings" longer than their relatives back in Europe.
Excellent book.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, difficult to put down 18 July 2001
This book is fantastic, it covers just about everything you would want to know about the vikings, way of life, relegion ect. I have alot of books about this subject but this is definately the best. A great source of infromation, difficult to put down.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book 15 Feb 2014
By CML 75
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a lovely book if you can get it for a good price, beautiful pictures etc. Obviously it is a bit out of date with more recent archaeological evidence but it is a really great start for such research and really lays the groundwork.
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1 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Being of VIking descent myself ('Norman' = North Man; 'Sutherland' = from the South Land (i.e. northern Scotland)) I was really pleased to be passed this book. It is an, on the surface, well presented tome with chapters by the great and good, with strong Scandinavian names. But ... and here is the nub: NO RUSSIA.

Stop. Think. What is the largest country in the world, and the most important, which Vikings established? Correct - Russia. But, it only gets the tiniest of mentions at a handful of random points in this huge volume; less than 1 page worth. Far, far more is given over to non-knowledge on the Vikings in America. The totally false Vinland map is given pages and pages of stuff, all to prove the map was total twaddle. But, we knew that. Tons and tons of words on life in Greenland and Canada (which is not called Canada, just 'North America'). Nothing on The Steppes, Kiev, the Rus, etc.

OK. It was written for Americans (i.e. citizens of the USA) and so it has the imprimatur of The Smithsonian Institution. But, all the more reason for them to ensure this book was to be one that was true. Instead, it reads like a pseudo-historic romance as is so popular in modern American religions. A pretend made-up history for a land with little history. What a let-down.

So, no matter how erudite the other 80% of this book is, and how true it probably is, the American-leaning parts are simply either nonsense or irrelevance to the history of the Vikings. The book is skewed away from the real focus of Viking history - the European seaboard into Asia - into a tiny, almost one-man-Eric-The-Red, history of an entire group of people, leaving the reader with a completely wrong impression of who and what The Vikings were. They were European and Asian, not American.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
By Nancy J. Jensen - Published on Amazon.com
"Viking: The North America Saga" brings a breath of fresh information to lovers of Norse history, and is presented in a comprehensive, beautifully illustrated format which earn Fitzhugh and Ward praise in the literary community. The saga begins at the beginning, embracing the intimate originality of the Viking myth from its origins in the Scandinavian countries to the wonderfully adventurous, yet poignant infiltration into the New World. As the 1,000th celebration of Leif Ericson spreads throughout the globe, this book is a must have for anyone with an interest in truth about Norse groups who went "a-viking," touched today's and tomorrow's beliefs with their culture, and in fact, first met with the American Natives. It is clear, as found in the pages of this meticulously researched and documented book, that recent archeological finds support a few ancient theories but dispel others. The book is enhanced with colorful maps, numerous photos of artifacts and narrates the generational tale of the family who, even in their struggles, introduced the globe and the ages to a new continent. Delightful accounts of Norse mythology, day-to-day living, and culture help bring the heralders many of the world's ethnic groups across the ages to the here and now, a literary gem which applauds the anniversary of their amazing accomplishments.
46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A 'Must Have' but not the complete answer. 17 Jan 2001
By Edward E. Stevens - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga" is a book which should be on the shelves of any ordinary person who is seriously interested in the subject. Having said that I should warn potential buyers that the book is written by a number of authors of differing views. Readers should not just pick bits and pieces out of it but carefully read the whole. As would be expected, the book leans to the view of conservative scholarship, that the only proved contact between Vikings and North America is that of L'Anse aux Meadows, but some contributors seem to feel this means they must deny the possibility of any other contact and in my opinion they go overboard. For example, a strong attack with all the old gossip is mounted on the authenticity of the Kensington Rune Stone but what is not riddled with errors has by and large already been refuted. Surely too it was not necessary to describe R.A. Hall jnr, Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at Cornell, who for nearly thirty years has been one of the strongest supporters of the authenticity of the Kensington Rune Stone, as an 'amateur'. Nor was it reasonable to refer only to his 1982 book while omitting reference to his "The Kensington Rune-stone: Authentic and Important" published in 1994.
In the attempt to protect received history, no mention was made of the probability that some of the survivors of the fourteen ships which went missing from Eric the Red's voyage of settlement to Greenland made it instead to North America and took residence amongst the natives. Similarly lacking is any mention that in the course of returning from his original voyage of discovery Lief Ericsson rescued Thorer and his crew who had been wrecked in the waters between Vinland and Greenland. Thorer's ship had been carrying timber which possibly came from North America and suggests prior knowledge of that country. Biarne Grimolfson perished in the 'Irish Ocean' when his ship was attacked and sunk by Teredo worms. The survivors reached Dublin in the ship's boat. This points to direct Atlantic crossings at a very early date but no mention of this or the implications of this advanced navigational knowledge was made in the book. The theories of Farley Mowat about pre-Viking European contact with North America are misrepresented as being about contact by early Norse when anyone who has read his book "The Farfarers" will know that Mowat proposed early North American contact by people other than the Norse.
In some sections of the book the reader is not being told the full story. In this and similar respects I think the book does the reader a disservice.
Nevertheless, my view of this book is by no means entirely negative and I believe it should be on the shelves of anyone with a general interest in Vikings and the North Atlantic. My primary concern is that the reader should be aware that like the 'curates egg' - "parts of it are excellent".
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This gorgeous Viking book ranks with the best 18 Nov 2001
By Green Viking - Published on Amazon.com
What a complete package! Absolutely loaded with huge beautiful pictures of everything from ancient maps to medieval Scandinavian jewelry to charts of what individual experts think the Vikings dubbed "Vinland", this book has it all. Someone familiar with the subject will find it gorgeously re-introduced in this extremely professional layout, and yet anyone new to the subject will find this book to be inviting, informative, and fun to read. While this book doesn't dig quite as deep as either Jones' textbook-format "A History of The Vikings" or Haywood's geographically well-documented "The Penguin Historical Atlas of The Vikings", this is still like a huge compilation of every other Viking book I've seen yet, giving the subject the spotlight that it needs after so many recent discoveries. A very professional complete package for everyone.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Completely mesmerizing 27 May 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
This series of essays by Norse scholars is better than any novel I've read in years. So many mysteries, beautifully articulated! Why did a Bishop drop his gold ring in the choir loft? Why did witnesses come forward twenty years later to swear a wedding took place in Greenland just before its population completely disappeared? Why did the Vikings skedaddle out of Vinland? Why did they disappear with their furniture from Greenland but leave their livestock behind? Why did the majority of women die young and the majority of men live into their fifties?
Don't start reading this wonderful book if you're supposed to be doing something else; you won't be able to put this down.
What I like best of all, even better than the outstanding illustrations, is the tone of the writing. You are drawn into another historical era and invited to live there.--Linda Donelson, author of "Out of Isak Dinesen: Karen Blixen's untold story"
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wealth of info on the medieval Norse reach across the ocean 24 July 2006
By Lee Madland - Published on Amazon.com
This sumptuous and lavishly illustrated volume of 432 large pages, was published by the Smithsonian Institution in 2000 to coincide with the thousandth year, as close as we can reckon, of Leif Erikson's pioneering voyage to North America where he founded an outpost in "Vinland" that was used by subsequent expeditions until finally being abandoned after several skirmishes with the native inhabitants -- this according to the two pertinent surviving sagas.

The book is an impressive compendium of scholarship by 40 writers in 32 different articles, naturally from often different viewpoints. It gets a five-star rating not because I don't have disagreements with certain conclusions of a number of articles, but because of the wealth of information it contains on Viking/Norse life and legacies for anyone seriously interested in the topic. It's divided into seven sections, titled Viking Homelands, Viking Raiders (in Europe), Vikings in the North Atlantic (including Iceland), Viking America, Norse Greenland, and Viking Legacy. (The term "Viking" is ill-used as applied to Iceland and the farther lands -- or for that matter in Europe after about 1100 -- but the label seems irresistible to publishers in titles, even to the Smithsonian. At least Greenland gets a proper "Norse" label.)

Obviously it's not a work to be read cover to cover in one gulp. Since there are too many topics and regions covered in detail to look at closely in a review of any reasonable length, I'll focus briefly here on "Viking America," which presents eight major articles. Their topics range from Ellesmere Island in the High Arctic where Norse artifacts have been found, to, of course, Vinland in the far south (just how far south a matter of complex disputes often passionately held.) Too, it explores what the lore and the sagas tell us on one hand, to hard archeological digs on the other, both subject to interpretation. An interesting wrap-up article in this section is intriguingly titled "Unanswered Questions." The Canadian archeologist Birgitta Linderoth Wallace, who wrote two articles and collaborated on another, has been in charge of the famous L'Anse aux Meadows site at the northern tip of Newfoundland since its discoverers Helge and Anne Ingstad finished their work there in the late 1960s. With the Ingstads she believes the site is in fact the remains of Leif's settlement of Leifsbudir -- although others, including Carl Sauer, Erik Wahlgren and myself, have strong doubts on that score. But even if we're right, this in no way diminishes the importance of the site, as this is the first thoroughly, physically confirmed site of Norse occupation found in America. If I may register a guess, it might have been a strategically placed "way station" occupied for a few years by some other unrecorded Norse voyagers presumably from Greenland, which would open other intriguing questions. There's a good possibility that we'll never know.

Another engrossing article deals with the native peoples of these regions: the Innu, Dorset, and Thule Inuit in northern Canada and Greenland (it was the Thule "Eskimos" who remained after the Dorset and Norse were gone), plus the now-extinct Beothuk Indians of Newfoundland; a panel of four maps shows their respective areas of occupancy from AD 900 to 1500. Several articles in the America and Greenland sections look at contacts and relations between the Norse and "natives" (remembering that the Norse Greenlanders were no less "native" than the Thule, having lived in southwest Greenland for over 300 years before the Thule ever arrived in that region). One article includes a recounting of an Inuit folk tale as told to the Danish Greenland official H.J. Rink in 1858, of a bloody incident and reprisals between a group of Inuit and Norse hundreds of years before, complete with color illustrations drawn for Rink by an Inuit artist.

The above comments scarcely touch the surface of the riches to be found in this volume. The general tone is scholarly and carefully conservative in most respects (sometimes too conservative and one-sided in my view, as if the writers/editors were reluctant to delve much into matters subject to heated controversies except to dispose of them as quickly as possible). Nevertheless, all in all it's a most impressive compendium of fascinating information not obtainable elsewhere, and the editors and writers are to be congratulated for that.
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