PDA

View Full Version : 9th century saxons/vikings. Recommended reading?



Mr Flibble
09-13-2010, 12:38 PM
So I'm trying to research this period, and lawks a lordy, it's tricky. My local bookshop/library have virtually nothing. The internets is...conflicted. And of course with the internet, who knows who is giving reputable info?

So, I need recommendations for accurate websites/books on the early/mid part of the century in England for the Saxons and Norway for the Vikings. Specifically regarding daily life etc, methods of tanning, preparing food, clothes, attitudes to religion. What a Saxon thane's house might have looked like etc. You name it! Particularly any differences/similarities between the two cultures.

If I could find a consensus on whether they'd understand each other at all, that would be a start...

MissMacchiato
09-13-2010, 12:50 PM
you might find this site a semi-useful place to start - they're an archaeological trust, so in terms of source, they're reputable. http://www.jorvik-viking-centre.co.uk/

It's in britain, not in Norway, but still, it's a place to start, and get a feel for things!

firedrake
09-13-2010, 12:58 PM
The Jorvik site is good, I second that.

This is a good one too: Women in Anglo Saxon England (http://wychwood.wikidot.com/history-aswomen)

and

Viking Lady (http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/hairstyl.shtml) (naff title but some useful stuff about every day life)

Also

this one (http://www.regia.org/houses.htm)

Mr Flibble
09-13-2010, 01:20 PM
Excellent, thanks. I'd already found Viking Lady, whose great, as far as she goes. Needed more detail :D

Houses are small, no they had quite large buildings, they had windows, no they didn't....*head spins* See this is why I've always written fantasy. I can make it up...

MissMacchiato
09-13-2010, 01:39 PM
I guess what you have to think is, if you can't find it after intensive study, chances are, your standard reader wont either :D

You can only do the best you can do! Go with what seems to be most common sense.

Maxinquaye
09-13-2010, 02:30 PM
Most of the vikings wouldn't have lived in towns at all, but in farmsteads dotted around. And these farmsteads would have consisted of a communal longhouse, with utility buildings. People would have lived in the longhouses, with the thralls and the livestock.

I think you would probably be best served by contacting the archaeological departments in Norway to get details. They'll all speak english, and can give you a lot of detail. There's quite a lot of source material written in one of the scandinavian languages. What English material you will find will be centred on excavations of the few towns that did exist, like Birka in Sweden, Hedeby in Denmark (it's in Germany now though), and Skiringssal in Norway. In the UK you already know the viking towns Yorvik and Dublin.

But very few vikings lived in towns like that.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/primaryhistory/vikings/ (this is a kid's site, but may give some details in English).

Shakesbear
09-13-2010, 02:44 PM
There is also Sutton Hoo - http://beta.nationaltrust.org.uk/home/item277937/ and/or http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-suttonhoo.htm

There is a reconstruction of the burial ship which has lots of artefacts in it which might help.

Maxinquaye
09-13-2010, 02:50 PM
As for the Anglo-Saxons - have you researched under their kingdom names? Dumb question, I know. But Alfred wasn't king of England, he was the King of Mercia. You have the kingdom of Wessex, the kingdom of Northumbria. Things like that.

Mr Flibble
09-13-2010, 02:53 PM
Thanks to you all.


Most of the vikings wouldn't have lived in towns at all, but in farmsteads dotted around. And these farmsteads would have consisted of a communal longhouse, with utility buildings. People would have lived in the longhouses, with the thralls and the livestock.


I was thinking that a village (kinda) would be a loose collection of far-spaced farms that take up the available growing space in the fjord, with maybe a central feasting hall/jarl's house? Maybe a blacksmith?

Did they all keep the livestock in with them, because I've seen conflicting stuff for that too (even from two seemingly respectable places). *sobs quietly* Would some of the animals be over-wintered in the utility buildings among the more well off families? ( and I know they slaughtered most of the animals due to lack of over-winter fodder)


Ack, gotta go to work

Thanks again guys!

Ariella
09-14-2010, 08:01 PM
This book (http://books.google.ca/books?id=zF9nAAAAMAAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s) has a lot of useful information on Anglo-Saxon agriculture.

Also, here's a bibliography (http://bubl.ac.uk/docs/bibliog/biggam/) that can help you find other stuff you're looking for.

PeterL
09-14-2010, 09:11 PM
You might also look for information on life in Saxony and Jutland, whence the Saxons had come and were still travelling back and forth from.

Vikings from Norway would have understood Saxon whether they were living in England or on the continent.

DeleyanLee
09-14-2010, 09:13 PM
I don't know if it would help, but I believe the Eddas and Sagas would reflect on that time as well. Those are interesting glimpses into Viking mindset and society.

Mr Flibble
09-14-2010, 09:56 PM
I don't know if it would help, but I believe the Eddas and Sagas would reflect on that time as well. Those are interesting glimpses into Viking mindset and society.


Oh I've read (most of) those. It's the little details that are bugging me.



Vikings from Norway would have understood Saxon whether they were living in England or on the continent. Jury seems to be out on that one! Though Bernard Cornwell has them using interpreters IIRC. If it's good enough for him....(and it's going to make a few scenes rather more interesting that way)

Thanks again guys.

Medievalist
09-14-2010, 10:07 PM
Vikings from Norway would have understood Saxon whether they were living in England or on the continent.

No, they wouldn't. Not without actual effort learning the other language.

Saxon is West Germanic; Norse is North Germanic. There are fairly substantial differences, similar to those between, say, modern French and Spanish.

Keep in mind that there are substantial dialect differences in Old English--and that even several hundred years later in the era of Middle English we know for a fact that there were mutually unintelligible dialects of Middle English.

PeterL
09-14-2010, 10:25 PM
No, they wouldn't. Not without actual effort learning the other language.

Saxon is West Germanic; Norse is North Germanic. There are fairly substantial differences, similar to those between, say, modern French and Spanish.

Keep in mind that there are substantial dialect differences in Old English--and that even several hundred years later in the era of Middle English we know for a fact that there were mutually unintelligible dialects of Middle English.

We're talking 9th century here. At that point there hadn't been any significant differentiation. The regional differences would have been as great as Southern U.S. and Northern U.S. today. I didn't feel like looking it up, but the information is out there. There was a great deal of interaction, especially along the coasts, Jutland and Norway and from Jutland south. There wasn't a clear difference between Jutes and Saxons or between Jutes and Danes, and the only difference between Danes and the people who lived in what is now Norway was whether they were under the king of the Danes. There would have been more differences in language in the middle of Germany, because there was less interaction among the tribes.

Middle English was not an issue in the 9th century, because it wouldn't develop for hundreds of years.

Rammstein
09-15-2010, 12:22 PM
If you want to get a bit of feel for it, try finding The Long Ships, by Frans G. Bengtsson. It's pretty old, 1940s something novel, but it's a really interesting take on viking life and Europe of that time period in general.

Ingvanye
02-17-2011, 12:26 AM
Yep, Jorvik is good, look up Frojel Gotlandica as well, Sandy there is our Viking club President and is directly connected to Professor Dan Carlsson who runs the archeological dig on Gotland in Sweden.

Nick Blaze
02-17-2011, 01:23 AM
Old Norse literature I what I'd recommend reading. The culture will be a far better description of the times, or around the times, than any modern book. IMHO, that is.

Give these a shot (I admit, not all of these are from or about the 9th century, so please forgive me):

Heimskringla (this was written by Snorri, who was Christian; his works are tainted with Christian beliefs, so don't take him too seriously)
Prose/Poetic Edda (See above)
Egil's Saga
Njal's Saga
Laxdaela Saga
Orkneyinga Saga
Eyrbyggja Saga
Vinland Saga

Buffysquirrel
02-17-2011, 01:31 AM
J. Campbell's The Anglo Saxons?

Medievalist
02-17-2011, 01:41 AM
J. Campbell's The Anglo Saxons?

If it's the James Campbell The Anglo-Saxons from Penguin, it's good.

If it's the James Campbell who wrote The Anglo Saxons in the 1800s, not so much.

Buffysquirrel
02-17-2011, 02:00 AM
If it's the James Campbell The Anglo-Saxons from Penguin, it's good.

If it's the James Campbell who wrote The Anglo Saxons in the 1800s, not so much.

Lol, I had no idea! Definitely the Penguin one :).

ULTRAGOTHA
02-17-2011, 05:05 AM
You might also look for information on life in Saxony and Jutland, whence the Saxons had come and were still travelling back and forth from.

People living in Jutland were Norse. As were those in Schleswig-Holstein (which is now in Germany but was then Danish).

Jutland and Schleswig-Holstein is also where the Jutes, Angles and Saxons came from who became the 9th century Anglo-Saxons. But they came from there in the mid 6th century and the culture in England in the 9th century is very different.


Vikings from Norway would have understood Saxon whether they were living in England or on the continent.

Yes. But not absolutely. Old Norse and Old English were closely related languages and during the 9th and 10th century English picked up a bunch of loan words from Norse (what with the Danes living in the Danelaw and all). But they were both drifting apart from each other as well, and had been since the 6th century.



Most of the vikings wouldn't have lived in towns at all, but in farmsteads dotted around. And these farmsteads would have consisted of a communal longhouse, with utility buildings. People would have lived in the longhouses, with the thralls and the livestock.

While percentage-wise fewer Norse lived in Towns than on farmsteads, the Norse were great town builders--they built them as centers of trade. Dozens of towns were founded by the Norse--Dublin, Limerick, Waterford, Hedeby, Birka, Novgorod, Kiev.... York was a large (by the standards of the time) Viking town. So if you want your characters to be in a town, that's completely plausible.


Where are you setting this? That would help you focus your research. Anglo-Saxons and "Danes" (not always from Denmark) lived at the same time in England--at one time the Norse controlled almost all of England north of London with the Anglo-Saxons in the south and west. Is that where you want to set your story?

Here's a snippet for you from John of Wallingford, an Abbot in England in the 10th century. He's writing about the Norse living in the Danelaw. I can't track down the actual quote, but this is what is attributed to him:

"The Danes, thanks to their habit of combing their hair every day, of bathing every Saturday and regularly changing their clothes, were able to undermine the virtue of married women and even seduce the daughters of nobles to be their mistresses."

Saxons of the time must have been a lot less clean than that. :-D

Sigh, I lost my edit. But here are some other links that are good.
http://www.sagnlandet.dk/English.425.0.html
If you can get to Denmark, almost all your questions about Danish Norse would be answered here. We had so much fun! And it's really close to the Danish ship museum in Roskilde.

Also a good site. Check out their food page.
http://www.hurstwic.org/history/text/history.htm
http://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/daily_living/text/food_and_diet.htm

Search for viking longhouse in Google and click images.

KQ800
02-18-2011, 12:49 AM
If you want to get a bit of feel for it, try finding The Long Ships, by Frans G. Bengtsson. It's pretty old, 1940s something novel, but it's a really interesting take on viking life and Europe of that time period in general.

Oh dear god no! I love that book, but it is not in any way historically or sociollogically correct.

Canotila
02-18-2011, 09:20 AM
Nancy Farmer's Sea of Trolls series is set in 8th century Britian and Scandinavia, if I recall. She did quite a bit of research into getting the details right.

My copies of the first two books are out on loan, but the first one lists various professors in the acknowledgments who helped out with the language and history research. You might dig up a copy and see who she contacted.

I have a copy of the third book in my lap, The Islands of the Blessed, and she lists the following in her resources.

Brondsted, Johannes, The Vikings

Bryock, Jesse L. trans. Saga of the Volsungs: The Norse Epic of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer

Cummins, W.A., Age of the Picts.

Davidson, H.R. Ellis, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe

Fry, Timothy, The Rule of St. Benedict in Latin and English with Notes and Thematic Index

Griffiths, Bill, Aspects of Anglo-Saxon Magic

Guthrie, E.J. Old Scottish Customs (Complete text is available online)

Hagen, Ann, A Second Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Food and Drink: Production and Distribution

Kennedy, Charles W. trans An Anthology of Old English Poetry

Leahy, Kevin, Anglo-Saxon Crafts

Lindow, John, Handbook of Norse Mythology

Pollington, Stephen, Leechcraft: Early English Charms, Plantlore, and Healing -------, The Mead-Hall, Feasting in Anglo-Saxon England

Sutherland, Elizabeth, The Pictish Guide ---------, In Search of the Picts

Phew, okay, there are a few more and if you need dates or publishers for any of those I'll happily supply them. My hands are just getting all tired and wimpy.

The story is a historical fantasy about a boy and his sister kidnapped by vikings during a raid on their Saxon village, with magic and trolls and lots of good old mythology woven in. It's pretty interesting in how she juggles the different cultures without pushing any one of the religions or any agendas. The norse, christian, pagan, and to a lesser extent (because less is known about them) the picts, is presented pretty evenly without any author bias.

Mr Flibble
02-18-2011, 01:02 PM
Oh, I didn't see this pop back up!

The MS is actually out with betas at the moment (and the lady I sent to for historical accuracy reckons I'm not too far shy so yay!), but thanks for the info - it may well come in handy at a later date :D