The Faraway North by Ian Cumpstey

Summary

These ballads convey a fantastic vision of the world as it was imagined in medieval Scandinavia, with monsters and magic intermingled with very human concerns of heroism, tragedy, love, and revenge.

The great hero Sigurd is joined in this collection by troll-battling warriors including Holger Dane, Orm the Strong, and others. There are dramatic scenes of romance, betrayal, and loss. Some of the ballads translated here are attested by paintings or maps that date from earlier than when the first full ballad texts were first written down in the 1500s. An adventure ballad relevant to the history of an Eddic poem is also included.

The ballads are storytelling songs that were passed down as part of an oral folk music tradition in Scandinavia. This collection brings many new ballads to the English-speaking reader. The readable verse translations succeed in conveying the rhythm, spirit, and imagery of the originals. The translations are mainly based on Swedish and Norwegian ballads, with some from Danish tradition.

For each ballad, there is also a short introduction with commentary and background information.

The ballads included are:
Åsmund Frægdegjeva; Steinfinn Fefinnson; Esbjörn Proud and Orm the Strong; Sunfair and the Dragon King; Bendik and Årolilja; Sigurd Sven; Sivard Snare Sven; Little Lisa; Sven Norman and Miss Gullborg; Peter Pallebosson; Sir Svedendal; King Speleman; Holger Dane and Burman; Sven Felding; St Olaf’s Sailing Race.

Overall

If you like folklore and mythology this is a great little read. It is educational and entertaining. There are tons of characters all of whom get into their own little trouble/story. Some are tragedies, some are comedies, but they all are interesting. I really appreciated that the author explained what was happening before the ballad. It really helped a layman, like myself, understand what was happening. There was also an introduction at the beginning and a summary of information at the end. It was very educational but wasn’t boring. I read a ballad or two a night before bed since they were so easy to read.

Rating

4.5 stars

I really enjoyed this but a few of the introductions were lacking and I had to read one of the ballads twice to really understand what had happened. Despite that, it was a fantastic little read! I hope this author does more.

I received a copy in exchange of an honest review.

 

 

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