Vikings on the History Channel

I don’t have cable, so I’ll have to wait to see the new Vikings History Channel show on Netflix and reserve judgment until then.  Although as the co-author of a novel-in-progress about Vikings, it seems like nothing but good news.  In my fantasies, Vikings will be the next big thing, bigger than vampires and for sure bigger than zombies.  I don’t get the appeal of zombies anyway.  Vikings are much better.

Plus they filmed in Ireland!  Woot!

Sun Dancing (Geoffrey Moorhouse)

I picked this book up on the recommendation of a friend. It’s unusual. The first half is a set of imagined vignettes of the monks’ lives on Skellig Michael from its founding (circa 6th c) to eventual abandonment (circa 13th c). The second half is a set of non-fiction chapters about various aspects of early Irish history.

The whole book is well worth a look, although it’s good to remember that in the fifteen years since it was published, a fair amount of historical and archeological research has been done, some of which calls into question elements of the non-fiction chapters. For instance, the idea that anyone was wearing kilts (p. 205)this early in Irish (or Scottish) history has been reconsidered. Even so, it’s an accessible, intriguing entrypoint to the time period and culture.

Early Medieval Ireland, 400-1200 (Daibhi O Croinin)

If you’re looking for a good, relatively recent (1995), concise but not too concise, introduction to Ireland from the introduction to Christianity to the 12th century invasion, you could do far worse than this book.

Just under 300 pages plus another 50 or so of resources (glossary, suggestions for further reading, bibliography), it packs a lot into a relatively small package. For comparison, I have two others on the shelf, waiting to be read, at roughly 1000 pages each.

There were places I wanted more detail. For instance on page 39, he describes briefly that “the pre-Christian practice […] reckoned time in terms of three-, five-, ten-, or fifteen-day periods, based on the lunar calendar […] the seven-day week was entirely unknown.” This is fascinating, a huge entrypoint into how people thought about their world and their place within it, but the author gives us nothing further. Bummer.

But overall, it’s a quick, nice introduction to the subject, accessible, even droll in places: “Modern scholars do not quite know what to make of Virgil. Is he just a dotty professor, like many of themselves, and therefore to be humoured?” (212). Very few pages went by without me underlining and/or annotating something in the margin, which is usually a sign of book in which a good time was had by all.