Warrior Lore: Scandinavian Ballads by Ian Cumpstey

What a gem!

Length: 76 pages
Genre: Mythology/Folklore/History

Synopsis: When I first started writing this review, I was struggling with what all to include for the synopsis. I looked at the official blurb, again, and decided I would let it do the writing. So, here is the official blurb (which is better than what I had written):

“Thor resorts to cross-dressing in a bid to recover his stolen hammer. The hero Widrick Waylandsson comes face to face with a troll in the forest. A king’s daughter is abducted from a convent in rural Sweden. A young fighter has to show off his prowess in skiing and shooting for King Harald Hardrada. And more…

The medieval Scandinavian ballads in this collection tell stories of champions and fighters, vikings, and trolls, drawing on Norse mythology and heroic legend. There are riddles, and there are appearances from Thor, Loki, Sigurd, and other figures from the myths of the Edda and from history. Narrative ballads were part of an oral folk music tradition in Scandinavia, and were first written down around 1600, although the ballads themselves are older. These new English verse translations are mainly based on Swedish tradition.

The ballads transport the reader back in time into the fells and forests of the far north. These verse translations can also be sung, just as the ballads were in old Scandinavia.

All the ballads included are:
Widrick Waylandsson’s Fight with Long-Ben Reyser; Twelve Strong Fighters; Hilla-Lill; Sir Hjalmar; The Hammer Hunt; The Stablemates; Sven Swan-White; The Cloister Raid; Heming and the Mountain Troll; Heming and King Harald.”

Cover Art: This is one of the illustrations that accompanies the text in Warrior Lore. I took a look at some of the other illustrations from the book that are on Ian Cumpstey’s website and am impressed. Granted, the illustrations are not Van Gogh, Rembrandt, or Warhol, but for me, they sure fit with the ballads!

My Thoughts: If you are interested in mythology or Scandinavian history, this is a must read! There is not a lot of Scandinavian folklore that has been translated to English, so this is a true find! The ballads are short and easy to read, not like some of those epic poems out there that may or may not hold your attention for the entire story.  These stories make for a great read right before bed or even in the morning to get your day started.

Ian Cumpstey has done a wonderful job of translating these Scandinavian ballads into English. As soon as I started reading, I was immediately impressed with his work. I hope he translates more ballads so we can enjoy them!

Notes: I was curious as to what inspired Ian to translate these ballads and this is what he wrote when asked:
I suppose you could say it started when I was living in Sweden, and singing songs in Swedish — not necessarily ballads, but there’s quite a lot of singing of songs that goes on in Sweden. That’s when I started to think about the translation of songs. And then when I discovered the number of old Scandinavian ballads that had been written down I found that fascinating, given my interest in folk music. The choice of ballads to include in Warrior Lore was inspired by what survived of the old Norse stories into Swedish ballads in particular.

Rating: 4 stars ( I keep waffling between 4 stars and 4.5 stars)

disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

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