Warrior Lore is the second collection of Scandinavian folk ballads translated into English verse by Ian Cumpstey, following Lord Peter and Little Kerstin. These narrative ballads were part of an oral tradition in Scandinavia, and were first written down around 1600. Included in this book are stories of heroes and fighters, Vikings, and trolls.
The legendary hero Widrick Waylandsson comes face to face with a troll in the forest. Thor resorts to cross-dressing in a bid to recover his stolen hammer. The daughter of the King of Sweden is abducted from a convent in the Swedish countryside. A young fighter has to show off his prowess in skiing and shooting for King Harald Hardrada. And more…
Note: I was provided a copy of this book for review.
This collection is a translation of numerous Scandinavian ballads going back to the 1600s in written form, and much farther in the oral tradition. They tell stories of Viking battles, fights for ladies hands, and battles against mountain trolls. The ballads themselves are not very long and with only ten in the collection this is a fairly quick read.
Cumpstey explains beforehand what each ballad is about and yet this does not ruin the reading because as you read each ballad you recollect the explanation and it helps understand it more so. This means you are able to focus on other aspects of the ballad rather than trying to work out the meaning of the story. The ballads themselves are quite interesting and Cumpstey’s words evoke vivid images and history, making it easy to imagine they took place centuries ago in a Scandinavian forest.
The translation from the Scandinavian is smooth and each story is easy to understand. Cumpstey maintains the narrative yet lyrical nature with his translation making it remain ballad like rather than poetry and whether read aloud or silently there is a natural rhythm that is easily established.
Each ballad is different from one another, both in story and in style. There is humour in the ballads making them light and entertaining, but there are also those that show more violence. Cumpstey’s writing is clever though and he is quite skilled at making the darker and more violent ballads straightforward and without much brutality, but at the same time in no way makes them less serious or important in nature.
The ballads cover various legendary characters in Scandinavian history such as Widrick Waylandsson, as well as Diderick of Bern and Siva Snare Sven. Possibly more familiar figures such as Thor and Loki, the gods of Norse myth, are also featured, though they are known here as Thor-karl and Locke Leve. There are a range of characters and figures through these ballads and they contain stories about trolls, Vikings, kings, heroes and fighters alike. The characters are presented well, even in the limitations of verse, and Cumpstey uses their actions to aid the description and understanding of who these characters are.
As a lover of history as well as myths and legends, I loved reading about these figures who have had their names live on through history through ballads and the written word for centuries. By bringing these stories together Cumpstey has created a collection that brings some possibly unknown stories and names to a wider audience in a way that is informative, interesting, engaging, and certainly enjoyable.
You can purchase Warrior Lore via the following