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Review of Tales from the Viking Age by Matt Clayton

As you’ve probably guessed from my reviews of The Song of the Cid, The Song of Roland, Undying Glory, and Beowulf, epic stories from the past are some of my favorite tales to read. They’re exciting, are examples of the manly virtue championed in non-fiction books like The Bronze Age Mindset, and show what values were the driving force of past cultures.

Some of the best, most exciting epics come from the Norse. The Vikings that conquered Normandy, waged war with the Brits, Irish, Byzantines, and Russians, and settled Greenland, Iceland, and Vinland (Canada), were heroic in battle and intrepid explorers. Wanting to re-introduce myself to their stories and sagas, I read Tales from the Viking Age by Matt Clayton, which is about three Viking sagas, two of which are “legendary” sagas and one of which is historical.

Here is what those stories are about, in Clayton’s words:

The Saga of Örvar-Oddr is a lengthy tale about the exploits of the hero Oddr. Doomed to live a 300-year lifespan only to be killed by a serpent hiding inside the skull of his long-dead horse, Oddr goes from battle to battle and raid to raid, conquering human opponents and giants alike. Oddr lives by both his wits and the strength of his arm which, as we shall see, comes in handy when dealing even with friendly giants. Oddr is something of a peripatetic hero, appearing in other sagas besides his own. We will have already seen Oddr fighting alongside his friend Hjalmar in The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise before we encounter him in his own tale. The final saga in this volume is a historical one, dealing with the late tenth- and early eleventh-century Viking voyages to what is now northeastern Canada. The stories of these voyages are told in two historical works, The Saga of the Greenlanders and The Saga of Eirik the Red, which together are known as The Vinland Sagas.

The stories, however true they might be, are important because they show the human spirit under the most violent and tough of circumstances. As Clayton says:

“Whether fantastical or historical, the Viking sagas show us very human characters behaving in very human ways. We see courage and villainy, sorrow and joy, and strength and weakness play out in these complex stories whose creators and first audiences lived over a thousand years ago.”

For example, here’s a conversation between two characters that are facing fearful odds in the saga of Orvar-Oddr:

“Do you see what has befallen?” said Hjalmar. “They have already slain all our men and are likely to slay us as well. Doubtless we will be drinking ale with Odin in Valhalla tonight.” Oddr replied, “Valhalla may be a glorious place and Odin a gracious host, but I have other plans for tonight. We will kill each and every one of those berserkers, even though there are only two of us and twelve of them.”

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When faced with near-certain death, they neither weep over their fate nor attempt to escape death by means of cowardice. Rather, they cheer the idea of drinking with Odin in Valhalla before steeling themselves to fight to the death against rapid berserkers. Because they fight in such a manner, they’re heroes.

Such stories play out again and again; the heroic characters fight, whatever the odds, for glory, treasure, and honor. Their heroism should inspire us to behave in a similarly brave manner. That’s why you should read Tales from the Viking Age by Matt Clayton. It’s only about a few stories, but it will introduce you to the values of the Norse, the values of the martial culture that must be revived if the West is to defend itself.

By: Gen Z Conservative