Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings by Neil Price Basic Books: 8/25/2020
eBook review copy; 624 pages
Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings by Neil
Price is a very highly recommended history and examination of the Viking
Age, from 750 to 1050. This is a comprehensive history of the Vikings
in which Price looks at who they really were as a people, how they
viewed themselves rather than how other cultures defined them. They
would not have recognized or identified themselves as "Vikings." In the
past many histories that give a history of the Vikings view them through
the eyes of another culture, and usually with the result of placing the
contact culture in the positive light and the Vikings in a negative
light. Price presents a more equitable picture. He draws on historical
made at archaeological digs and burial sites across Europe, and
the historical observations made by those who had contact with them at
emphasis here is very firmly on who the Vikings really were,
what made them tick, how they thought and felt. Their dramatic
expansion will not be ignored, of course, but its context, its
origins, are at the core of what follows. Where better to
begin, then, than with the creation itself? The tale of the
gods fashioning the first humans from stumps of wood, on the
shores of the world ocean, has roots that extend very deeply
into Norse mythology. For all the fearful confusion about
their identity among those they encountered, in the Vikings’
own minds there was never any doubt at all: they were the
children of Ash, the children of Elm."
The comprehensive history is divided into three parts.
"The first part explores this realm
through the Vikings’ sense of self, and of their environment,
and begins by delineating the contours of its landscape
both on the ground and inside their heads. It explores their
unique understandings of personhood, gender, and the place of
the individual in the many dimensions of the cosmos. This also involves meeting the other beings with whom the
Vikings shared these spaces."
"The second part goes back to the early 700s, but
follows a different path to seek the major sociopolitical
developments and demographic factors that slowly combined to
trigger the Viking phenomenon itself. This was the time of the
raids and their gradual escalation from isolated attacks to
invasions of conquest, in the ever-present context of
expanding trade networks. The maritime culture of Scandinavia,
the rise of the sea-kings, and the development of uniquely
mobile pirate polities are the focus here. The beginnings of
the diaspora can be traced in all directions..."
three moves the story to the mid-eleventh
century, as the Viking phenomenon diversified across the
northern world. Its consequences included an urban revolution
in the Scandinavian economies and the reorganization of the
countryside, paralleled by the consolidation of royal power
and the rising influence of a new faith." Viking cities and
power bases were established across the world at this time. The idea of separate identities of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden began and they started becoming a part of Christian Europe.
I have literally pages of notes from reading Children of Ash and Elm.
Certainly I can't share everything, but I would encourage anyone who is
interested in an equitable history of the Vikings to read Children of Ash and Elm. I
was engrossed in the whole book and all the finds and research Price
includes. It is a fascinating and extensive examination of the Vikings, children of the great ash tree Yggdrasill,
their culture, explorations and sweeping travels. The final publication
will include a 16 page color insert, maps, chapter notes, references,
My review copy was courtesy of the publisher/author.