Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Becky Bookworm Book Review: Cnut - Emperor of the North by M J Trow (Plus fav quotes!)

As some blog readers may have noticed I've begun a reading frenzy on historical non-fiction on the viking period and I've read many great books so far dealing with the entire viking age but this time I've focused a bit and chosen a Norwegian Viking King who actually ruled England and brought prosperity and peace. Oh and APPARENTLY he also tried to be a bit too clever and stop the waves from moving.... Guessed who it is yet? Well whether you call him Cnut/Canute/ or Knut he is still the Viking raider 'who did good' and this book showed how much more there was to his life and reign than the one myth modern people remember him for. Please click on the cover below to read my full review on the Fantasy Guide.com website:

But in celebration of a book I enjoyed as much as The Real Middle Earth by Brian Bates I am about to reveal my all time favourite quotes gathered from this one book that reveal a delightful insight in the viking way of life and that of King Cnut/Canute/Knut:

"Outdoors, Cnut would have learned to practise with his wooden sword and shield, hacking and parrying with heavier equipment as his strength grew. He threw spears, shot arrows, played a rough kind of football. Perhaps he watched and cheered at horse-fighting contests, in which stallions, within sight and smell of tethered mares, were goaded to fight each other. The boy would have been taught swimming from an early age - a Viking's destiny was to sail and the sea was in his blood. He hunted, chasing wild boar through the reeds of Jutland's fens and sending his hawk hurtling to the sky in search of prey. By the time he was eleven or twelve, he would have been introduced to the feasts which were such a vital part of Viking life.
Feasts were the occasion of celebration among the Danes as they were among the most ancient peoples. Drink was the mainstay, but wine was a rare commodity, not laid down to age as now, but drunk newly harvested, light and fruity. Beer was not as alcoholic as it is today. In England, to which the young Cnut would sail perhaps before his fifteenth birthday, the hops that were grown were used for cloth-dyeing. So the beer of the Jomsviking halls were probably sweet and thick, like porridge. Mead was more plentiful, sweeter than today, brewed from honeycomb.......The Vikings had not perfected distillation by Cnut's time, so most wine was made from fruit. The more alcoholic beers were thought to be dangerous. An old Viking collection of poems, the Havamal or Words of Odin, warns 'be cautious with beer and another man's wife'. Drinking was done largely from cow horns, often richly decorated with silver or even gold. These had no flat bottoms so the contents had to be downed in one or at least quickly, which well may be the origin of the 'yard of ale' contests so beloved of student bars the length and breadth of central England today." Trow, 2005, pp45-46.

"In a sense it matters little what the origin of the invaders is. Historian J. M. Wallace-Hardrill describes them as 'little more than groups of long-haired tourists who occasionally roughed up the natives'. And Simon Keynes comments, 'the Vikings were probably uncouth, certainly unpleasant and decidedly unwelcome'." Trow, 2005, p81. 

[From the Encomiast] "The Lady Emma...mourned together with the natives; poor and rich lamented together, the bishops and clerics wept with the monks and nuns; but let the rejoicing in the kingdom of Heaven be as great as was the mourning in the world!" Trow, 2005, p207

 "...and Andrew Warn records that to the Victorians, the Vikings were all things to all men, they were 'bucaneering, triumphant, defiant, confused, disillusioned, unbiddable, disciplined, elaborately pagan, austerely pious, relentlessly jolly or self-destructively sybaritic. They are merchant adventurers, mercenary soldiers, pioneering colonists, pitiless raiders, self-sufficient farmers, cutting-edge naval technologists, primitive democrates, psychopathic beserkers, ardent lovers and complicated poets'. So they were." Trow, 2005, pp225-226.                                                                                         
I've become so fascinated by many of the great and powerful figures in this one book that I've gone and bought a kind of sequel to this titled 'Queen Emma and the Vikings' this is Emma of Normandy (also known as Alfgifu who also happened to be a mistress of Cnut/Canute/Knut's to make matters confusing hehehe). So look out for that review when I finish reading it.

1 comment:

  1. Good review - I still have this one to read.

    Cnut was an interesting character, most of what we know comes from the English Church writings after his coronation when he was giving gold to the church... hence we have Wise King Canute...

    He also slaughtered hostages when fleeing the restored King Aethelred, so not all good then.

    Some of his exploits have legendary qualities - he was said to have trained with the semi-mythical Joms Vikings...

    Despite all this I still think it was his Father who was the more powerful, the more cunning and the greatest Viking. Swein Forkbeard, the first Viking King of England.


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