Archive for the ‘Vikings’ Category
Have you considered historical fiction for genre study in English? You could place it alongside a study of the Vikings in history and there has never been a better time to do so. In the past this period attracted children’s historical fiction writers, notably Henry Treece. Several of his stories were set in the Viking period and they have a stark quality about them to match the sagas themselves.
Viking Dawn (1955), The Road to Miklagard (1957) and Viking’s Sunset (1960) tell the story of Harald Sigurdson. We first meet him as a 15 year old on a desperate journey to the Hebrides. Next as a fierce warrior we follow him via capture by pirates, Moorish slavery and service as a palace guard to Miklagard and wealth. Finally in old age he sails in search of vengeance to first Greenland and then Vinland.
Two later stories are Horned Helmet (1963), Beorn an Icelandic boy joins a Viking ship and learns to fight and kill, a tale of courage and brutality. The Last of the Vikings (1964), is the fictionalized life story of Harald Hardrada who died at that other battle in 1066, Stamford Bridge. While these may now feel a little dated there is a range of brilliant new titles from more modern authors to place alongside them which follow a similar range of themes of war, trade, farming and exploration.
In Bracelet of Bones (2011) by Kevin Crossley-Holland the heroine Solveig follows her father from the battlefield of Stiklestad in Norway via Novgorod and Kiev to Miklagard, the same route that Hardrada followed. Meanwhile in Slave Girl (2005) by Jackie French, Hekja, a Scottish child captured and enslaved by Viking raiders is taken to Greenland and then Vinland where she finally earns her freedom. In The Fated Sky (1996) by Henrietta Branford the heroine also sails west. Following the death of her father and brothers, and then her mother, Ran and the blind harper Toki take ship to Iceland. Here danger finally catches up with them.
In Feasting the Wolf (2007) the author Susan Price explores another theme common theme. In the Shetlands two boys, blood brothers Ottar and Ketil, dream of war and adventure. When a Viking ship visits they enlist together and find themselves part of Halfdan’s Great Army plundering the Saxons of Northumbria. Here they learn the brutal reality of war. And lastly in Francesca Simon’s new novel, The Sleeping Army (2011) with an interesting twist on the time slip novel, the heroine Freya is plunged back into Viking Asgard. To save the gods she has to navigate a world of giants, gods and wolves with the help of her companions, including Snot the berserker.
All share Treece’s stark quality and several capture the poetry of the sagas too. Altogether they offer a rich range of characters and contrasting descriptions of authentic Viking settings – aboard long ships and in their houses – for some detailed textual analysis as a prelude to children writing their own Viking fiction.
And for the teacher wanting some eCPD on the period then visit the Historical Association at http://www.history.org.uk/resources/primary_resource_4806_2.html
For more detail on these individual titles use the Historical periods drop down menu on the right of this screen.
Whilst writing an eCPD course on historical fiction for the Historical Association I came across this story by an Australian author. First published in 2005 it was published here in the UK in 2011. It adds to the number of good stories set in the Viking period that would make a great basis for genre study, perhaps in Year 6?
This is the story of Hekja, a Scottish child captured and enslaved by Viking raiders and taken to Vinland viaGreenland. She is accompanied by her dog, Snarf. Here the Viking voyagers encounter icebergs for the first time.
Something loomed beside them, tall as a hill and gleaming, even though there was no sun to light it. The men scrambled to their rowlocks and heaved with their whole bodies at the oars.
It was as though the iceberg breathed out cold. The air about it was thick with cold. The hair on Hekja’s neck rose at its strangeness, gliding so silently through the water.
To read more visit the publishers web site at http://www.harpercollins.co.uk/Titles/66224/slave-girl-jackie-french-9780007216598 (accessed 6/1/2012)
The Sleeping Army by Francesca Simon (Profile 2011). A new novel with an interesting twist on the time slip novel. The modern Britain from which heroine Freya is plunged back into Viking Asgard is a pagan Britain. Reviewers have been very positive about this retelling of Viking myth. Freya navigates a world of giants, gods and wolves with a mixture of courage and humour.
And for students the story telling device of animating an object/s from the past, in this case the Isle of Lewis chessmen in the British Museum, could be translated to another place or time.
For an interview with the author go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlqJsnOPz1k
Or visit the publisher’s website at http://www.profilebooks.com/isbn/9781846682780/
Here is an event, a new title by Kevin Crossley-Holland. Unsurprisingly it has already received very good reviews. It should form a valuable addition to those using the Vikings as a setting for story reading and writing. Follow the Categories link for other Viking titles. And a sequel is promised. Here is the published synopsis.
It is 1036. Halfdan is a Viking mercenary who is determined to travel to Constantinople and become one of the Viking Guard serving Empress Zoe. He promises to take his daughter, but one morning Solveig wakes up to find him gone. Setting off in her own tiny boat, she is determined to make the journey from Norway to the breathtaking city. Her boat is washed up, but Solveig is undeterred. What awaits Solveig as she continues on her summer journey across the world? She finds passage with Viking traders, witnesses the immolation of a young slave girl and learns to fight. She sees the clashes between those who praise her Norse Gods and the new Christians. In this perilous and exciting world, a young girl alone could be quickly endangered or made a slave. Will Solveig live to see her father again, and if she survives, will she remain free? A glittering novel that explores friendship and betrayal, the father-daughter relationship, the clash of religions and the journey from childhood to adulthood.
The Fated Sky, Henrietta Branford (Hodder Children’s Books 1996) is the story of Ran and the blind harper Toki. Following the death of her father and brothers, and then her mother, the two take ship to Iceland. Here danger finally catches up with them. A stark and gripping story firmly set in the Viking world. This extract gives an indication of the quality of the writing in establishing such a strong sense of period.
We stayed at Thorsdale all through the Cuckoo Month, and up until the end of the egg-time. It was a good place. Agnar Thorfast had brought finely carved roof posts with him from Norway, which made the hall feel as though it had stood there for longer than it had. Between the two rows of carved post a fire always burned, and the thick wood smoke billowed up into the roof and crept out through the smoke hole – or else billowed around the hall, making all the people cough and wipe their eyes. It depended on which way the wind was blowing.
The walls were built of turf blocks set on a low stone foundation, and there were window holes which could be shut with wooden shutters on cold days. The floor was earth, with wooden planks laid over it. Benches were built into the long walls for the men, wih cross benches on the short walls for the women. Everyone ate and slept together in the main hall. Only Agnar and Asa, his wife, had a curtain around their bed. Weaving was done at one end of the hall, not in a separate weaving room. Asa had plans to make Agnar build on more rooms – a better privy, a dairy and more pens for the beasts. There was already a good byre, where the slaves slept with the cattle, as well as a barn and a smithy.
Feasting the Wolf, Susan Price (Usborne 2007) is the story of two boys, blood brothers Ottar and Ketil. Growing up in the Shetlands they dream of war and adventure. When a Viking ship visits they enlist together and find themselves part of Halfdan’s Great Army plundering the Saxons of Northumbria. Here they learn the brutal reality of war.
The quality of the writing is very strong as the extract below shows.
The trick was to fight knowing that you might be dead by the day’s end, but to ride the fear and excitement like a wild horse, reining in or giving it its head, as needful. Ottar wasn’t sure he’d ever mastered that trick.
The fight itself was always madness, whoever it was against. The two sides might spend a morning jeering at each other; but once they charged, it was shove, hack, heave, slash, stab – throwing all your strength and weight into every blow, keeping your shield up, keeping your feet under the hammering blows, hardly able to hear for the bangs, thumps, shouts; gasping for breath, dripping with sweat, but finding strength for another blow, another shove – because if you didn’t, you’d go down, and once you were down, you were finished.
One of the great writers of children’s historical fiction was Henry Treece, who died in 1966. Several of his stories were set in the Viking period and they have a stark quality about them to match the sagas themselves.
Viking Dawn (1955), The Road to Miklagard (1957) and Viking’s Sunset (1960) are the story of Harald Sigurdson. We first meet him as a 15 year old boy on a desperate journey to the Hebrides. In the second Harald has become a fierce warrior and his story takes him via capture by pirates, Moorish slavery and service as a palace guard to Constantinople and treasure. In the third and final installment Harald in old age sets off in search of vengance to Greenland and then to Vinland, a land of fierce red warriors.
Two other Viking stories are Horned Helmet (1963), the story of Beorn an Icelandic boy who joins a Viking ship and learns to fight and kill, a tale of courage and brutality. Last is The Last of the Vikings (1964), the fictionalised life story of Harald Hardrada who died at the other battle in 1066, Stamford Bridge.
And it is still possible to obtain copies of these http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_2_8?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=henry+treece+viking+saga&sprefix=henry+tr
Historical fiction is a superb teaching resource for the teacher of history in schools. Childrens’ interest in history is often sparked by the fascinating people in the past and their stories. And that is what historical fiction is all about, powerful narratives. This blog is intended to support history teachers; and others in using historical fiction.
You can ask your students to read historical stories to gain a sense of period, to explore the writer’s techniques and then use these, alongside their own historical research, in writing their own historical fiction.