Tiivistelma - Click the book to go to Amazon.co.uk

Tiivistelma - Click the cover to go to Amazon.co.uk

For my British, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish, Danish and yes, American Viking peeps, time for a long-overdue review of a book recommended to me by my pal Paul James McDaid – who’s perhaps better known as “Rogann” of the Dahrg de Belne Viking reenactment group and the United Viking Federation.

The book is Tiivistelma: A Compendium of Viking Stories, Myths and Legends. And in this powerful little compendium, John Halsted and Paul James McDaid team up to provide an engaging escape into the realm of the Vikings.

Halsted notes in the introduction that, while he sought the Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian translations of the word “compendium” – the only word he thought that captured the richness of the book’s subject – that these three all resulted in the disappointing word kompendium. The Finnish translation returned as the much more lyrical Tiivistelma, and so we have our title.

Fittingly, Tiivistelma opens with a retelling of the creation myth in the Norse tradition of clashing fire and ice, and the murder of the jotunn Ymir. Likewise we learn that this existence itself is doomed; that the earth will end and emerge anew with the battle of Ragnarok.

But before all this, of course, Odin must leave Asgard. And so we journey through the wild imagery of Baldur’s Dream, the twelve Valkyries clutching their shreds of fortune in the Song of Darradar, and Fenrir’s ultimate treachery. We learn how Freya gained the necklace Brisangamen (a fave tale of mine on several levels!), marvel at the cadence of Old Norse prayers (fortunately provided with their English translations), and finish with a modern day Viking version of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” I leave out so many – but all the greater the surprise when you explore them for yourself.

Make no mistake, many of these pieces are available in weightier translations (and I do mean “weightier”). But coming in at just under 100 pages, Tiivistelma packs a wallop of myth, storytelling and legend into one slim text – in which lies its very strength. For no other volume is as portable, as accessible, or as good for a quick Nordic fix as Tiivestelma. Proof that big things really do come in little packages – in this instance, anyway!

Read, enjoy – and escape into this Viking world!