Laughing Shall I Die: Lives and Deaths of the Great Vikings

Laughing Shall I Die: Lives and Deaths of the Great Vikings Review

Laughing Shall I Die explores the Viking fascination with scenes of heroic death. The literature of the Vikings is dominated by famous last stands, famous last words, death songs, and defiant gestures, all presented with grim humor. Much of this mindset is markedly alien to modern sentiment, and academics have accordingly shunned it. And yet, it is this same worldview that has always powered the popular public image of the Vikings—with their berserkers, valkyries, and cults of Valhalla and Ragnarok—and has also been surprisingly corroborated by archaeological discoveries such as the Ridgeway massacre site in Dorset.

Was it this mindset that powered the sudden eruption of the Vikings onto the European scene? Was it a belief in heroic death that made them so lastingly successful against so many bellicose opponents? Weighing the evidence of sagas and poems against the accounts of the Vikings’ victims, Tom Shippey considers these questions as he plumbs the complexities of Viking psychology. Along the way, he recounts many of the great bravura scenes of Old Norse literature, including the Fall of the House of the Skjoldungs, the clash between the two great longships Ironbeard and Long Serpent, and the death of Thormod the skald. One of the most exciting books on Vikings for a generation, Laughing Shall I Die presents Vikings for what they were: not peaceful explorers and traders, but warriors, marauders, and storytellers.

Title:Laughing Shall I Die: Lives and Deaths of the Great Vikings
Edition Language:English

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    Laughing Shall I Die: Lives and Deaths of the Great Vikings Reviews

  • Julie Davis

    Shippey begins by explaining that in the Vikings' own language, Old Norse, the word "viking" meant pirate or marauder. Most Scandinavians were not Vikings, though most Vikings were Scandinavians. Acad...

  • Charles

    In these days where man is held to be homo economicus, we are told that all people are basically the same, and what they want, most of all, is ease and comfort. Real Vikings prove this false. Instead,...

  • Wesley Fiorentino

    Shippey's book is a fantastic work of scholarship that is also an accessible read. The author effectively challenges the commonly held notion of the Viking Age as stretching from roughly 800-1066 or s...

  • Berni Phillips

    I was aware of Shippey by his reputation as a Tolkien scholar. I was not aware how readable he was for non-scholars. (He does say upfront that this book is aimed at more of a general audience.)This bo...

  • Joel Zartman

    Tom Shippey knows what he's talking about, does it without pedantry, and even knows, in his deployment of the resources of language, when and how to use slang. If more scholarship were of the Shippey ...

  • Philjones62

    Started well and at times rather engaging. But I have no idea why the author felt it necessary to name drop Tolkien and link back to Game of Thrones through the book.Maybe it was just me but the sidew...

  • Donna

    Takes highly motivated reader as it is difficult to keep straight multiple names for each individual that all look alike. But interesting take on the Vikings -- A death cult in which even the GODS die...

  • The Mole

    Excellent scholarship, rich explanations, and highly readable! What's not to love!...

  • Arild Stromsvag

    I love the way Shippey writes about fairly complex matters, and the book definitely provided food for thought and new insights. Highly recommended!...

  • Susan

    I think they would have liked Lada....