God’s Viking, Harald Hardrada, The Life and Times of the Last Great Viking

This a gripping story of the last great Viking who is remembered most for his boast to the Saxons that he had come to conquer their land and ended up with just enough to contain his body. The full story is absorbing and goes some way to answering the question of where the Vikings went. – Most Highly Recommended.

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NAME: God's Viking, Harald Hardrada, The Life and Times of the Last Great Viking
FILE: R3150
AUTHOR: Nic Fields
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
PRICE: £25.00                                                               
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT:  Vikings, Varangian Guard, Norway, Denmark, Scandinavia, England, 
Saxons, King Harold, King Harald Hardrada, campaigns, Mediterranean Europe, 
Battle of Stamford Bridge

ISBN: 1-47382-342-0
PAGES: 366
IMAGE: B3150.jpg
BUYNOW: tinyurl.com/s4cpq5a
DESCRIPTION: This a gripping story of the last great Viking who is remembered 
most for his boast to the Saxons that he had come to conquer their land and ended up 
with just enough to contain his body. The full story is absorbing and goes some way 
to answering the question of where the Vikings went. – Most Highly 
Recommended.

The history of the Scandinavian warriors and traders, who are known to history as the 
Vikings, seemed to come out of nowhere and, in little more than two hundred years, 
disappeared back there in one of history's great vanishing acts. That is really more a 
case of history being written badly by Saxons and Franks. Those Viking family sagas  
that were treated as secret history and handed down though the family heirs as a guide 
to future leaders, and as an account of those who had gone before, tell a much greater 
story. However the family sagas have been carefully maintained in privacy and only 
fragments have passed out of those families, most notably in being collected and used 
as inspiration by Sir Walter Scott for his writings, who collected the sagas of some of 
the Galwegian families.

The first Viking traders set off from the Scandinavian lands much earlier and some 
family sagas appear to start in the early years of the first Century AD. Much of the 
trading and exploration voyages crossed the Baltic and followed the river networks 
south to the Black Sea and on to the Eastern Mediterranean. The traders also rode 
across what is now Russia and as far as China. They also sailed down the European 
coasts to Africa. In those early days their voyages were mainly trading trips in small 
vessels, or Knarrs, which were shorter but beamier craft, of greater freeboard, than the 
famous warships we know as the Longships. It is only relatively recently that 
archaeologists have begun to uncover artefacts that demonstrate the huge range of 
items traded by Vikings from vast distances beyond the Baltic.

In the 8th Century, Vikings began to undertake more raiding voyages, finding Christian 
churches and monasteries rich sources of gold and silver. Some trading voyages turned 
to combat as trade negotiations continued on into armed exchanges. This was the 
point at which their neighbours started to take notice and English prayer books 
included prayers asking for deliverance from the Vikings. By the start of the 11th 
Century the Vikings had largely disappeared from history. The Golden Age for 
Vikings was less than two hundred years beginning in the latter half of the 9th Century. 
In reality the Vikings did not disappear, they integrated. England and Scotland have a 
very strong Viking heritage and the Normans were strongly of Viking stock. 

As the Vikings relied on verbal history, being economical with their writing, and built 
their ships and their homes in wood. Much of the evidence of them has disappeared. 
In recent years archaeologists have uncovered evidence of Viking settlements in North 
America and the first Vikings to arrive there may have reached what is now the New 
England coast of the USA as early as the 9th Century.

Many mysteries remain, one intriguing mystery being the sunstone. The Vikings 
navigated using the compas and the sun wheel that are understood today. The compass 
may look different from the Viking compass but functioned in exactly the same way 
as a modern non-electric compass. The sun wheel may have fallen from favour for 
navigation at sea but was used commonly during WWII in the North African desert 
where the magnetic compass was unreliable. What the Vikings lacked was a time 
piece although there is some evidence that they used water and sand glasses. Their 
'secret weapon' was the sunstone which could see the sun and the moon through cloud. 
Exactly what it was or how it worked is now lost to history unless an archaeologist 
uncovers one and finds out how to use it.

Harald Hardrada lived at the end of the Viking period as it merged with the early 
Middle Ages. The popular image of the Viking is of a bloody pagan warrior and 
Hardrada was Christian but his history is every bit as colourful and the author has 
told his story very well. He served as a mercenary in the Varangian Guard and 
Vikings before him had served the Emperors in Constantinople long before his time, 
also serving as Princes of Golden Kiev which really meant they were members of a 
professional hired force protecting the local citizens.