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Title: The Faraway North: Scandinavian Folk Ballads

Translated and Introduced by: Ian Cumpstey

Published by: Skadi Press (June 23, 2016)

Pages: 91 (eBook)

Blurb: These ballads convey a fantastic vision of the world as it was imagined in medieval Scandinavia, with monsters and magic intermingled with the very human concerns of heroism, tragedy, love, and revenge.

The great hero Sigurd is joined in this collection by troll-battling warriors including Holger Dane, Orm the Strong, and others. There are dramatic scenes of romance, betrayal, and loss. Some of the ballads translated here are attested by paintings or maps that date from earlier than when the first full ballad texts were first written down in the 1500s. An adventure ballad relevant to the history of an Eddic poem is also included.

The ballads are storytelling songs that were passed down as part of an oral folk music tradition in Scandinavia. This collection brings many new ballads to the English-speaking reader. The readable verse translations succeed in conveying the rhythm, spirit, and imagery of the originals. The translations are mainly based on Swedish and Norwegian ballads, with some from Danish tradition.

For each ballad, there is also a short introduction with commentary and background information.

The paperback edition includes fifteen full page black-and-white illustrations.

The ballads included are:
Åsmund Frægdegjeva; Steinfinn Fefinnson; Esbjörn Proud and Orm the Strong; Sunfair and the Dragon King; Bendik and Årolilja; Sigurd Sven; Sivard Snare Sven; Little Lisa; Sven Norman and Miss Gullborg; Peter Pallebosson; Sir Svedendal; King Speleman; Holger Dane and Burman; Sven Felding; St Olaf’s Sailing Race.

Praise for Warrior Lore:
“A charming introduction to Scandinavian Lore.” — Sam Smith, in The Journal (once ‘of Contemporary Anglo-Scandinavian Poetry’)

My Take: Oh how I loved reading through this. The Medievalist in me delighted at these short and catchy ballads. Ian did a great job at translating them in a way where repetition, rhyme, and rhythm all seemed to be in tact. Being no expert at Scandinavian, I cannot say how faithful the translations themselves were to the original text but, based upon the notes provided I am inclined to trust that Ian is knowledgeable about the language as well as the lore surrounding these Medieval Ballads.

The introductions accompanying each ballad did a good job of setting the scene for the events about to transpire. There were plenty of times that, without those introductions, certain details or events might have been overlooked upon a first read because they appear in allusions or in fast-passing moments during the ballads. So those introductions are perfect companions to each ballad in this collection.

There are a lot of similarities with these ballads and the literature of the Anglo-Saxons and the Icelanders, the two areas of Medieval literature that I am most familiar with. After reading this collection, I feel a level of comfort in expanding my interest to Scandinavian literature from that period as well and look forward to uncovering more literary treasures and seeing what else Mr. Cumpstey has to offer. I cannot express enough how wonderful this short collection of ballads was to read, and highly recommend them to anyone with an interested in literature from medieval cultures or even fans of fantasy.

I was provided a free eBook copy of this in exchange for an honest review.