A good story

All the written sources we have, apart from the runic inscriptions, were written down after the Viking Age, in the 13th-15 centuries. As a consequence, the information they give on the period prior to AD 1100 is based solely on accounts handed down by word of mouth. We can divide the written sources up into several categories such as chronicles, sagas and skaldic epics. They differ considerably from each other, but all three categories show the influence of wishing to tell a good story. The authors had a purpose in mind when writing the text. They may have wanted to copy the writing style from foreign lands, or tell a family history, or praise a particular person or just make the events extra dramatic and exciting. Sometimes they wanted to do all of these things an once.

  • Write two stories about a dangerous voyage. One as a skald from Viking times, where the story praises the king or chieftain on board, and one as PR officer on the Sea Stallion, addressed to the media. The story from Viking times can be in the form of a poem and contain kennings; the class could perhaps obtain inspiration from the saga texts. In the story for the Sea Stallion, the class can read the newsletters here on the website and also newspaper articles to discover the style and form in which a journalist writes.
  • What characterises a skaldic epic? Download Eigil Skallagrimssons The Head Ransom for inspiration.
  • Write a skaldic epic about the Battle of Stamford Bridge.
  • Imagine that you are a Viking. Write a poem about the time you arrived for the first time at a beautiful bay in Scotland.
  • What kind of stories are the sagas? What about the language, the plot, special characteristics etc.?
  • Foretell your own Viking saga. Perhaps you could start with Cnut the Great's attack on Aberdeenshire in AD 1012.
  • Imagine that you are the head coach of the national football team and you are having a final word with your players before they run on to the pitch; you want them to give their all in the game – look for inspiration in the skaldic epics from Viking times and write your speech to the players using the words of a skald.
  • Take the front page news from a daily newspaper and rewrite it as a saga or skaldic text.
  • Find a discussion programme or a modern detective story on television. Choose a short sequence and describe how it would have been in Viking times/re-enact the sequence as it would have unfolded in Viking times.

Use the library and find examples of sagas and skaldic epics from the 13th-15th centuries.