Excerpt of The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer
(Page 4 of 5)
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The abbey of Lindisfarne was founded in A.D. 635, and by 793 it was a
center of great learning and art. When the raiders arrived, the monks ran to
greet them and to invite them to dinner. The description of what happened next
is in The Sea of Trolls and is taken from The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
Amazingly, one beautifully illuminated manuscript survived the fire: the
This attack was the beginning of two hundred years of Viking raids on the
Viking is a term that means "pirate" or
"raider." Vikings could come from Denmark, Norway, or Sweden, and I
have chosen to use the word Northmen for them in the book. They would
have spoken Old Danish or Old Norse. Jack would have spoken Anglo-Saxon.
Languages change over time. Anglo-Saxon morphed into Old English and then into
the English we speak today. Old Norse changed into Icelandic, which is what
the Northmen in the book use. Kristin Johannsdottir, an Icelander teaching in
Canada, very kindly provided the correct translations.
The accent, in Icelandic words, is usually on the first syllable, as in music
or wonderful. Most letters are pronounced as they would be in English,
with a few differences:
r is trilled, as in Spanish.
þ is like th in think.
ð is like th in that.
æ is like i in English.
J is like y in yes.
t, d, l, and n are pronounced with the tongue on the back of
your front teeth, not at the top of your mouth. The differences between o
and ó and a and á are too difficult to explain here.
Use o as in sofa and a as in father.
Trolls, Jotuns, And Frost Giants
In the legends of northern Europe these three names seem to refer to the
same creatures. They were large, they loved ice and snow, and they were the
enemies of mankind as well as the gods. Most of the time they are described as
ugly, but there are stories of some who were very beautiful.
According to the sagas, the Jotuns occupied the northland of Europe first.
The worshippers of Odin fought them for centuries to get control of Norway and
Sweden. An eleventh-century manuscript describes the Jotuns as wild people who
attacked from the mountains in sledges. They wore animal skins, and their
language sounded like the growling of animals.
Even more interesting, the sagas say humans were not allowed to settle in
Norway until they intermarried with Jotuns. There are frequent references to
historical figures who were part troll. So it's possible that trolls really
existed. There are (or were) many unusual tribes living in the far north from
Norway to Siberia. It's even possible that Jotuns are a distant memory of the
Their original home was said to have been Utgard, which was in the Utter
North. I have placed it on Jan Mayen Island, a lonely volcano not far from the
Ivar The Boneless
Ivar was a half-legendary king. He probably lived around 880, though I've
placed him earlier. I invented his wife Frith. Ivar's father was called Ragnar
Hairy-Britches, and he was a thoroughly nasty swine. He was eventually thrown
into a pit of poisonous snakes by a Saxon king, a good trick since there are
almost no poisonous snakes in England.
Most of the Viking warriors were ordinary men. A few were berserkers, who
were sent in first to demoralize the enemy. Berserkers weren't afraid to die.
Their aim was to kill as many people as possible before they fell in battle
and went to Valhalla. Some berserkers may have taken a drug to go mad, but for
others it just ran in the family. You could call them an early form of
terrorists. Thorgil is patterned after a shield maiden in The Saga of King
Heidrek the Wise.
Copyright © 2004 by Nancy Farmer