Vikings on the Isle of Man: Background information when reading Merrow

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Merrow by Ananda Braxton-Smith X
Merrow by Ananda Braxton-Smith
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  • Published:
    Nov 2016, 240 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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Vikings on the Isle of Man

This article relates to Merrow

Print Review

Godred CrovanOne of the main storylines of Merrow involves the arrival of a man, Ulf, who Auntie Ushag, using her native Manx language, calls a "wiggynagh," or what we'd call a Viking. Like many elements of the novel, this has a basis in historical fact, since the Isle of Man has a significant history of Viking exploration and settlement.

Viking CastleAccording to historian and archaeologist David Griffiths, the Isle of Man's central location in the Irish Sea – nearly equidistant from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales – made it an attractive and strategic destination for the many sea-faring raiders from Scandinavia (known today as Vikings) who raided, traded and settled their way across most of Europe and much of Russia for the best part of three centuries starting in the late eighth century. Griffiths notes that during the time of Viking settlement, the Isle of Man was the locus of much cultural cross-pollination among the Norse traditions, the traditional beliefs of the island's original inhabitants, and the new influences of Christianity.

Viking helmetViking elements can still be seen all over the Isle of Man, from numerous runic crosses and Viking gravesites, to Norse influences on the traditional Manx language to, according to some, vestiges of Viking political beliefs and structures that persisted even after the island became (for a while, anyway) part of Scotland in the thirteenth century. Visitors to this remote and independent place can still see Viking castles, fortresses, and archaeological sites which would have been familiar to young Neen Marrey, the protagonist in Merrow, more than a thousand years ago.

Godred Crovan, a Norse-Gaelic ruler of the kingdoms of Dublin and the Isles from approximately 1081-1094.
Viking Castle, courtesy of
Viking Helmet, courtesy of

Filed under Places, Cultures & Identities

Article by Norah Piehl

This article relates to Merrow. It first ran in the February 15, 2017 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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