In this robust new account of the Vikings, Tom Shippey explores their mindset, and in particular their fascination with scenes of heroic death. Laughing Shall I Die
considers Viking psychology by weighing the evidence of the sagas against the accounts of the Vikings' victims. The book recounts many of the great bravura scenes of Old Norse literature, including the Fall of the House of the Skjoldungs, the clash between the two great longships Ironbeard and Long Serpent, and the death of Thormod the skald. The most exciting book on Vikings for a generation, Laughing Shall I Die
presents them for what they were: not peaceful explorers and traders, but bloodthirsty warriors and marauders. "A lively retelling of some great stories."--Judith Jesch "Times Literary Supplement" "As tough and uncompromising as the Viking heroes whose lives and deaths it recounts, Shippey's book also shares their dark sense of humor. . . . Shippey upsets entrenched positions, dissects legend from history, and reveals how the Vikings were able to dominate in the North for more than three centuries."--Carolyne Larrington, University of Oxford "author of The Norse Myths: A Guide to the Gods and Heroes" "Fascinating . . . Spirited, engaging, and frequently very funny, this book is as memorable and enjoyable as the medieval stories it explores--an unmissable read for anyone interested in the Vikings."--Jennifer Bort Yacovissi "BBC History Magazine" "Here are two take-aways from Shippey's latest book: One, 'Viking' was a job description, not a racial or ethnic designation; and two, a quality demanded of those Vikings was a finely honed, mordant sense of humor that perhaps we modern nine-to-five cubicle-dwellers would find difficult to understand. That sense of humor includes composing, on the spot, even as the composer is being bitten to death by a pit-full of adders, a beautiful song that will be handed down through the ages. The song concludes with the line, 'Laughing shall I die, ' primarily because the dying Viking knows his sons are coming to wreak vengeance on the king who put him in the pit and will subject said king to a longer, slower, far grislier demise. It's pretty funny, apparently, if you're a Viking."--Jennifer Bort Yacovissi "Washington Independent Review of Books" "Magnificent. . . . Lively, friendly and occasionally barbed. . . . Shippey's magnum opus provides not only an exhilarating, mind-expanding appraisal and retelling of Viking history but also an invitation to discover the cold-iron poetry and prose of the medieval North.
Laughing Shall I Die
Tom Shippey is Professor Emeritus of Saint Louis University, Missouri, and concurrently Senior Research Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin. His books include J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century (2010), The Road to Middle Earth (4th revd edn, 2004), and Hard Reading: Learning from Science Fiction (2017).