‘There shone out from the twelfth shield,
A raven, all in brown.
That carried Richard Ravengarth,
For rhymes and runes he’s known.’
When Ian Cumpstey offered me his book Warrior Lore, translations of Scandinavian folk ballads, for review, I was both intrigued and excited. Intrigued, because I know very little about Scandinavian ballads, and excited, because these exact ballads are important to the book I’m currently writing.
Warrior Lore is a fine introduction to these ballads and to some of the heroic and historical figures of northern Europe. These are not dry academic translations, but rather lively, sometimes funny, sometimes sad verses which the reader can easily imagine set to music, being sung loudly and lustily in hall full of warriors, flickering firelight, and wide-eyed children. (To increase your appreciation of the verses, read them out loud!)
Cumpstey has organized the book well. Each ballad translation is preceded by a prose description and explanation of the history, characters and events of the verse. Having set the stage, the verse translation follows. While the rhymes sometimes seem imperfect, this is in keeping with the rhymes in the Swedish originals, and the rhyme schemes in the translations also mirror those of the originals. In the end-notes, the author explains that he has used multiple sources for most of his translations, as there are sometimes significant differences from one source to another.
The end result is a lovely introduction to Scandinavian folk ballads. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the area, and to any writer (like myself) who needs source material that is accessible but academically sound. A solid 4 stars.
The author provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.