Weighing the evidence of Viking sagas and poems against the accounts of the Vikings’ victims, Tom Shippey plumbs the complexities of Viking psychology and recounts tales from Old Norse literature to evoke a medieval culture of war, marauding, and storytelling.
Writing for a popular audience has clearly punched up Shippey’s prose, which is lively, friendly and occasionally barbed (mostly when alluding to academic stodginess) ... Though its many Norse names may seem off-putting, 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. Take up that invitation. Most adult readers only occasionally feel the wonder and enchantment that books so easily, so regularly evoked in us when we were young.
Mr. Shippey... has accumulated an impressive body of knowledge about medieval literary sources relating to Northern European history. This is a fast-paced, exhilarating account of the psychology of the marauding Vikings ... Mr. Shippey sails gallantly between the skerries of faculty-room 'comfort zones,' defiantly portraying the Vikings 'in their own terms' ... Mr. Shippey shows us that both literary and archaeological evidence can help to bring us closer to the Old Norse mind-set, providing fascinating proof of the Vikings’ own intellectual examination of their place in the world.
Tom Shippey's irresistible new book Laughing Shall I Die is a densely-detailed excavation of the lives, battles, and deaths of the towering figures from the Norse sagas and poems ... Shippey's inquiries are bracing and vivid; his forensic readings of the sagas and poems are consistently fascinating ... Flinty, argumentative, bristling with energy—Laughing Shall I Die is not only entertaining and challenging … it's also the most Viking Viking book we'll likely see all year.