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BOOKS OF THE MONTH
THE VIKING AGE.*
Du Chaillu's is the most ambitious work hitherto written in English concerning the socalled Viking Age of Scandinavia. It is the result of at least eight years' indefatigable work on the part of the author, and comes elegantly printed in two octavo volumes containing 1,153 pages, and not less than 1,366 illustrations. The work is illustrated from the antiquities discovered in Scandinavian mounds, cairns, and bogs, and from the old Norse sagas and eddas. In this great wealth of illustration may be noticed, as of special interest, the pottery of the stone age and the bronze vessels and weapons of a later period, the runic stones with their inscriptions, the illustrations of household decoration and of articles of personal adornment, and the curious picture-tracings on the rocks in the Scandinavian countries.
In regard to the method of producing “The Viking Age" we will let the author speak for himself:
"By reading carefully every saga-and there are hundreds of them--dealing with the events of a man's life from his birth to his death, I was able to select the passages bearing on the various customs. When in one saga the bare fact of a birth, or a marriage, or a burial, or a feast, etc., was mentioned, in others full details of the ceremonies connected with them were found. After thus collecting my material, which was of the most superabundant character, I went over it and selected what seemed to me to be the best accounts of the various customs with which I deal in these volumes. I have not been content with the translations of other persons, but have in every case gone to the original documents and adopted my own rendering of them.
"Some extracts from the Frankish chronicles are given in the Appendix, as showing the power of the Northmen, and bearing strong testimony to the truthfulness of the sagas. If I had not been afraid of being tedious, I could also have given extracts from Arabic, Russian, and other annals, to the same effect.
"The testimony of archæology, as corroborating the sagas, forms one of the most important links in the chain of my argument; parchments and written records form but a portion of the material from which I have derived my account of the Viking Age.' During the last fifty years the history of the Northmen has been unearthed as it were like that of the Egyptians, Assyrians, and Romans--by the discovery of almost every kind of implement, weapon, and ornament produced by that accomplished race. The museums of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, England, France, Germany, and Russia,
*THE VIKING AGE. The Early History, Manners, and Customs of the Ancestors of the English-speaking Nations. By Paul B. Du Chaillu. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
are as richly stored with such objects as are the British museum, the Louvre, the museums of Naples and Boulak with the treasures of Egypt and Pompeii. I have myself seen nearly all the objects or graves illustrated in this book, with the exception of a few runic stones which have now disappeared, but are given in an old work of Jörgensen.
"As my materials expanded themselves before me I felt like one of those mariners of old on a voyage of discovery. To them new lands were continuously coming into view; to me new materials, new fields of literary and archæological wealth unfolded themselves incessantly. Thus carried away by enthusiasm and the love of the task I had undertaken, I have been able to labor for eight years and a half on the present work with some interruptions from exhaustion and impaired
The writer of this article was for several years a fellow-resident with Mr. Du Chaillu in Copenhagen while the latter was engaged in writing his " Viking Age," and can bear personal testimony to the remarkable industry and great enthusiasm with which the author applied himself to his work. Indeed, he was almost inaccessible even to his friends; and nothing but his great energy and rare vitality saved him from breaking down before his task was completed.
In these two volumes Du Chaillu succeeds in giving us a vivid picture-supported by an array of quotations from the ancient literature and by an abundance of illustrations of the "finds" collected in the museums of the character and life, religious, social, political, and warlike, of the old Norsemen, from their birth to their grave. He shows us how the infant is exposed to die, or how it is sprinkled with water and given a name. He lets us follow the child in his education and his sports. He describes the young man in his practice of arms, the maiden in her domestic duties and accomplishments; the adult in his warlike expeditions. He makes us hear the clash of swords, and the songs of the skald looking on and inciting the warriors to greater deeds of daring, or, it may be, recounting afterwards the glorious death of the hero. He makes us listen to the old man giving his advice at the Thing or Parliament. He describes for us the Norsemen's dress, ornaments, implements, weapons; their expressive names and complicated relationships; their dwellings and convivial halls, with their primitive or magnificent furniture; their temples, sacrifices, gods, and sacred ceremonies; their personal appearance, even to their hair, eyes, face, and limbs; their festivals and their bethrothal and marriage feasts. He makes us spectators of their athletic games, which were preparatory to the stern
realities of life of that period, when honor and renown were won on the field of battle; and he paints for us the dead warrior on his burning ship, or on the pyre, surrounded by his weapons, horses, slaves, or fallen companions, who are to enter with him into Valhalla-the heaven of the slain.
The reader of Du Chaillu's work will find that the old Norsemen had carriages or chariots, as well as horses; and the numerous skeletons of this animal in graves or bogs prove it to have been in common use at a very early period. Many full descriptions are given of their dress and the splendor of their riding equipment for war, of the richness of the ornamentation of their weapons of offence and defence. The descriptions of such wealth might seem to be very much exaggerated in the sagas, but the antiquities treasured in the museums of the North bear witness to the truthfulness of the records. The spade has developed the history of Scandinavia as it has done that of Assyria and Etruria; but in addition the Northmen had the saga and edda literature to perpetuate their deeds.
This epitome of Du Chaillu's presentation of the archæology and ancient literature of Scandinavia is condensed from his opening chapter. I have even adopted his own language whenever I could thereby the better indicate to the reader what may be learned from a perusal of this great work. It would be quite impossible, in the limits of an ordinary review, to undertake any extended discussion of Du Chaillu's deductions and theories. There is a sufficiently abundant array of facts in “The Viking Age Viking Age" to put a stop forever to all talk about our Teutonic ancestors as barbarians. The Teutons (and by this word I embrace not only the Scandinavians, but also the Germans, Dutch, Anglo-Saxons, etc.) have been civilized so far back as the torch of historical monu
ments can guide us. In the oldest antiquity of which we possess any knowledge of Teutons, they had a grand system of religion, a cosmogony, a cycle of sacred books, and knew the art of writing. An examination of the old Scandinavian mythology reveals to us gods of poetry and song, a god of wisdom and knowledge, a god of peace and justice, a goddess of history, and the mythology is as a whole so sublime and profound that it affords evidence of a very high order of intellectual development and of real culture; and both the religion and the Teutonic epic are found by comparative mythology, and comparative philology—those magnificent tele