Thursday, February 16, 2012
Styrbiorn the Strong, a review
–E.R. Eddison, Styrbiorn the Strong
As a youth, E.R. Eddison (1882-1945) so loved William Morris’ translations of the Old Norse sagas that he taught himself Old Icelandic, desiring the pure injection of North Sea ice water into his veins that the stories in their original tongue delivered. He carried that love of the Sagas with him as a writer of fantasy fiction. Their echoes can be felt in Eddison’s best known work, The Worm Ouroboros (1922), but four years after the Worm Eddison set to work on the real thing, trying his hand at his own saga Styrbiorn the Strong (1926).
Styrbiorn the Strong tells the story of Styrbiorn Olaffson, teenage heir to the throne of Sweden. Denied his birthright and exiled from Sweden, Styrbiorn spends three years a-viking, during which his power and influence waxes mightily. Three years later he returns to claim his share of the kingdom. Except for a few minor characters everyone in the story is an historical figure. The main facts of the tale are also historical, including the concluding bloody Battle of Fýrisvellir, but the details and characterizations are of Eddison’s own making.
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