ROBERT LOW - Author of the Oathsworn Novels by Tyr Neilsen

Robert Low, a burly man with steely eyes, pushed a Viking sword in my hand, a rusted Gjermundbu helmet  on my head, and said with a rich Highland brogue "Consider yourself volunteered". As I fastened my gear, he slapped my shoulder with a big calloused hand and led me towards a hundred or so battle ready warriors who were working themselves up into a frenzy. With a cheer they greeted their fighting companion, then with flags held high and robust singing, we marched to the battlefield to defend Scotland against the invading army from the far north.


I had travelled to Largs to meet this celebrated Scottish journalist, author and Viking re-enactor, to ask him about his much acclaimed Oathsworn novels, and now I literally had to fight for the interview.

Police and health and safety workers ensured the thousand or more eager spectators were safely behind a large roped off area. The spectators cheered as we aproached the battlefield where the oppposing army waited, ready with swords, shields, axes and taunts. An announcer's voice came over the loud speaker to repeat what Robert had told me just a few hours earlier, that this was to be a reenactment of the Battle of Largs, which took place on the 2nd of October in 1263, between the kingdoms of Norway and Scotland. This battle was part of the Norwegian expedition against Scotland, in which King Haakon Haakonarson of Norway attempted to reassert Norwegian sovereignty over the western part of Scotland.


After some fanfare, the two armies collided with ferocity. Skilled reenactors yelled and swung their weapons at each other with flare, much to the appreciation of the audience. Fist one side won, then the opposite side, then the first side again. At the end of the final clash, all reeanactors were brought back to life in the name of Odin so they could wave to the cheering spectators.

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It was beginning to get dark, and as all the warriors sat down, Robert led me to a taped off area near an old boat that had been fixed up to look like a Viking Longship. Someone hoisted a striped square sail on the boat, then several archers appeared, lit their arrows, fit them to their longbows, took aim and fired. The flaming arrows arched through the air then struck the boat. Within minutes it was engulfed in flames. 

As we sat on the grass, watching the boat burn, I asked Robert about the historical accuracy, level of detail and graphic fight scenes in his Oathsworn novels. His answers were as compelling as the books themselves.

When he was still a teenager, Robert was a war correspondent in Vietnam. Later he covered the fighting in Sarajevo, Romania and Kosova. After his stint as war correspondant, Robert moved to an area rich in Viking tradition, started riding, taught himself horse archery, took up re-enactment and joined The Vikings group. After witnessing and reporting real warfare from the trenches, and then immersing himself in everything Viking, Robert had the ability to write about Viking life and battles with gritty understanding.

There is an assured and convincing tone to Robert's writing, and there is a rough realism to his rousing Oathsworn Saga that reveals much of the Viking Age and how Vikings lived that history books never could. In book one, Robert transports the reader on to a raiding Viking Longship, with a sense of realism that keeps the reader hooked to the end of the engaging, authentic, violent and extremely readable adventures, as his accolades attest:

"A company of warriors, desperate battles – an enthralling read" ~ Bernard Cornwell

"A fantastic book, one of the best I have read for years. There’s a wonderful earthiness to proceedings and Robert creates a tangible sense of being there” ~ Simon Scarrow

"No modern novelist knows more about the Vikings than Robert Low” ~ Harry Sidebottom  

“I’ve read all Oathsworn books and I loved them all – but The Prow Beast is, I think, the best of them all: poignant, muscular, magical and impossible to put down.” ~ Angus Donald

                                                     Tyr and robert low in largs, scotland

                                                     Tyr and robert low in largs, scotland

Robert was a fantastic host who enriched my stay in Largs immensely. He conveyed much about the viking legacy of Largs, and of Sotland's history in a fascinating and witty way. Robert's latest work, The Kingdom Series, that deals with the Scottish Wars of Independence - the era of Wallace, Bruce and Edward Longshanks, are gripping novels that have been very well recieved.  When Robert isn't writing or giving talks, you can still find him with sword and shield in hand, participating in steel weapon battles at festivals.


For more info about Robert Low and his work:

GLIMA MJÖLNIR by Tyr Neilsen

When the Norwegian Glima Association decided on making the ultimate glima trophy, it was agreed that it should be the symbol of Mjölnir, the hammer of Thor, the god of Viking wrestling. Mjölnir, from the Old Norse - Mjǫllnir, meaning to "grind" or "crush", is the most powerful Viking sacred symbol. As a symbol, it was used in sacred Norse and Viking ceremonies, weddings, and as a protective amulet.


The Association has used Mjölnir as its symbol for Glima - Viking wrestling from the start, and in 2015 it was decided to create the ultimate Glima Mjölnir.

Tyr Neilsen, president of the Norwegian Glima Association, together with Håkon Neil, designed the hammer based on several Mjölnir amulets from the Viking Age. The Association then took the design to Arkadiusz Gawecki, an acclaimed blacksmith with a smithy in Åmot, Buskerud.

 After talking about the reasons behind the Mjölnir design, and the sacred Norse symetry and symbols associated with it, Arkadiusz began working on this prestigious hammer in the same way as iron and steel equipment and weapons were made in the Viking Age.

When finished, the Glima hammer weighed 3.5 kilos and looked amazing. It is one of the very few large Mjölnir hammers made in Norway since the Viking Age. Arkadiusz said it was a pleasure to work on the trophy and felt that it was an important piece of art. 

At the 2015 Norwegian Glima Championship, the Glima Mjölnir was presented to the public for the first time. The Norwegian Glima Association and the Academy of Martial Arts believes this piece of art would be worthy of Thor, the Viking God of wrestling.

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  With Norwegian Glima Championship sponsor Bjørn Ingebrigtsen

For more info about Mjölnir, check out:  



ROBERT FERGUSON – Author of the book THE VIKINGS  by Tyr Neilsen

One of the absolute best reads about the Viking Age is the book “THE VIKINGS” (also called “The Hammer and the Cross: A New History of the Vikings” in the UK) written by author Robert Ferguson. 

I was very pleased to find this well-documented book that put the Viking Age in perspective, especially after reading book after book that seemed more like anti-Viking propaganda than realistic historical accounts of this exciting period of history. A major strength of this account of Vikings and the Viking Age, is that Robert writes about the incredible history of the Vikings, the many cultural, political and religious reasons for the emergence of the Viking Age, and the world wide effects of the Vikings, in such a way that is not only easy to understand, but also an exciting read. 

Most people have had a limited picture of Vikings, who for several centuries were described as savage brutes, raiding and raping their way across Europe. This is not surprising, as the only accounts of Vikings were written by members of the church. What set Robert’s book apart from most, is that he gives us an understanding of how rich the Viking / Norse culture was, and how much of other cultures were influenced and enriched by the Vikings. Not only does Robert give an impressive overview of the Viking Age, he tells the histories of great warriors and kings and provides faultless accounts of Viking battles without romanticizing or de-emphasizing the violence.

A few years ago I had the pleasure to interview Robert Ferguson at Frogner Park in Oslo. As we walked in this park full of amazing statues, Robert answered unhesitatingly all of my questions long after the allotted time we had agreed on. He told me that whilst doing research on the Viking period for his book Siste kjærlighet, he inversed himself into Viking history, which led to him wanting to tell the story of the Viking Age as a continuous narrative. With the book “Vikings”, Robert manages to satisfy the curiosity of the smart general reader and place the Viking Age in the scale of European history with grand style. 

I highly recommend Robert’s book, which is so good and has been so well received, that the producers of the TV series “VIKINGS” used it when developing the series and in pre-production. The series creator used Robert’s narrative structure, particularly in the first series, and recommends this book for anyone with a further interest in the Vikings. The Vikings TV series logo is printed on US paperback editions of Robert’s book, along with this endorsement: 'A comprehensive and thrilling history of the Vikings for fans of the History Channel series, now on its fourth season'. 

Robert had never any other ambition than that of being a writer, and after emigrating to Norway from the UK, his first book, a biography of the Norwegian novelist Knut Hamsun, was published. Since then, Robert has written biographies about Henrik Ibsen and T.E.Hulme, the novels “Siste kjærlighet” (Last love) based on the Saga of Hallfred the Troublesome Poet, and “Fleetwood”, about fatherhood in England in the late 1960s. Robert has also written plays for Norwegian radio, RTE Dublin and the BBC, as well as translations and adaptations.

Robert has a new book out called “Scandinavians: in search of the soul of the north” (on sale in the US this summer). “Scandinavians” is a sort of personal memoir, among other things, and I look forward to reading it at a cottage in the Norwegian Alps next week. As I’ll be going to Oslo soon, I’ll try and get Robert to sign the book for me over a coffee.

For more info about Robert Ferguson and his work:

Robert Ferguson was gracious enough to write the foreword to the HÁVAMÁL book I co-authored:

Photo: T. Neilsen - B. Wemundstad

Photo: T. Neilsen - B. Wemundstad

THE VIKING by Tyr Neilsen

Photo: T. Neilsen - B. Wemundstad

Photo: T. Neilsen - B. Wemundstad

No other word in Scandinavian history has imprinted itself so deeply into human consciousness as the word Viking. The term ‘Viking’ conjures up images of resilient men and women of honor, who are tough, fit and virile, and has become a Nordic trademark of independence, strength and quality.

The people who lived in Scandinavia during the 8th to 11th century weren't Vikings. Viking was a profession, and Vikings made up a very small part of the population. Calling everyone from Scandinavia in this period of history a ‘Viking’, is like calling everyone in California a Navy Seal.

The origin of the word Viking comes from the Old Norse Vikingr, meaning Scandinavian seafarer. A ‘Viking’ was a part time farmer-hunter-warrior, who traveled to other lands and traded, raided, became sword for hire or conquered lands. In the sagas, the phrase "to go a Viking" was used to describe the people from the north who went on voyages of discovery. These farmer-hunter-warriors were so successful in their part time profession in the late 8th to late 11th centuries that this period of history became known as the Viking Age.

For hundreds of years before the Viking Age, the people from the lands that would later become Norway, Sweden and Denmark, had been trading around Europe. With the introduction of the Viking longship, the people of the North became a force to be reckoned with. As daring explorers, Vikings became masters of the stormy seas, and their expeditions took them to countries all over Europe, the Far East, Russia and even North America 500 years before Columbus.

Vikings traveled to and through dangerous lands, opened up trade routes, fought to keep them open, and became feared and admired as great warriors in all the lands they travelled. One of the earliest documents about Vikings was written by a Muslim diplomat called Ibn Fadlan, in 922 A.D, who described Vikings as “The wildest warriors I have ever seen”.

What these part time warriors did, was no different than what people from many other countries did, Vikings were just better and more successful than the rest. Vikings fought for, and carved out kingdoms, around the world. They are an integral part of the world’s history, and the Viking warriors who created the Viking Age, paved the way for the world as we know it today.

Much historical and archaeological research has been done over the centuries concerning the Vikings, from their diet to their shipbuilding. There has been much written about Vikings, by poets, academics, and historians, but very little by warriors, martial artists or elite soldiers. Yet warriors, martial artists and elite soldiers have a special insight into what being a Viking really means.

Being a Viking meant being tough, smart and well rounded. A Viking could farm and hunt and live off the land and sea. A Viking could build a house and repair it. A Viking could sail a ship and repair it. A Viking could make weapons and armor and repair them. A Viking could also fight with and without weapons against all enemies and their different forms of fighting techniques.

Growing up in the hard lands of the cold north meant growing up tough. Children were expected to help with chores in and around the home and farm, hunt and help with providing food and materials for the family, and learn how to be a benefit to their society. In the Viking Age, a boy was considered a man, and a girl was considered a woman, at the age of 12. At this age, everyone was expected to survive and thrive without help.

Many men and women today call themselves Vikings because they are reenactors, put on a show fight, dress in Viking clothes, or simply take part of a Viking market or festival. These are worthy activities that create awareness regarding the Norse people of the Viking Age, but they are not representative of what it was like to be a Viking.

A Viking was self-reliant, had a particular set of values, and had a heightened sense of spirituality that few modern people can understand, let alone live by. Only by living like a Viking can a person understand how it was to be a ‘Viking’. If a person can’t hunt, fish, farm, build or repair a house, ship or equipment, or have competence in  glima, they aren’t anything like a Viking.

Vikings were independent, strong, resilient, tough, fit and virile men and women of honor. Are modern day children, youths or adults anything like this? Are you? If you want to be anything like a Viking, read the Hávamál, learn some handcrafts, train in glima, travel, take some wilderness survival courses, take responsibility for yourself, become independent, and build a strong body, mind and spirit. 


Mildir frœknir
menn bazt lifa
sjaldan sút ala
en ósnjallr maðr
uggir hotvetna
sýtir æ gløggr við gjöfum

The generous and brave
live best
and rarely nourish sorrow
The cowardly fear everything
and the greedy
dread giving


HÁVAMÁL – verse 48



                                              Tyr Neilsen and Andreas Sørensen - viking fighting on travel channel series follow your past episode vikings and kings     Photo: T. Neilsen - B. Wemundstad

                                              Tyr Neilsen and Andreas Sørensen - viking fighting on travel channel series follow your past episode vikings and kings     Photo: T. Neilsen - B. Wemundstad

Travel Channel series FOLLOW YOUR PAST     Episode 1 - Vikings and Kings

Senior instructor with the AVK, Tyr Neilsen (57) and 3 x Norwegian Glima Champion, Andreas Sørensen (28) demonstrated Viking fighting with weapons at Borre Gilde Hall in Norway for the Travel Channel episode Vikings and Kings. 


The episode is about the exciting heritage of two midwestern brothers who discover their past is filled with Viking warriors and royalty. In the show, Tyr and Andreas demonstrate armed and unarmed Glima to the brothers, quickly teach some basics, then let the brothers fight each other using the Viking combat techniques they had learned.     

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This episode first aired on the Travel Channel in 2016.


Academy instructors teach balance, strength and Viking wrestling.

                   Academy Instructors Andreas Sørensen and Tyr Neilsen took time out to teach balance, strength and Viking wrestling principles in Drammen.       Photo: B. Wemundstad

                   Academy Instructors Andreas Sørensen and Tyr Neilsen took time out to teach balance, strength and Viking wrestling principles in Drammen.       Photo: B. Wemundstad

Former top Norwegian sports athlete in spear throwing and handball, Anette Skistad, holds weekly training for people who have difficulty getting back into shape, including some who have physical or psychological problems. To help get people going and build condition, Anette has training indoors, as well as taking the group hiking out in nature. 

Anette took contact with 3 x Norwegian Glima Champion Andreas Sørensen, and asked if he could demonstrate glima for her group, and maybe get the group to do a little Viking wrestling. Andreas and Tyr Neilsen tought the group basic balance, strength and Viking wrestling principles, and after a short time, short, thin women were able to lift tall heavy men by using the correct grips.

There was much laughter and sweat, as Anette and the group learned how effective glima principles were to implement. Glima training was challenging and fun, and the group have invited Andreas and Tyr back for more glima.   

Edited Article by Bente Wemundstad:

Article in 'NA Weekly' about GLIMA

''Viking-age wrestling is becoming increasingly popular as a martial art or recreational sport''

Article written by M. Michael Brady for the 'Norwegian American Weekly' about for the Glima.

Photo: Egil Scott Synnestvedt / courtesy of Norwegian Glima Association
One wrestler defeats another in a match in the Norwegian Championships, November 2015.

Glima wrestling renaissance in Norway

BY M. Michael Brady  · PUBLISHED JANUARY 15, 2016 · UPDATED JANUARY 13, 2016

Viking-age wrestling is becoming increasingly popular as a martial art or recreational sport

Glima is a form of Scandinavian folk wrestling dating from the Viking Age. It classifies both as a martial art and as a recreational sport, and is most popular in Iceland, where annual national championships have been held since 1906. Glima now is enjoying a renaissance in Norway, where national championships have been held since 2009.

The word Glima is Old Norse for “brilliant flash,” which implies speed of movement. Glima is entwined in myth, being first mentioned in ninth-century poetry recounting a wrestling match in which an aged goddess, Elli, defeats Thor, the god of thunder and strength. Some three centuries later, Glima is mentioned in the Prose Edda, also known as Snorri’s Edda, the principal work of pagan Scandinavian mythology assumed to have been written by Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson circa 1220.

In modern times, Glima wrestling was a demonstration sport in the 1912 Olympic Games held in Stockholm. Unlike Greco-Roman wrestling, contested in the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and incorporated in the Games program from 1908 on, Glima did not become an Olympic sport. There are three forms of Glima wrestling: Brokartök, Hryggspenna, and Lausaatök.

Brokartök (“Trouser-and-belt grip”) is the most widespread form in Sweden and in Iceland. It favors technique over strength, and opponents wear special belts. The two opponents stand erect and step clockwise around each other, as if waltzing, each attempting to trip or throw the other.

Hyrggspenna (“Backhold grip”) resembles other forms of wrestling that emphasize strength over technique. Opponents grasp each other’s upper bodies, and the one who touches the ground or floor with any part of the body except the feet has lost.

Lausatök (“Free-grip”) is the most widespread form in Norway and is practiced in two varieties, as a martial art of self-defense or combat, and as a recreational sport. The opponents may use any holds they wish. The winner is the one still standing while the loser is the one lying on the ground. Matches usually are held outdoors or indoors on a wooden floor, so hard throws are discouraged.

Viking Glima now is increasingly popular outside Iceland. The Viking Glima community in Norway is an example. Norges Glima Forbund (“Norwegian Glima Association”) was established in 2013 by Tyr Neilsen, who despite his Icelandic-sounding name was born in Liverpool in 1959. He began practicing martial arts as a teenager and settled in Norway in the mid 1980s to delve into Viking mythology and lifestyles. Today he is a senior instructor at the Academy of Viking Martial Arts and is involved in promoting Viking culture.

In 2014 Tyr joined with editor and photojournalist Bente Wemundstad in compiling Viking Wisdom: Hávamál, the Sayings of Odin, a large-format illustrated book published by Nova Forlag.

Further reading and viewing:

• History of Martial Arts in Iceland and their Image in Media, by Jóhann Ingi Bjarnason, 2012 thesis, University of Akureyri, Iceland, 40 pages including 6 pages of references, link:

• British Pathe 1931 Glima-Iceland Wrestling film now on YouTube, link:

• The International Glima Association promotes Glima wrestling outside Iceland, link:

• The Viking Glima Federation with information and a directory of instructors in Scandinavia, link:

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 15, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

Training Rune Temte in Viking Fighting for his role on The LAST KINGDOM

Norwegian actor Rune Temte plays Viking cheiftan Ubba in the BBC TV series The Last Kingdom.

In preperation for his role, Rune trained in the authentic Viking fighting art of Glima at the Academy of Viking Martial Arts in Buskerud, Norway. For several months Rune trained with Viking sword, axe and shield with Tyr Neilsen and Viking wrestling with former 3 x Norwegian champion, Andreas Sørensen.

Throughout training Rune showed true Viking Spirit. He was always ready to train, whether it was rain or snow, and always gave 100%.

"Andreas Sørensen and Tyr Neilsen, you are the best, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn Viking fighting from you !!! You made me into a Viking for the Last Kingdom." - Rune Temte

Photos: Rune Temte training Viking Fighting ith and without weapons at the academy and article by Ingun Wiborg Gislerud on Rune, his training and his role as a viking chieftan in the BBC tv series The Last Kingdom - Based on the bestselling novel by Bernard Cornwell.

The Academy at Jorvik Viking Festival

Tyr Neilsen and Andreas Sørensen are the first Norwegians to be invited to demonstrate the Viking martial art of Glima at the biggest Viking Festival in Europe!

                                                        Tyr Neilsen and Andreas Sørensen - the first Norwegians to demonstrate the Viking martial art of Glima at jorvik Viking Festival

                                                        Tyr Neilsen and Andreas Sørensen - the first Norwegians to demonstrate the Viking martial art of Glima at jorvik Viking Festival

Instructors from the Academy of Viking Martial Arts in Norway are the first Norwegians to be invited to Europe's largest viking festival to demonstrate Glima - The Martial Arts system of the Vikings! 

"I traveled down to the Jorvik Viking Festival to seek inspiration , get ideas and talk to the people behind the festival. So it was great that Jorvik Viking Festival had invited Tyr Neilsen and Andreas Sørensen as the first Norwegians to actively participate in the festival, both in combat and in the academic program." says Ole Harald Flåten of the Saga Oseberg project, and Project Manager at Tønsberg Viking Festival.

The Academy would like to give a big thanks to Andy Mckie, Jarl of the Volsung Viking group in York, for his invitation to the Academy of Viking Martial Arts, so we could demonstrate the art of Glíma at the 31st Jorvik Viking Festival in febuary 2015. 

It was an honor for us to be able to participate in this great event, the largest Viking festival in Europe. We would also like to thank all of the Volsung Vikings, the English Vikings at the central camp, and the Jorvik arrangers, for their generous hospitality and warmth and for making the festival so memorable. 

                                                                                                     Andreas Sørensen with Volsung Viking leader Andy McKie at Jorvik castle 

The Academy in TV commercial with Andre Villa

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Write here...

Write here...

Above: Filming with a green screen       Below: With the digital background added

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Here's some links you can click to the facebook videos posted by Andre Villa and the newspaper article online in Norwegian.




Viking Wisdom - Hávamál - the Sayings of Odin by Academy Senior Instructor Tyr Neilsen

Hávamál is one of the most important documents from Viking Age Scandinavia, and is well described as the Wisdom of the North. This collection of ancient sayings attributed to Odin, is to Scandinavian culture as the Tao is to China, the Vedas to India and the Iliad to Greece.

Havamal means "the high one’s speech", or Odin's speech, and Havamal is a collection of wisdom and guidlines for living, written as a poem and attributed to the Norse God Odin. Havamal is both practical and supernatural in content, and expresses highly valued ideals such as wisdom, friendship, morality, caution, courage, and commonsense. No one knows who wrote the Havamal manuscript, or if it originated in Norway or Iceland, but Odin’s advice for living is believed to be based on a source from around the 9th century, and reference to Hávamál is found in the 10th century Hákonarmál by Eyvindr skáldaspillir.

Havamal is the most famous poem from the Elder Edda manuscript, (also called the Poetic Edda), written around the year 1270. The Elder Edda consists of 32 poems in all, written on 45 pages of vellum, or calfskin parchment. The Elder Edda manuscript is beautifully made and stunning to look at, with ornate letters and decorated capitals to each paragraph. The term Edda was originally the name for Snorri Sturlason's book on poetry from around 1220, and the word Edda is believed to be related to the word meaning grandmother, which means stories from grandma's time, a derivation of óðr, which means writing. Together with Snorri's Edda, the Elder Edda is the most important surviving source on Norse mythology and heroic legends.

In the first part of the Elder Edda, there are three poems by Odin as protagonist, of which the first is Havamal. Havamal is presented as a single poem in the Elder Edda, but its 164 verses make Havamal the longest of all edda poems. Havamal itself consist of at least five independent parts:

Verses 1-80 are known as Gestaþáttr, Havamal guidelines for living, or the ‘Havamal proper’.

Verses 81-102 are about women, love and Odin.

Verses 103-110 are about how Odin got the mead of poetry.

Verses 111-138 are called Loddfáfnismál, a collection of gnomic verses similar to Gestaþáttr.

Verses 139-146 are called Rúnatal, an account of how Odin won the runes.

Verses 147-165 are called Ljóðatal, which is a collection of spells.


Although the Elder Edda was written in the 13th century, we know nothing about its whereabouts until it was found in Iceland in 1643 by the Icelandic bishop Brynjólfur Sveinsson. In 1662, almost 20 years after it was found, the Bishop sent the manuscript to Denmark as a gift to King Frederik III of Denmark and Norway. The manuscript was named Codex Regius, or Konungsbók (King’s Book) in Icelandic, and was incorporated in the Danish Royal Library's Manuscript Collection.

In 1971 the Elder Edda manuscript was transported back to Iceland by ship, accompanied by a military escort, and is now kept in the Árni Magnússon Institute in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. The only surviving source for Hávamál is contained within the Elder Edda, and this priceless document is considered one of Iceland's most prized possessions.  

Havamal is a reflection of its time,  and the poems are as tough and resilient as the Vikings themselves. Havamal’s insight remains timeless and as relevant today as it was in the Viking Age. It has been handed down from generation to generation,  and there is still much wisdom and inspiration to find here, inherited from our powerful ancestors. 


Old Norse Poetry by Tyr Neilsen

Photo of original Hávamál manuscript by tyr neilsen

Photo of original Hávamál manuscript by tyr neilsen

Old Norse poetry derived from an oral tradition, which was told in verse to slaves, freemen, Vikings and Kings alike. Such poetry was very important to Viking Age Scandinavian society, as it contained history, heroic tales, Norse mythology and words of wisdom. This poetry was not just informative, it was also entertainment, often acted out as a performance. Viking society also considered poetry as an “Idrott”, which in Old Norse means sport, and there were Viking poetry idrott competitions, something even the Norse gods participated in. 

Vikings considered poetry as the primal source of the ability to speak and write beautifully and persuasively. Poetry was the gift of the gods, and the highest Norse god, Odin, was the divine patron of poetry. Odin acquired the gift of poetry after stealing the mead of poetry from the giants. The mead’s Old Norse name is Óðrœrir, meaning “The Stirrer of Óðr,”. Óðr is the root of Odin’s name, and means “ecstasy”, “fury”, and “inspiration”. After having gained the ability to compose poetry, sometimes Odin gives the magic of poetry to gods, humans, and other beings he deems worthy of it. 

Old Norse poetry can be traced to the early 9th century, with the earliest being carved in stone and the majority being written on vellum in Iceland in the 13th century. Ragnarsdrápa is considered the oldest surviving Norse poem, and was written in the 9th century by the skald Bragi Boddason, of Norwegian descent. Skáld in Old Norse means ‘poet’, and a skald was an historian, a storyteller, a poet and singer of songs. Skalds were highly respected in Norse society for their skills, and there have been many famous skalds, such as Egill Skallagrímsson and Thorbjorn hornklofi, who gained much fame with their 10th century poems composed for kings.

Viking society valued poetry highly and rewarded poets handsomely, but as the centuries passed, the skald profession became almost extinct, until the most famous Icelandic skald, Snorri Sturluson, compiled the Prose Edda in the 12th century. His Prose Edda is not only an epic work, it is a manual to preserve and pass on the traditions and methods of the skalds.

Bragr is the Old Norse word for poetry, and in Norse mythology, the god Bragi is the skaldic god of poetry. Husband to the goddess Idunn, Bragi was said to have possessed eloquence surpassing all others. His name may have been derived from bragr, or the term bragr may have been formed to describe 'what Bragi does'. 
Old Norse poetry is split into two types: Eddaic poetry and skaldic poetry. Eddaic poetry is the name given to an unnamed collection of Old Norse anonymous poems. Eddaic verse was usually simple, in terms of content, style and metre, and deals mostly with mythological or heroic content. Skaldic poetry is poetry from skalds who composed at the courts of Scandinavian and Icelandic leaders during the Viking Age and Middle Ages. Skaldic verse was complex, had historical content, and was usually composed as a tribute or homage to a particular jarl or king, typically have relating battles and other deeds from the king's career.

There are several forms of skaldic poetry: Drápa, Flokkr and Lausavísa.

Drápa is a long series of stanzas (usually dróttkvætt), with a refrain (stef) at intervals.

Dróttkvætt is the most predominant metre of skaldic poetry. 

Flokkr (vísur or dræplingr) are a shorter series of such stanzas without refrain.

Lausavísa is a single stanza of dróttkvætt, said to have been improvised impromptu for the occasion that it marks.
Skaldic poems about kings and jarls include: 

Glymdrápa - The deeds of Harald Fairhair

Knútsdrápa - The deeds of Cnut the Great

Bandadrápa - The deeds of Eiríkr Hlaðajarl

Vellekla - The deeds of Hákon Hlaðajarl
Skaldic poems that have mythological content include:

Þórsdrápa – relates to the thunder god Thor telling the tale of one of his giant-bashing expeditions.

Ragnarsdrápa - relates four tales from the mythology as painted on a shield given to the poet.

Haustlöng - relates two tales from the mythology as painted on a shield given to the poet.

Húsdrápa - describes mythological scenes as carved on kitchen panels.

Ynglingatal - describes the origin of the Norwegian kings and the history of the House of Yngling. It is preserved in the Heimskringla.
Viking poetry has many metrical forms which range from the simple fornyrðislag, to the very complex dróttkvætt.

Fornyrðislag – "the metre of ancient words", is generally used where the poem is mostly narrative. It is composed with four or more syllables per line.

Ljóðaháttr - "chant metre" is so called because of its structure which comprises broken stanzas, which lends itself to dialogue and discourse. 

Málaháttr - "speech metre" is similar to fornyrðislag, but with a fixed metrical length of five syllables.

Kviðuháttr - "discourse metre" is another variant of fornyrðislag with alternating lines of 3 and 4 syllablesDróttkvætt - "courtly metre" or "noble warrior's meter" normally uses a structure of 6 syllables, ending in a long stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one.

Hrynhenda - “flowing metre” is a variant of dróttkvætt. It uses all the rules of dróttkvætt, with the exception that the line comprises four metrical feet rather than three.

Galdralag - "magic spell metre" contains a fourth line which echoes and varies the third line.


Many Viking poems have names that end in mál, which in Old Norse means ‘speech’. Some of the most famous of these poems include: 

Skáldskaparmál – “Poet-creating-speech” tells the story of how Odin brought the mead of poetry to Asgard. 

Hákonarmál - The death of king Hákon the Good and his reception in Valhalla.

Eiríksmál - The death of king Eiríkr and his reception in Valhalla.

Reginsmál – "Regin's speech" relates to Loki's dealings with Andvari and then Sigurd's relationship with Reginn and the advice given to him by Odin.

Fáfnismál – “Fáfnir's speech” is about a meeting between Sigurd and Fáfnir and the claiming of a gold hoard.

Sigrdrífumál -"Speech of the victory-bringer" (also known as Brynhildarljóð,) is the  title of a section of the Poetic Edda relating to the meeting of Sigurðr and the valkyrie Brynhildr.

Hávamál – “Odin’s speech”, is one of the most valuable and most famous poems from Viking Age Scandinavia.


Einherjarmál - by T.I.Neilsen

Sunrise breaks o’er thy snow decked peaks

O glorious Asgard

From flushed dell whence Yggdrasil towers

Yon sky of glowing hue

Crowns in splendor

Deep forest and weathered vale

Lofty mount and azure plane

That burnish with dazzling radiance

Testimony to godly endeavor

This enchanted vista

Thus convey’d

Soaring resonance, rich, untamed

O’er enchanted woodland

Splend'rous meadow

and Iðunn blessed orchard

To this land good call rewarded

Freyja’s host through distant cloud sings

With stroke for their fair chains

An honored gift

Overture of no small contented words

From mortal warriors

To golden hall

Comes cry receptive

That joins with sweet peal

Neath plummeting foss and comforting storm

Verse for Bifrost’s crossing

And harmonious clash

Practiced evr’y day

From dawns fine promise

To sunset’s curtain

Luminous eternal

Steering valiant souls through gent'lest day

And storms of thunder

Ride on Noble Valkyrie

Raise cold spirits upwards

Exalting warm elation whilst they climb

Assemble your selected slain

Neath Odin’s tower

Where vaults from shield to shield

Nailed golden clad

Deep timbre rings joyful cheer

On yon glowing standard

A glint of single orb

Death’s day yet ends

To fetch the favor’d

For nights everlasting

Where ashen branches

Strive for Hlidskjalf’s crown

And yawning tendrils

Drink deeply from Urd’s well

Ever here the high ones

Each day hold court

This fate observed


O first vision of Buri’s spawn

In cloud of golden guard

Do shield maidens convey

Their honored choice of princely men

Whose martial fame and high acclaim

Be now renowned

And shine like Brisingamen

Glimpsed in early morn

When surpassed is beauty’s glow

To all ladies loathe and envy

Though words may tell against

Their eyes speak true

Once glittering jewels break

And glowers ensue

As bloodied oath

And pledge of sacred vow

From man and king as one

A trade of final days  

For promise of yon misty trail

That trembles under hoof

Of noble winged steed

Whence emerge fair choosers of the slain

Thus charged by Sigrdrifa

Behold her liberated locks

On bleak wind gliding

With solemn bearing

So graceful stirred

Lost loves bearer to this place

With sturdy horde

Victory bringers all

To flourish not in vain

For favor, praise or fame

But everlasting glory

When final fate in battle

Fighting side by side with Gods

Aye, and of more than they

Fate's golden throne

At this time placed

Spectacle as ne’er seen

Collisions so violent

That day be stolen

To ne’er return

Yet such radiance exudes

From anguished maidens

Whose cries of ache doth reverberate

To tear from souls all sense of dread

And bolster forth frailest of heart

Tho weary and forlorn

To stand once more as heroes

Our paragon of valor

Doth rise and face

Malevolent hordes

Whose dread countenance constricts our ancestral blood

The very source of being

So enthused

Not Thor, beloved heir

Whose might renowned

Could compare

Nor Tyr, whose boldness

Leads the chosen ever on

Though realms may fall

And worlds are wrought asunder

Twas ever thus

In highest esteem

These Einherjar stand

Firm and fast

Alongside yon sovereign

Whose sacrifice begot

Rune mystery and well wisdom

Greatly prized and age refined

Go not unused

Where deeds of man and gods

Thus entwined

In truth and cunning

For such a time

As when whispered words are hushed

And desired breath is stayed

Held attentive as needs

Once such threat pervades

Darkest menace gathers speed

Hastening ever to this place

This wrathfull storm

Distant Ragnarok draws near

Resembling most condemned dread

That grips the heart

And pains the ear

Now blackest thoughts stain fairest hope

In fears cold clasp no sun could thaw

Rise again o’er highest faith

That heart doth beat

Bid thee primal thirst

Where deepest force

May forever reign

And decree everlasting

With wondrous thread

Flawlessly woven by hand of favored age

Interlaced in all designs

Thine fates entangled

O thy chosen

In evr’y realm be heard

Gjallarhorn resounding

Such agony vouchsafe

Thus tremble the nine worlds

When at Vígríðr there gathers

A host foretold

Forces of monstrous grim expanse

In colossal clash

Like ocean surge of raging tremors

And such destruction

That Sól be not spared darks deepest shadow

Yet knowing thus

Does mighty thew

Grip weapon of iron and steel

Awaiting such fare

As cruel Fimbulwinter calls ever closer

To crimson gore of fated men

Let not thy mettle waver now

Nor mercy expect

Stand strong

Thou art favored of Odin

O Einherjar