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Harald the Ruthless: The Saga of the Last Viking Warrior Hardcover – November 1, 1996
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From School Library Journal
Grade 4-7-Using the ancient style of an Icelandic saga writer, Hopkins retells the story of a powerful Viking chieftain. As a toddler, Harald is brave and forthright. When asked what he wishes to be as an adult, he has his sights set on being a warrior, while other boys his age desire to be prosperous farmers. He trains and eventually has many chances to prove his valor fighting for Russia, the Byzantine Empire, and France, and eventually meets his demise just prior to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Details of his travels comprise the majority of the text. A brave and clever Harald wins the respect of followers in each area he defends. Although this is a fictionalized account, historical background is included in feature boxes within the text; adequate notes are appended. Poems of the era are included as part of the narrative, as well as maps. Black-and-white, pen-and-ink graphic illustrations provide a sense of the era. Red is added in battle scenes, indicating the amount of fighting and blood spilled during Harald's career. Hopkins has created a quasi-scholarly account for a young audience. A worthy addition to libraries where examples of sagas or stories about the Vikings other than "Leif" are desired.
Cheryl Cufari, Glencliff Elementary School, Niskayuna, NY
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
In a long picture book, Hopkins expertly retells ``The Saga of the Last Viking Warrior,'' Icelander Snorri Sturluson's c. 1230 account of Harald Sigurdsson. Whether sitting on King Olaf's knee as a child, escaping death at Stiklestad, storming across Europe at the head of the Byzantine Empire's elite Varangian Guard, fleeing Constantinople, or besieging and sacking one city or another, Harald always played the 11th-century version of hardball. It ends in England in 1066, when English Harold trounced Norse Harald, only to be trounced himself several days later at Hastings by Duke William of Normandy. Inserted into the drama of the tale are bits of poetry and pages of cultural information that often provide still more to intrigue readers. Dura¤ona's strong two-color illustrations in red and black are very effective; fire and blood appear in red--and there's a lot of red. Add the appended brief but excellent notes keyed to specific pages, the maps, a clean typeface and design, and the result is a short, exciting, eminently readable history. (Picture book. 9-11) -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Harald lost his kingdom long before he came of age to claim the throne of Norway. Much of his early life was spent in the principalities of Russia. Eventually he trekked south to Constantinople, and served in the elite Varangian Guard of the Byzantine Empire, making a name for himself as a skilled commander on various battlefields around the Mediterrenean Sea.
His true destiny was to re-claim the kingship of Norway, and he did so.
In 1066, Harald almost claimed the throne of England, ...but a fatal arrow ended Harald's Saga at the Battle of Stamford bridge. It was to be William of Normandy who prevailed on the field at Hastings several days later. But that is yet another story...