Thursday, 22 January 2015

Vikings in Canada centuries before Columbus

The more I read and hear about the old Norsemen the more impressed I am. In the documentary THE NORSE: AN ARCTIC MYSTERY a film crew follows Pat Sutherland on her journey to prove that the early history between North America and Europe did not unfold the way the history books say it did. In fact the Norse were in Canada several centuries before Christopher Columbus.

“The Norse were here over a long period of time, and they had business to do,” says Sutherland. The dig at the Nanook site at Baffin Island in Canada has revealed stone walls marking out the shape of an trading post, possibly the first European building this side of the Atlantic.

Vikings in Canada centuries before Columbus
Vikings in Canada centuries before Columbus

Vikings in Canada centuries before Columbus

“It certainly substantiates that there were Europeans on the site,” says Sutherland, “no question about that.” The excavation team has also found lots of artefact pointing to the Norse, and according to Sutherland the Norse traded walrus tusk and furs with the Dorset people, the local natives of the time.

See animations from the documentary

Vikings in Canada centuries before Columbus

Unfortunately - and very controvercially - Pat Sutherland has lost her research funding and she has also been fired by the Canadian Museum of History. Hopefully this extremely interesting research will be taken up and continued so that everyone interested in the topic can get more knowledge.

See Pat Sutherland's research article: Evidence of Early Metalworking in Artic Canada.


Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The Red Gold by John Snow is now available at Amazon

"John's newest is out. Like Vikings? Like great characters? Like vivid imaging? Like adventure? Like drama? Like passion? Then get John Snow 's latest installment. In fact, get the whole series." 
(Steven Malone)

The Red Gold (The Viking Series Book 3) is now available in the Kindle format at Amazon shops around the world, and beneath I bring a list of links. I will also thank all of my readers who pre-ordered the book. I hope you'll all enjoy it and that some of you will review the book at Amazon or Goodreads.

John Snow. The Red Gold.
The Red Gold can be read on all kinds of devices: laptops, iPads, IPhones,
smartphones, tablets and on Kindle readers.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Wardruna, Jara, and the New Year

The old rune Jara (or Jera) symbolizes the year, and in their melody Jara the Norwegian band Wardruna celebrates the new year or more presicely: the coming of the sun. A recurring line in the song is "soli vendar" which literary means "the sun turns around". In the middle of the cold and dark winter, the sun returns with longer days and hopes of a warm summer and a rich harvest.

Jara is one of the melodies on the CD Runaljod - gap var Ginnunga, and typically the song comes just after the frightening and disturbing tunes in Heimta Thurs and Thurs, the songs about the rune of giants.  As Norse Mythology itself, Wardruna's music is full of contrasts; between light and darkness, growth and destruction, birth and death. Even the jotnir or the thurs, the giants, are ambiguous. First of all they represent the destructive forces of nature but at the same time they posses wisdom and sources of life. Also in the optimistic Jara melody, the Wardruna singer has to call upon the norns and pray for "ár og friðar" - growth and peace. The singer very well knows that in life nothing is certain.

Eg såg og eg tydde,
da soli snudde.
Jarteikn for fe og heim.
Svart natt.

Soli har venda,
i haustinga ligg håpet.
Solrik sumar
og allgroande åkre.

Til norne tri,
vi ber dei spinna liv
i åker og i eng,
i barm og i bringa.

Er ár og friðar,
når kornet stig or jordi.
Om vordane lokka sin lokkesong.

På tidleg sådd åker
kan ikkje nokon lite.
For mangt veit eg om vålyndt vêr.

Gro gro, lisle spire,
dager gryr og mørket svinner.
Sól har snudd
og hjulet det har venda.

Sola vendar hausten sendar
graset gulnar, blada fell
lyse dagar er på hell.

Til vordar og vettar,
vi takk gjev med vår song
for ár og friðar.

Ár og friðar.

Wardruna playing in the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Pre-order THE RED GOLD now!

If you want to give yourself (or someone you love) a new Viking story for Yule, you can now pre-order The Red Gold and have it auto-delivered to your Kindle on December 24, 2014. You can also read the book on a Tablet PC or a Smart Phone.

Go to or or one of the other international Amazon stores!

The Red Gold by John Snow, third book in The Viking Series

Book description:

The Red Gold by John Snow is the third book in The Viking Series.

After a disastrous fire, Sigve the Awful decides to rebuild the old hall, but in one of the post holes, the thralls find a gold hoard hidden under the stone footing. It’s a huge treasure trove, but how big is it, and who buried the gold there?

Sigve’s guardsmen have spotted a large warship sailing towards Vik, and in order to defend the gold, the young chieftain may once again depend on Yljali, his thrall lover. Only she can unleash the hidden powers of his magic sword. Yljali, however, is in labour, giving birth to Sigve’s child.

In this third book Sigve is dragged further into the struggle between the powerful claimants to the Norwegian throne. The young and unexperienced leader must use all his wits and strength to defend his property and his people; he may even depend on the gods.

In Snow’s Viking stories, rune magic and shape shifting are no fantasies but facts of reality. The life of Sigve the Awful is weaved by the Norns, but Sigve's prosperity also depends on his own courage, on Odin’s cunning, and on Thor's strength. Luckily, Sigve can ask Grim for advice, but often the sage’s answers are difficult to understand.

In The Viking Series John Snow tells exciting stories, and based on thorough research, he gives a very realistic interpretation of life in the Viking Age.

Gold hoard found in The Red Gold by John Snow, third book in The Viking Series
A large gold hoard is found in The Red Gold.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Waiting for Vikings - Season 3

The third season of Vikings is still months away, but while you're waiting you can kill time by reading some of my earlier blog posts about the TV-series and about the sagas and legends on which it is build. I will also recommend you to go further and read The Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok.

Here are posts about Vikings, Ragnar Lothbrok, Aslaug, and other legendary and historical persons in the series:

Review of Vikings Season 2

Ragnar, Lagertha and Bjorn are ready for season 3 of Vikings

Ragnar, Lagertha and Rollo are ready for season 3 of Vikings

For all who want to read alternative Viking stories, I have written two novellas (The Slayer Rune and The Lethal Oath) and I'm working on a third (The Red Gold). You can also follow me on Facebook.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Wardruna - the sound of Vikings

Wardruna - Gap var Ginnunga

The Norwegian group Wardruna has a project called Runaljod - "the sound of runes". It is a project that goes far beyond the staves of the runes. To understand their deeper meanings, Wardruna examines the old runes in their mythological context. In their music we can feel Odin's pain when he pierces himself with his spear and hangs himself from Yggdrasil, the world tree, in order to get the ultimate insight. In Wardruna's  music we hear ravens croak, hooves of horses pulling the sun, and a pack of wolves baying behind, indicating that Ragnarok is inevitable.

Wardruna live. Einar Kvitrafn Selvik, Gaahl, Linda-Fey Hella

Wardruna has gone further. The members - Einar Kvitrafn Selvik, Linda-Fey Hella and Gaahl - have realized that runes have to be interpreted as a specific kind of practise. Their music is inspired by heavy metal and traditional Nordic folk music, and to reach a genuine feel of runes, the Wardruna members have reconstructed old instruments and uses frame drums, ceremonial drums, harps (Viking-fiddles), mouth harps, and a variety of flutes in their music. Their sound is truly unique: it's both genuinely Viking and very modern at the same time. No wonder it is used to create atmosphere in Vikings, the TV-series.

I'm sorry I didn't discover Wardruna before. Their first CD (in a trilogy) - Runaljod - Gap var Ginnunga - came in 2009 and the second - Runaljod - Yggdrasil - in 2013. In the same period - and much longer - I have been interested in Norse mythology and Old Icelandic literature, and last year I published the two first books in a Vikings series: The Slayer Rune and The Lethal Oath. As the titles suggest, the first has the magical powers of runes as an action-driving theme, and the second deals with the dangers of breaking sacred oaths.

In my stories seidr, galdr, rune magic, and shape-shifting are no fantasies but hard facts of reality. The life of Sigve the Awful is weaved by the Norns, but Sigve's luck and  prosperity depends on his own courage and ability to make his fate. But, like all others, Sigve depends on Thor's strength, Freya's erotic powers, and Odin's cunning and support. I addition to telling exciting stories, in my books I'm trying to give a modern interpretation of life in the Viking Age. In this ambition I feel very much in tune with Wardruna and their music. I would have wished, however, like the producers of the TV-series Vikings,  that I could have put Wardruna's sounds to my stories.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

New edition of The Slayer Rune

John Snow. The Slayer Rune. Cover Image.

A second edition of The Slayer Rune is now available on Amazon (with The Lethal Oath soon to follow). The new edition of The Slayer Rune is thoroughly copyedited by Karen Conlin, who has done wonders to my text. The book has also got a new cover designed by Stephen Mulcahey who has made covers for Lee Child, Frederick Forsyth and other great authors. Stephen has also made new cover for The Lethal Oath and the third book in the series: The Red Gold.


The Slayer Rune on
The Slayer Rune on

John Snow. The Lethal Oath. Cover Image.

John Snow. The Red Gold. Cover Image.

Viking market, June 2014, Hafrsfjord, Stavanger, Norway

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Old oak forests and the Oseberg ship

This morning I went hiking in a primeval oak forest. The old, twisted oaks thrive in the hillsides of a narrow valley along with birch, elm and linden trees. At the bottom of the vale a hiking path threads its way along "Uråa" , which means "the brook under the scree". I Norway spring is now at its most intense with plants blooming, woods turning green, and birds singing like crazy. On my way into the ravine, I past a precipice and heard the hoarse croaks of a pair of ravens, but I saw none of them.

Both oaks and linden trees take on strange shapes in the primeval forest.

Oaks are among the last trees to come into leaves
and this old giant is among the latest of the late.
In the old days large oak forests covered much of Southern Norway before the woods were cut down and the timber exported to the Netherlands and England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Back in the Viking Age the oak and pine forests were essential to the building and development of the Viking ships. Pine delivered timber for the strakes and masts, and oak, with its variety of forms, gave solid and enduring materials for knees, ribs, curved stems, keels and all the different shapes needed in the construction of a Viking ship, whether they were slender warships - longships - or heavy merchant ships - knorrs.

The Oseberg ship at The Vikingship Museum in Oslo.
The famous Oseberg ship may very well have had timber from the very wood I was visiting this morning. The ship was used in a burial in Eastern Norway, but examinations have shown that the trees used in the Oseberg ship were cut in the southern part of Western Norway.

Building a replica of the Oseberg ship.
Walking in the oak forest and watching the warped and crooked oak branches, I thought of my novels, and I could easily imagine Sigve the Awful's shipwrights walking the woods around Vik, searching for  materials for their shipbuilding. But on my return down the path beside the brook, I passed the precipice once more, and again I heard the ravens caw without seeing them. This time one of them was laughing a very hoarse laughter, and in the car back home I wondered whether it was Huginn, "thought"  or Muninn, "memory" who so overtly had been mocking me.