In Northern Wisdom, the Havamals, a series of proverbs that captured the daily wisdom of the Viking tribes, are reinterpreted according to modern standards. This includes such pithy statements as “The more you drink, the less you know,” and “You are the only one who knows your own heart; for the wise, there is no sickness worse than discontent.”
If you’re a fan of Shakespeare, consider your stance on the works of Charles and Mary Lamb before picking up this book. The Lambs, in an attempt to make the Bard’s works more accessible to children generations beyond thee and thou, created modernized translations for quick mental digestion. Eoghan Odinsson makes a similar attempt on Norse wisdom literature.
If you consider the efforts of the Lambs a crime against language, then you will want to skip this book. If, however, you consider modernized language a removal of cumbersome weeds in the ponds of understanding rather than an unfortunate dive in the shallow end of consciousness, you may well consider Odinsson’s book a welcome relief.
Odinsson takes a risk by offering the original English translation before his own interpretation. There are cases where a reader may extract a meaning very different from what Odinsson suggests.
The Norse outlook is utterly pragmatic, and the Havamals are perhaps a direct instruction book for that pragmatism. For collectors of wisdom, those of far North Paganism, and for people looking for discussion prompts, Northern Wisdom can come in handy.
~ review by Diana Rajchel
Author: Eoghan Odinsson
Asgard Studios, 2012
pp. 238, $17.95