Thursday, May 21, 2009

Don't Mess with Rolf

Rolf is the only son of Hiarandi the Unlucky. Most of his father's ill luck springs from the fact that he is compassionate and that his neighbor, Einar, covets his land and his spacious hall. The wicked Einar manages to get Hiarandi ensnared in legal difficulties and he is sentenced to spend a year within a bow-shot of his own hall. Not content, Einar sends his henchmen to trick Hiarandi into venturing beyond this perimeter where he will be fair game for slaughter. Hiarandi is killed, but in the process, young Rolf also kills one of Einar's henchmen. Now Rolf is made an outlaw and is forced to flee from Iceland until his sentence is complete. But Rolf will not be content until he can prove that his father was killed within a bowshot of his home--and thus make Einar subject to the law.

The Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow is a truly enjoyable read. It is a story told in the style of the Icelandic sagas, even including some of the same characters, but the prose is completely approachable for a modern reader. The reading level is about age 12 and up, I'd say, but a precocious 10 year old could handle the content. The book is perfectly suited for parents to read along with their youngsters and there is plenty of fodder here for discussions about important subjects like justice, virtue, greed, the law, corruption, and loyalty.

This book has the look and feel of a "young adult" novel, but I must admit that I enjoyed it very much, even though I'm approaching 40. I read the edition published by Bethelehem Books and was impressed by the production values--it's definitely worth a couple extra dollars. I recommend it heartily to all.

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