The Faraway North by Ian Cumpstey – Review

Title – The Faraway North: Scandinavian Ballads
Author – Ian Cumpstey
Genre –  Poetry/Ballards
Length –  91 Pages
Publication – June 2016
My Rating –  4/5 Stars


These ballads convey a fantastic vision of the world as it was imagined in medieval Scandinavia, with monsters and magic intermingled with the very human concerns of heroism, tragedy, love, and revenge.

The great hero Sigurd is joined in this collection by troll-battling warriors including Holger Dane, Orm the Strong, and others. There are dramatic scenes of romance, betrayal, and loss. Some of the ballads translated here are attested by paintings or maps that date from earlier than when the first full ballad texts were first written down in the 1500s. An adventure ballad relevant to the history of an Eddic poem is also included.

The ballads are storytelling songs that were passed down as part of an oral folk music tradition in Scandinavia. This collection brings many new ballads to the English-speaking reader. The readable verse translations succeed in conveying the rhythm, spirit, and imagery of the originals. The translations are mainly based on Swedish and Norwegian ballads, with some from Danish tradition.

For each ballad, there is also a short introduction with commentary and background information.

The paperback edition includes fifteen full page black-and-white illustrations.

The ballads included are:
Åsmund Frægdegjeva; Steinfinn Fefinnson; Esbjörn Proud and Orm the Strong; Sunfair and the Dragon King; Bendik and Årolilja; Sigurd Sven; Sivard Snare Sven; Little Lisa; Sven Norman and Miss Gullborg; Peter Pallebosson; Sir Svedendal; King Speleman; Holger Dane and Burman; Sven Felding; St Olaf’s Sailing Race.

Praise for Warrior Lore:
“A charming introduction to Scandinavian Lore.” — Sam Smith, in The Journal (once ‘of Contemporary Anglo-Scandinavian Poetry’)


This book was a real surprise for me. I honestly has no idea if it would be something I would enjoy since I’ve read nothing like it before but I needn’t have been worried.. it was rather impressive if I’m honest

The author has picked some of his favourite ballads translated into English for us to enjoy

I particularly liked how the author broke down the tale before you read it so you could understand what was to come. Some of the words used wouldn’t make sense without this background information, which was very much appreciated

Another great thing about this book is it isn’t a hard read and since the ballads are only around 10 minutes long you can fit a tale in whenever you have a little free time.

The background behind these ballads is what really interested me. Knowing many ballads are either lost as they were never written down or have changed over the years as they have been passed down through the generations

It was a great introduction to something I would have normally passed on and I’m glad I had my eyes opened

I felt it was very well written and above all interesting. It’s not my normal genre of choice but I wouldn’t say no to reading more in the future

Great read if you’re after something a little bit different. Unless this is your genre.. then I hope you ‘ll love this 🙂

My thanks go to the author for the chance to read/review their work

To find out head to Goodreads, or

1 thought on “The Faraway North by Ian Cumpstey – Review

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s