A Drink of Fresh Water: The Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow

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Author: Allan French

Publisher: Bethlehem Books

Printed: 1993

Number of Pages: 244

Can be purchased at: www.bookdepository.com for (AUD) 19.80, (USD) 15.58. (free shipping) or  can be found on gutenberg.org as a free ebook

The Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow is a masterful tale written by the gifted historian and author Allen French. French was a man who was passionate about most things related to history and among his other interests he had a deep fascination for Icelandic legends. In The Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow, he takes his readers back to the days when men spent the long winter evenings telling stories of courage and heroism, the days when Vikings terrorized the northern seas and people relied on their weapons for food and safety. Having studied many of the sagas, or legends, of Iceland, French is able to skilfully capture the style of an ancient saga in his novel while still writing in language that modern readers can understand.

From the very beginning of the book the reader feels that he is sitting in a great, fire-lit hall in a cold northern country, listening to a bard as he sings this tale of courage and forgiveness. French tells the story of Rolf, the son of Hiarandi the Unlucky. It is believed that a curse of unluckiness lies on their family and this seems to be the case for after Hiarandi lights a beacon on the cliffs to save a ship from being dashed against the rocks, things become harder for the already unfortunate family. Eventually, through treachery and jealousy, Rolf, only about fifteen years old, finds himself an outlaw and is exiled from his home and family. In his travels he is accompanied by the gentle giant Frodi and together they battle against Vikings, suffer shipwreck, endure slavery and fight invincible men. They even encounter a ghost but French tells this event in such a way that it is not dark or creepy and the reader can accept it as a normal element of an Icelandic saga. Through his adventures Rolf meets many different, vivid characters including one who is more closely connected with Rolf’s circumstances than either of them realize at first.

Although French wrote specifically for boys, I would recommend this story to any reader from about twelve years old and up. It is a refreshing, inspiring tale of Christianity versus Paganism, faithfulness versus treachery, courage versus cowardice, humility versus pride. As Lydia Reynolds says in her introduction to the book, reading Rolf  is “like taking a drink of water straight from the glacier’s source…It feeds a hunger in us. It quenches a thirst”. The Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow is available as a free ebook here or as a paperback on Book Depository for (AUD) 19.80, (USD) 15.58.

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