book review

The Sea Trolls

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"The Sea of Trolls" is the first volume of a fantasy trilogy by three-time Newbery Honors winning author, Nancy Farmer.


Being Swedish Americans, and from Viking stock, we have always liked studying and learning about the Vikings.

"The Sea of Trolls" left us wanting to become Skalds, which is just another name for bard. We wanted to tell our stories through song and poems, be one with nature, see a dragon, etc.

Before we go any further, I have to let you know that this book does deal with thought-provoking subject matter such as death, slavery, pillaging and magic. There are not gross or morbid details.

This story wonderfully weaves the interactions of three very different cultures. It does so with a seamless blend of history, humor, and suspense.

When the Bard took notice of Jack he was thrilled. Now he could be the old man's apprentice and learn the magic that this old man possessed or "use the life force" as it was called. But Jack's life was suddenly thrown into chaos when a nightmare sends the Bard into insanity and a band a berserkers attacks his village and captures Jack and his sister Lucy. Jack is now at the mercy of Olaf One-Brow, who is very happy to have such a young and skilled Skald.

As soon as they arrive at Olaf's home things seem to turn upside down again. There is a very angry and sullen shield maid named Thorgil who gives Lucy as a present to the half-troll, Queen Frith, who in the beginning was very pleased with the pretty little girl. Jack accidentally says a spell that reveals the queen's true appearance, which is a rather hideous site since she is half troll. Queen Frith threatens to kill Lucy unless Jack goes to the legendary Mimir's well and finds a way to reverse the spell. The only problem with this is that Mimir's well lies in the middle of Jotunheim, a hideous wasteland full of trolls, dragons, carnivore plants, and enormous beasts.

This fantasy has such a rich texture and weaves history (Viking Berserkers, and the destruction of the Holy Isle) with legends (Jotunheim, trolls, Norse gods and Yggdrasil), and never makes you leave your belief that it could have happened just like this. The Bard has wonderful insight into nature and happiness which alone is worth reading this book.

Jack evolves wonderfully over the book, turning from an ordinary farm boy into a sensitive, intelligent bard.

Something To Do

Many times throughout the story Jack would play a game called "Wolf and Sheep" with Thorgil or others that they were spending time with. This is a very old viking game originating in Iceland. It can be found throughout Scandinavia but also in England,Scotland, and Ireland.

Playing boards are either made out of clay,or cloth. We made a salt dough version which is fun and easy.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup salt
1 cup cold water

In a large bowl, mix the salt and flour together. Add the 1/2 cup of water and stir until you have a dough. You might need to get your hands in there to complete making it into a round ball.

To make the board: Place a little flour on a cutting board. Take 2/3 rds of the dough and roll it out into a circle a 1/2 inch thick. With a marble or glass stone make marks in the dough for the game board. Three circles across and 7 circles down. For the horizontal rows do the same thing intersecting with the vertical lines.

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Heat oven 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Place on parchment paper in the oven for two hours or until the dough is hard.

Any leftover dough place in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to be used later.

The Game:

  • First we need to decide who will be the sheep and who will be the ram. The one whose first name is closest to the letter Z is the one who gets to pick which they would like to be Sheep or Wolf.
  • The Sheep person always goes first. They move one step at a time. They can move forward,diagonally forward or sideways but never backwards.
  • The wolf can go in any direction. If there is an empty hole in any direction around the lamb the wolf may skip over the lamb and take that playing piece off of the board. If the wolf can skip over many sheep in the same move it may do so, removing the lamb pieces off of the board. 
  • The lambs win by encircling the wolf so that he cannot move anywhere to take away the sheep pieces.
  • The wolf wins if he has taken away all of the sheep pieces, or if he can get to one of the holes in the bottom row.

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