Community, Springfield

Library kicks off winter author celebration

Fifth-generation Oregonian author William Sullivan is best known for his hiking guides and ”Listening for Coyote,” a journal about his 1000-mile hike across Oregon. Photo provided

SPRINGFIELD – Vikings have gained a reputation in present-day views of history for pillaging villages in England, but Oregon author William ”Bill” Sullivan suggests that the Vikings were more complicated than that.
Sullivan presented ”Were the Vikings Barbarians?” to kick off the third annual Springfield Celebrates Authors event on Jan. 18.
”Bill Sullivan is invited back every year and we had him as the kickoff because he has a different presentation to give each year,” said Kristen Curé, Latino liaison librarian and adult services librarian at Springfield Library, which hosted the event. ”His writing is so diverse.”
Sullivan has written 22 books about history, mystery and adventure. He is best known for his hiking guides and ”Listening for Coyote,” a journal about his 1000-mile hike across Oregon; the book was chosen by the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission as one of Oregon’s 100 most significant books.
His latest historical fiction series started with ”Ship in the Hill,” following the true story of a Viking burial ship unearthed in Norway in 1904, alternating chapters between the archeologists and the Viking queen who sailed the ship a thousand years earlier.
The second book in the series, ”The Ship in the Sand” covers the Viking era when Harald Bluetooth united Denmark, setting the stage for the conquest of England. Alternating chapters are set in World War II when Danish archaeologists set out to undermine the Nazi occupation of Denmark.
”There’s much misinformation about the Vikings,” Sullivan said. ”My goal is to reveal the truth as I find it. Denmark is a small country with a big heart.”
Sullivan’s presentation focused on the research that he undertook for the second novel, which led him to Northern Europe over a dozen times. He examined burial ships, rune stones and treasure troves to better understand the Vikings.
”England and America have bloodthirsty views,” he explained, adding that in Denmark and other Nordic countries that that was not the case. ”Two views can’t both be true.”
Historically, Vikings attacked monasteries in England because they were hoarding wealth and were believed to worship a false god; but the Vikings were only in it for the money and worked as farmers in their home countries – although eventually Danish Vikings settled in England to farm as well.
The monasteries were also the ones who kept records, and therefore recorded the Vikings as ”barbarians” due to their attacks on them – a view maintained by English researchers that Scandinavian researchers disagree with.
”I personally didn’t know a lot about Viking history; it’s interesting how the history we do know was influenced by the English,” Curé said. ”It shows the person who writes history has the lasting impact.”
In the past, Springfield Celebrates Authors has highlighted WWII historians, historic mysteries and poetry. Curé said the event came together when Friends of the Springfield Public Library expressed interest in a yearly tradition focusing on Oregon- and Lane County-specific authors.
”It’s a wonderful way to highlight the talent we have here,” she said.
Author talks will take place monthly until April. Feb. 8 will have Kenneth R. Coleman, March 28 will have Suzi Prozanski and April will be a poet chosen by the Oregon Poetry Association.



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