The Serpent and the Eagle – Chris Travers

The Serpent and the Eagle: An Introduction to the Elder Runic Tradition
Chris Travers
186 pages

There are a number of introductory guides to the runes on the market. Some of them are well-researched and well-written; others are full of poor scholarship, which negates whatever writing style may have been applied. This, fortunately, is in the former category. Travers presents a good mix of scholarly research and practical application from personal experience.

For the beginner, the book offers an excellent basic guide to the elder futhark, including meanings and interpretations of each rune, and a basic “why” for each of the three groupings known as aetts. The material is firmly couched in the cultural context that the runes were created in. Travers has done many years of research not only into the runes themselves, but also Germanic cultures and even the greater, overarching Indo-European influence. There are many, many tangents that this book gives to the intrepid researcher. It’s not, however, a particularly dry read, and even novices should be able to make good sense of the material.

However, unlike some authors Travers doesn’t just focus on the divinatory/oracular uses of the runes. While divination is covered, so is the poetic magic of runes. An appendix covers further concepts, such as the creation of a niding-pole. One could wish for more of this not-divination material, especially because what he does describe is intriguing. However, it is a nice change from the usual “Here’s how to cast the runes, and here’s what they mean”.

My only real complaint is that the book really could have used a proofreader. There are numerous typos throughout the text, to the point where I found it distracting. While it doesn’t completely counteract the overall quality of the book otherwise, it does come across as a bit unprofessional (and is why I generally recommend that self-publishers hire an editor who’s well worth the cost).

That aside, this is one of the best self-published books I’ve had the pleasure of reading, and a text on runes that I would highly recommend to both those who want to make a thorough study of the topic, and those who simply would like to have a good, basic reference guide in their library.

Four and a half pawprints out of five.

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1 Comment

  1. Chris Travers said,

    April 18, 2011 at 9:19 am

    This comment is aimed at anyone else who might end up self-publishing a book.

    I just wanted to respond to the issue of proofreading in part in case other self-publishing authors read this review. Yes, there were issues here, and I don’t deny that. Instead I wanted to describe the proofreading processes used and what I would do differently next time.

    The initial manuscript was horribly typo-ridden. I suspect the error count was approximately two per page. I worked with a proofreader who made four passes on the manuscript and he would mail me back marked up hard copies and I would fix his changes. All the typos I have found so far were ones which he flagged and which I missed on correction, and which he later missed having previously flagged them. The typo count is far less than it was and so this is a testament to how well this process worked. The remaining typos however show that this was inadequate. My proofreader even called the results “discouraging” and I figure I get to take responsibility for that failure.

    In response to that problem I have been attempting to change the way I look at proofreading. Instead of using “a proofreader” (which I did!), I recommend using at least two proofreaders and having them make runs over the manuscript in alternation. This makes it less likely that an error that is flagged and missed will fall through the cracks. A second edition is underway which will be revised, expanded, and checked by multiple proofreaders.

    So for anyone else who finds themselves wanting to publish their own books, I would recommend highly the use of multiple proofreaders, used in alternation. As I understand it, major publishing houses usually do not use the same editor for all passes either and this is an area where it can be quite helpful to emulate them.

    Hope this helps, and thanks for the review 🙂

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