Moberg, a contemporary writer very popular in Sweden, wants to insert into history the Swedish comman man, the peasant, who for 5000 years has cleared that wooded, rocky, inhospitable land. But in this first of four volumes (which ends approximately 1400) the ""samre folk,"" the lesser people, have barely a voice among the inchoate mass of anecdotes about nobles and kings and queens, Vikings, plagues, Christianity, villainy and feasts. For the life of the peasantry we must be satisfied to learn that ""Medieval people lived out their lives without books or newspapers, without electric light. . . without telephone or telegraph. . ."" but they loved their hearth and found simple happiness in their prayers. Moberg claims he doesn't want to romanticize the peasant but nonetheless reveres him as ""the last individualist left in our modern society."" When it comes to historical explanation we learn that Viking plundering expeditions were caused by ""sheer lust for heroic deeds; a longing for adventure; a dynamic spirit""; why the Nordic peoples suddenly became possessed with such thirst for action remains unsaid. The book -- very personal, very idiosyncratic -- sometimes rises above its trivial ramblings and mawkish moralizing to display an almost cranky fascination with such items as who started the Soderkoping fire of 1281, King Magnus Eriksson's alleged homosexuality, St. Bridget's bones and the Bockstein Man -- a recruitment officer murdered 600-odd years ago. The ""common man"" might rebuke Moberg with the old peasant adage, ""You are talking about parsley, where we are growing dill.