Saturday, August 13, 2011

The 'romance' of Vikings?

Leif Ericsson arrives in Vinland, from a book of 1908 (source: Wikimedia Commons)Why are Vikings romantic?

When Vikings were raiding Celtic monasteries they were not romantic. When Vikings - unkempt, insanitary, prone to arthritis after years on the sea - ravaged coastal settlements and came upriver to pillage and steal, they were not romantic. When they desecrated Christian sites, they were not romantic.

When an Anglo-Saxon village caught a Viking raider they pinned his skin to the church-door, which took the romance right out of it.

Do real Viking nicknames like 'Geirmund the Shifty', 'Ragnar Hairy-Breeches' or 'Eysteinn the Fart' induce swooning?

So why are we drawn to them?

Perhaps because they were pirates, the free-wheeling buccaneers of their age, who refused to be overwhelmed by anything, including the glories of Byzantine Constantinople - their runes and messages have been found carved into the church of Haghia Sophia in Istanbul.

Perhaps because through their sagas and art they reveal a fierce spirit of independence, a laconic, 'give-it-your best-shot ' attitude that is appealing.

Perhaps because women in Scandinavian society had many freedoms and rights, and at home Viking men were hard-working and respectful to their wives and mothers.

Perhaps because the image of the tall, blond, blue-eyed hulking warrior is a delicious fantasy that - with the benefit of historical hindsight - we can indulge in.

Here, as a partial homage to the romance of Vikings, is my short story, Seal of Odin. This is a different version from my more paranormal story, The Beach and is the earlier of the two:

Seal of Odin (PDF)

Vikings also appear, in passing, in my A Knight's Captive, which takes place in 1066 and features the battle of Stamford Bridge where the Viking king Harold Hardrada was killed.

Best wishes, Lindsay

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