Saturday, June 12, 2010

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)



Melange said...

Very interesting post! Thanks so much for sharing. You brought up a great point.

I still find them quite sexy though :D

Lindsay Townsend said...

I agree, Melange! In romance fiction, there just is something about a Viking...

Savanna Kougar said...

Lindsay, I've always wondered about that dichotomy, if that's the right word.
There were the bloodthirsty Vikings of your description. There was also a culture, from what I've read, that was far different than that breed of Viking, the one you talked about regarding their home life, and their respect for women.
The Vikings actually settled along their river trade routes, generally bringing a more peaceful and beneficial culture.
Odd, isn't it... but, that seems to be true in known human history, that split psyche.

Celia Yeary said...

Love the nicknames for vikings. It reminds me of the commercial for a bank in which the Vikings are doing modern things, basically wreaking havoc while trying to do the right thing. They're hilarious.Now, I'll go read your free read. Celia

Linda Banche said...

Like Celia, I got a good laugh out of the names. I agree, not romantic. But a romance is part fantasy, and you can pick the parts that fit the bill.

Jen Black said...

I find them appealing on paper and with so much more culture than you'd think, so I wrote three books about them. I'm considering going back to them sometime soon.

Lindsay Townsend said...

Hi Savanna - you're right about the 'split' they were intensely civilized at home, with a magnificient culture. I guess, as you say, it's the human condition all over.

Hi Celia - I love the nicknames, too! Glad you enoyed my free read btw.

Hi Linda - that's the power and beauty of romance, isn't it? Selection and choice is everything.

I love the quote from Oscar Wilde - 'We're all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.'

I choose the stars. I think all romance readers and writers do.

Hi Jen - the Viking culture is s vibrant, so rich, it's worth exploring over and over. It is deeply inspiring.

Kelley said...

I'm not an expert on Vikings, but I read something in one my history books that the Vikings weren't as bloodthirsty as their enemies claimed they were.

Roman writers vilified the Celts so I suppose Christian monks would have wrote terrible things about the heathen Vikings.

Just a thought that you can't always believe what someone writes about an enemy.

Lindsay, loved your short story. It was bittersweet. Thanks for sharing.

Linda Acaster said...

Good post, brought a smile. Your short story was great, very believable. Are we about to see a Viking novel??

Linda Acaster said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lindsay Townsend said...

Hi Kelley - that is so true. History tends to be written by the victors and overall the Christian monks were the victors.

Hi Linda A - maybe one day I'll write a Viking novel. Maybe around the Viking kingdom at York. I did think about writing a series of Viking whodunits with a wise-woman as the 'detective' set in York, but never got round to it.

LK Hunsaker said...

Lindsay, I agree that it's the much the same as romanticizing pirates. They, too, have more background than people think about, such as becoming pirates because their countries made it so hard for them to conduct 'legal' business. They weren't all that bloodthirsty, either. They wanted to survive.

Love the post!