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Discussion: Vikings in Fiction

Hello book bees and welcome to another discussion! Today we’ll be covering Vikings, and specifically Vikings in fiction. This is a topic I’ve got a bit of background in. When I was in undergraduate school I studied some Viking history, and went on to pursue a graduate degree in Denmark thus gaining a lot more Viking context for my studies. Then I went and married a man descended from the Vikings in my favorite saga!

Viking Sagas

The Sagas are where everything starts for Viking fiction. These sagas, written by a variety of sources both known and unknown, are accounts of the deeds of famous Viking kings and explorers. The sagas cover events taking place across Scandinavian and the Nordic countries, as well as the exploration of Iceland, Greenland, and North America. The sagas have a mixture of historical events backed up by other records, as well as fantasy elements from witches to dragons. Many of the main characters in the sagas were real people–Iceland can trace lineages back to these people–and though the Sagas feature fantasy elements, they were written as accounts of the real deeds of these people. The Sagas have had far reaching effects on the world of fantasy writing (J.R.R. Tolkien was heavily inspired by sagas) and also provide valuable insights into the history of Northern Europe.

Vikings in Historical Fiction

Unsurprisingly, Vikings take up a significant place in the historical fiction genre. Some novels take on the “traditional” view of Vikings, that they were unkempt barbarians invading anywhere they could reach with a ship. Others form a more historically informed version of the Vikings–clean, financially smart, diverse people who did sometimes go a-Viking. Both kinds of historical fiction have their place, and both are popular amongst their audiences.

Vikings in Romance

The subsection of romance that also features the historical fiction aspect of Vikings is an interesting genre, for sure. And honestly I’ve found that the authors of these books tend to have a better grasp on the realities of historical Vikings than those in historical fiction who want to just write about the raiding and the looting. Historical fiction romances feature a more accurate version of Vikings, who clean themselves and give women power over the household finances.

The Tropes

A lot of Viking inspired books have a handful of the same tropes. These include Vikings who are ruthless killers, bent on gold and glory. Vikings who are more historically accurate, respect women, and are pretty clean all things considered. There’s Viking novels where the women run the whole show, and there are novels where prophecies dictate the world around them. Most stories involve a sea battle or invasion at some point, utilizing the famous Viking longship imagery most are familiar with. Invasions, political schemes, and treasure hoards are popular tropes among this type of fiction.

Final Thoughts

Vikings are represented in a lot of ways in fiction. Some are historically accurate, some are good, some are bad, some are incredibly based in fantasy. Vikings, like pirates and Scottish highlanders, are a popular historical people to portray in various fiction but especially romance novels. This is because something about the Vikings still captivates our imagination today, enough so that TV shows and movies and books are constantly being produced inspired by the history of the Vikings. And that’s something wonderful and interesting, that a historical people from so long ago still interest us today.

Though white supremacists can chew on leather and go away, there is no place in the bookish or writing communities for them.

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By Catherine

I'm a lover of books, coffee, wine, and bees. Happy to join the ranks of book bloggers everywhere!

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