Why Do Vikings Have Such Appeal?

By Andrea R. Cooper, author of The Garnet Dagger and Viking Fire

Viking FireThe History Channel’s TV series, Vikings, has an estimated six million viewers. Many of these are women, me and friends included. Aside from the actors, why do Vikings have such an appeal today?

First, I believe many romanticize about being swept away from everyday life. After all, romance is an escape from reality. Perhaps we just want someone to take over for a little while. Ease the burden of responsibility.

Second, Vikings made no excuses for their behavior. They took what they wanted without remorse. I doubt they had to take assertiveness courses. The Vikings were skilled in sweeping into a place, ransacking it, gathering up people as slaves, and disappearing quickly.

Third, Vikings could change ranks within their society. For example a thrall (slave), could purchase their own freedom. Of course, this freedom was expensive, but it was still allowed. Warriors could become Jarls as depicted in the Vikings TV series.

Further, aspects of our society have roots with the Vikings. In Russia, a group of Varangians, who were probably Swedish Vikings, were called “Rus” by the Russians-which is where some scholars think the word “Russia” originated.

Norwegian Vikings found North America before Christopher Columbus. They also settled the countries of Iceland and Greenland.

Norwegian and Danish Vikings fought and settled in Ireland and England. However, it was the Danes that prevailed and even settled in a part of northern France called Normandy. The Battle of Hastings in 1066 where The Duke of Normandy, William the Conqueror a descendant of Viking raiders, won and took over the reign of England until 1087.

Our modern system of court justice is thanks to the Vikings. A Viking would plead his case at a ‘thyng’, where two sides would have a hearing. However, if one was found guilty, anyone could kill them without punishment. They also believed in an eye for an eye – literally. Vikings also allowed divorce and even women could divorce their husbands.
Vikings were the pirates of their era. Sail on ships that were faster than anything known at the time, and could navigate up rivers, and even be carried inland.

So, did all Vikings rape and pillage? No. Many Vikings were in search of land. They wanted land to farm on and raise their families. They were family oriented and strongly devoted to their religion. Many Vikings were merchants and traders. Others were interested in treasure and gathering up people to sell as slaves. They were explorers and settlers.

The Viking Sagas and myths hold intrigue, love, betrayal, jealousy, bravery, etc. Iceland Vikings created the most sagas recorded. However, one of history’s mysteries is who wrote the sagas. These are fiction, but based on real people, and often correlate to actual historical events. Some historians believe that women may have written some of the sagas. Women are depicted as vengeful, deceitful, sly, and manipulative. However, women are also shown as wise, warriors or shieldmaidens, proud, strong and independent.

In my own historical romance, Viking Fire, I have the hero Bram interested in land. Like Bram, many Vikings married Celtic women in predominant families to obtain land. In exchange for these marriages and land, the Vikings would fight alongside their wives’ clan against any enemy-even their own kind.

Viking stories will sweep you away to another place and pirate your time and heart. And let’s face it, they are sexy.

One thought on “Why Do Vikings Have Such Appeal?

  1. Deborah O'Neill Cordes

    Fascinating topic, Andrea! I have Viking roots going back to the Middle Ages, and I’ve delved into the subject quite a bit for my genealogy research. Your article was very well done. I’m going to buy your novel! Off to Amazon! And much continued success!