πŸ“‘ Netflix’s Vikings: Valhalla – why we’ve got the Vikings wrong

Bookmarked Netflix’s Vikings: Valhalla – why we’ve got the Vikings wrong (bbc.com)

As Vikings: Valhalla premieres on Netflix, Luke Walpole explores how images of marauding pagans are misleading – despite being part of the popular imagination since the 8th Century.

With the release of Vikings: Valhalla, Luke Walpole reflects upon our understanding of Vikings. Much of this appreciation stems from from Anglo-Saxon Chonicles. However, he explains that there is more to it all than the ‘tall, strong, blonde-haired and blue-eyed Nordic race’.

Politics aside, the basis of Western culture’s understanding of the Vikings is predicated on a male-dominated focus on the Viking’s Western expansion, and less of a glance East. This is perhaps surprising, given some of our key reflections of the Vikings come from Middle Eastern historical sources, and the increasing number of Islamic artefacts which are being found across Scandinavia and indeed Britain. For example, Ahmad ibn Fadlan was a 10th-Century chronicler from the Abbasid Caliphate, who encountered a group of Rus’. Fascinated, he noted that while “they are the filthiest of God’s creatures… I have never seen more perfect physical specimens, tall as date palms, blonde and ruddy… Each man has an axe, a sword, and a knife and keeps each by him at all times.” In just a handful of clauses, Fadlan painted an indelible image of the Vikings.

I remember reading Julian D. Richards’ The Vikings: A Very Short Introduction. He explained that our idea of the Vikings as a unified group of people is actual a modern invention used to capture a particular point in time.

The concept of the Vikings is relatively new. Originally, it referred to pirate activity. It came to mean a whole people, and then a chronological label: the Viking Age. Who were the Vikings? Where did they come from? Ethnic groups used to be seen as cultural and biological isolates, but now we understand that cultures only exist in relation to other culture.

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