I recently found out I have Viking ancestors. I know – many people do. If you live in Scandinavia or have relatives from that part of the world, there is a good chance that you have Viking genes too. But still, I was extremely excited when I found out about this. It seems my ancestry can be traced back to the Danish chieftain Skjalm the White, who himself had a very famous grandfather: Palnatoke. Now, this was a very long time ago and I wouldn’t say this is an exact science. However, we do know that Skjalm was born in AD 1034, and that he was a very real person. His grandfather, on the other hand, is more of a mythic figure. Nobody really knows if Palnatoke was a real person. But he is said to have established the brotherhood of the Jomsvikings, an independent army of elite Viking mercenaries. He also killed the Danish king Harold Bluetooth, whose son he had fostered. Young Sven Forkbeard was happy to seize the throne and would become one of the most notorious Danish Viking kings of all time.
Going back even further, one of Palnatoke’s great-great or great-great-great something grandfather was a character made famous by a tv show: Ragnar Lothbrok (Ragnar with the fluffy trousers). And his great-great something was Hrothgar, the old king from the story of Beowulf.
Being a novelist with a lifelong fascination of the age of the Vikings, I am obviously very excited about all this. That said, I have always thought that the real heroes of the Viking age were not the kings, but the farmers, the fishermen, the craftsmen, the slaves; the men and women who struggled to feed their children and to keep a roof over their heads. But anyway, when I look at those lines going back through generations, all the way back to Ragnar Lothbrok and Hrothgar … It gets you thinking, if you know what I mean. Do I have some of those genes? If so, do they affect how I behave, how I think? Do they affect the way I write my books? I would like to think that they do.
My recent ancestors are from the Appalachian area in the USA, and before thought there are a couple lines that go back through some Scottish royalty, which ultimately is connected to other royal lines that go back to Scandinavia. One of those ancestors of mine is also Ragnar Lothbrok. A few others I have found that I know from Icelandic sagas as well, and it amazes me how far the lineage has traveled.