I have always been drawn to the ocean. It feels much more like home than any inland area I’ve ever visited. I do not understand that fear of the open ocean that some people have, and I can not imagime a life without a boat. But I’m biased. My father always had sailing boats, and the first thing I did when I had my first novel published, was to buy my own. I was 24 at the time, and I’ve never been without a boat since.
I believe this fascination with the ocean is genetical. If you have some Viking blood in you, you are likely the result of coastal people getting together. The ocean was never a divider of nations, but quite the opposite. If you lived by the coast in Norway a thousand years ago, it was much safer, faster and easier to travel to, for instance the British Islands, than to some inland settlement. Therefore, the Norse genetical pool can today be found among the peoples who come from areas around the coastal parts of Scandinavia, UK, Iceland, North-Western Europe and some rivers going into Eastern Europe. (There are other areas as well, but probably too many to mention here.)
The Norse seamen and -women were not mainly raiders. The image of the cruel Viking killing people and bringing slaves onto his longship is not fiction, but neither is it representative of the connection between the peoples of that age. Yes, the slave trade was huge and recent research suggests that it was mainly driven by the demand from mighty Mediterranean nations, but things were not as simple as not-so-old history books want us to believe. We need to understand that the northern Celtic peoples and the Scandinavians became interconnected through marriage, trade and what I believe was a fascination and admiration going both ways. This is easy to spot if we look at the arts and crafts from that time. To some extent, the same can be said about the Slavs in Eastern Europe. (And yes, I do look forward to that Russian movie “Viking”.)
Writing this, I believe I have been to Scotland five times, I’ve been to Iceland twice and I am hugely fascinated by our common cultural and genetical heritage. This has obviously affected my writing, but also my life choices. And it does so with increasing force as I get older. I now dream about building a longship and sailing it to the western coast of Canada and down along the North-American coast … I am trying to teach myself Viking crafts and my diet is getting more and more “Viking”. And on a more personal note, I would like to say that this gets me more connected, both with nature and with myself.
I will be back with more Viking related topics on this blog. Until then, may fair winds fill your sail and your journeys be joyful.
-Bjørn Andreas Bull-Hansen