Vikings

How the Americans Taught Us Norwegians to Love Our Viking Heritage

It may come as a surprise to many, but most Norwegians were never particularly proud of their Norse ancestry. The little knowledge they had of the Viking Age and our common ethnic and cultural heritage was usually horribly outdated. Until recently, in popular culture the Vikings were almost always portrayed as dumb, brutal rapists and villains. Also, Norse mythology was a subject of parody and not to be taken as anything more than naive stories told by our stupid ancestors. Those of us who thought differently, those of us who had already connected with our Norse ancestry, were ridiculed.

When I grew up, most people knew about Thor (not the Marvel version). But that was all. And it’s not so strange that most people kept away from anything Norse or Viking. You see, if you showed any interest in our Norse heritage, you were easily labelled as a nazi or a satanist. We can thank Hitler and his boys for the first one — they had a fascination for Norse mythology and repainted the image of the Norse gods and gave them slim waists, large biceps and blonde hair. The satanist part is harder to explain, but my guess is that that was a label used on most stuff people were suspicious of. Also, Norway was in fact shockingly totalitarian in the years from the end of WW2 and well into the 80’s, and the individualistic Viking mindset is never welcomed in totalitarian societies.

But then things started to change. Viking reenactment groups emerged – as if out of thin air. Movies and novels with iron age settings became more and more popular. And then, all of a sudden a tv-show from across the Atlantic reached us. I have to tell you, those Vikings looked strange to us, with their crazy haircuts and tattoos and all that. But they were Vikings! And here’s the thing that people need to understand about Norwegians: While we are eager to criticize «Amerika», we are even more eager to live, walk and talk like they do in North American popular culture. The influence North American popular culture has here along the North Sea is immense. So immense, actually, that we all assumed that that tv show was purely American when it is, in fact, a Canadian/Irish production, hence the somewhat erroneous headline to this blogpost. So when a tv-show like «Vikings» reached our tv screens, we finally understood that we have our own identity. We understood that once we were Vikings. And I must tell you, after having worked as a novelist with Norse/Viking themes for a decade, I am right in the center of this new «Viking Age» and I couldn’t be happier. Finally, even the Norwegians understand that we have reason to be proud of your Viking heritage.

So thank you. We hate to admit it, but you actually helped us find our identity.

– Bjørn Andreas Bull-Hansen

Read more: How to know if you’re a Viking