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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why Vikings?

I’ve been asked this question many times and the answer for me has always been “Why not?” As readers of romance, we like our heroes to be bold, sexy, sometimes brazen, and always chivalrous. What better group of heroic men can give you all that and more than the brave warriors of the North?

I suppose my fixation for Vikings is akin to asking an herbivore why he prefers the taste of grass to a big juicy steak. Okay, I suspect my interest in these men does not go quite as far as an innate behavior, but considering I’ve had this passion since taking World History in high school, it’s seems as close to an inherent condition as I can imagine.

As most everyone has learned, Vikings were a formidable race of men, practiced in the skill of raiding and evading. We were educated to believe that they were greedy pillagers, marked by lack of compassion and extreme brutality in their pursuit for gold and riches. No one was safe from their torment, especially the unarmed monks of the European world.

But as I sat and listened to my teachers describe this particular Scandinavian race of adventure-seeking seamen, I couldn’t help feeling that something was amiss. Could an entire class of people be that barbaric? Did every person—man, woman, and child—set their sights on wreaking havoc over their distant, and some not so distant, European neighbors?

The thought of that concept actually made me laugh. While we know that Hitler and his strong band of Nazis utterly bewildered and outraged the world with their fanatical purpose to end the Jewish community, we also know that not all Germans sided with this tyrannical quest for world domination. On the flip side, I also thought it utterly ridiculous to lump the men from the North into that same category of extremists.

In my pursuit to set the record straight, I struck out to research this race on my own. In reading many research books on the subject, I came to find that most were written by men, laden with facts, dates, and events. To be truthful, it was a huge bore.

Until…I found a book entitled Everyday Life In The Viking Age by Jacqueline Simpson. To my surprise, it was authored by a female and written in such a way that held me riveted. She went beyond factual statistics and delved into the core of the Vikings’ life. She spoke of their unparalleled unity of family and brotherhood, independence and honor. It was the first nonfiction book I’d ever read cover to cover.

In great detail, she explained how most were simple craftsmen and merchants looking to make an honest living with trade, or farmers aiming to settle upon lush lands following the depletion of Norway’s natural resources—while still upholding the role of a warrior if the duty arose. For me, there was something to be said about the fearless men who bravely picked up their families and left their homelands to journey on an open sea in the hopes of making a new life for themselves.

I also found that along with courage, these men made and kept oaths of loyalty, both with their gods and their brothers in arms. It was not likely that oaths were broken, as doing so would have called to question one’s honor, and during this time, a man’s character was either his glory or his shame.

These men were also family men; a people who stood closely together, sometimes living together in the same longhouses and raising each others’ young as their own. While they held a high regard for kinship, they also harbored an untamable desire for exploration. Their vitality for adventure, as well as their unsurpassed nautical intelligence, helped them to perfect the most versatile sea vessel of their time.

In truth, this was the spirit of the Northmen and the reason why I enjoy writing them into my historical romances. I’ve always said I would love to have been born in the 10th century so I could set my own eyes on a few tall, fair-haired, muscled warriors and witness their passionate exploits on the bows of their impressive dragon ships. Hey a girl can dream, right?

I hope I entertained you, if not enlightened you, about why the Vikings are a logical choice for the burly Alpha male heroes we want in our romance novels.

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Ræliksen, Mac Liam, and The Fall of Rain
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No longer forced to warm the beds of the men who've taken everything from her, Æsa has nothing to offer the noble warrior but her heart.

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Sandy said...

Renee, you are passionate about your Vikings, and I'm sure it shows in your stories. I really enjoyed reading your post.

Renee Vincent said...

Thanks Sandy! I'm so glad you enjoyed it today!

Melissa Keir said...

There is something about men and women who stood for something and craved adventure. They were fierce but fierce in caring for each other and protecting their families, even more so than fighting others.

Thanks for sharing your passion Renee!

Renee Vincent said...

LOVE how you put that Melissa! Fiercely intimidating, but fiercely passionate as well. So true!

vicki batman said...

Hi, Renee! Very interesting. Did the book go into the Viking's exploration of North America?

Renee Vincent said...

yes Vicki it does. It briefly mentions the excursions of Erik the Red and his son Leif...and the proof that the Norse landed in the Americas with the newly excavated and discovery of L'Anseaux-Meadows and its longhouse dwellings on the northern tip of the island of Newfoundland.

However, the book itself is more about their lives and family life, verses the voyages and conquests. It deeply delves into the religion, lifestyles, crafts, beliefs, and common practices of the Northmen. But it does so in a way that's more like a documentary, than a history book. Which I believe is one of the reasons why I loved it so much. Plus, she (Jacqueline Simpson - the author) reminds me of the research books that Sherrilyn Kenyon did with the way it was written. Very easy to read and understand.

If anyone has read WOLFSKIN by Juliet Marillier...

...great book by the way about Vikings, I consulted with her and asked what research she did. Coincidentally enough, she said she used one book and one book only...and that was the one I used: EVERYDAY LIFE IN THE VIKING AGE. Needless to say, I was thrilled!

Paris said...

I loved the post, Renee! I've always believed that history is usually slanted too far one way or the other. Thank you for the interesting information. I do love a good adventurous story though and Vikings do kind of fit the bill. What can I say, I love those Alpha heroes:)

jean hart stewart said...

Have always loved Vikings, and enjoy knowing more about them. Thanks so much for all the information...

Jeanine said...

I am hooked on the History Channel show The Vikings. If you haven't seen it you must check it out. It explores many of the facts you mention in your post. For example: they were farmers--first. Thanks for the post!

Cara Marsi said...

Interesting. Thanks for the history lesson, Renee. I agree with Sandy that your passion for Vikings comes through in your books. Vikings have always been popular in romance novels. I have the Emerald Island Trilogy in my Kindle and have been itching to read it.

E. Ayers said...

Great post! Everyone needs to remember that we can never lump all people together because they are from an area, country, or whatever. Lessons that still need to be learned today.

I don't think you mentioned it but weren't they also much taller than the Europeans? That alone would instill a certain amount of fear.

Sharon Hamilton said...

Love Vikings. Loved the TV series. My ancestors. Sometimes I feel them in my veins when I edit. Lots of blood when I edit.

Renee Vincent said...

Oh yes, Paris, Alpha males ROCK!

You're welcome, Jean. Thanks so much for reading my post!

Jeannie - I, too, and HOOKED on the History Channel's Vikings TV show! It is amazing and so wonderful to see Vikings shown more accurately than Hollywood has ever tried to do.

Oh Cara, I'm so flattered you bought it and I do hope you enjoy it. Please let me know what you think when you're finished!

E. Ayers, yes they were taller than other Europeans which is largely due to their high protein diet of red meat. I'm glad to know someone else knows this!

Sharon - I loved your comment about the editing. So funny! Thanks for making me laugh.

Mary Gillgannon said...

Like you, I love Vikings. I think they make great heroes. The very name conjures up brawny macho men and if you play against type and also make them compassionate and noble, they are about perfect. That's why I wrote two Viking romances and the hero in my current WIP is a Viking who travels to modern L.A.

Renee Vincent said...

Mary, I didn't know you wrote Viking romance too. I thought you wrote Highlander...learn something new every day!

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