Saturday, October 25, 2008

Were the Vikings really fops?

Some researchers, evidently concerned about the self-esteem of British schoolchildren who might have Viking ancestry, are trying to make the Vikings out to be proto-dandies, the metrosexuals of the Dark Ages.

The Vikings are traditionally known for leaving destruction in their wake as they travelled around Europe raping, pillaging and plundering.

But Cambridge University has launched a campaign to recast them as "new men" with an interest in grooming, fashion and poetry.

Great. Just what we need. Vikings as addlepated as hippies, but better groomed.

They did not, in fact, wear horned or winged helmets. And they appear to have been a vain race who were concerned about their appearance.

"It seems that the Vikings may not have been as hairy and dirty as is commonly imagined," the guide say.

Okay, I can deal with the lack of horns and wings on the helmets. But what's the point of being a Viking if you can't be hairy and dirty?

"A medieval chronicler, John of Wallingford, talking about the eleventh century, complained that the Danes were too clean - they combed their hair every day, washed every Saturday, and changed their clothes regularly."

Okay, clean is relative. They were still properly dirty by modern standards. (Well, maybe not by European standards.) Does this mean they weren't hairy?

The guide reveals that Norsemen were also stylish trend-setters: "Contemporaries who met individual Vikings were struck by the extreme bagginess of their trousers."

Great. Gangsta pants, hippy-dippy poetry. The worst of both worlds.

Dr Elizabeth Rowe, a Viking expert and lecturer in Scandinavian mediaeval history at the university, said it was important that children should not picture the Norse warriors as an aggressive race, preoccupied with raping and looting.

"Many British children are quite likely to have Viking ancestry and we want to make them think about the reality of their past," she said.

Great. Just what Nanny state kids need: to be reassured that their Viking ancestors, who they once could think of as fierce warriors, were actually just as wimpy as pampered British schoolkids.

"It's damaging to think that they were simply a violent society, and easy to undermine them as a people who have no redeeming qualities."

No redeeming qualities?!?! Vikings had magnificent longboats tough enough to brave the fiercest storms, but deft enough to sail on the morning dew. They had magnificent swords, shields, and jewelry. And they were the first Europeans to reach North America. But in order to have "redeeming qualities" they'd have to be mincing, flower-picking shepherd-poets? Guess what, Dr. Rowe -- Not everybody wants to descend from Alan Alda or Leonard Nemoy.

Report your findings of settlements and such, but don't do a Viking Extreme Makeover. Some of us are proud of our hairy, dirty, seafaring ancestors and don't need the image of them acting like San Francisco beatnicks, okay? Least of all over-coddled British schoolkids who need to be toughened up a bit. Let them have at least the illusion of warrior blood in their veins.


WKen said...

Heard in the Viking village:

Oh, Olaf, check out that oh-so-fab dragon head on the neighbors' longboat. And the colors of the shields on the side are, like, sooo awesome compared to ours, I think we need to add some more yellow and maybe a bit of magenta and really liven up the thing, don't you?

Oh, and Ulric just told me about this AMAZING skin creme he found in that village we burned last week. It makes his skin feel as smooth and soft as a baby's bottom. Isn't that FAB?

Oh, I gotta go pick up my new axe head. Love ya, babe. Ciao!

Sarah said...

i can assure you that this irrelevant piece of 'news'(!?) went unnoticed in every conceivable way throughout the british isles. i agree 'southerners are puffs.' ever heard of the infamous north/south divide. Doubt it.

Expert on british politics and school kids are we? Ha ha. Reads like obscure, ignorant and pathetic obnoxiousness. Sad. From a teacher.. Please do elucidate, i'll eagerly await the intelligent response.. oh wait not bloodly likely i won't.

Anonymous said...

uh-oh :(