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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