Did you happen to see the pilot of Vikings on the History Channel last Sunday? If you missed it, you can view the first two episodes online. I haven’t been this excited about a TV series since I discovered Downton Abbey.
Of course, I have a soft spot in my heart for those Nordic barbarians. My first two novels, Maidensong and Erinsong, are set in the Viking world. (Dragonsong, the final book in the Songs of the North trilogy will be out later this year!) And this new series shows so many things that captivate me about this time period.
History is usually told by the victors, but in this case, much of what we know about the Vikings came from their victims. Once they began raiding outside the Scandinavian fjords, they showed up in the chronicles of the day and every Christian soul in ‘civilized’ Europe began to pray “Deliver us, O Lord, from the fury of the Northmen.”
But they weren’t simply mindless raiders. In the late 8th century, they were making technological advances like a keel for their sleek, beautiful longships and a sun compass that allowed them to calculate latitude. And while the rest of Europe bathed once a year whether they needed it or not, the Vikings bathed once a week and took great pride in their appearance.
They were the last population group to convert to Christianity, but that didn’t mean they had no moral sense of “ought-ness.” The Norse had a detailed collection of laws with punishments for specific crimes carefully laid out. They had a rich mythology, as complex as the Greco-Roman system of gods and goddesses. It’s a fascinating culture and I’m so glad the History Channel is doing such a good job of recreating it.
Of course, it’s not the Regency. The women don’t wear gorgeous gowns and there are no fine balls. But the Vikings knew how to love and how to hate and they thought a man’s chief duty was to provide for and protect his family. In my book, that’s hero material.
For years, the historical romance genre has shrunk to mean only stories set in England and then only in the Georgian-Regency-Victorian eras. With the success of Downton Abbey, I expect the late Edwardian, early 20th century to creep into the mix, but that still leaves a mammoth portion of the world and its history left unvisited by the romance world.
What do you think? Are you willing to read outside the box? What unusual setting has captivated you? Or if you are a historical purist, please share why you love the Regency. (Don’t worry, I love it too. But I do enjoy dabbling in other times and places as well.)