Viking revival

Viking revival

Early modern publications dealing with Old Norse (Viking Age) culture appeared in the 16th century, e.g. "Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus" (Olaus Magnus, 1555) and the first edition of the 13th century "Gesta Danorum" (Saxo Grammaticus), in 1514. The pace of publication increased during the 17th century with Latin translations of the Edda (notably Peder Resen's "Edda Islandorum" of 1665).

The Viking revival proper took off in the period of Romanticism (19th century), taking the form of Romantic nationalism in Scandinavia (Scandinavism), and a "septentrionalist" ("Scandophile") romantic infatuation with the Old North in Britain.


The rediscovery of the Viking past began in Norway during the 18th century when Norway saw a rise in nationalism. Having been under Danish rule for 400 years, then falling under Swedish rule, Norwegians started looking back at their old Viking kings and their sagas. In 1880, the worlds first Viking ship, The Tune ship was excavated in Vestfold, Norway. With the ship, new knowledge about the Vikings and their culture was gained. The excavation of other ships and artifacts lead to a higher consciousness about the Viking past in Norway. For example, the only Viking helmet ever to be found was also excavated in Norway.


According to the Swedish writer Jan Guillou, the word "Viking" was popularized, with positive connotations, by Erik Gustaf Geijer in the poem "The Viking", written at the beginning of the 19th century. The word was taken to refer to romanticized, idealized sea warriors, who had very little to do with the historical Viking culture. This renewed interest of Romanticism in the Old North had political implications: A myth about a glorious and brave past was needed to give the Swedes the courage to retake Finland, which had been lost in 1809 during the war between Sweden and Russia. The Geatish Society, of which Geijer was a member, popularized this myth to a great extent. Another author who had great influence on the perception of the Vikings was Esaias Tegnér, another member of the Geatish Society who wrote a modern version of "Frithiofs Saga", which became widely popular in the Nordic countries, the United Kingdom and Germany.

Great Britain

A focus for early British enthusiasts was George Hicke, who published a "Linguarum vett. septentrionalium thesaurus" in 1703–5. In the 1780s, Denmark offered to cede Iceland to Britain in exchange for Crab Island (West Indies), and in the 1860s Iceland was considered as a compensation for British support of Denmark in the Slesvig-Holstein conflicts. During this time, British interest and enthusiasm for Iceland and Nordic culture grew dramatically, expressed in original English poems extolling Viking virtues, e. g. Thomas Warton's "Runic Odes" of 1748:

:"Yes — 'tis decreed my Sword no more":"Shall smoke and blush with hostile gore":"To my great Father's Feasts I go,":"Where luscious Wines for ever flow.":"Which from the hollow Sculls we drain":"Of Kings in furious Combat slain."


*Andrew Wawn (2002) "The Vikings and the Victorians". Cambridge ISBN 0859916448

ee also

*Geatish Society

External links

"The Viking Revival" by Professor Andrew Wawn. BBC Homepage.

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