Barbaric Beauty


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What did Vikings look like? Is their representation in pop culture accurate?

How authentic is Vikings’ representation of Vikings, then? If we merely compare the characters who strut onscreen with the imagery imparted on us by the Icelandic sagas and the sparse Viking Age sources that supplement them, not bad at all. These finely attired TV Norsemen are, to a man, mikill ok sterkr, their bodies and faces tattooed and painted, their gazes penetrating and haunting, their hair and beards carefully kempt. But the point to drive home is that the question itself is ill-posed and ultimately unanswerable, because we would need to reorient our own mental set-up in order to be able to grasp the alien mindset to which descriptions like ‘very much eyed’, made sense.

The complete article

Oren Falk — History Today

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