Traveling and the viking mystique

31 Dec

sigfrontGrowing up I never really liked vikings. I thought they were cliche and technologically uninteresting. I know that might sound weird, but in my medieval living history group we had a group that portrayed vikings and a group that portrayed the later middle ages. I was in that later camp and preferred the sleek design of the later period suits of armor and longswords to the viking’s  lower tech sword and shields. I realize this is absurd, two different regions, two different time periods, but for me it was just a matter of personal taste. I just found the knights and nation states more interesting than roving bands of raiders.

I associate this mindset with the time in my life when I planned to be more stationary. At that time I wanted to be a medieval archaeologist and have a house somewhere in Europe. Travel was an interest of mine, but not really something I wanted to make a main focus of my life. I wanted a more stable, predictable life, and I feel my tastes in medieval history reflected that.

Later, as my expectations and goals for what I wanted in life began to shift towards something more nomadic, I started to change my attitude towards the vikings. The fancy armor I loved and admired so much before (and I still love aesthetically) began to represent an entrenchment in a lifestyle I no longer wanted; a lifestyle of predictability, immobility, and captivity to material possessions.

The vikings, whom I had previously viewed as low tech hoodlums, now represented flexibility, exploration, and adventure. I began to see their lifestyle in a more romantic light and the allure, which had previously alluded me, began to make sense. The fact that I discounted them earlier because of material qualms was just symptomatic of the mindset I was in. Now it doesn’t matter to me that they didn’t have sexy suits of armor, what matters is the freedom of movement and the promise of discovery.  Those are the priorities I have now, and the vikings represent that in some way.

oseberg-viking-longship

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