Viking revival
Early modern publications dealing with Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 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
Gesta Danorum
Gesta Danorum is a patriotic work of Danish history, by the 12th century author Saxo Grammaticus . It is the most ambitious literary undertaking of medieval Denmark and is an essential source for the nation's early history...

(Saxo Grammaticus
Saxo Grammaticus
Saxo Grammaticus also known as Saxo cognomine Longus was a Danish historian, thought to have been a secular clerk or secretary to Absalon, Archbishop of Lund, foremost advisor to Valdemar I of Denmark. He is the author of the first full history of Denmark.- Life :The Jutland Chronicle gives...

), in 1514. The pace of publication increased during the 17th century with Latin translations of the Edda
The term Edda applies to the Old Norse Poetic Edda and Prose Edda, both of which were written down in Iceland during the 13th century in Icelandic, although they contain material from earlier traditional sources, reaching into the Viking Age...

 (notably Peder Resen's Edda Islandorum of 1665).

The word Viking was introduced into Modern English during the 18th-century at which point it frequently acquired romanticized heroic overtones. Etymologists frequently trace the word to writers referring to one who set about to raid and pillage. The word " Viking" in the sense in which it is commonly used is derived from the Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

  víkingr signifying a sea-rover or pirate.


The rediscovery of the Viking past began in Norway during the 19th century when Norway saw a rise in nationalism. Having been in a personal Union with Denmark
Denmark–Norway is the historiographical name for a former political entity consisting of the kingdoms of Denmark and Norway, including the originally Norwegian dependencies of Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands...

 under the Danish king for 400 years and subsequently in the Union between Sweden and Norway
Union between Sweden and Norway
The Union between Sweden and Norway , officially the United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway, consisted of present-day Sweden and Norway between 1814 and 1905, when they were united under one monarch in a personal union....

 under the Swedish king, Norwegians started looking back to their Viking era kings and sagas. In 1867, the first Viking ship to be unearthed, the Tune ship
Tune ship
The Tune ship is a Viking era ship exhibited in the Viking Ship Museum in Bygdøy, Oslo.The "karv" type ship was found at Haugen farm on Rolvsøy in Tune, Østfold, Norway. The ship was built around AD 900, and is made of clinkered oak planks. It was found in a boat burial mound...

 was excavated in Østfold
is a county in southeastern Norway, bordering Akershus and southwestern Sweden , while Buskerud and Vestfold is on the other side of the bay. The seat of the county administration is Sarpsborg, and Fredrikstad is the largest city.Many manufacturing facilities are situated here. Moss and...

, Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

. The ship provided new knowledge about the Vikings and their culture. The excavation of other ships and artifacts led to a higher consciousness about the Viking past in Norway. For example, the only complete Viking helmet
Viking Age arms and armour
Knowledge about arms and armour of the Viking Age is based on relatively sparse archaeological finds, pictorial representation, and to some extent on the accounts in the Norse sagas and Norse laws recorded in the thirteenth century.According to custom, all free Norse men were required to own...

 ever to be found was also excavated in Norway.


Danish antiquarian Carl Christian Rafn
Carl Christian Rafn
Carl Christian Rafn was a Danish historian, translator and antiquarian. His scholarship to a large extent focused on translation of Old Norse literature and related Northern European ancient history...

 was noted for his early advocacy of the theory that the Vikings had explored North America centuries before Christopher Columbus's and John Cabot's voyages. Rafn published much of his work in 1837 in the Antiquitates Americanæ, considered the first scholarly exposition of the Old Norse exploration period.

Sweden and Finland

The term Viking was popularized with positive connotations, by Erik Gustaf Geijer
Erik Gustaf Geijer
Erik Gustaf Geijer was a Swedish writer, historian, poet, philosopher, and composer. His writings served to promote Swedish National Romanticism. He also was an influential advocate of Liberalism.-Biography:...

 at the beginning of the 19th century. His poem The Viking (Vikingen) appeared in the first issue of the Swedish periodical, Iduna . The word Viking was taken to refer to romanticized, heroic, idealized Norse seafarers and warriors, who had very little to do with the historical Viking culture. This renewed interest of the Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 of a historic past had political implications: A myth about a glorious and brave past was used to give the Swedes the courage to retake Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

, which had been lost in 1809 during the war between Sweden and Russia
Finnish War
The Finnish War was fought between Sweden and the Russian Empire from February 1808 to September 1809. As a result of the war, the eastern third of Sweden was established as the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland within the Russian Empire...

. The Geatish Society
Geatish Society
The Geatish Society, or Gothic League was created by a number of Swedish poets and authors in 1811, as a social club for literary studies among academics in Sweden with a view to raising the moral tone of society through contemplating Scandinavian antiquity...

, of which Geijer was a member, popularized this ideal to a great extent. Another author who had great influence on the perception of the Vikings was Esaias Tegnér
Esaias Tegnér
Esaias Tegnér , was a Swedish writer, professor of Greek language, and bishop. He was during the 19th century regarded as the father of modern poetry in Sweden, mainly through the national romantic epos Frithjof's Saga. He has been called Sweden's first modern man...

, 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
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...



The German composer Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, conductor, theatre director, philosopher, music theorist, poet, essayist and writer primarily known for his operas...

 is said to have strong influences of the Nordic mythology in his musical pieces. His Nordic influences further enhanced the Romanticism of the Viking era during that time. Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen
Der Ring des Nibelungen
Der Ring des Nibelungen is a cycle of four epic operas by the German composer Richard Wagner . The works are based loosely on characters from the Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied...

, commonly referred to as the Ring cycle, is a set of four operas based loosely on figures and elements of Germanic mythology—particularly from the later Norse mythology—notably the Old Norse Poetic Edda
Poetic Edda
The Poetic Edda is a collection of Old Norse poems primarily preserved in the Icelandic mediaeval manuscript Codex Regius. Along with Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda, the Poetic Edda is the most important extant source on Norse mythology and Germanic heroic legends, and from the early 19th century...

and Volsunga Saga
Volsunga saga
The Völsungasaga is a legendary saga, a late 13th century Icelandic prose rendition of the origin and decline of the Völsung clan . It is largely based on epic poetry...

, and the epic poem Nibelungenlied
The Nibelungenlied, translated as The Song of the Nibelungs, is an epic poem in Middle High German. The story tells of dragon-slayer Siegfried at the court of the Burgundians, how he was murdered, and of his wife Kriemhild's revenge....


Great Britain

British authors from the 16th century had been aware of the Viking impact on the countryside, though the numerous placenames of Danes Camp is better explicated as a modification of dene, or hollow. Following the 17th-century first flowering of Anglo-Saxon studies, there was a similar wave of enthusiasm for Northern culture in Britain, identifying as Viking remains Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 hill fort
Hill fort
A hill fort is a type of earthworks used as a fortified refuge or defended settlement, located to exploit a rise in elevation for defensive advantage. They are typically European and of the Bronze and Iron Ages. Some were used in the post-Roman period...

s and even Stonehenge
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument located in the English county of Wiltshire, about west of Amesbury and north of Salisbury. One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of a circular setting of large standing stones set within earthworks...

 and exemplified by the antiquarian
An antiquarian or antiquary is an aficionado or student of antiquities or things of the past. More specifically, the term is used for those who study history with particular attention to ancient objects of art or science, archaeological and historic sites, or historic archives and manuscripts...

 interests of George Hickes
George Hickes
George Hickes was an English divine and scholar.-Biography:Hickes was born at Newsham, near Thirsk, Yorkshire, in 1642...

, who published a Linguarum veterum septentrionalium thesaurus grammatico-criticus et archæologicus in 1703–5. In the 1780s, Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 offered to cede Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

 to Britain in exchange for Crab Island (now Vieques, Puerto Rico
Vieques, Puerto Rico
Vieques , in full Isla de Vieques, is an island–municipality of Puerto Rico in the northeastern Caribbean, part of an island grouping sometimes known as the Spanish Virgin Islands...

), and in the 1860s Iceland was considered as a compensation for British support of Denmark in the Schleswig-Holstein
Schleswig-Holstein is the northernmost of the sixteen states of Germany, comprising most of the historical duchy of Holstein and the southern part of the former Duchy of Schleswig...

 conflicts. During this time, British interest and enthusiasm for Iceland and Nordic culture grew dramatically, expressed in original English poems extolling Viking virtues, such as Thomas Warton
Thomas Warton the elder
Thomas Warton, the elder was an English clergyman and schoolmaster, known as the second professor of poetry at Oxford, a position he owed to Jacobite sympathies.-Life:He was born about 1688, son of Antony Warton , vicar of Godalming...

'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.

United States

Rasmus B. Anderson
Rasmus B. Anderson
Rasmus Bjørn Anderson was an American author, professor, and diplomat. He brought to popular attention the idea that Viking explorers discovered the New World and was the originator of Leif Erikson Day.-Biography:...

, the founding head of the Department of Scandinavian Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison
University of Wisconsin–Madison
The University of Wisconsin–Madison is a public research university located in Madison, Wisconsin, United States. Founded in 1848, UW–Madison is the flagship campus of the University of Wisconsin System. It became a land-grant institution in 1866...

 also founded a publication company, The Norrœna Society
Norrœna Society
The Norrœna Society was the imprint of a private publishing venture that between 1905 and 1911 produced multi-volume sets of reprints of classic 19th-century editions, mostly translations, of Old Norse literary and historical works, Northern European folklore, and medieval literature.-Historical...

, which focused on republishing translations of texts devoted to the History and Romance of Northern Europe. Anderson was the author of a number of books with Scandinavian themes. He brought to the American popular attention the idea that Viking explorers discovered the New World and was the originator of Leif Erikson Day
Leif Erikson Day
Leif Erikson Day is an annual American observance occurring on October 9. It honors Leif Ericson , the Norse explorer who brought the first Europeans known to have set foot in North America....


Other sources

  • Litzenberg, Karl (1947) The Victorians and the Vikings: A Bibliographical Essay on Anglo-Norse Literary Relations (University of Michigan Contributions in Modern Philology)
  • Wawn, Andrew (2000) The Vikings and the Victorians: Inventing the Old North in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge: Brewer) ISBN 0859916448
  • Ross, Margaret Clunies (1998) The Norse Muse in Britain 1750-1820 (Edizioni Parnaso) ISBN 978-8886474269
  • Logan, F. Donald (1983)The Vikings in History (London: Hutchison & Co.) ISBN 0415083966
  • Arnold, Martin (2008) Vikings: Culture and Conquest (Hambledon Continuum) ISBN 978-1847251909
  • Foote, Peter Godfrey and D. M. Wilson (1990) The Viking Achievement: The Society and Culture of Early Medieval Scandinavia (Palgrave Macmillan) ISBN 978-0312035105

External links

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