I'm back on a Viking kick, studying the Norse and their culture. Like many of my interests this one remains in the background and sometimes gets pushed forward by one thing or another. This weekend I watched the 2 hour Nova special on the rowdy Danes and learned a few things I didn't know. Then I went back to reading some of the stories from the Edda and the Icelandic Sagas.
I'd like to claim some higher purpose for all this study of history, but I suppose the thing that fascinates me about the Norsemen is that they're probably the closest historical approximation of Conan and his ilk. Though far from being the ignorant barbarians they were portrayed as for years, there's no question that the Vikings were a dangerous and sometimes ruthless bunch, though in all fairness, given the times in which they lived, they probably weren't much worse than any of the other cultures around them. It's not like the Anglo Saxons were a friendly, peace loving group.
They were also amazing artists and craftsmen and hardy explorers and traders, and their ship building technology was way ahead of just about anyone in their time period. The term Viking is really something of a misnomer, since technically they were only Vikings when they were raiding or "Gone a viking.' as they put it. Norse is perhaps a better term for the Medieval Scandinavians but Viking has become the popular and accepted term, so Vikings it is.
I keep thinking I'll write some fiction with Vikings, but I'm still assimilating the information, and I should point out that I'm not reading all this stuff for reference or research. It just interests me. I usually study a subject until I reach the point where I could write a text book on it and then I move on to something else. Later, if I do use the background for a story, people will praise my research and I'll be like, what research? I just knew all this stuff from my reading for pleasure.