From novels to TV, film and video games, it appears that the Vikings are only gaining in popularity. Today, these ancient Nordic raiders are seen as powerful warrior-adventurers who managed to bring entire kingdoms to their knees with nothing more than skill and courage. But, what is it exactly that makes Vikings so cool in popular culture today? Looking at the History channels’ show called Vikings, which is now in its 4th season and more popular than ever, it’s clear that Viking characters are still something that captures the public imagination. It’s been more than millennia after the last Viking warrior left the shores of countries like England, France, and even the Mediterranean region, the global society continues to be fascinated with this wild culture.
What are the reasons for their apparently unending popularity? First of all, historically speaking, the Vikings are well-known because of their fearsome reputation they acquired almost immediately after they set foot in the broader European theater. Because of their prowess at shipbuilding, sailing, and individual and small-unit fighting, they managed to overcome incredible odds and defeat armies several times their size. Simply put, they were feared and this alone- is why they became a stuff of legend long ago.
Unlike many other raiding tribes, Vikings were cunning and adaptive almost to an incredible level. They made alliances, settled and sometimes even fought for their former enemies, all in a matter of a single decade. Other times, they abandoned original plans of plundering fortified cities and went for easier prey, never foolishly rushing into certain defeat for some principle or idea. Additionally, the Nordic culture where they originated was very interesting on its own.
This was visible in the sense that it provided at the same time huge freedom and incredible responsibilities to each of its members, especially those in the role of a Viking warrior. That is why they were able to adapt their approach to almost any scenario, which was paramount in the time where very little information could be acquired beforehand about some particular territory, its customs, and potential. But, no matter where they landed with their sailboats, they managed to plunder treasure that immediately became part of the vast Viking riches.
In modern times, Viking fascination did not waver one bit. Through the images that are cemented into the minds of people, films and television return to the Viking theme quite often. The other theme also includes Roman Gladiators, but is not as popular as Vikings have become in recent years. Kirk Douglas, the legendary actor, played Einar, a Viking prince in the classic from 1958 called the Vikings. There was also the blockbuster viking epic “The 13th Warrior” with Antonio Banderas.
Lately though it’s Travis Fimmel who’s attained world fame as the real historical Viking character Ragnar Lothbrok, surpassing the popularity of Kahl Drogo (a Dothraki Nomad) from Game of Thrones and “Thor” from the Marvel superhero movies. Undoubtedly, there will be plenty more to come in the future. This may or may not include “Berserker”, a film from Mel Gibson that has been rumored to be in the works with Leonardo DiCaprio (or not…), yet may never see the light of day due to a backlash of bad press towards Mel Gibson in general. Despite this, there is almost no doubt that Viking-themed films will continue to be a huge cultural icon in many decades to come, even perhaps centuries to come.