Vikings ! The return of the big brown guy



In the culture of the imagination, there are fashions: eras, atmospheres and universes that suddenly seem to touch something in the collective consciousness and are declined in multiple media.

One of the current fashions is undoubtedly that of the Vikings. Since the broadcasting of the excellent Canadian-Irish series "Vikings", created by Michael Hirst, not a week goes by without the release of a novel, a record or a game on the same theme.


What is it about the sons and daughters of the North that fascinates us so much?

As a reminder, the series follows the destiny of an expedition leader, Ragnar Lothbrok. This one, decides to stop the raids on the Baltic countries and to launch an expedition towards the rich lands of the West, towards England. It is the famous attack on the monastery of Lindisfarne that will make the Vikings enter history in 793.

In Vikings, we meet the great historical or semi-legendary characters who made the great hours of Scandinavia or England: Count Rollon (who will found Normandy), Queen Lagertha, Ivar the Boneless, Albert the Great ... Alongside them evolves a gallery of characters to say the least endearing because, it should be noted, few series push as far the psychological characters and the depth of relationships between them.


In addition to its intrinsic quality, the phenomenal success of the series also comes from the fact that it presents the Viking society in a more realistic light. Here, we are far from the cliché resulting from the romanticism of the 19th century which depicted the Nordic as blond and virile machos with wild and barbaric customs. And for good reason, historical, archaeological and philological research has long since dismantled this vision and affirmed the refinement and complexity of Nordic society.

In the world of video games, it is Ubisoft that most brilliantly recaptures the atmosphere with its Assassin's Creed Valhalla. In this game, we play as Eivor, a gang leader who will also launch his crew to attack the English coast. The rich and exciting scenario will not prevent us from freely exploring the English lands and managing the construction of our colony. Beware that this last aspect of the game remains minimalist, the main part of the game play being concentrated on the "quests" and exploration aspect.


And as if this Viking fashion had an echo in the scientific world, we couldn't end this article without mentioning two major discoveries made in recent months. The first is the result of DNA tests performed on major tombs of Viking chiefs. Where we discover that these chiefs were in fact chiefs. And yes, our Vikings, far from being big masculinists were apparently often led by female warriors with unquestioned authority and power. Note that, already in 2014, specialists had noticed that the pelvic bones of the skeletons contained in the graves with weapons and honors, were likely female. But this theory had been rejected en bloc by the academic community as it was inconceivable that a woman could have occupied such positions. We had to wait for DNA analysis to confirm the sex of the chiefs and to bring our sexist prejudices into the open.


The second major discovery, also made possible by DNA analysis, shows that the Scandinavian ancestry of the Vikings was only partial. Our sons of the North would have been descended from populations of Asia or Southern Europe. They would have been, in majority, rather brown than blond. Gone are the blond giants and all the romantic and nauseating imagery of the 19th century. Let's also forget about any temptation to recuperate this culture for political purposes that are as foul as they are deleterious.