Viking iconography and the Scandinavian heritage in immigrant communities.
While researching the use of Viking history when I was writing my thesis I came across what I felt were pretty bizarre examples of Viking popularity. Looking for living history societies specializing in Viking reenactment I found groups in both Australia and New Zealand, which to me seemed odd. My reaction may speak more about my own perception of what criteria must be present to reenact history without crossing the line into blasphemy. Like the late great David Lowenthal I worry about the problem of place, the risk of a bastard history where geographical location no longer matters. Lowenthal presented reenactments of American Civil War battles in the UK as examples of a displaced history. I feel the same way about playing Vikings in Australia or even the United States (there is no evidence of Viking presence in North America outside Newfoundland).
But what if we only consider the heritage as represented by people? Shouldnâ€™t Scandinavian immigrants to these places be allowed to display their heritage?
Ok, so this was the first thing that caught my eye back in springâ€¦ Deliberate representation of history.
Now on to what dawned on me last night at 3 a.m. (the best ideas always strike at night I find
)â€¦ - I was reading an article in new zealand herald called a taste of Scandinavia in the Wairarapa. (I am indeed one of those self-absorbed people who like reading about their own culture
) Anyhoop it turns out to be 4 lines about a place called Norsewood which was founded by Norwegians in the 1870s. I googled the place (as you would) and found some pretty interesting info. There is another place a few miles away called Dannevirke (how the h*** would you pronounce that in English??) which was also founded by Scandinavians (Iâ€™m guessing mostly Danes). This is where I finally arrive at the point to storyâ€¦
This is what the Dannevirke sign looks like:
A longship and a Viking, a Viking with freaking horns on his helmet! What the flip!?!
For reference, this is what the original Dannevirke looks like:
An earth mound stretching the width of the Jutland peninsula, built to defend the Danish territory from attacks from the people of what we now know as Germany.
After having a laugh at the expense of the Kiwi Vikings (turns out Coco was right all along) it dawned on me that I am also represented by the Vikings. Maybe not the kind with the horned helmet (though I'm sad to say I do see such representations at home as well) but a Viking none the less. The most potent symbol of my ethnic/national heritage is a heavily armed terrorist
Why? What? When? Who?
This is something I would like to explore. As you can see it is still very much on a rambling stage yet
But I think this has potential. I'd like to know what the Vikings mean to people of Scandinavian descent, as well as what they mean to all of us who's forefathers stayed in the old countries. What does the Viking represent in the modern world?
On the practical side of things I am thinking about what form I could use to present this study. In popular form it would probably be fun to both write and read (at least for nerds and history buffs) but I could not expect to get paid to write it. As a scientific study I might weasel my way into having someone give me a grant, but it would limit how the story is told.
Well, there you have the contents of my head, ladies