Here is a blog post about Vikings which Mallory kindly put on her blog:
I would like to take the opportunity to post it again. I hope you like it.
My new book is called Campaign of the Gods and it is the second story in a collection of work I plan to call The Hopfield Tales. The first story is called The Spirit Archer, and both have been published by the wonderful GMTA Publishing.
Perhaps my main motivation for writing these urban fantasy tales is that I have a toddler son and I’m imagining what I think he’d like to read when he’s about 12-years-old. The stories feature characters who are medieval soldiers, Viking berserkers, Norse gods etc. Real boys’ stuff, I suppose. I’m trying to imaging what I’d like to read if I was that age. I’m attracted to the idea of magic and wonder in the world around us, and seeing that I live in Yorkshire I am applying actual local history, legends and locations to my stories. For Spirit Archer there is the very real location of Robin Hood’s grave in the ruins of a nunnery near my home. Norse mythology is a rich seam to mine for urban fantasy and, like with Spirit Archer, I’m trying to bring new angles to the subject matter.
For Campaign, there is the fact that Vikings did live in Yorkshire hundreds of years ago, and the main hero, Ivar Ragnarsson, is a Norse commander who changed history in England over a thousand years ago. At one time England was divided into an Anglo-Saxon half (the south) and a Danish (Viking) half, which was the north part, including Yorkshire. In the north of England a lot of the dialect and place names have a Scandinavian influence. Towns ending in –by or -thorpe, for example, are Norse in origin (Whitby, Grimsby, Scunthorpe...). Furthermore, some words are used in spoken northern-English dialect, such as the word ‘beck’ for river and ‘scran’ for a bite to eat. That’s not even including the huge number of every day English words used throughout the world today that are Viking in origin e.g. sister, window, happy – the list is endless.
Most of the Vikings who lived in Britain were a peaceful bunch. They were farmers, town dwellers and craftsmen – everyday people. You could say they were simply settlers from Denmark and Norway who integrated fairly easily into the population. But, everyone is more fascinated with the Viking raiders and warriors. We would be, wouldn’t we? Despite the fact they caused all sorts of misery and carnage when they decided to loot and plunder Merrie Olde England. Ivar Ragnarsson and the Great Heathen Army were not Vikings of the early raider type, but were part of a later, major force of Viking who invaded Britain and Europe and shaped medieval history and politics in a big way. For me they are perfect candidates for my story. And they are not the villains of the piece, they are the heroes.
The world of Norse people was a world before science and enlightenment. Their beliefs were shaped and augmented by a pantheon of gods and goddesses, who helped explain and govern the world around them – from fertility, plants and crops, through to love, prudence and anger, amongst countless other things. The gods gave meaning to their life and put it in a context of past, present and future. Norse mythology helped bring light to a life full of unexplainables (e.g. thunder and lightning) and pointed the way to an afterlife. It became part of the English way of looking at things and the Norse gods worked their way into the language. Tuesday is derived from an anglicised version of the Norse God of Battle, Tyr (Tyr or Tiw’s day); Wednesday is derived from Odin (Wotan’s day); and Thursday is the day of Thor.
So, when writing a story about Vikings, Norse mythology offers a fascinating and rich body of characters and legends to work with. Tyr, Thor and the others provide the reason why events in Campaign of the Gods are happening and help show us the world that Ivar and his men belong to. And for me it is wonderful to write about them. My Thor is not the awesome warrior god that we know about – he is the leisurely, over-indulgent Thor that sits in his palace playing, feasting and drinking when he’s not off slaying trolls and giants. My gods are all-powerful, but prone to misjudgements and emotions. I hope you warm to them.
I could ramble on for hours about Vikings and Norse mythology, but I guess it’s time to tie it up. I like to inject a bit of history to my stories (I have a degree in History) and there is quite often a message which I hope my young son will take on board - be it being decent, working-hard or the value of self-sacrifice. Finally, I just have to say I love legends and mythology. If I could have my way, I’d be living in a Britain that still had vast ancient forests, swirling mists and mischievous fairies – but that wouldn’t be very practical, would it?