Why VIKINGS?     


Of all the ancient races and mythologies to write about, why choose vikings?

The viking age was a brief and unique historical moment: for a race strengthened by centuries of endurance to life in a bitter environment, a shift in the global climate affecting all of Europe sparked a sudden and unexpected population explosion. Too many men on too little land: the vikings had to expand.

Their population boom coincided with a miraculous technical invention: the keel. The keel gave the vikings several unprecedented military advantages:

1. Flexibility: Large, inflexible ships would crack apart in storms, broken by contrasting wave pressures. Dragonships could bend and twist, making them safer on rough seas.

2. Shallow drafts: Dragonships could be sailed and rowed faster, making it easier for vikings to attack without warning, to escape pursuit, and to travel farther. Shallow drafts also allowed ocean-worthy ships to sail up shallow rivers and attack places formerly deemed safe ... and thus undefended.

3. Lightness: Without the need for a heavy, rigid frame, dragonships could be overloaded with men and still float.

Many historical figures have gained great power, but the invention of the keel gave power to a whole people, the Scandinavians, and what they did with their newfound power lasted centuries and filled countless books (including mine!).

I've always been fascinated by how people are affected by power. A good boss can manage many people with technical skills greatly exceeding his own, but once an individual is placed in command, it is amazing how quickly they become convinced of their own superiority. The slightest level of authority can change a person, even something as simple as being the president of a small quilting club can swell an ego beyond recognition. Where an entire expanding population of nations is suddenly empowered over its neighbours, the result is the viking age.

My first interest in vikings came when I turned 16 and got my first car, a white Ford van. Among the many clubs that I joined, one was a viking historical club centered around the University of Maryland called the Markland Medieval Mercenary Militia. I met a girl at my very first event; a week later she called to tell me that she had sewn me a brand new tunic and needed me to come over and try it on, and soon was an active member, and I have been researching vikings ever since.

What happened with the girl is another story ...