Violence in VIKINGS!


A few of the more-delicate readers of The VIKINGS! Trilogy have commented to me that they had to skip over the scenes of violence. I don't blame these people; it was never my intention to harm their sensibilities. But ... (Sorry!) ... I don't share any of their delicateness.

I was raised on a military hospital base during the Vietnam War. My first job was walking through that hospital with a bag of newspapers, and selling them for a quarter to marines and sailors who would never fully-heal from their injuries. Gunshot victims, amputees, burn victims: I got to know these boys (for most of them were under 21 years old) and the stories of war they told me make The Hunger Games look like Dr. Seuss.

And I was only 12 years old.

Later, in the SCA, violence was my favorite sport. Imagine picking up a lightweight baseball bat and hitting your best friend in the head as hard as you can; as an SCA fighter, you do that every day. You want to do that. You lift weights so that you can hit so hard that, even if you don't strike a leathal target, you can knock your opponent off-balance so that a leathal target exposes itself. Broken bones come with the sport; I've given and received more than a dozen of those.

Violence is not what The VIKINGS! Trilogy is about. There are sword-fights and worse, but this is a story about people, unlikely characters forced together by circumstances, who become friends. The violence that exists in the stories is part of the plot, not extraneous, and not the ghastly, overdone Texas Chainsaw Massacre type; I only included what was required. The violent parts are purposefully spread out, and there are a lot of nice parts inbetween.

TRUTH: If you watched The Hobbit movie or any of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, then you can handle The VIKINGS! Trilogy.

However, ...

"It was an ice age, an axe age, a wolf age ..."

This is the classic description of the origin of life in the Scandinavian world. Violence exists in The VIKINGS! Trilogy because the brutality of their world, their weather, and the savagery of their wildlife; starving in winter, and competing for food in summer, and frequent wars made life in pre-800 Scandinavia a struggle just for survival.

Don't believe me? One of the things that Scandinavia has always had in abundance is moose; ever seen a full-grown moose close up, without a fence between you? Moose are huge, and strong, and I would insist on a high-powered rifle to hunt one; I wouldn't trust most pistols to do the job. Imagine that your family's survival depended on you killing a moose with a spear. And wildlife was the least of the dangers that you faced every day.

Actually, I toned down much of the violence. If you read the Norse sagas, then you will be exposed to horrible tortures, including mass-blindings of hundreds of captured soldiers (by burning out their eyes), forcing enemies to pull out their own entrails, and the famous Blood Eagle, where an axe cuts a hole in the victim's back and they pull out his gasping lungs while he is still using them. A lot of early Norse humor focused upon extreme violence.

Disgusting? That's why I didn't include these tortures in The VIKINGS! Trilogy. I know that they happened; they are well-documented, and I am inured to violence, such that reading about it doesn't bother me, although it isn't my preferred subject in literature. But I knew that most readers couldn't handle it, and that wasn't the message that I wanted to send; I included what I felt was just enough violence to instill a sense of what living in their brutal world was like, and no more.

What I think bothers my readers is the casualness of violence; the people of the Dark Ages seem somewhat unaffected by it. Well, what do you expect? The people in medieval England lived in a time and place when public executions were commonplace. This was done on purpose; Hitchcock did much the same with murder, speaking of people killing others in a casual, almost bored tone. I have always loved Hitchcock; he had many deep insights into the human mind and knew how to affect specific reactions among his fans. I mirrored this in my early writings; I once wrote 2 short works specifically-designed to make girls cry. Both worked about 50% of the time, and I highly recommend this exercise to all aspiring writers.

So, if you can't read the sentence where blood sprays from a newly-opened wound, then just skip over it. Don't feel bad about skipping; those parts aren't that common, and I think that you could handle it, if you tried. Trust me: I spaced the violent parts out, and I added numerous parts which even a pacifist might enjoy. I hope that those parts make the rest worth enduring.

If you do like the extremely-violent parts, and want more, then take my advice: never tell your girlfriend; you might be single sooner than you'd hoped.