What isn't authentic?


A thousand tiny details in The VIKINGS! Trilogy were 'modernized' for the sake of today's readers. There are plenty of scholarly textbooks on life in the Dark Ages and the Viking Age; while I kept 99% of my historical and mythological authenticity intact, this isn't a textbook. The primary goal of my books is to entertain, and my detailed 5-page descriptions of medieval plumbing (in my first draft) were taken out as they were not relevant to the story.

The most obvious modernization is speech patterns. Medieval people weren't stupid, and there was a lot less to learn back then than exists today. Most people spoke multiple languages. Word-choice was an art; how people spoke was a reflection of how they wished to appear in society. Vulgar and base speech was disdained by everybody, and considered shameful. Even peasants often spoke formally, since clever phrasing was considered social, and evidence of sophistication. Yet, while most fanatical readers consume Shakespeare, it takes years of study to fully understand all of the nuances and puns written into them by The Bard which only an expert in medieval history can pick up. Beowulf is the same, and the hilarious humor in the Norse sagas would not be considered funny by most modern readers. My characters don't constantly speak in different languages or in pre-Shakespearian styles because most modern readers wouldn't like it.

Consumption of food was equally 'modernized'. In the Dark Ages, there was only one chief meal per day: the mid-day meal. Cooking requires a hot fire, and wood was not as plentiful as many think, since you had to own the land to legally gather firewood upon it. When the mid-day meal was cooked, a small portion was set aside for dinner and for the next day's breakfast. Before bedtime, dinner consisted of a small portion of leftovers, sometimes just a thin slice of cheese and a hunk of bread smaller than your fist. Breakfast was usually the same, meant only to tide you over until the next mid-day meal was cooked. The large portions of food that resturaunts serve today, and in The VIKINGS! Trilogy, existed only for the wealthy. Variety was usually unheard of; if you lived on a turnip farm, then you ate turnips every day, and were lucky to get anything else once a week (usully traded from other farmers). Also, food was hard to preserve; peasants ate while the food was fresh, and they often went hungry.

The size of viking ships was 'modernized'. While there were a few viking ships large enough to take on two hundred men, these were the exception. The average viking ship was capable of holding 50-75 men, but that much weight would likely sink it on a rough sea. They still carried thousands of warriors; vikings built hundreds of these ships, and if you want to read of their largest sea battle, it is described in the Norse saga Helmskringa: the story of King Harald Hardrada of Norway, the grandson of St. Olaf. Viking ships did have removable deck planks, but their flexible ships often leaked, so you had to bail every day to store cargo beneath their decks. Only the ships of kings and wealthy men had a dirt pile or metal tripod on which to build a fire, and a canopy to cover the deck would have been the greatest of luxuries; often the ships were so cheaply constructed that their most valuable component was their sail.

Worshippers of different gods hated each other. The idea of religious tolerance would have been a stoning offense, if anyone had been stupid enough to suggest it. People of different races were always distrusted; even a minor racial difference, such as Scott and Irish (not much has changed, has it?), was grounds for fighting. Also, everyone despised or ignored all of the people of other social classes.

Of course, if I had followed these truths, then not many friendships would have happened in The VIKINGS! Trilogy. Nor do I apologize for leaving these things out; to mention them to an audience unfamiliar with these things, without long, detailed explanations that would have ruined the action, would have confused readers and over-complicated the story.

For those who wish to know the thousand details of life during this time period, they are not hard to find. Just do as I did; read and reread several dozen books on the subject, join the SCA for 25 years, do a lot of research, watch every documentary, and study comparisons and reviews of all viking, saxon, and celtic archeological findings of the last 100 years. However, be aware that we still don't know everything about the Dark Ages. At some point, you will cease learning what we know and discover all of the many historical questions that have yet to be answered.



Dayna Andrew

Well said! I presumed that it was a work of historically-Inspired FICTION & as such, I am enjoying it immensely! I am on Chapter 21 of the 1st book & very happy knowing that Books 2 & 3 await me! You are obviously aiming for a broader audience than our esoteric group of history freaks, because the job of an author is to write books that will be attractive to the masses. Maybe one fine day, when you are an independently wealthy famous author, you will have the leisure to write an esoteric series for Medieval history geeks, slightly more intelligible to us than Shakespeare or Beowulf!?

From Jay Palmer.

Yes, I will. And I have other news about that very subject, but I'm not ready to divulge all of my secrets yet! ;-)