Historical Drama About No-Nonsense Mentality of the Vikings

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Amazon's award-winning historical drama, “Vikings', realistically depicted the Viking Age. The television series was set in 793 BCE, where vikings from Eastern Baltic aim to reach and expand into western territories. More specifically, the show focused on a community found in Scandinavia. The authors further portrayed these characters Scandanavian roots through their location, clothing, behavior, jewelry, and ships. “Vikings” can help viewers comprehend what life was like thousands of years ago through dramatization.

The show makers were able to explain viking culture in a variety of ways beginning with the setting. From my prior experiences in geography class along with my previous knowledge of the area, I expected to see a setting full of rolling hills, jagged mountains, bright green grass, and cloudy skies. In this case, I had assumed correctly. The costumes also appeared similar to what I would have expected - heavy fur coats, long pants, and lots of nordic and celtic jewelry. One thing I often think about when I consider what vikings may have worn are decorative, horned helmets. After viewing the show, I did not see this depiction of viking culture. 

Overall, I believe the show’s main goal is to present the viking’s cultural aspects and this particular village’s quest to discover the west. To demonstrate this, the writers of the show pan over characters forging weapons, training for battle, and meeting with the chieftain. The show also illustrated the tough and no-nonsense mentality of the vikings through the violent action scenes. In general, most depictions of the vikings matched what I had envisioned.

In the series, jewelry was used to demonstrate the power and wealth over other characters. This particular piece was worn by the chieftain during a feast with the town folk in preparation for the upcoming raids. The chieftain’s necklace was a metal choker with a pendant down the middle. The metals were layered and formed into different shapes: circles, half circles, and triangles. The pendant appears to be either stone or ivory. (Figure 2). The piece I found to compare that to is a much simpler design. It is comprised of one piece of metal, and the detailing is carved into the metal. The necklace itself appears to be simple, but was quite difficult to craft given the time period. 

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There are no jewels on this particular necklace. The neck ring is Scandainavian and was dated to be made around 600 BCE, roughly 190 years after “Vikings” takes place. Although there is not a lot of information about this specific piece of jewelry, torques in general were believed to have been given during a ritual. Based on appearance, the necklace worn by the chieftain isn’t quite accurate according to history. I think the makers of this television show chose to enhance the chieftain’s choker to try and embellish the lifestyle of the chieftain. The makers wanted to imply that the chieftain had money, and I think in modern times a way to represent that someone has money is with luxury items like jewelry.

Clothing had a large impact in displaying the visual representation of vikings. The men in the show are shown wearing oversized fur coats, long, V-neck, tunic shirts that lace up at the top, and long pants. The fur coat is only connected at the top between the shoulder and chest region and reveals a majority of the man’s outfit from the chest down. This representation is somewhat accurate. The article of clothing I researched was similar, but less elaborate. It was beige and there was no design or detailing. It also covered less of the person’s body and showed more skin. 

After reading about the male versus female clothing, “The basic male outfit consists of a tunic that may reach the knees and trousers with wide or narrow legs. In some cases men also wear cloaks, but these are always closed at the shoulder, creating a different appearance from female cloaks.” In both the television version of this outfit and the historical version, all of the colors used are earthy and monotone. The article also states: “… there was a strong preference for single-colored textiles with a defined surface texture, and different types of fabrics were combined and contrasted.” 

This piece was dated back to 1340 BCE, and was found in a grave. I think the television show makers portrayed vikings in this way because of the already perceived notion of vikings attire. The large, long fur coats also emphasize the need to keep warm during the harsh and damp winters of the area. In today’s times, fur coats represent that someone has money, therefore they have power. Generally speaking, I think a lot of people associate fur coats and money or power, so the show makers used that association to show the vikings status.

The last artifact I’ll be comparing is one of the things people associate vikings to the most, ships. In the show, the ship that the main character builds has a dragon head on the front point of his boat. The large scale dragon head is intricately detailed and made of wood. The boat itself is long and thin. In comparison, the one I found is also very intricately detailed. The wood is very carefully carved and a variety of patterns and techniques are used. Based on the coloration of the artifact, it looks like some metal was used in addition to the wood. There appear to be some jewels in this rendering of the dragon head. 

The show makers got this one right and the artifact is historically accurate. The show makers presented the boat this way because most people associate dragons or long, thin boats with vikings as well. All in all, the show creators for, “Vikings,” on Amazon Prime, embellished the viking lifestyle in their depiction of the culture. The creators got the viking ships accurate, and the other artifacts were close but were enhanced in some way.  

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