The word ‘Viking’ was first used in a publication entitled The History of the Anglo-Saxons by the imaginative antiquarian Sharon Turner ( a male person) who referred to Sea-kings and Vikingr and to the land of Vikia in Norway (which cannot be found on Google Maps).

Turner was a writer at the time of Napoleon and tapped into a nationalistic English fervour against the French. Having studied the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, he presented the English with a pre-conquest heroic vision of themselves that they perceived linked the Corsican Napoleon Bonaparte and William of Normandy of 1066, conveniently ignoring the racial history of the Normans. According to Turner, Alfred became a model of wisdom and excellence himself … a high-minded, patriotic and benevolent sage, whose wisdom … still lives to instruct and interest even an age so superior as our own. Turner clearly did not wish to question the validity of the Chronicles and Asser.

However false this Franco-Norman versus Germano/Scandinavian Anglo-Saxon concept may have been, the romantic authors of Victorian England were quick to spot a fashionable theme, (as, no doubt, were the politicians and anxious supporters of the monarchy just after the French revolution) and Tennyson and Scott sold a lot of books on the back of it.

Later in the nineteenth century, out of the mists of the Nordic zeitgeist came writers like George Webbe-Dassent (Njal’s Saga 1861) and Henry Rider-Haggard (Eric Brighteyes 1890), and many ‘translators’ of Snorri Sturluson’s thirteenth century sagas and eddas, like William Morris (Grettir the Strong) and Samuel Laing (Heimskringla) . These writers revelled in the use of this onomatopoeic word ‘Viking’. And the ‘V’ sound is repeated in Valhalla and Valkerie and Victory and Wagner. Unfortunately it also chimes with ‘vicious’.

It was to be no surprise, therefore, that in the following century, the title of the famous 1950s film needed only to be The Vikings to put bums on seats.

But the ninth century West Saxon chronicler never used the word ‘vikings’. He used the word ‘wicings’, which was most likely pronounced wichings, and it meant ‘persons who frequent trading places accessible by ship’ (i.e. places like Ipswich, Norwich, Dunwich, Harwich etc.). This topic is covered in Town Origins and Development in Early England: 400-950 A.D. by Daniel G. Russo, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1998.

 

 

 

error: Alert: Content is protected !!