Well-versed about Vik­ings

Canada's History - - EDITOR’S NOTE -

We’re tear­ing up this place tonight ... We’re gonna set this sleepy town alight ... We’ll kill and steal and burn and drink ‘Cause us Vik­ings don’t care what you think Woah oh oh!

– Hor­ri­ble His­to­ries, “Lit­er­ally: The Vik­ing Song”

While surf­ing the In­ter­net re­cently, I stum­bled upon a par­ody song about Vik­ings, pro­duced by the team at Hor­ri­ble His­to­ries. If you don’t know Hor­ri­ble His­to­ries, pic­ture Monty Python, but aimed at a high school au­di­ence.

The YouTube video for “Lit­er­ally: The Vik­ing Song” fea­tures ac­tors dressed as Norse berserk­ers — and singing like they were mem­bers of a hair me­tal band from the 1980s. Over a sappy, power-bal­lad melody, the Vik­ing vir­tu­osos wax po­etic about raid­ing Bri­tain for the first time:

We ar­rived upon your English shore And you of­fered friend­ship But we wanted more Yeah, so much more!

The song is good for a chuckle, but the real Vik­ings were no laugh­ing mat­ter to the peo­ple who suf­fered their wrath dur­ing the height of their raid­ing ac­tiv­ity.

From about 700 to 1100 these fear­some fight­ers from Scan­di­navia ter­ror­ized north­ern Europe and lands be­yond. Records kept by monks at­test to the fe­roc­ity and cru­elty of their at­tacks.

The Vik­ings were also skilled sea­far­ers, whose voy­ages took them in­creas­ingly far­ther west. In the eleventh cen­tury, the Norse ar­rived in North Amer­ica. Two sagas, the saga of Erik the Red, and the saga of the Green­lan­ders, de­scribe their at­tempt to set­tle in At­lantic Canada.

One of the ar­eas they vis­ited, Vinland, was de­scribed as warm and boun­ti­ful, with plenty of tim­ber, am­ple grasses that “barely with­ered,” and grapes that grew wild along the shore­line.

His­to­ri­ans have long sought to iden­tify the lo­ca­tion of Vinland, with pos­si­ble sites sug­gested all along the east­ern seaboard. In this is­sue, his­to­rian Bir­gitta Wal­lace, in her ar­ti­cle, “Find­ing Vinland,” weighs the ev­i­dence, and of­fers her ver­dict on its lo­ca­tion.

Else­where, we re­call a tragic po­lio out­break in the Far North that oc­curred in the 1940s; we re­mem­ber the women broad­cast­ers from the early days of ra­dio; and we ex­plore the Sec­ond World War through the war let­ters of a pair of broth­ers who served in the Cana­dian army.

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