One of my all time favourite sword movies is The 13th Warrior. Not my all time favourite, of course, but it’s up there. As something of an armchair historian, I almost feel as though I should criticize this movie based on its lack of attention to historical detail, but I just can’t bring myself to do that. True, weapons and armour in The 13th Warrior spans almost five centuries on either side of when this story supposedly takes place, featuring both a roman gladiator style helmet and a breastplate from around the 16th century. Imagine a modern drama in which it goes completely unexplained why the main character’s brother wears a doublet and has a ray gun and you’ll get a sense of why this is silly. Thankfully, though, there are no horns on the viking helmets, which would have destroyed this movie for me.
But it’s a good movie. The story is basic, but the characters are engaging which carries the movie. As an added bonus the action never gets dull. Sadly the true Viking method of swordplay is lost forever to history. I’ve come across some people who claim to be experts is Viking fighting methods, but since no actual records exist of how they fought, anyone who claims to know is (being generous) basing their ideas on conjecture.
Vikings are cool. I don’t think many people would disagree with that, unless you happen to be from Lindisfarne. There are those today who claim to follow the Old Norse religion. Unfortunately these followers of “Odinism” seem to be composed almost entirely of white supremacists. I’ve read the Havamal (the Viking Bible) several times and enjoy it greatly. Despite the fact there is really nothing in there that comes close to justifying racism unless you’re really looking for it, I’m in no way going to associate myself with these Odinists. The teachings present in the Havamal are good and valid in of themselves, however and thankfully it is possible to appreciate them without actually being an Odinist.
There was one theory I heard that I kinda like. According to legend Lycurgus founded the Spartan way of life. The Spartan’s warrior way of life was a life of discipline and training. Lycurgus, who incidentally lost an eye during his life, built Spartan society and then disappeared, some say sailing away and promising to return. He never did, but some time after that in far and distant land arose another warrior society who practiced many of the same ideals and incidentally worshiped a one-eyed god of wisdom. Is Lycurgus really Odin? Did he found the Viking way of life as well as the Spartan? Probably not. There’s not really any reason to think that this story is true. It’s a really cool idea, though so it’s at least fun to think about.