“The Vikings, like criminal gangs today, were nothing more than gangs,” said ethnologist Arni Bjornsson in a recent TV interview with Stöð 2. As part of Reykjavík Culture Night earlier this month, he said that Iceland’s historical links with the Vikings were limited at best, and that the Vikings were not to be celebrated.
“For more than 100 years it was fashionable in the entertainment industry in Europe and North America to refer to everyone who lived in the Nordic countries in the late Middle Ages as a Viking. The inhabitants, of course, were first and foremost farmers and fishermen,” explained Arni. However, Vikings are mentioned more frequently in sources, “just as international news today is likely to refer to acts of terrorism”.
“Vikings never came to Iceland”
Both the National Museum and the Settlement Exhibition Hall hosted the Viking Battle event for Reykjavik Culture Night. Árni explains that the idea that Icelanders are of Viking descent was largely the product of his 19th-century foreign writers, who glorified this idea in their work. . This idea has no historical basis.
“Violence always has a certain appeal. People enjoy reading crime novels, they enjoy crafting Viking stories. What is the relationship between Iceland and the Vikings?
One of Iceland’s most respected ethnologists, Árni was Director of the National Museum’s Ethnology Department from 1969 to 2002. He has authored and published about 20 books, as well as countless articles and radio programs on Icelandic traditions and cultural history, and holds a PhD. Ethnology, University of Iceland.
The post “Icelandic settlers weren’t Vikings” was first published in the Iceland Review.