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Violence and Historical Authenticity: Rape (and Pillage) in Popular Viking Fiction

Violence and Historical Authenticity: Rape (and Pillage) in Popular Viking Fiction Erika Ruth Sigurdson Árni Magnússon Institute Add pillage to rape and suddenly it has a certain air of knock-about fun. --David Mitchell (2009) he phrase "rape and pillage" has become almost synonymous with Vikings. In newspaper headlines, guidebooks, textbooks, romance novels, cartoons, and museum exhibits, "rape and pillage" acts as shorthand for any and all Viking crimes, whether real or purely fictional. Paradoxically, the phrase has become enshrined in the rhetoric of debunking, or at least problematizing, the simplistic notion of bloodthirsty Vikings. A popular introductory textbook explains that "dominating the popular perception of the people who flowed out of Scandinavia in the Viking Age is the image of the blood-thirsty warrior bent on slaughter, rape and pillage" (Forte, Oram, and Pedersen 2005, 299). More popular writing employs a similar rhetoric; in an article reviewing the new British Museum Vikings exhibition, Simon Armitage (2014) writes for the Guardian: "[T]hose simply seeking the raping and pillaging berserkers of legend may be surprised." The question of Viking brutality or its absence is one that has been debated for over fifty years, led in particular by the work of Peter Sawyer (1962). But in all these debates over Viking brutality, what http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Scandinavian Studies Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study

Violence and Historical Authenticity: Rape (and Pillage) in Popular Viking Fiction

Scandinavian Studies , Volume 86 (3) – Dec 6, 2014

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Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study
Copyright
Copyright © Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study
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2163-8195
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Abstract

Erika Ruth Sigurdson Árni Magnússon Institute Add pillage to rape and suddenly it has a certain air of knock-about fun. --David Mitchell (2009) he phrase "rape and pillage" has become almost synonymous with Vikings. In newspaper headlines, guidebooks, textbooks, romance novels, cartoons, and museum exhibits, "rape and pillage" acts as shorthand for any and all Viking crimes, whether real or purely fictional. Paradoxically, the phrase has become enshrined in the rhetoric of debunking, or at least problematizing, the simplistic notion of bloodthirsty Vikings. A popular introductory textbook explains that "dominating the popular perception of the people who flowed out of Scandinavia in the Viking Age is the image of the blood-thirsty warrior bent on slaughter, rape and pillage" (Forte, Oram, and Pedersen 2005, 299). More popular writing employs a similar rhetoric; in an article reviewing the new British Museum Vikings exhibition, Simon Armitage (2014) writes for the Guardian: "[T]hose simply seeking the raping and pillaging berserkers of legend may be surprised." The question of Viking brutality or its absence is one that has been debated for over fifty years, led in particular by the work of Peter Sawyer (1962). But in all these debates over Viking brutality, what

Journal

Scandinavian StudiesSociety for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study

Published: Dec 6, 2014

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