Popular Vikings: Constructions of Viking Identity in Twentieth Century Britain

University of York
Publication year

See the sections on romance (although I wonder if the author renumbered some sections at some point because some sections which are mentioned in the text seem incorrect e.g. perhaps the 4.3.7. mentioned below is in fact 4.2.7). Some excerpts:

In fiction, a characteristic product of the 1980's and '90's is the Viking bodice-ripper romance (see 3.1.3. and 3.2.2., and 5.3.3., below). These novels make free use of a wide range of Viking images. They typically feature tall, blond and blue-eyed Viking heroes, and Valkyrie-inspired warrior maids. But they also tend to tie in with the scholarly developments of twentieth-century Viking studies, which make an effort to emphasise the peaceful elements of Viking life. As the heroes of romantic novels, the romance Vikings must be active and forceful, but there is a tendency to make them, in true late twentieth-century style, merchant princes or noble farmers rather than simple pillagers. (24)

Those are not the only sections which refer to romance. From section 3.1.1, for example:

Novels with Viking Age settings are a prolific sub-genre in the late twentieth-century historical romance (see 4.3.7. and 5.3.3., below). [...] In Viking romance novels, the hero is unfailingly described as the tallest and handsomest man the heroine has ever seen. He is, of course, blond, and has "piercing" blue eyes which have a tendency to change their shade according to his mood ("sky blue when his mood was even, a blue as deep as the Oslo Fjord when he was angry"). Frequently, he is referred to as "a golden god", or words to that effect. (69-70)


4.2.7. Romance and the Viking rapist

At the same time, while identifying with Viking raiders, it is also possible to gain enjoyment through identification with at least some of the Vikings' victims. This is an aspect of the Viking phenomenon which has become a keynote of the Viking romance genre.

The concept of Viking barbarians as appropriate characters for romance novels might at first seem a bizarre juxtaposition. But in fact the Viking raider image easily lends itself to adoption by this genre. The Vikings' role as rapists and abductors, paradoxically, has turned them into ideal romance heroes.

The threat of male violence toward women, and the search for a caring, supportive relationship amidst the perils of abuse and exploitation, are crucial themes in the romance novel as it has developed in the late twentieth century.


The Viking romance heroines are often trained warriors, and can be depicted as being even more skilful than the heroes. (209)