In Defense of Horns, Wings, and Braids
I flipped open the North Kitsap Herald this weekend and my eyes fell upon a letter to the editor complaining about the Poulsbo Viking statue’s horns, as well as all of the Viking helmet paraphernalia that gets sold to “unsuspecting tourists who don’t know any better,” including hats with braids1. My daughter, then a student in NKSD, had a similar complaint one day as we passed the statue. I offered to go home and don my knit Valkyrie helmet with *gasp!* detachable braids. Most tourists (and locals) do realize that real Vikings did not likely wear horned helmets into battle (and that real Valkyries don’t have wings). While there is some evidence that horned helmets were used for ceremonial purposes in the pre-Viking era, there is only one example of a Viking helmet, and, no, it does not have horns. But if we don’t trust the intelligence of tourists, and think we should “educate” the public about this issue, perhaps the solution is to put a warning label on the plastic helmets in local shops. “Warning: Historically Inaccurate.”
I don’t find the Viking statue on Lindvig to be disrespectful (and, yes, my ancestry is mostly Norwegian). We have the more historically accurate statue of King Olaf at Waterfront Park, but the statue on Lindvig is a larger than life tribute; is it disrespectful to have a bit of anachronistic fun? I enjoy seeing my 12′ Viking every morning as I head out. It would be a shame for our Poulsbo “Vikings” to stop having the fun of wearing a horned helmet during Viking Fest. There should be — and there is some — education about authentic Norse traditions at Viking Fest. But if we take it too far we would need to stop guys from wearing cowboy hats during the shield wall demonstration, for instance, demanding that they “get serious” and dress like real Vikings 2. If the purpose of an event is historical re-creation, those helmets should come off. But Viking fest is also a celebration, and, sometimes its OK to (gently and peacefully) maraud in the street wearing your horns (or wings and braids). Let Ragnar 3 keep his horns.
See you at Viking Fest 2017. I’ll be there with wings and braids.