The purpose of this research is to identify how the concept of ‘Viking’ as the ‘Others’ in Western Europe was developed. The aim is to show both the similarities and differences of this concept in the different societies the Vikings made contact with. It will also show how in some cases the historical reality differs from what is narrated in some sources due to the bias of its authors. With the intention of achieving the most accurate result, only contemporary sources have been used, discarding later texts but less reliable and related to the ultimate goal of this article.
The Old Norse berserkr is often described as other and monstrous, prone to frenzied anger when his violent nature is not properly controlled and directed by his lord. This paper discusses how this image has been constructed and developed since the 17th century and argues that it is not an accurate representation of berserkir in the Íslendingasögur. It examines the evidence for berserkir as warriors whose anger is heroic, controlled, and performed, rather than berserk, spontaneous, and uncontrolled, and considers this anger within a medieval European literary context to show that there is a common basis for the vocabulary of performed anger.
This paper uses the oldest runic and textual evidence to demonstrate that the ‘otherness’ of gentes which we find as of the 6th century is poorly supported by the linguistic evidence, and this in a model where language is one of several indicators of identity. Indeed, the two contradictory psychological urges, belonging and distinctiveness, which drive communities to divide the social world into us and them, hold equally true in the Early Middle Ages where ethnogenesis remains one theory of group formation. When we distinguish Romans, Franks, Frisians, Alamanni, Saxons, Walla, etc., might we run the risk of imposing our conception of identity on these ancient peoples?