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Discover the wonders of ‘VikingTok’

| Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Makayla Hernandez | The Observer

TikTok has left its explosive impact on not only the younger generation but also the older generation. Users often use the social media platform as a way to make kooky videos that are lighthearted and humorous, but there is another side of TikTok that people often swipe up on while scrolling through. Those videos involve historically “accurate” interpretations of historical groups of people; one of these groups that are portrayed is the Viking people from the 8th to the 11th centuries.

In order to look more closely at how the Vikings are portrayed in the media, we first must understand who the Vikings are. The term “viking” is a modern name for the Scandinavian seafaring people who raided, pirated, traded and settled through many parts of Europe. Scandinavia is the northern part of Europe that includes present-day Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The Vikings are now associated today with their signature longships, their use of the Old Norse language, and their use of the rune writing system. The Vikings also are known for their pagan religion. Norse Paganism is known for being polytheistic, which entails the belief of many gods and goddesses that the modern world may recognize today such as Thor (god of thunder), Odin (the All-Father of the gods) and Loki (the trickster god). Their religion is influential in the sense that they also begin to explore Christianity from the western world.

With the diverse history of the Vikings, the modern world has begun to portray the Vikings in media that sometimes can be historically inaccurate, or the media portrayals can be historically accurate. It is even highly arguable that one of the earliest media portrayals of the Viking culture is technically media because of its age. This portrayal is the epic poem “Beowulf,” which was written somewhere between 975 and 1025. This 3,182-line poem tells the story of how Beowulf from the Geats who comes to the aid of Hrothgar, slays the monster Grendel and his mother, and is mortally wounded after a battle with a dragon. Even though this is an Old English poem, it is technically inspired on the Vikings because Beowulf is from a Germanic tribe in modern-day Sweden. This poem has been adapted into several films, a particularly well-known version being the 2007 one starring Ray Winstone as the titular character.

One particular adaptation of the Viking people is the 2013 History Channel original titled “Vikings.” The show, which ran for six seasons, starred Australian actor Travis Fimmel as Ragnar Lothbrok, a Viking who was known for his scourge throughout Anglo-Saxon England and West Francia, which is now modern France. This show, though successful, was notorious for being historically inaccurate. Most of the inaccuracies come from the portrayal of Christianity and how the cultural aspects are portrayed on camera. These observations are something people could keep in mind, but in the grand scheme of things, we do not know what the Viking culture was like. We were never around to experience their culture so it is all up for interpretation as to what it culture was like, what clothing they wore, and especially with religion, we do not know how the Vikings practiced Norse paganism and how they perceive Christianity. 

The Vikings are a huge part of TikTok in that many users are promoting Norse paganism and are creating a large community of people who want to recreate the Viking culture. And, as someone who loves Viking culture, I think this new phenomenon is a sign that we need to bring back history into the modern world and provide our own interpretations of older cultures. You can check out VikingTok here.

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