Vikings 2.0 stresses the softer side

Photo: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

The Viking image is getting a politically correct makeover, the New York Times says.

“Rape and pillage are not part of the curriculum,” says Jeppe Nordmann Garly, who is taking on the first government-funded training course on how to be a real Viking.

In a country that awards the Nobel Peace Prize each year and delights in its reputation for tolerance, the rebranding of Vikings from violent thugs to peaceable craftsmen is part of a broader resurgence of interest in a historical period previously embraced mostly by far-right nationalists.

It has helped make pride in the Viking Age respectable at a time when Norwegians, like many other Europeans, are looking to the past to shore up identities shaken by alarm over immigration and the impact of globalization.

A Norwegian publishing house has started a new Internet magazine called “The Happy Viking,” a Norwegian film director has just made what is billed as a Viking blockbuster due for release early next year, and attendance at museums displaying Viking ships in Oslo and Lofoten has surged.

Even so, Norway, still somewhat squeamish about celebrating a part of its history hijacked by the Nazis, lags behind foreigners in plundering the Viking past for inspiration and cash. The television series “Vikings” is an Irish-Canadian production, and the fantasy drama “Game of Thrones” was made for HBO.

The Vikings, one expert says, might have been slave traders, but they weren’t racists, most of their slaves were white. But that hasn’t stopped white supremacists from claiming Viking heritage.

The makeover is an attempt to take the image back.

Even some Viking fans worry that this revisionist view has gone too far, pushed toward what Mr. Rue mocked as “warrior flower power” by “old hippies” who want to turn Vikings into new-age peaceniks.

“The politically correct Viking,” he warned, has become so far removed from the Viking Age creed of “keep struggling and never give up” that “he does not really appeal to anybody.”