Vikings are the new Highlanders

Some folks in Scotland have what they apparently take to be a brilliant way of boosting tourism and trade: rebrand as a Nordic country.
The document points out that the north of Scotland is geographically closer to the Arctic than London and argues that taking on a Nordic identity would allow the country to “embed” itself more effectively within the Arctic community than presenting itself as a “near-Arctic” state.
As it happens, I have recently been re-reading Egil's Saga. Probably several of you have read it; for those who haven't, here's a quick summary.

Important parts of it take place in Scotland, as well as in Northumbria on the border regions, while Eric Bloodaxe is king out of Jorvik (or York, as it is now known, in a tributary relationship to the English king, having previously been king in Norway, but having had to flee). Egil fights against "the Scots," only they are led by a king named Olaf the Red, or Olaf Sigtryggsson, who also bears a Gaelic name, Amlaib Cuaran.

Lots of Scottish clans have explicit Viking links, too, such as the Clan Gunn.

So is Scotland Nordic, or is it Celtic? Well, it's both -- as is Ireland, where Brian Boru married a woman named Gormflaith, whose earlier husband was also named Olaf, and whose son was the same Sigtrygg Silkbeard that would later be forced to submit to Brian Boru after the battle of Clontarf.

In a way, I'm glad to see the interest in heritage. It's certainly an interesting heritage, as interesting as the Highlander heritage that would presumably be downplayed in order to advance the Viking heritage.

In another way, I wonder at this 'branding' exercise. It seems as if people take great care to choose their ancestors these days.


Lars Walker said...

I recommend "The Viking Highlands" by D. Rognvald Kelday, which I reviewed here:

The author makes the point that wherever the Norse ruled in Scotland, Celtic culture was preserved. Wherever the English took control, Celtic culture was suppressed. So if you love your tartans and haggis, thank a Viking.

Texan99 said...

They say every time you use an English word with "sk" in it, you're channeling our significant Scandinavian heritage. It may also have been the Viking occupation that scraped off a lot of our Teutonic article and adjective case markers, so we don't have to memorize a little chart of 12 possible endings for "the" and "green" depending on whether a "tree" is masculine, feminine, or neuter and the case is nominative, accusative, dative, or genitive. (Not that Scandinavian languages are hostile to such a thing, but possibly the ruling class bothered to learn only a simplified version of English and imposed it on the powers-that-be. That's McWhorter's argument, anyway.) The Vikings stomped all over Great Britain for a long time. It ended up in a fascinating tension between Mel Gibson yelling "Freedom!" with his picturesque and economically incompetent crew on one side and the orderly, somewhat Romanized, wealthy uptight Saxons and Normans on the other, and the Celts always looking around going what now? I suppose even the Saxons and Normans were essentially Scandis at one or two removes. I always think of the Celts as the rocks under the glaciers.

Grim said...

There is a lot of overlap. On a more anecdotal note, the people who make the jewelry for the popular TV show "Vikings" are folks my wife and I have known for decades. Their business is called The Crafty Celts.

Eric Blair said...

Ha. Get a DNA test done. You will definitely find out all sorts of things. I mark "Hispanic" on those questionnaires now.

douglas said...

That's really cool, Grim. Love the jaguar axe! Jewelry is a lot of fun. I took a couple of jewelry classes when I was knocking out some pre-reqs in community college before architecture school. Great fun. Would still love to set up a shop in the garage, but that'll have to wait.

douglas said...

Oh, Grim- a question: What would you recommend as an introduction to the sagas? Especially for a fourteen year old boy who mostly reads fantasy novels.

Ymar Sakar said...

The northern islands of Scotland were once part of Norwegian domains. They probably served as way stations for viking missions to Iceland and Greenland, much like Japan does for the US.

Perhaps Iceland is getting more tourism, due to a couple of things which I won't mention for now.