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Olafr Reydarsson, the chieftain of the Gudvangen Viking town of Njardarheimr
A modern Norwegian viking.
Photo: Kyrre Lien

The modern vikings


There is much more to the legacy of Norsemen than conquest and pillage. Meet two present-day Vikings who aren’t just fascinated by the Viking culture – they're even living it.

Written by Mikael Lunde

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But there is a lot more to the Viking culture than plunder and violence. In the old Viking country on the west coast of Norway, there are people today who live by their forebears’ values, albeit the more positive ones.

Modern Viking king

Thousands of Norwegians are now working to rediscover valuable, forgotten parts of their Viking heritage. Hundreds gather at Viking markets in Gudvangen and Avaldsnes – the historic home of famed King Harald Fairhair – to re-enact Viking life and learn Viking Age crafts and trades. At Gudvangen, the Vikings have an undisputed king: Georg Olafr Reydarson Hansen. For almost 20 years, he worked to establish the permanent Viking village Njardarheimr, which finally opened in 2017.

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We have 400 Vikings in Gudvangen. At the market, we have kids learning traditional crafts and trades. A 15-year-old boy is becoming a blacksmith and a 15-year-old girl is learning textiles. When the older generation sees this, they think it’s great, and they join in,” explains Hansen, combing his beard with an authentic Viking comb that he carried around at the hip.

In addition to the comb, the cape, and the clothes, he shows us an authentic sword. “It’s made from thousands of pieces of steel, folded over and over again until becoming extremely strong and sharp,” he says. Of the 3,500 Viking swords that have been found in Norway thus far, only about 50 are single-edged like his. For him, none of these Viking things are a gimmick. Far from it.

“When I put on Viking clothes, I’m not trying to be someone I’m not, but rather to emphasise who I already am,” he says. And it is not as if they reject the modern world. “We watch movies and TV, and heavy metal is the music of modern Vikings. The old and the new must go together,” says Hansen, adding: “We are people of a new age looking to the values of an older one.”

“When I put on Viking clothes, I’m not trying to be someone I’m not, but rather emphasise who I already am.”

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Viking metal

Since childhood, the members of Norwegian “Viking metal” band Enslaved have been fascinated by Old Norse culture and mythology. In the early 90s, the band decided to merge Viking heritage with black metal. Delving into the material, guitarist Ivar Peersen encountered unexpected depths.

“A lot of people approach Viking culture through its militaristic aspects or violent drawings and Snorre’s kings’ sagas,” says guitarist Ivar Peersen.

“At some point, you realize that there’s a lot more to the mythology and history. It’s about philosophy as much as anything else,” he continues. “You start discovering the nuances and appreciating the things that are more … subtle. The beautiful things.”

It is a philosophy expressed through coastlines, forests and trees – glimpses of beauty are revealed, above all, in the Vikings’ relationship with nature. “If you want to explore the Viking identity, there are two places to do it: Iceland, and the Norwegian west coast. Here you’ll experience nature and see the symbolism which is the entire foundation of their culture,” says Peersen.

“At some point you realize that there’s a lot more to the mythology and history. It’s about a philosophy as much as anything else.”

Ivar Peersen, Enslaved.
Photo: Kyrre Lien

True Values

So what values are they talking about? Peersen has an unlikely example – Ragnarok, the mythological “end of the Gods”, and the end of the world. “It has a lot to tell us about the experience of being human and about having to let some things go: to see them fade and die and then grow again, as the foundation of something entirely new.” That is how the Vikings saw both their own existence and life itself.

“In modern society, there’s a finality to all things. You start something, you stay the course, and when it comes to an end it is seen as a failure. Whilst in the Old Norse, the downfall and Ragnarok holds a completely different place. It is not final,” says Peersen. He is not seeking to teach reincarnation, but simply to explain a mindset. “It’s about how you approach certain things, like death. Focus too much on it, and you waste an incredible amount of life. With such a mindset, your focus will shift towards the present moment.”

Exciting Viking experiences

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Go on a Viking tour

Visit historical sites, take a sea voyage in a Viking ship, or go all the way and be a Viking for a day.

See all Viking attractions
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The world's most important discovery from the Viking era was made just outside Tønsberg in 1904; The discovery of the famous Oseberg viking ship. Read more
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Play like the vikings! Experiences for the whole family. At the medieval farm Stiklastadir, the children can join the play battle, you can shoot with… Read more
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Hamar Hostel offers conference facilities for both small and large groups. Our meeting facilities include rooms which seats 28 and 30 persons… Read more
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Vikingegarden Maurenga is situated approx. 2 km west of Gardermoen. The building, interior and food, etc., are all based on the Viking theme. Read more
Vikingegarden Maurenga
An impressive reconstruction of the largest longhouse that has been found dating back to the Viking Age. Read more
Lofotr Vikingmuseum
The Vikingship Gaia, a replica of the Gokstad ship, was built in Sunnmøre in 1990. The ship is 23.55 metres long and 5.25 metres wide with a height of… Read more
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With fantastic views of water, waterfalls, mountains, fjord, and glaciers, you will find Vikinghaug Apartments in Odda. The guests live in large,… Read more
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The world's most important find from the Viking Age was made just outside Tønsberg in 1904, the famous Oseberg ship. Read more
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Reconstructed settlement from the Viking Bronze Age. Fertility labyrinth, archery and story-telling. Read more
Bronseplassen Viking experiences
The Irish Viking is pub located in Haugesund city centre next to well-known statue "the fishermens". Read more
The Irish Viking
Feel the magic and the thrill of the ceremony of sacrifice to the Gods to avoid Ragnarok – the Last Days! Will Volva the Prophetess make signs… Read more
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Historic day trip for groups Join us on an exciting journey and discover the secrets of Nidarosdomen combined with "etargilde" in the long house… Read more
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A RIB takes you on a trip to Harstads archipelago to see the empire of famous Viking Chieftain, Tore Hund. Read more
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Sagastad Viking Center is an exciting experience center for the whole family. Here you will become familiar with Viking history from Nordfjordeid, a… Read more
Sagastad Viking Center
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    Statens Kartverk, Geovekst og kommuner - Geodata AS

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