In its printed format, The Hanged God trilogy is unapologetically epic fantasy, that includes Vikings, gods, giants, hearth demons, and magical runes, however the story didn’t start that approach. Initially, I believed that I used to be setting out on an epic quest to put in writing historic fiction, with an emphasis on the historic.
I needed the story to be as correct to the time interval as potential. Mockingly, it was exactly this want that finally prompted the entire sequence to pivot into the realm of fantasy. A improvement I couldn’t have predicted as I ready to put in writing the story, scouring by authorized paperwork from Iron Age Scandinavia to find how the Vikings actually lived.
I researched the Viking Age for months. With my nostril buried in analysis papers, I toured museums, attended Viking festivals and even ended up becoming a member of the fantastic crew of the reconstructed Viking warship, the Sea Stallion. I discovered not simply what the Vikings did, however how they did it. I knew what meals they loved, how they constructed their ships, dyed their garments, how they lived day after day, and what took their fancies. As I discovered extra about Viking Age folks, I even started to grasp why they raided.
This final “why, oh why” is our essential focal point.
There are a lot of arguments that historians use to clarify why historic Scandinavians began to go on raids. One instance is that Viking Age Scandinavia had a rising inhabitants that the land might not assist. Folks wanted to go looking elsewhere for alternatives, in order that they took to the ocean and fought to earn a proper of settlement overseas. Others argue that the promise of riches should have lured many out to sea.
These are each nice arguments to clarify why they—the Vikings—collectively acted as they did. Nonetheless, what me greater than their collective selection, was the selection of the people. Why would a singular younger Viking Age Scandinavian determine not simply to go away the shores of house to commerce overseas and to see the world, however particularly to choose up a spear, be a part of a crew, and interact in fight, risking their very own life?
Many should have left for his or her first raid and by no means returned, but it was a culture-wide motion. So many extra continued to strive their luck in battles overseas. Have been they simply violent folks on the core? I questioned and contemplated this as I turned the web page of my newly acquired translations of Previous Norse myths. As I stared blankly on the historic textual content, the important thing of eureka turned in my thoughts and Pandora’s field opened earlier than my very eyes. For right here was the justification, mendacity on the desk earlier than me. The myths. The gods. They have been the reply.
If the core perception of a daily Viking Age farmer was that with a view to get to go to the actually cool afterlife the place they’d get to feast with their mates all evening, each evening, they completely have to die in battle, then that may be a good incentive to sail out and discover (or begin) some battles. I might think about giant bands of pals becoming a member of the raids collectively, as a result of that they had determined that there was no approach that loss of life was going to be what divided them.
Whether or not the mythology got here first and pushed the Norse folks out at sea to seek for battles, or whether or not it got here afterwards, as they returned from warfare, to assist justify their actions, we’d by no means know. Both approach, the Viking lifestyle, the life as a Nordic raider, is intrinsically linked to the Norse perception system.
Christian rulers in neighboring lands who suffered the fixed assaults of raiding Vikings understood this effectively. Makes an attempt to transform the Norse attackers have been underway for hundreds of years. Some makes an attempt have been extra violent than others. Ultimately the tactic did succeed, though it took centuries to persuade the fierce raiders that White Christ may very well be cool. Quickly after Scandinavia formally transformed to Christianity (quickly in historic phrases), raids fizzled out and the Viking Age got here to an official shut. With out the core perception system, the apply of raiding died out, as a substitute of adapting to the brand new challenges warriors met overseas.
In fact there may be all the time multiple motive why issues occur as they do, however after I checked out Vikings after this, I might so clearly see what number of of their actions have been deeply rooted of their myths and their perception in magic. But, even the discovered Christian inhabitants had a perception in what we in the present day name magic. Saxo Grammaticus, who wrote the primary historical past of Denmark within the twelfth century, wrote that Odin was not a god, merely a wizard and that one should perceive earlier than studying his historic account that giants did certainly exist in historic Denmark. Saxo argued that the presence of giants was clearly evidenced by the stones which had been erected hundreds of years earlier to make passage graves all through the lands.
When even Christian scholar centuries later believed so ardently in magic, how might I ignore it? I took to re-reading the Norse tales with recent perception. Within the myths I discovered causes for every part.
A motive they didn’t really feel regret at killing, a motive to exit and seek for battles. Even a motive to worth one sort of loss of life over one other. There was magic within the tales, and after I walked across the forests of Denmark afterwards, and visited previous passage graves constructed 5 thousand years in the past, the panorama appeared to wake with magic. The roots of the Norse legends have been interconnected with the panorama and with their actions in such a approach that I couldn’t separate one from the opposite. I realised that I couldn’t write in regards to the Vikings with out writing about their perception programs.
I did strive. But, it felt disrespectful to not take their perception system critically. It felt like I used to be calling my characters silly for believing in a number of gods, and particularly for believing in Thor who has gained a little bit of a unique picture in modern-day media.
By dancing across the query of their beliefs in gods and magic and never absolutely embracing it, I used to be making my characters really feel like that they had no convictions in any respect and no motive for appearing as they did both. I wanted extra of their beliefs to characteristic within the story to justify their actions.
That’s how I first added a little bit of magic. It began as small mysterious occurrences. A perception that the gods have been watching. Two ravens cawing in a tree have been known as Hugin and Munin, the 2 trusted ravens belonging to the god Odin. Omens and small indicators.
Step by step I expanded upon a number of the magic I had examine within the sagas, as a result of it felt prefer it belonged. Runic magic, which might put power into an object and that rapidly advanced. Quickly the wind was whispering in Runes and one other character had Forefathers caught inside their thoughts, after which, it lastly occurred… a god made a bodily look on the web page.
At that time, I might not faux that I used to be writing historic fiction. I used to be like a Norse warrior who had died in mattress, arriving in entrance of Helheim’s gates—I had no selection however to simply accept my destiny.
So, I leaned into the magic and fantasy. I referenced myths, some overtly and a few in additional obscure methods, and I welcomed the gods into the narrative. The largest irony of all is that it was solely after I let the magic take over my story and combined the myths into the historic analysis that the story really felt actual and convincing.
Solely after I included the true beliefs of individuals within the Viking Age, did their actions make sense. Solely then did the story lastly really feel precisely as I needed it to really feel—correct.
The Hanged God trilogy is on the market now from Solaris publishing.
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