The funniest and best-ever (and only?) TV comedy series about the Vikings is also a superb parody of Vikings. I speak of the recent Norwegian production called Norsemen (Vikingane). Filmed at Avaldsnes in western Norway and recorded in Norwegian and English, I recently caught up with the six episodes via Netflix.
I’d recommend it as essential viewing for any archaeologist or historian of the Viking Age. It’s funny on many levels and for many reasons. I don’t want to ruin the plot and jokes for those who haven’t seen it. However, it deserves a post to celebrate its awesomeness and also to recognise how, like Vikings, it pays careful attention to the material world as its setting and to convey its humour. In this case, the real seascape and landscape of western Norway is used together with a reconstructed Viking Age settlement, including a hall. The costumes are also brilliantly comedic, including the warrior-woman with her necklace of monks’ penises.
However, I must briefly touch on a few themes where the show deliberately rips into historical and archaeological debates. In this regard, there are 4 particularly hilarious dimensions that chime with Vikings and archaeological interpretations that deserve particular mention.
Yes, there is a brilliant scene focusing on horned helmets and their utility as battle gear and as fashion statements:
Horns happen to be the latest fashion”… “Fashion is about taking chances, experimenting, daring to be bold…” “It tells a story”.
One of the most striking features of Vikings is the seer and his hut. This is brilliantly parodied in Norsemen, from his disgusting appearance through to the need to drink spittle to gain prophecy.
The Art Installation
The inept chief is convinced that the settlement of Norheim needs its own art installation, using up all their weapons, to really ‘put them on the map’.
Without ruining the joke, I can’t say too much, but I just have to bow down at the awesomeness at the funeral scene and the flaming arrows used to light the funeral boat. For me, it takes the piss out of Vikings and all modern attempts to re-imagine Viking Age mortuary practice.
In summary, go watch Norsemen, whether or not you’ve seen Vikings or The Last Kingdom. I truly hope a second season is commissioned.