Many years ago, my ancestors from Scandinavia raided, explored and settled in the desirable parts of Europe – parts of Europe laden with plump rabbits, fruitful rivers, and green, grassy pastures. In my many years of complaining about my weight, I often was quick to blame my obesity on my genetics. It’s true that on both sides of the family we are stocky, thick people, as tall as we are wide. We all have blonde hair and white skin that turns ruddy from the slightest heat or smallest sip of beer. Genetically, our bodies stored fat like polar bears in the winter. The long, cold winters spent dashing over icebergs required a thick pelt of blubber to keep us warm; and our fur capes and shields looked much better with curves behind them, thank you very much.
We needed these bodies for winters spent at sea, preparing to pillage and plunder the next unexpecting nation’s refrigerators. Maybe all this history about vikings being raging, blood-thirsty people is missing one key fact – maybe, we were just hungry.
In honor of my people, I must dispel three key falsehoods about our ancestors:
1) We did not wear horned hats. The familiar “It’s not over till the fat lady sings” image of a big blonde Bertha wearing a silver hat with horns is manufactured, some smart marketing move. Take it straight from the internet horse’s mouth (Wikipedia) “Apart from two or three representations of (ritual) helmets – with protrusions that may be either stylised ravens, snakes or horns – no depiction of Viking Age warriors’ helmets, and no preserved helmet, has horns. In fact, the formal close-quarters style of Viking combat (either in shield walls or aboard “ship islands”) would have made horned helmets cumbersome and hazardous to the warrior’s own side.”
2) We did not drink from the skulls of those we had slain. The only skull I plan to slay is that of a ripe coconut, the better to hold my pina colada as I tan my blubbery backside in Thailand. Apparently, my ancestors didn’t use skulls as tumblers for their Diet Coke, either. “The use of human skulls as drinking vessels—another common motif in popular pictorial representations of the Vikings—is also ahistorical. The rise of this legend can be traced to Ole Worm‘s Runer seu Danica literatura antiquissima (1636), in which Danish warriors drinking ór bjúgviðum hausa [from the curved branches of skulls, i.e., from horns] were rendered as drinking ex craniis eorum quos ceciderunt [from the skulls of those whom they had slain].”
3) We were not all dirty, barbaric brutes with bugs in our beards. Historical accounts actually prove that the Vikings were among the cleanest civilization in this period’s time. “The Anglo-Danes were considered excessively clean by their Anglo-Saxon neighbours, due to their custom of bathing every Saturday and combing their hair often. To this day, Saturday is referred to as laugardagur / laurdag / lørdag / lördag, “washing day” in the Scandinavian languages. Icelanders were known to use natural hot springs as baths, and there is a strong sauna/bathing culture in Scandinavia to this day.” No wonder I can’t stand a day without washing my hair. There will be no pit-sniffing among my ancestors, thank you very much.
After dispensing this undebatable history to you, I think we can all agree that my obesity is not in any way, shape or form, due to error of my own part. It is clear from these readings that I’m not fat, I’m just a descendant of the Vikings.
My weight has nothing to do with college dinners of oil-popped popcorn and guacamole, nor the fact that my biggest form of exercise from the age 13 – 25 was trying to zip up my jeans. I will not take credit for this malady of adiposity – truly, really, thankfully – I’m not fat, I’m just a descendant of the Vikings.