About Rebecca and her quest to learn about all things vikingy
My name is Rebecca Wilson but I also go by a creative nickname valkyrie1008. It is a constant example of my growing passion for all things vikingy, their history, people, culture and mythology.
I first became interested in Vikings when I was a teenager during the 1990s and watched for the first time a documentary series titled 'Blood of the Vikings' presented by Julian Richards. Being born and bred in North Yorkshire, England, I already knew the basic stereotypical image of Vikings as invaders and rapists. But this series blew that nasty image away. It opened my eyes to how much the Vikings had impacted the world I lived in. Many features of now everyday modern life, such as place-names for example, wouldn't exist today if the Vikings hadn't invaded and settled and become a great piece of our cultural heritage and background.
The history of place-names returned to become my Sociolinguistic study project when I was studying English Studies with Creative Writing at Huddersfield University (2006-2009). It was great fun to do and learn as I can now proudly say that 59% of place-names in North Yorkshire are of Danish/Norse origin and the other is split between the already embedded Anglo-Saxon settlements and the later invaders of the French when William the Conqueror came to the throne. I did find it ironic in later life as the Normans, from Normandy are actually great ancestors of the Vikings as Normandy means 'Land of the northmen'. So either way you look at it 1066 didn't mark the true end of the Vikings, just a new era for a different type of Viking.
The history of place-names may well be completely behind my love of this demonised culture of people as I was born in their old capital of the Danelaw, Jorvik now known as York. So maybe it's in my blood, perhaps my great ancestors were invaders from the wild seas? I like to think so. That was another great thing I loved about the 'Blood of the Vikings' series as they really did investigate the DNA across the nation to see if they could still detect lineage of the northmen against that of local Anglo-Saxons and the French. The researchers of that series seemed more confident and certain with the results which did show more Norse DNA in the old Danelaw area as you might predict but for some reason a lot of modern geneticists are a lot more hesitant to try it out again. Something about how closely related the DNA of the invading Angles, from far earlier times around the Roman settlement period, was to that of their own ancestors who were the Vikings.
Yet there was something more fascinating to me than their history and culture, I was enchanted by their stories, their mythologies. The great heroic tales that made up their mythology, depicting their gods - the Aesir.
The Aesir could be compared to the Greek pantheon as both are a large group of divine beings and represented many aspects of humanity. Such as Freya and Venus representing Beauty and Love. But what I found fascinating about the Aesir is not just how great their stories are but also how flawed they are. After reading many mythical adventures as well as non-fiction books on this forgotten divinity I came to perceive them all as being quite essentially human but with the fortunate access to life prolonging fruit. They are as vulnerable as we are to a killing sword blow. They all represent not just the best of humanity but also the worst. Odin is never loyal to his wife and Queen consort Frigg and is always searching for ultimate knowledge; Freya covets beautiful things such as the fabled Brisingr necklace which she trades for using her own body. And even Thor sometimes can be too confident of his own strength for his own good to the point where he went and fought (albeit unknowingly) old age after a challenge from a giant.
To me the Viking people of Denmark, Norway and Sweden were quite honest about their own flaws and the unfairness of their lives and the sometimes cruel world they lived in. They superimposed this understanding into their gods, not making them perfectly good or perfectly evil and ensured that even the Gods were aware of their own end in the form of Ragnarok - the End of All Things.
However it wasn't the big and most well known characters of these deities that caught my imagination, such as Thor, Odin or even Loki, it was the little known about characters of the Valkyries. These were the Vikings answer to Angels - they chose the most worthy and honourable warriors who died in battle and then serve these 'glorious dead' at Odin's golden hall. Only one Valkyrie, next to Freya who was the original and leader of this female squadron, ever became part of a great story or saga and that was Hildr. She was cast out by Odin after falling in love with a mortal blacksmith named Sigurd. But that's another complex story for another time.
Valkyries intrigued me simply because there is such little recorded detail about them. I was left with many questions such as how does one become a Valkyrie? Is there a test? Does Freya or Odin choose? Is there training? Do you have to have a worthy soul like Odin's warriors? What else does a Valkyrie do when not collecting souls or serving in the golden hall? How do they collect souls?
Ultimately the possible answers came out as I wrote short stories. My first short story really began from nowhere in particular in my imagination. Just a scene of a first person narrator sat in a cafe, in York, hearing about a car crash occurring on the A64. That's when the whispers of these forgotten Valkyries as I like to think began to tell me their secret lives. For what seemed to be the voice of a possible modern day assassin became the mind of a modern day Valkyrie. This development transformed an even bigger question I had when learning so much about the Aesir - if the gods, divine beings and other spiritual creatures did exist, how would an old forgotten pantheon survive in a world where souls, the basic populace of any religion, were secular or squabbled over between Christianity and Islam?
That first short story featuring my modern day Valkyrie revealed a whole world of possibility in answer to that big question. I titled it 'The Old Ways Never Die' as it encapsulated the overall idea I was trying to get across to my reader. That if such a thing as God did exist then why not all the other Gods and Goddesses of Old and New religions and how there's more than life and death in this world - there is the separate and often unseen world of the afterlife.
I am pleased to say that not only did I get a very good mark when I completed it for final year course work during my degree but I also got quite high praise from one of my favourite authors on this topic of Norse mythology. Joanne Harris, author of 'Runemarks' which is the best depiction of Norse mythology in a new and original way I have ever read yet. I am eagerly awaiting the sequel titled Runelight. But more on this great Norse fantasy book shortly.
In the spring of 2009 Joanne held a Runemarks Fan Fiction contest. I entered 'The Old Ways Never Die' of course knowing she was herself a big fan of Norse mythology and is in fact studying it but I would be quite happy if she read it and I didn't win. All I wanted was her approval. Low and behold I didn't win any of the main prizes but she was so pleased with all her entries she gave small prizes to us all. I received an honourable mention on her website with a link to my story for people to read, a hand written thank you note and a handmade runic talisman of the rune Tyr 'perfect for a Valkyrie' she remarked on her note.
Such praise from a woman I adored writing with this topic encouraged me to write a sequel to this now little bit famous short story. And before I know it new characters, plots, events and scenes were growing forth from my original yet still entwining around my Valkyrie protagonist of Jennifer Wallace. A fairly modern girl by standards as she only departed the living in the early millennium.
So I found myself (slowly but surely) writing my new work in progress novel 'Soul Chaser' (formerly known as Valkyrian Ventures but had a major rethink on title earlier this spring.) If any readers are even slightly curious after this Viking drenched rant of mine please do visit my blog http://www.soulchaserbecky.blogspot.com/ to read the original short story behind my WIP novel and draft chapters two and three as well as read many more Viking orientated posts or learn more about my life as an aspiring writer.
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Want to read some of Rebecca's writing? She has been published in an anthology called Dreamers of Dreams. We have more information about it right here on this site. Dreamers of Dreams. It is an ebook anthology