Perhaps you grew up laughing at Hagar the Horrible in the Sunday comics or cheered on Marvel’s The Mighty Thor; or maybe you were the more serious scholar interested in Viking maritime and studied their ships and the explorations of Erik the Red. Whatever the case, the Vikings’ presence among us is as old as mead, and, with The History Channel’s popular series ready to launch into its next season, Vikings seem to be as popular as ever. So you don’t miss the boat, we invite you consider our spring course “Vikings,” which begins this week.
Dirk Van Tuerenhout, Ph.D., curator of anthropology at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and our first instructor in the course, reminds us of the obvious appeal: exploration.
“The Vikings were explorers beyond belief,” Dr. Van Tuerenhout said. “There is evidence of their presence from Newfoundland to Baghdad. What equally impresses me is their drive to colonize new lands, and, in order to do so, set sail with women and children, as well as livestock. Imagine traveling across a stormy North Sea with that kind of crew?”
Beyond the exploits lies the science that supported their seafaring ventures. Frederic B. Pearl, Ph.D., associate professor of maritime studies at Texas A&M at Galveston, will provide a history of Scandinavian ships. Dr. Pearl will also review Norse mythology and provide insight into Viking artwork on stone from his field research in Gotland, Sweden. His work in Gotland, specifically Visne Angar, has just received additional funding to continue archaeological investigation of this abandoned Iron Age settlement.
In the final segment of the course, Louis A. Markos, Ph.D., English professor, scholar-in-residence and Robert H. Chair in Humanities at Houston Baptist University, will draw upon the parallels of Viking culture and community in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.
“Fans of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ will know that Tolkien insisted that his epic fantasy was not allegorical and that he was a sub-creator creating a unique world that ran by its own rules,” Dr. Markos said. “Yet, as even Tolkien admitted, he was strongly influenced by ‘Beowulf’ and the Anglo-Saxon (and therefore part Viking) ethos that underlies it.”
No one can dispute the influence of the Vikings. Should they, possibly the old Norse Proverb will change their minds, “Put to the sword those that disagree.”
Jennifer Egenolf, Marketing Director