Welcome to my stop on the She Wolf Blog Tour, and it’s my absolute pleasure to welcome Dan Smith, talking about researching the Viking Age…
I had a lot of fun writing SHE WOLF, partly because I spent a lot of time researching the Viking Age and . . . Vikings are awesome! I don’t think I’ll get any argument from you about that. It’s such a fun setting for a story because there are no cars, no smartphones, no drones, no police, no ambulances, or any of the modern things that can make my character’s life easier. Instead, there are axes, wolves, bears, warriors, and (best of all) danger! But when I started writing, I quickly found out how little I knew about Vikings, so here are some of the facts I discovered . . .
1. I use the word ‘Viking’ in my book, but Vikings most probably didn’t call themselves Vikings. There is a lot of debate about where the word ‘Viking’ came from, but we’re almost positive that it wasn’t widely used until a long time after the Viking Age had ended. It’s most likely that they were known simply as Danes, Norsemen, or Northmen.
2. When I started writing She Wolf I realised I would have to find a way for Ylva to communicate with the Saxons. But, as it turns out, the language spoken by the Vikings and the language spoken by the Saxons in England, would have been very similar and they would have understood each other. The reason for this is that both the Saxons and the Vikings were descended from Germanic tribes.
3. All right, maybe you will already know this but . . .Vikings did not wear horned helmets! No! In fact, most Vikings didn’t wear helmets at all, because they were very expensive and difficult to make. We also often see pictures of Vikings carrying swords, but . . . you guessed it, swords were very expensive and difficult to make. The iron needed to make just one sword could have been used to make five or six axe heads, so it was much more common for Vikings to carry axes. And not only were they excellent battle weapons, but they were also very useful tools.
4. When they weren’t raiding other countries, Vikings spent a lot of time fighting among themselves, but they were also farmers, adventurers, explorers, and incredible boatbuilders. Their boats had flat bottoms which allowed them to sail up shallow rivers and explore inland.
5. No one really knows for sure why the Vikings began to raid overseas. Perhaps it was their thirst for fame, adventure, and riches. Maybe they were searching for better farmland. Or perhaps they were collecting more of their most valuable commodity – slaves.
The truth is, though, there’s so much we don’t know (and probably never will know) about Vikings. They didn’t keep any record of their history other than by telling stories and passing them down by word of mouth, which means it’s sometimes difficult to separate fact from fiction. But that was great for me because it gave me the opportunity to make things up. And that’s something to remember about adventure stories in historical settings – it isimportant to be historically accurate . . . most of the time. I think it’s okay to bend the facts a little bit if it makes the story more exciting. After all, SHE WOLF is an adventure story, not a history lesson!
SHE WOLF by Dan Smith is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House).
Connect with Dan Smith on twitter @DanSmithAuthor
Huge thanks to Dan for such an informative guest post, and to Chicken House for inviting me to take part in the She Wolf Blog Tour. Do make sure you check out all of the other stops!
You can read my review, as well as a special guest pupil review of She Wolf here too.