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Saturday, April 28, 2012

April 27th X Day

Truth be told, I got nothing here folks. There is no Old Norse letter X, and damned few words to cheat with, so when it was suggested that I go with Xenophilia and Xenophobia as cultural traits among the Norse, how they interacted with various other cultures they came across, I have to say I was really tempted by this easy out, so here goes.

They seemed to have some really xenophiliac tendencies towards both the Byzantines and, at least as trading partners, the Arabs. They also seem to have really had it in for, in a really xenophobic way, the cultures that they most resembled, the Anglo-Saxons, the Irish & Scots, the Franks and other Germanic tribes, and let's not forget the poor Slavs. They also had really super xenophobic tendencies towards their nearest non-Indo-European speaking neighbors, the peoples of the Baltic countries, the Finns and the Lapps, who might as well have been martian sorcerers to the Norsemen. They were also none too fond of the Inuit and whatever other Native American Indians they ran across.

What it comes down to though is that they seem to hate everyone near them, that has shit they can take, or whom they can dominate; regardless of cultural similarity or how foreign, exotic or strange your culture might be. They could literally speak with the Anglo-Saxon inhabitants of England, if both parties spoke slowly and used simple words, the languages had not diverged enough to make that big a difference yet, they were still about 30-50% mutually comprehensible, and they still committed atrocities on a grand scale there, against a people that they had a shared cultural heritage with, a shared corpus of oral tradition and mythology. When the Viking Age began the last of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms had converted to Christianity perhaps roughly a century earlier.

The Irish and the Scots and the Welsh, who all had similar heroic traditions were treated much the same as the Anglo-Saxons and, while their languages were certainly different enough to be absolutely unintelligible, the cultural similarities were certainly abundant, and they too had only been Christian for, depending on which country, at most a few centuries, and in Scotland's case it was still relatively new, like in England. But the British Isles got stomped, raped, robbed, and eventually settled, their people enslaved to the point where half of the DNA in Iceland is Irish in origin.

The Lapps, and the Finns and a bunch of other Balts ended up on the short end of the raiding and enslaving too, or were just conquered and forced to pay tribute, or were colonized. That happened to the Slavs too, that's where Russia comes from. The Franks got their share too, Normandy isn't just a cool name for a place to invade in WW II, Norsemen took that land by force and then forced the French Kings to legitimize it by making them Dukes.

But if you are far away strong and wealthy, like the Byzantines or the Arabs, the Norsemen loved you. You got to be a trading partner, they might serve as mercenary soldiers for you, the sky is the limit, although the odds were good they'd try their hand to see how tough you were at least once before deciding on whether a subordinate role was OK.

The fact of the matter is they traded with all the same people the hated and raided too. They weren't exactly racist either, although they had a preference for blue-eyed blondes. There was an entire "race" of half-breed Irish-Norsemen called the Gille-Gall, the "Sons of the Foreigners", the Irish hated them, not the Norse, so they rejected Christianity and came over to the Norse Gods of their fathers. In Russia a Half-breed dynasty, the Rurikovich ruled over Kiev, and apparently became Czars of Russia until 1605.

The only place I can think of where their xenophobia really got the better of them was the Greenland colony, they refused to adapt to Inuit methods to survive, and attempted to cling to their own clearly failing ways. That said, it is entirely possible that the Inuit got sick of their shit and just wiped them out. I guess you can only take being referred to as a Skraeling so many times, especially when you figure out what that word means.

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