I found out at the last minute that January 30th is Draw a Dinosaur Day. Cool, I thought, dinosaurs and Vikings totally go together, right? I was pretty busy that day, so I thought I’d just finish my sketch the next day and put it up late. Naturally it took several days longer than expected. Kept screwing it up b/c I was rushing and had to redo a few things. At last, however imperfect, I can present to you my nerdy skew-horned triceratops and his theropod “friends” (but they are actually jerks). I had better ‘fess up re: the “(p)reenactment” part of the joke, which I took from Dresden Codak. Let’s call it an homage, and hopefully Mr. Diaz won’t be upset at having his idea emulated by some hack of a mythologist…
No horns on Viking helmets??? You got it (and so did an 8 year old I met a while back– I don’t think he believed I actually studied Vikings for a living until I responded correctly to the question “Did Vikings have horns on their helmets?”). I mentioned I would talk about this in an earlier post, so here you go, however brief. The horned helmets which popular culture associates with the Vikings never existed. Well, we do have a tiny number of horned helmets and pictures of them in the archaeological record, but these do not look like those the Vikings supposedly wore, they are not from the same time period, and they were apparently used for ceremonial purposes, not for war. Think about it. A conical helmet (like the Vikings actually wore) is designed such that there is a greater chance that a weapon would glance off. If you have horns on your helmet, you guarantee that the weapon will not glance off, plus you are more likely to break your neck. Just not a good idea. Where do we get the idea of horned helmets? Like so many other things, from the Romantics. The image of the horned Viking fit the program of the National Romantic period perfectly. Poets composed poetry about the glories of their barbaric ancestors and then went out with their friends to dress up and drink and pretend that they were also Vikings, and therefore “authentic” (the original hipsters–into Vikings and Norse gods when only Homer and the Classical pantheon were popular). The idea of a “barbarian” ancestor for the civilized Germanic countries allowed them to celebrate their own antiquity and identity as separate from that of Classical civilization (which was understood as basically equivalent to Western Culture up to this point), and also let the Germanic bourgeoisie and aristocracy apply the Romantic infatuation with the sublime and barbaric to themselves, in so far as they identified themselves as the “heirs” of the Vikings, which, to a certain degree, England and Germany did, as well as the Scandinavian nations.
This image of the Viking, and related images of Valkyries with winged helmets and busty armor, showed up in pretty much every artistic representation of Norse material in the 1800s. While I am not very familiar with the costumes and sets Richard Wagner used in his original performances of the Ring Cycle (many recent performances of the cycle go for non-traditional costuming, like the version of Die Walküre that I saw), the cycle has a reputation for over-the-top faux-Norse costuming, the most stereotypical image being a massive and buxom soprano valkyrie with equally massive metal bra and wild winged- or horned-helmet. To say that even Wagner is laughing at our poor triceratops, well, that’s just mean.
I’ve loved dinosaurs since I was 3 or 4 (triceratops was always my favorite). Thanks for humoring me as I smoosh two of my favorite things together into one horrendous picture. BTW… any recommendations for the species of the other two dinosaurs? I guess the big one is probably a T-Rex… but the small one is some hodgepodge of what I remember of smaller dinosaurs from Discovery channel specials. If you like it, you can get the image on DeviantArt.