There’s still an amazing Viking exhibition on at the museum, and parents talk about how much Vikings can teach children about life and death and craft and survival. Three years ago, I learned that children can also teach parents about Vikings…
Kurtzhau – 6 – points at an illustration of a half-naked Viking warrior with a wolf’s head for a helmet.
It’s bedtime and I’ve just read him his first Harold Lamb tale – “Longsword” from Swords from the Sea, the only one I could find that was remotely age-appropriate and now we’re looking at maps of the Viking world, and browsing an old Wargames Research Group Dark Age handbook.
“He’s a Berserker,” I say, with an echo of the enthusiasm of my youth.
I know all about Berserkers.
They were my adolescent wish-fulfillment alter ego; rage incarnate transcending into red-raw power… an end-run around responsibility, training and discipline to arrive at a significant place in the adult world. Mary Sue, if you like, but with less clothing and more steel.
“They go crazy in combat,” I say. “Gnaw their shields… tear off their clothes, throw away their weapons, sometimes. Everybody was scared of them because they didn’t care if they got wounded.”
Kurtzhau’s eyes widen. “WHAT? Even With a Spear?”
“Yep. You stick him with your spear, and he runs right up the thing and rips off your head with his bare–”
Kurtzhau interrupts. “What about in the throat?”
His eyes narrow. “Or the heart?”
And then I remember an episode from the saga of Gretir the Strong… and when the cool-headed Gretir takes out the berserkers one-by-one, Kurtzhau’s eyes narrow and he nods approval.
Next week he’ll be presented with yet another Judo belt…