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Ever since the 19th century when the term “Vikings” was first coined to describe the ancient people who originated in Scandinavia, built technologically advanced ships and sailed out to conquer the world, there has been a vast gulf between historical reality and pop culture representation.

You could blame Richard Wagner, whose Ring Cycle of operas based on the Norse sagas introduced the world to blonde, blue-eyed, solidly built Vikings wearing horned helmets and whose ideas about the purity of the Vikings would go on to influence Adolf Hitler‘’s conception of the Aryan race. You could also blame everyone else from Asterix comics to the 1950s Kirk Douglas-starring epicThe Vikings for pop culture imagery that’s given us visually interesting but historically inaccurate ideas: bloodthirsty, blonde warriors drinking from the skulls of their enemies and burying their dead by setting ships alight and setting them off for the final journey to Valhalla...

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