Why the Vikings?

A personal note from author C.J. Adrien

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Beginning at an early age, I took an interest in history–particularly in the medieval period. In college I majored in history and studied Medieval Europe, Medieval Japan, and worked for two years on Ancient Russia. It is in my studies of the Rus, the people who lent their name to the modern day country of Russia, that I happened upon the intrinsically fascinating world of the Vikings. During a trip to visit family in France, my grandparents asked what I was studying at school. When I told them I had begun to research the Viking Age, they casually informed me that our family was partly descended from Norwegians from the time. Initially, I was skeptical. They directed me to my great aunt Nadette who was a school teacher, and had put together a genealogy of the family’s history stemming back to the 1600’s. While impressive, this was in no way indicative of Viking blood existing in the family. Yet she argued that there were no major migrations, exoduses, or major population movements between the time of the Viking settlement (they colonized the region quite heavily), and the earliest record of the name Adrien. Thus, she argued, it is likely we are descended in part from the Vikings.

I was still not entirely convinced, so I decided to research the subject myself. Short of a DNA analysis, I could never be certain, but the subject gripped me. The idea that Vikings–legendarily fearsome warriors who are often little more than a footnote in the history books–had visited the island of Noirmoutier where I had spent nearly every summer of my life was an exciting prospect. Back at school, I continued my studies and became more and more interested in the Vikings as a historical subject. I even put together a research proposal for a doctoral program specifically regarding the history of the Vikings in Noirmoutier, which was tentatively accepted by my university to begin a doctoral program. I withdrew my application however to pursue my other passion: teaching. Instead of continuing in the field of history, I entered a Master’s program to become a school teacher like my role model, my middle school history teacher Mr. Boyd. He inspired my passion for history and I too wanted to inspire the next generation to embrace history (or at least have a marginal interest in it).

I finished my Master’s degree in 2011 and began my new adventure in education. As I worked in my field, I continued to research the subject of the Vikings in Brittany and eventually decided to put all of it to good use. I created a framework for a story using real history, developed characters, and set out at the ripe old age of 23 to write a historical fiction novel for teens and young adults about what could have been my own family history. The intent for the novel The Line of His People was to create a story akin to the historical fiction greats such as Bernard Cornwell and Ken Follett, but write it in such away that it would be engaging and accessible to school children. It is my belief that good young adult historical fiction has the potential to inspire children to want to learn.

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6 Comments

  1. M. Joelle says:

    My question: why not the Vikings? For a group of people who had such a wide influence on the world, why are they mostly relegated to folklore and footnotes?

    1. Christophe says:

      It’s true! One of the things that is so alluring about them is that there is still a great deal to discover. They have been cast in a shadow that only recently has begun to recede. It’s an exciting time for Viking studies!

  2. Justin says:

    What are the best universities to study medieval Europe and the vikings?

    1. Christophe says:

      Nottingham University is the most famous, and offers a BA degree in Viking studies, with options to study abroad in Norway in Sweden.

      If you are in the U.S., Western Michigan University has a good program, and they even host the annual Kalamazoo Medieval History Conference, which is attended by scholars from around the world. Princeton is good too.

  3. … and I think your decision to write an historical novel in a way that is readable for the younger reader has been very advantageous for me. With my beginning dementia symptoms, reading more complicated novels or texts has become unreasonable. My writing skills are still mostly intact, and my single-word vocabulary is still unusually large, but when words are put together with extra descriptive phrases … I lose track of what is being talked about. (So I can no longer edit what I myself am writing) One quarter of my ancestry is from Sweden (currently known as Dalarna County). I have documentation for most of that line between mid-1600s thru 1900 when they left for America. Great curiosity for the culture my ancestors lived. Thank you for writing about Scandinavian culture. — Tru

    1. Christophe says:

      Tru,

      Thanks for stopping by. I am glad that my books are appealing to you and that they are encouraging you to continue to explore your ancestry. I hope you are learning lots!

      Wishing you the best,

      -C.J. Adrien-

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