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“The Northman”: ‘Tis But A Scratch: Fact & Fiction About the Middle Ages

In this episode of the podcast ‘Tis But A Scratch: Fact and Fiction About the Middle Ages, Richard Abels and his special guest and co-host Dr. Christine Senecal of Shippensburg University discuss the 2022 Viking movie “The Northman.” Director and co-screenplay writer Robert Eggers’ avowed goal in making this movie was to recreate the material and mental world of the Vikings. Please join Richard and Chrissy as they assess how well he succeeded in accomplishing this.

Viking terms used in the podcast:

berserkir: a ferocious viking warrior who according the sagas entered battle in a trancelike state, howling like an animal and biting his shield. The term could mean either “bare-shirt,” i.e. without a mail shirt, or “bear-shirt,” either wearing a bear skin or channeling the spirit of a bear.


ulfheðnar: ferocious viking warriors who go into battle wearing wolf pelts

seiðr (magic); seiðrmaðr (witch man); völva (witch woman, seeress)

valkyries: maiden warriors who decide who will die in battle and who bring the worthy fallen to Valhalla.

draugr: Norse undead, mound-dwellers are the guardians of hoards. In “The Northman” “draugr” is the name of the magic sword of the mound-dweller


Books mentioned in the podcast:

Neil Price, The Viking Way: Magic and Mind in the Late Iron Age Scandinavia, 2nd edn (Oxbow, 2021).

Johanna Katrin Fridriksdottir, Valkyrie: The Women of the Viking World (Bloomsbury Academic, 2020)

Michèle Hayeur Smith, The Valkyries’ Loom: The Archaeology of Cloth Production and Female Power in the North Atlantic (University Press of Florida, 2020).

You can follow Prof. Senecal on Instagram: chrissysenecal

Check out more video episodes from Tis But A Scratch: Fact and Fiction About the Middle Ages on their YouTube channel.